(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration has announced a proposal to “strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule that would require water systems to replace lead service lines within 10 years,” the White House said in a statement on Thursday.
According to the White House, more than 9.2 million American households connect to water through lead pipes and lead service lines and, due to “decades of inequitable infrastructure development and underinvestment,” many Americans are at risk of lead exposure.
“There is no safe level of exposure to lead, particularly for children, and eliminating lead exposure from the air, water, and homes is a crucial component of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic commitment to advancing environmental justice,” the Biden administration said.
“The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests over $50 billion for the largest upgrade to the nation’s water infrastructure in history, and today’s action builds on these historic levels of funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, a key pillar of Bidenomics, to replace lead service lines across the nation,” the statement continued.
The proposal would also aim to increase tap water sampling requirements, require water systems to complete comprehensive and publicly available lead service line inventories and strengthen and streamline requirements for water systems to take additional actions to reduce lead health risks to communities.
“This proposal advances the Biden-Harris Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, a whole-of-government approach to reduce all sources of lead exposure,” the White House said.
During the 2023 fiscal year alone, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed 49 cleanup projects that addressed lead contamination where it posed risks to people’s health around the country.
Lead is the environmental contaminant most commonly reported to the EPA, according to the White House.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is working to ensure a future where every child and family can live safely in their communities without the fear and harmful effects of lead exposure,” said the White House.
(WASHINGTON) -- Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state during the Nixon and Ford administrations who was said to be one of the most influential and controversial foreign policy framers in postwar United States, has died. He was 100.
The news was confirmed by Kissinger's consulting company on Wednesday night.
"Dr. Henry Kissinger, a respected American scholar and statesman, died today at his home in Connecticut," Kissinger Associates, Inc. said in a statement Wednesday.
Kissinger will be interred at a private family service and there will be a memorial service at a later date in New York City, the company said.
Kissinger remained active in politics in the decades since his time in office and had taken on a respected elder role for some Republicans and Democrats. He met with Alaska's then-Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008, and Mitt Romney reportedly spoke by phone with Kissinger during the 2012 campaign. Kissinger met with Donald Trump shortly after Trump won the 2016 presidential election and the two later met in the White House in 2017.
Hillary Clinton, who ran against Trump in 2016, called Kissinger "a friend" and said she "relied on his counsel" when she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
The former secretary of state was born Heinz Kissinger in Fuerth, Germany, on May 27, 1923. His parents, Louis and Paula Kissinger, fled Nazi Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1938, and it was in his newly adopted country that the son of a German Jewish schoolteacher excelled in his studies.
He enrolled in the U.S. Army in 1943 and while stationed in South Carolina at the age of 20, Kissinger became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Kissinger saw combat with the 84th infantry division and volunteered for intelligence duties during the Battle of the Bulge.
Kissinger later said of his time in the Army, "It was an Americanization process ... It was the first time I was not with the German Jewish people, I gained confidence in the Army."
He went on to receive his BA degree in political science from Harvard University in 1951 and his MA and PhD degrees from the university in the years following.
In 1955, Kissinger was recruited by the Council on Foreign Relations to head a study group examining the implications of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles's call for "massive retaliation" as the U.S. Cold War strategy against the Soviet Union. The strategy, which threatened nuclear destruction on Soviet cities for even minor infractions, was heavily criticized by Kissinger in his report published as "Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy" in 1957, a surprise best-seller.
Kissinger later served as a consultant to several government agencies and think tanks, including the Operations Research Office, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the State Department and the RAND Corporation, before he was appointed as Nixon's national security adviser in January 1969.
Key role in US foreign policy
As national security adviser from 1969 to 1975 and secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Kissinger provided the conceptual framework through which such bold initiatives as détente (the easing of strained relations) with the Soviet Union and the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) were pursued.
SALT -- a series of bilateral conferences and international treaties between the United and the Soviet Union -- began in 1969 under Nixon. Two corresponding treaties -- signed by the two countries in 1972 and 1979 -- set limits on the number of long-range ballistic missiles that each side could possess and manufacture.
Kissinger also sought to open up diplomatic relations with China. In one of his greatest successes, Kissinger arranged a state visit between Nixon and Chinese leader Zhou Enlai in 1972. The efforts resulted in the Shanghai Communique, which provided guidelines on normalizing relations between the two countries.
Kissinger was also instrumental in effecting an end to the Vietnam War. However, one way in which he aimed to settle the conflict was through secret bombings of Cambodia and the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi and a ground invasion of Cambodia in 1970 in an apparent effort to pressure North Vietnamese forces operating between the two countries. This campaign brought controversy from those on the left who felt that flexing more military power was not key to ending the conflict, and believed that his policies extended the war and cost more lives.
However, after Kissinger and North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho met several times in secrecy in Paris, they negotiated a brief truce. This led to the two leaders receiving the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, although Tho declined the award.
A little over two years later, 30 North Vietnamese divisions conquered South Vietnam, effectively ending the conflict, according to the U.S. State Department.
According to a Pentagon report released in 1973, "Henry A. Kissinger approved each of the 3,875 Cambodia bombing raids in 1969 and 1970" as well as "the methods for keeping them out of the newspapers."
By the end of the bombing campaign, nicknamed "Operation Menu," the U.S. had dropped over 2 million tons' worth of bombs, killing between 150,000 and 500,000 civilians, according to U.S. Army data.
Critics of the Nixon administration and Kissinger, then and now, laid blame on the administration for the Khmer Rouge's invasion of Cambodia in 1975, arguing that U.S. policies in Cambodia had accelerated the ascension of the communist regime, according to historian Walter Isaacson in his biography "Kissinger." The Khmer Rouge went on to kill an estimated three million people in Cambodia, almost half of the country's population at the time, through agricultural policies, which created widespread famine, as well as the mass murder of Cambodian minorities and political dissidents.
In testimony to Congress when communist forces were completing their takeover of Cambodia in 1975, Kissinger conceded that the U.S. had callously disregarded Cambodia while trying to achieve its goals in Vietnam, according to Isaacson.
Kissinger said, "Our guilty, responsibility, or whatever you may call it toward the Cambodians is that we conducted our operations in Cambodia primarily to serve our purposes related to Vietnam and that they have now been left in a very difficult circumstance."
However, Kissinger years later would remark to Time, "Without our incursion, the communists would have taken over Cambodia years earlier."
Legacy under scrutiny
Toward the end of his life, the call to have Kissinger testify or be made accountable for his decisions when he was in office grew louder.
In 2001, British journalist Christopher Hitchens published The Trial of Henry Kissinger in which he argued that Kissinger gave the go-ahead to brutal politicians allied to the United States to put thousands of innocent civilians to death. By 2002, Kissinger's past dealings in Latin America while in office seemed determined to haunt him, if not to ruin his reputation.
There were by then summonses out for Kissinger in five countries seeking information about his role in Operation Condor, an alleged conspiracy of murder, torture and kidnappings organized by Latin American dictators in the 1970s that extended across the borders of Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay. As President Nixon's national security advisor, Kissinger was strongly suspected of having had full knowledge of the operation.
The controversy was reignited in 2010 when a cable, dated Sept. 16, 1976, was declassified and released by news outlets. In the cable, Kissinger seemingly rejected delivering a proposed warning to the government of Uruguay about Condor operations and ordered that "no further action be taken on this matter" by the State Department, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But Kissinger said shortly after the cable's release that its meaning was "distorted" and it was intended only to disapprove a specific approach to the Uruguayan government, not to cancel the plan to issue warnings to other nations suspected of participating in the Condor network, the LA Times reported.
In an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in July 2022, Kissinger commented on the controversy surrounding his time in office.
"Nixon and I, we had a tendency, we were not in favor of escalation. But we felt that if we had to escalate it, we should escalate to a point very close to what the other side would tolerate in order to prevent sliding into a nuclear war through a series of little steps. The last one which turns out to be nuclear," he said.
Kissinger, when asked in the interview about any key policy decisions he would take back, said, "I have developed no great answer for it. Because I've been thinking about these problems all my life. It's my hobby ... it's my occupation. The recommendations I made were the best I was then capable of."
Life after government
After leaving government in 1977, Kissinger established a consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and commanded large fees as a speaker. He was a member of different presidential commissions and continued to write newspaper columns and offer his opinions on television. In 1994, Kissinger was hired as a consultant to the boards of both MGM and Credit Lyonnais.
In addition to his Nobel Peace Prize, Kissinger was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in 2006. In 1995, he was appointed an Honorary Knight Commander in the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George by Queen Elizabeth II.
Looking back on his life and career, Kissinger told Stephanopoulos, "When I was, say 15, in Germany, it never occurred to me that someday I might be secretary of state of the United States and in a position to do this. It's an amazing tribute to America that this is possible ... I was a member of a discriminated minority, so it did not lend itself to career thinking."
"It was an extraordinary fate -- and therefore obligation -- to do the best I was capable of doing," he added.
Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, and his children, Elizabeth and David, from a previous marriage.
(WASHINGTON) -- As President Joe Biden tries to find a balance between supporting Israel and showing concern for the plight of Palestinian civilians, new details are emerging about how emotions spilled over during a private White House meeting last month between him, his aides and Muslim American advocates.
Just one day earlier, the president publicly questioned the death toll in Gaza reported by the Hamas-run health ministry there in the weeks after Hamas launched a terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7, sparking a war.
"I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed," the president said at a joint press conference with the Australian prime minister on Oct. 25. "I'm sure innocents have been killed, and it's the price of waging a war."
The next day, advocates said, Biden apologized to them during a meeting in the White House Roosevelt Room as they urged him to show more empathy for Palestinians and pushed, unsuccessfully, for him to back a permanent cease-fire.
Four participants described the atmosphere as emotional at times, even tearful, featuring both sharp words and a hug.
There were about a dozen people, total, in attendance for what was supposed to be a 30-minute, strictly off-the-record meeting.
The White House was provided the details from these attendees before this story was published and declined to comment on the record or confirm Biden's exact quotes from the meeting.
Among them were Muslim advocates and top White House aides, including Biden's domestic policy adviser, Neera Tanden, and the Small Business Administration's No. 2, Dilawar Syed, the highest-ranking Muslim person in the executive branch. ABC News spoke with five people in attendance, some of whom asked not to be identified by name because of the sensitivities.
The president wasn't a confirmed guest and participants believed they were getting a forum to talk with officials about Islamophobia, the U.S. position on the Israeli government, the Palestinians and related issues.
The meeting had been in the works for roughly a week or two, according to one of the attendees. After Biden walked into the Roosevelt Room, the gathering went on longer than planned -- ultimately for more than an hour -- according to a senior administration official.
His comments about Palestinian casualties, amid Israel's relentless bombardment of Gaza to destroy Hamas' operations in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack, stirred strong feelings.
According to multiple participants, the sole female guest, Dr. Suzanne Barakat, a prominent Muslim advocate, "respectfully challenged" the president over his tone about the Palestinians.
Barakat said, according to the participants, Biden's stance on the war lacked empathy toward people in Gaza.
Rami Nashashibi was also at the meeting and was the only Palestinian American participant. He told ABC News that he "challenged [Biden] very explicitly about how extraordinarily cruel and insensitive" the president's comment about the casualty statistics "sounded to people here and across the globe, who are witnessing the horrific death and carnage in Gaza."
Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, runs Gaza and the Gaza Health Ministry. According to their statistics, more than 15,000 people have been killed in the territory and there have been reports of 7,000 people trapped under rubble.
The casualty numbers released by the health ministry are widely cited in the news but have not been independently verified, though officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken went on to say in November, "Far too many Palestinians have been killed."
In a moment that multiple people in the room on Oct. 26 corroborated, Barakat emotionally told the president that "they both shared the loss of loved ones -- in her case, to horrific hateful violence."
Barakat's brother, his wife and her sister were all murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, eight years ago. Barakat described it as a hate crime.
Nashashibi said that Barakat related her experience to Biden's, listing off the names of the president's first wife, eldest son and baby daughter -- Neilia, Beau and Naomi -- all of whom have died.
Biden grew quiet and appeared "deeply affected," according to two of the meeting participants.
Barakat told Biden that empathy was his superpower, according to four participants. She turned her entire body toward the president and said, "You are lacking empathy toward Palestinian suffering. … We need your same level of human empathy for the Palestinian suffering."
The room was pin-drop silent, attendees said.
The president then cited some of his own experiences, like with Beau's brain cancer and Beau recovering from the 1972 car crash that killed Naomi and Neilia.
According to the participants, Biden said he did have empathy -- just ask his advisers -- but said he needed to do a better job sometimes portraying it.
He then sat for a moment, according to two participants, and reflected before apologizing. These participants, paraphrasing him, remembered Biden saying he was sorry, that he would do better and that he was disappointed in himself.
The conversation also touched on antisemitism, with the advocates saying that support for a future Palestinian state wasn't the same as antisemitism, according to Nashashibi.
Nashashibi said the president agreed with the participants that people should not be losing their jobs and having their personal information revealed online over challenging Israel’s strikes in Gaza.
The White House was provided the details from these attendees before this story was published and declined to confirm Biden's exact quotes from the meeting.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters this week that he wouldn't discuss accounts of private meetings.
While Nashashibi spoke out immediately after the Oct. 26 meeting, it has drawn renewed attention. The Washington Post first reported that Biden apologized to the advocates; some details were also reported by The New York Times.
The episode underscores the challenge Biden has faced given backlash from some allies -- both major Muslim advocates and some leading Democrats in Congress -- over his position on the war. The president has increasingly sought to strike a balance between supporting Israel's campaign against Hamas and speaking out about the importance of protecting civilians.
The White House was initially unequivocal in its support of Israel's response to Hamas' "unconscionable" terror. But the president and other officials have gone on to urge Israel to reduce civilian casualties in their retaliatory operations -- which Israeli officials maintains they do, despite the death toll -- and Biden has called for ongoing humanitarian pauses in order to try and free hostages believed to be held by Hamas and to send civilian aid into Gaza.
Since late last week, a tenuous truce has been in place between Israel and Hamas as part of a hostage-prisoner exchange deal in which more aid was also being allowed into Gaza.
Biden last week welcomed the pause and touted his administration's role in it, along with various Middle Eastern and Arab countries. He also suggested he might be open to putting conditions on further U.S. aid to Israel in order to curb the Israeli bombing campaign, which international organizations have noted has precipitated an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
However, the president has repeatedly declined to support a broader, ongoing cease-fire to the current war, despite calls for an end to the conflict coming from many Democratic activists and an increasing number of Democratic lawmakers.
White House officials have said they believe ending the conflict now would help Hamas in its continued attacks on Israel.
A White House source tells ABC News that there have been several meetings with White House staff these last few weeks about both messaging and policy related to the war. Led primarily by the White House chief of staff, Jeff Zients, and Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn, the meetings have been with Jewish, Muslim and Arab aides.
Some Muslim activists have said they will actively campaign against Biden in the 2024 presidential race, given that he hasn't embraced a broad cease-fire.
Participants at the Oct. 26 meeting with Muslim advocates said they failed to change Biden's mind on that point.
"He did not come to terms with us on the policy," Nashashibi said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former Democratic National Committee official and the first Muslim elected to Congress, was a participant and told ABC News in a statement that "the President listened carefully, responded sincerely, and showed empathy and compassion for the suffering of everyone. The humanitarian pause is a welcome reprieve from the violence but the community remains steadfast in its demand for a sustained ceasefire, and negotiations to obtain a lasting settlement of the conflict."
One participant said they felt the administration's view had changed in some ways, though.
"They're talking more about enforcing, protecting civilians, and they're not doubting the [casualty] numbers anymore, and they're showing some humanity, empathy toward the victims," this person said.
The meeting also addressed long-standing issues, like the administration's strategy to combat Islamophobia, which multiple participants said had gained increased urgency.
"Muslim community leaders told President Biden that the suffering of innocent Gazans trying to survive in extremely difficult circumstances has actually increased the likelihood of Islamophobic attacks in the United States," Ellison said in his statement.
Multiple meeting participants told ABC News that they still hope the president strongly considers their policy requests. But more importantly, they said, they hope he follows through with his. They believe his push for Israel to minimize civilian damage has not been fully honored.
"So what is it that you are now prepared to do to make sure that your own asks are being respected?" said another participant, Emgage CEO Wa'el Alzayat.
As the meeting ended, according to Nashashibi, the president "leaned into [Barakat] very closely," placing his hand on hers. "He said something to the effect that in this moment he felt he wasn't just the president. He was a father and a grandfather."
Multiple other people in the room confirmed this exchange.
Nashashibi said Barakat leaned in, too, and was kind but "she was very clear in that moment, even in the thick of that deep emotional connection."
"But you are not just a father or grandfather. You are the president," he recalled her saying. "And you can stop this."
(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. George Santos, the beleaguered Republican who represents New York's 3rd Congressional District, may face expulsion from Congress as soon as this week over suspected ethics violations and other allegations of wrongdoing.
Santos has steadfastly defended himself, including by labeling a scathing report from congressional investigators as a "smear."
In a defiant speech on Tuesday night, he said, "Are we to now assume that one is no longer innocent until proven guilty and they are, in fact, guilty until proven innocent?"
Two previous attempts to expel Santos failed, but a third motion to remove him must be voted on within the coming days.
If he does get kicked out of Congress, who will replace him? That will depend on who wins a special election for his swing seat.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would have to call a special election within 10 days of Santos' expulsion, according to state law.
That election would occur within 70 to 80 days of Hochul calling it, and she would not be able to appoint someone to the seat before then. An empty seat would weaken Republicans' already narrow majority in the House.
There would be no traditional party primary where Democratic and Republican voters would choose from a list of candidates seeking to succeed Santos.
Instead, county leaders from each party would internally vote for and nominate candidates for the special election, according to New York election law. That would likely kick off a competitive courtship of local Republicans by many within Santos' own party.
Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs told ABC News that a handful of candidates are being considered for their pick -- including former Rep. Tom Suozzi, 2022 Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman and former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, among some others.
Suozzi and Kaplan have already launched 2024 primary election challenges for Santos's seat.
Since the district is mostly in New York's Nassau County but also includes parts of Queens, the consideration of nominees would be jointly made by Nassau and Queens Democrats, with Rep. Gregory Meeks leading the Queens cohort, in consultation with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Hochul herself, per Jacobs.
Nassau County GOP Chair Joe Cairo told Politico in late October that the county party will "select the best candidate, and we will give 110% effort as we do in every race." He said that the party had already heard from around 20 candidates.
A source familiar with the Nassau County Republicans confirms to ABC News that they consider around 15 candidates potentially strong contenders in the event of a special election and have been in touch with party leaders in Washington and hope to be able to produce a nominee within several days, should Santos be expelled.
Given the geographic makeup of the district, the Nassau County chapters of both parties would have the better part of the influence in who the nominee for their respective parties will be.
(NEW YORK) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday warned about growing antisemitism in the U.S. and the "deep fear" he said Jewish people are experiencing.
Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in America, called the rise in antisemitism following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel a "crisis" in a more than 40-minute speech on the Senate floor. The United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
"I have noticed a significant disparity between how Jewish people regard the rise of antisemitism, and how many of my non-Jewish friends regard it," Schumer said. "To us, the Jewish people, the rise of antisemitism is a crisis -- a five-alarm fire that must be extinguished. For so many other people of goodwill, it is merely a problem, a matter of concern."
In the Gaza Strip, more than 15,000 people have been killed by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry/Government Media Office. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Schumer's speech came on the same day an op-ed he wrote ran in The New York Times. In it, as the speech, Schumer pointedly criticized those he said who have used the conflict between Israel and Hamas as an opportunity to target Jewish people.
"The vitriol against Israel in the wake of Oct. 7 is all too often crossing a line into brazen and widespread antisemitism, the likes of which we haven't seen for generations in this country -- if ever," he said.
He said many Jewish people are feeling alone with antisemitic rhetoric abounding.
"Can you understand why Jewish people feel isolated when we hear some praise Hamas and chant its vicious slogan? Can you blame us for feeling vulnerable only 80 years after Hitler wiped out half of the Jewish population across the world while many countries turned their back? Can you appreciate the deep fear we have about what Hamas might do if left to their own devices?"
He added that criticism of Israel "can sometimes cross into something darker, into attacking Jewish people simply for being Jewish."
Schumer said many Americans -- especially those who are younger -- "don't have a full understanding" of the history of oppression against Jews.
Schumer said he, like most Jewish Americans, supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine -- but said certain calls have gone too far.
"The reason why I invoke this history about the founding of the Israeli State is because forgetting or even deliberately ignoring this vital context is dangerous," Schumer said. "Some of the most extreme rhetoric against Israel has emboldened antisemites who are attacking Jewish people simply because they are Jewish, independent of anything having to do with Israel."
Schumer said he is troubled by pro-Palestinian protesters' signs and chants that include "from the river to the sea" and "by any means necessary."
"Obviously, many of those marching here in the U.S. do not have any evil intent, but when Jewish people hear chants like 'From the river to the sea,' a founding slogan of Hamas, a terrorist group that is not shy about their goal to eradicate the Jewish people, in Israel and around the globe, we are alarmed," he said.
The House earlier this month voted to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, accusing her of calling for Israel's destruction, her critics said it was, in part, because she repeated that Palestinian nationalist slogan, "from the river to the sea."
The level of antisemitism experienced now leaves many Jewish people concerned about the future, Schumer said. Many Jewish people are "worried" about where these actions could lead, he said.
"All Jewish Americans carry in them the scar tissue of this generational trauma, and that directly informs how we are experiencing and processing the rhetoric of today," Schumer said. "We see and hear things differently from others because we are deeply sensitive to the deprivation and horrors that can follow the targeting of Jewish people -- if it is not repudiated."
(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a resolution Wednesday to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, marking her second effort this month to impeach Mayorkas due to his handling of the southern border.
"The Guarantee Clause [of the Constitution] clearly dictates that the federal government has a constitutional duty and obligation to protect each of the states from invasion. As secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas has violated his oath to uphold this constitutional duty," Greene said Wednesday.
Greene filed an earlier so-called privileged resolution against Mayorkas on Nov. 9, accusing him of high crimes and misdemeanors related to migrants and drugs crossing at the border. This new resolution comes after eight Republicans voted with Democrats to block the congresswoman's last impeachment effort -- referring it to the House Homeland Security Committee. Greene introduced similar articles of impeachment against Mayorkas in May but House GOP leaders never brought them to a vote.
A spokesperson for DHS dismissed Greene's latest resolution as a "baseless attack."
"Every day, the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security work tirelessly to keep America safe. They need Congress to stop wasting time and do its job by reforming our broken immigration system, reauthorizing vital tools for DHS, and passing the Administration's supplemental request to properly resource the Department's critical work to stop fentanyl and further secure our borders. Secretary Mayorkas continues to be laser-focused on the safety and security of our nation. This baseless attack is completely without merit and a harmful distraction from our critical national security priorities," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson argued that policy differences are not grounds for impeachment and urged members of Congress to work with DHS to find solutions to secure the border.
It is unclear whether any members who helped stymie Greene's last push to impeach Mayorkas have changed their votes, and Greene said Wednesday that she hasn't spoken with the eight Republicans who blocked her last impeachment push. Previously, some moderate House Republicans weren't supportive of impeaching Mayorkas without a full investigation.
Rep. Ken Buck, one of the eight Republicans who voted to squelch the Nov. 9 effort, said earlier this month that while he has "strong disagreement with his handling of our southern border, which puts this country at grave risk," Mayorkas "did not commit an impeachable offense."
But some of the other Republicans who voted down the previous effort have signaled openness to impeaching Mayorkas in the future. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who also joined Democrats in killing the earlier impeachment push, told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo last week that he'd consider a modified resolution.
"I've said I'm willing to vote for impeachment, but I wanna make sure that it's written properly and comes out prepared to note just pass the House, but to pass the House in a way in which we've at least got a shot to take it to the Senate and convince them to remove the secretary," he said.
Greene said if the current effort to impeach Mayorkas fails, which appears likely, she will "keep reintroducing it."
The House of Representatives will have to vote on the new resolution within two legislative days.
There have been 2,475,669 southwest land border encounters in fiscal year 2023 year-to-date, an increase of 96,725 encounters since fiscal year 2022 year-to-date, according to Customs and Border Protection.
(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday that he has "real reservations" about the upcoming vote to expel Rep. George Santos, citing concerns that removing a member without being convicted would establish a bad precedent.
But despite those reservations, Santos appears poised to become the sixth member in history to be expelled from the House of Representatives.
"I trust that people will make that decision thoughtfully and in good faith," Johnson said during a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday. "I personally have real reservations about doing this. I'm concerned about a precedent that may be set for that."
Johnson said the Santos expulsion vote is now likely going to occur on Friday. The plan, which is still fluid, is for the House to debate the resolution on Thursday and then vote on Friday, a source told ABC News.
Santos said he will hold a news conference on the Capitol steps Thursday morning.
Johnson acknowledged one potential justification to expel Santos now -- before his day in court -- citing the House Ethics Committee's determination that Santos committed several "infractions" against House rules. The scathing report from the House Ethics Committee alleged the New York congressman "placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles."
Johnson says members can "vote their conscience" and leadership will not instruct them how to vote -- setting up a dramatic vote later this week.
While there is certainly growing momentum to oust Santos, there are a number of Republicans who are openly conflicted about how to vote.
"We should have a system of justice in this country, and until you're found guilty, that makes it a little tougher in a court of law," Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee told ABC News. "I am on the fence."
Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds told ABC News he will not vote to expel Santos.
"The bar has to be very high for the other members of Congress to remove a member. And that is, in my view, a conviction in a court of law," Donalds said.
On Nov. 1, when the House failed a second attempt to expel Santos, just 179 lawmakers voted to remove Santos, while 213 voted to keep him. A vote to expel Santos requires a two-thirds majority -- 290 votes if there is perfect attendance. That tally -- 45.66 percent for expulsion -- did not even reach a simple majority. Nineteen lawmakers, including members of the House Ethics Committee, had voted "present" rather than take a fixed position on expulsion on Nov. 1.
Santos is still defiant as ever, telling ABC News there is no chance he'll resign.
"I'm not going to be bullied out of this job, out of the House, out of my seat. Now if they want me out, vote me out," he said.
Now that the House Ethics Committee's report is public, it's an open question whether that's created enough cover for members who have twice voted to protect Santos to now vote to kick him out of Congress.
Johnson has acknowledged the void Santos' expulsion could create in his narrow GOP majority, but he has urged Santos to consider all options -- including resignation -- to avoid forcing his colleagues take a tough vote. There are also some Republicans who simply want Santos to keep punching his vote card to aid their majority.
With just 179 lawmakers previously voting to expel Santos, more than 120 more members must join the chorus for expulsion to succeed on Thursday.
Even if all the Democrats who were absent (11), voted against (31) or voted present (15) on Santos' expulsion on Nov. 1 voted for his expulsion this time around, that would only add 57 more votes to expel – more than 50 votes shy of forcing Santos' removal.
Additional votes may come from Republicans who are expected to turn against Santos. Just 24 of 222 Republicans have voted on the House floor to expel Santos so far, but after the scathing House Ethics Committee report, dozens are expected to change their tune.
As Santos has acknowledged himself, the votes seem as if they're there for a history-making moment in the House.
(WASHINGTON) - The sky is not the limit for these flight attendants.
When they aren't flying the friendly skies, three flight attendants told ABC News they're pursuing advanced degrees, meeting celebrities and having other exciting adventures.
Reese Williams initially wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force, following in the footsteps of his dad and brother, who were in the military. When they tested his eyesight, they told him, "Kid, you're pretty much blind," he said.
But they still wanted him to enlist -- in a different capacity, eventually becoming a congressional flight attendant
Williams, who spent a few years as a communications and navigation specialist while simultaneously working at United Airlines, was one of just two selected out of a pool of 800 applicants to become a part-time congressional flight attendant on Air Force Two, a position that has enabled him to meet first ladies, speakers of the House and several members of Congress, he told ABC News.
"It's been a roller coaster ride that I would never ever in my life change," Williams said.
Williams worked as an Air Force flight attendant for over 10 years across four presidential administrations.
Between his work at United and in the Air Force, Williams accomplished his goal of traveling the world. He's been to 139 countries and all 50 states.
And he didn't just meet political celebrities, either. His work brought him face-to-face with U2 singer Bono.
Williams said his intensive Air Force training made him a better flight attendant in both jobs. Air Force flight attendants endure 19 days of training during which they go through scenarios like being shot down by a missile over the water during a diplomatic mission. They get dropped into the water, where they need to inflate life rafts, yell out commands and check for injuries as firemen hose them down to simulate splashing waves.
Being a congressional flight attendant comes with additional duties: Williams faxes in passport numbers to clear customs; does security checks and loads bags. The attendants go through culinary training and serve meals.
Some of the training covers how to deal with delicate situations, which flight attendants face whether they're working on Air Force Two or serving customers on commercial flights.
Williams recently retired from the Air Force but said he plans on working for United as long as they'll have him.
"Okay, I'll do this for two or three years and get it out of my system," Williams said he thought to himself at first.
"But the reality is, it never gets out of your system. Twenty-five years later, here I am," he added.
While juggling his dual flight attendant roles, Williams collected three degrees, earning a bachelor's degree in sociology with a concentration in business administration from George Mason University in 2004 and two associate's degrees years later. Next up, he hopes to obtain a master's degree.
But pursuing an education while maintaining a career as a flight attendant can come with challenges. Manuel Gallegos, who has been a flight attendant for 17 years, told ABC News he struggled to keep up with his work schedule, his relationship and his classwork while he was pursuing classes at a community college.
Despite the hardships, Gallegos graduated with an associate's degree in 2018, and he told ABC News there was never a question about his professional goals.
"I just felt like this was a calling for me," said Gallegos. "To be in a position where I could advocate for somebody and hopefully be part of a change that makes people live a better life."
Gallegos was then accepted to the sociology program at California State University, Long Beach. As he finished his bachelor's degree, he decided to pursue his master's degree in social work.
After over a decade in school, Gallegos says he's done -- for now.
"I'm giving myself five years, just to see where my life is," he said. "Then, in five years, if I feel like I still need a challenge or feel like I need to grow more, then I'm going to apply for my doctorate in education."
Gallegos said his sociology degree has been helpful in his career as a flight attendant.
"I'm able to quickly build rapport with people," he said. "Being a flight attendant, you have to be able to do that when there's an issue that occurs at 36,000 feet in the air. It's not like we call the manager to resolve it, or ask the person to leave. We've got to try to defuse and deescalate the situation."
Marisa Cunanan's career as a flight attendant also allowed her to connect to people -- but in her case, it was her family.
While a student at University of California, Berkeley, Cunanan, a divorced single mom who had already been a flight attendant for over 15 years, lived on campus but used flight benefits to fly back and forth on weekends to see her family. She traveled to Mexico to do research for her thesis, focusing on the intersection between Mayan culture and Catholicism in the town of Izamal.
Her kids came to visit her on campus and experienced college life, seeing her dorm and going to football games.
Cunanan was accepted as a first-generation college student, and her father, who died in 2014, had been an international student from Mexico. He sat in on the classes of his Bay Area friends who attended Berkeley.
"When we were younger, he would joke around, how he attended Berkeley," said Cunanan. "You can always make those jokes, but I think it was something that he actually probably would have wanted to have done."
For two years, Cunanan juggled a double major in art history and anthropology, her work as a flight attendant and her life as a mom in Los Angeles.
Cunanan graduated in 2022 and she's currently studying for the LSAT.
"For people out there on the fence of whether they can do it or not, just don't limit yourself," Cunanan said. "Believe in yourself."
(WASHINGTON) -- A group of self-styled political independents filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week to launch a new Super PAC aimed at swinging independent voters to support former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in her bid to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
Led by five entrepreneurs -- including Jonathan Bush, the cousin of former President George W. Bush, and billionaire CEO Frank Laukien -- the PAC, called Independents Moving the Needle, says it will focus its efforts on New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. About 40% of voters in the state are registered as undeclared.
Undeclared voters in New Hampshire can choose to participate in Republican or Democratic primaries in any given year, making them a potentially crucial constituency for 2024 Republicans seeking a breakout moment in their fight against former President Donald Trump.
The PAC is chaired by five relative outsiders to the world of dark money politics. Laukein and his wife, Tamra, who lead companies in life sciences, are joined by Bush, CEO of a healthcare data company, and Bonnie Anderson, CEO of PinkDx, a private cancer-testing company. Robert Fisher, a white-collar attorney and a former federal prosecutor, also helped to found and is now leading the group.
"This seemed like, maybe for the first time for many of us, where we personally felt, 'Wow, I've never been in politics and never intended to, but this time, I could make a positive difference together with my colleagues here,'" Laukein said, explaining why they decided to launch the PAC to support Haley.
FEC filings show Bush has donated the individual maximum of $6,300 to Haley this cycle, while Laukein has made individual donations totaling roughly $3,000 to other GOP contenders, including Sen. Tim Scott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. However, Laukein, who lives in New Hampshire, noted the founders of the new PAC have mostly forgone political participation at this level in the past but were motivated recently by Haley's momentum and policy positions ranging from national security to school voucher programs.
"We think we'll have the resources to do what we set out to do, which isn't some tug of war with another Republican candidate over that one vote that goes to one or the other. This is really for the majority of New Hampshire voters that is independent and unaffiliated," he said.
Trump is still leading in the polls, with commanding leads in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to 538, but only by plurality support.
Pressure is now building on candidates to consolidate support to mount a meaningful head-to-head challenge against the former president, who so far has maintained a formidable grip on GOP voters.
"She's got momentum on her side. The timing for us was right. And Nikki is going to succeed at becoming the candidate that wins the '24 election," Anderson said when asked about the former president's dominance.
So far, Haley has succeeded where other candidates have struggled, maintaining an edge in donor support and gaining traction after three well-received debate performances that have rocketed her campaign.
In the latest sign of her campaign's growing salience, Haley secured the endorsement of Americans for Prosperity Action on Tuesday. The influential conservative activist group backed by billionaire Charles Koch -- long thought to be a Republican kingmaker -- now plans to pour millions of dollars into a ground game supporting her candidacy.
"She has the same sort of conservative ideas that the other guys have; she just has a better way to market those ideas and talk about them. And she's not nasty," said Dave Carney, a Republican strategist who worked on several presidential campaigns, adding that those qualities could strengthen her with independent and undeclared voters.
And with several fronts now opened in the war to secure the Republican nomination, the eyes of many political watchers are now locked on New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a popular anti-Trump Republican who for months has held out on announcing a heavily coveted endorsement meant to contest Trump's supremacy.
"If he were to really put his shoulder to the wheel of the wagon of his candidate, he could get them all to take a second look," Carney said of the impact Sununu's endorsement could have on undeclared voters, adding that if Haley were the benefactor, she would get "more undeclared voters in New Hampshire with Sununu supporting her than on her own."
Jeff Grappone, a veteran Republican strategist in New Hampshire, pointed to former Sen. John McCain's 2000 and 2008 campaigns in the state, where he bombarded voters with town halls in the hope that independent voters would coalesce around him -- and they did, with McCain walking away as the victor of the state in both cycles.
"Independent voters can make a significant difference in the New Hampshire primary, and that's why these candidates are fighting so hard to get that vote," he said.
So far, Haley's message seems to be resonating with independent Granite Staters, having jockeyed to a second-place position in the race, according to 538, albeit still trailing Trump by double digits.
On Tuesday, at a standing-room-only town hall in Derry, New Hampshire, for Haley, New Hampshire resident Lester Reed, 76, an independent voter since he registered 55 years ago, said that while he was still working through his choices, he would hitch his wagon to Haley over Trump.
"If it was between her and Donald Trump, she would have my endorsement," said Reed. "I like what she says, I think the woman has a backbone and she won't take any crap from any of us guys."
But the future for any candidate with aspirations to secure the White House will have to extend far beyond simply performing well in New Hampshire's primary, Carney noted.
"We're just a little footpath," he said of the state's closely watched contest. "We're just going up to where the first sign is at the ranger station. The hike ahead is steep and hard after New Hampshire."
(ATLANTA) -- Rosalynn Carter, who transformed the role of first lady as a trusted political partner to former President Jimmy Carter and carved out her own humanitarian legacy, will be laid to rest on Wednesday at her home in Georgia.
Her funeral, a little more than a week after her death at age 96, will be held at Maranatha Baptist Church, where Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school for decades, in her hometown of Plains.
The private service will be attended by family members and invited friends.
Her final resting place will be the Carter family residence in Plains, where Jimmy Carter also plans to be buried.
The public can bid the late first lady a final farewell as the hearse carrying her casket departs the church and makes its way through downtown Plains.
Memorial events for Rosalynn Carter, who died on Nov. 19, spanned Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A wreath-laying ceremony was held at Georgia Southwestern State University, her alma mater, and she laid in repose at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library before a public tribute service at Emory University attended by the Bidens, former first ladies and other political leaders.
Jimmy Carter, who has been in hospice care for nearly a year, made a rare public appearance to pay tribute to his wife of 77 years at Tuesday's memorial service. He didn’t speak, but a letter he wrote 75 years ago to Rosalynn Carter was tearfully read aloud by their daughter, Amy Carter.
The couple previously spoke about being buried together at their residence, near the edge of a pond on the property where they fished together.
“We’re going to be buried right there, on that little hill,” Jimmy Carter told The Washington Post back in 2018.
Jimmy Carter was with his wife when she died peacefully at home, the family has said.
"Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished," the former president said in a statement announcing her death. "She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me."
The two co-founded The Carter Center, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing peace and eradicating diseases around the world, and worked with Habitat for Humanity. Rosalynn Carter was also a passionate mental health advocate.
She is survived by her husband, their four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
(WASHINGTON) -- Embattled Republican Rep. George Santos remained defiant Tuesday afternoon ahead of a looming expulsion vote on the House floor -- saying he didn't care about the procedural move that triggered another push to oust him.
Rep. Robert Garcia, a Democrat from California, filed a privileged resolution on the House floor Tuesday to expel Santos following a scathing report from the House Ethics Committee that alleges the New York congressman "placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law, and ethical principles."
Garcia's move means House leaders must now schedule a vote on it within two legislative days.
"Look, you all want a soundbite. It's the third time we are going through this. I don't care," Santos said on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon. "I was sent here by the people of the Third District of New York. I represent them. The political class in Washington, D.C., if they want to send me home, if they think this was a fair process, if they think this is how it should be done, and if they're confident that this is a constitutional way of doing it -- God bless their hearts," Santos said.
Santos, who has survived two other expulsion efforts, said he would not turn to his colleagues for support.
"This is the third time we've gone through this. I didn't do it the first time I didn't do it the second time. I'm not going to do it the third time. It's not a good use of my time," he said.
Garcia spoke on the House floor alongside Rep. Dan Goldman, a Democrat from New York, who joined on as co-lead in the effort.
"The time has finally come to remove George Santos from Congress. If we're going to restore faith in government, we must start with restoring integrity in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is essential for the American people to have Representatives they can trust and who don't build their careers on deceit and falsehoods. We have once again forced an expulsion vote on the House floor because enough is enough," Garcia wrote in a statement.
Goldman wrote in a statement that "Santos is an admitted liar, fraud, and cheat, and the recent Ethics Committee report confirms what we've long known: George Santos is wholly unfit for public office."
This is Garcia's own resolution -- not the same one that House Ethics Committee Chairman and Republican Rep. Michael Guest filed earlier this month. The resolution from Rep. Guest has not been filed yet as privileged.
Rep. Garcia previously forced the House to vote to expel Santos back in the spring. Then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy referred Rep. Garcia's resolution to the House Ethics Committee at the time -- avoiding a full floor vote.
Earlier this month, the House Ethics Committee released a report that contained damning details about how Santos allegedly used campaign dollars for his own personal enrichment -- including things such as Botox treatments, trips to Atlantic City, designer goods and purchases on the website OnlyFans, known for its adult content. Investigators said their monthslong probe of the New York congressman, who is also facing separate federal charges, revealed a "complex web of unlawful activity."
The threshold to expel a member is high -- two thirds of the chamber would have to vote in favor of removal.
A growing number of House Republicans who did not vote to remove Santos earlier this month said they want him expelled following the scathing report from the House Ethics Committee.
Santos himself said he expects to be expelled.
"I know I'm going to get expelled when this expulsion resolution goes to the floor," he said last week during a conversation on X Spaces. "I've done the math over and over, and it doesn't look really good."
On Monday, ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott asked Santos if he is planning to resign amid the expulsion battle.
"I'm not resigning, I have not spoken to anyone [about] resigning," Santos said.
Santos said Tuesday that members want him to resign.
"They can keep doing this," Santos said. "But my message to them is: put up or shut up."
Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges. He called the bipartisan report a "politicized smear" and has said he will not run for reelection in 2024, but plans to finish out the rest of his term.
Santos said Tuesday afternoon that Congress should be focusing on fixing inflation and border security instead of censuring and expelling members.
"If this building, if this city put in the effort to fixing our country the same way that they put on expelling me, we'd be in a better place," Santos said. "But this place is littered in political theater and the American people are the ones paying the price."
(ATLANTA) -- Former President Jimmy Carter made a rare public appearance when he attended Tuesday's memorial service for his late wife, Rosalynn Carter, who died earlier this month.
Jimmy Carter, who has been in hospice care since February, paid tribute to his wife -- who served as first lady from 1977 to 1981 -- at Glenn Memorial Church at Emory University in Atlanta. The 99-year-old former president had a new suit made Monday for the occasion, and was accompanied by a physician when he left his home in Plains en route to the church.
He was seated in the front row draped in a blanket with her face etched on it.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were married for 77 years, the longest marriage of any first couple in U.S. history, and both built a lasting legacy outside the White House through their humanitarian work. Rosalynn Carter became a champion for mental health advocacy.
Amy Carter, the first couple's only daughter, tearfully read a letter Jimmy Carter wrote to Rosalynn 75 years ago while he was serving in the Navy. Amy Carter, who was seated next to her father, was often seen holding his hand throughout the service.
"My mom spent most of her life in love with my dad. Their partnership and love story was a defining feature of her life," she said. "Because he isn't able to speak to you today, I am going to share some of his words about loving and missing her."
In the letter, Jimmy Carter wrote, "While I am away, I try to convince myself that you really are not, could not be as sweet and beautiful as I remember. But when I see you, I fall in love with you all over again. Does that seem strange to you? It doesn't to me."
A dozen political leaders were present at the the invitation-only tribute service for the former first lady, who died on Nov. 19 at the age of 96.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden sat in the front row along with former President Bill Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton, as well as former first ladies Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump.
The Clintons and Obama traveled to Georgia on Air Force One with the Bidens, according to the White House.
Also in attendance were Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
The service began shortly at 1 p.m. and featured music from members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood performed a rendition of "Imagine." The program was designed in accordance with her wishes, including the songs, scriptures and who would speak.
Remarks were given by the Carters' personal pastor and readings were done by some of the former first lady's children and grandchildren. Journalist Judy Woodruff also gave a tribute, saying what the country witnessed when they were in office was "a first lady who saw her role as going well beyond the essential warm and welcoming host to being a close and trusted, yes, adviser."
Jason Carter shared personal anecdotes of his grandmother, including the birthday cards she sent to all her grandchildren every year and how she practiced tai chi. He called her the "rock" of their family but also an "adventurer."
"As Rev. Warnock told me, my grandmother doesn't need a eulogy, her life was a sermon," he said.
President Biden was not slated to speak, the White House said Monday, but press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters he and first lady Jill Biden looked forward to "offering their condolences and participating in the event by attending."
Biden's relationship with the Carters spans decades, back to when he endorsed Carter for the presidency while serving as a first-term senator in 1976. Biden said earlier this year that former President Carter has asked him to deliver his eulogy.
After Rosalynn Carter's death earlier this month, Biden said the former first couple shared great integrity.
"First Lady Rosalynn Carter walked her own path, inspiring a nation and the world along the way," the Bidens said in a statement.
ABC News' Joshua Hoyos and Janice McDonald contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- Hunter Biden is willing to testify before the House Oversight Committee -- but only in public, according to a letter his attorney wrote to Republican lawmakers on Tuesday.
Chairman James Comer of the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena earlier this month to depose Hunter Biden on Dec. 13. In his letter, Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Biden, accused Comer of selectively leaking information from closed-door depositions with other witnesses in his ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
"We have seen you use closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public," Lowell wrote to Comer. "We therefore propose opening the door."
"Your empty investigation has gone on too long wasting too many better-used resources. It should come to an end," Lowell continued. "Consequently, Mr. Biden will appear at such a public hearing on the date you noticed, December 13, or any date in December that we can arrange."
Comer announced a slew of subpoenas on Nov. 8 targeting members of the president's family, including Hunter Biden, brother James Biden, and former Hunter Biden business associate Rob Walker, demanding they appear for depositions.
"The House Oversight Committee has followed the money and built a record of evidence revealing how Joe Biden knew, was involved, and benefited from his family's influence peddling schemes," Comer said in a statement earlier this month. "Now, the House Oversight Committee is going to bring in members of the Biden family and their associates to question them on this record of evidence."
Lowell called the subpoenas a "political stunt" at the time, adding, "Nevertheless, Hunter is eager to have the opportunity, in a public forum and at the right time, to discuss these matters with the Committee."
Comer's impeachment inquiry has been marked by criticism -- even from some Republicans -- claiming the nearly yearlong investigation into Biden has still not produced sufficient evidence for impeachment.
In a lengthy memo, the White House accused House Republicans of abusing their power to conduct a smear campaign against the president and his family, saying they are "throwing spaghetti" at the wall after failing to produce evidence to support their allegations.
(WASHINGTON) -- Americans for Prosperity Action, an advocacy organization backed by billionaire Charles Koch and his network of wealthy conservatives, on Tuesday morning endorsed Nikki Haley as the Republican alternative to Donald Trump ahead of the Iowa caucus that begins the 2024 primary in less than 50 days.
A memo circulated by the the Americans for Prosperity CEO, Emily Seidel, described Haley, a former U.N. ambassador, as offering "America the opportunity to turn the page on the current political era."
AFP Action stayed out of the 2016 and 2020 presidential cycles but has significant resources to try and boost Haley's campaign: The group reported raising more than $70 million in its last public filing, in June, with $25 million coming from Koch himself and another $25 million from one of his nonprofit groups.
The group first announced plans to oppose Trump back in February, based in large part on concerns about his ability to defeat President Joe Biden. Since then, however, the Republican base has only embraced Trump more.
He now leads his closest primary rival in national polls, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by nearly 50 points in 538's average. Haley narrowly trails DeSantis in the national average.
But the situation in early-voting states is slightly different and Trump is a relatively weaker front-runner there, even though he still leads the field by double digits.
DeSantis, Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are hoping an upset in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina could prove they are a viable option for primary voters across the country, though their campaigns so far this year have yet to notably weaken Trump's standing.
AFP Action thinks it can make a difference: ABC News reviewed several internal memos, based on the organization's polling and door-knocking operations in early states, suggesting that about four in 10 GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire say the primary campaign "hasn't begun" or has "just started."
AFP Action also believes that three in four Republicans are open to a Trump alternative if they think that person has a better chance of winning.
Following their endorsement on Tuesday, AFP Action plans to pivot from their identification efforts of waffling Trump voters to persuasion against him, focusing their efforts and organizations and advertising on their chosen candidate.
They also plan to mobilize large-scale events and push turnout.
Their endorsement of Haley comes at a potentially significant point in the 2024 race.
Nobody has ever had leads as big as Trump's in the primary and then failed to go on to win their party's nomination, and the winners in Iowa and New Hampshire have a checkered track record. But Trump's campaign is also grappling with his slew of unprecedented legal troubles, all of which he denies, which will complicate his calendar with court appearances and trial dates.
Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity, said that "early in the cycle, Americans were clear: 70% didn't want Trump or Biden to run."
The group's endorsement is intended to "ensure this opportunity isn't squandered."
(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking with special counsel Jack Smith's team earlier this year, former Vice President Mike Pence offered harrowing details about how, in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump surrounded himself with "crank" attorneys, espoused "un-American" legal theories, and almost pushed the country toward a "constitutional crisis," according to sources familiar with what Pence told investigators.
The sources said Pence also told investigators he's "sure" that -- in the days before Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob tried to stop Congress from certifying the election -- he informed Trump he still hadn't seen evidence of significant election fraud, but Trump was unmoved, continuing to claim the election was "stolen" and acting "recklessly" on that "tragic day."
Pence is the highest-ranking current or former government official known to have spoken with the special counsel team investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election. What he allegedly told investigators, described exclusively to ABC News, sheds further light on the evidence Smith's team has amassed as it prosecutes Trump for allegedly trying to unlawfully "remain in power" and "erode public faith" in democratic institutions.
Pence could take the stand against Trump should Smith's election interference case go to trial, which is currently slated to occur in March.
As described to ABC News, much of what the former vice president told Smith's investigators mirrored -- and at times restated verbatim -- comments he has previously made publicly. Questions from Smith's team repeatedly focused on a book Pence published last year, with investigators apparently seeking to have Pence confirm -- under oath -- an array of post-election stories and opinions he included in the book.
But speaking with Smith's team behind closed doors, Pence also offered previously-undisclosed anecdotes and details showing how his longtime friendship with Trump unraveled in the final weeks of their time in the White House, including Pence's repeated warnings to Trump about the then-president's push to overturn the election results.
Sources said that in at least one interview with Pence, Smith's investigators pressed the former vice president on personal notes he took after meetings with Trump and others, which investigators obtained from the National Archives.
According to sources, one of Pence's notes obtained by Smith's team shows that, days before Pence was set to preside over Congress certifying the election results on Jan. 6, 2021, he momentarily decided that he would skip the proceedings altogether, writing in the note that there were "too many questions" and it would otherwise be "too hurtful to my friend." But he ultimately concluded he had a duty to show up.
Speaking with Smith's team, Pence insisted his loyalty to President Trump at the time never faltered -- "My only higher loyalty was to God and the Constitution," sources described Pence as telling them.
Sources said that investigators' questioning became so granular at times that they pressed Pence over the placement of a comma in his book: When recounting a phone call with Trump on Christmas Day 2020, Pence wrote in his book that he told Trump, "You know, I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome" of the election on Jan. 6.
But Pence allegedly told Smith's investigators that the comma should have never been placed there. According to sources, Pence told Smith's investigators that he actually meant to write in his book that he admonished Trump, "You know I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome," suggesting Trump was well aware of the limitations of Pence's authority days before Jan. 6 -- a line Smith includes in his indictment.
In April, ABC News reported that Pence had just testified before a federal grand jury in Washington. Two months later, in June, Pence launched a bid to challenge Trump as the Republican Party's next presidential candidate -- but Pence's campaign lasted only four months.
'Accept the results'
Sources said Pence acknowledged to Smith's team that even before Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020, he was aware that the Trump-Pence ticket was expected to take a big early lead in the polls that would then gradually fade as more mail-in ballots were counted.
In the first few days after the election, Pence never saw any "significant allegations of fraud," according to what he told Smith's team, sources said. But Trump still declared victory -- and claimed there was "a major fraud in our nation" -- within hours of polls closing, though Pence allegedly told investigators he believes Trump was speaking "in very general terms," not about specific instances of fraud.
At the same time, Trump privately instructed Pence to dig into any potential fraud or "irregularities" in the election, telling Pence their campaign "was going to fight," in court and elsewhere, Pence allegedly told Smith's team.
However, sources told ABC News, Pence said he grew concerned when, within days of the election, Trump began ignoring the advice of credible and experienced attorneys inside the White House, instead relying on outside attorneys like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who pushed notions of widespread election fraud and, as Pence allegedly told Smith's team, "did a great disservice to the president and a great disservice to the country."
There is "no doubt" that Trump "knew what I thought of those attorneys," but he still listened to them, Pence told Smith's investigators, according to sources.
In his interviews with Smith's team, Pence recalled a meeting he had alone with Trump inside the Oval Office on Dec. 21, 2020, as the campaign's legal challenges across the country were failing but Trump was continuing to claim the election was stolen and had begun urging supporters to gather in Washington, D.C., for a "big protest" on Jan. 6, 2021.
When Trump privately asked Pence what they should do, Pence said he told the then-president that if nothing changed, "[you] should simply accept the results," "you should take a bow," travel the country to thank supporters, "and then run again if you want."
"And I'll never forget, he pointed at me ... as if to say, 'That's worth thinking about.' And he walked [away]," Pence recalled to investigators, sources said.
However, two days later -- as noted in Smith's election interference-related indictment against Trump -- Trump "re-tweeted a memo titled 'Operation PENCE CARD,' which falsely asserted that the Vice President could, among other things, unilaterally disqualify legitimate electors from six targeted states."
When Pence, on his way to Colorado for Christmas vacation, saw Trump's post, he turned to his wife and said, "Here we go," he recalled to Smith's investigators, sources said.
'No idea more un-American'
As Pence described it to investigators, according to sources, he understood by late December 2020 that the Trump campaign had run out of legal options in its fight to remain in power -- but he urged lawmakers to raise potentially credible allegations of fraud during the upcoming proceedings on Jan. 6, 2021, when Pence would be presiding over Congress to certify the election results and decide whether to reject any votes.
In a meeting at the White House in late December 2020, as many as 20 House Republicans erupted in applause after Pence told them to "get your evidence together" and assured them "we [will] get our day in Congress," with an opportunity for all of the evidence to be heard before the election would be certified, sources said he told Smith's team.
Pence told investigators he was then still "very open to the possibility that there was voter fraud" in the election, and he was focused on following the facts and the law, according to the sources.
At the same time, Trump was privately pressing Pence to reject certain votes at the Jan. 6 proceedings and block certification of the election -- and Trump even suggested to Pence that perhaps he should skip the session altogether, Pence allegedly told Smith's team. But, according to sources, Pence told investigators that he "clearly and repeatedly" emphasized to Trump that rejecting certain votes would violate the Constitution.
"I told him I thought there was no idea more un-American than the idea that any one person could decide what electoral votes to count," Pence allegedly told Smith's team, echoing what he has said before in his book and other public forums. "I made it very plain to him that it was inconsistent with our history and tradition."
Pence insisted that in America, under the Constitution establishing three co-equal branches of government, election disputes are resolved by courts and elected lawmakers, sources said.
But, the sources said, with the pressure on Pence mounting, he concluded on Christmas Eve -- just for a moment -- that he would follow Trump's suggestion and let someone else preside over the proceedings on Jan. 6, writing in his notes that doing otherwise would be "too hurtful to my friend."
"Not feeling like I should attend electoral count," Pence wrote in his notes in late December. "Too many questions, too many doubts, too hurtful to my friend. Therefore I'm not going to participate in certification of election."
Then, sitting across the table from his son, a Marine, while on vacation in Colorado, his son said to him, "Dad, you took the same oath I took" -- it was "an oath to support and defend the Constitution," Pence recalled to Smith's investigators, sources said.
That's when Pence decided he would be at the Capitol on Jan. 6 after all, according to the sources.
Trump 'acted recklessly'
Smith's federal indictment against Trump, filed in August, repeatedly refers to Pence, including Trump's unsuccessful efforts "to enlist" him.
The indictment says Trump's claims of outcome-determinative fraud in the election "were false, and [Trump] knew that they were false," in part because Pence, "who personally stood to gain by remaining in office," already told Trump "he had seen no evidence of outcome-determinative fraud."
Senior White House attorneys, senior Justice Department officials, senior staffers on Trump's campaign, officials at the Department of Homeland Security, and state and federal courts across the country had offered similar assessments to Trump, the indictment notes.
But Trump repeated claims of widespread election fraud anyway to, among other things, "create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger," according to the indictment. And in his public statements on the morning of Jan. 6, Trump "directed" supporters to the Capitol "to obstruct the certification proceeding and exert pressure" on Pence, the indictment alleges.
"After it became public on the afternoon of January 6 that the Vice President would not fraudulently alter the election results, a large and angry crowd -- including many individuals whom the Defendant had deceived into believing the Vice President could and might change the election results -- violently attacked the Capitol and halted the proceeding," the indictment says.
According to sources, when Pence spoke with Smith's team earlier this year, he said Trump's words that morning "didn't help," and he said Trump "acted recklessly" as the Capitol was under siege. But Pence also said he will "never believe" Trump meant for Jan. 6 to become violent.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case and denied any wrongdoing. He recently accused Pence of "mak[ing] up stories about me, which are absolutely false."
"I never said for him to put me before the Constitution," Trump posted to his social media platform, Truth Social, in September. "Mike failed badly on calling out Voter Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election."
A spokesperson for Trump told ABC News, "Tens of millions of Americans, including Vice President Pence, as he repeatedly stated himself, have had grave and serious concerns about the legitimacy of the rigged and stolen 2020 Presidential Election, further proving that the lawless indictment against President Trump should be summarily dismissed."
Pence has never described the election as "stolen," and in his public statements -- as well as what sources said he told Smith's investigators -- he has said he didn't have concerns about widespread fraud, but instead about "irregularities" in how elections were managed.
A spokesperson for Smith and a spokesperson for Pence both declined to comment to ABC News.