Political News

Michigan 2024 Republican convention results

Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography/Getty Images/STOCK

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- Though Republicans held a presidential primary election in Michigan on Tuesday, their delegates to the Republican National Convention will officially be allocated on Saturday at a state convention.

Former President Donald Trump is running against former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for the delegates, though he beat her by double digits in Tuesday's primary.

Thirty-nine of Michigan’s 55 Republican National Convention delegates will be awarded at the state party's congressional district caucuses on Saturday, when party members (chosen by their local parties) from across the state will caucus by groups split into 13 districts.

Three delegates per congressional district will be awarded. A candidate can take all three if they receive the majority of votes, or just two if they earn a plurality with one going to whoever is in second place.

The results of Tuesday’s GOP primary determine 16 of the party’s delegates, but those will be formally awarded based on a resolution to be determined at Saturday’s convention.

The gathering plays out against the backdrop of the state Republican Party being enmeshed in a controversial leadership squabble that came to a head this week, when a county circuit court judge affirmed the removal of Kristina Karamo as the chairperson.

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who also served as ambassador to the Netherlands under Trump, has taken over the party and is recognized by the national party as the new state chair.

However, Karamo is still planning on hosting her own convention to allocate delegates on Saturday, in Detroit, but Hoekstra’s separate convention in Grand Rapids is the one that will count in the eyes of the Republican National Committee, which has encouraged representatives to attend in Grand Rapids.

The party, while Karamo was lawfully chair, said it pursued this split delegate allocation process because the Democratic-led state Legislature, at the recommendation of President Joe Biden, passed a bill that moved the state's primary up in the calendar.

The new Feb. 27 primary date conflicted with party rules that bar state parties from holding a nominating contest prior to March 1, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, so Michigan was at risk of losing most of their delegates.

As a solution, and with the blessing of the national party, state Republicans devised a duel primary-convention plan system, which some have said could benefit Trump by limiting selection of the majority delegates to an especially involved group of caucus-goers who are expected to be friendly to the former president

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FBI to examine possible balloon debris recovered by Alaska fisherman

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(NEW YORK) -- The FBI will examine what may be debris from a balloon found by fishermen off the coast of Alaska, multiple sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

The fishing vessel carrying the debris is expected to return to shore sometime this weekend, sources said, at which time the FBI will get its first look at what was recovered.

"The FBI is aware of debris found off the coast of Alaska by a commercial fishing vessel. We will work with our partners to assist with the logistics of the debris recovery," the agency said in a statement.

Officials cautioned that because they do not have possession of the materials, it is too early to make any determination about what was recovered, where it came from and whether it part of any foreign surveillance operation.

Once the FBI gets custody of the materials, other agencies within the U.S. government will likely be consulted about next steps.

On Jan. 28, 2023, a Chinese surveillance balloon entered U.S. airspace north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, according to a senior military official, before being eventually shot down on Feb. 4, 2023, off the coast of South Carolina.

The prospect of China spying on the U.S. undetected created a political firestorm.

Sources said no decision has been made about taking the materials to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia or anywhere else.

Such a decision would only be made after a preliminary examination of the collected debris, they said.

The discovery of the possible balloon was first reported by CNN.

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University of Florida eliminates all DEI positions due to new state rules

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(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- The University of Florida has eliminated all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) positions at the university, according to an administrative memo that was released Friday.

The memo cites a recent state ban on the use of public funds for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, activities and policies -- as well as activities for "political or social activism" -- in the public college system. The Florida Board of Governors passed this restriction in January, shortly after the Florida Board of Education passed a similar ban.

The University of Florida has closed the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, "eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and halted DEI-focused contracts with outside vendors," the memo states.

The Board of Governors defines DEI as "any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification."

DEI, as defined by DEI professionals, is aimed at correcting inequities within an organization -- this could include implementing accessibility measures for people with disabilities, correcting discriminatory hiring practices, addressing gender and racial pay inequities, anti-bias training, and more.

DEI practices have their roots in the anti-discrimination legislative movement of the 1960s of which the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act were born, according to ABC News' past interviews with DEI professionals.

The Board of Governors restriction also defines political or social activism as "any activity organized with a purpose of effecting or preventing change to a government policy, action, or function, or any activity intended to achieve a desired result related to social issues, where the university endorses or promotes a position in communications, advertisements, programs, or campus activities."

The United Faculty of Florida union's president Andrew Gothard criticized DeSantis' anti-DEI legislation, calling it "censorship and exclusion" in an interview with local news outlet WLRN.

"This is all about silencing students," Gothard said. "It's about silencing faculty. It's about withholding funding from individuals who have beliefs, speak ideas, or take actions that would disagree with the politics of elected leaders."

Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. defended the new rules in a statement at the time.

"These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers' money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society," Diaz said.

This move by the Board follows the decision by a judge to block the Gov. Ron DeSantis-backed "Stop WOKE" Act that restricted race-related curriculum in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.

The judge temporarily blocked the bill from impacting higher education institutions, arguing that the First Amendment protects speech in the classroom and that the law's vague restrictions are unenforceable.

The memo stated university employees who were eliminated will receive UF’s "standard twelve weeks of pay" and "are allowed and encouraged to apply, between now and Friday, April 19, for expedited consideration for different positions currently posted with the university."

The memo states that approximately $5 million in funds will be reallocated into a faculty recruitment fund.

DeSantis applauded the decision, saying on X: "DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities. I’m glad that Florida was the first state to eliminate DEI and I hope more states follow suit."

ABC News' Davi Merchan contributed to this report.

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Pentagon to lift grounding order on V-22 Osprey, 3 months after deadly crash

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon is expected to lift its flight ban on V-22 Osprey as early as next week, clearing the way for the services to fly the tilt-rotor aircraft once again after nearly three months after it was grounded.

The decision was briefed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.

The Naval Air Systems Command grounded the aircraft last December following a crash off Japan that killed eight airmen. Earlier in the year, three Marines died in a separate crash involving the Osprey during a training exercise off the northern coast of Australia.

The decision meant that all versions of the Osprey flown by the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy were grounded.

It’s unlikely the services will be flying the V-22 right away. It’s expected that once a ground bulletin is lifted, the services will be given instructions on specific action items to take before putting the Osprey in the air again.

Then, it will be up to each service to decide how to use the aircraft.

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Biden says US to carry out airdrops of aid into Gaza in coming days

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Friday said the U.S. would carry out airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza in the coming days.

Speaking in an Oval Office meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, he referred to what he called the "tragic and alarming event" in North Gaza on Thursday in which more than 100 people died as they rushed food aid trucks and Israeli forces guarding the trucks opened fire.

"The loss of life is heartbreaking. People are so desperate that innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families, and you saw the response when they tried to get aid in," he said. "And we need to do more in the United States, will do more. In the coming days, we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing airdrops ..." but he mentioned Ukraine when he meant Gaza.

"In addition to expanding deliveries by land, as I said, we're gonna -- we're gonna insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need. No excuses because the truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough," he said. "Now, it's nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line, and children's lives on the line and we won't stand by and let -- until they -- until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.

"I won't stand by and we won’t let up," he said.

"There's few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance air drops. This is----this is a tough military mission to do because so many parameters have to be exactly right. We're going to pursue this the way we would pursue any such operation -- carefully," White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby said at a briefing afterward.

He said the planning would be robust. "I know that we will learn from the first airdrops, and this will be a part of a sustained effort. This isn't going to be one and done," he said.

"There will be additional airdrops planned and executed. And with each one, I think we'll learn more and we'll get -- we'll get better at them. It's very difficult. It is extremely difficult to do an airdrop in such a crowded environment as is Gaza. Very, very densely populated. A lot of people confined to small spaces. So, you want to do it in a way that you can get it to close -- as close as you can to the people in need, but not in a way that puts them in any danger. And so, the Pentagon will be doing a raft of planning on this."

He said the first airdrops would likely involve pallets of MREs -- Meals Ready to Eat -- and that the U.S. would work with international aid organizations on distribution.

"I can tell you that this first one coming in -- in a few days, will not be the last one. It will be part of a larger, longer, sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance," he said.

He also said the administration also is in the “early stages” of exploring options for a maritime aid delivery corridor.

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Haley vows to stay in race 'as long as we're competitive'; says No Labels isn't tenable for her

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday morning reiterated her promise to stay in the presidential primary race through Super Tuesday and said running as an independent on the third-party presidential movement No Labels ticket wouldn't work for her.

Haley -- who has recently lost to former President Donald Trump in primaries in Michigan and her home state of South Carolina -- told reporters that she has raised $12 million just in February to fuel her bid through Super Tuesday. But she hinted that decisions beyond Tuesday will be based on whether she's still "competitive" in primaries and caucuses, while not defining exactly what that would look like.

"My approach has always been, as long as we're competitive," Haley said. "Super Tuesday we're going to try to be competitive. I hope we go forward. But this is all about how competitive we can be."

"As long as you've got 70 percent of Americans saying they want something different [than President Joe Biden and Trump], we're going to give them something different."

She again deflected on whether she would drop out after Tuesday or run as an independent on a No Labels ticket. She again pointed out that she has had no contact with No Labels, and that the group's stated vow to have a unity ticket with a Republican presidential candidate and a Democratic vice presidential candidate would not appeal to her.

"I haven't talked to anybody about that. I know that they have sent like smoke signals that they want me to talk about that. But I'm a Republican," she said. "If I were to do No Labels, that would require a Democrat vice president. I can't do what I want to do as president with a Democrat vice president."

She also pointedly would not commit to staying in the race beyond Super Tuesday.

"I don't have an answer for you. I can say we're going to go forward," she said.

Haley wouldn't put any thresholds on what vote share she needs to get in states, but said "30 to 40 percent is not a small number."

Asked about how her campaign would wind down, she said, "I don't know that I'm ending my bid for president. If you're in a race, the last thing you think about is not being in the race."

Asked specifically about trying to contest the Republican National Convention, Haley deflected: "The focus now, again, I'm just going to keep saying, it's Super Tuesday… I know y'all love to think about that. That is not something I'm thinking about."

More broadly, she rejected the idea that she's leading an "anti-Trump movement," instead casting her campaign as an effort to elevate issues around national security, fiscal discipline, security and safety, parents and their kids, and the climate of "anger and hatred" that she says Trump has been a big part of.

"In all the narratives, everybody pretty much assumes that this is an anti-Trump movement. And it's actually not. This is a movement where people want to be heard," Haley said. "These crowds are not anti-Trump crowds. These crowds are about people who want to see America and feel good about again."

"They want something new, they want something different, they want something to be hopeful about," she said. "I get why Democrats are leaving the Democrat Party, because of how far left they've gone, and I get why Republicans are leaving the Republican Party. Because we were just always about small government and freedom -- economic freedom and personal freedom."

She also complained repeatedly about media coverage of the race, suggesting that Trump's controversial comments (about Black people most recently) have not gotten as much attention or follow-up as some of her unfortunate moments (like her comments on the Civil War).

"If I can be candid, the reason it hasn't resonated is because all of you have made this race about Trump," she said. "I'm trying to make it about policy, with the Republican Party."

She said there should have been more outrage in the media about Trump's takeover of the Republican National Committee, where he plans to install his daughter-in-law as a co-chair.

"Like, where is everybody?" Haley asked. "This is not normal. None of this is normal."

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Senate passes short-term funding bill to avert government shutdown

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Thursday passed a short-term funding bill that averts a partial government shutdown that was expected late Friday night.

The final vote tally was 77-13. The measure now heads to the president's desk.

The new funding deadlines for the government spending bills are now March 8 and March 22.

President Joe Biden said the passage of a short-term funding bill – while good for Americans – "is a short-term fix—not a long-term solution."

The president urged Congress to work in the coming days to pass a full-term funding bill as well as the national security supplemental.

"During my meeting with Congressional Leaders this week, we all agreed on the vital importance of supporting Ukraine. That understanding must now be backed with action," Biden said in a written statement Thursday night. "In addition to arming Ukraine as they defend against Russian attacks every single day, this bill will help ensure that Israel can defend itself against Hamas and other threats. And it will provide critical humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and those impacted by conflicts around the world."

In the House, Democrats helped Speaker Mike Johnson to pass the funding bill in the House. The House voted 320-99 in bipartisan fashion to approve the CR. Only two Democrats opposed the vote, joining 97 Republicans who voted against it.

The measure, brought up under "suspension of the rules," required a two-third majority vote to pass -- which meant Johnson needed Democrats' votes to pass it. Similar actions by Johnson's predecessor, Kevin McCarthy put him in hot water and contributed to his ouster last year.

On Wednesday, House and Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal to avert the partial government shutdown of roughly 20% of the government, and create new funding deadlines: March 8 for that 20% and March 22 for the remaining 80%.

Johnson hoped that an additional week could give Congress more time to pass all remaining appropriations bills to fully fund the government through the end of FY2024. It comes after Johnson previously promised there would be no more short-term funding bills.

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley, Amanda L. Maine and Jay O'Brien contributed to this report.

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How do Americans feel about Biden and Trump on immigration issues?

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both visiting the southern border on Thursday, with the issue of the border and high rates of illegal immigration as a flashpoint between them in the race for the White House.

The Biden campaign slammed Trump in a statement ahead of his border visit for "playing games for his own political gain," a spokesperson said, after Trump told Senate Republicans not to support a bipartisan border security deal, which Trump has criticized as ineffective.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman, meanwhile, said in her own statement that Trump is visiting "the crime scene of Biden's open border … he will outline his plan to put America first and secure the border immediately upon taking office."

Here's how Americans feel about the issues of immigration and the border and about which front-runner candidate would handle it better, according to some recent polling.

How important is immigration and the border to Americans?

According to February polling from Gallup, more American adults thought immigration is the most important problem facing the country than other issues -- but that concern was driven mostly by Republicans.

Gallup found that 28% of Americans overall said immigration is the United States' most important problem, up from 20% in January and 9% last August in their polling.

But there has been little movement among Democrats, only 10% of whom cited immigration as the most important problem in February and 9% in January.

By contrast, 57% of Republicans did, up from 37% in Gallup's January polling.

Independents were in the middle: 22% said immigration was the most important problem facing the nation in February, up from 16% in January.

A separate poll by Quinnipiac University released in February found that immigration was the third-ranked most important problem among registered voters -- with 17% of those polled saying it was the most urgent issue -- behind "preserving democracy in the United States" (21% of registered voters) and the economy (20% of registered voters).

When broken down by party, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say immigration was their choice of top issue. Among Republicans, 35% called it their most urgent issue but only 4% of Democrats did the same, while 16% of independents felt that way.

Biden's handling of immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border

Biden's job approval ratings on immigration issues are overall relatively low, although an analysis of polls by 538 found that his average approval rating on immigration and the border has ticked down by only about 5 points since spring 2023.

According to the most recent polling on Biden's job approval on these issues conducted by ABC News/Ipsos, from mid-January, his rating for handling immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border was especially low -- just 18% approved, about half what it was in spring 2021, while 63% disapproved.

Biden also has the lowest rating on immigration for any president in past ABC News/Washington Post polls to ask the question since January 2004 (with various changes over time in question wording).

Gallup's polling in February found that among American adults, 28% approved of how Biden is currently handling immigration, while 67% disapproved. This was largely unchanged from Gallup's August 2023 polling on the issue, which found that 31% of Americans approved of Biden's handling and 66% disapproved.

Among the Republican adults Gallup polled in February, 97% said they disapproved of Biden's handling of immigration, while 37% of Democratic adults said the same. Fifty-five percent of Democrats told Gallup they approved of how Biden has handled the issue, while only 3% of Republicans felt that way.

Quinnipiac University's poll in February found similar trends: 29% of registered voters said they approved of how Biden "is handling the situation at the Mexican border," while 63% said they disapproved.

Among the Republican voters polled, 93% disapproved of Biden's handling of the issue, while 31% of Democrats said the same. Over a majority of Democrats, 58%, said they approved of how Biden has handled the issue, while only 4% of Republicans affirmed that way.

Biden versus Trump on the border

When Biden and Trump are pitted against each other in some polls on issues of immigration, Americans overall indicate they feel Trump is handling the issues better, with some polls again showing that Republicans overwhelmingly back Trump on the issue.

A poll from ABC News/Ipsos in February found that 26% of American adults trusted Biden to do a better job handling immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 44% trusted Trump more.

About the same number of Americans also indicated they blamed Republicans in Congress (53%), Democrats (51%) and Biden (49%) on Congress' failure to pass legislation intended to decrease the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border while 39% of those polled blamed Trump.

According to a February poll from Marquette University Law School, when asked who was better on immigration and border security, 53% of registered voters said Trump was handling it better while 25% said Biden was.

A sizable number of registered voters polled by Marquette equivocated: 15% said neither was good with the issue, and 6% said they were both the same.

Once again, the approval for each candidate broke down largely among party lines. In Marquette University's poll, 92% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents polled said Trump would do better, while 51% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said Biden would.

Twenty-five percent of those Democrats polled said neither would be good with dealing with the issue, and 3% of Republicans said the same.

ABC News' Isabella Murray, Gary Langer, Christine Filer, and 538's Nathaniel Rakich contributed to this report.

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Are the top candidates to replace McConnell MAGA enough?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump knows how to influence an election, that much is clear. In the last few years, he has championed down-ballot nominees, wielded extensive influence over primary races and had his fingerprints on the House leadership race.

But Trump is already beginning to leave his MAGA mark on a new sort of Republican race: the race to succeed Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from his leadership role in November after nearly two decades. After the 2024 election, but before newly elected members are sworn in, there will be closed-door Senate Republican Conference meeting in which members will nominate and elect a new leader.

Trump has not yet publicly commented on McConnell's departure, but the former president's sway over the party as McConnell has waned in popularity is clear. Many Senate Republicans said on Thursday that they believe a candidate's ability to work with Trump, and in many cases align with him, is an essential factor in their consideration of who they'll back during the November contest.

Top-tier contenders cozy up to Trump

Already, top-tier contenders -- referred to as the "three Johns" -- are trying to cozy up to Trump, leaving many to speculate if they are MAGA enough for the job.

In a statement formally announcing his candidacy for Republican leader, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, touted his Trump bona fides.

"As the Republican Whip, I helped President Trump advance his agenda through the Senate, including passing historic tax reform and remaking our judiciary -- including two Supreme Court Justices," Cornyn said.

In a gaggle with reporters, Cornyn said he spoke to Trump Wednesday -- the same day McConnell announced his plans to step down -- to make his "intentions" known.

Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican and current GOP whip, has been slightly less overt about his intentions, but a spokesperson said Thursday that Thune is "reaching out to each of his colleagues directly to discuss the future of the Senate Republican Conference and what they would like to see in their next leader."

Thune issued an endorsement of Trump on Monday after speaking to the former president over the weekend.

"I worked closely with him when he was president last time. You know, I was one of the key negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee on the tax cuts and Jobs Act. We put through, I want to say, 15 judges when I was the whip on the floor under his administration, and so yeah -- we've got a record of accomplishment, of getting things done for the American people," Thune said Thursday.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., hasn't issued a formal statement on his intentions yet either. But on Wednesday he said he would "talk to members of the conference and hear what they have to say and listen to them in terms of what direction they want to take the conference."

Barrasso's ties to Trump are well-documented. He is the most outspoken Trump supporter of the "three Johns" and was the first to endorse him, which he did in January.

Other candidates are also expected to throw their hat in the ring in the coming months. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., ran against McConnell for leader in late 2022, and may run again. Some of Scott's colleagues, including Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, have already said they'd back him.

Scott is still considering Trump when weighing a potential bid, too.

"President Trump, I'm sure he wants somebody he can work with, so that's probably what he'll do. He'll probably think about all the people who are considering running and whether he feels comfortable he can work with," Scott said.

Rank-and-file Republicans say Trump is a key factor

It's nine months until a leadership election -- that's quite a runway. But as contenders for the role begin jockeying for support within their conference, it's clear a key factor for many will be how closely the candidate is able to work with Trump.

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said he'll be looking to ensure that Senate leadership aligns with the party leader -- presumptively Trump.

"I think it's really important that whoever our next Senate majority leader, shares the same priorities and goals as whoever the Republican president is," Marshall said. "So it's important that they share the same priorities."

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said he expects Trump would be "very concerned" about who the eventual new leader is.

"He should be involved," Tuberville said of Trump.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has asked for a special conference meeting to be called in March for contenders to outline their visions for the future of the conference.

"This is something for the Republican Senate Conference to accomplish," Johnson said, when asked about the impact Trump might have on that vision.

Johnson said he did not think it would be productive for Trump to weigh in now. But if no consensus is reached before the November election, "Trump might have some influence," Johnson said.

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As Trump returns to the border, a closer look at what he's pledging to do on immigration if elected

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump has made immigration a central campaign message and spent nearly every appearance on the trail talking about the issue while touting what he would do about it should he win another term.

Both he and President Joe Biden are making competing trips to Texas on Thursday to visit the border, with each faulting the other's policies.

Biden is using his trip to make another push for the Republican-led House to pass a bipartisan Senate border security agreement -- a deal that Trump helped tank because he claimed that it wasn't truly effective or "great."

The Biden campaign fired back at Trump on Thursday, in part, by accusing him of "playing games for his own political gain," a spokesperson said.

More broadly, surveys show concern about immigration has been rising among some voters.

According to Gallup's February polling, 28% of Americans overall say immigration is the most important problem, up from 20% in January and 8% last June. But there has been little movement among Democrats, only 10% of whom cite immigration as the most important problem. By contrast, 57% of Republicans do -- up from 37% in January.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll from January found Biden had just an 18% approval rating for his handling of immigration at the southern border -- the lowest in two decades.

On Thursday, Trump is expected to take part in briefings with border officials and deliver remarks in Eagle Pass, Texas, as well as participate in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity along with Texas lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott.

He has vowed to implement a series of policies including reinstating and expanding his controversial travel ban on people coming into the U.S. from certain majority-Muslim countries; conducting what he calls the largest deportation operation in the country's history; and -- in a revamp of his 2016 campaign -- continuing work on the southern border wall.

"We're gonna straighten things out," Trump said on Saturday in South Carolina.

He went on to boast that in 2016, "We had a bad border and I talked about the border a lot, talked about it a lot and said we're going to fix it. ...We fixed it very quickly."

He echoed that as he arrived in Texas on Thursday: "Nice weather, beautiful day, but a very dangerous border. We're going to take care of it."

What Trump has done and wants to do about immigration

The former president has made sweeping promises on immigration before, though he didn't fulfill some of those key pledges -- either because he faced legal roadblocks, Democratic-led resistance in Washington or he said he could achieve something highly unusual, such as having Mexico pay for the border wall.

Overall, there were fewer deportations during the Trump administration compared to his predecessor former President Barack Obama, according to data released by the Department of Homeland Security.

Under the Biden administration, the number of deportations further declined.

During his first presidential campaign, Trump made the ambitious vow that he was going to build a new wall along the southwest border; by the end of his term, however (and after various funding fights in Washington), he had only implemented about 450 miles of barriers -- much of which was just upgrading existing barriers that already existed.

Still, Trump continues to tout the barriers as one of his biggest accomplishments during his presidency, frequently reminding voters at 2024 campaign rallies that he built and renovated nearly 500 miles of the border wall. Supporters often bring up that rhetoric when asked why they back Trump.

Trump did implement a signature "travel ban" during his first term, rejecting visas to people coming from countries he claimed didn't have enough screening, including Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and North Korea.

On Biden's first day as president, he ended Trump's restriction, which was criticized by advocates as unfairly targeting Muslim countries.

Thousands of migrant families were infamously separated under Trump's crackdown on unauthorized border crossings during the first two years of his presidency, with children and infants taken away from their parents and sent to shelters and other facilities while the adults were prosecuted.

Trump eventually ended the separations in the summer of 2018 amid widespread outcry, but the policy led to numerous lawsuits from migrant families alleging the government's negligence, abuse and harm.

Trump has projected that if he is elected again, he will deport millions of unauthorized immigrants and end so-called "catch and release" practice, in which migrants are arrested at the border and released from the government's custody to appear in court later.

While in the White House, Trump helped usher in new policy changes in the DHS to expedite deportations but for a while in 2019, his administration resorted to "catch and release" amid a drastic surge in arrivals of migrants at the border.

For his 2024 reelection bid, Trump has campaigned extensively on the message that he will "terminate every open border policy of the Biden administration" -- beginning with what he claims would be the "largest domestic deportation in American history." (The Biden administration has pushed back on such criticism, saying they seek to enforce all laws at the border.)

Trump's deportation plan has raised questions about the feasibility of such a project, as it would likely require the mobilization of numerous law enforcement officials and expanded detention facilities across the country -- just to process the new arrests.

To carry out his promise, Trump has vowed to direct "massive portions" of law enforcement toward immigration enforcement, including from federal agencies like the FBI and moving troops who are currently stationed overseas.

As he heads into a potential second term, Trump has said he is determined to fulfill the policies he started to implement on immigration during his first term -- while using disparaging language to describe unauthorized migrants.

Making claims about criminals and terrorists "pouring in" through the border, Trump has been campaigning on the promise of bringing back his "Muslim ban" and even implementing an ideological screening for those coming into the country.

Throughout the 2024 election cycle, the former president has repeatedly claimed some immigrants are "poisoning the blood" of the country, which echoes Adolf Hitler's use of similar language in his book "Mein Kampf."

The Trump campaign has rejected the comparison as "ridiculous."

In recent weeks, Trump has also labeled migrants in the country illegally as "violent criminals" and focused on "migrant crime," including by pointing to the recent killing of Georgia college student Laken Riley.

Police have charged Jose Ibarra with murder in connection with Riley's death, but he has not entered a plea. He was previously arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for unlawful entry from Venezuela, officials said.

ABC News' Isabella Murray and Nathaniel Rakich contributed to this report.

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Alabama House passes bill to ensure IVF access after court ruled embryos are children

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(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- The Alabama House of Representatives has passed legislation to restore access to in vitro fertilization after a controversial state Supreme Court ruling that embryos are children raised questions about the treatment in Alabama.

Thursday's vote, which was 94-6 with three abstentions, completes another step in a process that is ultimately expected to finish up late next week with Gov. Kay Ivey signing the bill into law.

Within days of the state court's decision earlier this month, roughly half of Alabama's IVF clinics paused treatment for fear that they could face wrongful death lawsuits or potentially criminal charges for discarding unused embryos, a routine part of IVF.

But the House proposal, if enacted, would provide civil and criminal immunity "for death or damage" to an embryo as part of IVF services.

Next, the Senate will vote on the bill on Thursday afternoon.

After that, the House will vote once more on the Senate’s bill and the Senate will vote again on the House’s bill -- a dayslong process.

Lawmakers have told ABC News that they have reached consensus and don't expect hiccups in the process, at this stage. If a lawmaker were to introduce an amendment, the timeline could be delayed. But at this point, none are expected.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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'I take full responsibility': Defense Secretary Austin says he should have disclosed medical issues

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(WASHINGTON) -- Facing angry lawmakers for the first time since his cancer diagnosis, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified Thursday that he takes "full responsibility" for keeping the White House in the dark when he underwent surgery and later when he was admitted to the intensive care unit after suffering complications.

"Again, we did not handle this right. And I did not handle this right. And as you know, I have apologized … including directly to the president. And I take full responsibility," he said.

The acknowledgment, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, didn't satisfy Republicans who said it's still not clear who made the decision not to alert the White House.

"If any American worker did what you did, they would be fired," said Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican. "And they aren't the number two in the chain of command of the greatest and most lethal fighting force in the world."

The hearing comes as a Pentagon review cleared Austin and his staff of wrongdoing, finding there was no "ill intent" of staff who failed to notify the White House but rather concerns about medical privacy and a lack of protocols for reporting such events.

For his part, Austin said he chose to take personal leave and not tell his staff upon being diagnosed with prostate cancer and scheduling a Dec. 22 surgery. He returned to work the next day after the surgery, which required general anesthesia. On Jan. 1, he developed complications and was rushed to the hospital, where he was admitted into the intensive care unit.

The White House didn't learn of his condition until three days later.

Austin, who said he was "completely cured" of the cancer, testified that at each point when he was unable to perform his duties -- including during surgery -- that his deputy was officially in charge and had full access to communications with the White House -- even if the White House didn't know it.

Austin said he never directed his staff to keep his hospitalization quiet.

"I would emphasize that there was never a break command and control," the secretary testified. "We transferred authorities in a timely fashion. What we didn't do well was no notification of other senior leaders."

But Republicans said it was ridiculous the top civilian at the Defense Department in the midst of global turmoil didn't alert others that he was incapacitated. It also remains unclear when members of his staff learned he had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

"What disciplinary action would a junior service member face if he or she failed to properly notify their chain of command and failed to report for duty?" asked Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.

Austin replied: "If a service member was in a hospital, I think the chain of command would be concerned about why they were in a hospital and (made) sure that they're doing the right things to take care of them and their family."
Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Feb. 29, 2024, in Washington.

Rep. Jim Banks -- one of Austin's top critics -- asked if the president is out to lunch or if the defense secretary is just irrelevant.

"Are you surprised president didn't call for your resignation?" Banks asked.

Austin looked at the congressman and responded flatly: "The president has expressed full faith confidence in me."

Banks then went on to question how the president could go three days without talking to his defense chief and not think much of it. Austin said that's not unusual for defense secretaries.

"Either the president is that aloof or you are irrelevant," Banks said. "Which one is it, Mr. Secretary, that ... the president (could) go three days without knowing that his secretary of defense is not on the job?"

"It's neither. The president is not aloof. And I ... participate in" all discussions, Austin responded.

For their part, Democrats said it was a waste of time to harp on Austin's mistake, which he had acknowledged and promised wouldn't happen again, considering that Congress hasn't been able to pass a budget in months. Also languishing in Congress is an aid package for Ukraine and Israel.

"It is the Congress of the United States and the leadership in this House that is failing to meet the national security needs of this nation," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-California.

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Democrats help Johnson pass short-term funding bill to avert government shutdown

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(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats helped Speaker Mike Johnson to pass a short-term funding bill in the House to avert a government shutdown before a Friday deadline -- but it only kicks the can down the road for a week.

The House voted 320-99 in bipartisan fashion to approve the short-term continuing resolution, pushing the funding deadlines back slightly to March 8 and March 22.

The measure, brought up under "suspension of the rules," required a two-third majority vote to pass -- which meant Johnson needed Democrats' votes to pass it. Similar actions by Johnson's predecessor, Kevin McCarthy put him in hot water and contributed to his ouster last year.

On Thursday, only two Democrats opposed the vote, joining 97 Republicans who voted against it.

The vote marks the fourth time House GOP leaders have put a continuing resolution on the floor since September.

The bill now heads to the Senate. It's unclear how soon the upper chamber will take up the bill, though it's expected to pass before Friday night's funding deadline.

It could face procedural hurdles in the Senate if one member objects to expediting the voting process, potentially pushing a vote past the shutdown deadline.

On Wednesday, House and Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal to avert the partial government shutdown of roughly 20% of the government, and create new funding deadlines: March 8 for that 20% and March 22 for the remaining 80%.

Johnson hoped that an additional week could give Congress more time to pass all remaining appropriations bills to fully fund the government through the end of FY2024. It comes after Johnson previously promised there would be no more short-term funding bills.

GOP Whip Tom Emmer announced that House votes are canceled for Friday -- meaning members will leave town after the funding bill vote.

The House will be back in session next Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate may vote as soon as Thursday night on a short-term government funding bill once it clears the House.

"Once the House acts, I hope the Senate can pass the short-term CR as soon as tonight but that will require all of us working together. There's certainly no reason this should take a very long time. So, let's cooperate and get it done quickly," Schumer said on the floor Thursday.

Schumer said collaboration helped lawmakers reach a deal.

"As I said directly to the speaker over and over and over again, the only way to get things done here is with bipartisanship. And this agreement is another proof point," he said. "This agreement is proof that when the four leaders work together, when bipartisanship is prioritized, when getting things done for the American people takes a high priority, good things can happen even in divided government. And I hope this sets the stage for Congress to finish the appropriations process in a bipartisan way, very soon."

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley and Jay O'Brien contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court to hear Trump's appeal for presidential immunity, further delaying Jan. 6 trial

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Donald Trump's appeal of a unanimous lower court decision rejecting his claims of sweeping presidential immunity in the face of a special counsel case against him for alleged election interference in 2020.

The justices said they will take up this question in oral arguments the week of April 22.

Trump is facing four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction, in connection with his plot to remain in power. He pleaded not guilty to the charges last year.

A trial date was initially set for March 4 but was pushed back due to Trump’s attempts to have the case dismissed on the grounds he is totally immune from prosecution for any actions taken while he was serving in the White House.

Trump’s immunity claim presents novel legal questions for the judicial system, as he is the first president (current or former) to ever face criminal charges.

Two courts have already rejected his immunity arguments, the most recent being a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

"For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant," the judges wrote. "Former President Trump lacked any lawful discretionary authority to defy federal criminal law and he is answerable in court for his conduct."

The judges warned that if his stance were accepted, it would “collapse our system of separated powers.”

Trump’s team swiftly filed a request to the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to stay the ruling, stating the justices should allow the appeals process to play out given the stakes for the 2024 election.

The special counsel urged the nation’s highest court to deny Trump’s request.

"The charged crimes strike at the heart of our democracy,” Smith’s team wrote in a filing. “A President’s alleged criminal scheme to overturn an election and thwart the peaceful transfer of power to his successor should be the last place to recognize a novel form of absolute immunity from federal criminal law.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Supreme Court divided over ban on rapid-fire rifle bump stocks

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared open to upholding a Trump-era ban on bump stocks as devices that turn weapons into rapid-fire illegal "machine guns," however it was not clear that a majority of justices would ultimately back such a ruling or agree on the rationale.

During oral arguments in the case Garland v. Cargill, both liberal and conservative justices suggested the devices – which allow a shooter to fire a semi-automatic rifle more rapidly and accurately – pose a significant danger and could reasonably be considered the types of weapons Congress sought to outlaw in the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Investigators say several of the devices were used to perpetrate America's deadliest mass shooting in 2017 in Las Vegas, where a gunman killed 60 people and injured more than 500.

"Can you imagine a legislator thinking we should ban machine guns but we should not ban bump stocks?" asked Justice Samuel Alito.

"There was significant damage from machine guns, carnage, people dying, et cetera. And behind this is a notion that the bump stock does the exact same thing," noted Justice Clarence Thomas. "So, with that background, why shouldn't we look at a broader definition?"

At the same time, the court appeared divided and at times confused over the technical specifications of a fully automatic "machine gun," whether they are replicated by adding a non-mechanical bump stock, and what the criminal liability could be for hundreds of thousands of Americans who legally purchased the accessory from store shelves.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had legally approved bump stocks for sale for eight years starting in 2009, classifying them as recreational firearm accessories. More than 700,000 are said to have been sold. But after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, the agency changed course, reinterpreting the 1934 law and ordering the devices surrendered or destroyed.

"Intuitively, I am entirely sympathetic to your argument," Justice Amy Coney Barrett told the administration's attorney, Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher, who was defending the ban. "It seems like, yes, that this is functioning like a machine gun would. But, you know, looking at that definition, I think the question is, why didn't Congress pass that legislation to make this cover it more clearly?"

"Those weapons do exactly what Congress meant to prohibit when it enacted the prohibition on machine guns, and those weapons are machine guns because they satisfy both disputed parts of the statutory definition," Fletcher argued in his opening statement.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the fact that administrations of both parties had repeatedly said that the federal machine gun ban did not apply to bump stocks was "a reason for pause."

"It's not dispositive," Kavanaugh said, "but it's reason for pause."

Justice Neil Gorsuch said he could "certainly understand why these things should be banned" but also wrestled with the implications of the ATF rule change on hundreds of thousands of Americans who had thought they were purchasing them legally.

"It's going to ensnare a lot of people who are not aware of the legal prohibition," said Justice Kavanaugh, echoing Gorsuch. Justice Alito also called potential prosecution of people who had legally purchased bump stocks as "disturbing."

The court's three liberal justices sought to cut through debate, focusing their questions on Congress' original intent.

"Why do these various distinctions with respect to operations matter?" said Justice Elena Kagan. "I read this statute to be a classification statute that Congress is directing everyone or us to identify certain kinds of weapons, and those certain kinds of weapons are being treated in a particular way. They're being prohibited."

"I view myself as a good textualist," Kagan later added, "but, textualism is not inconsistent with common sense."

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said "weapons with bump stocks have triggers that function in the same way" as automatic weapons: "through a single, right, pull of the trigger or touch of the trigger, you achieve the same result of automatic fire."

"No," replied Jonathan Mitchell, the attorney representing Texas gun shop owner Michael Cargill, who is challenging the ban. "The premise of Your Honor's question is not true. A single discharge of the trigger produces only one shot."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned why anybody would need a bump stock, if not for replicating the kind of machine-gun fire the government long ago sought to curtail.

"Bump stocks can help people who have disabilities, who have problems with finger dexterity, people who have arthritis in their fingers," replied Mitchell.

Sotomayor shot back: "Why would even a person with arthritis, why would Congress think they needed to shoot 400 to 800 rounds of ammunition [per minute] under any circumstance? If you don't let a person without arthritis do that, why would you permit a person with arthritis to do it?"

"Well, they don't shoot 400 to 700 rounds because the magazine only goes up to 50," Mitchell replied.

Government experts say a semi-automatic weapon can theoretically fire up to 180 rounds per minute when operated by an experienced shooter. A traditional, fully automatic M-16 machine gun, by comparison, can fire 700-950 per minute. A bump stock-equipped semi-automatic rifle is estimated to be able to shoot 400-800 rounds per minute.

"The statutory definition of machine gun extends only to weapons that fire more than one shot automatically by a single function of the trigger," said Mitchell. "Non-mechanical bump stocks fall outside the statutory definition."

The justices are expected to render a decision in the case by the end of June.

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