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Biden announces pardons for thousands convicted of federal marijuana possession

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday announced he's pardoning all Americans who've been convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law, coming closer to keeping a 2020 campaign promise to try to get the drug decriminalized a little more than a month before the midterm election.

The executive action will benefit 6,500 people with federal convictions from 1992 to 2021 and thousands of others charged under the District of Columbia's criminal code, according to senior administration officials. Elaborating on the number of people affected, officials said "there are no individuals currently in federal prison solely for simple possession of marijuana."

"As I said when I ran for president, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana," Biden tweeted in an unusual video statement. "It's legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And that's before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates."

His action before the consequential midterm elections, in which Democrats are vying to maintain control of the House and Senate, could be viewed as a move to energize voters, particularly younger voters.

When asked about the timing of the executive action, administration officials only said that Biden's been "clear that our marijuana laws are not working."

Biden said Thursday he's urging governors to do the same for individuals with state convictions, which administration officials said account for the vast majority of possession-related convictions.

He's also requesting Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland expeditiously review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Currently, marijuana is classified as a "Schedule 1" drug -- along with LSD, ecstasy and heroin -- under the Controlled Substances Act, which Biden said Thursday "makes no sense."

"Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs," Biden added.

Biden's faced pressure from his own party this year to take more decisive action, as recent elections have shown Americans' views on legalization have changed.

In the 2020 cycle alone, four states approved ballot measures to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis for adult use. An analysis from FiveThirtyEight found a majority of registered voters in all 50 states favor making marijuana legal.

This past summer, a group of lawmakers including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote a letter to Biden, Garland and Becerra urging them to deschedule cannabis and issue pardons to all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.

Biden, while slower to embrace marijuana reform than many of his Democratic colleagues, pledged on the 2020 campaign trail to decriminalize cannabis use and expunge prior convictions.

Senate Democrats this year also finally released their long-awaited marijuana legalization proposal, which would lift the federal prohibition and allow states to determine how they want to regulate marijuana. But the legislation faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 chamber, where 10 Republicans would need to support it, and Senate leadership has yet to announce when the bill will be brought up for a vote.

"Members of Congress have been working on this issue," Biden administration officials said Thursday. "But that effort has stalled and we're almost at the end of the Congress. So the president has been considering his options and he's now taking executive action to address the country's failed approach to marijuana."

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson claimed Biden's move was to score political points.

"The President, in his announced policy on marijuana, has waived the flag of surrender in the fight to save lives from drug abuse and has adopted all the talking points of the drug legalizers," Hutchinson said. "Biden is simply playing election-year politics and sacrificing our national interest to win votes."

Meanwhile, advocacy groups are welcoming the announcement.

"We commend this important and necessary step to begin the process of repairing the harms of prohibition and look forward to working with Congress and the administration to develop policies that would ultimately solve the underlying problems in our outdated cannabis policies," Aaron Smith, Co-founder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association said in a statement.

The Drug Policy Alliance said it was "thrilled" by Biden's decision, which they called "incredibly long overdue."

- ABC News' Darren Reynolds and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Mark Kelly and Blake Masters set to debate in Arizona: When to watch, what to expect

Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(PHOENIX) -- Kicking off a season of senatorial debates in key battleground states, Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and his Republican challenger Blake Masters will face off Thursday in Phoenix for their only debate -- one week before early ballots go out in the state. Libertarian candidate Marc Victor will also participate.

The one-hour debate, hosted by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, will air live on Arizona PBS at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. local time.

Gina Roberts, the voter education director at the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, the leading debate organizer for the last 20 years in Arizona, told ABC News that her team has been working on the midterm debates for more than year, "So it takes a lot to bring this to life, to bring this to voters -- it's quite a bit in terms of production."

Her group outsources debate questions from Arizona voters, which they then share with the debate moderators, Ted Simons of Arizona PBS and an alternating reporter from the Arizona Republic, who go over the voter-submitted questions together and come up with the discussion topics.

"Bringing these debates to voters from a nonpartisan entity that only has the goal to educate, not influence, is a really great resource for voters," Roberts added, "Because it gets all the candidates together on the same stage where Arizonans can hear directly from them on the issues that matter most."

Masters, a 36-year-old venture capitalist from Tucson in his first run for public office, has gone after the junior senator on southern border security and high inflation, while Kelly is expected to raise Democrats' concerns that Masters would support a federal abortion ban and spread baseless doubts about American elections since he has alleged, without evidence, that the 2020 presidential race was corrupt.

With former President Donald Trump's endorsement, Masters beat out five other Republican candidates in the August primary, but after swinging far-right to stand out in the bunch, he's faced criticism for an apparent post-primary pivot to being the "commonsense" candidate.

His campaign website was scrubbed in August to soften his views on abortion and the 2020 election and removed language about how Democrats "want to import a new electorate," which appeared to echo the right-wing "replacement theory" that white people are being strategically diminished. (Masters has denied any pivot in his message and likened the website scrub to a run-of-the-mill update.)

Kelly, a former astronaut and Navy combat pilot who often flies himself in a two-seater plane to events across the state, is running on bipartisan wins in the Senate, such as a bipartisan infrastructure package, the CHIPS and Science Act investing in domestic manufacturing and measures in the Inflation Reduction Act to fund drought and Colorado River relief measures and lower prescription drug costs for Arizona's seniors.

While Kelly won his 2020 race by earning more votes in the battleground than now-President Joe Biden, it's unclear if Arizona will maintain its purple hue given that southern border encounters are at an all-time high and inflation is the steepest in the country in the Phoenix-metro area, home to most of the state's voters.

Abortion access has also taken on new significance in the swing state after a judge lifted an injunction on a territorial-era, near-total ban on the procedure, with prison time for doctors, which the Republican attorney general revived in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Kelly has said he supports codifying the right to an abortion with "some limits" late in pregnancy, while Masters supports the procedure only to save a mother's life. Masters told ABC News last month that he would support Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposal for a federal ban on most abortions after 15 weeks but also said a federal "personhood law" banning all third-trimester abortions could garner more support.

On the campaign trail, Masters has tried to keep the conversation on Democrats' spending in Washington and on Kelly voting with Biden 94% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, with Masters contrasting that record with Arizona's other Democratic senator, Kyrsten Sinema.

Still, Kelly has consistently polled ahead of Masters since the summer, according to FiveThirtyEight.

The Arizona Senate race has already surpassed $120 million in funding and is expected to reach more than $240 million, according to AdImpact, as the midterm elections are poised to be the second most expensive cycle in history after the 2020 election.

Two years ago, Kelly flipped his Senate seat for Democrats in a special election triggered by the death of the late Sen. John McCain. Kelly defeated Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, by more than 78,000 votes to serve out the remainder of McCain's term through January 2023.

Kelly became a strong advocate for gun restrictions in the aftermath of a failed assassination attempt on his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, and he won his last election by pitching himself as an independent-minded candidate who would work across the aisle -- a strategy he's deployed in 2022 as well.

Masters, betting that Arizona is still a red state, joined former President Trump for a rally in Prescott in July after gaining his endorsement and will do so again on Sunday in Mesa.

Thursday marks Kelly's second debate but his first as a senator. While Masters participated in a GOP primary forum in June, Thursday is his first senatorial debate as a nominee.

"Senator Kelly looks forward to the upcoming debate where Arizonans will have a chance to see the stark choice in front of them this November," Kelly's campaign spokesperson Sarah Guggenheimer told ABC News. "While Masters will have to answer for his dangerous support of a national abortion ban and privatizing Social Security, Senator Kelly will speak directly to Arizonans about his work with Republicans and Democrats to lower costs, create jobs, and get our economy back on track."

Masters' campaign declined to comment to ABC News for this story.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden to impose 'costs' on Iranian officials for crackdown on protests

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- While Iran's brutal attempts to put down nationwide protests -- sparked by the death of a young woman in the custody of its so-called morality police -- have done little to stop domestic dissent, the crackdown has dire implications for the regime on the international stage, cementing Iran's pariah status.

Following Iranian security forces siege of an elite university in Tehran where students were demonstrating, President Joe Biden this week promised his administration would soon impose "further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protestors." Administration sources say those additional penalties could come as soon as Thursday and are expected to include sanctions targeting human rights violators in the country.

Meanwhile, the top levels of leadership within Iran have sought to blame outside influences for fueling the nearly three straight weeks of unrest. In his first public response to what he characterized as "riots," Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, baselessly claimed the protests had been orchestrated by the U.S. and Israel.

Will Iran's attempts to blame the West work?

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Khamenei's attempt to point the finger at the West was "reliance on a decades-old authoritarian playbook," predicting it would have little impact in the current political climate.

"There's no doubt that Iranians don't buy Khamenei's attempts to deflect. That's why they remain on the streets. Iranians understand who is responsible for their current predicament," Taleblu said.

"I think the youth who are continuing to come to the streets and have organized protests at their schools and universities know better about who is posing a challenge to their lives," said Gissou Nia, director of the Strategic Litigation Project at the Atlantic Council and board chair of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. "In previous protests, we saw slogans to the effect of 'our enemy is not America, our enemy is right here.'"

Iranian powers have also attempted to scapegoat entities closer to home. In recent days, the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has repeatedly struck at Kurdish groups across its border in Iraq, accusing them of inflaming protests.

Taleblu called the missile barrage "an attempt to feign strength abroad when weakness has been showcased at home," and warned similar -- and likely, more severe -- attacks will follow if the regime doesn't face broad consequences.

"The greater Iran's missile capabilities and the greater Iran's confidence in a survivable or non-response, the lower the threshold for the use of force of these dangerous weapons. As Iran's ballistic missile capabilities increase, so will such types of operations," he said.

Talks on nuclear deal continue

Despite longstanding U.S. disdain for Iran's IRGC, its ballistics program, and its human rights abuses, the Biden administration has been engaged in a winding and indirect negotiation process with Tehran aimed at finding one area of common ground -- a deal to limit its nuclear program.

Though talks have all but collapsed, U.S. officials initially expressed some hope that the unrest might encourage Iran to renew an Obama-era pact known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to secure the sanctions relief that would come with it. But both Behnam and Nia argue that Iran's crackdown should only darken the already grim outlook on returning to an agreement.

"I think it would be a very wrong moment for the international community to somehow shore up the Islamic Republic [of Iran] in this moment, when the people of Iran are clearly saying they don't want this government, or that they want substantial change," said Nia.

Taleblu argues that the Biden administration should shut down negotiations altogether.

"Tehran continues to have Washington right where it wants it on the JCPOA: constantly seeking a deal," he said. "As long as Biden keeps the door open for the JCPOA, he will be unable to fully stand with the Iranian people."

This week, Iran made a separate, surprising move that the regime argues should lead to a windfall: allowing Baquer Namazi, an 85-year-old Iranian American held captive in Iran since 2016 on dubious charges, to leave the country for urgent medical treatment and granting a temporary prison furlough to his son, Siamak Namazi -- another American citizen considered to be wrongfully detained.

Tehran claimed the developments should prompt Washington to unfreeze $7 billion in Iranian assets being held in South Korea due to U.S. sanctions.

Although the elder Namazi left Iran on Wednesday, the U.S. is still working permanently to secure the freedom of the younger, as well as a number of other American citizens detained in Iran.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied agreeing to allow any funds to be transferred back to Iran. Taleblu warns reversing course would be detrimental for both Americans and Iranians.

"If Washington intends to pay ransom for hostages with frozen funds, two things will be guaranteed: the apparatus of repression currently on display in Iran will receive a boon, and second, Iran will continue to take hostages," he said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

DACA protections remain in place for now, but appeals court orders more review and says it's illegal

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(WASHINGTON) -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program -- which shields hundreds of thousands of young adult migrants from deportation and permits them to work in the U.S. -- is unlawful.

But the appellate panel allowed DACA's protections to remain in place, at least temporarily, while a lower court conducts further review in light of the Biden administration's recent efforts to codify the policy into administrative law.

Under the current set of decisions, and with the case now sent back to the district court, DACA can accept no new applications but recipients will be allowed to renew their applications.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit agreed with a U.S. district court judge that DACA was illegal but did not move to immediately revoke the program, which has been the subject of near-constant legal battles and political lobbying since the Obama-era Department of Homeland Security outlined it via memo in 2012.

The appellate judges -- one appointed under President George W. Bush and two appointed by President Donald Trump -- wrote in their ruling that since the federal government has issued a final rule on DACA after public comment, as required under administrative law, the district court which first sought to strike it down should reassess that view.

"A district court is in the best position to review the administrative record in the rulemaking proceeding," the judges wrote.

Nonetheless, they also wrote, "The legal questions that DACA presents are serious, both to the parties and to the public. In our view, the defendants have not shown that there is a likelihood that they will succeed on the merits."

DACA enrolls some 600,000 people, commonly referred to as "Dreamers," who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children.

The largely technical appellate ruling on Wednesday continues the limbo in which DACA has been hanging since U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled it illegal last year, leading to the current appeal by the federal government, the state of New Jersey and others.

“The good news is that those currently with DACA will continue to live and work under the protections of the program. The bad news is that DACA is hanging by a thread," Sergio Gonzales, the executive director of advocacy group the Immigration Hub, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nine largely Republican-led states had challenged the program, arguing its protections for migrants who entered the country illegally created an untenable drain on state resources and that the president had acted beyond his authority in issuing such a sweeping program without lawmakers' approval.

Judge Hanen, in an earlier ruling in the legal battle over the migrant protections, wrote that "if the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so."

Last year, Hanen sided with the nine states arguing that DACA was a burden, agreeing with "the hardship that the continued operation of DACA has inflicted on them."

"The court clearly saw that this program is against the law through and through," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement after Hanen's 2021 ruling. "This lawsuit was about the rule of law – not the reasoning behind any immigration policy. The district court recognized that only Congress has the authority to write immigration laws, and the president is not free to disregard those duly-enacted laws as he sees fit."

Then, in August, the DHS issued a final rule to take effect on Oct. 31 that would largely preserve the eligibility criteria outlined in a 2012 memo by then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, including the requirement that DACA applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and must have continuously resided in the country for at least five years before June 15, 2012.

The final rule was issued after being subject to public comment in a bid to absorb DACA under administrative law rather than through presidential discretion -- which is at the heart of the current legal dispute.

It was not immediately clear how quickly Hanen would revisit the program in light of the appellate ruling.

"I am deeply disappointed by today’s DACA ruling and the ongoing uncertainty it creates for families and communities across the country," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "We are currently reviewing the court’s decision and will work with the Department of Justice on an appropriate legal response."

With DACA's history of legal scrutiny -- the Supreme Court once deadlocked over it and, in another ruling that was 5-4, blocked Trump from ending it -- experts and advocates alike say the only way to protect its beneficiaries is through congressional action.

President Joe Biden has called on Republicans to support a pathway to citizenship for the enrollees -- a politically fraught process that has divided the GOP and repeatedly failed, over the years, to result in federal legislation.

DACA's supporters echoed the need for a new law again on Wednesday.

"No one should be fooled by today's ruling – while we do not know the exact timing of further court action, we do know that the chances of DACA surviving for much longer are significantly worse than they were just a few hours ago. The urgency for Congress to act now, in 2022, is higher than it has ever been," said Todd Schulte, the president of progressive group

He estimated that if the program were to end completely, around 5,000 recipients would fall out of status each week and lose their ability to work.

DACA recipients must renew their application for the program every two years. With the program in jeopardy, current recipients don't know how long they can count on being protected -- essentially through deprioritization -- from deportation.

Elizabeth Rodrigues, 30, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 1-and-a-half years old. She previously told ABC News that the perpetual uncertainty of her immigration status made it difficult to plan for her future.

She said that, having grown up in the U.S., she considered herself a citizen in every way except the only one that might -- ultimately -- matter.

“I can't plan to get married, to have kids because I don't know where I'm going to be when my DACA card expires,” she said. “So that's the importance of having some sort of legal change ... The only thing that I'm missing is that one piece of paper.”

Flavia Negrete was recently accepted into the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for computational biology and previously told ABC News she was determined to pursue her academic and career goals despite the legislative gridlock that she said was preventing DACA recipients like her from having stability in their lives.

"I refuse to let their mayhem in politics tell me that I can't pursue something I'm very passionate about," she said. "Hopefully, you know, whatever comes I will face it head on, as we always have in this community."

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Republicans say they're 'full speed ahead' on Herschel Walker after he denies abortion claim

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(WASHINGTON) -- Leading Republicans this week either voiced support or stayed silent on Herschel Walker after the Georgia GOP Senate hopeful denied an ex-girlfriend's claim that he paid for her to have an abortion in 2009.

Walker, who has campaigned as an anti-abortion candidate, dismissed the ex-girlfriend's allegation, which was reported by The Daily Beast on Monday.

"It's a lie," Walker said on Fox News.

Republicans like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and former President Donald Trump backed Walker after his response to the story.

"Herschel has properly denied the charges against him, and I have no doubt he is correct," Trump, who endorsed Walker earlier in this campaign, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Daily Beast reported that the unidentified woman provided them with documentation to support her account of Walker's involvement in her abortion: a receipt from an abortion clinic, a bank deposit receipt with an image of a $700 check that she said was signed by Walker sent within a week of the abortion and also a "get well" card that she said was signed by Walker.

But Trump and some of these other Republicans argued that The Daily Beast's reporting was the latest example of what they called a larger dynamic: The news media amplifying personal allegations against Republicans or Republican-aligned figures in a bid to aid Democrats.

The GOP politicians backing Walker did not respond to the specific details of the ex-girlfriend's account, such as what she said was documentation.

Walker, when pressed on Fox News on Monday, side-stepped a question about the check the woman said he sent her: "I send money to a lot of people."

ABC News has not independently confirmed The Daily Beast report.

"Herschel Walker is being slandered and maligned by the Fake News Media and obviously, the Democrats," Trump said in his statement.

Rick Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRCC) said in a statement on Tuesday that Democrats will "lie, cheat, and smear" because Walker is "winning" against Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

"Herschel has denied these allegations and the NRSC and Republicans stand with him, and Georgians will stand with him too," Scott said.

The NRCC is a top donor to Walker's campaign. Another of his biggest financial boostesr, the Senate Leadership Fund, said it wasn't changing its support.

"We are full speed ahead in Georgia," Steven Law, the group's president said, in a statement.

The super PAC is aligned with GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell -- though McConnell, who has backed Walker throughout his campaign, has not publicly commented on The Daily Beast story.

McDaniels, the RNC chair, also said that the party would continue to "invest" in Walker.

"Georgia could decide the Senate majority, so desperate Democrats and liberal media have turned to anonymous sources and character assassination. This is an attempt to distract from Warnock's record of failure," McDaniels said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sen. Graham, like Trump, contended that coverage of the abortion allegation and Walker's denial were part of a pattern of news outlets picking up anonymous claims without doing due diligence.

"This is the way the media world works today for conservative Republicans," Graham wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.

One conservative not supporting Walker was his son Christian Walker, a social media personality who publicly denounced him in a series of social media posts this week: "You've lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples [sic] lives," Christian Walker wrote in one tweet.

Ralph Reed, a Walker backer and the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told The New York Times that, in his view, "100%" of evangelical Christians support Walker, too.

One local religious figure agreed. Walker held a fundraiser lunch with supporters on Wednesday. There, Bishop Dr. James Mason, who grew up with Walker in Wrightsville, Georgia, told ABC News that he didn't believe the report.

"They'll probably be more allegations ... All things are possible," Mason said. "But until it's proven, which you can't prove a lie. You can only lie to cover up a lie."

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Abrams won't 'question the outcome' of Kemp rematch but does 'question' Ga. voting rules

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(ATLANTA) -- Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams said she has continuing doubts about voting equity in her upcoming rematch with incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, telling ABC News in a new interview that she would "not question the outcome of the election" but would continue to "question the process."

Abrams, a former state lawmaker-turned-prominent voting rights advocate, repeatedly attacked Kemp in 2018 given that he was her rival and the sitting secretary of state who was overseeing their race. Abrams also challenged what she said were Georgia's excessively strict regulations around voter registration and more, calling them tantamount to suppression. Kemp said he wanted to ensure election integrity.

Abrams waited more than a week to acknowledge Kemp's victory after the 2018 election. Pressed twice by ABC News congressional correspondent Rachel Scott in an interview on Sunday about whether she would concede the 2022 gubernatorial election if she lost, Abrams repeatedly drew a distinction between conceding the outcome -- which she said she would do -- and criticizing the process, including regulations restricting voter access to polling places and absentee voting.

"I have always acknowledged the outcome of elections," she said in a clip from the interview, set to air Oct. 9 on Hulu's "Power Trip." "What is deeply concerning to me is the conflation of access to the right to vote and the outcome of elections."

"Voter access is not the same as election outcomes," Abrams continued, "and when those become conflated and we buy into the conflation, when we buy into the false equivalency, we erode access to democracy."

Conservatives have tried to draw comparisons between Abrams' handling of the 2018 race and former President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, who won the popular vote by a margin of more than 7 million. (Abrams lost to Kemp in 2018 by some 54,000 votes.)

When Abrams finally acknowledged on Nov. 16, 2018, that Kemp had won, she pointedly stated that it was "not a concession speech." But as she later stressed, she doesn't deny Kemp's victory -- unlike Trump.

She echoed that position to ABC News.

"What I said in that speech is that I would not concede [to] a system that would not permit voters to be heard," she said. "I will always acknowledge the victor, but I will never say that there is a system in place that denies access that should be validated."

She added, "For those who do not appreciate nuance, my response is always going to be: Yes, I will acknowledge the victor. I did so in '18. I will do so in 2022. But in 2022, I intend to be the victor myself."

On Friday, shortly before her interview with ABC News, a federal judge knocked down a lawsuit challenging Georgia's election practices, ruling in favor of the state. Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Abrams, filed the suit shortly after the 2018 election and as part of the suit called for an overhaul of Georgia's voting system.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, an Obama-era appointee, wrote in his order that "although Georgia's election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the [Voting Rights Act of 1965]."

Kemp and other Republicans seized on the ruling and accused Abrams of using her group's challenge to advance her own political interests -- a claim Abrams dismissed to ABC News.

"This was not a lawsuit about my election," she said. "This is a lawsuit about voting issues that were exposed by my election but were endemic to the state of Georgia."

If elected governor, Abrams said she would continue to fight to expand voting access and propose changes to the state's voting laws.

Hulu's "Power Trip," with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, releases new episodes on Sundays.

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Biden meets with DeSantis in Florida as he surveys Hurricane Ian damage

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared side-by-side in hard-hit Fort Myers on Wednesday as the president surveyed damage from Hurricane Ian.

The two leaders, often political opponents, have momentarily put politics aside to respond to the historic storm, which is shaping up to be one of Florida's deadliest and costliest in decades. Making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Ian leveled the coast, knocking out power to millions. At least 100 people died.

DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis, greeted Biden and first lady Jill Biden upon their arrival at Fisherman's Wharf for an operational briefing. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and other local officials were also at the site.

"Mr. President, welcome to Florida," DeSantis said, making remarks first. "We appreciate working together across various levels of government."

Biden spoke with local residents affected by the storm, offering handshakes and hugs as he toured damage at the marina's. The area was filled with debris, fallen trees, downed electric lines and boats and yachts tossed into piles.

Earlier in the day, the Bidens took an aerial tour to get a wider look at the storm's devastation before meeting with the governor.

"I'm sure it's much worse from the ground," Biden said. "But you can see a whole hell of a lot of damage from the air."

Biden touted his administration's response so far and emphasized the federal government's ongoing commitment to the people of Florida as they recover and rebuild, which he said will take years.

"We're not leaving till this gets done. I promise you that," Biden said.

Ahead of the visit, the White House said Biden would announce he is doubling the length of time the federal government will cover all the costs associated with search and rescue, debris removal, sheltering and other emergency measures from 30 days to 60 days.

Desantis had requested the aid extension last week. In response to the announcement, he told reporters, "It's important, but we may need more."

Biden said 4,000 federal personnel are on the ground in Florida and the Southeast. Search and rescue teams have knocked on over 70,000 doors, he said, with 3,800 people. He also discussed more ways the federal government can help with other actions FEMA, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Wednesday's visit was the first face-to-face meeting between Biden and DeSantis since the governor ordered migrants flown from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, which the White House this week continued to slam as a "political stunt."

Biden and DeSantis have put politics aside to respond to Hurricane Ian, as they spoke several times before and after the storm hit as Biden issued emergency declarations.

"I want to thank President Biden and Jill Biden as well as Administrator Deanne Criswell for coming down here looking at a really really significant damage here in Lee County and there's other places where you have really significant damage as well outside of this general area," DeSantis said Wednesday."We were very fortunate to have good coordination with the White House and with FEMA from the very beginning of this."

The Florida trip came just days after Biden traveled to Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona last month.

The Category 1 storm hit the island on Sept. 18, knocking out power for most of the U.S. territory's residents and killing at least 13 people. As of Biden's visit, more than two weeks after the storm, more than 100,000 people were still without power.

During his visit to Port of Ponce, on the south side of Puerto Rico, Biden announced more than $60 million in federal funding to help the island better prepare for extreme weather events in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.

"Puerto Rico is a strong place, and Puerto Ricans are strong people," Biden said as he spoke at the Port of Ponce. "But even so, you have had to bear so much and more than need be, and you haven't gotten the help in a timely way."

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Federal judge orders Texas attorney general to testify in abortion lawsuit

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(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge has ordered Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to testify as part of a class action lawsuit brought by nonprofit abortion funds.

Abortion funds are asking the court for an injunction that would prohibit defendants from punishing organizations that facilitate abortion care outside Texas, according to court documents.

The funds are suing Paxton, several district attorneys and county attorneys in their official capacities.

The lawsuit alleges that statements made by Paxton violate the abortion funds' First Amendment right to speak about and fund abortion care. The funds also allege their ability to facilitate out-of-state abortions, which are protected by the right to interstate travel, will be restricted, according to court filings.

Plaintiffs are Fund Texas Choice, The North Texas Equal Access Fund, The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, Frontera Fund, The Afiya Center, West Fund, Jane's Due Process, Clinic Access Support Network and Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, an abortion provider.

Nearly all abortions have ceased in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, ending federal protections for abortion rights. Abortions in Texas are prohibited in nearly all circumstances, with exceptions such as when the mother's life or health is in danger.

A so-called trigger law banning abortions at all stages of pregnancy went into effect on Aug. 25, criminalizing providing abortion care and making it a first-degree felony if the abortion is complete or a second-degree felony if the fetus survives.

Abortion providers can also incur penalties of no less than $100,000 and may lose their professional license for performing the procedure.

The lawsuit filed in August is asking the court for assurance that abortion funds will not be criminally or civilly penalized for helping Texan women receive abortion care in other states.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman issued the order on Tuesday requiring Paxton to testify after plaintiffs asked the judge to reconsider his previous decision to quash a subpoena for his testimony.

Paxton had asked the court to quash the subpoena on the grounds that as a high-ranking government official, he could not be compelled to testify in a hearing and that the plaintiffs had raised the prospect of his testimony at the last moment.

In his ruling, Pitman pushed back against this argument, saying that "exceptional circumstances exist, and Paxton should testify."

"Paxton also possesses unique, first-hand knowledge of the issues at hand and about how he will enforce the Trigger Ban. Courts have repeatedly found that even the highest-ranking officials should testify when they have personal knowledge of relevant facts," Pitman wrote.

Later adding, "In this case, Paxton has inserted himself into this dispute by repeatedly tweeting and giving interviews about the Trigger Ban. Having added his voice many times—not just in a press release or official statement but in intentional ways designed to reach Texans from within his role as Attorney General—Paxton alone is capable of explaining his thoughts and statements."

Parties have until Oct. 11 to agree whether Paxton's testimony will be a deposition or evidentiary hearing.

Last month, Paxton reportedly fled his home in a truck driven by his wife in order to avoid being served a subpoena to testify in the lawsuit. Paxton said his decision was based on safety concerns.

Lawyers for Paxton did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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White House 'disappointed' with OPEC+ decision to cut oil production, will release more from US reserves

Rudy Sulgan/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Wednesday expressed disappointment following the announcement from OPEC+ that it would cut two million barrels per day from its production quotas beginning in November.

The decision by the OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, is likely a response to oil prices dropping amid less demand stemming from a global economic slowdown. Oil prices currently hover around approximately $80 per barrel, down from the $100-plus cost it hit during late spring and early summer.

Reducing supply will likely boost the cost of oil, which could raise the price Americans pay at the gas pump around the November midterm election -- and it comes just a few months after Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia in July to lobby Middle Eastern allies to increase production.

"The president is disappointed by the shortsighted decision by OPEC+ to cut production quotas while the global economy is dealing with the continued negative impact of Putin's invasion of Ukraine," the White House said in a statement from national security adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese.

The White House also said President Biden has directed the Department of Energy to release another 10 million oil barrels from the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve next month, signaling the administration's effort to keep gas prices low with a month until the crucial midterms. The release was previously planned, according to an Energy Department press release.

Biden offered little response when asked about the OPEC+ alliance's decision as he left the White House to head to Florida Wednesday morning.

"I need to see what the detail is," Biden said in response to a reporter's shouted question about the decision. "I am concerned, it is unnecessary."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the administration would continue to ensure energy prices are "kept low" in light of the OPEC+ announcement. The national average cost of a gallon of gas is currently $3.83, up about 62 cents from last year, according to AAA.

After the president struggled to rein in record-high gas prices that peaked at over $5 per gallon this summer, he and his administration have touted falling prices repeatedly over the past few weeks.

"And thanks to this president's efforts, we -- and his historic actions that he has taken, energy prices have declined sharply from their highs and American consumers are paying far less at the pump than they were several months ago," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

"And again, it's because of the historic steps that this president has taken," she added. Jean-Pierre did not directly comment on the OPEC+ alliance's expected move from the podium.

But the White House's move to take credit for relief at the pump is much different from the administration's messaging earlier in the year. The largely unsuccessful White House effort to counter damaging daily headlines about skyrocketing prices at the pump saw it blame Russia's invasion of Ukraine for high energy issues before floating federal action that never happened.

And in July -- when gas prices eased some over their June high -- Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he held a controversial meeting with met with Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salam. The Middle Eastern nation accounts for roughly 17% of the world's petroleum reserves, according to OPEC+.

"We had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies to support global economic growth," Biden said during his visit to Saudi. "I'm doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen," he added.

"The Saudis share that urgency, and based on our discussions today, I expect we will see further steps in the coming weeks," Biden said.

Some saw the move as desperate, while others criticized Biden for his infamous fist-bump with a man accused of human rights abuses, including the 2018 death of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.

Wednesday's announcement from OPEC+ comes about a month after the alliance a 100,000 barrel per-day reduction to take effect in October. A similar cut in oil production also took effect in September.

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Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene in seized documents case

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump, in a limited request, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt part of an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and restore a special master's access to classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago while the Justice Department review continues.

"The Eleventh Circuit lacked jurisdiction to review, much less stay, an interlocutory order of the District Court providing for the Special Master to review materials seized from President Trump’s home, including approximately 103 documents the Government contends bear classification markings. This application seeks to vacate only that portion of the Eleventh Circuit’s Stay Order limiting the scope of the Special Master’s review of the documents bearing classification markings," Trump's lawyers write.

The application was made to Justice Clarence Thomas, circuit justice for the 11th Circuit. He could rule on his own, or refer the matter to the full court. The Justice Department was given a deadline of Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. to respond to Trump's emergency application.

On Sept. 21, a panel of judges on the appeals court granted a request from the Justice Department to stay portions of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that had effectively paused the government's investigation into Trump's potential mishandling of classified records after leaving office.

The three-judge panel, comprised of two Trump appointees and a Barack Obama appointee, ruled unanimously that the Justice Department was no longer enjoined from investigating the documents with classification markings that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago and no longer had to submit those materials to special master Ray Dearie for his independent review.

"The unprecedented circumstances presented by this case -- an investigation of the Forty-Fifth President of the United States by the administration of his political rival and successor -- compelled the District Court to acknowledge the significant need for enhanced vigilance and to order the appointment of a Special Master to ensure fairness, transparency, and maintenance of the public trust," Trump's lawyers write in their filing.

"That appointment order is simply not appealable on an interlocutory basis and was never before the Eleventh Circuit. Nonetheless, the Eleventh Circuit granted a stay of the Special Master Order, effectively compromising the integrity of the well-established policy against piecemeal appellate review and ignoring the District Court’s broad discretion without justification," they continue.

"This unwarranted stay should be vacated as it impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the Special Master. Moreover, any limit on the comprehensive and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid of a President’s home erodes public confidence in our system of justice," they say.

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Biden highlights Republican-led abortion restrictions in 100 days since Roe was overturned

Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

(WASHINGTON) -- A new Biden administration report on abortion access in the U.S. describes how widely the procedure has been curtailed in the roughly 100 days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, according to a memo obtained by ABC News.

The report, compiled by Jen Klein, the head of the administration's interagency task force on abortion access, was one focus of a Tuesday meeting that President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Cabinet members convened to discuss the state of abortion care.

The report recapped efforts by Republicans to limit abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe in June, a ruling that allowed states to regulate or ban the procedure as they saw fit.

At least 15 states have since ceased nearly all abortion services. As a result, the report said, close to 30 million women of reproductive age now live in states with bans.

Biden warned of similar efforts in Washington.

"Congressional Republicans are doubling down on the extreme position with the proposal for a national ban," Biden said.

Tuesday's meeting came as the White House works to drum up support for Democratic midterms candidates in the political fight to preserve or expand access to abortion and to call attention to the ways Republicans have banned or chipped away at the procedure, which polling repeatedly shows is unpopular with voters.

But the task force gathering also served as a reminder of what the Biden administration has yet to do -- or says it cannot do -- on abortion access, which has fueled criticism from advocates and some others in his party.

The new White House report describes a bill to codify Roe into federal law as the only way to protect women's access, but the memo acknowledges this unlikely reality, given Democrats' current narrow majority in the Senate.

"Republican elected officials at the state and national level have taken extreme steps to block women's access to health care," Klein writes in her report for the president and vice president, noting Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposal to ban most abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

"The result is that in 100 days, millions of women cannot access critical health care and doctors and nurses are facing criminal penalties for providing health care," Klein wrote.

Graham has contrasted his call for a ban with "radical" Democrats and said his "legislation is a responsible alternative as we provide exceptions for cases of rape, incest and life and physical health of the mother."

Biden called Graham's bill a threat to "every women, in every state and every county."

"Even if you live in a state where extremist Republican officials aren't running the show, your right to choose will still be at risk, because the Republicans in Congress want to pass a law to take away the right to choose for every woman in every state and every county," he said.

He called on Americans to elect more Democrats in November so that Congress could codify Roe vs. Wade into law, something he acknowledged they were "a few votes short on."

"The only way it's going to happen is if the American people make it happen," Biden said.

But particularly after a lag in reaction time after the high court's initial ruling came down, many advocates have continued to voice frustration that Biden hasn't done more, they say, to work to protect abortion rights.

At the last task force meeting, for example, the president signed an executive order that the administration said would help low-income women pay for abortion services.

As a result of the order, the administration said, Medicaid would cover abortion-related costs for women who have traveled from states where abortion is banned to states where it is not.

But the implementation has been slow and details on next steps have been sparse. It's unclear if states will enroll in the program, or how many women it will aid in getting abortion care.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump adviser Steve Bannon's trial won't take place until November 2023

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon will stand trial in November 2023, a judge in New York said Tuesday.

Bannon is charged with defrauding donors to the "We Build the Wall" campaign, which was an independent effort intended to raise money for former President Donald Trump's signature policy project.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office said Bannon promised 100% of money raised would go toward building a wall along the U.S. southern border. However, he allegedly concealed his role in diverting some of the $15 million in donations toward the campaign's chief executive, who had pledged to take no salary.

Bannon has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy and scheming to defraud investors.

Prosecutors said during a brief hearing Tuesday they had turned over four terabytes of evidence to Bannon's defense attorney.

"There's a great deal of it -- hundreds of thousands of pages," defense attorney David Schoen said. "Discovery is very detailed -- bank records, witness interviews."

Schoen, who also represented Trump during his second impeachment, asked for 10 months to file motions, a request Judge Juan Merchan said was "not in the realm of reality."

Instead, the judge gave the defense until Feb. 6 to file motions. Prosecutors have until June 6 to reply before the judge's rulings in September.

A few protesters greeted Bannon as he entered and left court. He made no statements.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Arizona Democrats hope to flip the governor's mansion, but Katie Hobbs has some worried

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(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Democrats headed into the 2022 midterm races with a head full of steam, hoping to cement the state's newfound battleground status after a string of recent successes.

Mark Kelly's win in a special Senate election and Joe Biden's presidential victory in the state in 2020, after Kyrsten Sinema clinched her own seat in 2018 had, together, elevated the prospect that 2022 would be the year the party flipped the governor's mansion, too.

Instead, the FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state, statistically deadlocked with former broadcast journalist Kari Lake, her Republican rival.

"I think there's a legitimate concern about it. There's a lot of money being poured into this race, the dynamics between the candidates are shaky and there's some weaknesses there. But I still have hope that we can pull it off at the end," said state Sen. Martin Quezada, a Democrat who is running for state treasurer.

The Grand Canyon State was until recently a Republican redoubt, and Democratic voter registration trails that of Republicans and unaffiliated voters, making a slog out of the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

But Democrats had been optimistic about Hobbs' statewide experience and what they saw as vulnerabilities for Lake in the general campaign given her alliance with Donald Trump and hardline policies, including on election denialism and restricting abortions. (Lake, who also campaigns on immigration, the economy and fighting progressives, has sometimes wielded a sledgehammer at events -- claiming it's for suspect electronic voting machines.)

"We have to take the governorship. Otherwise, we will be a fascist state," argued Pima County Democratic Party Chairwoman Bonnie Heidler. "What's disconcerting is how close it is."

Fueling the race's competitiveness, strategists said, is the tight nature of Arizona politics: Democrats' recent successes shouldn't hide the purple state's historically red hue.

Beyond that, some Democrats are wringing their hands over Hobbs' candidacy and the way that they say she comes across on the stump -- worries that Hobbs and others in the party forcefully reject.

Hobbs is a scarcer presence on the campaign trail

Hobbs seized the spotlight in 2020 with her vociferous defense of Arizona's voting system against a barrage of baseless fraud accusations led by Trump and other Republicans. While that heightened profile helped her sail through the Democratic primary, some operatives question her presence on the trail compared with Lake.

Women candidates often face a harsher -- even sexist -- spotlight on so-called personality concerns during campaigns, these strategists concede, though Hobbs has had a lighter in-person schedule than both Lake and other Democrats on the ballot: She has opted to hold smaller gatherings and fewer press availabilities than Lake, who organizes large rallies and engages, albeit combatively, with the press.

"There's a lack of charisma," contended one Arizona Democratic strategist who was granted anonymity to frankly discuss the race. "And I think it's a challenge on their end because they're not confident when they go out so, their response to that is to try and do as little publicly as possible and try to sail to the finish line. And the ramifications of that are not everybody seeing you be visible."

Hobbs' refusal to debate Lake serves as a microcosm of that dynamic.

Hobbs and Lake were negotiating the terms of a possible face-off before Hobbs walked away earlier this month, warning that engaging with Lake would devolve into spectacle.  

"Missing that was an error. I think a lot of the reasoning around that was 'oh, well, she's just gonna say crazy stuff anyway, let's not give her the platform,'" the strategist said. "But what happened with that was … voters missed out on seeing them next to each other, they missed out on seeing Hobbs be the adult in the room and Kari be bombastic."

Some Republicans agree.

"If Kari Lake wants to rant and rave for an hour on stage, then voters would see that and then make their own decisions," Barrett Marson, a GOP strategist in Arizona who isn't working with Lake, told ABC News.

He added: "She's gonna be able to use this unfettered access to voters to soften her image and not ever face a tough point from Katie Hobbs."

Democrats have also warned against underestimating Lake's ability to connect with the public given her decades as a TV anchor beaming into voters' living rooms and her ease in front of the cameras.

Contrasting with her opponent, Hobbs' platform focuses on the economy (via a child tax credit and other measures); reproductive health and abortion access; and the drought-fueled water crisis, among others.

"I'd rather be in her shoes than Kari Lake's," a second Democratic strategist, who also requested anonymity, said of Hobbs. "But there hasn't been the strength that would be really helpful."

Turmoil or 'overstated handwringing'?

Hobbs' campaign has reportedly faced staff turnover since earlier this year -- and there has been other controversy.

Accusations of racism and sexism from Talonya Adams, a former staffer in Hobbs' state Senate office, are occasionally raised on the campaign trail, according to Quezada, the state treasurer candidate. (Hobbs said last year, about Adams, who was fired from her office: "I can say with certainty on my part, my decision in the termination was not based on race or gender. There were other factors.")

"If you look at the differences, Sinema and Kelly almost made no errors," said Mike Noble, an Arizona-based nonpartisan pollster. "You're seeing multiple missteps on Hobbs's run, whether turnover of staff on the campaign, the Talonya Adams issue of not being prepped for that, which they knew about for years -- but then most recently, the debate they weren't going to do."

To be sure, Hobbs has vocal defenders, both in Arizona and Washington.

"The handwringing over Katie Hobbs is wildly overstated," said local Democratic strategist Stacy Pearson. "This is a homegrown candidate who has served her state for more than a decade since before Arizona was a swing state. So, if she's not polished enough, or hasn't had 20 years of television experience, or isn't quick enough on the draw, most Arizonans don't care."

"The DGA continues to view Arizona as one of our best pickup opportunities and is all in to make sure Katie Hobbs is elected as its next governor on November 8," added Democratic Governors Association spokesperson Christina Amestoy.

Hobbs has plenty of room to go on offense

The race experts who spoke with ABC News said that hitting Lake on her conspiracy theories about the 2020 race and her abortion stances are the lowest hanging fruit -- and Hobbs has ramped up her attacks. (Lake has tried to recast her election denials as about "honesty and faith" and said Hobbs should debate her about it.)

After a state court revived a Civil War-era ban on most abortions, Hobbs swiftly scrapped a campaign event and held a press conference outside the office of the Republican state attorney general, who has supported that law.  

She's also been running ads on abortion access, including one video warning that Lake would sic law enforcement on medical professionals who aid in an abortion. The pre-statehood law, which Lake had also backed, includes prison time for abortion providers. Lake has subsequently said, "It would be really wonderful if abortion was rare and legal," a comment that was quickly walked back.

"Keeping abortion front and center is probably the most important thing [Hobbs] can do, and she's doing it," said Bill Scheel, a longtime Arizona Democratic strategist.

Hobbs' team boasted that her approach will work with voters. Campaign manager Nicole Demont said in a statement for this story that "Arizonans are rejecting Kari Lake's extreme and dangerous positions that are so far outside the mainstream" and "we're confident that sanity will beat chaos and Sec. Hobbs will be elected in November."

That confidence may be challenged in the race's final weeks, the outside operatives say, with early voting right around the corner.

"It's a toss-up, and the next couple of weeks are going to be crucial because ballots drop on Oct. 12," the first strategist said. "She has the ability to do it, the team's got the ability to do it … They've just got to make the decision to proceed and not be behind the eight ball."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Christian Walker says father Herschel Walker's campaign 'has been a lie'

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(WASHINGTON) -- Less than 24 hours after accusing his father of "destroying" lives following a report in the Daily Beast that an ex-girlfriend claimed Georgia GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker paid the cost of her abortion more than a decade ago, Christian Walker has doubled down on his scathing response in a pair of videos on Tuesday.

The younger Walker, an outspoken conservative social media personality and podcast host, accused his father of repeatedly lying throughout the campaign, which also faced reports of Walker’s alleged extramarital affairs and “secret” children months ago.

"I stayed silent as the atrocities against my mom were downplayed. I stayed silent when it came out that my father Herschel Walker had all these random kids across the country – none of whom he raised. And you know my favorite issue to talk about is father absence. Surprise! Because it affected me. That’s why I talk about it all the time. Because it affected me," Christian Walker said in a video Tuesday morning.

"Family values people? He has four kids, four different women. Wasn’t in the house raising one of them. He was out having sex with other women. Do you care about family values? It was silent lie, after lie, after lie."

Christian Walker went on to address parts of the Daily Beast’s recent reporting that Herschel Walker reimbursed a woman for the cost of an abortion.

Herschel Walker has denied the reports about affairs and paying for anyone's abortion. The former football star said he will file a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Beast during an appearance on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" on Monday.

"I can tell you right now, I never asked anyone to get an abortion," Walker told Sean Hannity. "I never paid for an abortion -- it's a lie."

ABC News has not been able to confirm the Daily Beast's reporting.

"The abortion card drops yesterday – it’s literally his handwriting in the card. They say they have receipts – whatever. He gets on Twitter, he lies about it. OK, I’m done," Christian Walker said. "Everything has been a lie."

Hershel Walker is battling against incumbent Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country. He's maintained a staunch anti-abortion position as a candidate, aligning himself with a bill proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would institute a national ban on most abortions after 15 weeks.

"I am a proud pro-life Christian, and I will always stand up for our unborn children. I believe the issue should be decided at the state level, but I WOULD support this policy," Walker said after Graham announced the measure.

Christian Walker said he and his mother, Cindy Grossman, had the opportunity to tank his father’s campaign on "day one" – but have opted to stay silent on assurances that Herschel Walker would "get ahead of his past" on the campaign trail. Grossman has accused her ex-husband of threatening to choke and shoot her. She recounted her experience in a 2008 interview with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff.

"We were talking and the next thing I knew," Grossman said during the interview, "he just kind of raged and he got a gun and put it to my temple.'"

Walker said in a 2008 interview that he does not remember the incident, though not disputing the claims. "If I can remember it, I'll talk about it," he said.

After retiring from football, according to his memoir, “Breaking Free,” Walker’s mental health and 16-year marriage deteriorated. He discussed the book in a 2008 interview with “Nightline,” telling ABC News that many of his struggles stemmed from what he described as a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder.

Walker has said that he has made a full recovery and taken responsibility for any past transgressions.

"Herschel addressed these issues in detail with Bob Woodruff 14 years ago — he even wrote a book about it,” Mallory Blount, a spokesperson for the Walker campaign, told ABC News in May. “The same reporters who praised him for his courage are now trashing him because he is a Republican."

But in his book, Walker does not address several claims about his behavior -- some of which are documented in police records. Walker did not write, for example, about allegations that he once held a gun to his ex-wife’s head.

"I haven’t told any stories. I’m just saying don’t lie. Don’t lie on my mom, don’t lie on me. Don’t lie on the lives you’ve destroyed and act like you’re some moral family man." Christian Walker said on Tuesday.

Though a prominent conservative firebrand, Christian Walker has not appeared in a major way with his father on the trail. He said he attended one event with his father last year, but nothing since.

Herschel Walker seldom mentions Christian Walker on the campaign trail. One time of note, however, was when the candidate shared with supporters that he told his son “you’re not that special” before he went to college.

In a follow-up Twitter video, Christian said a litany of Republicans have called him asking him why he isn’t stumping for his father. He claims he told them he isn’t getting involved and refuted commentators who have attempted to extrapolate the relationship between him and his father based on social media posts.

"For certain political pundits to pull up old pictures I’ve posted of my dad thinking they can police and determine my relationship with my dad was…if you want to pull stuff up, I’ll pull stuff up. Don’t try me. Don’t test my authenticity," Christian Walker said.

ABC News' Lalee Ibssa and Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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Young women are angry about abortion rights, but will they tip the midterm elections?

Courtesty of Brenna Lyons

(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- Brenna Lyons, a young mom living with her husband and toddler son in Augusta, Georgia, suffered a miscarriage last spring.

The procedure she required to remove tissue from her uterus was the same used for a woman getting an abortion, called a "dilation and curettage."

At the time, Georgia's six-week abortion ban wasn't in place. And because her fetus no longer had a heartbeat, she shouldn't have been impacted by the law anyway.

Still, Lyons wonders: Had the law been different at the time, would her doctors have believed her that she was miscarrying? Could they have denied her the procedure to avoid legal trouble? Would she have been forced to pass the pregnancy at home by herself instead of getting help right away?

Lyons, who is pregnant again, says those questions haunt her and her female friends with similar experiences. And they are fired up to vote next month.

"I have friends in Arkansas who have voiced the same kind of concern that the law just puts that hesitance there, that pause" on what's legal and what's not, she said.

"Whereas when we had a constitutional right (to an abortion), our doctors felt like they could do what they needed to do to protect us," she said.

As the nation inches toward a midterm election next month where Republicans have high hopes of major gains, poll watchers are eyeing whether women like Lyons and her friends could become a kind of wild card that tips the outcome of close races.

According to a survey released Tuesday and paid for by the right-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute, abortion rights now dominate what younger female voters care about – surpassing inflation, crime and immigration by a significant margin.

Also, young women overwhelmingly say abortion should be legal, including nearly half who say there should be no restrictions on it at all.

While it's unclear if that passion might translate into actual votes – the survey was taken in August with the midterm elections still weeks away – today's abortion debate is emerging as a kind of "generational defining moment" in US politics that could impact future elections, said Dan Cox, director of AEI's Survey Center on American Life.

"No one cares about this issue more than young women," he said. "In fact, and I've never seen this before in roughly 15 years of polling, abortion is ranking as the most important issue" in that group.

AEI's survey released Tuesday echoed similar findings that Democrats hope will sway tight races.

The final impact though is far from clear. Complicating the election outlook is that the woman most directly impacted by abortion restrictions – namely Black women living in the South where bans are most prominent -- aren't the majority of voters.

In Georgia, for example, before it's six-week ban took effect this summer, Black women sought out 65 percent of the abortions in the state, compared to 21 percent of whites, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control of and Prevention.

Advocates say poverty and a lack of affordable health care, including contraceptives, are to blame.

Yet, the majority of voters in Georgia's recent elections are white and over 65 -- a demographic typically more concerned with inflation and cost of living, than abortion. That's a major liability for a candidate like Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is running again for Georgia governor after narrowly losing four years ago to Republican Brian Kemp.

Jasmine Keith, an Atlanta-based organizer for the New Georgia Project, a voter rights group originally founded by Abrams, wants to change that equation.

Keith spent a recent weekend handing out emergency conception with voter guides at a block party in a Walmart parking lot in South Fulton. Another weekend, she helped to host an event at a roller-skating rink called "Rollin' With Repro" for "an afternoon of roller skating, reproductive justice and voter education."

The majority of people she speaks with are young and Black, like her, and very concerned, she said.

"A lot of people don't know," she said of Georgia's six-week ban. "And when they do find out, I feel like it's a push for them" to vote.

Emily Greene, who runs the organization's Augusta office and has been working on voter engagement efforts since she was a teen, said she's sensed a difference in voters this election.

"They're just ready … They want to go. They won't be pushed back down," Greene said of voters.

But to political strategists and pollsters like Cox, the question remains whether voters passionately in favor of abortion rights will show up at the polls this November in a new way.

Lyons, for example, is a long-time voter who said she would have punched a ticket for Democrats anyway.

"For certain constituencies, for certain segments of the population, I think it's going to have profound political impacts long term," said Cox.

For Lysons, she has decided to speak up more on the issue.

Her goal? "Hopefully be a voice for someone who feels like they can't speak up, can't be heard, can't make it to the polls," she said.

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