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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel indictments against 13 Russian nationals revealed that a key aspect of the alleged covert assault on the 2016 presidential election was an attempt to suppress turnout by African-American voters, an undertaking described in great detail in the papers filed in federal court Friday.

“Of particular concern, the indictments show how the Russians tried to suppress the votes of minorities across the United States in order to help Donald Trump win the presidency,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement.

The indictment describes repeated efforts to foment distrust of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, evidence of an effort to “encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.” Christopher Anders, deputy director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, said this alleged suppression of minority votes should be of grave concern to both American citizens and investigators.

“Buried literally in the middle of the indictment is a paragraph that should jar every American committed to the long fight for voting rights,” Anders wrote in a statement. “The Russians allegedly masqueraded as African-American and American Muslim activists to urge minority voters to abstain from voting in the 2016 election or to vote for a third-party candidate… Both the special counsel and Congress should investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents in this alleged targeting of minority voters in 2016. Such actions, if proven, would be criminal.”

According to the indictment, the alleged conspirators used an Instagram account called “Woke Blacks” to tell followers a month before the 2016 election that “we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.” Less than a week before Election Day, the accused Russians purchased Instagram advertisements on an account called “Blacktivist” that read in part: “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”

In October 2017, ABC News interviewed several black activists who described efforts to recruit them that, in retrospect, they realized were tied to the Russian operation.

Conrad James, an activist in Raleigh, North Carolina, says he was approached in September 2016 by a woman who claimed to represent BlackMattersUS and asked him to speak at a rally they were hosting in Charlotte. James said more than 600 people turned up.

“They definitely were trying to stir-up trouble,” James said of BlackMattersUS. “Their intent was obviously to have some type of emotionally filled rally where people are adding fuel to the fire that was already happening around Charlotte.”

A pair of bloggers whose social media posts and YouTube videos were pushed out from the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg troll farm named in the indictment, carried the most pointed political messages.

“We, the black people, we stand in one unity” said one post, by a pair of bloggers purporting to be from Atlanta named Williams and Kalvin. “We stand in one to say that Hillary Clinton is not our candidate.”

Federal officials and Facebook executives confirmed to ABC News that the William and Kalvin videos, first reported on by the Daily Beast, originated not in Atlanta, but in Russia.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a press conference Friday that, in the end, officials do not believe the Russian operations did anything to alter the final vote tally of the presidential contest.

“There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election,” Rosenstein said.

White House spokesperson Raj Shah issued a statement acknowledging the Department of Justice’s findings and commending their work.

“We condemn all foreign attempts to create chaos and discord within our electoral system and praise the Department of Justice’s efforts to bring these bad actors to justice,” said Shah.

President Trump took to Twitter on Friday to cast the indictment as a vindication of his campaign.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!”

Black turnout in the 2016 election dropped for the first time in a presidential election in 20 years, according to findings by the Pew Research Center. Turnout fell from a record-high 66.6% in 2012 to 59.6% in 2016, the Pew Research Center found, the largest drop on record for blacks.

At two rallies in December 2017, Trump appeared to expressed appreciation to black voters for not turning up to the polls.

“They didn't come out to vote for Hillary. They didn't come out,” Trump said at a rally in Hershey, Pa. “And that was a big — so thank you to the African-American community.”

He made similar remarks in Michigan, saying African American voters “came through big league.”

“If they had any doubt, they didn't vote,” he said. “And that was almost as good.”

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A former Homeland Security secretary said the fight against Russian election meddling should put internet companies rather than the government in charge of regulating content on social media.

Jeh Johnson, who headed the Department of Homeland Security in President Barack Obama’s second term, told ABC News' This Week Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday that he is concerned about government security agencies getting involved in "regulating free speech."

“When it comes to Facebook and social media and speech that appears on social media, I think that the security agencies of our government need to be very careful in trying to delve into this whole topic,” Johnson said.

He said the onus should be on internet service providers to guard against the use of fake social media accounts or other means for trying to interfere in U.S. elections or politics.

“I think that the answer has to be that those that provide access on the internet do more to self-regulate, to do more to make attribution to those who gain access to the information marketplace," the former Homeland Security secretary said. "We are a society of free speech, and we need to be careful not to get security agencies of our government involved in regulating free speech.”

Johnson's comments came after the special counsel probing alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election on Friday charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups with violating the law with the intent of meddling with "U.S. elections and political processes."

Chris Christie, an ABC News contributor who was formerly New Jersey governor and a federal prosecutor, said the indictment was "incredibly detailed and gave the American people, for the first time, a real picture into the scope of at least part of the operation that was obviously meant to disparage and damage Hillary Clinton."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A Democratic congressman who represents the Florida district where a school shooting last week killed 17 students and teachers said President Donald Trump needs to "talk to these kids and their families."

Rep. Ted Deutch told ABC News' This Week Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz that the reform of gun laws that some survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting are demanding could happen if the president meets directly with teens at the Parkland high school who survived the rampage.

Trump needs to “come to Parkland and talk to these kids and their families and everyone who has suffered. That's what should happen. That's how change will come,” Deutch said.

The Democratic representative added that the student survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are demanding gun control are "just not going to sit back after what they experienced, after what they saw -- the worst things imaginable. They're not just going to sit back and take it. They're going to stand up for their lives."

A Republican congressman from Florida, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who appeared on This Week with Deutch, agreed that “something has to happen.”

Curbelo noted that he has co-sponsored gun reform legislation, such as a bill to ban bump stocks, attachments that can make semi-automatic rifles fire faster and that were used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. “Co-sponsorship is the most important currency in the Capitol,” he said.

"I think I am part of that new generation that refuses to see this as a black or white issue where we either do everything or we do nothing," Curbelo said. "We can meet in the middle on this issue."

Deutch said survivors of the shooting “don't want to hear about co-sponsoring” of legislation. He faulted Curbelo for supporting Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to lead the House of Representatives, saying Ryan “refuses to bring” gun reform legislation up for a vote.

Curbelo "should talk to the speaker," Deutch said. "He should come to the speaker with those kids" from Stoneman Douglas High School.

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Chris Kleponis/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rob Porter may be the latest man President Donald Trump defended amid assault allegations, but he wasn't the first.

The president himself has faced repeated allegations of sexual misconduct or assault, saying that all of the women who have accused him are "liars."

That isn't the exact same approach Trump used for Rob Porter, his now-former White House staff secretary, and other men close to him when they've faced either assault, sexual assault or sexual misconduct allegations in the past.

Rob Porter

Three days after detailed allegations of Porter's alleged spousal abuse were made public, and two days after photos of the alleged abuse were released, Trump weighed in and praised Porter's work, saying he did "a very good job while he was in the White House."

Porter has denied the allegations, despite graphic photos of one ex-wife with facial bruising and a black eye, and a haunting description of violence from a second ex-wife.

Making remarks in the Oval Office on Feb. 9, Trump said he hopes Porter has "a great career ahead of him.”

Trump said the allegations were "very sad" and said it was "obviously a tough time."

"It was very sad when we heard about it. And certainly, he's also very sad. Now he also, as you probably know -- he says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that," Trump said.

Five days later -- after his initial remarks about Porter -- Trump made another statement, saying he is "totally opposed" to domestic violence and did not specifically tie the comments to the accusations against Porter.

"I am totally opposed to domestic violence, and everybody here knows that," Trump said on Feb. 14. "I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that."

Roy Moore

Back in November, ahead of the special election to fill the Senate spot in Alabama vacated by Jeff Sessions, Trump publicly weighed in on the embattled Republican candidate Roy Moore.

Trump spoke of the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore -- and sided with him.

"You have to listen to him also,” Trump said, adding, “He totally denies it.”

Moore was accused by eight women of sexual misconduct or impropriety. He denied those claims.

Bill O'Reilly

Trump defended former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly after an April 1 New York Times report that described settlements he reached with five women who accused him of harassment. O'Reilly denied the misconduct claims.

Trump, who has known O'Reilly for years, told the Times that O'Reilly is "a person I know well" and "a good person" and that he didn't think "Bill did anything wrong."

"Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled," Trump said.

Roger Ailes

After Roger Ailes stepped down as Fox News chairman and CEO, Trump praised him and said, "He's been a friend of mine for a long time."

Ailes' resignation came after former anchor Gretchen Carlson left Fox News on June 23 and, shortly afterward, filed a lawsuit against her former boss. Fox News and Ailes, who later died in May 2017, had denied Carlson's allegations.

Carlson was one of several women, including Megyn Kelly, who came forward with allegations of impropriety against Ailes during his tenure at Fox. Then-candidate Trump came to his defense.

"Some of the women that are complaining -- I know how much he's helped them," Trump said during an appearance on Meet the Press in July 2016.

He added, "Now all of a sudden, they are saying these horrible things about him. It's very sad because he's a very good person. I've always found him to be just a very, very good person."

Corey Lewandowski

In March 2016, Trump's then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of grabbing a female reporter after a campaign event, and Trump's campaign responded with a statement from then-campaign press secretary Hope Hicks saying the accusation was "entirely false."

Trump himself weighed in two days later, after the March 10 Republican primary debate.

"Everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up," Trump said.

Weeks later, when charges were filed against Lewandowski, Trump tweeted and called Lewandowski "a very decent man" and said the footage of the incident showed "nothing there."

Trump did not weigh in after Lewandowski was accused of sexual assault by singer and Trump supporter Joy Villa in December 2017.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups of violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere "with U.S. elections and political processes," according to the agency.

The indictment depicts an elaborate scheme in which some of the Russians accused allegedly came to the U.S. with the deliberate intention of undermining the American political and electoral process, including the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the Russians charged called their work "information warfare against the United States" with the goal of spreading distrust of candidates and the political system in general.

Some defendants "communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign" without revealing their association with Russia. The indictment also says the defendants posted negative information about a number of candidates during the last general election.

The individuals operated social media pages and groups designed to attract American audiences with a strategic goal to "sow discord in the U.S. political system". They staged rallies and had a basic infrastructure which included computers and other support systems.

Ultimately, the "defendants' operations included supporting the presidential campaign on then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton" his Democratic rival, according to the indictment.

According to the agency, "the indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president has been briefed on the indictments.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LEAVENWORTH, Kansas) -- A congressional hopeful in Kansas is under fire by some people for deciding to continue his raffle for a rifle to support his campaign.

Tyler Tannahill, of Leavenworth, announced the AR-15 giveaway via his Twitter page on Feb. 13. However, the AR-15 is the same type of weapon that was used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

“I don’t think we have a gun problem. I think it’s a mental health issue, problem," Tannahill told ABC affiliate KMBC-TV Thursday, adding it's why the rifle raffle will continue.

“We don’t support people going into schools and shooting them up. That’s absolutely not what we support. We support the Second Amendment, and your right to protect yourself, your life, your property, and your family,” he told KMBC-TV.

Tannahill said the raffle is being done legally and that the winner would need to go to a gun store and pass all the legal federal background checks.

Social media was mixed on his giveaway up until the Florida school shooting, which is when comments on Tannahill’s Facebook page became heated, with many people calling him out for continuing the raffle.

However, there seems to still be some enthusiasm for the contest as more than 400 people have signed up for it since the announcement.

Tannahill is campaigning for the Kansas second district congressional seat currently held by Republican Lynn Jenkins.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal court has unsealed a filing against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in which prosecutors with the special counsel’s office accuse Manafort of conducting “a series of bank frauds,” new, uncharged allegations that come on top of the conspiracy and money laundering charges he already faces.

The filing says the government has opposed a more lenient bail package for Manafort “in light of additional criminal conduct that we have learned since the Court’s initial bail determination,” and adds that the conduct in question “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

Manafort already faces a raft of charges in federal court, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Most of those charges stem from work he conducted overseas for political work in Ukraine.

He is the most senior Trump campaign adviser to face charges as part of the special prosecutor’s investigation into meddling by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The charges he is facing don’t relate to his brief tenure at the helm of the Trump campaign.

The bank fraud allegations leveled in the new court filings have not been formally charged, at least not in public.

Instead, prosecutors elected to reference the claims of additional criminal conduct as part of an attempt to prevent Manafort from altering the terms of his $10 million bail arrangement.

Manafort and prosecutors have struggled for weeks to reach an agreement over which of his many real estate holdings would satisfy the court as collateral.

Manafort has been confined to his home in Alexandria, Virginia, since being indicted in October.

The filings made public Friday night made no mention of Manafort’s longtime colleague, Rick Gates, who was indicted at the same time. Both Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges in the underlying indictment.

A spokesman for the Manafort legal team did not respond to a request for comment late Friday.

The new allegations include an assertion that he doctored records in order to secure loans for one of the properties he owns.

“Manafort provided the bank with doctored profit and loss statements for [his company] DMP International LLC for both 2015 and 2016, overstating its income by millions of dollars,” prosecutors wrote.

“At the next bail hearing, we can proffer to the Court additional evidence related to this and the other bank frauds and conspiracies, which the Court may find relevant to the bail risk posed by Manafort as well as the risk that the banks may foreclose on the real estate being proposed by Manafort to secure his release.”

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Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump visited Broward Health North Hospital to meet with wounded students, their family members and the hospital medical team on Friday evening following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and 14 injured.

"The job they've done is incredible and I want to congratulate you," Trump said as he shook hands with Dr. Igor Nichiporenko -- a trauma surgeon.

Later, Trump said he had met with some of the victims' parents and said they were in "really great shape" given the circumstances.

Trump also met with first responders at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

“Thank you all very much. Fantastic job. Thank you,” he told the first responders before calling for them to get raises. "Incredible job and everybody is talking about it."

The president told the officers that while at the hospital he met a female victim who had been shot four times, including in the lung. He said the first responders, by their quick actions, had saved her life.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi were also at Trump's meeting with the officers.

Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about changing the nation's gun laws, but said earlier that he is “working with Congress on many fronts” without elaboration.

Sources with direct knowledge of President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida high school shooting confirm to ABC News, that the president has said on multiple occasions including Friday morning “we have to do something.”

White House sources tell ABC News that it remains unclear what exactly the president wants to ultimately do, but he does want to know what options are available to the administration.

Sources confirm that, since the shooting, members of the administration have reached out to survivors, relatives of victims and locally elected officials in communities that have previously faced a school shooting.

Axios reported Friday White House officials were in the process of contacting individuals connected to past mass shootings such as Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, sites of some of the most deadly mass shootings in modern American history.
Reached by ABC News, several families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook told ABC News Friday they have not been contacted by the Trump administration.

The president tweeted this morning that he is “working with Congress on many fronts” but did not elaborate.

Appearing on Fox News, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the administration will be looking into a host of potential policy prescriptions going forward, with “mental health and school safety at the forefront.”

“The president wants to take leadership and actually fix this problem and create best practices across the country,” Shah told FOX, saying “there are a lot of specific policy proposal we'll be looking at.”

Shah said there will be discussion soon with the nation’s governors at the National Governor’s Association and said that state and local leaders will be at the forefront of efforts in charting out a path for preventative next steps.

President Trump has been a close ally of the National Rifle Association – securing their endorsement during the 2016 elections. Almost every day during the race Trump would talk about the second amendment.

“I love the second amendment, I’m a member of the NRA my sons are members of the NRA, I’m the strongest on the second amendment.”

The NRA spent $30 million in support of efforts to elect Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump was the first sitting president in decades to address the NRA's convention last year.

"The eight year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House," Trump told the gathering.

However, Trump position on gun policy has evolved.

In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve” Trump seemed to take a different stance especially in regards to assault weapons.

"I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun," he said. "With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within seventy-two hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”

Going back to the campaign, Trump came out against the NRA in allowing people on the no fly list to purchase guns.

"We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns," Trump told ABC News last year.

Asked if his position is that those on the no-fly or terror watch list should not be able to purchase a gun, Trump responded, "I'd like to see that, and I'd like to say it. And it's simpler. It's just simpler." Trump later took a meeting on the subject with the NRA.

A White House source told ABC News Friday that one of the areas the president has asked about in meetings since this week’s shooting is the background check process.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following revelations that disgraced White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter held a top security clearance even after the FBI discovered allegations of domestic abuse against him, the White House on Friday released a five-page memo from Chief of Staff John Kelly that outlines changes he plans to make to the security clearance process.

Kelly acknowledged "we should -- and in the future, must -- do better," but he does not admit any personal wrongdoing.

In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Kelly says going forward the FBI should hand deliver to the White House its background investigations on individuals in senior positions and "verbally brief the White House counsel on any information in those files they deem to be significantly derogatory."

Kelly's memo comes in the wake of a White House scandal that called into question how security clearances are issued, and who in the White House is able to gain access to classified information without the proper clearance.

Porter, who was accused of domestic violence by his two ex-wives, was able to access classified information as the President's Staff Secretary while only holding an interim clearance.

Kelly's memo says that future interim clearances must be granted a temporary clearance of 180 days, with an option to extend for an additional 90 days "if no significant derogatory information that would call into question whether interim status is appropriate."

It also says that individuals working under interim clearance status, as Porter did, would only be able to access highly classified information with "explicit Chief of Staff's approval, which would be granted only in the most compelling circumstances."

The memo implies Kelly had no prior knowledge of the seriousness of the claims against Porter, who was handling classified documents while working closely with Trump.

The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats criticized the current clearance system during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this week. "The process is broken. It needs to be reformed," said Coats. "We have situations where we need people in places but we don't have [clearance]."

The White House came under fire for its response to Porter, and questions surrounding who knew what -- and when -- about Porter's health.

Vice President Mike Pence admitted on Wednesday that the White House "could have handled this better."

"This administration has no tolerance for domestic violence, nor should any American," Pence said.

But when asked by the Wall Street Journal if the situation could have been handled better, Kelly said "No, it was all done right."

The White House has not said who, if anyone, was briefed by the FBI briefed on concerns about Rob Porter. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate this week that it gave the White House four reports on Porter's background.

The President has voiced frustration over the handling of domestic abuse allegations involving one of his closest aides, and even discussed possible replaces for Kelly, sources close to the president told ABC News.

But for now, Kelly is focusing on future projects. Kelly's memo states that he will create a working group, made up of White House counsel Don McGahn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Wray. The working group, wrote Kelly, will study the clearance process and "modernize standards across the Executive Branch."

"It is clear that new administrations will face similar challenges in the future and one of the most important things that a new White House staff must do correctly starting on Inauguration Day is to get the security clearance and suitability reviews processes right," wrote Kelly.

"We have a duty to the American people to ensure that, if nothing else, clearance and security protocols are passed down and become institutional knowledge of the White House."

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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The reactions to the country's latest mass shooting appear to be falling along fairly familiar party lines, with a number of key Republicans saying that now is not the time to discuss any gun control reforms while some Democrats demand action.

Elected Democrats aren't the only ones calling for action, however, as they're being joined by students that survived the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and others in the Parkland, Florida, community.

The varying reactions started to pour in shortly after the shooting on Wednesday.

Pushing back on the calls for action


Early that evening, just hours after the attack, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Flor., was asked by a Fox News reporter if he thought it was appropriate to talk about gun control reform after the attack.

"It’s not, only because people don’t know how this happened... who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack," Rubio told Fox News.

"I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it. There may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts? I think that we can always have that debate but if you’re going to have the debate about this particular incident, you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law you claim could have prevented it," Rubio said.

Later that evening, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that "there's a time" to talk about changes in the wake of horrible events but did not say specifically when that time was.

"There's a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding that we make sure that people are safe," Scott said Wednesday evening.

Conservative blogger Tomi Lahren joined the chorus Wednesday night as well, tweeting that "the left" was being too quick to jump on the issue.

"Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn't about a gun it's about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting" she wrote on Twitter.

The following day, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., echoed Rubio's sentiments, saying that "this is not a time to jump to some conclusion not knowing the full facts. We've got a lot more information we need to know."

"This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings. We need to think less about taking sides, and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together," Ryan said on Thursday.

Pleas from those connected to shootings

Sen. Bill Nelson, Rubio's Democratic counterpart, has repeatedly said that "enough is enough" in the wake of the shooting in his home state.

In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Nelson said that he's not alone in calling for what he calls "common sense" changes to gun laws.

"All of these students are speaking out so boldly, and maybe just maybe this is the turning point," he said of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have called for change.

The students and their parents have made some of the most poignant pleas, including Lori Alhadeff, the mother of 14-year-old victim Alyssa.

"President Trump, you say 'what can you do?' You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands. Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot!" Alhadeff screamed during an interview with CNN on Thursday.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has been outspoken in his repeated calls for increased gun control measures for years in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in his district.

"If you are not working today to try to fix this, to try to stop these shootings, then you're an accomplice. Those are tough words but they're true," Murphy told ABC News on Thursday.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel spoke Thursday night at a vigil to honor the victims, and shared a warning for elected officials.

"If you are an elected official and you want to keep things the way they are and not do things differently, if you want to keep the gun laws as they are now - you will not get re-elected in Broward County," he said.

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Jeff Kravitz / Contributor via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former Playboy playmate who says she had an affair with Donald Trump has publicly commented on the alleged relationship.

Karen McDougal has said she had the affair with Trump beginning in June 2006, an allegation that resurfaced on Friday in Ronan Farrow's report in The New Yorker.

The White House issued a statement denying The New Yorker story, saying, "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”

Donald Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model reveals 'systemic' pattern of concealing stories, says Ronan Farrow

This isn't McDougal's first foray into the public eye.

McDougal was a Playmate of the Month in December 1997, Playmate of the Year in 1998, and the runner-up for Playmate of the Decade for the 1990s.

Health issues

McDougal, 46, has previously addressed breast-implant illness, from which she says she has recovered.

She spoke to People magazine in February 2017 about the illness, saying she got breast implants in 1996 and began suffering from poor health seven years later.

"I would get sick every couple of months and be sick for six to eight weeks at a time," she told People. "It just never went away."

McDougal learned of breast implant illness in 2016 and had her implants removed in January 2017, she said.

"I noticed right away that I had no more blurry vision, I wasn’t blacking out or passing out,” she told the magazine. “I didn’t have the severe migraines, my joint pain was gone, my sound sensitivity was better.”

Her public profile

She regularly shares inspirational quotes and humorous memes on her public Twitter account, using it to promote her magazine appearances.

In a January post featuring an OK magazine article about her, McDougal is cited as a model and lifestyle expert and weighs in on hostess gifts for partygoers.

McDougal posted a similar feature in December from Star magazine where she doled out holiday party advice.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian groups were indicted for allegedly trying to interfere with "U.S. elections and political processes," according to the Justice Department.

The 37-page indictment details the elaborate alleged scheme in which some of the Russians accused supposedly came to the U.S. with the intention of undermining the American political and electoral process, including the 2016 presidential election.

Read the full text here.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sources with direct knowledge of President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida high school shooting confirm to ABC News that the president has said on multiple occasions, including Friday morning, that “we have to do something.”

White House sources tell ABC News that it remains unclear what exactly the president wants to ultimately do, but he does want to know what options are available to the administration.

A source confirmed to ABC News that, since the shooting, members of the administration have reached out to survivors, relatives of victims and locally elected officials in communities that have previously faced a school shooting.

Axios reported Friday that White House officials were in the process of contacting individuals connected to past mass shootings such as Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, sites of some of the most deadly mass shootings in modern American history.

Reached by ABC News, several families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook told ABC News Friday that they have not been contacted by the Trump administration.

The president tweeted Friday morning that he is “working with Congress on many fronts,” but did not elaborate.

Appearing on Fox News, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the administration will be looking into a host of potential policy prescriptions going forward, with “mental health and school safety at the forefront.”

“The president wants to take leadership and actually fix this problem and create best practices across the country,” Shah told FOX.

Shah said there will be discussions soon with the nation’s governors at the National Governor’s Association and said state and local leaders will be at the forefront of efforts in charting out a path for preventative next steps.

President Trump has been a close ally of the National Rifle Association, securing their endorsement during the 2016 election. Almost every day during the race, Trump would talk about the Second Amendment.

“I love the Second Amendment. I’m a member of the NRA. My sons are members of the NRA.  I’m the strongest on the Second Amendment.”

The NRA spent $30 million in support of efforts to elect Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump was the first sitting president in decades to address the NRA's convention last year.

"The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House," Trump told the gathering.

However, Trump's position on gun policy has evolved.

In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve,” Trump seemed to take a different stance, especially in regards to assault weapons.

"I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun," he said. "With today’s Internet technology, we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”

Going back to the campaign, Trump came out against the NRA in allowing people on the no-fly list to purchase guns.

"We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns," Trump told ABC News last year.

Asked if his position is that those on the no-fly or terror watch list should not be able to purchase a gun, Trump responded, "I'd like to see that, and I'd like to say it. And it's simpler. It's just simpler." Trump later took a meeting on the subject with the NRA.

A White House source told ABC News Friday that one of the areas the president has asked about in meetings since this week’s shooting is the background check process.

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Chris Kleponis/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Those loyal to Donald Trump went to great lengths to conceal his alleged affair with former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal through secret meetings, pay-offs and legal agreements, according to Ronan Farrow's latest report in The New Yorker.

In an Friday interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, Farrow said McDougal's firsthand account of her alleged affair with Trump, beginning in June 2006, reveals a "systemic" pattern of "catch and kill," or purchasing a story in order to sweep it under the rug.

"The underlying chronicle of the affair reveals a lot of important patterns that we're now seeing in the multiple accounts of either consensual affairs or alleged nonconsensual activity with Trump," Farrow said.

According to Farrow, McDougal recorded her alleged nine-month relationship with Trump "in an eight-page, handwritten document" provided to The New Yorker by her friend, John Crawford. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, at the time of the alleged affair.

Throughout the course of their alleged affair, "Trump flew McDougal to public events across the country but hid the fact that he paid for her travel," Farrow wrote in the magazine. McDougal ended the relationship in April 2007, according to Farrow.

In November 2016, just four days before the presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported that American Media Inc. (AMI), publisher of the National Enquirer, had paid $150,000 for the exclusive rights to McDougal's story.

“AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” according to a written statement the company gave to The Journal in 2016.

In a statement to The New Yorker, AMI said it never published the story because the company said it didn't find McDougal's account credible.

"Six former AMI employees tell me that's not the case," Farrow said on Good Morning America.

Farrow said this "catch and kill" method was "routine activity" by AMI CEO and Chairman David Pecker, "who has publicly pledged his loyalty to Trump."

"This is the interesting and potentially troubling dimension," Farrow said. "These dirty stories about high-profile individuals would be used as leverage over those individuals -- obviously national security implications here when that happens to be the president."

He added, "Our reporting certainly suggests that, again, according to those AMI insiders, there was knowledge of this loyalty to Trump and that this flowed from that. We do not report that Trump ordered this."

In a statement to The New Yorker, AMI refuted that it had any leverage over Trump. “The suggestion that AMI holds any influence over the president of the United States, while flattering, is laughable,” the statement said.

A White House spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News that Trump denies having had an affair with the former Playboy model. "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal."

Farrow reported that McDougal declined to discuss the details about the alleged affair with him, for fear of violating the contract she signed with AMI.

"She feels she was trapped into an exploitative contract that bound her to silence, and that's something that she finds very frustrating," Farrow told Stephanopoulos. "She was sort of backed into a situation where she feared the story was going to leak, and she signed this deal after pitching it in several places. She, I think, readily admits that she consented to that deal, but feels now the heavy burden of silence."

According to Farrow, AMI said an amendment to McDougal’s contract, which was signed after Trump won the 2016 presidential election, allowed her to "respond to legitimate press inquiries" about the alleged affair.

"She says she cannot," Farrow said. "She and her representatives feel that that is not the case, looking at the letter of the contract."

This week, Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen acknowledged using his private funds shortly before the 2016 presidential election to pay $130,000 to a porn actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Trump.

“In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Cohen said in a statement emailed to ABC News on Wednesday, referencing the actress also known as Stormy Daniels.

Cohen’s statement, first reported by The New York Times, came in direct response to a Jan. 22 complaint filed by Common Cause, a watchdog group, with the Federal Election Commission, questioning whether the payment represented an illegal, in-kind contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign or whether the campaign reimbursed Cohen for the expense.

In the wake of other allegations of affairs involving Trump, Farrow said there has been an "uptick in contact" between AMI and McDougal.

"That contact has sharply increased and, as recently as several days ago, they were aggressively seeking to have her sign new contracts," he said.

Farrow said his reporting divulges "new" and "unprecedented" revelations about Trump.

"In this country, the most powerful and wealthy men can command an elaborate system to silence people with stories about them that they don't want out in the public, and obviously for a sitting president to be the beneficiary of such a system is a pretty unprecedented thing," he said.

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George Frey/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Former Massachusetts governor and one-time Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is running for the U.S. Senate in Utah, he officially announced Friday morning.

Romney, 70, was the Republican Party's presidential standard-bearer in 2012, eventually losing the general election to then-President Barack Obama.

With Romney's potential arrival in Washington comes notably real tension between him and the man now occupying the Oval Office: President Donald Trump.

Romney called Trump a "phony" and a "fraud" during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump has regularly taken to Twitter to criticize Romney.

He met with Utahans throughout the state Friday to kick off his campaign, a Romney source told ABC News.

In his first formal public appearance on camera since announcing his campaign, Romney delivered the keynote speech Friday night for the Utah County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Provo, Utah.

Romney spoke for a little over a half hour in his first on-camera remarks and addressed criticism of his tenuous connection to the state of Utah right off the bat.

"It is an emotional time for me to come back and be in this city," Romney said. "Ann and I lived here for three years while we were going to school. This is where our oldest son was born, at Utah Valley Hospital. I remember it very, very well the feelings as we drove into town, looked to see how much of it remained the same, and how much of it is different."

Romney also addressed gun violence, saying the school shooting Wednesday in Parkland, Florida, was "unthinkable and unimaginable." In a departure from many Republicans in Congress, including Speaker Paul Ryan, he said now was the time to discuss fixes for the problem.

"As a legacy to those who have been killed and lost, we must take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again -- and heaven forbid from happening in our great state," he said. "I believe this is a time for us to have this discussion because it is very much in our minds. I don't know what the answers are to make our schools safer. I don't have all the answers, I've got some ideas. But I think we can't just sit and wait and hope and expect things are gonna get better, because these things just keep on happening.

"Now I've looked at some federal legislation -- I don't see any federal legislation that would have prevented these attacks and so I don't support passing some new federal law of the nature I described. Although an exception may be for Sen. Orrin Hatch's proposal, that he's been promoting, that's been for enhanced background checks. My own view, having served as a governor, is that the best place for finding solutions for school violence is going to be at the state and local level where things are able to happen at a more advanced, responsive manner.

He was light on specifics, but mentioned enhanced security at schools and police patrols, as well as intervention teams for children with mental health issues and "perhaps the age and psychological restrictions on gun purchases."

Romney, never known for his sense of humor, did manage to get a few cracks off, saying he was taking questions from submitted on social media to "break up the monotony of my 3 1/2-hour speech."

"I do want to dispel the rumor that I only ran for president as a stepping stone to become U.S. senator from Utah," Romney joked.

Romney also touted his ability to work across the aisle in his time as a Republican governor in Massachusetts with what he called a "90 percent Democratic legislature."

Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Reps. Mia Love, R-Utah, and John Curtis, R-Utah, were expected to attend the speech, according to a dinner invitation obtained by ABC News.

The Utah County Republican Party had lined up the former Republican presidential nominee as its keynote speaker before Romney announced his intentions to run for Senate and there was no coordination between the party and campaign, Craig said.

The seat Romney is seeking is held by longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who announced earlier this year that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

In his announcement video today, Romney does not mention Trump but did have a few thoughts on the immigration debate waging in Washington.

"Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world,” Romney says. “Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

After taking some time off from politics, Romney also said, he and wife Ann decided that running for the Senate was the right decision.

"Over the last five years, Ann and I have spent a good deal of time with our 24 grandchildren. I've gone back to business, campaigned for Republicans and met with young people across the country," Romney says in the video. "Given all that America faces, we feel that this is the right time for me to serve our state and our country."

Romney's GOP running mate in the 2012 presidential campaign, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, reacted to the news Friday, releasing a statement that read in part: "This is a terrific day for the United States Senate."

"I was honored to join Mitt Romney on the national ticket in 2012 and couldn't be happier that he's running for this seat," Ryan added. "Our party and our country are always better off when Mitt is engaged, and I know that he will put his unparalleled experience, conservative leadership, and life time of service to work for Utah in the U.S. Senate."

While the primary and general election races to succeed Hatch are not expected to be competitive, Democrats still criticized Romney's announcement, saying he "desperately wants to separate himself from the extremism of the current administration."

"Utah deserves a Senator who will expand opportunities and fight to improve the lives of everyone, not another multi-millionaire looking out for himself, his rich neighbors and the special interests," Democratic National Committee spokesman Vedant Patel wrote in a statement released this morning.

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