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Senate closer to approval of $95B foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

Michael Godek/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Tuesday cleared a hurdle toward the passage of a package to deliver $95 billion in foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

In clearing a test vote, the Senate inched closer to the passage of the legislation, which includes four bills that passed in the House over the weekend with bipartisan support.

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to proceed with the national security supplemental by a vote of 80-19. Eight Republicans who previously voted against the Senate supplemental in February, voted in favor of the foreign aid package this time around.

The Senate has up to 30 hours to debate the package, meaning a final vote could come up later Tuesday or Wednesday. President Joe Biden urged the Senate to quickly advance the measures to his desk.

The package provides roughly $26 billion for Israel, currently at war with Hamas in Gaza; as well as $61 billion for Ukraine and $8 billion for allies in the Indo-Pacific. A fourth bill would force a U.S. ban of TikTok if its Chinese parent company doesn't sell it; impose sanctions on Russia, China and Iran; and seize Russian assets to help Ukraine rebuild from the war's damage.

"A lot of people inside and outside the Congress wanted this package to fail. But today, those in Congress who stand on the side of democracy are winning the day," Schumer said after the procedural votes Tuesday afternoon. "To our friends in Ukraine, to our allies in NATO, to our allies in Israel, and to civilians around the world in need of help -- help is on the way."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, during a fulsome press conference after the procedural vote, said he believes his party is beginning to beat back the trends of isolationism he has fought against. He concede that the isolationist streak in his party is not gone, but he said he believes progress has been made.

"If you're looking for a trend I think it's a trend in the direction that I would like to see us go, which is America steps up to its leadership role in the world and does what it needs to do," McConnell said.

McConnell counted the groundswell of GOP support a win.

"I think we've turned the corner on this argument," McConnell said. "... I think we've turned the corner on the isolationist movement. I've noticed how uncomfortable proponents of that are when you call them isolationists. I think we've made some progress and I think it's going to have to continue."

Schumer applauded the bipartisan approach to pass this legislation -- including his work with McConnell.

"Leader McConnell and I, who don't always agree, worked hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder to get this bill done. Together we were bipartisan and persistent," Schumer said.

With the procedural votes' passing, the Senate is closer to helping provide aid to ally countries -- including Ukraine, which can't win its fight against Russia without the funding, America's top general in Europe said earlier this month.

"They are now being out shot by the Russian side five to one. So Russians fire five times as many artillery shells at the Ukrainians then the Ukrainians are able to fire back," U.S. European Command's Gen. Christopher Cavoli told the House Armed Services Committee. "That will immediately go to 10 to one in a matter of weeks. We're not talking about months."

The outcome of the war could hang in the balance, according to Cavoli.

"The severity of this moment cannot be overstated. If we do not continue to support Ukraine, Ukraine could lose," he said.

In anticipation of the bill passing, the Biden administration has worked up a roughly $1 billion military assistance package for Ukraine with the first shipment arriving within days of approval, a U.S. official told ABC News on Tuesday.

The package will include desperately needed artillery rounds, air defense ammunition and armored vehicles, according to the official. The weapons and equipment will be drawn from existing U.S. stockpiles under presidential drawdown authority (PDA).

It has been more than a year since Congress approved new aid for Ukraine in its fight against Russian invaders. The war has intensified in recent weeks, as more Russian strikes break through with Ukraine's air defenses running low.

President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday to reiterate U.S. support for the nation. Zelenskyy said he was "grateful" to Biden "for his unwavering support for Ukraine and for his true global leadership."

The Ukrainian leader commended House Speaker Mike Johnson -- whose position on Ukraine aid evolved from also requiring changes to border and immigration policy to working with Democrats to pass the latest bills -- and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

Biden first requested more assistance for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific last fall. The Senate passed a $95 billion bill in February, but the legislation faced a logjam in the House as a coalition of Republican hard-liners grew opposed to sending more resources overseas without addressing domestic issues like immigration.

At the same time, GOP leaders like Johnson echoed those concerns and had pushed for major changes to immigration policy, though a sweeping deal in the Senate to tie foreign aid to such changes was opposed by former President Donald Trump and rejected by conservatives as insufficient.

Then, pressure increased on lawmakers to pass aid to overseas allies after Iran's unprecedented attacks on Israel earlier this month, in retaliation for a strike on an Iranian consular complex in Syria, and as Russian forces continue to make offensive gains.

Speaker Johnson, once opposed to more aid for Ukraine, said last week he was "willing" to stake his job on the issue as an ouster threat looms from fellow Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Thomas Massie and Paul Gosar.

Johnson earned bipartisan praise for the reversal.

"He tried to do what the, you know, say the Freedom Caucus wanted him to do. It wasn't going to work in the Senate or the White House," Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "At the end of the day, we were running out of time. Ukraine's getting ready to fall."

Johnson, McCaul said, "went through a transformation" on the issue.

After the procedural votes' passing, Schumer even praised Johnson.

"I thank Speaker Johnson, who rose to the occasion, in his own words, said he had to do the right thing despite the enormous political pressure on him" Schumer said.

ABC News' Juhi Doshi contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FTC bans noncompete agreements for many Americans but legal battle looms that would delay change

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Trade Commission narrowly voted on Tuesday to ban noncompete agreements in a move that could affect up to 30 million Americans -- one out of every five workers -- in jobs ranging from executives to minimum wage earners.

While the ban was celebrated by labor unions, pro-business groups have staunchly opposed it and threatened legal action.

Noncompete agreements are clauses in employment contracts that bar an employee from working at a rival company, usually within a certain geographic area or for a certain amount of time.

FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement after Tuesday's vote that the noncompete ban, first proposed last year, would "ensure Americans have the freedom to pursue a new job, start a new business, or bring a new idea to market."

"Noncompete clauses keep wages low, suppress new ideas, and rob the American economy of dynamism, including from the more than 8,500 new startups that would be created a year once noncompetes are banned," Khan said.

The FTC rule would take effect in 120 days. But that timeline will likely be delayed by a high-stakes legal battle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce told ABC News it plans to sue the FTC within the next day.

"The Federal Trade Commission's decision to ban employer noncompete agreements across the economy is not only unlawful but also a blatant power grab that will undermine American businesses' ability to remain competitive," the chamber's CEO, Suzanne Clark, said in a statement.

But the AFL-CIO, the country's largest union organization, in a statement lauded the FTC's "strong" ban and said "[n]oncompete agreements trap workers from finding better jobs, drive down wages, and stifle competition."

The FTC said the ban, should it survive court scrutiny, would apply to all workers entering into new employment agreements as they accept new jobs.

For workers with existing agreements, noncompetes would no longer be enforceable, so companies could no longer stop their employees from taking jobs with competitors.

One exception is carved out for "senior executives" with existing noncompetes who earn more than $151,164 per year, which is fewer than 1% of workers, according to the FTC.

The FTC says it expects the ban would increase workers' combined wages by up to $488 billion over the next decade, with the average worker's earnings rising an estimated $524 per year.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump 'ripped away' abortion rights nationwide, Biden argues as he urges women to back him

President Joe Biden delivers remarks to commemorate Earth Day at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Va., April 22, 2024. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday called out rival Donald Trump by name, blaming the former president in a high-profile speech in Florida for the spread of abortion bans since the end of Roe v. Wade as he encouraged women voters to back him in November -- and rebuke those he called opponents of reproductive freedom.

"Let's be real clear: There's one person responsible for this nightmare, and he's acknowledged and he brags about it: Donald Trump," Biden said in a speech from Hillsborough Community College outside Tampa, speaking one week before the state's six-week ban, with narrow exceptions, goes into effect.

It was Trump, Biden argued, who had "ripped away" women's freedom around the country by naming three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled against Roe. But it was women who hold the political power to push back, Biden said.

"When you do that, it will teach Donald Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans a valuable lesson: Don't mess with the women of America," he said.

Biden's appearance, which spurred jeers for Trump and cheers for his defense of abortion access, was the latest high-profile effort by his campaign to spotlight the issue as the general election fight gears up.

Ahead of the event, aides had said Biden's remarks would tie access to contraception, to in vitro fertilization and to abortion to the results of the looming 2024 election, painting a picture of what's at stake this cycle.

In his speech, the president invoked women forced to travel far from home for needed abortions or who have been unable to get emergency care under their states' restrictions.

He slammed Trump's position celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decision overruling Roe in 2022 and returning the issue to the local level.

Since then, 21 states have enacted restrictions or bans on abortion.

Sarcastically quoting a previous Trump comment -- "the states are working very brilliantly, in some cases conservative, in some cases not conservative, but they're working" -- Biden said on Tuesday, "It's a six-week ban in Florida, it's really brilliant, isn't it? Even before women know they're pregnant, is that brilliant?"

Biden also tied Trump to a recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling reviving a strict, Civil War-era ban on nearly all abortions in the state, which could go into effect as soon as June.

Trump has said that ban goes too far and should be undone but Biden insisted in his remarks that "Trump is literally taking us back 160 years."

Abortion is not a state issue, Biden said. He was backed by a "Restore Roe" sign as he repeated a frequent promise that if enough Democratic lawmakers are elected and he stays in the White House, he will push to codify Roe's protections through Congress.

"He's [Trump is] wrong, the Supreme Court is was wrong. It should be a constitutional right in the federal Constitution, a federal right, and it shouldn't matter where in America you live," Biden said. "This isn't about states' rights, this is about women's rights."

The Biden campaign has increasingly attacked Trump over the issue of abortion, including his new stance that it should remain with local officials and voters.

Trump has stressed his support for three key exceptions of rape, incest and the pregnant woman's life and also says that he will not sign a national abortion ban if elected, reversing an earlier promise.

"We gave it back to the states .... And it's working the way it's supposed to," he said earlier this month.

Biden assailed that position in his Tuesday speech, contending that Trump is "worried that voters will hold him accountable" for the "cruelty and chaos" of state-level restrictions.

"The bad news for Trump is we are going to hold him accountable," Biden said.

He also said voters should not believe Trump's rhetoric on abortion now, given his history: "How many times does he have to prove [he] can't be trusted?"

"He describes the Dobbs decision [overruling Roe] as a miracle," Biden went on to say.

"Maybe it's coming from that Bible he's trying to sell," Biden added, referring to a recent piece of Trump merchandise. "Whoa, I almost wanted to buy one just to see what the hell's in it."

Voters speak

June Johns, a registered Democrat in St. Petersburg, Florida, told ABC News she's concerned about women's reproductive rights in the country.

"I don't see how you can be pro-life and not be concerned about what's happening to women," Johns said. "Also, I'm here because I think Joe Biden is one of our best chances to preserve our democracy."

Another Democrat, Mary Hanrahan from Gulfport, Florida, applauded Biden for coming to the state ahead of the six-week abortion ban going into effect next week. Hanrahan singled out a ballot measure to expand abortion access that abortion advocates in Florida successfully added to the November ballot.

"I think we need everybody in Florida to vote yes on Amendment Four and get rid of the six-week abortion ban," Hanrahan said. "I think it's a bad idea. I think that people need to be in charge of their own bodies."

Abortion 'will decide this election,' Dems say

Democrats have seized on the issue of abortion access, seeing success in both battleground and red states when it's on the ballot since 2022 -- which Biden's campaign noted this week in previewing his trip on Tuesday.

"Abortion bans are now a voting issue in battleground states across the country. That will decide this election," said Jen Cox, a Biden campaign adviser in Arizona.

Biden campaign spokesman Michael Tyler joined Cox on a call with reporters ahead of Biden's trip to Florida and said that "whenever abortion rights have been on the ballot, they've won."

"In November, Florida will have a referendum on the ballot and Arizona and Nevada are likely to as well," Tyler said then. "The last time there was an abortion referendum on the ballot in 2012, President [Barack] Obama won the state. So, with our enormous financial advantage, the Biden-Harris campaign can afford to invest in many paths to victory and that includes Florida."

As proposed abortion initiatives to expand or protect access are set to appear on several state ballots this November, including in Arizona, Florida and Nevada, the Biden campaign has emphasized what they see as the threat Republicans pose to allowing abortions. Democrats believe the issue is galvanizing to their base and crucial swing voters.

Tuesday's remarks from Biden in Florida were also notable, however, given his complicated relationship with the issue of abortion because of his personal faith as a devout Catholic.

"I'm not big on abortion," he acknowledged last year. "But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right. Roe v. Wade [generally allowing abortions through the second trimester] cut in a place where the vast majority of religions have reached agreement."

Other Democrats have urged Biden to be more full-throated.

During an interview in January on CBS' "Face The Nation," when asked if Biden needs to talk about abortion more, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, "I think it would be good if he did."

Instead, the president has leaned heavily on Vice President Kamala Harris to be the campaign's primary messenger.

She launched a "Reproductive Freedom Tour" in January and quickly traveled to Arizona this month after the state's Supreme Court ruling upholding the 160-year-old, near-total abortion ban.

Biden's trip to Florida on Tuesday also underscores Democrats' tentative optimism that they could retake the state this November after being defeated in 2020 and 2016 -- at the same time that Republicans have seen a slew of notable wins there, including the rise of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Republicans who spoke with ABC News have played down Democratic zeal, pointing to the many local races the GOP has been winning and Democrats' past messaging on abortion in elections they lost.

Referring to the six-week ban, Evan Power, the chair of the Florida GOP, said that "this is what the voters sent their legislators to Tallahassee to deliver on and they did deliver on it. So I don't think there's a backlash coming in at all."

But the Biden campaign insists they see opportunity.

"I don't think the president coming to the state tomorrow to talk about the fundamental stakes in this election for women in Florida and across the country is 'window dressing.' We take Florida very seriously," Tyler told reporters earlier this week. "The idea that Donald Trump has the state in the bag could not be further from the truth."

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Mary Bruce, Libby Cathey, Fritz Farrow, Molly Nagle and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DOJ announces $138M settlement with Larry Nassar's victims over claims of FBI misconduct

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced it has reached a $138.7 million settlement deal with victims of the disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to resolve their claims of wrongdoing against the FBI in its failures to investigate allegations of sexual abuse.

“For decades, Lawrence Nassar abused his position, betraying the trust of those under his care and medical supervision while skirting accountability,” Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer said in a statement. “These allegations should have been taken seriously from the outset. While these settlements won’t undo the harm Nassar inflicted, our hope is that they will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing.”

Once finalized, the settlement will resolve 139 tort claims filed against the DOJ and the FBI in 2022 by the long list of athletes and patients who reported abuse by Nassar, including Maggie Nichols, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

The claims, which in total sought roughly $1 billion in damages, were filed after the department said it was declining to pursue criminal charges against agents whom the DOJ's inspector general found failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse by Nassar.

The watchdog report found the FBI was notified of Nassar's behavior but failed to act for more than 14 months, a period where Nassar is alleged to have abused at least 40 more girls and women.

Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 in connection with crimes against several victims and was sentenced to 60 years behind bars for child pornography and other charges. He again pleaded guilty in 2018 and was sentenced to an additional 40 to 175 years for multiple counts of sexual assault of minors.

Attorneys for many of those who brought claims against the government celebrated the agreement on Tuesday but said "the FBI fundamentally failed to protect hundreds of women and girls from sexual abuse through inaction and total mishandling of their Larry Nassar investigation."

"We are proud to have achieved a monumental settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, that not only secures the recovery the survivors deserve but also holds the DOJ and FBI accountable for their failures," Megan Bonanni and Michael L. Pitt said in a statement. "We hope this serves as a lesson for federal law enforcement and they make the changes necessary to prevent anything like this from happening again."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Abortion could dominate the 2024 election in Florida. Will that help Democrats flip the state?

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(WASHINGTON) -- For decades, with only a few exceptions, Florida has been one of the most closely fought states in presidential elections -- famously helping George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 by just 537 votes.

Some of the state's other big races were often just as close. But Florida appeared to be shifting rapidly to the right since 2020, with Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, cruising to reelection by nearly 20 points.

Now, however, as voters gear up for the next presidential election, state Democrats hope to put Florida back in play with the help of abortion access -- which will be put directly before voters on the same November ballot with President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump,

"Our agenda, our coalition, and the unique dynamics this election presents make it clear: President Biden is in a stronger position to win Florida this cycle than he was in 2020," Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, wrote in a memo in early April, underscoring the cautious optimism among some in her party.

Rodriguez and other Biden aides have made this pitch: Floridians have rejected "MAGA politics" since the 2022 midterms and Biden is in a good position to "assemble a winning coalition" of key voter groups in the state: seniors, Hispanic voters, Black voters and voters who previously supported GOP candidate Nikki Haley over Trump in the 2024 primary.

Beyond abortion, Rodriguez singled out issues like the cost of living, health care access and welfare programs like Social Security.

"Make no mistake: Florida is not an easy state to win," she wrote in her memo, in part, "but it is a winnable one."

Recent history, including DeSantis' big win in 2022 and Trump's back-to-back victories in 2016 and 2020, undercuts that, observers say. DeSantis also signed the state's 15-week and six-week abortion bans and was embraced by voters.

But those races were all held either before or just after the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative-leaning majority overruled Roe v. Wade. Since then, 21 states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion -- including Florida, where the six-week restriction, with some exceptions, is set to take effect at the end of this month.

In the two years after Roe was reversed, a number of red and blue states have also put abortion-related ballot initiatives before voters. Abortion access has won in each case, from California to Kentucky, Kansas to Maine, Ohio to Vermont.

Florida voters are set to cast votes in November on their own abortion ballot question, which would amend the state's constitution and guarantee broader access to the procedure.

National and state Democrats welcomed the news early this month that the Florida Supreme Court would allow the abortion ballot initiative to appear on the state's ballot this year, with many arguing, including Biden's campaign, that that will boost voter turnout and enthusiasm for pro-abortion rights candidates and favor Democrats, as it has elsewhere.

Biden will travel to Tampa, Florida on Tuesday to give a speech on reproductive rights exactly one week before the state's six-week abortion ban kicks in.

But Florida Democrats are also aware of the uphill battle ahead of them in November. Of the nearly 13.5 million people registered to vote in the state, 5.2 million are registered as Republicans, while 4.3 million are registered as Democrats, a difference of about 900,000 voters, according to the state's website.

After decades of Democrats holding an official edge with voter registration in the state, that flipped starting in 2021.

There are also 3.5 million voters in the state who are not registered with either major party.

Evan Power, the chair of the Florida GOP, contended that abortion isn't the issue to tip the state in the opposing party's favor.

"Democrats made [abortion] the No. 1 issue that they ran in on in Florida in 2022 and we won by 19% of the votes," Power told ABC News.

Referring to the six-week ban, he said, "This is what the voters sent their legislators to Tallahassee to deliver on and they did deliver on it. So I don't think there's a backlash coming in at all."

Florida Democrats still insist that the state is "winnable" this election cycle, telling ABC News that the abortion ballot initiative is energizing voters.

"We were already seeing momentum in Florida before this ruling and, look, I think that the reality is, as the Biden campaign says, Florida is winnable and that this puts us on the map for the rest of the nation," Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Andrew Feldman said.

Both the Biden campaign and state Democrats have cited some special and local elections since 2022 as evidence that Florida remains competitive, like in decades past.

Last May, Democrats flipped Jacksonville's mayoral office for the first time in 30 years when former TV news anchor Donna Deegan, who was endorsed by abortion advocates, defeated Daniel Davis, the CEO of the JAX Chamber pro-business group.

Still, Florida Republicans say they have made vast gains in the state over the past few years, thanks to the support of voters, which will be difficult for Democrats to overcome.

DeSantis has been perhaps the biggest winner of the GOP's ascendancy in state. He defeated former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist by double digits two years ago, a few months after the Roe ruling.

However, some others call the 2022 midterms in Florida an "outlier" when anticipating how close the state could be in the 2024 general election.

Justin Sayfie, a government relations consultant at Power Partners and former spokesperson for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, said that he believes DeSantis' resounding victory in 2022 came from those who supported his COVID-19 policies in keeping the state open during the pandemic.

With the virus now largely faded from public view, Sayfie said that won't be a significant factor in how people vote this year -- and so the proposed abortion amendment on Florida's ballot will grab more attention and make the presidential election more competitive than it would have otherwise.

He cited the last four elections: two in which Barack Obama won; two in which Trump won.

"Donald Trump's victory in 2020 was only by 3 points, so I think Florida is a competitive state," Sayfie said. "And having reproductive rights on the ballot ... is a net plus for Democrats."

Feldman, with the state Democrats, argued that the 2022 midterm elections were also an anomaly and that Florida's Democratic Party was less organized than it is now.

"We're the first people to say it; we were not in the game," Feldman said. "We did not have an operation that did what Democrats do best in terms of turning out voters, in terms of coordinating, and we are getting back to a time now in Florida where we were in [during the] Obama years."

In an interview, 538 senior elections analyst and senior editor Nathaniel Rakich said Florida is in the range of winnability for Democrats but that the state is "slightly Republican-leaning."

With Biden doing well in fundraising for his reelection campaign, Rakich said it's not crazy for the president to put in effort in Florida, noting Biden's relatively small margin of defeat in the state in 2020 and that what partly contributed to the so-called red wave there in 2022 was low Democratic turnout.

"I think people just have poor political memories and then look at 2022 and 2020 in Florida and they say, 'Oh that the state is gone,'" Rakich said. "But sometimes, you know, states kind of go off on little tangents in their political journey -- but then they kind of come back to the main road."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Melania Trump announces push to woo gay conservatives during Mar-a-Lago fundraiser, organizer says

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) -- Former first lady Melania Trump at a fundraiser on Saturday announced a major voter outreach initiative to garner conservative gay and lesbian support for former President Donald Trump’s 2024 bid -- in an effort to boost his standing with a group that, more broadly, voted against him in 2020 -- organizers of the fundraiser told ABC News.

After having mostly stayed away from her husband’s campaign trail this cycle, Melania Trump made a rare appearance at a political event Saturday night, speaking as a guest of honor at the fundraiser at the Trumps' Mar-a-Lago Club for Log Cabin Republicans, the largest conservative LGBTQ+ organization in the United States.

Addressing conservative LGBTQ+ supporters at the sold-out fundraiser, Melania Trump said money raised that night -- more than $1 million, according to organizers -- would go toward an effort to deploy resources to key swing states in educating voters about conservative LGBTQ+ causes and delivering pro-Trump messages among gay and lesbian communities, said Bill White, one of the co-hosts and a longtime friend of Donald Trump.

Richard Grenell, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and former acting director of national intelligence under Trump, becoming the first openly gay person to hold a Cabinet-level position in the U.S., will be spearheading the new Log Cabin Republicans initiative with help from White, a former president of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and White’s husband, Bryan Eure, a senior vice president at insurance brokerage firm Willis Towers Watson.

This initiative is expected to be one of Melania Trump’s top priorities, White said, and she is set to support it with “upcoming activities" -- which would mark a notable contrast given how little Melania Trump has campaigned on behalf of her husband in either 2016 or 2020. (The Trump campaign did not provide more details about possible events for conservative gay and lesbian voters.)

“They hear us, they see us, and they love us,” White said of the Trumps' message to Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday night.

The announcement of Melania Trump's involvement with the Log Cabin Republicans initiative comes after months of her staying away from the public spotlight as her husband's third presidential bid heats up. She has, however, maintained some of her own initiatives -- speaking at a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens in December; some charity work like with a local foster care organization in 2021; and launching a line of digital collectibles, a line of Christmas ornaments and, more recently, a Mother's Day-themed necklace for $245.

The last two times she was seen publicly on the trail were at a major Palm Beach, Florida, fundraiser for Donald Trump and Republicans earlier this month, where organizers said they raised more than $50 million; and last month at a Palm Beach polling location where the former president voted in the Florida Republican primary.

White told ABC News the initiative for gay Republicans is expected to involve “digital footprints in all of the key swing states,” as well as “extensive research and development into who we need to be communicating with and how we will communicate with them” -- an effort to persuade the gay and lesbian community in America that “Donald Trump is the best choice for all of us.”

Polling shows that he has notably lagged with those voters in the past. Rival Joe Biden won self-identified members of the LGBTQ+ community over Trump, 64-27%, exit polls showed. But that was a slight improvement for Trump compared with 2016, when he got only 14%.

While the former president differentiated himself from some other leading conservatives in embracing gay people, his anti-trans positions have drawn broader outcry from the LGBTQ+ community.

White claimed the pro-Trump voices within the LGBTQ+ community have grown exponentially since Donald Trump’s first presidential bid, noting efforts by national-level pro-Trump LGBTQ+ coalitions.

“We are gay Republicans and we are voting for Trump,” he said. “He is the best and only choice in this election for our health, prosperity, safety and security."

Parts of Melania Trump’s speech at the fundraiser Saturday night will be put out in Log Cabin Republicans’ digital ads, White said.

“We are so grateful to Mrs. Trump for her strategic leadership and making this initiative one of her top priorities for the 2024 presidential campaign and for the successful election of her husband,” he said.

Ahead of the fundraiser on Saturday morning, Grenell, another gay conservative ally, on X threw support behind Donald Trump as “the best candidate for our safety, security and prosperity.”

"He sees you as 100% equal - it's up to you to be responsible, hardworking and successful,” he continued. “Anyone telling you that you are oppressed in America or that you need special side agreements because you're gay is only seeking to control you."

Over the years, both Melania and Donald Trump have maintained a close relationship with Log Cabin Republicans. In 2021, Melania Trump headlined their annual gala at Mar-a-Lago and received the group's Spirit of Lincoln award for her role in "helping children reach their full potential" and "championing a more inclusive Republican Party."

In 2022, Donald Trump headlined Log Cabin Republicans' Spirit of Lincoln gala held at Mar-a-Lago, where he told the audience, "We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Supreme Court appears to favor Oregon city in dispute over homeless camping ban

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(WASHINGTON) -- A majority of Supreme Court justices on Monday appeared sympathetic to an Oregon city making it a crime for anyone without a permanent residence to sleep outside in an effort to crack down on homeless encampments across public properties.

The case, City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, carries enormous stakes nationwide as communities confront a growing tide of unhoused residents and increasingly turn to punitive measures to try to incentivize people to take advantage of social services and other shelter options.

"These generally applicable laws prohibit specific conduct and are essential to public health and safety," argued the city's attorney Theane Evangelis during oral arguments, which stretched more than two and a half hours.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in a decision last year that a homeless camping ban amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment" under the 8th Amendment. But several members of the high court's conservative majority took a critical view of that conclusion.

"Have we ever applied the Eighth Amendment to civil penalties?" asked a skeptical Justice Clarence Thomas.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett worried about where to draw the line, wondering aloud whether the Eighth Amendment could reasonably be invoked to prohibit punishment for hungry people who steal food or engage in other behaviors necessary for survival.

"How do we draw these difficult lines about, you know, public urination and those sorts of things?" she said.

Many appeared to reject claims that the Grants Pass ordinance and others like it criminalize a person based their experience of involuntary homelessness, rather than for a concrete action. Supreme Court precedent has said it's unconstitutional to punish someone for a relatively immutable quality, like drug addiction.

"What if the person finds that person in a homeless state because of prior life choices or their refusal to make future life choices?" asked Justice Samuel Alito.

Some conservative justices, while empathetic to the plight of the unhoused, suggested that local officials -- not courts -- are best positioned to grapple with the complicated issue of homelessness.

"This is a serious policy problem," said Chief Justice John Roberts, "and it's a policy problem because the solution, of course, is to build shelter to provide shelter for those who are otherwise harmless. But, municipalities have competing priorities ... Why would you think this these nine people are the best people to judge and weigh those policy judgments?"

The court's three liberal justices -- clearly breaking with the majority of justices -- forcefully defended the rights of homeless people to camp in public places, likening the Grants Pass law to cruelly punishing someone's basic need.

"Sleeping is a biological necessity," noted Justice Elena Kagan. "Presumably, you would not think it's okay to criminalize breathing in public."

"Sleeping that is universal, that is a basic function," echoed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. "What I don't understand is in this circumstance why that particular state is being considered 'conduct' for the purpose of punishment."

"Where do we put them if every city, every village, every town lacks compassion and passes a law identical to this?" asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "Where are they supposed to sleep? Are they supposed to kill themselves not sleeping?"

Backers of the law say many individuals who've camped in city parks have chosen not to take an available bed in the town's Gospel Rescue Mission -- a private shelter in city limits -- which is only half full but requires residents to attend worship services, give up pets and pledge not to smoke or drink.

The lead plaintiff in the case refused a shelter bed because she wanted to remain outside with her dog. Grants Pass has no public homeless shelters.

Chief Roberts asked whether a nearby town's shelter capacity, or whether a person's decision to decline a bed, should be taken into consideration.

"Let's say there are five cities all around Grants Pass and they all have homeless shelters, and yet the person wants to stay [in the camp]?" Roberts asked. "Can that person be given a citation?"

Justice Alito questioned the practicality of determining the number available beds before a citation is issued to a person sleeping in a park, suggesting the lower court decision created an unworkable situation for law enforcement.

"What is an individual police officer supposed to do?" he asked. "Count the number of people who are getting ready to sleep outside for the night, and then ask each one of them whether you've tried to find a bed at a shelter?"

Pressing the limits of the constitutional argument against the Oregon city's ordinance, Justice Neil Gorsuch asked if there might be a right to defecate and urinate in public if bathrooms aren't available to the homeless.

Key to the argument is whether Grants Pass treats homelessness as a "status." Doing so could run afoul of a 1962 case, Robinson v. California, which held that it violated the Eighth Amendment to make drug addiction as a "status" illegal.

"Homelessness is not something that you do. It's just something that you are," argued attorney Kelsi Corkran, representing the homeless plaintiffs.

The Oregon law's defenders say the ordinance merely criminalizes the conduct of camping in public, not the fact that the camper has no home. They also argue that the state allows for a "necessity" defense, which those charged with violating the city's ordinance could pursue if they could show they truly had nowhere else to go.

The Biden administration is asking the court to remand the case for further evidentiary findings before a final ruling is made.

A decision is expected by the end of June.

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Congress seems poised to pass potential TikTok ban in US. How would it work?

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- A potential ban of TikTok in the United States sailed through the House of Representatives over the weekend as part of a $95 billion foreign aid package that garnered bipartisan support.

The social media crackdown may stand poised to become law, since President Joe Biden has vowed to sign it if it passes the Senate and reaches his desk.

​​The TikTok measure could still be removed from the foreign aid legislation in the Senate, but that would require the entire package to be sent back to the House for another vote -- at the same time that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have stressed urgency for acting on the additional money for Ukraine and Israel.

If enacted, the measure would force a sale of the popular social media app by its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. In the absence of a sale, the app would be banned.

A TikTok ban is wrapped in Speaker Johnson's foreign aid package: What happens next?
TikTok did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. In a previous statement, TikTok slammed the renewed efforts behind divestment.

"It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually," the platform said.

Here's what to know about whether the ban would ever take effect, what it means for users and how people may seek to bypass it:

Will TikTok ultimately get banned?
Even if the measure becomes law, TikTok may still avoid a ban.

ByteDance could opt to sell TikTok, ensuring the continued availability of the app for U.S. users. The bill passed in the House grants ByteDance nine months to sell, with the potential for a three-month extension.

Regardless of a possible sale, the measure would likely elicit a legal challenge on First Amendment grounds that could nullify the law entirely, according to experts.


TikTok and its users could challenge the law as an infringement upon constitutionally protected freedom of speech, Anupam Chander, a professor of law and technology at Georgetown University, previously told ABC News. In opposition, the U.S. government would likely argue that national security concerns should outweigh First Amendment protections, Chander said.

Last May, TikTok sued Montana in federal court over a ban of the app enacted by the state, saying the law violated the First Amendment rights of users. Months later, in November, a federal judge ruled in favor of TikTok and blocked the law before it took effect.

However, the measure in Montana may offer little insight into the legal outcome of a federal ban, Sarah Kreps, director of Cornell University's Tech Policy Institute, told ABC News. In Montana, lawmakers banned TikTok on privacy and child safety grounds, while the federal statute draws on national security considerations.

"This is apples and oranges," Kreps said.

Still, if the U.S. enacts a law banning TikTok, a federal judge may order a temporary pause while the legal challenge makes its way through the court system due to the wide-reaching ramifications of such a measure.

How would a potential ban work?
The measure would ban TikTok by removing it from U.S. app stores, including popular platforms on iPhone and Android.

New customers would be unable to download the app, while current users would lose access to vital updates, experts told ABC News.

"Users can still keep the app on their mobile devices, but they won't be able to get the updates and eventually it's going to become outdated," Qi Liao, a professor of computer science at Central Michigan University, told ABC News.

Users may be able to use the app for up to one year after the ban goes into effect, Liao added, but the app would deteriorate and eventually become inoperable.

The potential decline of the app, Kreps said, would amount to a "slow fizzle."


"The reasons why people have wanted to use TikTok are that it's easy, it's fun, it has a nice user interface," Kreps added. "Without updates over time, it would not have those same qualities that users have liked."

Will users find ways to get around the ban?
Some users would likely be able to circumvent the ban, but it would prove too difficult or inconvenient for many, experts said.

"For the majority of people, it will be lots of trouble," Liao said. "For someone who is tech-savvy and motivated, they can do it."

For instance, individuals could pursue offline app installation that bypasses the app store, Liao said. To do this, he added, an individual could download an installation package from the internet, move it to a USB drive and transfer it to their phone.

Individuals could also use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which allows one to pose as a user logging on from a location abroad, thereby circumventing the U.S.-specific ban, experts said.

Some users would circumvent the ban but over time, the difficulty and annoyance would likely drive them to a competing service, Kreps said.

"It's not going to be an on/off switch," she added. "But people will prefer the path of least resistance."

ABC News' Lauren Peller, Alex Ederson and Jay O'Brien contributed to this report.
 

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Supreme Court will take up 'ghost guns' case next term

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court said Monday it would take up the issue of "ghost guns" next term and the Biden administration's appeal seeking to regulate the self-assemble weapons kits as any other firearm.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a 2022 regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that determined the sale of weapons kits requires a background check and serialization of the parts for law enforcement tracking.

President Joe Biden had announced the new regulations in a White House event from the Rose Garden in April 2022.


"They call this rule I'm about to announce extreme," Biden said at the White House Rose Garden event. "But let me ask you, 'Is it extreme to protect police officers, extreme to protect our children, extreme to keep guns out of the hands of people who couldn't even pass a background check?'"

A ghost gun is a firearm that comes packaged in parts, which can be bought online and assembled without a serial number used for tracking.

The case will not be heard before the court until the fall.

The Supreme Court had granted a stay reinstating the federal regulation on ghost guns in August 2023, putting on hold a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that had struck down the rule, while the Department of Justice appealed to the 5th Circuit. The 5th Circuit, which is made up of three appointees of former President Donald Trump, then largely upheld the Texas judge's ruling.

However, the Supreme Court has allowed the regulations to stay in place while the legal challenges play out.


The use of ghost guns has exploded in recent years as they became easier to order online and assemble in minutes.

In 2016, law enforcement agencies recovered 1,758 ghost guns, according to the Federal Register. In 2021, law enforcement agencies recovered 19,344 ghost guns, nearly double the number recovered in 2020.


ABC News' Jack Date, Armando Garcia and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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Congress gets closer to forcing TikTok to be sold or face US ban: What's next

ABC News

The $95 billion foreign aid package that passed the House on Saturday included legislation to force a sale of TikTok by its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

If the measure becomes law and if that sale then doesn't occur within a year, the app would be banned in the U.S. amid widespread data-sharing and foreign influence fears -- which TikTok says are baseless.

So, what's next for the push to divest or ban the hugely popular social media platform in the U.S.?

The future in the Senate and beyond

The Senate plans to take up the foreign aid package next week, starting Tuesday, putting it on track for final passage by midweek.

The campaign to force TikTok to be divested or be banned has earned broad bipartisan support, with lawmakers echoing worries that TikTok could harvest Americans' user data for Beijing -- or be used as a vehicle to spread Chinese propaganda.

House Speaker Mike Johnson hailed an earlier version of the sell-or-ban bill that passed the House in March, saying it "demonstrates Congress' opposition to Communist China's attempts to spy on and manipulate Americans, and signals our resolve to deter our enemies."

Some supporters of divestment also note that China already restricts hugely popular American platforms like YouTube in their country.

TikTok has defended its data management at length, saying U.S. user traffic flows through a third party within the U.S., along with additional oversight protections.

ByteDance is "not owned or controlled by any government or state entity," TikTok says, though skeptics believe ByteDance could hypothetically be forced under Chinese law to comply with the government there.

While there are some critics on Capitol Hill of the push against TikTok, the divestment-or-ban legislation continues to gain steam, and the White House said President Joe Biden would sign the earlier version of the bill.

High-profile Democrats like Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell of Washington have now signaled support for the TikTok provision, too.

Cantwell was an obstacle to the House's previous bill to force a sale or ban of TikTok, which passed in March and then stalled in the Senate. But she's since come around, saying last week that House Republicans earned her support by amending their legislation to extend the deadline for when ByteDance would be required to sell the app from six months to a year after the law were to go into effect.

The TikTok measure could still be stripped out of the foreign aid legislation in the Senate, but that would require the entire package to be sent back to the House for another vote -- at the same time that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have stressed urgency for acting on the additional money for Ukraine and Israel.

The app is working to "educate lawmakers," a source told ABC News. The company has mounted aggressive efforts to sway lawmakers to their position, but it's unclear what their strategy is now.

In a statement, TikTok slammed the renewed efforts behind divestment. "It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy, annually," the platform said.

TikTok would likely sue to block the divestment legislation from going into effect at the end of the one-year sale window.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressive Democrat from California, didn't support the legislation in the House and predicted Sunday on ABC News' "This Week" that "I don't think it's going to pass First Amendment scrutiny [by the courts] because I think there are less restrictive alternatives."

What would China do?

In March, China's Commerce Minister Wang Wentao indicated officials would seek to block any transfer of the app's technology, saying the country would "firmly oppose" a forced sale.

Of perhaps the greatest concern is the app's algorithm, seen as essential to its popularity in surfacing viral video content.

Users are already familiar with the algorithm's success, even if they don't realize that's what allows the app to feed users a never-ending stream of videos related to their interests. Selling TikTok without that technology would be like selling a car without an engine.

What are TikTokers saying?

Many TikTokers say they oppose the legislation, which could upend their digital media careers and businesses, and they are making their voices heard. A group of about 50 held a demonstration in front of the Capitol while the House voted on the package on Saturday.

A group of 30-plus creators also recently signed an open letter to President Joe Biden warning him that taking action against the app would be a "serious error" that could be "alienating young voters" in this election year.

Another group of TikTok creators are planning to rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mike Johnson earns bipartisan praise for backing Ukraine aid, suggesting his speakership is safe

ABC News

Speaker Mike Johnson earned praise from both a top Republican and a progressive Democrat on Sunday for allowing votes on a $95 billion foreign aid package, suggesting he'll be able to hold onto his job if conservative hard-liners make good on their threat to force a vote to remove him as the leader of the House.

"I am so proud of the speaker, Mike Johnson. He went through a transformation," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said on ABC News' "This Week." "At the end of the day, a profile in courage is putting the nation above yourself -- and that's what he did. He said, 'At the end of the day, I'm going to be on the right side of history, irrespective of my job,' and I think that was what I admired so much."

Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, agreed.

"I disagree with Speaker Johnson on many issues, and I've been very critical of him," Khanna told "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl in a separate interview. "But he did the right thing here and he deserves to keep his job 'til the end of his term."

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Johnson's loudest critics within their party, has proposed but not yet acted on a motion to vacate the speakership over his support for the foreign aid bills -- in particular $60.8 billion to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion.

More Republicans, including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, voted against the Ukraine aid bill than for it over the weekend.

Greene would need only one other Republican to join her in ousting Johnson, as happened last year to Kevin McCarthy, unless enough Democrats side with him. Khanna suggested on Sunday that they will -- even absent additional concessions.

"Would you and fellow Democrats that will protect him at this moment -- ask for anything in return?" Karl pressed.

"I'll leave the negotiations to ... [Minority Leader Hakeem] Jeffries, but I don't think everything in politics needs to be transactional," Khanna said. "I think here you have Speaker Johnson, who not only put this up for a vote but he also separated the bills, which I thought was courageous. He let people vote their conscience on Taiwan, on the offensive aid to Israel, on Ukraine. And I give him credit for that."

The House votes on Saturday -- advancing the four foreign aid bills for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific allies -- marked a dramatic reversal for Republican leaders like Johnson, who for months have said additional funds to Ukraine must be tied to a tightening of U.S. border and immigration laws.

But efforts to broker compromise on that point failed to win over enough conservatives. A high-profile agreement in the Senate to overhaul border policy was quickly rejected by Johnson and others as insufficient after opposition from former President Donald Trump.

And then, earlier this month, Johnson announced his support for individual votes on additional aid, including to Ukraine as well as to Israel, currently at war with Hamas.

"To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys," Johnson said last week, invoking his own son, who is going to the Naval Academy.

On "This Week," McCaul was pressed by Karl over Johnson's changing views -- and the lengthy delay involved in the legislative process, to ultimately end up with Congress backing a similar amount of aid as the White House first proposed last year.

McCaul said that Johnson initially supported the position of hard-line Republicans but recognized that with the government divided, another path had to be chosen.

"He tried to do what the, you know, say the Freedom Caucus wanted him to do. It wasn't going to work in the Senate or the White House," McCaul said. "At the end of the day, we were running out of time. Ukraine's getting ready to fall."

Johnson's classified briefings and hearing from Republican leaders on the issue like House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner had influenced his thinking, McCaul said.

He suggested that, essentially, Johnson, once a little-known legislator, had to learn on the job after being thrust into the speakership in the fall amid a chaotic power struggle within the GOP's House conference.

"He became the man that went from a district in Louisiana to the speaker of the United States to also someone who had to look at the entire world and had to carry the burden of that and make the right decision," McCaul said.

"The stock in Mike Johnson's gone way up. I think the respect for him's gone way up because he did the right thing irrespective of his job. That garnered a lot of respect," McCaul continued. "And also from the Democrat side."

Beyond just the foreign aid bills that were approved on Saturday, Johnson has had to repeatedly use the votes of the Democratic minority in order to move forward on some key legislation, like government funding.

That's because Republicans hold only a very narrow majority of a few votes but have been unable to reach consensus among themselves on various bills.

Asked on "This Week" if such a dynamic indicates the House is actually now in some kind of "coalition government," McCaul replied, "I don't know, maybe some people like that."

He then dinged lawmakers like Greene for her ultimatum against Johnson.

"When the motion gets threatened every week in the Congress, that is being abused," McCaul said. "And I think we need to fix that. That is a tool that's being abused by a minority when the majority of my conference don't agree with them."

He said that on the issue of Ukraine aid, Republican colleagues like Greene, who decry more aid as a waste over major domestic problems, "bought into this notion that it's an either/or proposition. ... You can't support Ukraine without the border. We can do both. We're a great nation. Now we are stuck in a political issue here."

"The eyes of the world are watching and our adversaries are watching and history is watching," he went on to say. "And that's what I kept telling my colleagues."

Rep. Khanna, in his separate interview, expanded on his views on another big part of the aid votes this weekend: more money for Israel as it fights Hamas in Gaza after Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack sparked a war.

Khanna was one of 37 Democrats who voted against the individual aid bill for Israel, but he sought to draw a contrast between his opposition for offensive funds versus defensive funds to allow Israel to protect itself.

"It was a hard vote. I mean, look, it -- this was a stance against a blank check for [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and offensive weapons unconditionally while he's talking about going into Rafah ... when we know more women and children are going to die," Khanna said, echoing the increasing criticism that Israel's bombardment of Gaza cities has killed far too many civilians. (Israel insists it takes steps to protect civilians.)

"We wanted to make it clear that there has to be a change in strategy and no more famine and suffering in Gaza," Khanna said, continuing: "So why are we giving this unconditionally to Netanyahu when the entire world is saying that there's famine there, that we need a new strategy, that we need release of the hostages [thought to be held by Hamas] and peace?"

Pressed by Karl on his vote against funding for Israel in the wake of Iran's direct strikes on the country this month -- marking a new phase in what has long been seen as a shadow war between them -- Khanna said he would have supported strictly defense-related monies.

The goal, however, should be an end to the fighting through coalition building in the region, he said.

"The reality is, until we have a security cooperation effort, a diplomatic architecture in the Middle East, with Iran, with Saudi Arabia, with Israel, you're never going to get peace," he said.

Khanna also took a skeptical view of the legislative push to force TikTok's Chinese parent company to sell it or face a ban in the U.S. amid data security and foreign influence concerns, which TikTok calls baseless.

"I don't think it's going to pass First Amendment scrutiny because I think there are less restrictive alternatives. ... I doubt it survives scrutiny in the Supreme Court," Khanna predicted.

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Stephen Breyer insists politics don't play a role in Supreme Court's decisions

ABC News

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is pushing back on claims that the institution has become increasingly political, reflecting the partisan divides in America at large as the high court weighs in on Donald Trump's candidacy, abortion access and more.

"I've not seen politics in the court, and I've been a judge for 40 years," Breyer told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an interview that aired Sunday. "Not politics in the sense in which I understood that word when I worked for Sen. [Ted] Kennedy. ... No, that isn't there. That just isn't there."

Breyer, who retired in 2022, is the author of the new book "Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism."

Over his nearly three decades on the high court, Breyer saw its ideological balance shift more to the right and the justices now split 6-3 between conservatives and liberals.

But the judges' decisions don't match the ideological divides seen in the White House and in Congress, Breyer said.

Rather, the justices are driven by their interpretations of the law and Constitution, their relationships with each other -- and, to some extent, an awareness of how they are seen by the public.

Appearing on "This Week," he addressed some of the broad dynamics at the court but avoided commenting directly on its decisions, including overruling Roe v. Wade's guarantees to national abortion access in 2022 or, earlier this year, unanimously ruling that former President Trump can remain on the 2024 ballot following challenges to his candidacy under the Constitution's "insurrection clause."

That case thrust the Supreme Court into the middle of a presidential election in a way that it hadn't been for nearly a quarter of a century, since the landmark Bush v. Gore ruling settled the 2000 presidential election.

Breyer wrote in his dissent at the time that he didn't believe the court should have taken up the matter. He said on "This Week" that dissents have real value -- but that unanimous rulings, as happened in the Trump ballot challenge, carry weight, too.

"I always thought, well, it doesn't hurt to publish these things [dissents]. It puts out another point of view. It shows people, which they would believe anyway, that not everybody's in agreement," he said. "But there's also something to be said to try to keep down the extent to which you publicly reveal the disagreement."

The Supreme Court this week will take up another Trump case with potentially vast legal and political ramifications: whether presidents have immunity from prosecution for conducting their official duties -- and whether Trump's challenges to his 2020 election loss fell within his official duties.

If the justices side with Trump, that could upend two of the four criminal cases against him, though prosecutors maintain that his alleged criminal acts should fall outside of any immunity.

He denies all wrongdoing.

On "This Week," Breyer was firm in his view when Karl questioned whether or not the court wanted to add to the political divide within the country: "No, God of course not. But you're looking for an easy answer when -- I'm not being coy, [but I'm] saying, 'No, there aren't easy answers.'"

Pressed by Karl about whether the justices privately weigh strategically ruling as a bloc on some cases, like on Trump's ballot access or the immunity question, in order to present a bipartisan consensus to the public, Breyer demurred.

He said that there are certainly delicate deliberations among the justices: "It may be that you can find a compromise in the conference or a way of approaching things in the conference that will, in fact, solve a number of problems. And that could be one of the problems."

But he insisted there wasn't the kind of horse-trading Karl referenced.

"[Former Justice] Sandra O'Connor used to say this: The first unwritten rule is nobody speaks twice 'til everyone speaks once. Second unwritten rule: Tomorrow is another day. You and I were the greatest of allies on case one. Case two, we're absolutely at loggerheads," he said.

Breyer also challenged the idea, increasingly prevalent among the conservative-leaning justices, that the courts should only focus on the text of statutes and the Constitution to determine the outcomes of cases, a legal theory known as textualism.

As he highlights in his book, Breyer believes that judges must consider other factors when interpreting laws, too, including who wrote them, why they were written, how they reflect the values of the Constitution and the practical consequences of court decisions.

"Who wrote those words and what did they have in mind? What was Congress trying to do? What are the consequences if you go one way rather than another way? How does it fit into a set of values that begins with the Constitution?" Breyer said. "Judges have always done that kind of thing."

That ideology is directly at odds with the textualist approach highlighted in the 2022 overruling of Roe in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case.

In the majority ruling, Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote that, "We do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today's decision overruling Roe and Casey. And even if we could foresee what will happen, we would have no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision."

Despite acknowledging that the court's decisions will directly impact society at large, Breyer said that factor doesn't lead the decision-making process for justices.

"I would say that's in your mind," he said. "When you say -- does that lead to your deciding X rather than not X? Well, I can never say never, but rarely."

He quoted the late constitutional law professor Paul Freund.

"No judge should or will be moved by the temperature of the day, but every judge will be aware of the climate of the season."

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Climate advocates want to solve their 'biggest problem' in the US: Turning out voters

ABC News

In battleground states across the country, environmental activists like Dr. Emily Church are canvassing on behalf of an organization called the Environmental Voter Project in an effort to turn out people who care the most about climate change -- but who haven't shown up for past elections.

During a recent effort in Pittsburgh, Church, a biology professor who leads local canvasses for the project, recalled to ABC News how she used to lobby lawmakers directly to take action on climate change, but they told her voters don't care about the issue.

She said she's now trying to prove them wrong.

"The people who prioritize climate and the environment need to show up," Church said. "That's how we're going to get anything done."

The Environmental Voter Project, or EVP, is targeting very specific individuals: registered voters who list climate change as their No. 1 issue but who are unlikely to cast ballots in November's election based on their voting history.

"Our biggest problem in the climate movement right now [is] we don't have enough voting power," EVP founder and executive Nathaniel Stinnett said.

EVP takes a targeted approach to door knocking, Stinnett explained. Using polling, the group first determines which registered voters in a particular area, like Pittsburgh, would rank climate as their top voting issue. They then cross-reference profiles with voting records to find people who have not come out to the polls recently or regularly.

By Stinnett's accounting, the group has been successful across general elections, primaries and even in local races.

"We've sometimes increased turnout by as much as 1.8 percentage points in general elections, 3.6 points in primaries and 5.7 points in local elections," he said, noting that while 1.8 percentage points might sound small, it could determine an election. Pennsylvania, for example, was only won by President Joe Biden in 2020 by 1.17%.

For the canvassing effort in Pittsburgh, Stinnett said EVP targeted people who didn't vote in the 2020 election or elections in the years since. He added that they identified 22,135 voters in the city who are highly likely to rank climate as their top priority but unlikely to vote in November.

The group claims nonpartisanship but acknowledges that right now it's Democrats working on climate change almost exclusively. One of their hopes is to bring more Republicans to the table, too.

"We want to scare the bejesus out of as many politicians as possible, no matter what side of the aisle they're on, until they think, 'You know what, the only way I can win elections is if I start recognizing the biggest crisis,'" Stinnett said.

Over time, climate change has become a more salient voting issue. In 2010, only a slim majority of Americans agreed that global warming was occurring, according to polling by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Now, 72% of Americans agree.

But climate is currently not one of the biggest motivators for people this election cycle, surveys have indicated -- though climate advocates hope to change the electorate by encouraging turnout of climate-concerned voters.

According to a February poll by the Wall Street Journal, registered voters listed immigration (20%), the economy (14%), abortion (8%) and democracy (8%) as their top issues. Climate change ranked 11th, with 2% of voters choosing it as their top issue.

More broadly, Gallup's tracking of what Americans say is the country's most important problem over time shows climate, pollution and the environment at 2% in March, far below economic issues and immigration.

Polling has also shown that in addition to a partisan divide on the issue, a generational shift may be at play.

"Young voters in general tend to be more Democratic, and that is kind of tied up inextricably with their belief that climate is really important," said Nathaniel Rakich, a senior editor and senior elections analyst at 538. "So if Republicans don't want to basically be losing this upcoming electorate by large margins for decades to come, they're going to have to eat into that Democratic support by at least proposing some solutions and addressing climate change."

Even the Biden administration, which has prioritized fighting climate change, is being pushed by progressives to do more on the issue.

Twenty-one activists with the environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement were arrested outside of Biden campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, in February. That group and other advocates have additional demonstrations planned in the run-up to the November election.

"I think there were some missteps by the administration -- permitting the Willow project in Alaska was a step backwards. That was unfortunate," Evergreen Action Executive Director Lena Moffitt said, referring to a large-scale oil drilling initiative backed by Alaska lawmakers and others in the state for its economic value, but which environmentalists criticized as undercutting the White House's climate goals.

"We know that we need to move away from fossil fuels and, at the same time, the administration is doing a lot to hasten that move away from fossil fuels," Moffitt said.

The choice for voters in November, on the issue of climate, is stark. President Biden has spoken urgently of the dangers of not slowing climate change and has pushed renewable energy solutions, backed electric vehicle infrastructure and created a new Climate Corps to train and expand the environmental workforce.

Biden last week finalized new protections against oil and gas production for some13 million acres of land in Alaska and, through the Environmental Protection Agency, has imposed aggressive emissions standards for vehicles to cut future greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, who has long questioned climate science, without evidence, has opposed Biden's clean energy policies and promised to roll them back -- arguing they are a drag on the economy and make the U.S. less competitive and independent.

"The fact is President Biden has done more to address climate change than any president in U.S. history. And there's a lot more to be done," Moffitt said. "Scientists have said that we still can avoid the worst of the worst of the climate crisis. But what we do in these next few years is essential to which path we choose."

Stinnett agreed, telling ABC News that too often Americans have been told to focus on their own individual habits rather than government policy.

"[Politicians say,] 'Hey, don't pay attention to that coal-fired power plant back there. Instead, it's all your fault for having a plastic water bottle in your hand.' And we bought it. We bought it hook, line and sinker," he said. "In truth, it is far more of a political and a systemic problem that needs political and systemic solutions."

In Pittsburgh, Church said that despite the difficulty in getting new, environmentally minded voters to the polls, she thinks the challenge is worth it.

"The science is very clear. So we know what we need to do," she said, "it's just a matter of getting it done."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


State law takes US a step closer to popular vote deciding presidential elections

ABC News

After much public debate, a Maine law has brought the country closer to having the popular vote determine the winner of national presidential elections -- but it's unlikely that will happen before November or even at all.

Earlier this week, Maine Gov. Janet Mills allowed a bill to become law without her signature that would take effect once the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is able to gather pledges for at least 270 electoral votes -- the number of delegate votes needed to elect a president.

The movement has now gathered pledges from 17 states and Washington, D.C. -- accounting for a total of 209 electoral votes.

The movement seeks to change the way a president is chosen, without a constitutional amendment, but experts say it's unclear what happens when enough states have signed on. It's unlikely this would happen before the 2024 election.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact seeks to guarantee that the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia wins the presidency.

When there are enough states pledging their popular votes to meet the 270 Electoral College vote threshold, all the votes in those states will be added up to a national count that determines the winner of the election. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact says that will give each vote equal weight regardless of where a voter lives.

Five of the 46 presidents who came into office lost the popular vote, including Donald Trump most recently in 2016. The compact argues that not every vote is equal under the current system.

"Under the current system, a small number of votes in a small number of states regularly decides the Presidency. All-or-nothing payoffs fuel doubt, controversy over real or imagined irregularities, hair-splitting post-election litigation, and unrest," the compact says on its website.

"In 2020, if 21,461 voters had changed their minds, Joe Biden would have been defeated, despite leading by over 7 million votes nationally.  Each of these 21,461 voters (5,229 in Arizona, 5,890 in Georgia, and 10,342 in Wisconsin) was 329 times more important than the 7 million voters elsewhere," the compact says.

One expert says that everything that has to do with the Electoral College is controversial these days with a partisan divide on the issue. Many Democrats want to get rid of it, while more Republicans support it.

"If you look at all the presidential elections from 1992 through 2020, Republicans have won the presidential popular vote only once -- and that was in 2004 when [George W.] Bush beat John Kerry in the popular vote. In every other election over the last 30 years, Democrats have won the popular vote, but because of the Electoral College, Republicans have gotten the presidency a couple of times despite losing the popular vote," Darrell West, a Douglas Dillon chair in governmental studies at the Brookings Institute, told ABC News in an interview.

"Republicans feel the Electoral College advantages them now and so they don't want to get rid of it," West said.

West said the country currently only has a handful of swing states because of the Electoral College, so candidates spend most of their money on that small number of states.

"If we got rid of the Electoral College, candidates actually would campaign more broadly. They would visit more states because a vote in Illinois is the same as a vote in California," West said.

Could this work?

Experts say the most direct way to change how presidents are elected is to amend the U.S. Constitution, but there doesn't currently seem to be a feasible pathway without a consensus between both parties.

"Ultimately, there probably is going to have to be a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College, but everyone knows that's not possible now for political reasons. It takes a very large majority in Congress as well as in the states to make any change to the Constitution. So what states are trying to figure out is, 'Short of a constitutional amendment, are there ways to improve the Electoral College?'" West said.

But it remains unclear what happens when enough states pledge their delegates.

"There's a lot of deep legal contestation over what happens next. I mean, in my judgment, I think it needs congressional consent," Derek Muller, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School, told ABC News.

"If Congress fails to do that, I'm sure there will be litigation," Muller said.

There are other legal questions, such as whether it would violate equal protections if the U.S. were to have different states with different rules for their elections and questions about whether a state has the authority to do this, Muller said.

"There are lots of open, contested questions ... where I think the national popular vote, if it does hit 270, will immediately face a series of legal challenges," Muller said.

West agreed that the legal situation is unclear.

"It's not obvious what the status would be of these laws. States do have the authority to set election laws. But according to the Constitution, the electors to the Electoral College actually are free to vote the way they want," West said.

"And so states can pass laws, but there haven't been a lot of cases testing these provisions. And so it's not clear how the Supreme Court would rule on this issue," West added.

Muller said if a state sues another state, that case would go directly before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It's really unclear who would bring the challenge or where they would bring it. One of the more interesting wrinkles is that there is the possibility, when you're dealing with a compact, you file directly in the United States Supreme Court so that could be a place where it goes. But again, I think there's a lot of possibilities about the litigation strategy if it does hit 270 [pledges]," Muller said.

Has something like this happened before?

About 100 years ago, before the 17th Amendment was passed -- which allows for the direct election of senators -- states had begun shifting from legislatures choosing members sent by the state to the U.S. Senate to having "preference polls" for the public where they would signal who they wanted to represent the state.

"Some states -- I think Oregon was one of the leaders among some others -- would institute preference polls for the people for their senators. So they would hold an election that wasn't binding, but it would just request, 'Who do you want us to vote for?' And then you got a sentiment from the people and the legislature could or could not follow that," Muller said.

Later, those states -- including Oregon -- began binding themselves to the results of the preference polls, Muller said. He pointed to this as an analogy in which the states were trying to "convert legislative elections into a popular vote, even though there was no formal mechanism to do so."

Eventually, the Constitution was amended to make Senate seats elected by popular vote.

West argues that the direct election of senators did require the constitutional amendment to go into effect.

"And that was 100 years ago, when the political times were less polarized than what we have today," West said.

Some states unsuccessfully tried to implement term limits for members of Congress about 20 or 30 years ago, Muller said. The Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional in 1995.

"So Missouri tried something a little more creative, which was to say, 'OK, we're going to ask all candidates to take a term-limits pledge, and we're gonna print if they violated their pledge, we're gonna put that on the ballot, or if they declined to support the term-limits pledge ... we're gonna print that on the ballot,'" Muller said.

"The goal was to say, 'Well, we're not keeping you off the ballot, we're just telling everyone whether or not you're adhering to term limits,'" Muller said. "And the Supreme Court said, 'Well you can't do that either.'"

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House approves $95 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives on Saturday passed a series of foreign aid bills that include $60.8 billion in aid to Ukraine, $26.38 billion in aid to Israel, $8 billion in aid to the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and a foreign aid bill that includes a TikTok ban provision.

The four bills will now be sent to the Senate as a package. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Saturday that the Senate will take up the bills on Tuesday afternoon.

An amendment to the TikTok ban provision bill also passed 249-267, which requires the Treasury Department to submit a report on Iranian assets and sanction exemptions.

A bill which provides $8 billion in military aid for the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, passed overwhelmingly in the House by a vote of 385-34-1. Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan was the only member who voted present.

The House passed the Ukraine foreign aid bill by a vote of 311-112-1.

The House passed the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act by a vote of 366-58.

Democrats briefly waved Ukrainian flags during the vote, an action that prompted House Speaker Mike Johnson to remind them it was a violation for members to wave flags on the floor.

Earlier, a GOP border security bill failed by a vote of 215-199. It was considered under suspension and did not reach a two-thirds majority. This bill was separate from the four foreign aid bills.

After Democrats helped Speaker Mike Johnson avoid defeat and advance the legislation on Friday, lawmakers considered amendments and held debate on Saturday before voting on final passage.

President Joe Biden thanked House members for passing foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel and said that the package comes at a "critical inflection point" for those nations.

"It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia," Biden said in a statement Saturday.

Biden also pointed to the "desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, Sudan, Haiti" included in the funding. Biden hailed the work of leaders in the House and the bipartisan group of lawmakers who he said "voted to put our national security first," and called on the Senate to get the package to his desk.

"I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs," Biden added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy applauded the passing of the bill with bipartisan support in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

"I am grateful to the United States House of Representatives, both parties, and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track. Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it," Zelenskyy said in a statement.

The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger. We hope that bills will be supported in the Senate and sent to President Biden's desk. Thank you, America!" he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also thanked the House for approving aid.

"The US Congress just overwhelmingly passed a much appreciated aid bill that demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization. Thank you friends, thank you America!" Netanyahu said in a Tweet on X.

Could the Speaker get ousted?

Johnson's push to get the aid across the finish line has angered some of his conference's far-right members, causing a growing threat to his speakership.

A third Republican, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, announced Friday he was joining a looming motion to oust Johnson just after the aid bills advanced.

Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced the motion last month, accusing Johnson of "standing with the Democrats" after he worked across the aisle to avoid a government shutdown.

After Johnson unveiled his plan to forge ahead on foreign aid, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky became the second hard-liner to back Greene's cause. Massie called on Johnson to resign, a suggestion Johnson flatly rejected.

All three lawmakers have expressed frustration on Johnson moving ahead with foreign aid without addressing immigration. Though earlier this year, a bipartisan border deal was produced by a group of senators but was quickly deemed dead on arrival by former President Donald Trump and Johnson.

"Our border cannot be an afterthought," Gosar said in a statement. "We need a Speaker who puts America first rather than bending to the reckless demands of the warmongers, neo-cons and the military industrial complex making billions from a costly and endless war half a world away."

Green did not move to oust the Speaker on Saturday before the House adjourned until April 29, although she claimed her coalition against Johnson is growing.

"I'm actually going to let my colleagues go home and hear from their constituents, because I think people have been too obsessed, with voting for foreign wars and the murder industry, here in America that actually understand how angry Americans are," Greene said Saturday.

Johnson said Friday that the bills are "not the perfect legislation" but are "the best possible product" under the circumstances.

It remains to be seen when, or if, the hard-liners force a vote on the motion to vacate the speaker's chair. If they do, Democrats would potentially need to step in to save Johnson's job.

Several Democrats told ABC News Saturday that they're open to saving Speaker Johnson -- if Greene makes good on her threat to call for a vote to oust him -- if Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries gave them the okay, or at minimum didn't oppose the move.

ABC News White House correspondent MaryAlice Parks asked the administration if President Joe Biden discussed that possibility with Speaker Johnson in their phone call earlier this week.

"We do not get involved when it comes to leadership in, whether it's the Senate or in the House," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded. "We're very mindful. That is something that the members, in this case the members in Congress, have to decide on."

ABC News' Jay O'Brien contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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