Politics Headlines

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1:34 p.m. Schiff says Trump is arguing there is nothing Congress can do about his conduct

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff makes his first remarks in Tuesday's session, speaking on behalf of the House impeachment managers against McConnell's resolution.

He says Trump is arguing that there is nothing Congress can do about the behavior in question in the trial and the trial won't be fair if both sides are blocked from introducing new evidence.

"If a president can obstruct his own investigation, if he can effectively nullify a power, the Constitution gives solely to Congress and indeed the ultimate power, the ultimate power the Constitution gives to prevent presidential misconduct, then the president places himself beyond accountability, above the law," Schiff says.

"It makes him a monarch, the very evil which against our Constitution and the balance of powers the Constitution was laid out to guard against," he says.

1:20 p.m. Senate considers rules resolution that now calls for 24 hours of arguments over 3 days

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, the Senate begins considering the rules resolution proposed by McConnell that Democrats strongly object to as unfair.

The trial resumed at 1:17 p.m. after being scheduled to resume at 1 p.m.

In a major change, the proposed rules would now allow each side to make their case in a total of 24 hours over three -- not two -- days.

12:25 p.m. Key GOP senators say they're on board with McConnell's proposed rules

Heading in their weekly closed-door GOP lunch, key senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska say they’re on board with the McConnell's rules resolution, both indicating that it looks the same to them as the Clinton trial rules resolution.

Romney calls the difference between the Trump trial and Clinton resolutions “insignificant,” while Democrats have said there are major differences, accusing Republicans of using the rules to engineer a "cover-up."

“You’ll get what you need in eight-hour blocks or 12-hour blocks,” Romney says, referring to the length of each of the two days Democrats would have to present their case.

Murkowski echoes Romney, saying,“It’s the same 24 hours (as in Clinton), so what’s the difference if it’s eight hours or 12?”

-- ABC's Trish Turner and Devin Dwyer

11:31 a.m. Schumer says McConnell's proposed rules will force debate into the 'dead of night'

Ahead of the Senate trial, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sharply criticizes the procedural rules outlined by McConnell Monday night.

Schumer takes issue with provisions he says would force debate into “the dead of night” and warns GOP moderate senators he will forces an initial vote on whether to allow senators to review documents and question witnesses.

“Right off the bat, Republican senators will face a choice about getting the facts or joining leader McConnell and President Trump in trying to cover them up,” Schumer tells reporters.

“A trial with no evidence is not a trial at all. It’s a cover-up,” Schumer says.

“This is a historic moment,” Schumer adds. “The eyes of American are watching. Republican senators must rise to the occasion.”

When asked if he plans to force votes to oppose McConnell’s decision to split the 24 hours designated for opening arguments over two days, Schumer says “wait and see.”

-- ABC's Mariam Khan

10:15 a.m. House managers complain about proposed trial rules

About three hours before they will appear on the Senate floor, House impeachment managers, led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, hold a news conference to complain about McConnell's proposed rules, which would give them 24 hours over just two days or present their case, possibly meaning their arguments going past midnight.

"This is a process where you do not want the American people to see the evidence," Schiff says.

"We could see why this resolution was kept from us and the American people,” he says, calling it “nothing like” the Clinton resolution in terms of both witnesses and documents.

“It does not prescribe a process for a fair trial and the American trial desperately want to believe that the Senate ... will give the president a fair trial.”

Without documents, Schiff said, you can’t determine which witnesses to call and what to ask them.

He was joined by the full managing team.

He also said McConnell is “compressing the time of the trial,” citing the extended 12-hour days for arguments.

Schiff says managers will appeal to the senators today to “live up to the oath that they have taken.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, who along with Schiff, will take the lead for the Democrats. Nadler said "there is no other conceivable reason the deny witnesses."

Nadler adds that all the Senate is doing is to “debate whether there will be a cover up,” accusing Republicans of “being afraid of what the witnesses will say.”

Schiff wouldn’t say if the House would use all 24 hours for their arguments and a full 12 hours each day but said that should be up to the House, and not the Senate in the trial rules.

-- ABC's Benjamin Siegel

9:19 a.m. House managers claim "ethical questions" about White House counsel Cipollone

House managers send a letter to a member of Trump’s legal team Tuesday morning stating that he was a “material witness” to the impeachment charges brought by the House. The managers, led by Schiff, claim there are “serious concerns and ethical questions” surrounding White House counsel Pat Cipollene’s role as Trump’s top impeachment lawyer.

“You must disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge that will be at issue in connection with evidence you present or arguments you make in your role as the President’s legal advocate so that the Senate and Chief Justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases,” the House managers write in a letter to Cipollone.

ABC News reported Friday that Cipollone would continue to lead the president’s defense through the impeachment trial along with the president's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow.

They’re joined on Trump's defense team by former independent counsel lawyers Ken Starr and Robert Ray who were both involved in investigating and prosecuting the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton.

-- ABC's John Parkinson

For a president who likes a good show and seems to thrive on chaos, the opening of his impeachment trial Tuesday could give him exactly that.

Sources on Capitol Hill expect the first full day of the trial to be something of a political food fight. At the heart of that debate is whether or not to call witnesses who Democrats claim have first-hand knowledge of the president's alleged pressure campaign against Ukraine

Rather than the staid proceedings of Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999 -- which followed a close script known to the public, with opening arguments by the House impeachment managers -- the choreography of President Donald Trump's trial is something of a question mark that could see the chamber, known for its decorum and heady debate, run entirely off script, if not off the rails.

Ahead of Tuesday's trial, sources close to the president's legal team argued the articles of impeachment against Trump are "deficient on their face" because they fail to state any violation of law.

In the 110-page trial brief, lawyers for the president rejected the articles as a "brazenly political act" and argued that even if the president did raise the issue of the Bidens and/or Burisma in the course of engaging with Ukraine, there would be nothing wrong with that so long as the president was seeking to advance the public interest.

"Importantly, even under House Democrats' theory, mentioning the matter to President Zelenskyy would have been entirely justified as long as there was a basis to think that would advance the public interest. To defend merely asking a question, the President would not have to show that Vice President Biden (or his son) actually committed any wrongdoing," the brief argues.

For now, much of what will happen Tuesday hinges on how long this political slugfest continues. A senior administration official predicted it is "highly unlikely" opening arguments happen Tuesday, and that could complicate the push by GOP leaders and the White House to compress the schedule.

However, the White House has said it's "extraordinarily unlikely" the trial goes beyond two weeks.

Once Chief Justice John Roberts gavels the trial to order, and the opening prayer is given by Senate Chaplain Barry Black and impeachment proclamation by Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to make a motion to take up his majority-only resolution that lays out the guidelines for the first phase of the trial.

The McConnell measure, released Monday night, condenses opening arguments by the managers and Trump lawyers to 24 hours each over two days per side, followed by up to 16 hours of questioning, via written special submissions by senators.

Democrats say a setup involving 12-hour days amounts to GOP efforts to "conceal" the president's alleged misconduct by conducting the trial in the "dead of night" when the American public is less likely to be paying attention.

On the crucial issue of whether or not to call witnesses, senators will vote up or down -- after the questioning period -- immediately following a four-hour period of debate on the issue. Key GOP senators, like Susan Collins of Maine and Utah's Mitt Romney, who have expressed interest in subpoenaing certain witnesses, insisted that this language be included.

"If the Senate votes no at that point, no party or Senator will be permitted to move to subpoena any witness or documents. If the Senate votes yes, both sides will be free to make motions to subpoena witnesses, and the Senate can debate and vote on them," according to a senior Senate GOP leadership aide.

Democrats were riled up by the GOP leader's exclusion of evidence not in the record at the time of the Dec. 18 House impeachment vote. It appears that any evidence related to Lev Parnas, a key associate of Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, would not be permitted.

Parnas has been turning over evidence to congressional investigators that he argues is pertinent to their impeachment investigation. Democrats, who have been releasing the evidence publicly, argue that Republicans saying no new evidence should be included is "completely out of sync with how trials are done" and say any evidence that is in the public record should be considered.

"Impeachment rules do not automatically admit evidence from the House into the Senate trial," said a senior Senate GOP leadership aide. "This is an important fact specific to this trial because the White House was denied due process throughout the 12 weeks of partisan House proceedings."

Democrats are expected to try to amend McConnell's trial rules with a request for witnesses and documents, according to sources familiar with their plans. But because of impeachment rules, no senator is allowed to debate anything in public.

That leaves the debate before cameras to both the House managers and the newly minted Trump legal team. Each side would likely get up to an hour to speak.

It will be the first time the public will see both sets of opponents on the Senate floor, seated at tables specially arranged for the occasion.

"We are going to demand votes -- yes or no, up or down -- on the four witnesses we've requested and on the three sets of documents we've requested. ... Make no mistake about it, we will force votes on witnesses and documents," Sen. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a press conference Sunday evening.

"It's going to be total chaos. No one knows what they're doing," said one former Senate aide with experience in impeachment trials.

McConnell's resolution is expected to include time for a motion to call witnesses after senators have had a chance to ask their questions of both sides, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, confirmed.

This was important to middle-of-the-road GOP senators like Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, as well as Romney. Collins signaled in a statement Thursday night that she is "likely" to support calling witnesses.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton levied scathing attacks on Sen. Bernie Sanders in a new Hulu documentary and in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Clinton, who competed for the 2016 Democratic nomination against Sanders and won, claimed that Sanders is unlikeable and has been relatively unaccomplished during his congressional tenure.

“He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done,” Clinton said in the documentary. “He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”

Clinton would not pledge to support Sanders if he won the 2020 Democratic nomination citing the wide Democratic field and concerns about Sanders’ online supporters, calling them “Bernie Bros.”

“I’m not going to go there yet. We’re still in a very vigorous primary season,” Clinton said. “I will say, however, that it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.”

When asked about Clinton's comments, Sanders responded, "On a good day, my wife likes me, so let’s clear the air on that one” Sanders said jokingly when asked about Clinton's comments. “Look, today, right now I’m dealing with impeachment.”

“Secretary Clinton is entitled to her point of view, but my job today is to focus on the impeachment trial. My job today is to put together a team to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of the United States of America," Sanders added.

Asked further why he thought Clinton was still talking about 2016, Sanders said: “That is a good question. Ask her.”

The Sanders campaign echoed a similar sentiment in a statement released Tuesday.

“My focus today is on a monumental moment in American history: the impeachment trial of Donald trump," statement from the senator read. "Together, we are going to go forward and defeat the most dangerous president in American history.”

Sanders, in a CBS interview Monday, said he didn’t agree with the social media attacks waged by his supporters. Instead, he urged them to “engage in civil discourse.”

In the interview, Clinton also weighs in on the controversy surrounding a 2018 private meeting between Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others. Reports from CNN, claimed Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win in 2020 against President Donald Trump. Warren confirmed the report and Sanders vehemently denied them.

Clinton said the argument is “part of a pattern.”

“If it were a one-off, you might say, ‘OK, fine.’ But he said I was unqualified. I had a lot more experience than he did, and got a lot more done than he had, but that was his attack on me,” Clinton said. “I just think people need to pay attention because we want, hopefully, to elect a president who’s going to try to bring us together, and not either turn a blind eye, or actually reward the kind of insulting, attacking, demeaning, degrading behavior that we’ve seen from this current administration.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- A lawyer for Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani who was indicted on campaign finance charges, called on Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself from overseeing the case, arguing it would create a "public appearance of a conflict of interest."

"Due to the conflict of interest of your being involved in these matters as Attorney General, and in an effort to preserve the public trust in the rule of law, we request that you recuse yourself," Joseph Bondy, Parnas' attorney, wrote in a letter filed to the court on Monday.

Bondy suggested the Department of Justice appoint a special prosecutor from outside the department to handle the case.

In his request, Bondy outlined several examples of why the attorney general should step back, including his involvement in President Donald Trump's Ukraine policy -- as Barr was named during the president's July 25 call with the Ukraine that sparked the impeachment storm on Capitol Hill.

The New York City bar also advised Barr to disqualify himself from the case.

Bondy said "evidence has been brought to light" linking Barr to not only Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, but other prominent GOP lawyers like Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, which he said creates a "public appearance of a conflict of interest.”

He argued that "actual harm" was done to his client, because of perceived "delays in the production of discovery in his federal case." In other words, Bondy said Parnas was unable to turn over documents in a timely manner in order to comply with the congressional subpoenas sent during the impeachment inquiry.

The letter did not however give any details as to how the discovery was delayed.

"This conflict of interest appears to have caused actual harm to Mr. Parnas," Bondy said, adding that his client couldn't dig up enough evidence "in time for congressional investigators to make complete use of his material or properly assess Mr. Parnas as a potential witness."

Parnas’ attorney also said prosecutors "refused" to meet with Parnas so he could give them the information he had on Trump, Giuliani, Toensing, diGenova and "others."

The Justice Department has declined to comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has apologized after a prominent surrogate published a negative op-ed about Sanders' 2020 rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Author Zephyr Teachout penned the op-ed in the Guardian, which claimed "Joe Biden Has a Big Corruption Problem." The op-ed included sharp attacks of Biden's candidacy.

“Some think nominating Joe Biden, a moderate white man who calls himself “Middle Class” Joe, makes sense. But Biden has a big corruption problem and it makes him a weak candidate," wrote Teachout. "I know it seems crazy, but a lot of the voters we need -- independents and people who might stay home -- will look at Biden and Trump and say: 'They’re all dirty.'"

The Sanders campaign recently promoted the op-ed in a newsletter called the "Bern Notice."

In an interview with CBS, Sanders apologized.

”It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I'm sorry that that op-ed appeared," Sanders said Monday.

"[Joe] is a decent person. He is a friend of mine. People like him. And we're not going to make personal attacks on Joe Biden but I think the record shows that Joe's history in the Senate and my history in Congress are very different," Sanders added.

“Thanks for acknowledging this, Bernie. These kinds of attacks have no place in this primary. Let’s all keep our focus on making Donald Trump a one-term president,” Biden said in a tweet reacting reports of Sanders apology late Monday night.

The apology comes after the Sanders campaign has been criticized for sharpening attacks of their opponents. Sanders denied responsibility for volunteer talking points that attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren's ability to expand the Democratic electorate. Biden also accused Sanders' campaign of sharing what he called a “doctored video” misleading voters about his stance on Social Security.

Sanders was also asked if he approves of his supporters who attack his opponents online.

"No, I really don't," he said. "If anyone knows me, what I believe is we need a serious debate in this country on issues. We don't need to demonize people who may disagree with us."

Instead, Sanders urged his supporters to communicate civilly.

"I appeal to my supporters: Please, engage in civil discourse," he added. "And by the way, we're not the only campaign that does it. Other people act that way as well. I would appeal to everybody: Have a debate on the issues. We can disagree with each other without being disagreeable, without being hateful. That is not what American politics should be about."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jeff Neira/ABC(NEW YORK) -- Mike Bloomberg is being visited by the specter of campaigns past.

Mark Green, Bloomberg's Democratic opponent in the 2001 NYC mayoral race, is announcing that this week, he will file an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Bloomberg News for "illegal corporate in-kind contributions" to the billionaire former mayor of New York's presidential campaign.

Green, who served from 1994 through 2001 as New York City’s first public advocate, was, at the time of his mayoral run, the prohibitive favorite of what unexpectedly became one of the more narrow elections in recent memory. Green ultimately lost to Bloomberg by a small margin.

Green's complaint now alleges that Bloomberg News is proffering biased coverage of the 2020 primary -- putting out negative stories on Bloomberg's opponents while avoiding scrutiny of their eponymous candidate.

Green alleges in the complaint he will file that Bloomberg News' coverage is a "coordinated contribution by a corporation to a candidate."

Green points to the memo that went out to the Newsroom staff after Bloomberg announced his bid for the Democratic nomination -- saying that the outlet would maintain its "tradition" of not investigating Bloomberg, his family or foundation, and that in the interest of fairness it would "extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries."

His allegation of coordination rests on the perspective that Bloomberg News is not providing fair and balanced coverage of the 2020 primary as behooving Bloomberg. In an interview with ABC News, Green outlined his proof as "admittedly, a content analysis of their coverage, which is one-sided."

He likens Bloomberg News as tantamount to a personal PAC for Bloomberg's campaign.

"It's not money -- Mike doesn't need money," Green said, adding it's more the lack of inquiry that serves Bloomberg. "The point is not that Mike is corrupt -- but that the process might be," he said.

ABC News has reached out to Bloomberg News for comment.

The Bloomberg presidential campaign declined to comment.

In a memo to newsroom staff sent the same day Bloomberg announced his presidential candidacy, John Micklethwait, Bloomberg News' editor-in-chief, sought to make clear how the news organization would handle coverage.

"We cannot treat Mike's Democratic competitors differently from him. If other credible journalistic institutions publish investigative work on Mike or the other Democratic candidates, we will either publish those articles in full, or summarize them for our readers -- and we will not hide them, "the memo read. "For the moment, our P&I team will continue to investigate the Trump administration, as the government of the day. If Mike is chosen as the Democratic presidential candidate (and Donald Trump emerges as the Republican one), we will reassess how we do that."

Though Green says the "in-kind" issue his complaint outlines is not about money - Green told ABC that it feels like déjà vu all over again from his 2001 run against Bloomberg -- when Bloomberg also poured enormous sums from his personal fortune into the race: $74 million in total.

"It feels like oh here we go all over again - like are you kidding?" Green told ABC.

"He's trying to do in this run for president what he did for mayor: he's trying to buy it, 'fair and square,'" Green said, clarifying that he meant that last quip as tongue-and-cheek.

The subjective nature of Green's complaint may blunt the impact it could have: news coverage is not the typical kind of corporate in-kind contribution investigated by the FEC; it looks more primarily at campaign finance violations, issuing fines and guidance to campaigns about adhering to election law. Moreover -- the FEC does not currently have a quorum: four commissioners are required to authorize an investigation; there are currently three.

With Bloomberg's unorthodox run for the White House, however, comes a unique situation: most candidates don't own media companies. Thus what might be considered as an "in-kind" "coordinated contribution" takes on fresh nuance.

Green says that he's concerned "there need to be more bright line tests" in FEC regulations.

"We are getting close to a system where only billionaires need apply."

Dovetailing with the populist tone he takes towards the electoral system, Green tells ABC he supports Massachusetts Sen.Elizabeth Warren's candidacy; Warren has built her bid for the Democratic nomination on denouncing big money in politics. Green says he has not spoken with the Warren campaign and is not working in coordination. Asked to confirm this, the Warren campaign declined to comment.

Bloomberg and Green have a decades' long history.

Their nail-biter bid for Gracie Mansion in 2001 took a bitter turn towards the end: in the contest's final 24-hour stretch, Green's campaign put out a negative TV ad on Bloomberg based on the sexual harassment suit filed against Bloomberg alleging that he told a pregnant female employee to "Kill it."

The ad seized on the explosive allegation at the time and underscored that the purported remarks might make New Yorkers rethink supporting Bloomberg.

The New York Times reported at the time that Bloomberg responded to the ad saying that Green "has no shame and is absolutely desperate."

ABC News asked Green if there was any lingering animus between Bloomberg and himself: Green said no.

"Am I upset about a race from 19 years ago?" Green told ABC. "My goodness, there's a statute of limitations on election results, and a statute of limitations on being a sore loser."

"In fact, Mike and I like each other. We get along, personally," Green continued. "Whatever motivation some critic might attribute is irrelevant to whether {Bloomberg} has violated FEC law."

Green added that after Bloomberg beat him in 2001, after calling to congratulate him first, Green called two days later and apologized for running the "Kill it" ad.

"I didn't want to run it -- then after being carpet-bombed by his negative ads, I felt like I had to," Green said, adding that Bloomberg accepted his apology, but didn't want to continue that conversation.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- Paul Rosenzweig, the former senior counsel to Ken Starr, who led the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton that resulted in Clinton's impeachment, slammed President Donald Trump's defense going into his Senate impeachment trial as being akin to the "scream of a wounded animal" and "a raging against the tide."

"At this point, I see President Trump's response to the impeachment as completely outside of the box of normal discussion," Paul Rosenzweig said on the latest episode of ABC News' "The Investigation" podcast on Tuesday.


The first impeachment trial in more than 20 years is expected to kick into gear this week with the first oral arguments from both Democrats and Republicans in front of all 100 U.S. Senators, who will hear evidence and deliberate as jurors over the coming weeks.

In briefs filed on Monday, the president's high-powered legal team blasted the impeachment as a "brazenly political act by House Democrats" and called on senators to "speedily reject" the charges.

The House impeachment managers, who are tasked with arguing in favor of Trump's removal from office, have asserted that "despite President Trump's stonewalling of the impeachment inquiry, the House amassed overwhelming evidence of his guilt."

"I would have thought that the allegations against the president would have actually merited serious consideration by the Senate and by Republicans in the House," Rosenzweig continued. "But apparently we are going to reduce impeachment to nothing more than…a partisan fight over a highway bill, and it should be something more."

While the rules set to govern the Senate trial remain largely opaque, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have advocated for the same set of standards Clinton faced more than two decades ago. Democrats, however, have repeatedly noted that witnesses were subpoenaed and testified during the Clinton trial -- McConnell has signaled a simple-majority vote over whether to call witnesses could go up in the Republican-controlled chamber once the trial starts.

Rosenzweig, who's now a resident senior fellow of national security and cybersecurity at the conservative think tank R Street Institute, laid out other distinctions between the Clinton era and now, too.

"I don't think that the comparison to the Clinton model is very apt at all," Rosenzweig said. "Bill Clinton himself testified before the grand jury and even went so far as to give DNA evidence. Today, by contrast, the House investigation was stymied at every turn by President Trump, who has turned over almost no documentation at all, who tried to stop every witness from testifying [and] who did not testify himself and refused to do so."

"The comparison, I think, is apples to clouds," Rosenzweig added.

Starr, the independent counsel behind the Whitewater investigation, now stands on the defense side of an impeachment battle. Last week, the White House announced he would be representing the president as defense counsel.

The Whitewater investigation ultimately turned up evidence of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the fallout from which led Congress to pass articles of impeachment against Clinton in 1998.

Rosenzweig said Starr's appointment as defense counsel in the impeachment trial will set him at odds with arguments he made more than 20 years ago in Clinton's case. Notably, in his report to Congress, Starr called the White House efforts to invoke executive privilege for senior aides "patently groundless."

"I don't see [Starr's] current position as consistent with the arguments he made about Clinton. So I assume he's changed his mind," Rosenzweig said.

Rosenzweig also took issue with a legal position taken over the weekend by another of the president's defense attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, who made the case on Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- outlined in the U.S. Constitution -- constitute "criminal behavior."

"It's really hard to take Professor Dershowitz seriously. I'm sorry, but what he's saying is essentially nonsense," Rosenzweig said. "If you read the record of the framing of the Constitution, the entire thrust of what the founders were opposed to was abuses of power."

Setting aside the legal stipulations expected at the Senate trial, Rosenzweig concluded that one element of the president's defense strategy is already set in stone: speed.

"I think their strategy is very simple: to move as fast as they can because they know they have the votes, avoid as much evidence as possible [and] don't engage on the facts because the facts don't really support them," he said.

Regardless of the outcome, Rosenzweig anticipated that the events in the coming weeks will be seen as "a watershed moment in American history."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer and Harvard professor emeritus named to President Donald Trump’s legal team last week, is already facing questions about his defense of the president in light of comments he made 21 years ago about impeachment.

Appearing on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopolous on Sunday, Dershowitz argued that impeachment of a president requires proof “of an actual crime,” and that Trump can’t be removed for abuse of power or obstruction of Congress, the two impeachment articles approved by the House last year.

“It needn't be a statutory crime, but it has to be criminal behavior, criminal in nature,” he said.

Dershowitz, speaking on This Week and making the same argument in other interviews, has cited former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Curtis, who served as President Andrew Johnson’s defense counsel in the first Senate impeachment trial in 1868, and argued on the Senate floor that the framers of the Constitution believed a president could only be impeached for criminal conduct.

But Dershowitz appeared to make a very different argument in 1998 when he appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live and said impeachment didn’t require the president to commit a crime.

"It certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime,” he said in comments unearthed by CNN.

Dershowitz, a self-described liberal Democrat who said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, opposed President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and wrote a book on the subject in 1998. He also consulted with Clinton's legal team during his impeachment.

Pressed on his decades-old comments in an MSNBC appearance on Monday, Dershowitz said he was making the "same argument."

“It doesn’t have to be technical crime because at the time the framers wrote the Constitution, there was no criminal code,” he said.

Dershowitz echoed that in a statement to ABC News, saying, "That’s still my position. It has to be criminal -- like, akin to treason or bribery. Not abuse or obstruction."

On his role defending Trump, Dershowitz said he has a "limited role" in the Senate trial.

"I’m only in the case as of counsel on the constitutional criteria for impeachment. I’m not involved in the strategic decisions about witnesses or fact," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


yenwen/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration plans to move forward with a new rule aimed at stopping what it calls "birth tourism" -- pregnant women traveling to the U.S. to have a "citizen child," a State Department official confirmed to ABC News Monday.

"This change is intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry," the official said in a statement.

The changes to State Department policy for temporary tourist and business visas are expected to come shortly, the official said. Axios was first to report the administration was moving forward with the rule change.

Trump administration officials have publicly criticized birthright citizenship -- a guarantee mandated by the 14th Amendment for anyone born in the country.

Ken Cuccinelli, Trump's former head of Citizenship and Immigration Services and now the No. 2 at the Department of Homeland Security, said a constitutional amendment would not be required to make changes to birthright citizenship.

“I do not believe you need an amendment to the Constitution," Cuccinelli told reporters in October. "I think the question is do you need congressional action or can the executive act on their own.”

In a case last year, federal prosecutors indicted 19 for schemes that charged clients thousands of dollars with the promise of getting them to the United States for the purposes of giving birth. The defendants were charged with defrauding their victims and laundering money following a Homeland Security investigation.

But ABC News contributor John Cohen, who served as a senior Homeland Security official under President Barack Obama, said instances of such schemes are rare and should not be considered a high priority national security threat.

Officials have not provided a count of how many tourists travel to the U.S. to give birth, and it’s unclear how the administration plans to enforce the policy change. The State Department did not respond to additional questions about changes to the vetting process for visa applicants.

“They're embellishing the national security implications dramatically,” Cohen said. “Portraying birth tourism as a top tier national security issue is dishonest.”

Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan has called the birthright citizenship a key "driver" of illegal immigration, suggesting it was behind the surge of asylum applicants who arrived at the southern border in 2019.

"They think it's their golden ticket to come to the United States," he told Fox News earlier this month.

"If the message we want to send to the rest of the world is: enter this country illegally, have a U.S. citizen child and you're free to go, then we're never going to solve the border crisis," he added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow in Rep. Elijah Cummings, talks to the hosts of ABC's "The View," for Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20, 2020. - (Lou Rocco/Walt Disney Television)(WASHINGTON) -- Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of late Maryland Rep. Elijiah Cummings, paid tribute to her husband on ABC's The View on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, lauding his lifelong battle to secure democracy and promote equality.

“He was a very empathetic man," Rockeymoore Cummings told the hosts. "He grew up in a segregated Baltimore, so he knew what it was like for Americans’ history of hatred to influence and depress the opportunities for a whole generation of people just because of skin color."

She added, "He was determined that he was going to live his life in a way that opens doors for everyone."

Cummings, who passed away on Oct. 17, represented the Baltimore area in Congress and was the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee. He was also a key player in the beginning stages of the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

His involvement in the House Democrats' impeachment probe attracted sharp criticism from Trump, who once attacked the congressman and Baltimore on Twitter, calling the city "a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess."

"It hurt him deeply. And it hurt him at his worst moment," Rockeymoore Cummings told The View hosts in response to the tweet. "Elijiah was already battling health issues, so to have the president come out and do this at that time, it really depressed him and it stressed him and I think it undermined his health."

Before his passing, Cummings' told his fellow lawmakers and the public that his support of impeachment wasn't about "disliking the president," but about "loving democracy." Co-host Whoopi Goldberg even said he was known as the conscience of Congress.

Rockeymoore Cummings reminded the hosts that she's working on her campaign to fill the vacant congressional seat left open by her husband. She stepped down from her position as chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party in November, after announcing her plans to run, saying it is now her job to continue his legacy for justice.

"People are rising up all across the country. They are saying that 'we will not be oppressed,'" Rockeymoore Cummings said, adding "We have hordes of women who are running to take office... I am a part of that vanguard of people who are seeking to build on the legacy left by Elijiah Cummings."

Co-host Meghan McCain called on Rockeymoore Cummings for her internal strength.

"I don't think I could have run for anything three months after my father died," said McCain, the daughter of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, adding "Was Elijah supportive?"

"Absolutely," Rockeymoore Cummings said, explaining that she and the vigorous congressman were a team from the start, fighting together for a long time.

"Elijiah met me on Capitol Hill, I was already in the fight," Rockeymoore Cummings told the hosts. "We fought together for a very long time, and he expected me to continue the fight. On several occasions he told me that he thought I should run for his seat."

At the time, she said she told him that she didn't want to think about that, because that would mean Cummings -- who began his fight for civil rights at just 11 years old -- would be gone.

The conversation then turned to her health and preventative measures she's taken to ensure she can continue to fight for his legacy.

She told the hosts that she got a double mastectomy to slow or delay breast cancer, which runs in their family -- and claimed her mother's life in 2015.

The Democratic field to fill Cummings' seat is a crowded one: 24 candidates are in the running thus far.

Rockeymoore Cummings’ step-daughters announced their endorsement of Harry Spikes, Cummings’ longtime aide on Capitol Hill, in early December.

Kweisi Mfume, the former president of the NAACP -- who previously held the seat -- also announced he would compete to return to Congress.

Cummings was the first African American to lie in state at the Capitol. His ceremony was attended by many, including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

The special primary election to fill his seat is slated for Feb. 4.

The special general election will be held on Apr. 28, the same day as Maryland’s 2020 primary election.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


NoDerog/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- American elections have long been awash in cash, but a decade after the Supreme Court eliminated limits on political spending by outside groups, watchdogs say the system is drowning in it.

Ten years ago this week, the court decided Citizens United v FEC, a landmark 5-4 ruling that unleashed billions of dollars from corporations, labor unions and other groups into American campaigns as a protected form of free speech.

"The decision stands for freedom and encourages participation in the political process," said Michael Boos, vice president and general counsel of Citizens United, the conservative nonprofit organization which successfully challenged federal caps on independent political spending. "Money is speech, and that is a reality. Without money you can’t get your message out."

The 2020 election is projected to be the most expensive in history, in large part due to the spending by groups the Citizens United decision made possible, analysts say.

“The system today is funded by influence-seekers,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog. “We’ve had problems all along, but Citizens United just magnified it tremendously.”

The 2010 case cleared the way for creation of Super PACs, the political entities which can raise and spend unlimited sums to influence elections, so long as they don’t explicitly coordinate with a candidate.

During the 2016 campaign, more than 2,300 Super PACs spent $1.1 billion -- nearly 17% the $6.5 billion amount spent by all parties involved in the election cycle at all levels. Most of that money came from just 100 donors, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

By comparison, in 2010, there were just 83 active Super PACs, spending a combined $63 million during the cycle, the group said.

Super PACs have spent more than $2.9 billion in federal elections between 2010 and 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That's just over 11%.

All outside groups, including Super PACs, labor unions, trade associations, corporations and others, spent a combined $5.6 billion in federal elections between 2010 and 2018. That's just over 21% of all spending in federal elections over the same period.

Corporations, unions and many of the nation’s wealthiest donors -- reluctant to draw negative attention for direct contributions to candidates or campaigns -- have poured funds into Super PACs, which are less well known and harder for the public to track.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court majority in Citizens United, concluded that the spending is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be considered a corrupt quid pro quo.

“The fact that a corporation, or any other speaker, is willing to spend money to try to persuade voters presupposes that the people have the ultimate influence over elected officials,” Kennedy wrote.

Two months later, in a separate case, the justices took things even further, striking down limits on contributions to independent political groups altogether.

“Justice Kennedy was generally skeptical of government regulation of constitutional rights--including the freedom of speech. I think his Citizens United opinion reflected his preference for liberty, rather than control,” said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law. “Moreover, I think both Republicans and Democrats alike have benefited from Citizens United. This decision is our new normal.”

With each successive year since the case was decided, spending in American political campaigns has continued to climb. The 2016 federal elections cost $6.5 billion, up 3% from four years earlier, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The total cost of the 2000 election, by contrast, was around $3 billion.

The growing involvement of outside political groups is largely responsible for the increase.

Spending by all political organizations -- other than the candidates' campaigns -- has increased from $1.3 billion in 2012 (a presidential year) to $1.6 billion in 2016 (another presidential year). Between those two contests, Super PAC spending increased as a share of all outside money, from 47% to 64%.

The efforts by independent organizations to influence voters is not limited to presidential elections. During the 2014 midterm campaign, Super PAC spending was $345 million. In 2018, another midterm year, that jumped to $822 million, the data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

“The thought that the Constitution requires this toxic state of affairs is astonishing,” wrote four prominent constitutional and campaign finance scholars in a 2017 University of Chicago Law School working paper.

“According to the Supreme Court, Congress many prohibit a $5500 contribution to an official campaign because this contribution is corruption or creates the appearance of corruption,” the authors, Albert Alschuler, Laurence Tribe, Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, wrote. “However, Congress may not prohibit a $20 million contribution to a Super PAC because this contribution does not corrupt or create even an appearance of corruption.”

The federal contribution limit direct to candidates was $5,400 during the 2016 campaign cycle.

"The reason Super PACs are necessary is because of the artificially low contribution limits for candidates," said Boos. "A standard political action committee (PAC) can only give $5000 to a candidate. That’s it, per election, and that’s the same limit that was in place in 1976. It hasn’t even kept up with inflation."

Millions of voters say they are dissatisfied with the status quo.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found 3 in 4 Americans -- including majorities of Republicans and Democrats -- believe there “should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations” can spend in political campaigns.

Nearly as many believe it’s important that major political donors do not have more influence than others, the poll found.

Dozens of states have tried to implement their own campaign finance reforms in the wake of Citizens United.
Thirty-nine states restrict the amount individual donors can contribute to state campaigns, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But those laws have had mixed success.

In November 2019, the Supreme Court struck down Alaska's campaign contribution limits of $500 per candidate, per year in state races, saying such a stringent cap could violate the First Amendment.

“A contribution limit that is too low can therefore prove an obstacle to the very electoral fairness it seeks to promote," they wrote.

Twenty states have endorsed amending the Constitution to authorize Congress and states to set limits on campaign fundraising and spending, according to American Promise, a nonprofit organization leading the nationwide effort.

"Amendments are rare, and they’re hard. But they do happen," said the group's CEO Jeff Clements. "We did four amendments between 1961 and 1971 -- in ten years -- and you think about how turbulent that period was. Those were difficult times. Americans know we have some big structural problems we have to fix. I see this happening within a decade."

"It’s about free speech," Clements added. "Real free speech means some limits on the megaphone so that all ideas are heard."

In Congress, the House passed Democrat-sponsored legislation in 2019 that would overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system and establish an optional 6-to-1 public matching system for political donations under $200. It has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Eventually Citizens United is either going to be overturned or we’re going to pass an amendment,” said Wertheimer. “But there is a more immediate solution, and we’re very close now. If you can create another way of financing elections, and we’re on the doorstep right now, you can give candidates the opportunity to be free from the flood of influence-buying money that they face every two years.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The historic third presidential impeachment trial resumes on Tuesday, placing senators in the unusual position of serving as both judge and jury as they close in on rendering a verdict in the case of President Donald Trump.

Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., disagreed whether the president's conduct, forming the basis of the charges against him in the Senate trial, was an impeachable offense in separate interviews on ABC's "This Week."

A brief filed Saturday, written by the seven House impeachment managers, asserts that President Donald Trump's scheme to withhold $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine in order to seek the announcement of a probe to benefit him politically was "the Framers' worst nightmare."

"I don't know that has been actually proven," Shelby told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos whether it was OK for the president to publicly request the Ukrainian and Chinese governments to get involved in the 2020 election, Shelby said those comments from the president were "just statements -- political."

"The president of the United States is human," Shelby said Sunday. "He's going to make mistakes of judgment and everything else."

 Booker, a former 2020 presidential candidate, said the president had "openly been engaging with Russians and others ... to undermine our election," calling it "a real threat to this nation."

"This is preposterous that this would not be an impeachable offense, that this standard in America is now that presidents could abuse their power to help in elections," Booker said.

Trump's legal team filed its response to the House's brief on Saturday, echoing the president's oft-repeated defense that he "did nothing wrong" and arguing that the articles of impeachment were "constitutionally invalid."

"And the fact that we can't even get Republicans to answer your question directly -- is that behavior wrong -- it is absolutely wrong," Booker told Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

 Shelby and Booker were sworn in as jurors in Trump's impeachment trial last week. The trial is set to resume on Tuesday when arguments get underway in the Senate. Both senators have acknowledged the need for a fair trial, despite disagreeing on the procedural mechanisms to achieve one.

Booker said on "This Week" that he would "press for what every objective juror should press for ... relevant fact witnesses coming before the Senate."

He has previously called the idea of a trial without witnesses "insane," saying it "makes no sense" for jurors in a big trial to not hear from "firsthand witnesses that saw what happened."

"I believe that we shouldn't be afraid of any witnesses," Shelby said Sunday, without definitively answering whether witnesses with firsthand knowledge, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, should testify.

"If they're going to add something substantive, something substantial ... that's one thing. But if they're not going to add to what already we have, that's another question."

 This will not be Shelby's first appearance at the impeachment trial of a sitting president. He served as a juror during the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, where the issue of witnesses was similarly contentious. There, senators ultimately agreed to hear testimony from three witnesses via video depositions after a vote of 56-44.

Shelby acknowledged on "This Week" that he did vote to have witnesses testify in the Clinton trial.

If the Senate votes to refuse witnesses in Trump's trial, it will be the first time in U.S. history an impeachment trial has not allowed witness testimony.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard professor emeritus who recently joined President Donald Trump's defense team, made the constitutional case against impeachment in an interview on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

It's an argument that he said was successfully argued in President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial.

"When you read the text of the Constitution, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, 'other' really means that crimes and misdemeanors must be akin -- akin to treason and bribery," he told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

In a separate interview on "This Week" the lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, called Dershowitz's argument "absurdist."

"You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument," Schiff told Stephanopoulos. "You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers."

Dershowitz said that calling the argument absurdist is "to insult one of the greatest jurists in American history," referring to Justice Benjamin Curtis, who first made the argument in Johnson's impeachment trial.

"The argument is a strong one, the Senate should hear it. I am privileged to be able to make it," he said. "I have a limited role in the case. I'm only in the case as of counsel on the constitutional criteria for impeachment."

 Dershowitz argued that the president should not be impeached, even if House managers prove their case for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. When Stephanopoulos pressed Dershowitz about whether it was okay for the president to solicit foreign interference in an election, he said that was not his concern.

"If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal, regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as OK by you or by me or by voters," he said. "That's an issue for the voters."

Almost a month after the House voted for two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the Senate impeachment trial formally began on Thursday.

 House managers outlined their formal case against the president in an 111-page brief filed with the Senate on Saturday night. In the filing, House managers argue that "the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming" that the president abused his power by seeking foreign interference in an election and followed that action by obstructing a congressional investigation.

"Senators must accept and fulfill the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and the Oaths they have just taken to do impartial justice," the brief said. "They must conduct a fair trial -- fair to the President and fair to the American people.”

On "This Week," Schiff made the case for having witnesses in the trial.

"If the Senate decides -- if Senator McConnell prevails and there are no witnesses, it will be the first impeachment trial in history that goes to conclusion without witnesses," he said.

Dershowitz said that the Constitution doesn't speak to whether or not there need to be witnesses in an impeachment trial. However, he also said that if witnesses are allowed, it could cause a delay.

"The one thing that's very clear is that if witnesses are permitted on one side, they have to be permitted on both sides," Dershowitz said. "And if witnesses are permitted, it will delay the trial considerably, because the president will invoke executive privilege as to people like (former national security adviser) John Bolton that will have to go to the court and we'll have to have a resolution of that before the trial continues."

 Following the House Democrats' filing their brief on Saturday, the president's lawyers formally responded to the articles of impeachment by reiterating the president's assertion that he did nothing wrong.

"This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election -- now just months away," the response from lead counsels Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow said. "The highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the President began the day he was inaugurated and continues to this day."

When asked about the brief on "This Week," Dershowitz did not comment on the merits of the claims made in the response.

"I did not read that brief or sign that brief," he told Stephanopoulos. "That's not part of my mandate. My mandate is to present the constitutional argument."

Schiff called the president's formal response to the articles "surprising" because it doesn't offer more than the "failed arguments we heard in the House."

The president's legal team will has until noon Monday to submit their full trial brief.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats filed a brief on Saturday outlining their formal case against President Donald Trump, as the Senate impeachment trial is set to continue next week.

The brief -- written by the seven House managers -- asserts that Trump’s scheme to withhold $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine in order to seek the announcement of a probe to benefit him politically was "the Framers’ worst nightmare."

The managers lay out across 111 pages the argument they intend to make, outlining the two articles of impeachment that were approved by the House in December, before the Senate with supporting evidence as early as Tuesday.

It also makes several references to the recently-released report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found the withholding of Ukraine aid illegal.

 "An announcement of a Ukrainian investigation into one of his key political rivals would be enormously valuable to President Trump in his efforts to win reelection in 2020 -- just as the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails had helped him in 2016," the filing states.

The managers added, "Ukraine’s announcement of that investigation would bolster the perceived legitimacy of his Presidency and, therefore, his political standing going into the 2020 race."

Despite the articles of impeachment being held by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a month in order to try to secure an agreement on witnesses at the Senate trial, the managers collectively argued in today’s filing that the president poses an urgent threat to democracy and his conduct in the Ukraine matter warrants removal now from office.

"Although his sweeping cover-up effort ultimately failed -- seventeen public officials courageously upheld their duty, testified, and provided documentary evidence of the President’s wrongdoing ... his obstruction will do long-lasting and potentially irreparable damage to our constitutional system of divided powers if it goes unchecked," the trial brief says.

The House managers maintain that the facts of the case are "indisputable and the evidence in overwhelming" that the president used his power of office to solicit foreign interference into the United States' presidential election.

 "When the President got caught, he tried to cover it up by obstructing the House’s investigation into his misconduct," the brief said. "Senators must accept and fulfill the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and the Oaths they have just taken to do impartial justice."

They added that the Senate "must conduct a fair trial -- fair to the president and fair to the American people."

Trump's trial brief is due by noon on Monday. The House will have until Tuesday afternoon to respond.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


National Archives/Twitter(WASHINGTON) --  The National Archives put out an apology on Saturday after admitting to digitally altering a photo with references they deemed inappropriate, including signs critical of President Donald Trump.

"We made a mistake," the National Archives, a facility of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), said in a statement on Saturday, adding "we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration."

The statement went further to say the alterations were done because it was not an "archival record," but one licensed to be used as a promotion.

The agency maintains that it does not alter images or documents that are displayed as artifacts.

"Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image," the statement said.

 The photo -- taken from the first Women's March in Washington back in 2017 -- was used to promote their exhibit "Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Right to Vote," that looks into the 19th Amendment and the women's suffrage movement.

During the president's first full day in office, more than 500,000 participants lined the streets to march for women's rights. The exhibit showed the 2017 image superimposed with another photo representing a women's protest in 1913.

 The fourth official Women's March took place on Saturday morning, again a place where participants took to the streets of the nation's capital to protest -- with words and signs often directed at the Trump administration and its perceived threats to women and civil rights.

The 2017 photo, taken by Getty Images' Mario Tama, shows the protesters standing in front of the Capitol building, some holding vulgar or condemnatory signs.

"As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President's name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy," the NARA said in a statement on Friday.

One specific example, first reported by the Washington Post, shows a sign that says "God hates Trump." His name was noticeably altered in the photo and was barely legible. The photo also blurred out several references to female genitalia.

"As a family-friendly museum which hosts many groups of students and young people each day, we also blurred some words that could be perceived by some museum visitors as inappropriate, so as not to distract from the graphic's intended purpose," NARA said. "The decision to do this was made during the exhibit development process by a group that included agency managers and museum staff members."

The National Archives said it has removed the display on Saturday afternoon, adding that it will be replaced with an unaltered image.

"We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again," the statement said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Stephanie Keith/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas was in contact with at least two major Trump campaign donors-- one with an official role in the Republican National Committee-- during his efforts to pressure Ukraine into opening politically motivated investigations, documents released by the House Intelligence committee this week revealed.

Parnas' interactions with the two men, Harry Sargeant III and Tommy Hicks Jr. -- who have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to fundraising vehicles for the president -- provides more fuel to assertions by the president’s critics that political motives – and not the nation’s foreign policy goals -- drove the efforts in Ukraine.

In an interview on CNN on Thursday, Parnas confirmed his work in Ukraine was all about ensuring President Trump remained in office.

“It was all about 2020, to make sure he had another four years,” Parnas said. “That was the way everybody viewed it. That was the most important thing, for him to stay on for another four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it.”

A friend with a jet

The identity of those financing the work by Guiliani and Parnas during the months they spent traveling to Ukraine, Austria, and elsewhere, has remained largely opaque. Giuliani at one point told Reuters that the president was not paying for any of their efforts to see Biden investigated in Ukraine.

“Nobody pays my expenses,” Giuliani said in a Reuters interview in September. “What does it matter if I’m getting paid for it. Isn’t the real story whether he (Biden) sold out the vice presidency of the United States, not whether I got paid for it?”

The messages released on Wednesday suggest that Parnas was receiving at least some support from Sargeant, a Florida-based oil executive and former state Republican Party’s finance chairman, who was funding at least some of Parnas' flights as he assisted Giuliani's efforts abroad.

In a message dated April 10, Parnas asks Sargeant about a trip that "just got canceled, adding that "we have people scheduled to meet on Saturday in Vienna."

"Just becoming expensive flying u guys everywhere LEV," Sargeant replied.

Parnas subsequently told Sargeant that "we" are paying him back for the flights and that he was “never expecting [Sargeant] to pay for it." According to House investigators, Parnas flew to Ukraine four days after this conversation.

In another message, Parnas asks Sargeant to “approve” for his associate named Dave “to pay for car service on cc [credit card],” saying he got a “deal” from “Rudy’s guys” on lodging and taxis. Sargeant – an ultra-wealthy energy mogul -- replies, “Don’t bother w this stuff pls.”

It also remains unclear how involved Sargeant was in directing Parnas’s efforts, though text messages between the two men suggest Sargeant was aware of Parnas’s activities. At one point, Parnas invited Sargeant to meet him in Ukraine, to which Sargeant responded, “I could leave Thur and be there Friday maybe.” Parnas then said, “I think first Vienna and than Ukraine.” At another point, Parnas sent Sargeant a photo he described as a “Team trump dinner celebration” and wrote: “I’m official part of team trump tomorrow big day my brother I’ll call you tomorrow.”

The two also exchanged articles about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, and about the then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, with Parnas telling Sargeant he has some “juicy stuff” and that a “bomb is dropping.” When Yovanovitch is recalled to Washington in May, Sargeant texted Parnas with his reaction: "Perfect."

Sargeant's attorney Chris Kise told ABC News his client has not been to Ukraine in over a decade for any purpose. In a statement, Kise denied Sargeant had any involvement in any plan to remove Yovanovitch and said Sargeant loaned money for Parnas' air travel, but never offered to pay for it outright.

"As is evident from the texts, Mr. Sargeant loaned Lev Parnas small sums for travel expenses because Mr. Parnas claimed, perhaps falsely, he was broke, and promised to pay the funds back," Kise said. "But despite repeated requests by Mr. Sargeant, and continual promises of repayment by Lev Parnas, Mr. Parnas never repaid these expenses.”

Sargeant's name has also surfaced in news reports and impeachment inquiry witnesses' testimonies related to Parnas and Fruman’s to attempts to reshape the leadership of Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz in pursuit of natural gas business in Ukraine. Sargeant’s lawyer at that time denied his client’s involvement in any Ukraine energy ventures.

“Power Breakfast”

Other material released by the House this week shows Parnas in contact with several people who play prominent roles in the president’s fundraising and re-election effort. Those includes texts between Parnas and Hicks Jr., a friend of Donald Trump Jr., who is the co-chairman of the RNC and chairman of pro-Trump super PAC American First Action.

Parnas and Hicks were in contact for at least four months, messages show, as the scheme to oust then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yavnovotich and pressure Ukraine to announce political investigations unfolded. At times, Hicks and Parnas exchanged articles about the Biden campaign and Ukranian election meddling conspiracy theories. Hicks appeared to offer Parnas guidance.

"Editor and owner of Daily Caller is a friend," Hicks told Parnas in a message alongside an article about Nellie Ohr and Fusion GPS. "We should let him know what we know at the right time," he suggested.

"100%," Parnas replied.

The messages also suggest the two joined conference calls to discuss the efforts.

"Great job on the conference call!," Parnas praised Hicks in one exchange. "Thanks," Hicks replied. "Short and sweet!"

Hicks at times appeared to want to keep his distance from Parnas, stating he wanted to "keep [his] hands clean" when Parnas asked him to retweet a since-deleted Sean Hannity tweet.

But Parnas kept Hicks up to date on the status of his efforts in Ukraine, informing Hicks in March that something was going to "break tomorrow.” In May, Parnas told Hicks the ambassador "just got recalled."

Just a few weeks later, Parnas posted a photo on Facebook showing him at a breakfast with Hicks, alongside Donald Trump Jr. and fellow Giuliani associate Igor Fruman.

Parnas referred to the meeting as a "Power breakfast."

ABC News made attempts to reach Hicks by phone at his home and at the RNC but was not able to reach him for comment.

“Have jr retweeted it”?

Parnas also kept in touch with America First Action's director of development Joseph Ahearn, who kept Donald Trump Jr. updated on Ukraine matters, messages released by House committees this week show.

In a message dated March 20, 2019, Ahearn asks Parnas, "What should I send don to tweet" and Parnas sends a series of tweets and articles related to Ukraine officials' probe into U.S. elections. Parnas then asks Ahearn, "Have jr retweeted it" and Ahearn replies, "Sent."

Donald Trump Jr. retweeted one of the articles Parnas sent to Ahearn around the same time.

In another series of messages, Parnas also sent Ahearn a New York Times article from May that links Parnas to Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine for the first time, to which Ahearn says, "They started naming you here. Are you okay?"

Shortly after Parnas and Fruman were named as part of the House impeachment inquiry, the two were indicted in a separate campaign finance violation case in the Southern District of New York on charges related to alleged illegal straw contributions and foreign contributions. They both pleaded not guilty. Among Parnas' donations mentioned in the indictment is a $325,000 contribution to America First Action. Prosecutors accuse Parnas and Fruman of falsely reporting the origin of the payment as under the name of “Global Energy Producers.”

Of numerous outside groups raising and spending money to support President Trump’s re-election bid, America First Action is the sole outside group the president has officially endorsed and approved as the “trusted supporter of President Trump’s policies and agendas.”

ABC News reached out to America First Action for comment but received no response.

Parnas’s expanded political outreach

As an ardent supporter of Trump since the early days of his 2016 campaign, Parnas’s contact with wealthy Trump donors stretched far beyond his activities in Ukraine this year. But his donation to America First Action in early 2018 afforded him a new level of access to exclusive high-dollar events.

 Parnas has since acquainted himself with a host of President Trump’s wealthy supporters at close-door donor events, and then touted those very connections to pursue his personal business interests as well as political interests. During an interview on CNN, Parnas said he had so many photos of himself with Trump-world insiders hanging in his house, his wife thought it looked like a “shrine” to the President.

In 2018, Parnas cultivated a relationship and secured a $500,000 loan from New York-based lawyer and Trump donor Charles Gucciardo, his attorney told ABC News. Gucciardo's lawyer Randy Zelin said his client then gave the money to Giuliani, which kicked off the business relationship between the two in the fall of 2018. No apparent connection has been made between Gucciardo’s loan and Parnas's specific efforts in Ukraine.

Zelin told ABC News that his client made the payment as a "passive investor" in Parnas and Fruman’s company, called Fraud Guarantee, and that he decided to invest in the company because of an endorsement from Giuliani.

"Mr. Gucciardo invested because he believed that Mr. Giuliani – the former Mayor of New York City; former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; and, the first name in cybersecurity -- was in front of, behind, and alongside the Company which would catapult the Company into the world of cybersecurity and investor protection," Zelin said in an email.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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