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Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is taking steps toward a 2020 presidential bid.

The New York Democrat announced that she is forming a presidential exploratory committee Tuesday night during a taping of CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

"I’m going to run for president of the United States because, as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own. Which is why I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege,” she told the late-night host. “It’s why I believe we should have better public schools for our kids because it shouldn’t matter what block you grow up on. And I believe that anybody who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class.”

Gillibrand is the third woman to throw her hat in the ring for president. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have taken steps toward a 2020 run in recent days.

Once considered a moderate Democrat, Gillibrand was first elected to Congress in 2006 and represented a rural Republican district in upstate New York. In 2009, she was appointed to finish then-senator Hillary Clinton’s term when former President Barack Obama nominated her as secretary of State.

Gillibrand has used her time in the Senate to push a more left-leaning agenda.

In 2010 she championed the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that banned gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. Over the past couple of years, she has opposed President Donald Trump’s nominees for his cabinet and other senior government roles including voting against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

 Gillibrand’s team paints her as a candidate that can reach across the aisle and be a unifying voice. A campaign official lauded her electoral victories where she earned more than half of the votes in predominantly rural counties that voted for Trump in 2016.

During her most recent re-election bid in 2018, Gillibrand denied having presidential ambitions. In a debate hosted by ABC News affiliate WABC-TV Republican opponent, Chele Farley cited out of state trips, including one to New Hampshire, as proof that she was thinking of running.

Gillibrand replied, “I will serve my six-year term.”

But a week after her successful re-election, she said on ABC’s “The View” that she was considering a 2020 run.

“But that’s a very important moral question that I’ve been thinking about ... what president is putting into this country is so disturbing, so divisive, so dark, that I believe I’ve been called to fight as hard as I possibly can to restore that moral integrity, that moral decency. So I’m thinking about it,” she said.

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Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When William Barr opened his remarks to the Senate Tuesday as he sought confirmation to become the 85th attorney general, he pointedly took time to reflect on his friendship with the man who could easily become his most consequential employee, special counsel Robert Mueller.

“I have known Bob Mueller for 30 years,” Barr said. “We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We’ve been friends since. And I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service. And when he was named special counsel, I said his selection was ‘good news’ and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. And I still have that confidence today.”

While Barr and Mueller have different backgrounds, they followed overlapping routes into the Justice Department. In 1990, when Mueller became the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Barr was appointed deputy attorney general and then attorney general the following year.

One emphasis of Tuesday’s senate confirmation was the significance of the future dealings between these two men.

With Mueller engaged in a politically sensitive investigation, Barr will assume a central role in the process. Barr’s approval would be needed if Mueller seeks to bring an indictment. And when Mueller writes a report, rules governing the special counsel would demand he deliver it to Barr.

What happens to it next would be Barr’s prerogative.

On Tuesday, as senators pressed Barr over how he may handle the Mueller probe, Barr at times sounded like he was in Mueller’s corner.

For example, Barre dismissed the notion that the Mueller probe was, as Trump has said repeatedly, a “witch hunt.”

"I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt," he said.

And when asked directly by Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) if he would fire Robert Mueller if President Trump directed him to do so, Barr said he wouldn't "without good cause."

"I would not carry out that instruction," he said.

Friends and former colleagues of both men say that if history is any guide, the two should have a cordial, professional, even friendly rapport.

George Terwilliger, who worked side-by-side with Barr as his deputy attorney general, said he has known both Mueller and Barr for 30 years. From 1990 to 1993, all three were colleagues at the Justice Department. “We were all close at DOJ, professional friends, more than acquaintances. Back then it was not unusual for us to socialize together,” Terwilliger told ABC News.

Terwilliger described Mueller and Barr’s relationship as one of “mutual profession respect” with no animosity, but he does not think they are close personal friends.

John Smietanka, who served as assistant to the attorney general during Barr’s first tenure at DOJ, and later as principal associate deputy attorney general, told ABC News that if Barr gets confirmed, he expects Barr and Mueller to have a strong rapport.

"I have great confidence in both of them, that they are able to handle this relationship as professionally as the last time they were working together," Smietanka said. "I expect it will be professional, because I know that Bill will make it professional."

Larry Urgenson, a former chief of the DOJ's fraud section, said he believes both men would approach the job “with an apolitical objective to enforce the law.”

“They share a very strong affection for the Department of Justice as an institution,” Urgenson said.

Michael Carey, another former Justice Department official who worked with Mueller and Barr in the early 1990s, told ABC News that “Bill relied on Bob’s input for many aspects of the operation.”

Carey said they worked extremely well together and “their dealings were the product of mutual respect.” Carey described Barr as a highly principled and thorough attorney, who took into account various opinions, especially Mueller’s.

Beyond working together, Barr and Mueller have remained in each other’s orbit during their long stints in private law practice in Washington. Their wives are part of the same Bible study group, Terwilliger said.

“The wives see each other more than we do,” said Terwilliger. “I don’t know that Bill [Barr] socializes with Bob [Mueller],” he added.

On Tuesday, Barr testified that he was transparent with Trump about his relationship with Mueller.

“I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and that the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this was all over,” Barr said.

“Bob is a straight-shooter and should be dealt with as such,” he added.

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Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller has filed a heavily-redacted court document Tuesday afternoon outlining the underlying evidence to support its claims that Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, lied to federal investigators.

The 31-page court filing is penned by Jeffrey Weiland, a special agent with the FBI.

Special counsel prosecutors, tasked with probing Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, accused Manafort in November of lying to federal investigators, marking the end of a short-lived plea deal struck just before the start of a trial in Washington, DC.

At a hearing in December, the federal judge overseeing that case asked the government to provide some “underlying evidence” to support the scant details they’ve offered about the content of his alleged lies.

Prosecutors have since filed court documents describing five areas in which Manafort is accused of lying to government investigators, including misleading statements about his contacts with Trump administration officials. He was also accused of lying about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate whom the special counsel has identified as a former Russian intelligence officer.

But Manafort’s legal team sought to explain away those lies in court documents filed last week, arguing their client did not intentionally mislead investigators.

“Mr. Manafort provided complete and truthful information to the best of his ability,” his defense team wrote. “He attempted to live up to the requirements of his cooperation agreement and provided meaningful cooperation relating to several key areas under current government investigation.”

As part of the document meant to defend Manafort against accusations that he lied to prosecutors, his defense counsel failed to adequately redact sections of their filing, inadvertently revealing that Manafort stands accused of sharing internal Trump campaign polling data with Kilimnik while he was working for the campaign in the spring of 2016.

Manafort has already been found guilty on eight counts of tax and bank-fraud in a Virginia case related in part to his work as an unregistered foreign lobbyist. Sentencing, in that case, is scheduled for early February and could land him a lengthy prison term.

Manafort is scheduled for sentencing in the Washington, DC, case on March 5.

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wingedwolf/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The IRS will require some 46,000 employees to work without pay throughout the upcoming tax season to ensure returns are processed and refunds are mailed, the agency announced Tuesday in an updated plan for the government shutdown. That represents almost 60 percent of its 80,000-person workforce.

And while the IRS will be adding staff to answer some questions via telephone "in the coming days," the agency said, it's warning Americans to expect "heavier call volume" and "longer wait times." Walk-in assistance centers also will remain closed, including those offices intended to help people who are victims of identity theft and are required to visit an IRS office to establish their identity.

What will remain in effect is the requirement that people pay their taxes on time, although the agency said it won't conduct any audits during the spending lapse.

"During this period, the IRS reminds taxpayers that the underlying tax laws remain in effect, and all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal," the IRS wrote on its website. "Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do by law."

The plan comes after the White House on Jan. 7 ordered the agency to still process tax returns starting Jan. 28 and issue tax refunds as planned. The move was in line with actions taken at other agencies, including food inspections, as the Trump administration tries to mitigate the impact of what has become the longest shutdown in history.

The upcoming tax season, however, was expected to be particularly tricky. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law a massive rewrite of the tax code.

With the spending lapse stretching into its fourth week, the IRS said it would need to recall tens of thousands more workers to handle the upcoming tax season if the shutdown remains in place. The IRS already had designated some 12 percent of its personnel as "excepted," meaning that their work was necessary to protect public safety or perform shutdown activities. Under the new plan, some 57 percent are required to report to work. None will be paid.

At least one top Democrat, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, has questioned whether such a move is legal in a government shutdown in which only the most critical employees are paid, usually for reasons of public safety.

"The president now is going to order them to do what we think is illegal to do because he wants to act like a dictator," Hoyer told reporters last week. "Federal employees are being deeply damaged by this continuing long-term shutdown."

In a statement issued last week, the IRS said that the Office of Management and Budget had reviewed the relevant laws at the Treasury Department's request and concluded that tax refunds may be paid during a government shutdown.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in the statement. "I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period."

In a statement released Tuesday, the IRS urged people to file electronically and go to its website with questions.

"No live telephone customer service assistance is currently available, although the IRS will be adding staff to answer some of the telephone lines in the coming days," the agency wrote. "Due to the heavier call volume, taxpayers should be prepared for longer wait times."

While tax laws remain in force during a government shutdown, the IRS does note that appointments related to audits and collections will be rescheduled. The agency also says it will not process applications for groups claiming tax-exempt status.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King faces fierce backlash for questioning why white supremacy is considered offensive, for now he’s showing no signs of stepping down amid mounting pressure to resign.

In an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, King asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?” Those comments set off a series of rebukes from both sides of the aisle and ultimately resulted in the eight-term congressman being stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leadership Monday.

“Steve’s remarks are beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement, adding, “His comments call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity.”

Meanwhile, Democrats have scheduled a House vote on a resolution Tuesday that disapproves of King’s statements. The resolution was introduced by House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress, and two other Democrats, Rep. Bobby Rush and Rep. Tim Ryan, have also introduced censure resolutions, which serve as more forceful reprimands.

The harshest form of punishment King could face is expulsion from the House, but the bar for that is high. There have only been five members expelled from the House in history. All of those members were charged with crimes -- the first three were expelled for joining the Confederacy.

The most recent example of a member facing expulsion was in 2002 when Ohio Democrat-turned-Independent Rep. James Traficant was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, filing false tax returns, and obstruction of justice, among other crimes. Prior to that, Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Michael Myers was ousted in 1980 after he was convicted of bribery.

In King’s case, the terms of how the rules of expulsion would apply are murky. The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote to expel a member, but according to the Congressional Research Service, “there are no specific grounds for an expulsion expressed in the Constitution, expulsion actions in both the House and the Senate have generally concerned cases of perceived disloyalty to the United States, or the conviction of a criminal statutory offense which involved abuse of one’s official position.”

Meanwhile, King’s loss of committee assignments on the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees already renders him virtually powerless in terms of legislating, which would be problematic if he chooses to pursue a 2020 reelection bid.

King is now one of three GOP House members with no committee assignments – the others include Rep. Chris Collins and Rep. Duncan Hunter, both of whom are, respectively, under indictment for insider trading and misusing campaign funds.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official and longtime business associate of Paul Manafort, is still cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign is marching forward.

A joint status report filed Tuesday states that Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations, and accordingly the parties do not believe it is appropriate to commence the sentencing process at this time.”

 Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges of conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities about his work prior to joining the Trump campaign with Manafort, who served as the campaign's chairman for six months in 2016. The charges were brought by Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.

Gates’ plea agreement has precipitated nearly a year of cooperation in the special counsel’s probe. His crimes carry a maximum penalty of more than five years in prison, but Gates could earn a lesser sentence if a judge deems his cooperation worthy of leniency.

The extent and content of Gates’ cooperation remain largely unknown. The next status update is due March 15.

The special counsel’s office indicted Gates and Manafort twice. The first round of charges in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2017 contained 12 counts of conspiracy, foreign agent registration violations, and other crimes. A second round of charges filed in Virginia months later centered around Manafort and Gates’ past lobbying and financial activities, including tax fraud and money laundering.

Both initially pleaded not guilty, but Gates succumbed to the mounting legal and financial pressure in February 2018 and struck a plea deal with prosecutors.

Manafort fought the Virginia charges at trial in August, where a jury found him guilty on eight counts of tax and financial crimes.

During that trial, Gates testified against his former boss, describing to jurors his role in hiding millions of dollars in more than a dozen offshore accounts from United States tax collectors, adding that he did so at Manafort's direction. Gates also admitted to embezzling "several hundred thousand" dollars from Manafort.

Ahead of a second trial in Washington in September, Manafort struck a plea agreement of his own. That deal fell apart within weeks after prosecutors accused him of lying.

Manafort is scheduled to face sentencing in the Virginia case in February.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller has zeroed in on at least three new witnesses associated with a conservative commentator connected to former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, signaling that investigators remain focused on the activities of Stone and his associates despite the continued public silence on a matter long thought to be close to resolution.

ABC News has learned that at least three new witnesses connected to Stone associate Jerome Corsi – the former Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the far-right internet site Infowars – have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury hearing testimony on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Copies of those subpoenas delivered to two individuals late last year bear Mueller’s name and call for the retention and producing of documents, communication logs and other records involving two people: Corsi and Stone.

The two individuals, whose names have not been publicly released, also testified before Mueller’s grand jury in December, according to the subpoenas and three sources who confirmed their attendance.

This week Corsi made public the identity of a third witness, who was served a subpoena last Friday -- Corsi's stepson Andrew Stettner, who is scheduled to testify before the grand jury this Friday. When reached by ABC News, Stettner’s lawyer David Gray, who also represents Corsi, declined to comment on the matter.

Corsi has been vocal in his objections to the continued push by Mueller.

“It’s clear Mueller and company now hate me,” Corsi told ABC News on Tuesday. “I’m calling him out as a crooked prosecutor.”

A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment.

Corsi said that Stettner was questioned by the FBI in recent weeks because he has, on and off over the course of many years, helped fix Corsi's computers. Of particular interest to the FBI agents, Corsi said, was a computer of his that Stettner wiped of all its contents in the weeks leading up to Corsi’s subpoena to testify before the special counsel's grand jury in late August.

Corsi and his wife, Monica Corsi told ABC News in a recent interview following Stettner's encounter with the FBI that Stettner wiped the computer because Monica Corsi wanted to use the computer for her New Jersey-based small business, rather than buy a new one. He said neither he nor his wife had nefarious intentions.

“I don’t see how I can be accused of destroying evidence or a conspiracy to obstruct justice when I simply allowed – before I knew I was under investigation -- my stepson to restore a computer,” Corsi told ABC News. “I didn’t see the harm in wiping [the computer] instead of buying a new one.”

Corsi, known for promulgating political smear campaigns and conspiracy theories, rejected a plea deal he says was offered to him by Mueller in November, saying he could not sign on to a plea deal for a crime he says he did not commit.

The agreement would have allowed Corsi to plead guilty to one count of lying to federal investigators about communications with an unidentified “associate’s request to get in touch with an organization that he understood to be in possession of stolen emails and other documents pertaining to the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” according to a draft of the plea agreement Corsi provided to reporters.

That unknown associate mentioned by Mueller matches the description of Roger Stone, who hired Corsi to do research for him during the 2016 election.

Stone has been under scrutiny from the special counsel in part because of statements he made in August of 2016 which critics allege suggest he knew that WikiLeaks was going to leak damaging information on Clinton before it was released.

In an email exchange from the summer of 2016 reviewed by ABC News, Stone and Corsi appeared to communicate about ways to contact Julian Assange, the controversial WikiLeaks founder, about the imminent release of information meant to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.

Stone said in a statement to ABC News on Tuesday, “Any Claim that Jerry Corsi told me the source or content of either allegedly stolen or allegedly hacked e-mails published by Wikileaks or provided me copies of any such material is both categorically false and easily disproved. It's unfortunate that the limited e-mails between us on this subject have been willfully mischaracterized in terms of both their meaning and legal significance."

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nebari/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- It's Day 25 of the longest-ever government shutdown – with no end in sight to the political standoff.

Some 800,000 federal workers are ensnared in the shutdown showdown and many missed their first paycheck on Friday. On Monday, another one-third missed a paycheck, the American Federation of Workers estimated, and on Tuesday, the last batch of federal workers missed theirs -- including, for the first time in history, members of the Coast Guard.

Here's a look at how different parts of the country are being affected.

Coast Guard goes without pay for the first time in history


Tuesday marked the first time members of the armed forces missed paychecks because of a government shutdown.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz issued a stark warning over Twitter: "Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in appropriations," he said.

In a message to the men and women of the Coast Guard, Schultz also announced some good news: USAA,a financial services company for members of the military and their family, will donate $15 million that will be distributed to the military and civilian workforce in need of assistance.

The money will be distributed by the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and the American Red Cross.

"Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten," Schultz wrote.

Read more from ABC News' Elizabeth McLaughlin.

Rank-and-file Democrats snub White House invite to meet with Trump amid shutdown

With President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders stalled over talks on a border wall, the president invited rank-and-file members of Congress to meet with him Tuesday over lunch at the White House.

But no rank-and-file House Democrats took the president up on the offer. Trump's move was seen on Capitol Hill as an effort to split House Democrats and pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make concessions in her standoff with the president over funding his proposed border wall. Democratic leaders warned members Trump could use them as props.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said House Republicans invited would be there.

“Unfortunately, no Democrats will attend. The President looks forward to having a working lunch with House Republicans to solve the border crisis and reopen the government. It’s time for the Democrats to come to the table and make a deal,” Sanders said in a statement.

Read more from ABC News' Jordyn Phelps and Benjamin Siegel.

In bold move, Federal Aviation Administration calls safety inspectors back to work

In an effort to keep U.S. airspace safe, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is making a dramatic move and calling an additional 1,700 FAA aviation safety inspectors back to work this week.

According to an FAA spokesperson, there were 500 safety inspectors working without pay as of last Friday. With the recall, the number of inspectors will be up to 2,200 by Friday Jan. 18.

FAA aviation safety inspectors investigate and enforce safety regulations and standards, which includes inspecting aircraft and related equipment for airworthiness. After proactively conducting a risk assessment, the FAA determined that it was appropriate to recall inspectors and engineers after three weeks of the shutdown, a spokesperson told ABC News.

Including the recalled engineers, the number FAA safety employees working without pay by this Friday will total 3,113.

Read more from ABC News' Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley.

FDA calls back employees for food safety inspections

The Food and Drug Administration confirmed this week that hundreds of food inspectors will go back to work after the agency missed some routine inspections of high-risk facilities during the shutdown.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted that about 400 staff were coming back to work, mostly inspectors and support staff that will resume inspecting high-risk food production facilities and facilities that manufacture drugs and medical devices.

Days ago, Gottlieb called the shutdown "one of the most significant operational challenges in FDA’s recent history.”

Read more from ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs.

Unpaid federal workers get help from food banks during government shutdown

Food banks around the country near military bases or in cities with a lot of federal government employees have been stepping up to help the furloughed or unpaid workers during the government shutdown.

Over the weekend in Washington, a local food bank said 2,200 furloughed federal employees received produce and other items at pop-up locations. In Dallas, a local church is handing out gift cards to furloughed employees.

In cities like Tampa, Chicago, Rochester, Minnesota and Ogden, Utah, food banks are setting up pantries or expanding hours so federal employees can pick up groceries or even pet food.

Read more from ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs.

Immigration court backlogs compound as shutdown enters fourth week

Dozens of immigration courts remain shuttered across the country this week and tens of thousands of hearings were canceled because of the ongoing government shutdown, a situation that is likely to add hundreds of cases to an already crushing backlog, according to analysts.

It's an ironic twist in Trump's desire to secure the U.S.-Mexico border by building a $5 billion wall and send people through established ports of entry.

The number of asylum and other immigration-related cases facing U.S. judges has skyrocketed in the past two decades, creating a backlog of more than 800,000 active cases before the shutdown began, according to data compiled by Syracuse University, based on Justice Department records.

Syracuse University estimated on Monday that nearly 43,000 immigration court hearings on a variety of matters, including evidence examination and basic scheduling, have been canceled. As many as 100,000 people could be impacted if the shutdown continues through the end of the month.

Aaron Reichlin Melnick, a policy analyst with the American Immigration Council, said that he estimates for every day the shutdown continues, another 500 immigration court cases that would have been completed are compounding the backlog.

Read more from ABC News' Quinn Owen.

TSA staffing shortages continue to hit nation's busiest airports amid government shutdown

Transportation Security Administration officials are closing more security lanes amid increased callouts from officers not being paid during the government shutdown.

The absence rate at TSA on Monday was 7.6 percent, up from 3.2 percent on the same day last year, according to TSA spokesperson Michael Bilello. Major airports in cities such as Atlanta and Houston "are exercising their contingency plans to uphold aviation security standards." That means condensing TSA officers into fewer checkpoints and screening lanes to uphold security standards at the cost of longer lines.

Queues at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport security extended more than an hour long on Monday morning, causing travelers to miss flights, according to ABC-affiliate WSB-TV.

Airport screeners, air traffic controllers and many FAA inspectors and engineers did not get paid this week despite going to work.

Read more from ABC News' Jeffrey Cook.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official and longtime business associate of Paul Manafort, is still cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign is marching forward.

A joint status report filed Tuesday states that Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations, and accordingly the parties do not believe it is appropriate to commence the sentencing process at this time.”

Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges of conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal authorities about his work prior to joining the Trump campaign with Manafort, who served as the campaign's chairman for six months in 2016. The charges were brought by Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.

Gates’ plea agreement has precipitated nearly a year of cooperation in the special counsel’s probe. His crimes carry a maximum penalty of more than five years in prison, but Gates could earn a lesser sentence if a judge deems his cooperation worthy of leniency.

The extent and content of Gates’ cooperation remain largely unknown. The next status update is due March 15.

The special counsel’s office indicted Gates and Manafort twice. The first round of charges in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2017 contained 12 counts of conspiracy, foreign agent registration violations, and other crimes. A second round of charges filed in Virginia months later centered around Manafort and Gates’ past lobbying and financial activities, including tax fraud and money laundering.

Both initially pleaded not guilty, but Gates succumbed to the mounting legal and financial pressure in February 2018 and struck a plea deal with prosecutors.

Manafort fought the Virginia charges at trial in August, where a jury found him guilty on eight counts of tax and financial crimes.

During that trial, Gates testified against his former boss, describing to jurors his role in hiding millions of dollars in more than a dozen offshore accounts from United States tax collectors, adding that he did so at Manafort's direction. Gates also admitted to embezzling "several hundred thousand" dollars from Manafort.

Ahead of a second trial in Washington in September, Manafort struck a plea agreement of his own. That deal fell apart within weeks after prosecutors accused him of lying.

Manafort is scheduled to face sentencing in the Virginia case in February.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When William Barr, President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general, takes his seat Tuesday morning for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he's sure to face tough questions from Democrats over his views on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and a memo that Barr wrote in June 2018 opposing an obstruction of justice case against the president.

Analyzing the president's firing of then-FBI director James Comey in May 2017, Barr argued in the memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that any obstruction of justice inquiry into Trump based on the firing would be "fatally misconceived."

Barr knows the Justice Department from his time as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush. And while Democrats acknowledge his previous experience, many insist the current situation is unprecedented, and have been in lockstep demanding assurances from Barr that the Mueller report be made public and that he not interfere or limit the special counsel.

"I'm worried about it," Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said on ABC's This Week on Sunday. "Clearly, he's a good lawyer. There's no question. But when it comes to this delicate political situation -- the power of the presidency, whether this investigation is warranted -- Bill Barr had better give us some ironclad assurances in terms of his independence and his willingness to step back and let Mueller finish his job."

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has called on Trump to rescind Barr's nomination based on the memo.

Barr is expected to address the memo controversy head-on Tuesday.

"I wrote the memo as a former Attorney General who has often weighed in on legal issues of public importance, and I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views," Barr wrote in prepared testimony submitted to the committee.

"As I explained in a recent letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, my memo was narrow in scope, explaining my thinking on a specific obstruction-of-justice theory under a single statute that I thought, based on media reports, the Special Counsel might be considering. The memo did not address -- or in any way question -- the Special Counsel's core investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election," Barr continued. "Nor did it address other potential obstruction-of-justice theories or argue, as some have erroneously suggested, that a President can never obstruct justice. I wrote it myself, on my own initiative, without assistance, and based solely on public information."

Barr also sought to reassure Democrats he thinks Mueller should be allowed to finish his work, unhappy over Trump's appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker whom they suspected was named to block Mueller's investigation.

"I believe it is in the best interest of everyone -- the President, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people -- that this matter be resolved by allowing the Special Counsel to complete his work. The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation," Barr's prepared testimony reads.

"Second, I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the Special Counsel's work," his testimony continues. "For that reason, my goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision."

However, some decisions that could impact the release of Mueller's findings, such as whether the White House will assert any type of executive privilege, would not rest with Barr.

Mueller and Barr worked together in the early 1990s when Barr was attorney general and Mueller was the head of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the Judiciary Committee's new chairman, said Mueller and Barr are "best friends" and have known each other for more than 20 years, adding that their wives have been in a Bible study group together and that Mueller has attended the weddings of two of Barr's daughters.

At Graham's request, former Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and long-serving member of the Judiciary Committee, will introduce Barr Tuesday as he did for Barr's previous confirmation hearings.

"I have known Bob Mueller personally and professionally for 30 years. We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We've been friends since. I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service. When he was named special counsel, I said that his selection was 'good news' and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. I still have that confidence today," Barr wrote in his written testimony.

Barr also said his priorities at the Justice Department are fighting violent crime, prosecuting hate crimes, enforcing and improving immigration laws and protecting the right to vote.

He notes that he was partially retired, but took the job out of love for the Department of Justice and reverence for the law.

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Official White House Photo by Grant Miller(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington ahead of his 2017 swearing-in, according to internal documents reviewed by ABC News.

It is part of an array of expenditures there and elsewhere that included more than $130,000 for customized seat cushions at two gala dinners for the president-elect, $10,000 to provide makeup to the servers at another formal dinner, and $2.7 million to a company that produced a Broadway-style rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” using Las Vegas show girls flown in by Trump pal Steve Wynn for a private event.

Compared to past inaugurations, the festivities surrounding Trump’s swearing-in were modest in scale -- the non-profit group established to oversee the celebration hosted only three major events. But the amount of money involved was record-breaking -- with more than $107 million raised and $104 million spent, double the amounts of President Barack Obama’s first inaugural.

"These inaugural committees if there’s not good transparency and disclosure, can turn into slush funds,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, who has served on the House Oversight Committee. “That’s why you need to have requirements that they disclose what the spending is, where it’s coming from, put some limits on the kind of spending that’s appropriate, so that it’s really going towards inaugural needs, and not other purposes."

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who has previously served on the committee, said he expects Democrats to look into the way the money was both raised and spent.

"It’s all the more reason why there has to be sunshine on both ends -- who is actually donating to the committees and how this spending is going to be done," Krishnamoorthi told ABC News.

Trump's inauguration committee was led by the president’s longtime friend Thomas Barrack. He was not paid as part of his role overseeing the inaugural festivities. ABC News reached out to a spokesman for Barrack.

Already there had been questions about how that money was spent. Tax filings disclosed the five largest vendors included payments of nearly $26 million to an event planning firm run by a one-time adviser and close friend of Melania Trump.

The adviser, Stephanie Winston-Wolkoff, created a company called WIS Media Partners based in California that handled some of the festivities. That firm paid out contracts to other sub-contractors that were hired and used some of the funds to hire sub-contractors. Winston-Wolkoff was also paid $1.62 million directly for her work, ABC News has previously reported. ABC News has left messages for Winston-Wolkoff’s attorney.

Internal financial documents reviewed by ABC News on Monday show spending that was not required to be included on public tax filings. Those records outline in granular detail how money was, in some instances, directed to pay Trump’s political advisers. That included nearly $2.7 million to the company of Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who handled digital operations for the inaugural. A separate company, Fortalice Solutions LLC, which specializes in cyber protection, was paid $450,000.

The inaugural committee shelled out $130,000 to Tiffany & Company, which a source confirmed was to provide guests with salad bowls.

The documents also show sizeable amounts spent on the travel and feeding of dozens of friends and aides in the days leading up to the inauguration.

According to the filings, for example, the committee paid $25,000 to reimburse hotel expenses for longtime Trump pal, real estate executive Howard Lorber. A breakdown of Melania Trump’s friend, Winston-Wolkoff’s company expenses shows thousands of dollars spent on dining, lodging and travel including $24 in Uber rides to “pick up exec meds,” and $13 to “drop off Jon’s laundry,” a reference to a Winston-Wolkoff aide. Her company’s expenditures also included a $12.72 Uber reimbursement for a ride ordered for Hollywood producer Mark Burnett, creator of The Apprentice, the show that launched Trump into reality TV stardom.

ABC News has reached out to Lorber and Burnett for comment.

Many of Winston-Wolkoff’s employees stayed at the Trump International Hotel which was used as a prime meeting place during the festivities. But spending there had not previously been detailed. Among those expenses were numerous payments for food and beverages. For example, one couple working for Winston-Wolkoff billed the inauguration $1,835 in room service charges there over three days.

There are few hard and fast rules governing how inaugural funds may be spent. The committee that raises and spends it is a tax exempt group that must comply with IRS rules, according to Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer in Washington. Where the Trump inaugural spending could raise red flags, he said, is if the fund was being operated for the private benefit of any individual.

“Substantial spending by the inaugural committee at the Trump Hotel would raise issues of impermissible self-dealing by the committee,” Kappel said.

Kappel said the IRS would want to know, for instance, if the inaugural committee paid fair market value for the goods and services it purchased from the hotel. The committee spent more than $1 million each at two other hotels, the Willard Hotel and the Fairmont Hotel, the records show.

Broadly speaking, spending at the Trump International Hotel in Washington has already been a focus of ethics groups and Democrats in congress. Even without the new figures showing the Trump Inaugural spending, other records have shown various Republican-affiliated campaigns and groups as well as U.S. and foreign governments spent nearly $2 million at the hotel since Trump took office.

That has included more than $509,000 from the Republican National Committee, more than $137,000 from Trump's campaign and joint fundraising committees, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

House Democrats introduced a bill last year that would require the administration to publicly disclose every time Trump or other federal officials spend taxpayer money at Trump-owned hotels and golf courses.

"The immense honor and responsibility of serving as president of the United States should never be exploited for profit, and this president, like no president before him, has made an art of making money off the federal government," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who was a sponsor, said at the time.

The doling out of funds by the inaugural group has seen less scrutiny, in part because so little was publicly known about where the money went. When the inaugural organization filed its tax papers, scrutiny focused on Winston-Wolkoff, who served as a member of the first lady’s staff.

“Mrs. Trump had no involvement with the PIC, and had no knowledge of how funds were spent,” the first lady’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, told ABC News in a statement at the time.

Earlier published filings showed other top vendors included a ticketing agency tasked with creating all the tickets and invitations for the festivities that was just shy of $4 million and another nearly $4 million payment to David Monn, an event planner based in New York. A source with direct knowledge said Monn was recommended to the committee by Winston-Wolkoff but was paid directly, not as part of her much larger payment.

The Trump Inauguration also donated $5 million to various charities including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Smithsonian Institute among others.

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Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks(WASHINGTON) -- Native American leaders are calling on President Donald Trump to apologize for comments he made on Twitter invoking the Wounded Knee Massacre and the Battle of Little Bighorn that he made while attacking Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Sunday.

Trump made fun of an Instagram video Warren released on New Year's Eve in which she drank a beer on camera. He tweeted, “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!”

The National Congress of American Indians condemned the remarks, saying the memory of the two events, in which hundreds of Native Americans were killed by U.S. Army soldiers, should not be used as a “rhetorical punch line.”

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the casual and callous use of these events as part of a political attack. Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line,” Jefferson Keel, the NCAI’s president, said in a statement released Monday.

Rodney Bordeaux, chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, criticized the president for what he called a “racist and disrespectful tweet about this brutal incident.”

“President Trump should remember that the United States has broken and continues to dishonor the treaties of peace made with our nation and other tribal nations of this country, and he should apologize immediately to the people of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and other Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations for his shameful and ignorant misstatement,” Bordeaux added.

Warren has come under fire for her handling of the question of whether she could claim Native American ancestry, even taking a DNA test last year in an effort to prove her ties to the Cherokee Nation.

Trump has insulted Warren on several occasions by deriding her as “Pocahontas” and making fun of her DNA test results, which indicated she had between 1/32nd and 1/1024th Native American ancestry.

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lucky-photographer/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an eight-term congressman, has been stripped of new committee assignments amid backlash to comments he recently made in a New York Times interview about white supremacy.

Members of the House Republican Steering Committee met Monday evening to consider whether King should be denied committee assignments in the new Congress. King previously served on three committees, and recently served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?” King asked in an interview with the New York Times.

The comments have drawn condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike.

In a statement, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy called King's remarks "beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America."

"His comments call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity ... let us hope and pray earnestly that this action will lead to greater reflection and ultimately change on his part," the statement says.

In his own statement, King insists the decision was a "political" one and that the quotes in the New York Times story were "completely mischaracterized." King said the comments were made during a discussion about "the changing use of language in political discourse."

But the remarks were enough to stoke backlash from many of King's fellow Republicans, including the only African-American Republican senator, Tim Scott, who wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday.

"I will admit I am unsure who is offended by the term 'Western civilization' on its own, but anyone who needs 'white nationalist' or 'white supremacist' defined, described and defended does lack some pretty common knowledge," Scott wrote.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Monday called for King's resignation.

"What he said was reprehensible and ought to lead to his resignation from Congress," Romney told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also issued a stunning rebuke Monday when he said, "If [King] doesn't understand why 'white supremacy' is offensive, he should find another line of work."

Democrats have scheduled a House vote Tuesday on a resolution, introduced by by House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, disapproving of his remarks. Two other Democrats - Rep. Bobby Rush and Rep. Tim Ryan -- have also introduced censure resolutions, a more forceful reprimand.

Ryan could force a vote on his censure resolution later this week.

King, in a statement on the Steering Committee's decision, appeared determined to stay in Congress and not resign following the intense backlash from party leaders.

"Ultimately, I told him ‘You have to do what you have to do and I will do what I have to do,'" he said of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. "I will continue to point out the truth and work with all the vigor that I have to represent 4th District Iowans for at least the next two years.”

King has always presented himself as an immigration hawk and has been a staunch ally for President Donald Trump. King advocated for building a wall on the southern U.S. border before Trump ran for office and made the wall a signature campaign promise. But King barely won re-election in 2018 and, already, a state senator has announced intentions to run against King in 2020.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- South Georgia farmer Bill Brim has been in business more than 20 years.

He told ABC News that farmers in his area were hit hard by Hurricane Michael in October and are now facing even more challenges because of the partial government shutdown.

Brim said his 6,500-acre vegetable farm is not hurting too much because of the shutdown, but the entire area around Tifton, Georgia has had a hard year between the hurricane and an especially rainy season. He said many farmers in the area are still waiting on disaster relief money from the government, which at this point in the shutdown is no longer being processed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"It certainly hurts you. You want to go in, you’ve got to pay rent for your farm if you’re going to farm next year, or if you’re able to farm next year, I should say, then you got to pay your rent to your tenants, you’ve got to be able to buy fertilizer, you got to be able to get all your crops prepared, do everything that you need to do to get ready for growing the crop, just like we’re laying plastic in another field over there, we’re getting ready right now to grow another crop," he told ABC News.

"And fortunately, we have enough of our purveyors out there that are providing us stuff that we have a credit line that we have with them and we take it and try to use it to our benefit right now. Because we're waiting on the funds to come back in."

President Donald Trump addressed the American Farm Bureau's centennial convention on Monday afternoon and mentioned policy changes in the farm bill, regulatory rollbacks like the Waters of the United States rule and renegotiated trade deals that he says will be better for farmers.

But he spent little time discussing the impact on farmers while the USDA is largely closed during the historic government shutdown.

"The USDA is doing everything in its power to help farmers during the shutdown. We thank you for your support and patriotism and we fight to defend our nation," Trump said in New Orleans on Monday.

But the USDA is limited in how much it can do since many of its offices were shuttered when the shutdown began on Dec. 21. Since then farmers have not been able to access resources used to plan the next planting season or apply for loans and aid meant to mitigate the impacts of Trump's trade war with China.

Trump acknowledged that many farmers rely on migrant workers, alluding to his call for border security and saying "we don't want the wrong ones coming in."

Brim said he supports Trump and understands the argument for a border wall to prevent criminals from entering the U.S. But he also worries the wall will make it harder for him to recruit temporary agricultural workers through legal visa programs.

"I use a lot of migrant labor here in my farm. I’m up to 750 at certain times of year and mine are H-2A, I bring them in legally. So I hope that the border wall doesn’t cause us to have to close down the borders so we can’t get our people in here to work," he told ABC News.

"I would just like to say that we need something done now. We need the Democrats and the Republicans to get together and do what's right. Give him the wall if that’s what it takes to get this thing closed down so we can go back to normal -- and work for your people."

John Boyd, a soybean farmer from Baskerville, Virginia, told the Washington Post that he was hurt by declining prices as a result of the trade war with China and has been waiting for a check as part of the aid the administration announced to help farmers who lose money because of the tariffs.

"This shutdown is affecting small people like myself, but if it continues, America is going to feel the impact everywhere — grocery stores, small businesses," he told the paper last week. “Right now, I need seed and diesel fuel; I do not need a damn wall. That does not help me in my farming operation."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the second round of payments to help farmers with the money that was lost as a result of Trump's trade war with China will be delayed.

The nonprofit organization Farm Aid, which advocates for family farmers, said the group's hotline has received twice as many calls as usual from farmers who can't apply for loans or work with banks to try and save their farm from foreclosure.

"Winter is not time off for farmers; winter is business time. For the USDA to be shut down during this critical time is incredibly stressful for the farmers we hear from every day," the group said in a blog post last week.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, has also raised concerns that USDA can't implement programs authorized in the recently passed Farm Bill until the government reopens.

"Local Farm Service offices all across Michigan are closed and farmers can’t apply for loans they need as they look to next year. We have dairy farmers in very desperate situations. We dramatically increased support for them in the farm bill and they need it now," she said on the Senate floor last week.

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KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- Thousands of teachers in the nation's second-largest school district walked off the job Monday, launching a strike that left hundreds of thousands of students without instructors and several local and state leaders, some potentially eyeing 2020 presidential campaigns, navigating politically treacherous terrain as they balance the dueling interests of educators and district officials.

Schools remain open across the Los Angeles Unified School District, but some 30,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles are largely marching outside their buildings, demanding increased pay and smaller class sizes. The impasse – Los Angeles' first teacher strike since 1989 – comes following widespread demonstrations by instructors in multiple states last year that are strongly believed to have had an impact on elections in impacted areas.

In California, where Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sen. Kamala Harris are among those considering 2020 presidential runs, there have already been a variety of responses to the situation, ranging from neutrality to support for the teachers.

In a statement Friday and in a video posted to his Twitter account Sunday evening, Garcetti, who has faced questions about the potential challenge of running the city remotely should he launch a presidential campaign, maintained a neutral position, conceding that teachers were justified in asking for "smaller classes, more support staff, and community schools," while also acknowledge the district must look out for its "fiscal health.

"I remain steadfast in my belief that there is common ground between both sides and that this common ground will be critical to a final agreement," Garcetti said in the statement, additionally urging in his video message that "all of our ideas and resources" be brought to the negotiating table.

 Harris, D-Calif., who also continues to consider a presidential campaign, was direct in her support of the teachers Monday, offering specific endorsement of the demands for "improved student conditions, such as smaller class sizes and more counselors and librarians."

"Los Angeles teachers work day in and day out to inspire and educate the next generation of leaders. I'm standing in solidarity with them as they strike for improved student conditions, such as smaller class sizes and more counselors and librarians," Harris tweeted in part Monday, minutes after ABC News requested comment from the senator on the strike.

 Large-scale teacher strikes occurred in numerous states in 2018, most notably in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia where statewide demonstrations descended upon capitol buildings and lasted a week or longer. In the aftermath, record numbers of teachers ran for political office, seeking to influence future debate over their demands firsthand.

"Win or lose, we are creating a pipeline of educators to be part of the decision-making in places where people have been deciding on budgets, class size, and textbooks for years," Carrie Pugh, the National Education Association's political director told ABC News in April.

During his own campaign in 2018, newly inaugurated California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined an education platform that included several areas of focus in common with United Teachers Los Angeles, such as expanding "full-service community schools" and taking steps to "attract and retain quality teachers."

Newsom, who was also believed to harbor presidential ambitions in the past, but said he would not run in 2020 during his gubernatorial campaign, specifically called for "supported and respected" during his inaugural address last week. The governor's press office did not immediately respond to ABC News's request for comment on the Los Angeles strike.

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