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Saturday
Oct192019

Sen. Bernie Sanders expected to be endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at first rally post heart attack

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is returning to New York City for a large rally to mark his return to the campaign trail after suffering a heart attack on Oct. 1.

The event, dubbed the “Bernie’s Back Rally,” is expected to draw thousands of supporters and highlight the endorsement of progressive New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Two senior sources with the Sanders team told reporters at the close of Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate that Ocasio-Cortez would accompany Sanders at the campaign rally.

The rally is being held at Queensbridge Park along the East River in Queens, just miles from Ocasio-Cortez' district. Ocasio-Cortez served as an organizer for Sander's 2016 run and the two have introduced bold climate change plans.

Other members of the so-called squad -- or liberal freshman congresswomen of color -- have been tied to Sanders’ presidential bid. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar announced her endorsement of Bernie Sanders with a video earlier this week. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib hasn’t endorsed Sanders, but is slated to tour her district with the senator later this month.

The rally comes at critical time for the Sanders campaign. Despite raising $25.3 million during the third quarter, national polling data compiled by ABC affiliate FiveThirtyEight shows Sanders backsliding in many of the polls, falling just short of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Results from an Oct. 14 Quinnipiac University poll showed primary voter support for Sanders fell around 11%, compared to Biden's 27% and Warren's 30%.

This is Sanders’ first campaign event -- aside from the Oct. 15 Democratic debate -- since his heart attack in Nevada and it could serve as a means to reinvigorate his campaign.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

HBCU students sound off on 2020 candidates' rivaling student loan debt relief plans

ABC News(ORANGEBURG, S.C.) -- Students at historically black colleges and universities such as Charles C. Patton, the sixth "Mr. South Carolina State University", say they'll only cast ballots for a 2020 presidential candidate willing to "come here and speak to us.”

Like many young voters, the 22-year-old physics major who acts as an ambassador for his HBCU campus, has not yet decided which presidential candidate he's supporting.

"We've had Beto O'Rourke come to our campus, we've had Cory Booker, we've had Kamala Harris, we've had Mayor Pete [Buttigieg]," Patton said, listing off the names of candidates who have held campaign events at his school.

The influx of 2020 candidates flocking to South Carolina to court black voters -- a demographic making up more than 60% of the Democratic electorate in the primary election -- gives students a front row seat to speak with the presidential hopefuls about the issues that matter most to them.

The Palmetto State has some of the fastest growing student debt in the country, jumping between $5.6 billion and $23.1 billion from 2008-18, according to an Experian report that came out earlier this year.

Nationally, the average white student loan borrower has roughly $30,000 of student loan debt, while African-Americans have an average of nearly $34,000, according to data from the Center for Responsible Lending.

The disparities only grow after graduation. A 2017 report from the Brookings Institution found student debt among black college students to be at "crisis levels. The report showed black students graduating with a Bachelor's degree were defaulting at five times the rate of their white counterparts.

As historically black colleges and universities continue to struggle with limited federal funding, students attending these institutions -- with families that tend to have a lower income -- are left with limited financial resources, causing them to amass larger amounts of debt in hopes that higher education will lead to a more successful future.

In a focus group with ABC News, Patton was one of six student leaders at South Carolina State to sound off on the recent visits from the 2020 candidates, expressing their need for a candidate who will be a champion for one of their top issues: student loan debt.

"We are getting hit the hardest," said Shamari Knighton, an African American first-generation college student majoring in biology and acting as first lieutenant to Mr. South Carolina State. Despite having already amassed around $82,000 in debt, Knighton said he still plans to attend grad school, potentially leaving him with upwards of $100,000 of loans.

"I didn't come from money, so I didn't have a lot of money saved up." Knighton said, acknowledging that with few scholarships under his belt, student loans were his only option.

"I wasn't as fortunate to have my mother know that much about [the loan process]. She worked two and three jobs to take care of me and my siblings," he explained. "She's not tech savvy, so she didn't know about the application process so I kind of went through that alone."

It's that same financial trajectory that leaves South Carolina State senior Jaelyn McCrea feeling unsure about pursuing her dreams of going to film school after graduation. She told ABC News that she would like candidates to focus on financial literacy in combination with debt relief.

"We need mandatory financial literacy for high school students," McCrea said, flagging a hole in the Democratic solution to address student loan debt among low income students.

"Some people are blessed and go to school where they have those opportunities, some people aren't," she said. "We need to make it a point to reach every school -- low income to private school -- to make sure every student is educated on scholarships, financial aid and what student loans really are. Start early [so students] aren't stuck when they get to college."

Several 2020 hopefuls have proposed comprehensive education reform, with debt relief detailed as a top priority. Both Booker, the senator from New Jersey and O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman, have detailed plans to forgive all student loan debt for public school teachers; while businessman Andrew Yang, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and former Vice President Joe Biden have pledged to provide income-based student loan refinancing.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren met with student's privately before she took the stage during a student debt town hall on Wednesday Oct. 9, promoting her own student loan bill. Her proposal, co-sponsored by South Carolina Rep. James. Clyburn, would make four-year colleges and universities free and provide student debt relief for over 42 million Americans, eliminating up to $50,000 of student loan debt for borrowers who have an annual income of less than $100,000.

"One of the things that I like about Elizabeth Warren is that she's acknowledging the problems, but she's also backing them up with realistic solutions," said Richlyn Williams, a sophomore majoring in speech pathology and audiology who participated in the discussion.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed his own ambitious plan to provide universal higher education and forgive all $1.6 trillion of student loan debt, but SCSU students who participated in the focus-group were not confident in the proposal.

"I like the idea, but I think it's been a pattern with Sen. Sanders to have these grandeur plans to certain things, but it doesn't feel rooted in reality," Patton said. "[But] I appreciate his passion and his yearning to fix a lot of things."

Patton said while he supports Sanders' agenda, he isn't sure the senator's plans to achieve them would receive the necessary support from Congress.

"Right now, we do not have time for someone to give us promises while not seeing actual steps to move towards solutions, especially going against [President Donald] Trump in the 2020 election," he said. "We need to go with a candidate that that we can actually get behind with stuff that is rooted in reality."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

Filmmaker Ken Burns says 'Country Music' reflects diverse, complicated story of America

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The history of country music offers Americans a "new perspective" on the nation's own complex story, providing a different way to understand the diverse diaspora that it is today, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns told ABC News.

"Country music has all of these influences from all these diverse places from the beginning, and proceeds to then add many more influences," said Burns, who sat down for an ABC News Live interview with "Powerhouse Politics" host and political director, Rick Klein. "So in some ways, it tends to sort of neutralize the simplistic binary arguments we get into today."

Over the course of 16 hours and eight episodes, Burns traces the evolution of the genre in his latest work, "Country Music," released on PBS in September. From its genesis with hillbilly songs to post-war America's bluegrass to rockabilly and country pop, the film crosses every intersection the genre takes with other musical forms.

"We're all looking for stories that are complicated and a wonderful way to talk to us about who we are, and country music is that," he said, sitting feet away from the stage at the Hill Country Barbecue restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C.

His selection of country music -- following his storytelling of American history through his other films "The Vietnam War," "Baseball," "Prohibition," "Jazz" and "The Civil War" -- comes from his passion for stories. It also stems from his attraction to the genre's history, which was born out of the roaring '20s and developed throughout the turbulent 20th century, mirroring heartache, loss, love and redemption along the way.

"We pick our topics because they are good stories," he said. "This one happens to help us come to terms from a new perspective of the very complicated 20th century. This is music born, at least for commercial purposes, in the 1920s and we take it up to the end of the millennium. It's a new way to see us, both the U.S. and us in that intimate way."

Burns shared details from the film, like how the stories of country legends weave together. That included Merle Haggard's life crossing with Johnny Cash's while he was an inmate at San Quentin State Prison and Dolly Parton's rise from extreme poverty in eastern Tennessee to notoriety as a revered member of the country family.

The famed filmmaker also conveys the universality of the genre, which is as multifaceted as the country and reflects what he says is every American's story.

"I can think of no better story that reminds us that we're all in the same boat ... than the universal truths that emanate not out of just the songs, the art, but of the story of the people who made those songs," he said. "What is a country song but expressing kind of universal human emotions, like loss and love and seeking redemption?"

In his effort to explore the soundtrack of the genre, Burns also sought to push back on some of the misconceptions of country music -- particularly the perception that it is comprised of only "conservative, rural, or Southern" artists despite its decades of African American influences.

"I think too often in our culture, we abbreviate something and we sort sort of categorize it. And country music has never been a one thing," he said. "It has always been a really complicated mixture of influences. ... And then you just proceed through these amazing characters decade after decade who tell us a lot about who we are."

He added, "There's an African American dimension in every one of our eight episodes, and the music is infused with the African American experience, even though it seems to come down to us as essentially a white music, which we then transfer as being conservative, rural, Southern. It's all types of things."

In detailing what he learned about America from his eight years of work on the film, he also asserted that while it appears as though everything in modern American culture "is in opposition. Everything's red state, blue state. It's young or old, it's rich or poor, white or black," like country music, every American story is a "combination, a mixture, an alloy."

Sitting in the nation's capital and keenly aware of another historical event less than a week away -- the 2019 World Series -- Burns also weighed in on the impending battle between the Washington Nationals and either the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees.

"The historian in me is completely repressed by the Boston Red Sox baseball fan in me, in which I root for the Boston Red Sox -- who are, by the way, the reigning world champions until they're not -- and anyone who's playing the Yankees," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings to lie in state, funeral services set for Baltimore

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings will lie in state in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, ahead of funeral service at his church of nearly four decades in his home district of Baltimore.

There will be a public viewing in the two-story chamber following a formal ceremony for members of Congress, the Cummings family and invited guests on Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced.

A wake and funeral for Cummings will be held at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore on Friday, Oct. 25. The wake will begin at 8 a.m., followed by the funeral at 10 a.m, according a church spokeswoman. Bishop Walter S. Thomas Jr., the church's pastor since 1975, is scheduled to deliver the eulogy.

He predicts the 4,000-seat sanctuary will overflow with people paying respects as lawmakers from both political parties are expected to attend.

"For all who pass through these doors, it has been very somber," Thomas told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday. "We’ve lost a friend, a loved one, a member, a role model. You can roll out the whole list of nouns. He steps into all of them with big shoes."

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Cummings will lie in repose at Morgan State University, where he served on the Board of Regents. Following the viewing, there will be a community-wide celebration of the congressman at the university's Murphy Fine Arts Center from 6-8:30 p.m.

Morgan State University President Dr. David Wilson said in a statement on Thursday that the university is "deeply saddened by the loss of one our fiercest advocates and supporters."

"Rep. Cummings was not only a dear friend to Morgan, he was family. His wisdom, wise counsel and superb leadership will be greatly missed," Wilson wrote. "The City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and our nation, will forever be indebted to the legacy of this great public servant."

Cummings, the son of sharecroppers who became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tempore, later rose to become Chairman of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Just five months ago, he delivered the commencement address at the historically black research university in Maryland.

"Your lives are in front of you," Cummings told the graduating class in May. "And so I beg you to go out and stand up for this democracy."

Cummings died Oct. 17 at the age of 68, due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges, according to a statement from his office. In lieu of flowers, the Cummings' family has suggested the public make donations to The Elijah Cummings Youth Program.

House votes originally scheduled for next Thursday will be held late Wednesday night -- as it’s customary to cancel voting when a dignitary has the rare honor of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol.

The last persons to lie in state were former President George H. W. Bush last December and the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, in August 2018.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

'If I were in the House, I would vote to impeach' Trump: Former Republican Gov. John Kasich

Twitter/@rickklein(WASHINGTON) -- Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich said if he were in the House of Representatives today, he would vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

"I have no problem with the president of the United States withholding aid if it's related to policy, but to withhold aid because you want some political operation to occur, I just think is dead wrong, and it just goes too far for me," Kasich said on ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "So if I were in the House, I would vote to impeach."

Kasich, who sought the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and has been a frequent critic of Trump, said that while coming to the decision that an impeachment inquiry was necessary was "a piece of cake for" him, the decision to support impeaching the president was something he'd been struggling with.

While he said he didn't really see the quid pro quo "at the time," acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's comments Thursday, "compounded by so many other things," finally led Kasich to a decision.

"The final, final act was Mulvaney saying, 'Yes, we did withhold this aid, because we wanted this investigation done about the 2016 election,'" he told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

On Thursday, in an exchange with Karl during a press briefing, Mulvaney admitted there was a quid pro quo as it relates to Ukraine, saying that part of the reason Trump withheld military aid was to put pressure on the foreign government to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory from 2016 involving a hacked email server that belonged to the Democratic National Committee.

While Mulvaney said that the "driving factors" in Trump's decision were his distaste for foreign aid in general -- especially if it's used in a corrupted way -- and that he didn't think European nations were giving enough financial assistance to Ukraine, he added, "Did he also mention to me in pass the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money."

Karl pressed for clarity: "But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well."

Mulvaney replied, "We do that all the time with foreign policy."

Later, he claimed the media "decided to misconstrue" what he said, saying in a statement: "There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption."

"I've now concluded there was a quid pro quo that was absolutely unacceptable," Kasich told the hosts.

While Kasich supports impeaching the president, he hasn't been happy with the way House Democrats have gone about conducting the investigation, taking issue with there not having been a formal vote, calling it a political move.

"When you're going about impeaching a president, investigating a president, we don't have time for politics," he said, but added that he does think the House will move on impeachment.

As far as the timeline of the investigation goes, and contrary to others who have spoken out, the former lawmaker doesn't think there should be a rush to get this done.

"I don't think they should be in any hurry. I think they ought to do their job the right way," Kasich said. "This is our country. There's an investigation. Do it right. You shouldn't have some calendar. You shouldn't worry that you're going to put your vulnerable members at risk. Tough. If you can't do that then you shouldn't have started this thing, OK? Plain and simple."

When asked if he thought Republicans would ever vote to remove Trump from office, Kasich said he's "not a fortune teller," but referred back to his time in the House during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, which he voted in favor of. He said that back then, the fact that Clinton was likely to be acquitted wasn't the issue for him in making his decision.

And he noted that the impeachment inquiry into Trump is just starting.

"There's going to be lots of hearings that are going to continue, more witnesses. Who knows what's going to come out? Every day, there's another -- I mean, almost another bombshell, so I can't predict what's going to happen next week. ... Next week, who knows what's going to happen?" he said.

Klein and Karl also asked Kasich about Tuesday's Democratic debate, which was held in the Ohioan's hometown, Westerville.

He said that debates are a "silly way to pick a president."

"You want to pick a president based on the sound bites? I mean, that's what we're doing," he said. "These debates are pushing everybody to extremes to come up with a snarky answer, and it's just -- it's just, you know, what's there to watch?"

He took a shot at "Medicare for All," a signature proposal for top-polling 2020 Democratic candidates Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying the American people don't want to give up their private insurance for a government-run option. He also criticized a wealth tax supported by Warren, Sanders and billionaire candidate Tom Steyer, and made a slight pass at former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's proposal to institute a mandatory buy-back program for assault weapons, like a AR-15s and AK-47s.

"The way it's going right now, they're going hard left, which means they can't win," Kasich said of the Democratic primary field.

Karl asked Kasich if his political days were behind him, and while he threw cold water on getting into this presidential election, he left open the possibility for trying to run again in the future.

"The only thing I really have an interest in is president, and I see no path at this point in time," he said. "I'll be younger when the next election comes around than all these top front runners running for president today."

Kasich ended with this question, "Can somebody who doesn't hold public office have a big enough voice to move the public? Is there a way to do it?"

Citing all many methods of communication now used -- podcasts, YouTube, TV, Twitter -- Kasich said voices are what matter.

"We'll see," he said. "All of my options are on the table."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Hillary Clinton says Russians are ‘grooming’ a 2020 candidate for third-party run

Martin Holverda/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, without naming names -- and just ahead of the debate -- said that a female 2020 candidate is a “favorite of the Russians”--comments that picked up steam on Friday on social media.

“They’re also going to do third-party again. And I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far...” Clinton told David Plouffe on “Campaign HQ”, a podcast run by the 2008 Obama campaign manager.

Clinton does not mention Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard by name and there are five Democratic women running for president this cycle: Gabbard, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Kloubuchar, California Sen. Kamala Harria and author Marianne Williamson. However, the comment appeared to be aimed at Gabbard.

Gabbard fired back on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

 


The Hawaiian lawmaker recently addressed criticism that her campaign is being aided by Russian propaganda efforts-- a narrative that has appeared recently in such places as the New York Times. The news outlet reported last week that some Democrats worry about Russian bot influence due to Gabbard's apparent popularity on and mentions in Russian news media and on such places as 4chan, an online message board popular with right-wing groups.

Clinton's spokesman Nick Merrill told CNN in response to a question about whether the former secretary of state was referring to Gabbard: "If the nesting doll fits."

"This is not some outlandish claim. This is reality," Merrill told CNN. "If the Russian propaganda machine, both their state media and their bot and troll operations, is backing a candidate aligned with their interests, that is just a reality, it is not speculation."

Gabbard addressed speculation about being boosted by Russia on ABC's "This Week" in May, after being asked about an article published in The Daily Beast titled "Tulsi Gabbard's Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists."

The Daily Beast article said that Gabbard's campaign was being "underwritten by some of the nation's leading Russophiles," and highlighted donations from supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The piece says that those donors' views are likely to align more closely with Gabbard's on subjects like Syria. As a member of Congress, she has met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and criticized a U.S. strike against the Syrian government, receiving backlash from other Democrats in Congress.

"You know, it's unfortunate that you're citing that article, George, because it's a whole lot of fake news," Gabbard said. "What I am focused on is what is in the best interest of the American people. What is in the best interest of our national security. Keeping the American people safe."

Clinton's team has not responded to a request from ABC News for comment.

ABC News has also reached out to Gabbard's campaign for a response.

Gabbard has previously said on multiple occasions that she will not run as a third-party candidate should she fail to net the Democratic presidential nomination.

Last week, Gabbard threatened to boycott the fourth Democratic debate, hosted by CNN and the New York times, accusing them of “rigging” the 2020 election.

"I am seriously considering boycotting October 15 debate to bring attention to DNC/corporate media's effort to rig 2020 primary," she tweeted.

Last Saturday, Gabbard tweeted, “As if to prove my point, NYT just published a “greatest hits” smear piece. All your favorite hits in one article! These are the folks who will be acting as the “neutral” questioners/ moderators of Tuesday’s debate lol”

Gabbard ended up joining the other candidates on the stage Tuesday night.

Clinton also said on the podcast interview with Plouffe that Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party presidential nominee, was a "Russian asset."

"And that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, 'cause she's also a Russian asset," Clinton said during the podcast interview referring to Stein's third party status. " I mean, totally. They know they can't win without a third-party candidate, and so I don't know who it's going to be, but I will guarantee they'll have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most need it."

Stein, in a response to ABC News on Friday evening, said: "Instead of addressing the crises working people face, the DNC is painting progressives as the enemy. It's as if they're trying to lose to Trump again...In light of the latest slanderous allegations from Hillary Clinton, I challenge her to a debate. It's past time to give the American people the real debate they deserved in 2016, but were denied by the phony DNC/RNC-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates."

 

Some of Gabbard's Democratic competitors weighed in on Twitter, too. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker tweeted a GIF in response to Gabbard.

 

 

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

'If I were in the House, I would vote to impeach' Trump: Former Republican Gov. John Kasich

Toshe_O/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich said if he were in the House of Representatives today, he would vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

"I have no problem with the president of the United States withholding aid if it's related to policy, but to withhold aid because you want some political operation to occur, I just think is dead wrong, and it just goes too far for me," Kasich said on ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "So if I were in the House, I would vote to impeach."



Kasich, who sought the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and has been a frequent critic of Trump, said that while coming to the decision that an impeachment inquiry was necessary was "a piece of cake for" him, the decision to support impeaching the president was something he'd been struggling with.

While he said he didn't really see the quid pro quo "at the time," acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's comments Thursday, "compounded by so many other things," finally led Kasich to a decision.

"The final, final act was Mulvaney saying, 'Yes, we did withhold this aid, because we wanted this investigation done about the 2016 election,'" he told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

On Thursday, in an exchange with Karl during a press briefing, Mulvaney admitted there was a quid pro quo as it relates to Ukraine, saying that part of the reason Trump withheld military aid was to put pressure on the foreign government to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory from 2016 involving a hacked email server that belonged to the Democratic National Committee.

While Mulvaney said that the "driving factors" in Trump's decision were his distaste for foreign aid in general -- especially if it's used in a corrupted way -- and that he didn't think European nations were giving enough financial assistance to Ukraine, he added, "Did he also mention to me in pass the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money."

Karl pressed for clarity: "But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well."

Mulvaney replied, "We do that all the time with foreign policy."

Later, he claimed the media "decided to misconstrue" what he said, saying in a statement: "There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption."

 "I've now concluded there was a quid pro quo that was absolutely unacceptable," Kasich told the hosts.

While Kasich supports impeaching the president, he hasn't been happy with the way House Democrats have gone about conducting the investigation, taking issue with there not having been a formal vote, calling it a political move.

"When you're going about impeaching a president, investigating a president, we don't have time for politics," he said, but added that he does think the House will move on impeachment.

As far as the timeline of the investigation goes, and contrary to others who have spoken out, the former lawmaker doesn't think there should be a rush to get this done.

"I don't think they should be in any hurry. I think they ought to do their job the right way," Kasich said. "This is our country. There's an investigation. Do it right. You shouldn't have some calendar. You shouldn't worry that you're going to put your vulnerable members at risk. Tough. If you can't do that then you shouldn't have started this thing, OK? Plain and simple."

 When asked if he thought Republicans would ever vote to remove Trump from office, Kasich said he's "not a fortune teller," but referred back to his time in the House during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, which he voted in favor of. He said that back then, the fact that Clinton was likely to be acquitted wasn't the issue for him in making his decision.

And he noted that the impeachment inquiry into Trump is just starting.

"There's going to be lots of hearings that are going to continue, more witnesses. Who knows what's going to come out? Every day, there's another -- I mean, almost another bombshell, so I can't predict what's going to happen next week. ... Next week, who knows what's going to happen?" he said.

Klein and Karl also asked Kasich about Tuesday's Democratic debate, which was held in the Ohioan's hometown, Westerville.

He said that debates are a "silly way to pick a president."

"You want to pick a president based on the sound bites? I mean, that's what we're doing," he said. "These debates are pushing everybody to extremes to come up with a snarky answer, and it's just -- it's just, you know, what's there to watch?"

 He took a shot at "Medicare for All," a signature proposal for top-polling 2020 Democratic candidates Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying the American people don't want to give up their private insurance for a government-run option. He also criticized a wealth tax supported by Warren, Sanders and billionaire candidate Tom Steyer, and made a slight pass at former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's proposal to institute a mandatory buy-back program for assault weapons, like a AR-15s and AK-47s.

"The way it's going right now, they're going hard left, which means they can't win," Kasich said of the Democratic primary field.

Karl asked Kasich if his political days were behind him, and while he threw cold water on getting into this presidential election, he left open the possibility for trying to run again in the future.

"The only thing I really have an interest in is president, and I see no path at this point in time," he said. "I'll be younger when the next election comes around than all these top front runners running for president today."

Kasich ended with this question, "Can somebody who doesn't hold public office have a big enough voice to move the public? Is there a way to do it?"

Citing all many methods of communication now used -- podcasts, YouTube, TV, Twitter -- Kasich said voices are what matter.

"We'll see," he said. "All of my options are on the table."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Perry rejects congressional subpoena, insists resignation not related to Ukraine 

Luka Banda/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Friday that his plans to resign are not related to the ongoing congressional impeachment inquiry into his role in the Ukraine affair, but because he wants to spend more time with family in Texas.

The comments from Perry, who said he plans to step down by the end of the year, came on the same day he and Energy Department lawyers told Congress they would not comply with a Friday deadline to respond to a congressional subpoena to provide information related to his work in the former Soviet republic.

Last week, the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees subpoenaed Perry to provide documents related to his role in U.S. energy policy in Ukraine and whether he was involved in decisions to withhold military aid.

But Perry responded Friday in a letter to the committees that, in accordance with a previous White House letter rejecting other subpoenas, he would not comply until the House votes to authorize the impeachment inquiry. Department lawyers also argue some of the documents requested are covered by executive privilege.

“Pursuant to these concerns, the Department restates the President’s position: “Given that you inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it,” the Energy letter says, citing the White House letter.

With regard to his leaving Washington, Perry said, “I've been looking at this for some time,” in an interview on CNBC Friday.

“I don't think anybody's surprised that, you know, I've got a rather intense love affair with this state, my wife, this little town of Round Top where we have chosen to live. And so the lure became overwhelming for me to come back home and to spend time with the people that I really love," he said.

President Donald Trump announced Friday on Twitter that he plans to nominate Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to replace Perry. Brouillette is an Army veteran from San Antonio, Texas, and has previously worked in the energy sector including as assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the Energy Department from 2001 to 2003. More recently he worked as an executive for Ford Motor Company and USAA.

As part of the impeachment inquiry, Perry has been subpoenaed to provide documents related to his work in Ukraine and meetings with other officials involved in the region.

Perry has said previously that he planned to cooperate with the congressional requests. But since then, the White House has defied those requests because it regards the impeachment inquiry as illegitimate without an official House vote.

Perry has been referred to by some of his colleagues as one of the "three amigos" of the administration's policy in Ukraine. Members of Congress are investigating whether the White House withheld military aid to the country or offered a White House summit on the condition Ukrainian officials investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Perry has not been accused of wrongdoing and insists his efforts in Ukraine were focused on advancing American interests in the region by promoting reforms to address corruption and bringing in American energy companies to get Ukraine away from Russian natural gas.

Perry said he's happy with the goals he's accomplished in his time at the Energy Department, including pushing for more American natural gas in Europe and for Ukraine to tackle corruption in the country.

"The timing was right for me. I got these big things done, the agency is in great shape, it's going to continue to be focused on the areas that are important to America. So it was a right time for me to come back home," he said in the interview.

In recent months, Perry and the Energy Department have frequently denied reports he planned to resign. Perry said Thursday morning he was one day closer to stepping down "but it ain't today." He gave Trump his resignation notice later that day.

Perry has defended the administration’s handling of Ukraine, saying the Biden name was not brought up in his conversations with the president and other officials. Perry told Fox News he never heard the Biden name in conversations with Ukrainian officials or the White House, but that the U.S. was pushing Ukraine to crack down on corruption in the country.

He also defended White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who said Thursday the administration did ask Ukraine for an investigation of Democrats in the 2016 election before aid money would be released. Mulvaney later said in a statement that his comments did not mean there was a "quid pro quo" but Perry said Friday that Mulvaney was being "straight up" and that the administration was "hammering" Ukraine to tackle corruption.

"People are trying to connect dots. By basically saying that there was no quid pro quo in the sense of what those folks out there would like for it to be. That we'll give you this money unless you go investigate Joe Biden and his son. I never heard that anywhere, any time, in any conversation," he said on Fox News.

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Friday
Oct182019

Diplomat said he expressed concern over Hunter Biden’s foreign work in 2015

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- During a closed-door deposition earlier this week, a senior State Department official told House impeachment investigators that he raised ethical concerns about Hunter Biden’s business ties in Ukraine with then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office in 2015, two sources familiar with the deposition confirmed Friday to ABC News, but was ultimately rebuffed.

Deputy Secretary of State George Kent told investigators that he grew so concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest presented by Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas company that he conveyed his misgivings to an aide to the then-vice president, the sources said.

Kent said in his testimony that Biden’s aide told him that the vice president didn’t have the “bandwidth” to address Hunter Biden’s professional work because his other son, Beau, was battling cancer, according to the Washington Post, which first reported Kent’s claim.

A spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., declined to comment on the closed door testimony. A spokesman for the Biden campaign said that "on Joe Biden's watch, the U.S. made eradicating corruption a centerpiece of our policies toward Ukraine."

In a statement from his lawyers on Friday, Kent, a career Foreign Service officer who previously served at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, tried to distance himself from any of the politics: "Those engaged in the broader political debate on either side will likely find both utility and inconvenience in his testimony. But those are matters for others. He was not there to testify on behalf of any side," his lawyers Andrew Wright and Barry Hartman wrote.

Without disputing anything in particular, they added, "With varying degrees of accuracy, several news organizations and sources have characterized the testimony he provided in closed session. We would caution that cherry-picked elements of his testimony might not give the full picture."

At the time of Kent's warning, Joe Biden was routinely traveling to Kiev, to advocate the Obama administration policy focused on rooting out corruption. A year earlier, in 2014, Hunter Biden had accepted a lucrative seat on the board of directors for Burisma, the Ukrainian company.

While the Bidens have not been accused of doing anything illegal, ethics experts say Hunter Biden’s foreign business activity presents ethical concerns.

"At absolute minimum, there's a huge appearance of conflict, and there's every reason to think that the investors that he‘s working with want him partnering with them because he's the son of the then-vice president and now presidential candidate," Robert Weissman, president of progressive watchdog group Public Citizen, told ABC News in June. "[Joe Biden] should have encouraged his son to not take these positions."

During an exclusive interview with ABC News earlier this week, Hunter Biden said he exercised “poor judgment” in taking the Burisma board seat, but defended himself against the ethical questions raised about his private ventures,

"I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That's where I made the mistake," said Biden. "So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever."


Nevertheless, Kent’s testimony will likely add fuel to claims made by President Donald Trump and his allies about an alleged conflict of interest, who staged a full-court press to have the Hunter Biden and his father investigated in Ukraine. During a phone call in July between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – a rough transcript of which the White House later released – the president repeatedly encouraged the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.

The president’s requests to Zelenskiy during that phone call are now a major part of the congressional impeachment inquiry. Investigators have interviewed several current and former United States officials as part of their probe, including Kent.

Although Trump’s effort to repeatedly raise Hunter Biden’s foreign business ties has brought them more into the spotlight recently, questions were raised at the time he took on the position in Ukraine. In May 2014, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked then-White House press secretary Jay Carney about the potential conflict of interest.

Carney responded that "Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president."

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Friday
Oct182019

Ambassador to EU Sondland told Congress quid pro quo described by Mulvaney would be improper

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators he believed it would be improper for the White House to withhold military aid until Ukraine conducted an investigation related to the 2016 election, according to sources familiar with his testimony.

Sondland testified for more than nine hours on Capitol Hill Thursday, as Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters that the president had cut off military aid to Ukraine in part to pressure Ukrainian officials to probe Democrats, and an unsubstantiated theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the Democratic National Committee in the 2016 election.

Asked about the comments from Mulvaney, Sondland said that the arrangement, if described accurately, would be improper, but did not say whether he believed it to be illegal, according to sources familiar with his remarks.

Mulvaney tried to walk back his White House comments in a statement Thursday denying what he had said in the press briefing room constituted a quid pro quo, though not walking back any of those original remarks. And Democrats seized on his initial remarks.

"You can't exert pressure on a foreign government to do anything for your election benefit," Rep. Raka Krishnamoorthi, D-Illionis, told reporters.

Republicans, including some who were startled by Mulvaney's initial comments, quickly pointed to his follow up statement, and insisted he had misspoken.

"Based on my conversations, not only with Mick Mulvaney but others, in addition to the five witnesses we've had, I have zero concern - zero concern - that aid was withheld for any political reason," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Friday. "I don't think he's incorrect, I know he's incorrect."

Sondland, who despite his official title, played a large role in the administration's Ukraine policy and events at the center of Democrats' impeachment inquiry, told investigators Trump had directed him and others to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine to conduct investigations, but that he wasn't aware of the efforts and their motives, according to his opening statement obtained by ABC News.

He told investigators that he and other senior administration officials disagreed with Trump's request to work with Giuliani, but said that he felt he could not ignore a directive from the president.

"Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine," he told lawmakers, according to his opening statement.

"However, based on the President’s direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky, which we all believed was crucial to strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian ties and furthering long-held U.S. foreign policy goals in the region; or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President’s concerns."

Other diplomats and former administration officials who have appeared before Congress have suggested that Sondland was a key player in efforts to push Ukraine to conduct investigations outside of normal diplomatic channels.

Sondland told lawmakers he was not aware of a connection between the push to investigate Ukrainian energy company Burisma and the Biden family, and did not know initially that former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter served on the company board - a claim that some lawmakers were skepitcal of, in light of Giuliani's many social media posts and interviews on the subject at the same time.

"I read the opening statement, and everything that followed, as Mr. Sondland engaging in a C.Y.A. operation for himself," Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said.
"Giuliani made no secret of what he was doing," he added, referencing an appearance Giuliani made on Fox News in April.

House investigators have heard from other witnesses who have raised questions about Sondland's role in the administration's Ukraine policy and work with Giuliani and other senior officials.

Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for European and Russian affairs, told House impeachment investigators that she believed Sondland was a potential national security risk, given his inexperience and extensive use of a personal cell phone for official diplomatic businesses, sources familiar with her testimony earlier this week told ABC News.

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