Trump kicks off his re-election in Florida as Democrats aim to win the state back

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump kicked off his 2020 reelection bid in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, launching a campaign that's never really ended.

In promoting Tuesday's festivities at and around the Amway Center, aides indicated that the president's campaign has never really stopped. They told ABC News that this rally in a critical swing state is meant to add to momentum.

"He can't win the White House without Florida, and we're going to step up big time to make sure he gets it," Joe Gruters, chairman of the state Republican Party, said.

In his reelection address, Trump spent most of his speech looking to position himself, not as an incumbent president running on a number of accomplishments, but as an underdog who's been the victim of a number of conspiracies designed to undercut his political movement and dating back well before he took the oath of office.

"Our patriotic movement have been under assault from the first day," Trump told the crowd. "We've accomplished more than any president has in the first two and half years and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before … nobody has done what we have done."

"We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history, the only collusion was committed by the Democrats, the fake news media and their operatives and the people who funded the phony dossier, crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC," he said.

"It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election, spy on our campaign, which is what they did, and subvert our democracy," Trump added.

Vice President Mike Pence took the stage prior to the president and said, "We’re here for one reason and one reason only. America needs four more years of President Donald Trump."

The crowd began chanting, "Four more years!"

"It's on everybody," Pence said. "Time for round two."

While the vice president didn’t name any of the 2020 Democrats running for president, Pence looked to define the Democratic opposition as far left radicals who want "more taxes, more regulation, and less freedom."

"Today, Democrats openly advocate socialism. An economic system that has impoverished millions of people around the world and stole the liberty of generations," Pence said.

"The choice in this election will not just be a choice between two candidates, but a choice between two futures," he added.

First lady Melania Trump walked out with the president and briefly spoke to the crowd.

"It has been my honor to serve this country for the past two years. And I’m excited to do it for six more," she said. "I’m proud of all that my husband, this administration, and our entire family have done on behalf of the American people in such a short time. He truly loves this country and will continue to work on your behalf as long as he can. All of us will."

Starting Friday, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have been hosting a "National Week of Training" across the country for 16,325 attendees at more than 970 events, including, "Trump Victory Leadership Initiative" training sessions and "MAGA Meet-Ups," according to numbers provided to ABC News by the campaign.

America First Policies also kicked off its voter registration drive in Orlando on Tuesday with the aim of spending more than $20 million and registering voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

"There are millions of patriotic Americans who believe in the America First movement, but aren't registered to vote," America First Policies President Brian O. Walsh said.

Trump flipped Florida red in 2016 with just 1.2% more votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. It was the first time the state voted Republican since President George W. Bush won it during his reelection in 2004.

While they've taken a beating from Republicans in the Sunshine State since 2016, Florida Democrats don't believe the state has slipped out of their grasp in 2020.

"Democrats are still very competitive here," Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., told ABC News.

Trump beat Clinton for Florida's 29 electoral votes by 112,911 votes, a greater margin of victory than President Barack Obama's 2012 win over now-Sen. Mitt Romney., R-Utah.

Last year's hard-fought midterm election -- so close that it prompted a recount -- ended with Democrats losing every statewide race except agriculture commissioner: Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race, and then-Gov. Rick Scott unseated Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the only Democrat besides Obama to win statewide since the 1990s.

Despite the recent string of defeats, state Democrats point to their success in flipping two House seats in South Florida, and the razor-thin margins in the last few statewide contests.

"At the end of the day, it will be a close race, and it will be dog-eat-dog," said Nelson, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. "The state has been influenced by Trump, utilizing the powers of the president as well as Republican administrations in Florida. You combine all of that in what is effectively a 50-50 state, and you see the trends that occurred in the last two elections."

As part of their push to take back Florida, Democrats are investing in the state earlier than ever before.

In a call with reporters on Monday, Democratic National Committee officials said the party already has 90 field organizers on the ground and has spent millions to register 200,000 voters ahead of 2020.

The party is also centering its message against Trump on health care, including the administration's decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, a winning issue for the party in 2018 and one that wasn't on the table in 2016.

Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, has launched a six-figure digital advertising campaign in Florida ahead of Trump's visit on Tuesday, targeting the president on health care and the Republican tax cut that he signed into law in 2017.

For Our Future, a progressive super PAC backed, in part by billionaire Tom Steyer, is directing its $80 million budget toward organizing in Florida and other battleground states. The group, modeled on some of the conservative organizing groups funded by the Koch Brothers, has worked to keep Democratic voters engaged in between cycles and around issues.

One of the group's focuses in Florida will be activating some of the 1.4 million ex-felons who are now eligible to vote in the state, according to CEO Justin Myers.

Multiple 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, have traveled to the state. The party plans to hold its first round of primary debates in Miami later this month.

In Orlando, only 20,000 attendees were allowed inside the Amway Center, so there were Trump supporters lined up nearly 40 hours early.

The Trump campaign was tight-lipped regarding the president's remarks, but aides said to expect a rousing performance that only the president could deliver. First lady Melania Trump and Pence, along with Trump's adult children, were in attendance, campaign officials told ABC News.

Amid a balloon drop, a "retrospective" video of the president's first years in office and possible indoor pyrotechnics, the event aims to be more than just a rally. Within the campaign, aides have described it as a "mini convention" and a "huge party" scheduled to go on, rain or shine, as the area prepares for possible showers.

The festivities began well before the president even traveled to Florida, with "45 Fest," an outdoor event at the Amway Center beginning in the morning and featuring food trucks, live music and massive TV screens for the overflow crowd that was expected to descend on downtown Orlando.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Shanahan welcomes opportunity to be Defense secretary, 'but not at the expense of being a good father'

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a surprise development, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has decided not to move forward with the confirmation process to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Trump said while Shanahan "has done a wonderful job, he has decided not to go forward...so that he can devote more time to his family."

In a second tweet, the president named Army Secretary Mark Esper as his next acting Pentagon chief -- a job which has now been vacant since former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in December. Talking to reporters on the White House lawn on Tuesday, Trump said he was "most likely" to name Esper to the post permanently.

The decision for Shanahan to step down coincides with media reports from USA Today and the Washington Post which detail episodes of domestic violence that occurred in Shanahan's family over a decade ago. According to a U.S. official, Shanahan's aides were growing concerned that his nomination process could be hampered by the reporting.

Trump said that he didn't ask for Shanahan to withdraw from the confirmation process and only learned about the issues in Shanahan's past for the first time on Monday. A senior White House official told ABC News that the White House had been aware of the issues for months, but the official was unaware of how long the president knew.

 The Post, which interviewed Shanahan on Monday evening, detailed two incidents: one in which Shanahan's now ex-wife was arrested for punching him in the face and another in which his son was arrested for hitting his mother with a baseball bat, which ABC News has confirmed through Sarasota County, Florida, court records.

ABC News has been unsuccessful in attempts to reach Shanahan's ex-wife.

In a statement the Pentagon issued Tuesday afternoon, Shanahan said, "The confirmation process should focus on securing our nation against threats, readiness and the future of our military, and ensuring the highest quality care and support for service members and their families."

"After having been confirmed for Deputy Secretary less than two years ago, it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process," he said. "I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority."

"I would welcome the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father," the statement continued. "After significant reflection, I have asked to be withdrawn from consideration for Secretary of Defense and will resign my position as Deputy Secretary of Defense. I will coordinate an appropriate transition plan to ensure that the men and women in harm's way receive all the support they need to continue protecting our great nation."

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, had served as deputy defense secretary and stepped into the role in an "acting" capacity on Jan. 1 after Mattis resigned over policy differences with the president. Shanahan will resign effective midnight Sunday and conclude his service in the Department of Defense at that time, Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesperson, said.

Officials have not determined who from the department will represent the U.S. at the NATO meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Mark Esper, who has served as Army Secretary since November 2017, will then become the acting defense secretary. He is a former senior executive at Raytheon, who also has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill. Esper graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986 -- the same year as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- and served in the Army for over a decade, including a deployment to the Gulf War.

He has traveled with Trump several times over the last six months, including a January visit to the southern border where thousands of soldiers have been deployed to support Customs and Border Protection. Esper was also with Trump when the president toured an Abrams tank facility in Lima, Ohio in March.

"Mark Esper is a highly respected gentleman with a great career. Westpoint, Harvard, a tremendous talent," Trump told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, adding, "I think he will do very well. He was secretary of the Army. I got to know him very well. He's an outstanding guy."

The following Pentagon jobs are now vacant or occupied in an "acting" capacity: defense secretary, deputy defense secretary, Army secretary, Air Force secretary, and chief management officer.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump's plan to deport 'millions' likely not feasible

Marcus Moore/ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s promise on the eve of a campaign rally to deport next week “millions” of people living in the U.S. illegally is raising the issue of how the administration could feasibly launch such a massive operation because it's out of space to hold them.

Also in question would be whether the administration would further abandon its past focus of deporting undocumented migrants convicted of crimes in order to deport families, which at least one top official said was inevitable. Another concern would be that families could be separated, possibly leaving thousands of young children in limbo without guardians, particularly those with mixed immigration status such as children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.

John Cohen, a former senior Homeland Security Department official and current ABC News contributor, said the logistics of such an operation would require diverting law enforcement from high priority criminal targets and put a significant strain on limited resources.

“There’s no way operationally they are going to be able to do it,” said John Cohen, a former senior Homeland Security Department official and current ABC News contributor.

Trump’s plan, announced via Twitter, left administration officials in charge of immigration policy and enforcement scrambling to respond to questions about what would happen next.

Law enforcement officials said they don’t discuss enforcement operations publicly in advance. One senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said mass deportations were “not imminent.”

A statement released Tuesday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement noted that officials there would “continue” to enforce immigration law “without exemption,” adding, “This includes routine targeted enforcement operations, criminals, individuals subject to removal orders, and worksite enforcement.”

But the statement did not address whether operations would expand.

Trump has clearly favored the idea of targeting the hundreds of thousands of families arriving at the border in recent months, as well as those already settled inside the U.S. His new pick to head ICE hinted at it last month in a meeting with reporters.

“Our next challenge is going to be interior enforcement,” Morgan said. “We will be going after individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.

“That will include families,” Morgan said, adding that ICE agents will deport them “with compassion and humanity.”

Among the top challenges of such a plan would be bed space, enforcement personnel and other resources to arrest, detain and deport people.

Last year, ICE deported 256,000 people, the highest level since 2014. But federal officials have said it's unlikely that much more can be done with existing resources. During the Obama administration, ICE and DHS officials testified that the most that could be deported in any given year would be about 400,000 people.

One issue, in particular, is bed space. As of the end of May, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had nearly 52,400 people in its custody – including nearly 1,000 families at residential centers. While ICE is given some flexibility, this year’s budget provides money for less than 45,300 beds. More detention space would require Congress' approval, which is unlikely so long as Democrats control the House.

Trump even acknowledged the lack of bed space earlier this year in remarks he made last March in Florida.

"We have run out of space, we can't hold people anymore and Mexico can stop it so easily,” he said.

The White House has openly sparred on the issue of detention space with congressional Democrats, who support limiting the bed space as a way of forcing the federal government to focus deportations on convicted criminals. The issue was hotly debated earlier this year in negotiations over government funding which resulted in the longest federal shutdown in American history.

"A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump Admin to prioritize deportation for criminals and people posing real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants contributing to our country," said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says slavery reparations are not a 'good idea'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposed reparations for descendants of slaves, because no one "currently alive was responsible for that."

"I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years -- for whom none of us currently living are responsible -- is a good idea," McConnell told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.

"We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation, by electing an African American president," he said.

McConnell's remarks come just one day before a House Judiciary subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the topic of reparations -- the first hearing on the issue in over a decade. The hearing will "examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice."

Several prominent Democratic presidential candidates have also weighed in on the issue, saying the topic deserves to be studied further.

"I think we're always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that," McConnell said.

He said that another issue is that it would be hard to "figure out" who to compensate.

"We've had waves of immigrants, as well, who have come to this country and experienced dramatic discrimination of one kind or another," he said. "So no, I don't think reparations are a good idea."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Katharine Gorka expected to take over as Customs and Border Protection press secretary

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Katharine Gorka, who has been serving as an adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, is expected to take over as press secretary for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, department officials confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday.

In her new role, Gorka will work more directly with federal immigration enforcement as a liaison between border agents and the public. The news was first reported by CNN.

"We look forward to her continued service with the Department in her new position at CBP as we work to secure the border and enforce our nation’s immigration laws," a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told ABC News in a statement.

Gorka's husband is Sebastian Gorka, a controversial Trump adviser who was fired from the White House in August 2017.

The two Gorkas have contributed to Breitbart, a far-right opinion outlet, and are known for controversial remarks connecting Islamic religious beliefs to violent extremism.

“Presidents Bush and Obama both publicly declared Islam to be a religion of peace, which has struck a sour chord for many,” Katharine Gorka wrote in a 2014 post for Breitbart. “American and Western leaders have preemptively shut down any debate within Islam by declaring that Islam is the religion of peace and that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam."

When asked about her tenure as a DHS adviser, a department spokesperson said that her work was focused on national security and counterterrorism efforts "regardless of ideology."

In her role as an analyst for a group called the Westminster Institute, Katharine Gorka criticized the Department of Homeland Security for referring to Islam as "a religion of peace."

"This has driven many of today’s experts underground," she claimed. "They have had to learn to speak cautiously and in coded language."

Katharine Gorka was the subject of a lawsuit from a liberal watch dog group earlier this year after DHS did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request for specifics about her role.

“We’re suing to find out whether her extreme and biased views are driving Homeland Security resources away from real threats," said Charisma Troiano, a spokesperson for Democracy Forward, in a statement at the time.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Stewart fires back at McConnell for calling him 'bent out of shape' over 9/11 first responders

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- On Monday's The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, comedian Jon Stewart fired back at Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after McConnell said Stewart was 'bent out of shape" over wanting Congress to move faster on taking care of 9/11 first responders with health problems.

Stewart drew national attention last week when he made an emotional appeal before the House Judiciary Committee for making the Victims Compensation Fund permanent, at one point almost shouting, “They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs, with courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!"

While the committee voted to advance the proposal to fully and permanently fund the program, its fate in the Senate is unclear. In 2015, the original funding bill was held up by McConnell, only to be passed as part of last-minute negotiations over an overall year-end spending deal.

In his testimony, Stewart took aim at McConnell, promising that he and other advocates won’t allow a “certain someone” in the Senate to use the program as a “political football” in spending negotiations.

McConnell responded on Fox and Friends on Monday, saying he didn't know why Stewart was "bent out of shape," denied he was moving slowly on the issue and said the extension would pass when it came up for renewal.

"I'm not bent out of shape, I'm fine. I'm bent out of shape for them," Stewart responded on CBS' The Late Show.

"These are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great trillions of dollars War on Terror. And they are currently dying, suffering and in terrible need. You know you would think that would be enough for Congress to pay attention, but apparently, it's not." he said.

"Listen, senator. I know that your species isn't known for moving quickly," he said.

Colbert then asked him, “Would that be a turtle reference Jon?”

It was "a little red meat for the base," Stewart answered.

Jon Stewart pops out from under the desk to address Mitch McConnell. #LSSC https://t.co/MEFv1okFqv pic.twitter.com/EmBYFhnS3T

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) June 18, 2019

"But damn, senator. You're not good at this argument thing. Basically, we're saying you love the 9/11 community when they serve your political purposes. But when they're in urgent need, you slow walk. You use it as a political pawn to get other things you want," Stewart said.

"Just understand the next time we have a war or you're being robbed or your house is on fire and you make that desperate call for help, don't get bent out of shape if they show up at the last minute with fewer people than you thought were going to pay attention and don't actually pull it out. just leave it there, smoldering for another five years 'cause that's how sh--'s done around here mister. I'm sure they'll put it out for good when they feel like getting around to it. No offense," he concluded.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Justice Department acknowledges rare intervention to prevent Rikers Island transfer for Paul Manafort

Alexandria (Va.) Sheriffs Office(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been spared from an expected transfer to Rikers Island prison in New York following a rare intervention by the Department of Justice, a DOJ official confirmed to ABC News.

Trump has previously complained about how Manafort was being treated and has suggested he might pardon him.

Manafort, 70, who is currently serving out a federal prison sentence in Pennsylvania, was expected to be transferred to the infamous Rikers complex as he waited to face mortgage fraud and other state charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

But in a statement to ABC News Monday evening, a senior DOJ official acknowledged that the department stepped in to prevent the move last week after Manafort's attorneys raised concerns "related to his health and personal safety." During his federal trial, Manafort's physical condition appeared to be deteriorating and at times during hearings he had to use to a wheelchair or a cane.

The New York Times reported Monday that among the DOJ officials to get directly involved was Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who was confirmed to his position as the department's number 2-ranked official last month.

"Mr. Manafort’s attorneys proposed that he remain in federal custody and be made available to the state when necessary," the official said. "The Department requested the views of New York prosecutors, who did not object to Mr. Manafort’s proposal. In light of New York’s position, and Mr. Manafort’s unique health and safety needs, the Department decided to err on the side of caution by keeping Mr. Manafort in federal custody during the pendency of his state proceedings."

Manafort has since been transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan ahead of his expected arraignment on the state charges.

His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Several former Obama-era federal prosecutors raised issue with the high-level DOJ intervention, noting it ran counter to typical rules governing detention for federal inmates facing state charges in New York.

Calling this highly unusual doesn’t even begin to capture how strange it is for the no. 2 official at DOJ to intervene in a state custody issue. https://t.co/oX8gXwPVs4

— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) June 17, 2019

It is very unusual - perhaps entirely unprecedented - for such a high-ranking DOJ official to be involved in the specific prison designation for a particular inmate. Anyone else in this situation goes to Rikers and that’s that.https://t.co/wtHrP66hCp

— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) June 18, 2019

President Trump has repeatedly expressed his objections to the treatment of Manafort by federal prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

After the Manhattan District Attorney announced separate state charges against Manafort in March of this year, Trump reacted telling reporters, "on a human basis, it's a very sad thing."

The White House did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the DOJ decision.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gov. Steve Bullock, after missing out on June Democratic debate, qualifies for July face-off

William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite missing the cutoff for the first Democratic debate scheduled for later this month, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock might get a shot at the second round of debates in July, the Democratic National Committee confirmed Tuesday.

An Iowa poll conducted by CBS News and YouGov qualified the governor for the debate under the DNC's rules, a DNC spokesperson told ABC News.

POLITICO first reported the governor's qualification, which was immediately celebrated by Bullock's team.

"As the only candidate who has won a Trump state, we are excited that Gov. Steve Bullock’s important voice will be on the stage for the second debate," Bullock's campaign manager Jenn Ridder said in a statement.

The Montana governor's qualification for the debate does not, however, guarantee Bullock's place on the stage -- a nuance triggered by the DNC's participant cap for the debates, which stands at only 20 candidates. Bullock is the 21st Democratic candidate to qualify for the July debate in Detroit, which means tie-breaker rules outlined by the DNC are expected to come into play to decide which of the candidates actually take the stage.

The 20 candidates who qualified for the first debates in late June in Miami will also qualify for the second debates, which fall under the same rules: a candidate must either net at least 1 percent in three national or early-state polls conducted between January 2019 and two weeks before a given debate, or receive donations from over 65,000 people across 20 states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state. Two other 2020 candidates, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, also did not meet the thresholds for the June debate and have yet to qualify for July.

The DNC's tie-breaker rules favor candidates who have higher polling averages. The deadline to qualify for the second debates is two weeks before candidates take the stage on July 30 and 31 in Detroit, meaning that more candidates have time to cross the threshold and qualify.

Based on an ABC News analysis, the tie-breaker at this time would be between California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Bullock. Both candidates have identical polling averages and have narrowly crossed the threshold in only three qualifying polls. Neither campaign has released details on their donor base, nor announced if they have met the donor threshold. As of the first debates, Swalwell did not cross the donor threshold.

It has been a rocky road for Bullock, who narrowly missed the cut-off for the first Democratic debate scheduled for June and was, at one point, considered qualified by news outlets, including ABC News. It was only after a late rule change by the DNC, which eliminated one of the polls thought to qualify Bullock for the debate, that Bullock was knocked off the list of candidates. For that debate, too, he would've been the 21st candidate and triggered tie-breaker rules.

Bullock's campaign has attempted to capitalize on the exclusion from the debate by painting the governor, who was elected by the same Montanan voters who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, as an outsider, accusing the DNC of not learning "the right lesson from the 2016 election."

"If we’re going to take back the places we lost — and then do the hard work to get our country back on track — we can’t let the DNC’s new rules exclude the perspectives of leaders who have done this before," Bullock said in an op-ed last week.

Bullock, who entered the race just about a month ago, has said he entered late because he "had a job to do" as Montana's governor. The state legislature was in session until late May and one of his hallmark achievements as governor, Medicaid expansion for about 10 percent of the state's population, was up for renewal.

The DNC's confirmation of these polls comes a day after Bullock announced he will appear in a pair of locally televised town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire on the same days as next week's first debates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ICE will begin removing 'millions of illegal aliens' next week, Trump tweets

VallarieE/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter late Monday night that Immigration and Customs Enforcement next week would begin "removing the millions of illegal aliens" from the U.S. "as fast as they come in."

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told ABC News that the deportations described by the president in Twitter aren’t imminent.

ICE does not normally unveil operational details in advance.

Separately, an administration official said Tuesday morning that enforcing final deportation orders "is a top priority."

"Countless illegal aliens not only violate our borders but then break the law all over again by skipping their court hearings and absconding from federal proceedings. These runaway aliens lodge phony asylum claims only to be no-shows at court and are ordered removed in absentia," the official told ABC News.

"There are more than 1 million illegal aliens who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges yet remain at large in the country. These judicial removal orders were secured at great time and expense, and yet illegal aliens not only refuse to appear in court, they often obtain fraudulent identities, collect federal welfare, and illegally work in the United States. Enforcing these final judicial orders is a top priority for Immigration and Customs Enforcement — willful defiance of our laws, and the defrauding of the American People with fraudulent asylum claims, will not be tolerated,” the official said in a statement.

Less than two weeks after signing a deal with Mexico to avoid another trade war, Trump said America's neighbor to the south now is "doing a very good job of stopping people long before they get to our Southern Border."

Guatemala, Trump added, is close to signing a "Safe-Third Agreement," which means migrants fleeing from Honduras and El Salvador would be required to seek asylum there first before in the U.S.

....long before they get to our Southern Border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement. The only ones who won’t do anything are the Democrats in Congress. They must vote to get rid of the loopholes, and fix asylum! If so, Border Crisis will end quickly!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019

Earlier on Monday, the State Department reported that it would freeze $185 million in aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala "until the department is satisfied the Northern Triangle countries are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of migrants."

Trump's tweets came a day before he's expected to kick off his 2020 campaign at a major event in Orlando, Florida.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump vows 'phenomenal' new health care plan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Donald Trump declared he would be announcing a “phenomenal” new health care plan within the next two months, and said health care would be a priority leading up to his 2020 re-election campaign.

"We almost had health care done. Health care's a disaster …” Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, apparently referring to the GOP effort to overturn Obamacare that failed when Sen. John McCain cast a deciding vote against it, much to Trump's continuing annoyance.

"If we win back the House, we're going to produce phenomenal health care. And we already have the concept of the plan, but it'll be less expensive than Obamacare by a lot."

The president has long promised to cut health care costs and cover more Americans, while still preserving core Obamacare expansions like guaranteeing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

When Trump was pressed for more details about his new health care plan, Trump said his administration would be announcing changes “in about two months. Maybe less.”

But senior White House officials have told ABC News that they’re far away from putting together an actual health care bill.

Instead, these officials say, the administration is crafting a set of “high-level principles” that outlines the president’s vision and could from the basis for future legislation.

The process is being headed up by the president’s Domestic Policy Council, with input from the Department of Health and Human Services among other executive offices, according to officials.

A draft of the principles is circulating within the administration, according to one official, who could not offer a timeline of when it might be made public because the process is in the early stages.

One official said the principles outlined will be similar to past proposals supported by the White House on past failed attempts to reform the healthcare system, saying it will seek to address affordability, premiums, and protections for pre-existing condition protections.

The president outlined his vision Tuesday night for Republicans to campaign on his plan in the 2020 election and then vote on it right after the election, assuming Republicans hold the White House and Senate, while also regaining the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday blasted the president for working on a new health care plan.

“The American people already know exactly what the President’s health care plans mean in their lives: higher costs, worse coverage and the end of lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Pelosi said in a statement.

"President Trump has waged an assault on health care since the start, and continues to order the Justice Department to ask the courts to destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions and strike down every other protection and guarantee of affordable health care for America’s families. And since Day One, the Trump Administration has worked relentlessly to push families into disastrous junk plans, increase their health care costs and gut their health care protections," she continued.

Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “anxious” to see Trump’s new plan.

“We’re anxious to see what the president recommends,” the Kentucky Republican said Monday during an interview with "Fox and Friends."

“There’s a space there for the president to advocate for something and we’re looking forward to seeing what he’s going to recommend,” he said.

“What he’s doing is through the executive branch, through regulations, expanding health care for a lot of Americans, which he can do on his own,” he said.

He added: “He has said he’s going to lay a plan out, and he has said it would be dealt with after the election when we get a Congress that’s more sympathetic to our approach to health care.”

Earlier in the year, McConnell and several Senate Republicans had signaled their unwillingness to tackle health care anytime soon, after their numerous attempts at taking down Obamacare amounted to nothing.

In April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that he had smacked down Trump’s hopes for a renewed fight to replace Obamacare.

“We had a good conversation yesterday afternoon... I made it clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate," McConnell said of health care reform.

The Republican Leader told reporters that he reminded the president of “Senate Republicans view on dealing with comprehensive health care reform with a Democratic House of Representatives," and that they had been unable to achieve health care reform during the last GOP-controlled Congress.

"As he later tweeted, [the president] accepted that and that he would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign and suggests that that's what he would be advocating in a second term if there were a Republican Congress," he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Harvard reportedly rescinds Parkland shooting survivor's admission over alleged racist comments

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A survivor of the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting revealed on Monday that Harvard College rescinded its admissions offer as a result of alleged racist comments he made months before the 2018 shooting massacre.

Kyle Kashuv, 18, disclosed the news on Twitter, claiming the school rescinded its offer after screenshots surfaced showing him allegedly using racial slurs at the age of 16, just a few months before a gunman stormed into the Parkland, Florida, school and killed 17 people.

The recent graduate posted two letters purportedly from the school: one asking him explain the comments and another notifying him that the offer had been rescinded after serious consideration of "the qualities of maturity and moral character."

"As you know, the Committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character," William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, wrote in a June 3 letter made public by Kashuv. "After careful consideration the committee voted to rescind your admission to Harvard College."

"We are sorry about the circumstances that have led us to withdraw your admission, and we wish you success in your future academic endeavors and beyond," the letter added.

Kashuv, who became a gun rights advocate in the wake of the massacre and landed a White House meeting with first lady Melania Trump, said the school rescinded the offer three months after accepting him.

 A Harvard spokesperson said the college could not comment "on the admissions status of individual applicants," but one of the things the spokesperson noted was that the school "reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission" under conditions that are "clearly expressed to students upon their admission."

The school's admissions policy states that an admitted student could have their admission withdrawn if he or she "engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character."

Kashuv acknowledged that he had made “abhorrent racial slurs” when he was 16 years old "in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible."

He said he’d given up "huge scholarships" in order to attend Harvard, according to a Monday tweet.

“I had given up huge scholarships in order to go to Harvard, and the deadline for accepting other college offers has ended," Kashuv said. "In the end, this isn’t about me, it's about whether we live in a society in which forgiveness is possible or mistakes brand you as irredeemable, as Harvard has decided for me."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

EXCLUSIVE: Top 5 takeaways of President Trump’s interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos embedded with President Donald Trump for a wide-ranging exclusive interview over the course of two days this week, generating a bevy of newsy headlines over the course of their unprecedented discussion.

Here are the top five moments from the interview.

Trump says he’d listen to foreign intelligence on political opponents

This was the biggest headline of them all. After Trump told Stephanopoulos that he may not alert the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his 2020 rivals during the upcoming presidential race, the president faced a wave of criticism from Republicans and Democrats.

Despite the deluge of investigations stemming from his campaign's interactions with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Stephanopoulos asked Trump Wednesday in the Oval Office whether his reelection campaign would accept such information from foreigners – such as China or Russia – or hand it over the FBI, Trump answered, "I think maybe you do both."

"I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump continued. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent' – oh, I think I'd want to hear it."

Trump disputed the idea that if a foreign government provided information on a political opponent, it would be considered interference in our election process.

"It's not an interference, they have information – I think I'd take it," Trump said. "If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, 'oh let's call the FBI.' The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned on Thursday that Trump is giving Russia “the green light” to again interfere in a U.S. presidential election.

“Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night,” Pelosi said.

While Pelosi called Trump’s comments "cavalier" and an “assault on democracy” she indicated it’s not enough to sway her to prematurely launch an impeachment inquiry.

“What we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that, but not any one issue is going to trigger, ‘Oh, now we’ll go do [impeachment].’ Because it’s about investigating, it’s about litigating, it’s about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable and no one is above the law,” she said.

Even one of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill did not come to his defense. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the president’s response was “not the right answer.”

“If a foreign government comes to you as a public official, and offers to help your campaign giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no,” he said.

By Friday, the president worked to walk his comments back, telling Fox News that he would notify the FBI or the attorney general if the information was “incorrect or badly stated.”

“Of course you have to look at it because if you don't look at it you won't know it's bad,” Trump said on "Fox and Friends" Friday morning. "But, of course, you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that."

Trump says internal polling shows he’s ‘winning everywhere’

Trump told Stephanopoulos that his campaign’s internal polling showed that he is “winning everywhere."

When Stephanopoulos mentioned reports of polls commissioned by the Trump campaign that showed former Vice President Joe Biden ahead in several key states, the president said: “those polls don't exist.”

"Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don't exist, George. Those polls don't exist. I'm losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don't exist," Trump said.

"I just was given a meeting with my pollster who I frankly don't even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is, it is, but I just had a meeting with somebody that's a pollster and I'm winning everywhere, so I don't know what you're talking about."

But data from the first internal poll conducted by the campaign in March, obtained exclusively Friday by ABC News, showed Trump losing a matchup by wide margins to Biden in key battleground states, including double-digit leads for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41, and Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a traditionally Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.

When presented by ABC News with these numbers Friday, the Trump campaign confirmed the data saying in a statement that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.

Trump says it ‘doesn’t matter’ what former White House Counsel Don McGahn told Mueller

Stephanopoulos quizzed Trump about the Russia investigation at length. The president directly disputed the account of a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice during the course of the Russia probe saying that it "doesn't matter" what his former White House counsel Don McGahn testified.

Trump said McGahn "may have been confused" when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.

"The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller," Trump told Stephanopoulos.

At the president’s instruction, McGahn is currently fighting a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about those conversations with Trump, among other things. McGahn spent nearly 30 hours with the special counsel’s investigators testifying under oath and was one of most quoted aides to the president to appear in the report.

When Stephanopoulos pushed back and referenced McGahn's testimony, Trump was defiant.

"I don't care what [McGahn] says, it doesn't matter," Trump said.

"Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?" Stephanopoulos later asked.

"Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer," Trump said. "Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen – including you, including the media – that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest."

"And has to go?" Stephanopoulos followed up.

"I didn't say that," Trump insisted.

Trump reveals historic redesign of Air Force One

Less than a year after announcing a $3.9 billion makeover for America's most famous aircraft, Trump shared never-before-seen renderings of Air Force One's prospective redesign.

"George, take a look at this," Trump boasted to Stephanopoulos, flashing mock-ups of his vision for the next generation of the presidential aircraft. "Here's your new Air Force One."

Trump showed his plan to swap the iconic sky blue-and-white paint job for a patriotic red, white and blue.

"We had different choices, here," Trump said, pointing to images he said he designed himself. "These are all slightly different."

The new fleet won't be ready for takeoff until 2024. In spite of the president’s willingness to share the preliminary sketches, Trump is still holding some details close to the vest.

"There are a couple of secrets," Trump teased. "You know what, there are a couple of secrets I don't think we're supposed to be talking about."

Trump says of Fed Reserve chairman: ‘I’ve waited long enough’

Trump slammed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, insisting that Powell’s actions have prevented the economy from soaring even higher and declaring he’s out of patience with the person he picked to lead the nation’s central bank.

Inviting Stephanopoulos along for a trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa on Tuesday, Trump said that the financial market would be stronger "if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve who wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much.”

Trump told Stephanopoulos he believes the Dow Jones Industrial Average could be 10,000 points higher if the Federal Reserve hadn’t hiked rates last year. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Powell wouldn’t be in the job if it weren’t for Trump.

“He’s my pick,” Trump acknowledged. “And I disagree with him entirely.”

Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether he has concerns that his repeated commentary on the Federal Reserve puts Powell “in a box.”

“Yes, I do,” Trump responded. “But I’m gonna do it anyway because I’ve waited long enough.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Democrats in Virginia win at Supreme Court in racial gerrymandering case

Zolnierek/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A narrowly-divided Supreme Court on Monday dismissed an appeal from Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates which sought to reinstate the state’s legislative districts map after it was struck down for improper racial gerrymandering.

A lower court held that 11 state legislative districts represented unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The state attorney general, a Democrat, declined to challenge the lower court decision.

On Monday, in a 5-4 decision, the court said the House of Delegates lacked standing to bring the case.

“The House, as a single chamber of a bicameral legislature, has no standing to appeal the invalidation of the redistricting plan separately from the state of which it is a part,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the majority.

“This is likely good news for the Democratic Party in Virginia – it means that the Republican-drawn map at issue in this case cannot be used in the 2019 Virginia state elections,” said ABC News legal analyst Kate Shaw.

Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said the ruling means the state’s new electoral map, drawn by a court-appointed overseer, will stand.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for democracy and voting rights in our Commonwealth,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “When we corrected racially gerrymandered districts earlier this year, we righted a wrong—as I have always said, voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

The decision also impacts the electoral landscape in Virginia, a key swing state, on the eve of the 2020 presidential election.

All seats in the Virginia legislature are on the ballot in November. The outcome will determine party control of the state chambers headed into the 2020 census and next redistricting – the chance to reshape Assembly and congressional maps for a decade.

Virginia has been ranked as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country with districts drawn in many cases specifically to minimize the electoral influence of black Democratic voters, according to the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Last year, a lower court sided with the challengers to Virginia’s map, ruling that the state assembly failed to conduct a “holistic analysis” of racial considerations unique to each district. It ordered that a new map be drawn before the 2019 elections.

Defenders of the map insist race did not predominate other race-neutral considerations.

The high court’s ruling features an atypical vote alignment, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch joining Ginsburg in the majority, while Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh dissent.

“The Virginia House of Delegates exists for a purpose: to represent and serve the interests of the people of the Commonwealth,” Alito wrote in the dissent. “The invalidation of the House’s redistricting plan and its replacement with a court-ordered map would cause the House to suffer a ‘concrete’ injury” and give it grounds for bringing an appeal.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump and Ocasio-Cortez in Twitter battle over impeachment and what's driving Democrats

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been engaged in a Twitter battle since her appearance Sunday on ABC's This Week, trading barbs over impeachment after her comment that Democrats have a "very real risk of losing" in 2020 without a 'transformational candidate."

Ocasio-Cortez cautioned against electing a president advocating for "half-measures" and again called for a progressive Democratic nominee. In an interview with ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, she said, "I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States."

Trump responded Sunday afternoon, shifted the conversation to impeachment, tweeting, "I agree, and that is the only reason they play the impeach card, which cannot be legally used!"

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “I think we have a very real risk of losing the Presidency to Donald Trump.” I agree, and that is the only reason they play the impeach card, which cannot be legally used!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez fired back about two hours later, saying the president is "bluffing" and opening an impeachment inquiry is necessary when the president "obstructs justice, advises witnesses to ignore legal subpoenas, & more."

Mr. President, you’re from Queens.

You may fool the rest of the country, but I’ll call your bluff any day of the week.

Opening an impeachment inquiry is exactly what we must do when the President obstructs justice, advises witnesses to ignore legal subpoenas, & more.

Bye 👋🏽 https://t.co/4O9PNbYFki

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 17, 2019

While she called for a transformational candidate, Ocasio-Cortez is holding off on endorsing anyone for president now, saying on ABC's This Week that "It's possible that I'll endorse later on perhaps, you know, I do not see myself endorsing anytime soon."

More broadly of the Democratic field, Ocasio-Cortez said, "I do think that the field is too large. I do believe that having a competitive primary is healthy and that it’s good, but we have so many Senate seats to take and the fact that we aren't discussing that more -- even if we win the presidency and we don't win the Senate -- we are not going to be able to get a robust agenda passed in the way that we envision it."

Ocasio-Cortez has previously specified that the country needs a progressive president.

"I really believe the only way that we're going to be able to beat this president is with a progressive candidate," she said to The Young Turks show Rebel HQ earlier this month. "We need candidates that are committed to Medicare for all, to tuition-free public colleges and universities. We need a candidate that is dedicated to passing at least a $15 minimum wage, ideally one that's pegged to inflation."

On Sunday, Karl asked, "Could you see yourself supporting Joe Biden?"

She said that she would support the former vice president -- who is seen as a moderate figure and has campaigned on his ability to work across the aisle -- if he wins the Democratic nomination.

"I think that it is absolutely important that we defeat Donald Trump," Ocasio-Cortez said, adding, "I think that we need to pick a candidate that is going to be exciting to vote for, that all people, women, people of all genders, races, income levels, geographies feel excited and good about voting for."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the 2020 election: "It's possible that I'll endorse later on ... I do not see myself endorsing anytime soon. We haven't even had our first debates yet. I'm very interested in seeing how things play out" https://t.co/3S3qFJFu4C pic.twitter.com/EU69fBAM71

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 16, 2019

Biden claimed in March that he has "the most progressive record of anyone running."

The progressive freshman congresswoman said that she's "encouraged" by Biden's reversal on the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion, calling the stance the "very base level where all candidates need to be."

However, when asked about allegations of inappropriate touching and comments by Biden, Ocasio-Cortez said, "I do think that there may be some discomfort," among voters, citing recent comments where Biden told a 13-year-old girl that her brothers need to watch out for her. "I think there are some things with female voters that it's just not quite locked down."

When it comes to a candidate who articulates her vision of what a Democratic nominee should be, she said of Sen. Bernie Sanders, "I think that [Sanders] does that excellently. I think his policies do that excellently. I believe Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren's policies do that excellently."

For the time being, however, Ocasio-Cortez said that she and Sanders are focused on being allies in Congress and that Sanders had not asked for her endorsement.

Focusing on her work in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted her reaching across the aisle to work with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on legislation to ban former members of Congress from lobbying and to make birth control available over the counter.

When asked about that working relationship, Ocasio-Cortez said "we haven't met in person yet, but I do know that we have an ongoing working relationship and I'm extraordinarily excited in seeing what we can accomplish."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Supreme Court engages on same-sex marriage cake case, hands win to baker, for now

DNY59/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- For the second time in as many years, the Supreme Court on Monday engaged on a major religious liberty case involving same-sex marriage, but is sidestepping for now the substantive issue of alleged religion-based discrimination.

The court granted the petition of Christian bakers in Oregon who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of their religious beliefs and wiped away a lower court ruling against them. The justices sent the case back to the Sixth Circuit for further consideration.

Instructing the appeals court to reexamine the matter in light of a similar, narrowly-decided case last year from Colorado, the justices left open the key question of when discrimination on religious grounds can override civil rights protections written into law.

In the 2018 "Masterpiece Cakeshop" decision, the court focused solely on actions by the Colorado civil rights commission, which had penalized the baker for refusing to serve the couple. The court said the agency failed to show “religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.”

“Any decision in favor of the baker would have to be sufficiently constrained,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote at the time, “lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,’ something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons.”

The Oregon case involves Melissa and Aaron Klein, the owners of Sweetcakes bakery in Portland, Ore. In 2013, the bakers refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. A state administrative board said Sweetcakes violated anti-discrimination laws, awarding the couple $135,000.

The Kleins, who have since shut down their bakery, contend their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech were violated. “Any cake the complainants might have commissioned would have required them to employ their artistic skill to communicate a celebratory message about a same-sex wedding ritual that conflicts with the Kleins’ religious convictions,” they argued in court documents.

Oregon state courts have affirmed the board’s decision.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.