U.S. Congress(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday he's "received assurances" that firing special counsel Robert Mueller "is not even under consideration," but he would not say who gave him that assurance.
"The special counsel should be free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference, absolutely. I am confident that he'll be able to do that," the Speaker said.
"We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country, we have a justice system and no one is above that justice system," he added.
While many of Ryan's Republican colleagues have publicly urged the president to stop attacking the special counsel, the Speaker declined to go that far.
Some Senate Republicans were notably more direct.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said, "Anything directed at firing Mr. Mueller blows up the whole town. That becomes the end of governing and the presidency as we know it. And I have zero concern that Mueller is going to be fired by Trump. Zero."
"I feel very confident that his people know what would happen there," Graham said.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said, "I think the consequences of doing that would be um, very serious and I would hope the president would not do that."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was even more blunt, saying of Trump, "He's a very bright guy. That would be a stupid thing to do."
Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, pointed to a statement Sunday from Trump lawyer Ty Cobb.
"They issued a statement they would not, they do not plan to fire Mueller. We have had conversations about it and I think they fully understand the type of reaction that would take place in the Senate. So hopefully it doesn't happen."
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic, was asked whether it was a mistake that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far not said anything about a possible Mueller firing.
"I do," Flake replied. "I think he needs to say that. I mean come on. This is serious. Firing the special prosecutor?! The Leader may say ‘he’s not going to do that,’ but a couple of weeks ago he said he wasn’t firing Tillerson. So I think that preemptively we need to say again don't do it, don't go there, that's a red line you cannot cross."
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday weighed in for the first time on the serial bombings in Austin, calling the person or people responsible "sick" and vowing law enforcement "will get to the bottom of it."
"What's going on in Austin — a great place, a tremendous place — is absolutely disgraceful," Trump said in the Oval Office alongside Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. "We have to find this very sick person or people."
Trump would not answer whether the five bombings over the past 18 days amount to acts of domestic terror or hate crimes, instead praising the cooperation between the federal government and local officials in the investigation thus far.
"We have to find them really immediately," Trump said. "I will say working with Texas, working with the local governments has been great. We have to produce and find this very sick person or people."
The White House has faced some criticism over what some have deemed a relatively muted public response to the bombings. The only previous mention by the White House prior to the president's comments was an acknowledgment by deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley that Trump was briefed on the Sunday evening trip-wire bombing and was following events closely.
Critics noted a striking contrast between the president's immediate public response in the wake of terror-related incidents such as the New York truck attack on Halloween last year and the explosions in Austin that have produced no clear indication as to who the suspect or suspects could be.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump said Tuesday that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent election victory and said that the two would likely get together in the not too distant future to discuss what he called "the arms race," Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea.
"We had a very good call,' Trump said.
He added that the arms race "is getting out of control. We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have."
Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about the controversy over his agency's decision to order a $31,000 dining set for his office, contending he and his wife complained to staff about the price.
Answering questions from a congressional committee with oversight of the HHS budget, Carson acknowledged that he was involved in selecting a new dining set but said he asked his wife to help and then "dismissed" himself from the process.
"I was told that traditionally secretaries redecorate their offices, I came in I looked at it," Carson said. "You know I'm not really big into decorating if it was up to me my office would probably look like a hospital waiting room but at any rate, I invited my wife to come in and help me," he told the committee.
He also defended his wife's involvement in the selection of the furniture, saying that she chose the style and color but that they told staff they were unhappy with the price.
"If anyone knew my wife they would know how ridiculous this was she's the most frugal person in the world," Carson said.
He also said his wife is not involved in any other spending decisions at HUD.
Carson gave more details about his and his wife's involvement in the department's decision to purchase the dining set, which has since been canceled. Carson told the committee that he asked his wife Candy Carson to help him select used furniture stored in the basement of HUD's headquarters to redecorate his office and later to help choose a new dining set.
The decorating expenses have been a subject of controversy after a whistleblower filed a complaint that she was pressured to approve spending to redecorate Carson's office that was higher than the $5,000 legal limit. That whistleblower, Helen Foster, says that she was demoted from her job as chief administrative officer at the agency in retaliation for raising concerns about the spending and other misuses of taxpayer funds at the agency.
Carson said he didn't know the whistleblower and wasn't aware of any retaliation.
Foster said in a message Tuesday that she briefed Carson on issues with spending at the agency last March.
The department confirmed last week that Candy Carson was involved in selecting the table after agency emails were released referencing his wife's involvement in the decision.
Carson said Tuesday that staff told him they needed to replace the dining set because of exposed nails and chairs that might collapse and that it was a facilities decision to replace it, not a decorating expense. Carson also said he dismissed himself from the decision because he was busy with other issues and that he asked his wife to help make the decision.
"I left it with my wife I said help choose something but I said the money that is going to be used, we need to take care of the deputy secretary's office, and you know whatever's left over take care of the dining room furniture," he said.
There have been other concerns about the Carson family's involvement in HUD matters after Carson's son, Ben Carson Jr, participated in a listening tour of Baltimore despite a warning from department lawyers that it could appear as a conflict of interest. Ben Carson Jr is a businessman in Maryland. That decision is now under investigation by HUD's inspector general.
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee has oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget.
Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. said in the hearing that he wrote to the HUD inspector general and the Government Accountability Office asking them to look into the furniture purchase and other financial issues at the agency dating back to 2008. Foster's complaint also said that she reported $10 million from the agency's 20146 budget had been mismanaged by the person previously in her position, but that other officials at the department did not want to report the issue to the appropriations committee.
Carson said that he has directed the agency's new chief financial officer to create a plan for new financial controls and increased oversight of spending at the agency.
The committee's ranking member Rep. David Price of North Carolina described the furniture decision as one of multiple "major ethical lapses" at the department.
"Failure to control funds and provide legally required notifications to Congress is bad enough but what's even more disturbing are apparently false public statements that intended to obscure the truth about the secretary's involvement in this matter as well as the reassignment of the whistleblower who brought these problems to the public's attention. These mistakes are apparently compounded by roles that members of the secretary's family have taken at the department," Price said in his opening statement. "a public office is a public trust, even the appearance of impropriety can damage our institutions."
Carson is also scheduled to testify on oversight of the department in a hearing with the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Thursday.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Melania Trump is set to sit down with technology industry leaders at the White House on Tuesday for a conversation on cyberbullying and internet safety — against the backdrop of the president's penchant for tweeting insults and name-calling on social media.
Executives from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies are among invited attendees for Tuesday’s roundtable discussion with the first lady, according to a White House official.
The White House says Mrs. Trump will be looking to discuss both the positive and negative impacts of technology on the nation’s children.
“Mrs. Trump has simply asked for a meeting to discuss one of the many things that impact children -- as she has done many times in the past, on several different topics,” the first lady’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
Prior to her husband’s election to the White House, Mrs. Trump had said that the issue of cyberbullying would be one of her “main focuses” if she became first lady.
“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers. It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied, or attacked. It is terrible when that happens on the playground. And it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet,” Mrs. Trump said at the time.
In the early months of her time as first lady, Trump backed away from publicly discussing the issue of cyberbullying, leading to speculation that she had abandoned the issue altogether in light of the contrast with the president's frequent social media attacks.
But in a speech at the United Nations in September, the first lady again dove back into the issue, offering her opinion about the need to protect children from negative online experiences.
"We must turn our focus right now to the message and content [children] are exposed to on a daily basis through social media — the bullying, the experience online and in person," the first lady said in September.
Mrs. Trump’s focus on cyberbullying has attracted ridicule given the president’s propensity to name-call and attack his rivals on Twitter. The first lady has made clear she doesn’t approve of all of the president’s Twitter habits and isn’t shy about offering her opinion when she thinks he shouldn’t send a tweet.
“Sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t,” Trump said in an interview with CBS in 2016. “I think he hears me. But he will do what he wants to do in the end. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. And I give him my opinion. And he could do whatever he likes with it.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the 2018 primaries, Democrats are looking to define the direction of their party, as the progressive grassroots movement gains strength. That fight is playing out in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in a race between conservative incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski and his progressive challenger, Marie Newman.
The race has drawn national attention because it offers a window into the future of the Democratic Party, and staying power of the progressive movement. If Newman emerges as the victor and unseats Lipinski, it could be a signal that the party is less likely to accept conservative views on social issues like abortion and LGBT rights, and moving further left.
Democratic leaders have also picked sides in the race, and the leaders standing behind Lipinski and Newman respectively exemplify the tension that exists in the Democratic Party between centrist and progressives—a fight that is likely to continue into the 2020 presidential election cycle.
Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has thrown his weight behind Newman in a district the senator won by eight points in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Sanders’ endorsement draws a sharp contrast with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Lipinski.
Meet the candidates
A Lipinski has represented the southwest portion of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs in Congress for the last 35 years. Rep. Dan Lipinski was first elected to Congress in 2004, after his father, Rep. William Lipinski, dropped out of the race after the primary, but before the general election, and the Democratic Party tapped the younger Lipinski to fill the empty slot.
Lipinski has served seven terms in the seat and has held positions often at odds with the majority of his party. He is a co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus and voted against the DREAM act in 2010. He also was the only Democrat from Illinois to vote against Obamacare, and did not publically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term.
Marie Newman poses one of the most serious challenges Lipinski has faced while in office and is looking to capitalize on the progressive movement that began after the 2016 election. Newman — who is running for office for the first time — is campaigning on a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, healthcare-for-all agenda.
Newman said she’s been approached to run several times over the last 10 years, but it was only after the election of President Donald Trump that she was compelled to do so.
“I realized very clearly that this had to be done, I had to step off the sidelines,” Newman told ABC News. “The day after Trump was elected, what I realized is nobody is coming to save us, that we have to save us.”
Big tent or single issue party?
Abortion has been a major issue in this campaign with groups on both sides lending their support to Newman and Lipinski.
Newman has the support of pro-choice groups NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood — which, along with other groups, have spent more than $1.6 million campaigning against Lipinski through the super PAC "Citizens For A Better Illinois".
Lipinski has also gotten a hand from Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, which deployed 70 canvassers in the district last weekend to campaign on his behalf.
In a 2017 interview with the Washington Post, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she doesn’t believe abortion should be a litmus test for Democrats, and Lipinski has warned against the party becoming the ‘tea party of the left.’
“Right now there is a battle for what the Democratic Party is going to be going forward,” Lipinski said in a recent interview with WGN Radio in Chicago.
“[T]here are some who want to have a Tea Party of the left in the Democratic Party to match unfortunately what has happened to the Republicans. But we need to have a big tent party, we need to rally around those issues that can bring all Democrats together.”
But Newman doesn’t believe that the race highlights divisions within her party—rather that it highlights how out-of-touch Lipinski is with party values.
“The problem is [Lipinski] is a straight-up Republican, so of course I look like I’m very left when in reality I’m just a true-blue Democrat,” Newman said.
“We are a big tent. We are a giant mosaic of lots of independent thinkers. He is not a Democrat.”
Big name endorsements
Democratic leaders are not the only endorsements at play in the race. In a rare move, two sitting representatives from Illinois: Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the state's 9th district and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of the 4th, broke with tradition and endorsed Newman over their colleague.
Newman also received the first endorsements in the country from three Indivisible groups in Illinois. Indivisible a progressive, grassroots organization that works at the local level to oppose Trump’s agenda.
But Lipinski has secured endorsements from some major unions, which could be crucial to victory. Lipinski has picked up endorsements from 27 union groups, including the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO, which has the third largest union membership in the nation.
For her part, Newman has picked up Union endorsements from the SEIU Illinois State Council and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
One endorsement not at play? The Democratic Party’s. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have not publicly endorsed Lipinski in the race.
No threat from the right
One thing that is clear heading into Tuesday night is that whoever wins on the Democratic side will almost certainly take the seat in November.
Not only is the District safely blue, but the only Republican running in the race is Arthur Jones, a Holocaust-denier and self-described "white racialist".
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court Tuesday hears arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of a California state law requiring licensed “crisis pregnancy centers" — pro-life facilities that offer pregnancy-related services — to post notices advising clients that they are not medical facilities and that abortion and other services are available elsewhere.
The notice reads: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women.”
The National Institute of Family Advocates contends California’s FACT ACT, which stands for Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act, violates the First Amendment right to free speech.
“California imposes this compelled speech only on centers that oppose abortion," the group says. "The Act does not impose these compelled statements across the board but uses broad exemptions to exclude health providers that provide or promote abortion or abortifacients. Therefore, the only ones forced by the State to speak these government messages are those who oppose abortion.”
Attorneys for California argue the disclosure notice the centers must post under the act, “falls well within the First Amendment’s tolerance for the regulation of the practice-related speech of licensed professionals.”
Attorneys for the state argue the FACT ACT provides needed information. “A woman who seeks advice and care during pregnancy needs certain basic information to make informed decisions and obtain appropriate, timely medical care," they argue. "When she is offered assistance by a facility that provides pregnancy-related services of a type the public may associate with medical clinics, she needs to know whether the entity she is dealing with is in fact a state-licensed clinic staffed with regulated professionals."
"And when she visits a state-licensed clinic that caters to those not covered by private insurance or already enrolled in public programs and provides less than the full spectrum of relevant health care," they say, "she needs to know that there are state resources available to access additional care if she wishes to do so.”
The U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the California law. Both the Fourth and Second U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have struck down similar laws.
ABC News Supreme Court contributor Kate Shaw helps us understand the case:
What’s this case about?
This case involves a First Amendment challenge to a California law called the “Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act,” popularly known as the FACT Act.
The FACT Act requires all pregnancy-related clinics in California to make certain disclosures. First, the law requires unlicensed pregnancy centers, which typically provide women with counseling, adoption services, free baby products, and other sorts of support, to post notices informing patients that they do not provide medical care.
Second, the law requires centers that are licensed to provide medical care to post notices explaining that publicly-funded family planning services, including contraception and abortion, are available in California.
A group of clinics, who call themselves “pro-life pregnancy centers,” have challenged the FACT Act, claiming that it violates their speech and religion rights under the First Amendment.
What are the two sides arguing?
California claims it is simply imposing reasonable requirements to ensure that women do not inadvertently seek care at a center they believe to be a medical facility when in fact it is not, and that when centers do provide medical services like pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, they do not mislead women about their range of options.
The pregnancy centers argue that the state of California is forcing them to recite the state’s pro-abortion message, in violation of their religious convictions; they argue that they exist to promote childbirth and that California is requiring them to highlight the possibility of abortion.
How might the Justices rule?
The Justices could affirm the Ninth Circuit, which upheld that the FACT Act’s constitutionality. Or they could side with the challengers, striking down the FACT Act in its entirety. A third possibility is that they could uphold some but not all of the FACT Act—essentially the position of the Trump Justice Department, which has filed a brief arguing that they “unlicensed clinic” requirements are constitutional, but that the licensed clinic requirements are not.
This is the Court’s first significant abortion case since Justice Neil Gorsuch took the bench, so there will be a great deal of interest in how he votes in the case.
What is the national impact of this case?
Pregnancy centers like the plaintiffs in this case operate in every state, so the Court’s ruling here could well have national impact—though even if the Court upholds California’s law, no state will be required to regulate these centers as California has done. If the Court sides with the centers, the state argues that pregnant women will be at risk of deception and misinformation at these centers, with state law essentially powerless to prevent it.
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is expanding his legal team and is adding veteran DC attorney Joe diGenova.
A source with direct knowledge tells ABC News the plan is for diGenova to join the president’s legal team which already consists of John Dowd and Jay Sekulow; Ty Cobb remains the in-house White House lawyer handling issues related to the presidency.
“Former US Attorney for the District of Columbia Joe diGenova will be joining our legal team later this week. I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the President, “ Jay Sekulow counsel to the president told ABC News in a statement confirming the hiring.
DiGenova declined to comment when reached by ABC.
DiGenova has been a fierce defender of the president on cable TV. He told Fox News earlier this month that the media is out to attack the President because the press “like Comey and McCabe and the senior Obama DOJ people, hate Donald Trump. And they believe that anything, including violating every known standard of federal law enforcement is justified to either keep him from office or, if elected, take him out of office."
He added: "It is one of the worst moments in the history of American law enforcement and the shame is on Comey and everybody associated with it.”
The president mentioned Special Counsel Robert Mueller by name this weekend.
As ABC News has previously reported, the president’s legal team has been in active negotiations with the special counsel over what an interview with the president can look like whether it would be in person or via questionnaire or a mix of both.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations have told ABC among the topics the special counsel wants to ask the president about may include the circumstances around the firing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the circumstances around the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 100 members of Congress are asking for more funding to protect endangered species, in a letter sent to the leaders on the House Appropriations Committee last week.
The Trump administration's budget proposed cuts to multiple agencies that carry out programs to protect endangered species, including an 18 percent cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget. The budget proposal for the FWS includes a $9.5 million cut to money available for listing new species as endangered, which is almost half the funding that program received in the 2017 fiscal year.
The non-profit Center for Biological Diversity said in a 2016 report that it would cost an estimated $2.3 billion per year to recover the populations of all endangered species. The U.S. currently provides just 3.5 percent of that funding, according to the report.
The proposed budget also includes a 64 percent cut for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which provides grants for state and local governments for conservation.
Democratic Reps. Don Beyer, Debbie Dingell, and Raul Grijalva organized the letter which was co-signed by 103 Democratic Members of Congress and one Republican. In the letter, the lawmakers ask the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to provide funding for Endangered Species Act programs in the budget for the 2019 fiscal year.
"The need for increased recovery funding is evident from the nearly 400 listed species that lack recovery plans. Congressional appropriation for both recovery and consultation, both insufficient, have not kept pace with the number of listed species," they wrote in the letter.
"It is abundantly clear that Congressional ESA appropriations have not kept pace with recovery, consultation, and conservation efforts," Beyer said in a statement. "Nearly 400 listed species lack recovery plans, and that is unacceptable. We need to adequately fund all aspects of the ESA process so that we can protect and preserve America’s national heritage.”
The letter was sent to the chair and ranking member of the subcommittees that recommend appropriations for the Interior Department and Department of Commerce.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was asked about the department's budget proposal and its impact on endangered species protection in a hearing Thursday, the day before the letter was released. Zinke said that the department proposed decreasing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is used to acquire and manage public lands, so it could focus specifically on wildlife corridors.
Zinke signed an order aiming to improve management of wildlife habitats in Western states in February, specifically for areas populated by game animals like antelope, elk, and mule deer.
The Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, Noah Greenwald, said he's glad to see congressional support to increase funding for endangered species protection. He said the center has identified at least 47 species that went extinct while waiting to be listed as endangered and that other species' recovery plans are decades old.
"Once species are protected if we don't identify what they need for recovery they could go extinct," he said in an interview with ABC News.
Rebecca Riley of the Natural Resources Defense Council said Endangered Species Act programs have been underfunded for years which contributed to delays in creating and implementing recovery plans for endangered species.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions(NEW YORK) -- “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon officially announced her primary challenge to New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.
In a video announcement, the actress states: “I love New York. I’ve never lived anywhere else."
Nixon also attacks Cuomo for “a string of indictments for corruption, his failure to fix the New York City subway, and his support for a backroom deal which handed Republicans control of the state Senate, resulting in the failure of numerous pieces of progressive legislation,” in her release announcing her candidacy.
The video, which aims to introduce her to voters, shows her at home with her wife Christine and son Charlie, and walking her son Max to school.
In the coming weeks, Nixon will travel across the state to hear from voters, according to an announcement from her campaign.
Her message also echoes the outsider, progressive message other candidates have invoked this year.
“We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us. It can’t just be business as usual anymore,” she said.
This would be Nixon's first bid at political office but she has long been an activist on political and social issues, particularly for LGBT issues and education issues. The actress, best known for her role as the practical lawyer Miranda on HBO' "Sex and the City," was born in New York.
Her announcement video emphasizes her long ties to the city and that she is a graduate of its public schools. It emphasizes her life as a New Yorker, showing her walking the streets and taking the subway.
Nixon has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo and his administration. Her bid comes as the Democratic Party looks to reconcile divides among its liberal and more moderate wings, a breach that has its roots in the 2016 election.
Cuomo, the son of legendary New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, is making his bid for a third term. He has $30.5 million in his campaign account, according to New York election records.
The actress is a longtime ally of the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Nixon's wife, Christine Marinoni, works in de Blasio's administration as a special adviser for community partnerships in the Department of Education.
Her announcement video ends with her on the train as the announcer says "Next stop, Albany."
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a GOP-led request to hold off on using a new House map for the state of Pennsylvania, meaning candidates — including Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb lawmakers who recently faced off in a tough battle — in the state will run in new districts this November.
The move is a blow to Republican hopes and a boost to Democratic chances of retaking control of the House of Representatives.
It is the second time on Monday Republicans received a judicial blow from the courts. Earlier, a three-judge panel in Pennsylvania upheld the state’s new congressional map.
The Supreme Court announced, "the application for stay presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied."
There are few legal options left for Republicans in the state. The filing deadline for House candidates is tomorrow.
Republicans in the state had filed for a stay against the new map, which was drawn by the state Supreme Court after the Democratic governor and GOP-controlled state legislature could not come to terms on a new one.
The GOP took two legal routes — one before the U.S. Supreme Court and the other before the federal panel.
They lost on both.
Democrats are expected to pick up three to five House seats under the new map, according to estimates by election experts, which would help them on their way to the 24 seats they need to retake control of the lower chamber of Congress.
The filing deadline for House candidates in Pennsylvania is Tuesday.
The three-judge panel ruled that the Republicans had no standing to make their argument. The court also noted that “because fundamental principles of Constitutional standing and judicial restraint prohibit us from exercising jurisdiction, we have no authority to take any action other than to dismiss” the request.
Republicans can appeal the ruling. That appeal could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a new House map drawn, citing gerrymandered districts that favored Republicans. The GOP has been fighting the court order ever since and the U.S. Supreme Court denied an early request to put a stay on the map.
Republicans currently hold 12 of the state's 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five. The special election last week for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was held under the old map.
Several GOP lawmakers found their House districts dramatically affected by the new map, including Rep. Ryan Costello, who is considering retirement, several state and national officials in GOP politics told ABC News.
His 6th Congressional District was transformed from one that Hillary Clinton won by one point in 2016 to one she would have won by nine points.
Costello has not said he is retiring and his office and campaign did not respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment.
Pennsylvania’s House delegation took a big hit in Republican members this year.
GOP Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after a scandal. Rep. Lou Barletta is running for Senate. And Reps. Bill Shuster, Charlie Dent and Patrick Meehan are retiring.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid multiple investigations and controversies over the cost of travel by Trump administration officials, two senators are asking the Office of Management and Budget to provide more detail about the administration's policies on travel spending.
Several members of Trump's cabinet have been under scrutiny for the cost of their travel and other expensive purchases. The president asked former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign last September after reports that his travel on private planes cost more than $1 million of taxpayer money.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, the ranking member of theFederal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management subcommittee, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday asking him to explain how the Trump administration is enforcing rules on the cost of government travel and whether OMB has reviewed any other relevant guidance or rules.
"It is our duty to provide oversight and ensure that taxpayer money is spent responsibly, without waste, fraud, or abuse," the senators wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by ABC News. "As you have said yourself about past issues with Administration travel, “just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.” We owe it to the American people to ensure with the utmost vigilance that tax dollars are being spent appropriately."
The senators are also asking Mulvaney for documents on all travel approved by the White House Chief of Staff related to travel on government-owned or charter planes. OMB said in a memo issued after Price resigned that some travel would need to be approved by the chief of staff and that the chief of staff would provide further guidance on the use of government and private planes.
There are multiple investigations pending from congressional committees and agency watchdogs seeking more information about whether officials' travel spending followed all the relevant rules. The inspectors general at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior have ongoing investigations into travel spending and the IG from the Department of Veterans Affairs already published a report into Secretary David Shulkin's spending on a trip to Europe.
Federal law says that government officials should use the least expensive travel option available and should use commercial flights, unless otherwise authorized.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn awaits sentencing for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian officials, the retired three-star Army general has been quietly "putting his life back together," surfing and even dabbling in politics, friends and relatives say.
Flynn has kept a low profile for more than three months following the dramatic court appearance in which he made what confidants call a humiliating admission for a soldier with a decorated 33-year military career. He has avoided the news media and even moved to shut down a conservative lobbyist’s unauthorized public fundraising event for his legal defense fund.
"He felt he needed to act as a soldier and has kept his mouth shut," a close confidant told ABC News. "He doesn't want to be viewed as whiner."
But in a move that stunned some supporters, Flynn returned to the spotlight on Friday night, appearing beside Omar Navarro, a Republican who is running against Democratic stalwart Rep. Maxine Waters in California’s 43rd Congressional District and has already collected endorsements from a trio of political celebrities: GOP consultant Roger Stone, Infowars' Alex Jones and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“What I'm not here to do, is I'm not here to complain about who has done me wrong, or how unfair I've been treated or how unfair the entire process has been,” Flynn said to laughter from supporters as he introduced Navarro at the rally. “You know, it is what it is."
While a far cry from his infamous "Lock her up!" speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn’s appearance at a political rally raised eyebrows among some of Flynn’s supporters, who believe he should have avoided an event that did little to help his public image.
Several longtime friends who served with Flynn in the military -- and spoke anonymously to comment more frankly about a former commander they still admire -- found the campaign appearance last week "perplexing," with one deriding it as an example of "more bad decisions.”
Waters is not a member of the Congressional committees investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections, but she has been critical of Flynn in the past, which could explain the general’s surprise support for Navarro. In an February 2017 appearance on MSNBC, Waters slammed Flynn as a member of what she called Trump’s “Kremlin clan.”
Flynn's lawyer Robert Kelner did not respond to an ABC News request for comment on the Friday campaign appearance.
Navarro told ABC News that he did not pay Flynn “directly or indirectly” to speak or cover his travel expenses from Rhode Island, but his closest supporters say carefully raising his public profile again is key to his ability to earn income.
Flynn is selling his Old Town Alexandria townhouse for about $835,000 to pay steep legal fees amassed over the past ten months since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to probe alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
Friends and family say he’d like to get back to doing some sort of "foreign policy" consulting, but it's not apparent whether he has actively sought or accepted any such work.
Out of public view, Flynn has been focused mostly on grappling with a year of personal turmoil since President Trump dismissed him after 24 days as his national security adviser. Recent photos shared on social media by family members show Flynn surfing frigid waves off the New England coast in a body suit.
"What he's doing is putting his life back together and looking forward," his brother Joe Flynn told ABC News.
Many of his supporters do not believe that he did, in fact, lie to the FBI when agents visited the White House 14 months ago to question him about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador during the transition following the November 2016 election.
"I think he did not lie to the FBI,” author and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close friend of Flynn and his wife Lori, said recently. “I cannot imagine him lying to the FBI.”
His younger brother Joe also rejects the idea that his sibling would ever do anything dishonorable.
"There is nothing he would ever do willfully to harm the United States,” Joe Flynn told ABC News.
Why Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to FBI agents and agreed to be a cooperating witness as part of a plea to avoid a trial -- if he was actually innocent, as his supporters maintain -- has so far not been explained.
"We know the truth about the man,” said another close confidant. “There is no way those crimes were committed.”
A popular belief pushed by some conservative supporters is that he pleaded guilty to protect his outspoken son Michael Flynn Jr. from facing unspecified charges related to his role in the now-shuttered Flynn Intel Group lobbying firm. Mueller's team reportedly threatened to indict his son, according to the Washington Post, but sources close to the family say even the Flynn family is in the dark about what prosecutors actually did or did not have on Flynn Jr.
For one thing, until former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was charged by Mueller, it was very rare for anyone to be prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is one law Mueller looked at as he examined Flynn’s work for entities tied to the Turkish government.
A month before his father’s surprise guilty plea, Michael Flynn Jr. tweeted, “The disappointment on your faces when I don’t go to jail will be worth all your harassment.” Flynn’s son has not been charged with any crime.
Friends and family members have discussed a social media effort to build public support for somehow reversing the disgrace of a felony conviction. They have pushed the hashtag #ClearFlynnNow, which Joe Flynn says has gained some traction on Twitter.
But given the iron-clad language of his plea agreement, even diehard supporters in the retired general’s orbit concede privately it will be tough to walk back Flynn’s guilty plea. It is also unclear how he is helping the Mueller investigation.
Some supporters are holding out hope that the Justice Department inspector general’s report due to be released possibly next month — which sank FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday when he was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions 26 hours before his effective retirement date — will somehow offer exculpatory evidence of FBI misconduct that will compel the judge to let Flynn off the hook.
Trump could also pardon Flynn at any time, but his lawyer and family have not said if he has asked the White House to do so.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will visit New Hampshire on Monday to unveil a series of new steps aimed at combating the opioid crisis in what the administration is billing as his “initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand.”
Among the steps announced in the initiative is a call for the Department of Justice to “seek the death penalty against drug traffickers, where appropriate under current law.”
However, a previous draft proposal of the initiative obtained by ABC News seemed to take a harder line on what the administration might pursue regarding use of the death penalty against drug traffickers.
“The death penalty should be sought for certain cases where opioid, including Fentanyl-related, drug dealing and trafficking are directly responsible for death,” the previous draft read.
The administration could not provide information about when it would currently be appropriate to seek the death penalty under current law for trafficking drugs.
Trump has previously suggested dealers face the death penalty. At an opioid summit earlier this month, Trump said dealers should face “the ultimate penalty” for their roles in drug-related deaths.
“You know, if you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty," Trump said. "These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them. Some countries have a very, very tough penalty -- the ultimate penalty. And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do.”
Trump’s announcement Monday comes more than four months after he declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, though the decision faced criticism as it stopped short of a national emergency declaration that would have made an additional surge of federal funds available to address treatment and recovery efforts.
Other proposals in the plan include many recommendations previously put forward by the president’s opioid commission last November, including the launch of a nationwide public awareness campaign to educate on the dangers of prescription and opioid abuse; the implementation of a "safer prescribing plan" aimed at cutting nationwide opioid prescription fills by a third over the next three years; calling on Congress to pass legislation that reduces the threshold amount of drugs needed to invoke mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers who knowingly distribute certain illicit opioids that are lethal in trace amounts; and working to ensure first responders are supplied with naloxone, a lifesaving medication used to reverse overdoses.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has labeled the country's opioid problems an "epidemic." There were over 42,000 deaths from opioid use, including fentanyl, heroin and prescription drugs, in 2016, according to the CDC. Deaths were five times higher than they were just 17 years earlier, the CDC reported.
In New Hampshire, 39 people per 100,000 died of opioid drug overdoses in 2016 -- the third-highest rate in the country. Only West Virginia and Ohio reported worse rates in 2016, according to the CDC.