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MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes defended his visit to White House grounds last week to meet a source the day before publicly sharing details about surveillance that "inadvertently collected" information on associates of President Donald Trump, calling his actions as "pretty common" and saying that "nobody was sneaking around."

Nunes, R-California, is facing growing calls for his resignation from his chairmanship from prominent Democrats, who on Monday portrayed him as nonobjective and called the White House meeting as a conflict of interest. Some have additionally highlighted Nunes' service on the Trump transition committee.

In an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room," Nunes argued that the visit was commonplace and part of an investigation into the unmasking of Americans in intelligence reports that began before Trump's wiretapping claims.

"I had been working this for a long time with many different sources and needed a place that I could actually finally go because I knew what I was looking for and I could actually get access to what I needed to see," said Nunes, adding later, "It wasn't at night ... nobody was sneaking around, all it was was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information."

Asked whether he could've used a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at a different location to view the materials and avoid the appearance of impropriety that accompanied his White House trip, Nunes said he could not because Congress had "not been given this information." SCIFs are specifically used to view or discuss classified information in surroundings that are otherwise unsecured.

The chairman's defense comes as a number of Democrats have stepped forward to call for his recusal from or replacement on the House Intelligence Committee, including the committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California.

"I believe that the chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation, as well as any involvement in oversight of matters pertaining to any incidental collection of the Trump transition," said Schiff in a statement Monday.

"This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the chairman and I have worked together well for several years; and I take this step with the knowledge of the solemn responsibility we have on the Intelligence Committee to provide oversight on all intelligence matters, not just to conduct the investigation," added Schiff, who compared the situation to the one that led to the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in matters involving Russia following the news that he met with the country's ambassador to the U.S. last year.

Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, became the highest-profile Democrat to call for Nunes' resignation while speaking on the Senate floor.

"If Speaker [Paul] Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes," said Schumer.

Last week, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called Nunes a "stooge of the president" and said he was "deeply compromised and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation," but she has not yet explicitly called for Ryan to remove Nunes.

On the Republican side, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and John McCain, R-Arizona, had questions of their own.

"I just think he needs to explain what he did, who he talked to," said Graham. "Schiff to me is talking more like a prosecutor and Nunes has been acting like a defense attorney. The bottom line is, we’re hoping they can put it together in the House. We hope they can get back on track."

McCain said he "honestly [doesn't] know what to make of" the situation with Nunes, but said he wants to know, "What brought him to the White House? Who did he see? What was the information? Just a few complicated questions like that."

A spokesman for Nunes told ABC News the chairman won't be stepping down from leading the committee's investigation.

After first noting the incidental collection of information about Trump associates last week to the press, and then briefing the president on the matter, Nunes apologized for not consulting the Intelligence Committee first. Nunes said he made the decision to go public first in the midst of a busy day and that it was a "judgment call."

On Friday, a spokesman for Nunes walked back some of his comments, telling ABC News that the congressman doesn't know "for sure" if the Trump associates cited were directly surveilled.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Freedom Caucus raised its profile dramatically last week during the debate to repeal and replace Obamacare, becoming not only antagonists to President Trump but also unlikely saviors – even if unintended -- to Democrats working to preserve Obamacare.

The intrigue surrounding this powerful band of conservatives continues to grow. By taking a hard, unified stance against the American Health Care Act, a position that ultimately helped sink the GOP’s health care repeal and replace plan, members of the House Freedom Caucus demonstrated the unity to steer the House GOP leadership off its course while scoring their its legislative victory.

Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017

How did the caucus form?

The caucus was officially founded by conservatives in 2015 at the House Republican retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and is chaired by Rep. Mark Meadows, a third-term Republican from North Carolina.

After former Rep. Mick Mulvaney lost to Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, in a race for chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Raul Labrador’s bid for majority leader fell short, some conservatives felt unrepresented and frustrated with their lack of sway on Capitol Hill, sources say, leading to a discussion about maximizing their influence as a block of conservative voters.

Before Trump charged that the caucus sided with Democrats to save the Affordable Care Act, its most notable achievement was not legislative, but gained by its role ousting John Boehner from his speakership in September 2015.

Who are the members?

So who are they? The caucus does not publicize its full, invite-only membership, although up to 40 conservatives pay dues, according to congressional sources. Most of its known members are tea party-types, elected after Barack Obama took office in 2009, although the caucus is spread across the ideological spectrum. Lawmakers pay $5,000 to become a member and $10,000 to be on the HFC board of directors.

Beyond Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., were all founding members and still serve in the House of Representatives.

Jordan was the caucus’ first chairman. Mulvaney, another original founder, now serves as director of the Office of Management and Budget. The caucus employs only four congressional staffers and is also mirrored on the political side by Jordan’s House Freedom Fund PAC, which fundraises for conservative candidates.

While Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, often meet with and wield significant influence over the caucus, the membership is not bicameral and there is no Senate Freedom Caucus.

What is its mandate?

House conservatives say the caucus represents ordinary people who believe Washington has forgotten about them. By banding together to influence legislation as a group, the lawmakers feel better empowered to deliver on conservative campaign promises that sometimes fall out of the legislative agenda of the House elected leadership.

Sources insist members must be willing to vote yes and also willing to vote no, unafraid to buck leadership. They want a bottom-up structure where junior members have the ability to offer amendments and legislate through regular order.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Polls opened Monday for early voting in the special election for Georgia's 6th congressional district.

Election Day is April 18 and it's a close race.

The 6th congressional district includes parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties north of the city of Atlanta.

Why the seat is open

The seat was formerly held by Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Price was elected to a sixth term in the 2016 election. But then President Donald Trump tapped Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Price was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 10, leaving a vacancy in the House.

Who are the candidates?

It's a rather crowded field -- 18 candidates are running to fill the vacant seat left by Price.

Out of the 11 Republicans, former state Sen. Dan Moody, who has the support of aides tied to Georgia's Perdue family, and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel have emerged as front-runners.

Handel had launched unsuccessful bids for Georgia governor and for the Senate.

Jon Ossoff has emerged from the field of five Democratic candidates, despite not being a district resident.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a House Republican super PAC, made an attack ad against the 30-year-old Democratic candidate, using old college videos of Ossoff in college dressed up as Han Solo and singing parody songs, in an attempt to portray him as inexperienced.

Two independent candidates, Andre Pollard and Alexander Hernandez, are also on the ballot.

Why the race has garnered attention

Democrats, who see this race as a referendum on Trump's presidency, are making an effort to flip the seat.

Ossoff has the backing of prominent Georgia House members, Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, as well as Democrats' congressional strong arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“We should unite behind him and send a clear message that Donald Trump doesn’t represent our values," Lewis said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As of now, Republicans hold 237 seats in the House of Representatives. Obviously, one seat is not enough for Democrats to tip the majority. For Republicans, however, it could prove to be a small help when it comes down to the slim number needed to pass legislation in the House.

If necessary, a run-off election between the two top candidates will be held on June 20.

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the defeat of the GOP overhaul of Affordable Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Obamacare was the "law of the land...for the foreseeable future" and that health care would be set aside as Republicans work towards tax reform this fall.

But Ryan -- who called his legislation, the American Health Care Act, "fundamentally flawed" -- told donors Monday that the effort to roll back the ACA is not over yet.

"We are going to keep getting at this thing," Ryan said, according to a recording obtained by the Washington Post. "We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health care problem."

Ryan's comments are a reversal from his position on Friday, when he declared Obamacare "the law of the land."

"We still have a promise to keep, so the speaker wants members to continue discussing this issue until we can find a path ahead," Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan, explained in an email, confirming the intent behind the quotes reported by the Post.

The Post also reported that Ryan suggested that a plan was being developed in time to brief the donors at a retreat scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Florida.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at Monday's White House press briefing, slamming cities that are working to actively ignore the federal law to turn over people who are living in the country illegally.

Sessions said he "strongly urges" these cities, known as sanctuary cities, to "consider carefully" the damage they are doing to national security and public safety by refusing to enforce immigration laws.

“Unfortunately some states and cities have adopted policies designed to frustrate the enforcement of immigration laws,” including refusing to detain nonfelons on federal detainer requests, Sessions said.

Sessions noted a Department of Homeland Security report out last week showing more than 200 criminal suspects released in one week despite U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers.

“Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe but putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” he added.

"We intend to use all the lawful authorities we have to make sure our state and local officials … are in sync with the federal government,” Sessions said.

"Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with [relevant laws] as a condition of receiving those awards," he added.

In the current fiscal year, Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs is slated to award $4.1 billion in grants.

“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and to rethink these policies. Such policies make their cities and states less safe, public safety as well as national security are at stake, and put them at risk of losing federal dollars," he said.

 

Attorney General Sessions: Jurisdictions must demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities in order to receive Justice Dept. grants. pic.twitter.com/N8n3dHyVNN

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 27, 2017

 

He brought up the death of Kate Steinle, a woman who was allegedly shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on a San Francisco pier last summer. President Donald Trump repeatedly cited Steinle's death during the campaign when he called for an end to sanctuary cities.

"We have simply got to end this policy," Sessions said.

The Obama administration previously said that cities that don't honor the detainer laws put forth by ICE could lose federal funds, so Sessions is not the first to make this particular threat.

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Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One of President Trump's top advisers is getting an even more public role in the coming days.

Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, has been a key player in the presidential campaign and inside the White House, but an announcement expected Monday will be the latest visible display of his growing power within in the administration.

Kushner, 36, will be named as head of the new White House Office of American Innovation, ABC News has learned. Few details have been released about the office, but it is believed to be tasked with taking ideas from the business world and using those theories to innovate in government. He is not drawing a salary.

Kushner's wife, President Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka, may be one of the more public faces of the administration. She regularly accompanies her father to public events, like his recent visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Boeing Co. plant in South Carolina. She also often posts pictures on her social media accounts of various business roundtable discussions she attends.

Her husband arguably keeps a lower profile, even though he is, technically, more senior in the administration, given his formal title as a government employee, which she is not, at least at the moment. Ivanka Trump, who is also not being paid, received a promotion of sorts last week when she was given security clearance, a government-issued communications device and an office in the West Wing. Her office is on the second floor of the West Wing, while Kushner's is steps from the Oval Office.

Kushner's influence appears to occur slightly more behind the scenes, which has been the case since the campaign.

Kushner, who, with his wife, practices Orthodox Judaism, helped write Trump’s first formal address of the campaign to the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March, campaign sources confirm.

During remarks before the speech, Trump said Kushner, "spoke to many of his friends from Israel."

One of the few public statements that Kushner made during the campaign came when he defended his father-in-law in July against allegations of anti-Semitism, after Trump shared an image on Twitter of Hillary Clinton with a pile of money and a star, which many interpreted as the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism.

Kushner wrote a 1,326-word op-ed in The New York Observer, the newspaper from which he has now divested, in which he described Trump as being "an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife."

In another example of Kushner’s influence, he was one of a handful of advisers who accompanied Trump on a controversial trip in August to Mexico, and sources inside the campaign told ABC News that he had been working to plan the trip for several weeks.

“Jared executed this thing beautifully from start to finish,” a senior level adviser with direct knowledge told ABC News.

Since Trump took office in January, his reliance on Kushner has become well-known. And prior to Monday’s expected announcement, which appears to focus on domestic economic growth, the president’s has turned to Kushner and his role on the international stage.

At an event for donors and Republican supporters the night before the inauguration, Trump addressed Kushner in his remarks and said, "If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also highlighting his longstanding ties to Kushner in a show of support for Trump when he visited the White House in February.

"Can I reveal, Jared, how long we’ve known you?" Netanyahu said while addressing Kushner, who was seated in the front row of the crowd.

"Well, he was never small. He was always big. He was always tall," Netanyahu said, alluding to Kushner's height, even as a young child.

"But I’ve known the president and I’ve known his family and his team for a long time, and there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump," he concluded.

Indeed, the close ties between Trump and Kushner are no secret. The first-son-in-law is constantly spotted in the Oval Office and joins Trump on his frequent weekend trips to the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. While they didn't go to Florida this weekend, the family ties were still on display: Kushner and Ivanka Trump were spotted having dinner with the president at the Trump Hotel in D.C., just down the road from the White House.

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US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who is leading a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and alleged contacts with the Trump campaign, went to White House grounds last week to meet a source at a secure location to view information regarding possible "incidental" surveillance of Trump associates by the U.S. intelligence community, his office confirmed to ABC News.

The visit came one day before Nunes made a surprise public announcement about the documents before sharing them with other members of the House Intelligence Committee and then proceeded to the White House to brief President Donald Trump in person.

"Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source. The chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped," Nunes' spokesperson Jack Langer said in a statement provided to ABC News.

The committee Nunes chairs is conducting one of two ongoing congressional investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged links between Trump's campaign and the Russian government. The committee's ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had no comment.

On Friday, Nunes backtracked on some of the claims he said earlier in the week regarding the documents he reviewed.

When asked if he could clarify whether Trump or his associates were monitored or simply mentioned in the intelligence reports, Nunes said he won't know until he receives all the documentation.

The National Security Agency was supposed to deliver documents to the intelligence committee on Friday, but it's unclear whether that has happened yet.

It's also not clear why Nunes chose to go to White House grounds when there is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) on Capitol Hill to review sensitive information.

Nunes has not disclosed where he got the information from, not even to other members on the House Intelligence Committee.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday would not rule out that it came from the White House.

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A senior administrator official confirmed to ABC News that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has volunteered to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russia.

"Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials," a senior administration official told ABC News. "Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman [Richard] Burr’s Committee, but has not yet received confirmation."

The news was first reported by The New York Times.

As ABC News has reported, Kushner and the now-former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Trump Tower in December.

"They generally discussed the relationship, and it made sense to establish a line of communication," White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement earlier this month about the meeting. "Jared has had meetings with many other foreign countries and representatives -- as many as two dozen other foreign countries' leaders and representatives."

ABC News also confirmed that a second meeting occurred, at Kislyak's request, between Kushner and Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, a bank that is among the Russian businesses affected by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea.

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ABC News.(WASHINGTON) -- Two days after pointing his finger at Democrats for the failure of the GOP health care proposal, President Trump shifted the blame to conservative Republicans and said he is open to working with Democrats on health care reform.

President Donald Trump on Twitter called out the House Freedom Caucus, saying Democrats are “smiling” because the group of conservative lawmakers' opposition to the Republican health care proposal “saved” Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!” the president tweeted Sunday morning, referring to conservative organizations The Club for Growth and The Heritage Foundation that opposed the GOP health care bill.

Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017

Shortly after the president's tweet, his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said the White House is open to working with Democrats on health care reform.

"Look, Obamacare as we know is imploding and it is exploding, and every other adjective you can provide. It's going south. It would be nice to get the Democrats on board," Priebus told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "At the end of the day, I believe that it's time for the party to start governing. I think that's important. I think that Democrats can come to the table as well and if you look at what the president said ... he said perhaps it's time for us to start talking to some moderate Democrats as well as come up with a bipartisan solution."

Trump's tweet about the Freedom Caucus marked a change from his reaction Friday after GOP leaders called off a vote in the House on the American Health Care Act because they didn't have enough support to pass the bill.

The president said then he didn't feel betrayed by the conservative lawmakers who opposed the bill.

“They’re friends of mine,” the president said of the Freedom Caucus. “I’m disappointed because we could have had [the bill pass]."

Instead, Trump on Friday laid the blame on Democrats. "We had no Democrat support," he said. "They weren't going to give us a single vote so it's a very difficult thing to do."

The next morning, on Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted to his followers, “Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.,” and on the show hours later, Jeanine Pirro opened with a call for House Speaker Paul Ryan to step down in the wake of the health care bill's failure.

But a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan told ABC News on Sunday that the relationship between the speaker and president is "stronger than ever right now."

"The two spoke again today," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said. "The president was clear his tweet [about Pirro's show] had nothing to do with the speaker. They are both eager to get back to work on the agenda."


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Official White House Photo by David Lienemann(HAMILTON, N.Y.) -- Is Vice President Joe Biden having second thoughts about not running for president in 2016?

Speaking to students at Colgate University in central New York before the weekend, Biden reflected on his decision not to enter the race.

"... I had planned on running for president. And although it would have been a very difficult primary, I think I could have won," he said.

Biden became emotional, according to the Observer-Dispatch of Utica, as he mentioned his son Beau's death from a battle with brain cancer as a reason he stayed out of the race.

"At the end of the day, I just couldn't do it," the former vice president said. "So I don't regret not running. Do I regret not being president? Yes."

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Bill Clark/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said there is no talk of replacing House Speaker Paul Ryan after the Republicans' proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare was killed because it failed to garner enough GOP support.

On Saturday -- hours after Donald Trump tweeted to his followers, “Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M.” – Jeanine Pirro opened her show with a call for House Speaker Paul Ryan to step down in the wake of the health care bill's failure.

Along the same lines, the conservative website Breitbart raised the possibility that the head of the House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, could replace Ryan as speaker.

Pressed by ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on whether he supports Ryan, Meadows said Sunday: "I can tell you there is no conversation going on right now with regard to replacing the speaker.”

The Freedom Caucus opposed the Republican health care bill, but Meadows said on ABC's "This Week" that conservative and moderate GOP lawmakers are going to have to work together to achieve their shared agenda.

"It's all hands on deck with regards to Obamacare, tax reform, the border wall," he said.

Stephanopoulos asked Meadows about Trump's tweet earlier Sunday morning that singled out the Freedom Caucus for its opposition the health care bill, with the president saying that Democrats are "smiling" over the failure to pass the legislation.

Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017

"Well, I mean, if they're applauding, they shouldn't," Meadows said. "I can tell you that conversations over the last 48 hours are really about how we come together in the Republican conference and try to get this over the finish line."

The congressman added, "This was not a final passage. This was one bill that was going to go to the Senate, get revised, and come back ... We are in the negotiation process."

Meadows said it is premature to think that the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is over: "It's like saying that Tom Brady lost at halftime … We may be in overtime, but I can tell you at the very end of the day, the most valuable player will be President Trump on this because he will deliver.” Trump has said the next big item on his agenda is tax reform, and Stephanopoulos asked Meadows whether any tax cuts would be balanced by spending reductions or other revenue increases.

“You say real tax reform. Does that mean any tax cuts must be fully paid for? You're not going to pass tax cuts that are not matched with other revenue increases or spending cuts?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Tax reform and lowering taxes, you know, will create and generate more income,” said Meadows. "Does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Political strategist Roger Stone, longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, doubled down on his defense against allegations that he or others in the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia in its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“I have had no contacts or collusion with the Russians,” Stone told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” on Sunday. “There is no collusion, none -- at least none that I know about, in Donald Trump's campaign for president.”

Stone also slammed the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, saying he is “full of Schiff.”

At a public hearing last week, Schiff stated that Stone made comments in August 2016 about his communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and that questions remained about Stone's comments about Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, and his contacts with a hacker persona known as Guccifer 2.0.

Stephanopoulos asked Stone about a tweet he sent on August 21 which read, “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

Weeks later, Podesta’s emails were hacked and posted to WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind the email hacking of Podesta and other Democrats.

“That was your tweet,” Stephanopoulos said to Stone on Sunday. “And two months later the emails came out.”

“Correct,” Stone said. But, he said his tweet made no mention of Podesta’s emails. Stone insisted he was referring to Podesta’s business dealings.

“I never made any reference to John Podesta’s email. There were a dozen stories about his business dealings published after that [tweet],” Stone said.

Stone has volunteered to appear before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election and said he'd like to testify in a public hearing, rather than behind closed doors.

When Stephanopoulos asked if the committee has accepted his offer and whether Stone might receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, the GOP strategist would only confirm that the House committee has received his offer to appear.

In regard to his contacts with the hacker known as Guccifer 2, Stone questioned whether U.S. intelligence services are correct in their assessment that the hacker is tied to Russia.

“Number one, I don’t concede Guccifer is a Russian agent,” he said. “Just because the intelligence services say something, as we know from history, does not make it true.”

Further, Stone said he has made all of his communications with the hacker public and that any suggestion the exchanges amounted to collusion with Russians are “absurd.”

“The inference that my communication -- actually my exchange with Guccifer 2, which is entirely on Twitter, both public and private, and which I have now made entirely public, -- constitutes collusion with the Russians is absurd,” he said, adding that the communications occurred before Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails were hacked and leaked to the public.

“My brief exchange with [Guccifer 2] is six weeks after the hacking of the and publication of the DNC documents, which I'm accused of colluding with him on. In other words, I would need a time machine in order to collude,” he said.

Stephanopoulos also asked Stone about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose name, like Stone’s, has come up in reports on the federal investigation of Russia’s election interference.

“I have been a friend of Paul Manafort's for, I don't know, almost 50 years. We go back to Young Republicans together. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and I choose to take him at his word,” Stone said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized President Donald Trump after the GOP-backed health care bill failed to garner enough support for a vote on the House floor Friday, saying the president showed two unhelpful traits during negotiations.

"The first is basic lack of competence," Schumer told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday. "You cannot run the presidency like you run a real estate deal. You can't tweet your way through it. You can't threaten and intimidate and say I'll walk away. It's more complicated."

Schumer said the other failure of the GOP’s health care bill was that it gave too much to the rich instead of Trump’s working-class base – and predicted that any efforts on Trump’s next agenda item of tax reform that do the same will also fail.

"The president campaigned as a populist against the Democratic and Republican establishments. But he's been captured by the hard right wealthy special interests,” Schumer said. "That's who loved his proposal on the Trumpcare, because it gave huge tax cuts to the rich. If they do the same thing on tax reform, and the overwhelming majority of the cuts go to the very wealthy, the special interests, corporate America, and the middle class and poor people are left out, they'll lose again."

"The hard right is great at opposition. Now they're in charge. America is not where the hard right is," Schumer added on health care and tax reform.

After the White House-backed American Health Care Act was pulled from an anticipated vote Friday, Trump blamed Democrats for its failure, and specifically called Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California "losers."

"We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Friday.

Schumer disagreed with Trump's assessment, telling Stephanopoulos the president "never called" Democrats about the bill.

"I would say this – we Democrats, provided our Republican colleagues drop replace and stop undermining the ACA, are willing to work with our Republican friends," the New York senator said, referring to Affordable Care Act. "We have ideas, they have ideas, to try to improve Obamacare. We never said it was perfect. We always said we'd work with them to improve it. We just said repeal was off the table."

Schumer added that Trump’s statement Friday that he would wait for Obamacare to "explode" rather than working to fix the law would backfire.

"For the president to say that he'll destroy it, or undermine it, that's not presidential. That's petulance," Schumer said. "The job of the president is to make Americans' lives better. And if he, out of anger or vengeance or whatever, starts undermining ACA, it's going backfire on him."

But the Democratic leader said he would be willing to work with the president on other issues if Trump changes his approach. "It's not me, it's him," Schumer said on "This Week." He ran as a defender of the middle class. The minute he got into office… he moved so far to the hard right that it's virtually impossible for us to work with him. If he changes, he could have a different presidency."

Schumer also defended his promise to filibuster the president's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, telling Stephanopoulos, "60 votes should be the standard."

Schumer's threat to filibuster has led to talk of Republicans using the so-called nuclear option to confirm Gorsuch’s nomination, which would require him to be confirmed with a simple majority instead of 60 votes.

"If the candidate can't get 60 votes, if the nominee can't get 60 votes, you don't change the rules, you change the candidate," Schumer said.

Schumer also stood by his statement that Gorsuch shouldn’t be confirmed while the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was ongoing, saying, “let's see where this investigation goes for a few months and delay it.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt slammed the 2015 Paris accord to combat climate change as "a bad deal."

Pruitt also revealed in an interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that President Trump will this week sign a new executive order that will eliminate a signature Obama-era policy for combating climate change, the Clean Power Plan.

The policy, which the Supreme Court put on hold pending judicial review, aims to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants.

But Pruitt said on ABC's "This Week" that the Obama administration had "a very anti-fossil fuel strategy, coal, natural gas and the rest" and that Trump aims to change that with the goal of producing jobs and lowering electricity rates for consumers.

The former Oklahoma attorney general also suggested the Paris climate accord is unfair to the U.S.

"China and India, the largest producers of [carbon dioxide] internationally, got away scot-free” in the climate pact, Pruitt said. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation.”

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ABC News.(WASHINGTON) -- Boris Epshteyn, the special assistant to the president in charge of surrogate operations is leaving his post, a senior Trump administration official told ABC News Saturday.

He may assume a different role in the White House, though. "We are exploring opportunities within the administration," the official said.

Epshteyn has served various roles, including senior adviser on the Trump-Pence transition team and director of communications for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

A lawyer who received his J.D. from Georgetown University, the Russian-born Epshteyn frequently appeared on TV: first as a surrogate during the campaign, then as a paid staffer.

Epshteyn has yet to publicly comment about departing his post.

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