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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  President Donald Trump made the surprise announcement Friday that he was cancelling a new round of sanctions intended to target North Korea announced only 24 hours earlier by his own administration.

"It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea," Trump tweeted after arriving at his Mar a Lago club in Florida. "I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!"

It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2019

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the president's announcement in a statement, citing his personal friendship with the North Korean dictator.

"President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary," Sanders said.

The Treasury Department just Thursday had announced the round of sanctions targeting two Chinese shipping companies that it said have helped North Korea evade sanctions.

The tweet marked a stunning and major policy reversal of the first round of sanctions targeting the regime since Trump's failed Hanoi summit with Kim last month.

In a tweet following the original sanctions announcement, President Trump's national security adviser John Bolton highlighted the move as an "important" step and warned other countries against similar actions to aid North Korea.

Important actions today from @USTreasury; the maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea’s illicit shipping practices. Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.

— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) March 21, 2019

In a briefing on the sanctions with reporters Thursday, an administration official similarly touted the significance of the sanctions, characterizing the package as “unprecedented” and “comprehensive.”

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday again accused Democrats of being "anti-Israel" and "anti-Jewish," in response to a question from a reporter on the growing number of the party's presidential candidates skipping a conference put on by a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group.

"The Democrats have very much proven to be anti-Israel, there’s no question about that," Trump said as he departed the White House for Palm Beach, Florida. "And it’s a disgrace, I mean, I don’t know what’s happened to them but they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly, I think they’re anti-Jewish.”

The comments come after a growing number of Democratic hopefuls for the party's 2020 presidential nomination said they will not attend the annual policy conference put on by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

Thus far the campaigns of eight Democratic presidential candidates have confirmed to ABC News that they will not be attending the conference, which is slated to begin this Sunday in Washington, D.C., and runs through Tuesday.

Those not attending the conference include: Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.

Representatives for the campaigns of Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar did not respond to ABC News when asked if they will be attending AIPAC.

Even as a growing number of Democratic candidates declined to appear, other top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, are all slated to attend and speak at this year's conference.

"Sen. Sanders has no plans to attend the AIPAC conference. He’s concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution," Sanders' Policy Director Josh Orton wrote in a statement provided to ABC News.

Sanders, who is Jewish, did not attend the conference in 2016 either, while his then-rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, attended the gathering and gave remarks.

A spokesman for Delaney said the candidate is "very disappointed," he can not attend the conference due to a scheduling conflict.

The decisions come after prominent liberal group called on all Democratic candidates vying for the party's presidential nomination to boycott the conference.

"It’s no secret that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage," Iram Ali, campaign director at, wrote in a statement released earlier this week.

The call to boycott the conference also comes after Democrats struggled to respond to the backlash against Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose comments about Jewish Americans and dual-loyalty sparked a debate within the party about anti-Semitism and led the U.S. House to pass an official resolution condemning "hate."

Despite the backlash, many prominent Democrats including Sanders and Harris came to Omar's defense.

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ANNECORDON/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- With everyone still waiting on former Vice President Joe Biden to decide if he’s running (and the added speculation that he might pick Stacey Abrams as his running mate), the field did see one more official entry this week.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand transitioned her exploratory committee to a full-fledged campaign on Sunday and officially joined the groundswell of candidates in the 2020 Democratic field. She also scored her first home state endorsement from New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

But Gillibrand is struggling to gain traction in a field that has already seen record fundraising hauls and a collection of bold policy proposals -- a reminder that it’s increasingly difficult for many of the candidates running to stand out.

Here's the weekly candidate roundup:

Mar. 15-21, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)

After meeting privately with former Vice President Joe Biden last week, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate signaled that she is willing to meet with any of the Democratic hopefuls in the 2020 presidential contest, but she said she has a couple of ground rules.

"My two requirements," Abrams said Tuesday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "One, you have to tell me what you’re going to do about voter suppression. And two, you have to believe Georgia is a swing state."

Abrams, who is considering a presidential bid of her own, is -- for now -- returning to her roots as an organizer and promoting the nonprofit group she founded to advance voting rights, Fair Fight Action.

On Thursday, Abrams' spokesperson Lauren Groh-Wargo addressed rumors that close advisers to Biden are pitching a pre-packaged ticket with her as his vice president.

"Abrams continues to keep all options on the table for 2020 and beyond,” Groh-Wargo said in a statement to ABC News. “She has met with over half a dozen presidential contenders to discuss their commitment to voting rights and to investing in Georgia."

Michael Bennet (D)

Although several Democratic presidential candidates have expressed an openness to expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court, the Colorado senator literally slammed his head on a table when asked about it, according to The Washington Post.

"Having seen up close just how cynical and how vicious the tea party guys and the Freedom Caucus guys and Mitch McConnell have been, the last thing I want to do is be those guys,” Bennet said, referring to some Republicans' efforts in recent years to alter Washington rules and traditions. “What I want to do is beat these guys so that we can begin to govern again."

Bennet, who said he’ll decide whether to officially enter the race within weeks, told the Post: "I guess I'm starting to think strongly that we need a voice in this primary that's willing to make the kind of case that I think that I would make."

Joe Biden (D)

For a brief moment Saturday, it appeared as though the former vice president had inadvertently revealed that he had decided to run for president: At a Delaware Democratic Party fundraiser, he said that he had "the most progressive record of anybody running."

The audience launched into applause, but Biden quickly corrected himself, explaining that he meant "of anybody who would run." Even so, those close to Biden, including Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, continue to report that Biden is telling them he is all-but-certain to enter the race.

CNN reported on Monday that Biden discussed with advisers the possibility of choosing a running mate early in the primary to "keep the focus of the primary fight on the ultimate goal of unseating Trump." That running mate might be Stacey Abrams, according to Axios.

Cory Booker (D)

The New Jersey senator this week contended with a barrage of questions about his love life. After actress Rosario Dawson confirmed to TMZ that she and Booker are dating, the former Newark, New Jersey mayor told Ellen DeGeneres on her show on Wednesday that Dawson "is just a deeply soulful person and has taught me a lot of lessons about love already."

Despite the focus on his personal life, Booker managed to resurface an issue that had fallen out of the news a bit when he indicated he was willing to consider eliminating the filibuster.

"I’m going to tell you that for me that door is not closed," he said on "Pod Save America" on Wednesday.

Booker will return to the trail this weekend, making his third campaign sweep through South Carolina since officially declaring his candidacy for president.

Steve Bullock (D)

The Montana governor, who is still deciding whether to enter the presidential race, traveled to Iowa to support state Senate candidate Eric Giddens, who won a special election on Tuesday.

Bullock sat with Giddens over beers last weekend, according to Politico.

Bullock’s trip to Iowa will be followed by a visit to another early primary state, New Hampshire. Bullock is expected to celebrate New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes’s birthday in Concord on Sunday, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Pete Buttigieg (D)

Over the weekend, Buttigieg, who is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, qualified for the first Democratic debate -- hitting the 65,000-donor threshold.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Buttigieg made his case for why a mayor of a city of 100,000 people should be president. Buttigieg said becoming president is "a tremendous leap for anybody," adding that he thinks "this is an executive position that requires executive experience."

He joins ABC’s The View on Friday before heading to South Carolina for his first trip to the state since announcing his exploratory committee in January.

Julián Castro (D)

At a campaign stop in Las Vegas this week, following an article in which he was called "the other Texan" of the Democratic presidential field, Castro said, "I’m the one from the other side of the tracks. I’m the one that didn’t grow up as a front-runner."

His comments appeared to be a jab at fellow Texan and Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke. But Castro pushed back against that interpretation during an interview with MSNBC, saying that he was just speaking for himself.

The former secretary of Housing and Urban Development said he is "confident" that he will qualify for the first primary debate in June and that he will be a front-runner "by the time the Iowa caucus comes around."

Bill de Blasio (D)

Potentially gearing up for a presidential bid, the New York City mayor toured New Hampshire over the weekend. His trip got off to a lackluster start, however. The New York Post reported that only 20 people showed up to his roundtable on mental health -- the 14 people who were on the panel and six audience members.

Asked by the Post when he will make a decision about a bid, de Blasio said, "Sooner rather than later."

John Delaney (D)

Asked in an interview with CNN about whether he is in favor of eliminating the Electoral College and electing a president via the popular vote, Delaney said: "If I were starting from scratch, I would do that. It requires a constitutional amendment. … I'd much rather focus on things that can get done and affect the American people. I'd much rather focus on lowering drug prices, building infrastructure, creating digital privacy legislation in this country, expanding pre-K, that every kid has that opportunity, making sure community college is free for every kid in this country.”

Tulsi Gabbard (D)

Gabbard kicked off the week with visits to Fremont, California, and Las Vegas, where she delivered a message of peace.

In California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Gabbard said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drained "trillions of dollars out of our pockets for health care, infrastructure, education, for clean energy." The U.S. House member from Hawaii was twice deployed to the Middle East as part of the Army National Guard.

Gabbard is ending the week in New Hampshire.

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

After launching a presidential exploratory committee in January, the New York senator officially joined the race last weekend. In a video posted to her social media channels, Gillibrand also revealed that she will be holding an event outside of the Trump International Hotel in New York City on Sunday.

Gillibrand participated in an MSNBC town hall Monday that touched on immigration policy, her plans for a national paid leave program, her involvement in the resignation of Democratic Sen. Al Franken from his Senate seat in December and her belief that she "should have done more" on gun control earlier in her career.

Kamala Harris (D)

Harris edged up the candidate leaderboard this week: In a new CNN poll, she climbed into third place, with 12 percent support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. This was a significant increase for the California senator, whose support was 4 percent in December. Biden and Bernie Sanders captured first and second place, respectively.

Harris also joined ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live this week and said she believes that voters want a nominee who holds the ability to "prosecute the case" against President Trump.

Harris visits Texas this weekend for a campaign rally in Houston and an event hosted by Tarrant County Democrats in Grapevine before heading to Atlanta.

John Hickenlooper (D)

Hickenlooper joined CNN for a town hall in Atlanta on Wednesday night, taking questions from Dana Bash and directly from voters on a range of issues, including marijuana and the death penalty. Bash also asked the former governor of Colorado if he would vow to put a woman on the ticket like some of the other male contenders in the race, and he answered, "Of course."

"I’ll ask you another question," he said. "But how come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’"

Hickenlooper plans to crisscross New Hampshire and Vermont this weekend, with stops in Manchester, Concord, Lebanon, Burlington, Littleton, Plymouth and Newmarket.

Jay Inslee (D)

In an an appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Inslee said: "I'm finding people who really want to see a president who believes in science, who believes the number one job of the Untied States is to defeat climate change. People are telling me that's the right message."

When asked why he would "risk it all" on this single issue as he competes for the nomination against a sprawling pool of candidates, Inslee responded that "you can't solve other problems unless you solve climate change."

John Kerry (D)

Kerry, who has left the door open for a presidential bid, received 4 percent of the support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in the CNN poll this week.

In an appearance with Condoleezza Rice, another former secretary of state, at Notre Dame on Tuesday, Kerry criticized the Trump administration.

Trump "hasn’t made anything better," Kerry said, according to the South Bend Tribune. "Not the Iran Deal, not the Paris Climate Accord, not TPP, not (the war in) Afghanistan and not Syria. He was teed up to prove to the world what a great negotiator he was."

Amy Klobuchar (D)

Klobuchar stopped in California this week, joining community leaders in San Francisco for a conversation about the effects of climate change.

In her first visit to the state since announcing her presidential candidacy in February, the Minnesota senator also hosted a "high-dollar fundraiser" in the San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood, according to CNN.

The cost to attend the event was up to $5,600 a chair, CNN reported. Klobuchar joins the Rye Democrats for a town hall in New Hampshire on Saturday.

Terry McAuliffe (D)

During a visit to South Carolina Tuesday, the former Virginia governor fueled speculation that he might enter the field of Democratic hopefuls.

Seth Moulton (D)

Moulton kicked off his week in New Hampshire to meet with the tri-city New Hampshire Young Democrats. He told the audience that he expects to make a decision about a presidential run next month, according to The Salem News.

“Ultimately the decision for me will come back to one simple question: How can I best serve the country," he said.

Moulton also stopped in another early voting state, South Carolina, and is set to visit Iowa next week for a roundtable with veterans.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

O'Rourke continued his campaign sprint across the country this week, traveling to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (where he hit all 10 counties in 48 hours).

At a stop in Pennsylvania, the former Texas congressman was asked about delivering more than "platitudes and nice stories" on the stump.

"I’m going to try to be as specific as I can," he said. "In every single policy area, I’m trying to describe not just the goal and the aspiration, but the path we will take to get there."

The breakout political star, who fell just short in his 2018 Senate bid against Ted Cruz, reported raising $6.1 million in the first 24 hours of his presidential campaign, which surpassed Sen. Bernie Sanders' $5.9 million and the rest of the Democratic field.

His record haul came from 128,000 unique contributions for an average donation size of $47. None of the donations came from PACs, corporations or special interests, according to his campaign.

O'Rourke brings his off-the-cuff and frenetic campaign style through South Carolina this weekend with eight events in Rock Hill, Columbia, Orangeburg and Charleston.

Bernie Sanders (D)

Sanders committed this week to offsetting emissions from his travel and events by partnering with a carbon offsets provider that will support renewable energy and carbon reduction projects.

This effort follows the Vermont senator's announcement that his workers will be the first presidential campaign staff to unionize.

Sanders holds rallies in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco starting Friday as he makes his first visit to California since launching his second presidential campaign.

Howard Schultz (I)

As Schultz continues to test the waters of an independent bid for president, he holds a series of town halls in Denver where he will hold a roundtable discussion at a startup incubator called Techstars Boulder Accelerator, according to the Denver Post.

The Post also reports that Schultz's schedule includes a stop at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a town hall event with the athletes.

Elizabeth Warren (D)

Warren, known for her pace-setting policy proposals, started a swing through the South in Memphis, Tennessee, before heading to Jackson, Mississippi, for a CNN town hall on Monday and unveiled her support for a bold proposal.

"My view is that every vote matters,” she said.

“And that means getting rid of the Electoral College," she went on, to applause from the audience. "Presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi, they also don’t come to places like California or Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states."

The Massachusetts senator then headed to Alabama for two stops in Selma and Birmingham this week. She returns to New Hampshire this weekend for a conversation on the opioid crisis in Littleton and a pair of meet-and-greets in Berlin and Conway.

Andrew Yang (D)

Yang said there were 3,000 people in attendance at his rally in San Francisco last Friday. In a blog post recounting the event, the entrepreneur said "huge rallies" would help him build name recognition and that he'd be launching a national tour to draw crowds.

"Think Bernie 2.0 but with better music," he wrote.

The New York Times reported on Yang's internet popularity Wednesday, noting that his supporters, who have been nicknamed the "Yang Gang," are harnessing memes and inside jokes to promote the candidate much in the way that Trump supporters did in 2016. On Monday, Yang holds an event in Chicago.

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Official Whte House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- The White House rejected a request from Congressional Democrats for a slew of documents related to President Donald Trump's phone calls and meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, in a letter sent Thursday to the chairmen of the House Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committees, said that Congress has demonstrated no legal or constitutional authority to gain access to the president's diplomatic communications.

"The president must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purpose," Cipollone wrote.

"This is why, from the Nation's beginning, Presidents from all political parties have determined that the law does not require the Executive Branch to provide Congress with documents related to confidential diplomatic communications between the president and foreign leaders," he said in the letter.

Cipollone writes that there is an "unbroken recognition that the Constitution assigns the conduct of foreign affairs exclusively to the Executive Branch" and says that Democrats failed to cite any law or regulation that would justify their right to access the president's communications other than the Presidential Records Act, with which he insists the White House is in proper compliance.

Earlier this month, three House Democrats requested that the White House and State Department turn over detailed information about any communications between Trump and Putin. The letter, signed by Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel, and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings, was sent to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Democrats have sought to investigate whether or not Russia has influenced the president, and point to media reports that Trump has attempted to “conceal the details of his communications with President Putin.” Investigators argue that the president’s actions are a threat to national security and present concerns that the president may have been manipulated by Russia.

But White House counsel argues that Democrats are making an overly broad request for "detailed information related to the President's meetings and telephone calls with Russian president Vladimir Putin," in addition to "confidential communications" between the president and top advisers.

Cummings has accused the White House of “stonewalling.”

“The problem is that the White House is engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction,” Cummings, D-Md., wrote in a scathing Washington Post editorial Tuesday.

He noted, “The White House has not turned over a single piece of paper to our committee or made a single official available for testimony during the 116th Congress.”

The same goes for the House Judiciary Committee whose chairman, Jerrold Nadler of New York, launched a wide-ranging probe earlier this month into allegations of obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the president.

The president initially indicated that he would cooperate with the Judiciary Committee, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just hours later called the probe “a disgraceful and abusive investigation into tired, false allegations.”

Despite that pointed criticism, ABC News has learned from sources familiar with the matter that the White House does plan to reply to some requests, though they only intend to respond to those they deem “legitimate.”

It’s unclear what that would mean.

In Thursday’s letter, White House counsel Cipollone said he is "unaware of any precedent supporting such sweeping requests."

House Democrats have compiled a list -- obtained by ABC News -- that indicates that the Trump Administration, writ large, has either refused to respond to or slow-walked, more than 30 inquiries for documents and interviews by 15 committees.

This week, Chairman Nadler also ratcheted up the pressure on the president to assert executive privilege. The panel is interested in conversations Trump may have had about his former attorney Michael Cohen with his then-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker who left his post last month after the confirmation of William Barr.

According to Nadler -- in a letter to the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department -- Whitaker, in a follow-up interview with the Judiciary Committee after a public hearing in February, refused to answer questions “on the basis that the President may one day want to invoke executive privilege to prevent the content of these communications from becoming public.”

“The executive branch has an obligation to respond to congressional oversight, especially where a committee has articulated its particular need for access to the information,” said John Bies who worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and is now chief counsel at American Oversight. “Certainly this letter ratchets up the pressure on the White House either to permit Whitaker to answer the questions or to actually invoke executive privilege.”

“A 'my way or the highway' approach to oversight is fundamentally inconsistent with the notion that ours is a government of checks and balances, and that each branch is obligated to try in good faith to accommodate the legitimate interests of the other,” Bies added.

Both chairmen, Nadler and Cummings, made clear this week that they intend to issue subpoenas for the documents they are seeking. Last year Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee blocked a move by Democrats to subpoena the State Department translator in the room during Trump and Putin’s private meeting in Helsinki.

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YsaL/iStock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Mississippi on Thursday became the latest state to try to ban most abortions when its governor signed a so-called "Heartbeat Bill," a measure designed to undermine Roe v. Wade and similar to ones passed in other conservative states but then blocked in court.

The bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected by ultrasound, which often can be after just six weeks.

Similar bills were signed into law in Kentucky earlier this month, in Iowa last year and in North Dakota in 2013. In each case, federal judges ruled them unconstitutional, citing the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized a woman's right to an abortion in all 50 states.

State lawmakers who sponsor the heartbeat bills are blunt in saying their goal is to challenge the Roe decision in hopes of getting it overturned.

Bolstered by the court's new conservative majority, the legislators say their strategy is to have court cases involving the restrictive state abortion laws work their way through the appeals process and eventually come before the highest court in the land.

"I think the point is to try to get a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to try to restrict abortion or overturn Roe v. Wade, and it's also designed to show the conservative base this governor and this conservative legislature will do anything to restrict abortion -- with an effort to ban it outright," said Joshua Tom, legal director with the ACLU of Mississippi, in a phone interview.

As the 2019 legislative session progresses, similarly restrictive bills have advanced in Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio and Georgia.

At the same time, Democratic-leaning states have pushed back, enacting bills that extend abortion protections. Bills that extend a woman's access to abortion through the third trimester were passed in New York and Virginia this year and are being considered in other states, including Vermont.

In Mississippi, the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nationwide abortion advocacy group, immediately promised to sue to stop the state's new abortion law.

"We'll see you in court Mississippi," the Center for Reproductive Rights tweeted.

Bryant welcomes the "threat of legal action," tweeting that it won't steer him away from the fight for "lives of innocent babies."

The state, which has only one abortion clinic, is no stranger to pushing abortion restrictions.

Last year, Mississippi passed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, which a federal court later blocked. The ruling is being appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has seen an increase in conservative judges nominated by President Donald Trump.

This time, the state's ban goes further.

"The heartbeat bill that was just passed bans abortion at six weeks, which is even more restrictive than the bill banned last year," Joshua Tom said.

Though lawsuits are likely and would delay implementation, it's scheduled to go into effect in July.

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Bill Chizek/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- There's no shortage of speculation on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, much of it totally uninformed.

But we don't need to speculate on the scope – the man who appointed Mueller has already given us a potential road map on what to expect from the special counsel.

The bottom line: Do not expect a harsh condemnation of President Donald Trump or any of his associates if they have not been charged with crimes.

The road map comes in the form a little-noticed 12-page letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last June to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley.

The letter was in response to Grassley's demands for more information on the special counsel investigation, offers a brief history of special counsel investigations and actually quotes former and future Attorney General William Barr who appointed three special counsels during his time as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

In the letter, Rosenstein makes it clear he believes the Department of Justice will not – and cannot without violating long-standing Department of Justice policy – include disparaging or incriminating information about anybody who has not been charged with a crime.

"Punishing wrongdoers through judicial proceedings is only one part of the Department's mission," Rosenstein wrote. "We also have a duty to prevent the disclosure of information that would unfairly tarnish people who are not charged with crimes."

Sources familiar with the investigation believe there are no more indictments coming from the special counsel. If Mueller follows the guidance of the man who appointed him and supervised his investigation, he cannot publicly disparage those who have not been charged with a crime.

Rosenstein is emphatic on this point: "In fact, disclosing uncharged allegations against American citizens without a law-enforcement need is considered to be a violation of a prosecutor's trust."

Later in the letter, he makes it clear this standard applies to anybody under investigation, even public officials.

"No matter who an investigation involves -- an ordinary citizen, a local or state politician, a campaign official, a foreign agent, an officer of the federal legislative, executive, or judicial branch -- agents and prosecutors are obligated to protect its confidentiality."

In the letter Rosenstein directly takes issue with the justification then-FBI Director James Comey used to publicly criticize Hillary Clinton in 2016 even as he decided not to charge her with a crime. At the time, Comey justified the break with long-time DOJ practice as an "extraordinary step" necessary because of circumstances so unusual they were comparable to a "500-year flood."

"It is important for the Department of Justice to follow established procedures, especially when the stakes are high," Rosenstein wrote.

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that would deny colleges certain federal research and education grants if they failed to comply with free speech standards outlined by the administration.

"Under the guise of speech codes and safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans ... all of that changes starting right now. We're dealing with billions and billions and billions of dollars," Trump said, surrounded by student activists at a White House ceremony Thursday afternoon.

In doing so, Trump is responding to a rallying cry among conservatives who say their views are suppressed on campuses, and that speakers are sometimes assaulted or silenced when protesters threaten violence.

Trump called the move "historic," saying that students and American values have "been under siege," as several students said free speech is at risk on their campuses.

"Every year the federal government provides educational institutions with more than $35 billion in research funding. All of that money is now at stake. That's a lot of money. They're going to have to not like your views a lot," Trump said.

The executive order would direct 12 grant-making agencies to work with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure universities are complying with federal law in an effort to promote free speech on college campuses, the senior administration official said earlier Thursday during a phone call with reporters.

Critics argue Trump's move is an attempt to fix a non-existent problem and one notable is Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

In a statement on Thursday, Alexander said he didn't "want to see Congress or the President or the department of anything creating speech codes to define what you can say on campus."

"The U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. Federal courts define and enforce it. The Department of Justice can weigh in. Conservatives don’t like it when judges try to write laws, and conservatives should not like it when legislators and agencies try to rewrite the Constitution," Alexander said.

At the same time, he said he agreed with the Trump administration's position that colleges "should provide better data on student debt and put some ‘skin in the game’ to reduce student borrowing."

Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America -- an organization that works to defend free expression rights, including free speech on college campuses -- said in a phone interview that the federal government "can have a role in reinforcing the principles of the First Amendment and the commitment to freedom expression and academic freedom at public universities in particular."

"But when you get into the possibility of punitive measures and the withholding of federal funds based on, you know, particularly kind of very vague definitions of, you know an idea like free inquiry. That's worrisome," Nossel added.

Following Trump's preview of his executive order in a fiery speech earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 11 groups, including the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, issued a joint statement calling the proposal "a dangerous solution to a largely nonexistent problem."

"While the specific provisions of the promised executive order have not been revealed, like such legislation they are liable to interfere with institutional autonomy and governance in ways that is more likely to stifle than encourage free expression and diversity of opinion," the statement said. "There are and always will be individuals on campus and in society generally who wish to silence those with whom they disagree. But punitive and simplistic measures will only exacerbate the problems they may create," the statement said.

Though the administration official who briefed reporters stressed that free speech rules already apply to higher education institutions, the official said the order is designed to provide better oversight and enforcement by making free speech a more explicit condition of compliance.

Public universities will have to agree to follow the guidelines as a condition of receiving these grants, while private universities will have to certify following their intended policy, the official said.

The executive order would not affect student aid money, and would also require the Department of Education to publish information on earnings, debt, default rates and loan repayment rates to the college score card, the senior administration official said.

The official declined to say whether the president believes the issue has worsened in recent years, not wanting to get ahead of the president’s remarks. “The president is fully committed to promoting free speech on college campuses,” the official said.

The order would also require the Department of Education to submit policy recommendations to the president about institutions sharing the financial risk of student loans, the official said.

Trump had publicly teased the executive order during his CPAC speech.

“If they want our dollars and we give it to them by the billions they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak,” Trump said.

He was referring to the case of Hayden Williams, who was allegedly assaulted at the University of California, Berkley, while recruiting for a conservative group.

“And if they don’t, it will be very costly,” Trump added.

Trump has also tweeted about the issue, saying: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

"Just the fact that the President first announced this at CPAC, the fact Jeff Sessions when he was attorney general making a speech in front of Turning Point USA, a conservative group, this issue, you know, kind of adds this ideological cast," Nossel of PEN America said. "You know, really the First Amendment is nonpartisan. It doesn't have any ideological bias. It protects speech from across the spectrum. And so, the fear here is that you know, this is not just about protecting all kinds of speech it's about protecting certain kinds of speech and I think that's the way the executive order is implemented it's highly problematic."

But when it comes to the actual implementation of the order, the official was short on details and deferred the matter to OMB.

“I don't want to get ahead of implementation, that will be coming in the next several weeks, months,” the official said.”

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has used an encrypted messaging application for official business and to communicate with contacts outside the United States, his lawyer told senior lawmakers in December.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, disclosed the admission from Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell in a new letter to the White House, demanding records and documents related to White House officials’ use of private email for government work.

Lowell, according to Cummings, told the committee that Kushner sent screenshots of his WhatsApp messages to his White House email account or the National Security Council, and said that Kushner was in compliance with the law. He could not say whether Kushner used the application to discuss classified information.

Cummings, along with then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, met with Lowell in December, as part of an investigation into use of personal email at the White House, and following a CNN report that Kushner used WhatsApp to communicate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

In a response to Cummings released Thursday, Lowell said he initially told Cummings Kushner had used “some communications with ‘some people’ and did not specify who they were,” and that he didn’t say Kushner used the application to communication with foreign leaders.

“I did convey that Mr. Kushner follows the protocols (including the handling of classified information) as he has been instructed to do,” he said.

He also said he referred Cummings to the White House counsel’s office for questions about Kushner’s use of the application.

Under the Presidential Records Act, White House officials are prohibited from using non-official email or messaging systems without forwarding any messages to their official email accounts within 20 days.

The Maryland Democrat is investigating potential violations of federal record-keeping laws by Kushner, senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump, and other current and former White House officials.

He asked for lists of White House officials who have used personal email accounts and messaging applications for official business, and more information about the White House archiving process for electronic communications.

In his letter, Cummings said he would give the White House until April 4th to cooperate with the committee's investigation voluntarily.

"The White House's failure to provide documents and information is obstructing the Committee's investigation into allegations of violations of federal records laws by White House officials," he wrote.

In a statement, White House spokesman Steven Groves said, “The White House has received Chairman Cummings’ letter of March 21st. As with all properly authorized oversight requests, the White House will review the letter and will provide a reasonable response in due course.”

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ABC/Heidi Gutman(NEW YORK) -- An "emotionally exhausted" Meghan McCain again defended her father against President Donald Trump Thursday on ABC's The View, saying she doesn't "expect decency" from his family.

“I don’t like coming here every day and having to do this, as all of you know. It’s extremely emotionally exhausting,” she said at the top of the show.

"I don't expect decency from the Trump family," she added.

During an official White House event at a tank manufacturing plant in Ohio on Wednesday, Trump spent nearly five minutes bashing Sen. John McCain because he didn’t receive credit for his funeral arrangements.

“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve.” Trump said. “I don’t care about this. I didn’t get a thank you. That’s OK.”

The crowd of Ohio tank factory workers -- many of whom are veterans -- reportedly responded to criticisms of Sen. McCain with silence. The longtime senator and former prisoner of war died seven months ago.

The president condemned Sen. McCain over the weekend for being “last in his class” and again on Tuesday saying that he was “never a fan” and that he “never will be” after McCain voted against repealing Obamacare.

Since Trump’s initial remarks, the McCain family’s received attacks from all sides. Cindy McCain, the late senator’s widow, received a threatening message from a hateful stranger and shared it on Twitter.

Meghan McCain responded to Trump on The View Wednesday morning.

“Attacking someone who isn’t here is a bizarre low,” she said. “My dad’s not here but I’m sure as hell here.”

Over the weekend and throughout the week, McCain has actively shared support given to her late father. Thursday morning, she thanked Andy Cohen for denouncing Trump’s criticisms on his show Watch What Happens Live.

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Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Jimmy Carter is now one of the oldest-living former president in U.S. history at 94 years and 171 days old, tying with George H.W. Bush.

Bush, the 41st president, died on Nov. 30, 2018 at 94 years, 171 days old.

Before Thursday, Carter had already set the record for being the former president to live the longest after leaving office, at more than 38 years. Gerald Ford, the 38th president, was the previous record-holder. He died at 93, nearly 30 years after he left office.

Carter, the son of a Georgia peanut farmer, was 52 years old when he was elected as the 39th president in 1976 and is best known as a champion of international human rights both during and after his tenure.

Carter's administration brokered the Camp David Accords between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1978 and saw the start of the Iran hostage crisis as well as the first efforts toward developing an energy independence policy.

Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 after he created the Carter Center to promote human rights worldwide.

In 2015, Carter was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma that was detected in his liver and spread to his brain. About six months after the diagnosis, Carter announced he no longer needed cancer treatment due in part to a groundbreaking medication that trains the immune system to fight cancer tumors.

Two years later, he was hospitalized for dehydration while building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Canada. He was back at the work site the next day after he was discharged.

Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn, share four children together.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect Carter is poised to be the longest-living former president.

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Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump announced to reporters at the White House Wednesday that the Islamic State in Syria would be "gone by tonight."

He made the announcement with some fanfare, unfurling a big piece of paper that he had carried out with him to Marine One. He then guided the press through two maps of Syria and Iraq showing the progress of the Islamic State’s defeat.

"I brought this out for you -- this is a map of everything in the red, this was on election night, in 2016, everything red is ISIS. When I took it over it was a mess now on the bottom it's the exact same. There is no red," Trump said, pointing his finger at the different parts of the map.

"In fact there is a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight," Trump said.

It was the third time in recent months that the president announced victory -- or near victory -- over the Islamic State. In February, the president said ISIS would be 100 percent defeated "very soon," and in December he declared "we have won against ISIS."

Currently, only a small holdout of ISIS territory remains in eastern Syria, but there are no indications the Syrian Democratic Forces plan to declare the region is liberated of the terrorist group.

Trump appeared eager to share the news with reporters gathered on the South Lawn to pepper the president with questions before he left to tour a factory in Lima, Ohio. The president emerged from the Oval Office and had previously received his intelligence briefing.

"This just came out 20 minutes ago," Trump said of the map.

The timing raised questions about whether the president -- who is known to appreciate colored maps and charts in his intelligence briefings -- took the map to journalists shortly after a classified meeting with top officials. The White House did not directly respond to a question about the origins of the map.

"The map highlighted the fact that over the last two years, under President Trump’s leadership, the United States and our Coalition partners have liberated more than 20,000 square miles of territory previously held by ISIS in Syria," a White House spokesperson said.

Later in Ohio, the president was again eager to share his colored map with an audience.

"Where is that chart? They gave me economic trends and not the ISIS chart. Bring up, if anyone has it," Trump said, calling out for an aide to deliver him the maps.

"Here is the story," Trump began. "I don't want to have them make a big chart. Costs too much and I am a business guy. I asked how much it costs to make a big chart. Like it matters but it matters to me, does that make sense? Two maps identical. Except the one on top was Syria. See that? The one on top was Syria in November of 2016. This is all ISIS. On the bottom, today, the caliphate is gone as of tonight. Pretty good. That is pretty good, right?"

In December, the president announced unexpectedly that he planned to withdraw all remaining U.S. forces from Syria. The decision caught the U.S. military off guard and even prompted the resignation of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Since then, 400 American fighters remain in different parts of the region.

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon's Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into complaints of alleged ethics violations against acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General said it had recently received a complaint that Shanahan "allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules."

Shanahan worked for Boeing for 31 years, last serving as senior vice president of supply chain operations.

In a separate statement, the Pentagon said on Wednesday that Shanahan "has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD."

"This agreement ensures any matters pertaining to Boeing are handled by appropriate officials within the Pentagon to eliminate any perceived or actual conflict of interest issue(s) with Boeing," the statement added.

The complaint was filed to the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General last week by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

CREW cited news reports that Shanahan had privately promoted Boeing in discussions about government contracts, disparaging defense industry competitors like Lockheed Martin.

Asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., about CREW's complaint, Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week he would welcome the investigation.

When he transitioned to the Pentagon as then-Defense Secretary James Mattis' deputy in 2017, Shanahan said he divested his financial interests related to Boeing and signed an ethics agreement barring him for participating in Boeing-related activities -- as is typical for government officials transitioning from the private sector.

"For the duration, if I'm confirmed, I will not deal with any matters regarding Boeing, unless cleared by the Office of Ethics," Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on June 20, 2017. "We will put in mechanisms so that my calendar, the meetings that I'll participate in, that we can screen to make sure that there are no matters related to Boeing that I will be exposed to."

Earlier this month, American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group founded by former Obama administration officials, filed a lawsuit against Shanahan, alleging that his Boeing ties "have given the company undue influence." The group charged that the Pentagon failed to respond to four Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information relating to those ties.

"We are aware of the FOIA request submitted by American Oversight and are responding appropriately," Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, Shanahan's spokesperson, told ABC News at the time. "Secretary Shanahan has at all times remained committed to complying with his ethics agreement, which includes a screening arrangement that ensures Boeing matters are referred to another appropriate DoD official."

Boeing has declined a request to comment from ABC News about the American Oversight lawsuit.

Shanahan has been rumored as a possible contender to receive President Donald Trump's nomination as his next defense secretary. The president praised Shanahan's performance during a visit to an Abrams tank facility in Lima, Ohio on Wednesday. Shanahan, along with Army Secretary Mark Esper, accompanied the president on that trip.

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Andrew Spear/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump, already facing widespread rebuke for his attack on Sen. John McCain, stepped up his criticism in a speech on Wednesday in Ohio, at one point, sounding annoyed, saying "I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted —- which as president I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn't get a thank you. That's okay."

"We sent him on the way, Trump continued, "But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

In the speech at a tank plant in Lima, Ohio, Trump claimed that McCain hadn't properly advocated for veterans --"he didn't get the job done" -- and said veterans were "on his side."

And he once again angrily recounted how he felt betrayed when McCain voted against repealing Obamacare.

“Not my kind of guy,” Trump said as the audience of union plant workers listened quietly. “But some people like him and I think that's great.”

Trump came to the Buckeye State Wednesday to tout the economy and tour a manufacturing facility where the M1 Abrams tank has been produced for nearly 40 years.

The Lima plant is the last facility that even makes tanks in the Western Hemisphere - and the president took a victory lap after reviving the plant that nearly closed during the Obama administration.

“Well, you better love me, I kept this place open,” Trump said. “They said: 'We're closing it' and I said: 'No. we are not.' And now, you're doing record business -- the job you do is incredible.”

But judging by his remarks, the president continued to be distracted -- going after McCain -- one of his top GOP rivals -- even though he has been dead for nearly seven months.

"Now let's get back and let's get on to the subject of tanks and the economy because you know what we love where we are,” Trump said when he was done blasting the senator from Arizona.

"Under the previous administration the tank factory, the last of its kind anywhere in the Western hemisphere came very close to shutting down. Four straight years the number of U.S. tanks that were budgeted was zero. Does anyone remember that? Raise your hands? Zero. That was under your great President Obama.”

As part of his defense budgets for 2019 and 2020, the president has requested $11 billion to buy Abrams tanks, as well as the Stryker combat vehicle, also manufactured at the Lima plant.

“Our military readiness declined and our workforce was slashed by 60 percent but those days are over we are rebuildign the American military,” Trump said. “We are restoring American manufacturing. And we are once again fighting for our great American workers.”

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Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Georgia GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson on Wednesday denounced President Trump's continued attacks against Isakson's Republican colleague, the late Sen. John McCain.

“It's deplorable what he said,” Isakson said in an interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Political Rewind” radio show.

“It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out,” Isakson added.

Isakson, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said Wednesdaythat he’s most concerned about Trump’s remarks as it relates to US military service members and veterans.

Isakson characterized Trump's attacks against McCain as a "lack of respect for his service."

"I just don't think it's appropriate," Isakson said.

“You may not like immigration, you may not like this, you may not like that, you may be a Republican, you may be a Democrat - we are all Americans. We should never reduce the service they give to this country,” Isakson said.

Earlier Wednesday, Isakson had promised to deliver a 'whippin' on Trump for his attacks.

"I want to do what I said that day on the floor of the Senate," he said. "I just want to lay it on the line, that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better, I don’t care if he’s president of United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world. Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us," the Republican chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee said in an exclusive interview published Wednesday with conservative outlet, The Bulwark.

McCain passed away seven months ago after battling brain cancer. Isakson spoke on the Senate floor following McCain’s death and issued a stern warning to those who would speak ill of McCain.

"I don’t know what is going to be said in the next few days about John McCain by whomever is going to say it or what is going to be done, but anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain deserves a whipping because most of those who would do the wrong thing about John McCain didn’t have the guts to do the right thing when it was their turn," Isakson said last August.

"We need to remember that. So I would say to the president or anybody in the world, it is time to pause and say that this was a great man who gave everything for us. We owe him nothing less than the respect that he earned, and that is what I intend to give John in return for what he gave me," Isakson said.

But the president paid no heed to those warnings. On Tuesday, the president criticized McCain, pointing specifically to his vote against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

"I'm very unhappy that he didn't repeal and replace Obamacare, as you know. He campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years and then they got to a vote and he said thumbs down," Trump said.

Adding, "Plus there were other things, I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be."

The president's comments came during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Brazil and after a series of weekend tweets in which Trump blasted the senator for his role in delivering a dossier containing unverified information that claimed Russia had compromising information on Trump to then-FBI director James Comey.

There is no evidence that McCain shared the Steele dossier before the election. In 2018, ABC News reported that McCain hand-delivered a copy of the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey in December of 2016, after the presidential election. McCain confirmed this and explained why he decided to share the document in his book "The Restless Wave."

Isakson told the Bulwark: "America deserves better, the people deserve better, and nobody — regardless of their position — is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life. When the president is saying that that he doesn’t respect John McCain and he’s never going to respect John McCain and all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead it just sets the worst tone possible."

Most Republicans who served in the Senate with McCain have largely remained silent on Trump's attacks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did come to McCain's defense in a tweet, but did not specifically call out Trump by name.

McCain's best friend in the Senate - GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham - spoke out Wednesday to condemn the president.

"I think the president's comments about Senator McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Senator McCain," Graham said at an event Wednesday in Seneca, South Carolina.

But, Graham added: "I'm going to try to continue to help the president."

Graham has grown noticeably chummier to Trump in recent months and is now considered his close confidant on Capitol Hill -- beginning with golf outings to now taking frequent calls from the president.

"I've gotten to know the president, we have a good working relationship, I like him, I don't like it when he says things about my friend John McCain," he said.

"I love John McCain, I traveled the world with him, I learned a lot from him, he's an American hero and nothing will ever diminish that," Graham said.

Graham received heat earlier in the week for tweeting about McCain without calling out Trump by name.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that he would introduce legislation to rename the Russell Senate Office building in honor of McCain.

Schumer originally introduced the legislation shortly after McCain's death last summer but faced skepticism and in some cases, outright opposition, from other GOP senators.

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Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The deputy Attorney General is staying on longer than he was originally expected, sources tell ABC News.

Previously, ABC News reported Rod Rosenstein was planning to leave the Department of Justice in mid-March. Sources had said, that he had wanted to stay on to ensure a smooth transition for his successor and wanted to accommodate the needs of new Attorney General William Barr.

One outstanding investigation is special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Rosenstein oversaw Mueller's probe for more than a year, after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the matter over his role in President Donald Trump's campaign.

At the time, sources said Rosenstein had wanted to serve about two years and that there was no indication that he was being forced out by the president. Rosenstein had became a frequent target of Trump's on Twitter, with the president re-posting an image of Rosenstein and others behind bars late last year.

In February, the White House named Jeff Rosen, currently the deputy secretary at the Department of Transportation, as Rosenstein's successor.

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