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Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- During a rare interview on NBC’s Today show, former President George W. Bush -- who seldom commented on political issues during Barack Obama’s presidency -- offered his critique of the Trump administration’s policies and the president's contentious relationship with the press.

The nation's 43rd president was on the show to promote his new book, Portraits of Courage, a series of paintings of wounded veterans.

Here are the key highlights from his interview:

Bush calls for answers on possible connections between Russia and Trump campaign

Bush said he supports an investigation that explores possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“I think we all need answers,” Bush told Matt Lauer.

Bush, however, did not say whether or not a special prosecutor is needed to conduct an investigation, instead leaning on any recommendation that comes from Senate Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Burr.

”I'm not sure the right avenue to take. I am sure, though, that that question needs to be answered,” he added.

Bush defends the media as a check on "addictive" power

Bush critiqued President Trump’s feud with the media, calling it “indispensable to democracy.”

“Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive. And it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power,” Bush said.

Bush said that during his time as president he tried to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin of the importance of an independent press.

Bush on Trump’s immigration policy

When asked if the Trump administration’s executive order banning the immigration of people from seven Muslim majority countries makes it harder for the United States to fight terrorism, Bush replied, “It's hard to fight the war on terrorism if we're in retreat. And I think we learned that lesson.”

“If the United States decides to pull out before a free society emerges, it's going to be hard to defeat them," he said. "The enemy is very good about exploiting weakness. It's going to be important. If that's the goal, to defeat ISIS, which I believe it should be, that we project strength. Now, whether or not the domestic politics plays helps them or not.”

When pressed by Lauer if he supports Trump’s ban, Bush wouldn’t give a definitive "yes" or ‘no.”

“I'm for an immigration policy that's welcoming and upholds the law,” he answered.

Bush reflects on the divisions facing the country

Bush laughed at Trump’s description of “carnage” across America but noted the divisions facing the country.

“We were pretty divided when I was president right after a while. We were united after 9/11,” he said. “Some of this will burn out, but it requires all of us understanding how the other person thinks.”

But as divided as the country might seem, Bush pointed out that divisions were “much worse" during the 1960s.

When asked how Trump can help heal those divisions, he said give the president some time.

“First of all, there's only been one month in office," Bush said. "Secondly, I think you have to take the man for his word that he wants to unify the country. We'll see if he's able to do so. It's hard to unify the country with the news media being so split up.”

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump's first major congressional address this week will be met with a Democratic response highlighting the success of Obamacare in a state that Trump won.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a strong supporter of Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, will deliver the Democrats' rebuttal to the president's first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

"Nobody is better equipped to talk about the successes of the [Affordable Care Act] than he is," said Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky. “In terms of lowering the uninsured rate and people getting preventive care, the numbers in Kentucky are staggering."

While governor from 2007 to 2015, Beshear led the state in lowering its rate of people without health insurance from over 20 percent to 7.5 percent, one of the biggest improvements in the nation.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president's address will be about "the renewal of the American spirit." Possible topics include the proposed wall along the southern U.S. border; repealing and replacing Obamacare; tax and regulatory reform; and job creation.

With Republicans planning to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are scrambling to counter that argument by urging constituents to attend GOP representatives' town halls, hold rallies and highlight success stories.

“Under Governor Beshear’s leadership, Kentucky became one of the great success stories of the Affordable Care Act in delivering quality, affordable health coverage for all," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announcing Beshear as their party's speaker. "Gov. Beshear is an experienced job creator and a uniquely credible voice on the devastating consequences of Republicans’ plans to make America sick again."

In addition to health care, the red state Democrat is also expected to talk about job creation and to critique the first 40 days of Trump's administration.

“Real leaders don’t spread derision and division -- they build partnerships and offer solutions instead of ideology and blame," Beshear said in a statement.

In addition to Beshear, immigration activist and "dreamer" Astrid Silva, who came to the United States at age 4, will deliver the Democrats' Spanish-language response.

Silva will be the first non-lawmaker to deliver an official Spanish response for either party.

“While President Trump unleashes a cruel deportation dragnet on hardworking immigrant families, Astrid Silva personifies the values that have always made America strong,” Pelosi said.

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Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images(OXON HILL, Md.) — The first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference — also known as CPAC — gave conservatives a chance to hear from some of President Donald Trump’s top advisors at the White House and even included a Supreme Court prediction by one of Trump's former rivals.

Here’s five things to note from the first day of CPAC.

Bannon and Priebus Insist They're Buddies


White House senior adviser Steve Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus took their buddy comedy on the road at CPAC, insisting that the White House is not in chaos and that they are working well together.

Priebus and Bannon insisted they are "dear friends" and have a smooth working relationship.

"In regard to us two, I think the biggest misconception is everything that you're reading. We share an office suite together, we're basically together from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night," Priebus said.

He continued his praise, "I think that he’s very dogged in making sure that every day, the promises that President Trump has made are the promises we’re working on every day, number one. Number two, he’s incredibly loyal. And number three — which I think is a really important quality as we’re working together — he’s extremely consistent."

For his part, Bannon said of Priebus, "I can run a little hot on occasions. And Reince is indefatigable."

DeVos Supports Trump's Decision To Reverse Transgender Guidelines


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she supports President Trump's rollback of Obama administration guidelines on transgender students' choice of bathrooms in schools. During a Q & A at the conference on Thursday, DeVos said the previous president's guidance issued last year to public schools was a "very huge example of the Obama administration's overreach." She said, however, "It's our job to protect students" and "to protect personal freedoms."

Kellyanne Conway Tells Young Conservatives: "Don’t Live Online"


When asked to give her recommendations for the many college-age conservatives who flocked to CPAC this year, White House counselor KellyAnne Conway was succinct: get offline. "Live in real time. I’m just astonished how many people live online, on Facebook, texting, Twitter, email. Remember: it’s a mode of communication, it’s not communication. It’s not real life," she said.

As she concluded her remarks Thursday morning, President Trump, a frequent social media user himself, had not yet issued any new tweets, his preferred mode of communication.

Ted Cruz Predicts Second Supreme Court Vacancy in the Summer


Sen. Ted Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general who once clerked for the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, said during a conversation onstage at CPAC that there would be a second Supreme Court vacancy "this summer." He didn’t give any hints as to which seat he thinks will be free, but there have been rumors that Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire after the current term.

The Conservative Swag


Most of what was shown on TV were the speeches in a large ballroom. But there’s much more to CPAC than just politicians speaking. There’s a whole lot of Republican merchandise and kitsch, ranging from women dressed in skirts bearing elephants to shirts reading "Socialism sucks."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Trump administration officials are previewing details of the president's first budget blueprint that is expected to include a boost in defense spending offset by cutbacks to foreign aid and other "lower priority" programs.

Two Office of Management and Budget officials said in a conference call with reporters Monday that the "passback budget" being sent for Congress' review will be seen as a “security budget,” with a proposed increase of $54 billion in defense spending.

The officials reiterated this was merely a “first draft” and shell of what the administration will send Congress in its formal budget request next month.

During a drop-by of the National Governors Association meeting Monday, President Trump said the budget will include "an historic increase in defense spending."

“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump said. “Very much based on those two with plenty of other things but very strong."

The two OMB officials, who were authorized by the White House to request anonymity in their briefing of reporters, did not say which departments would feel the brunt of these cuts, though they said “there will be a large reduction in foreign aid” in keeping with Trump’s campaign promises.

When it was pointed out by a reporter on the call that foreign aid amounts to less than 1 percent of spending by the U.S., the officials said the proposed reduction should still be praised for putting Americans first.

"This budget expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding in the past," one OMB official said.

The officials also did not specify what specifically the increase in defense spending would pay for, instead saying that the money would be sent to the Pentagon for them to allocate.

Trump also said in his remarks to the NGA that the budget includes an increase in “all spending for federal law enforcement.”

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Trump will give his first major congressional address at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, laying out his agenda for the nation. In addition to lawmakers, the audience is expected to include most of his cabinet, the Supreme Court justice and top military brass.

His appearance follows an invitation last month from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called the address "an opportunity for the people and their representatives to hear directly from our new president about his vision and our shared agenda."

The Talking Points


The commander-in-chief's address comes on the heels of a rocky first 39 days: from the troubled roll-out of the travel ban to the ousting of national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russians officials.

On Tuesday, Trump is expected to recast his fledgling presidency as a victory for the American people, outlining ways he and lawmakers can work together.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says the address will be "the renewal of the American spirit." Possible topics that will be discussed: Trump's proposed wall along the southern U.S. border; repealing and replacing Obamacare; tax and regulatory reform; and job creation.

The Democratic Response


Trump won't get the last word Tuesday night.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will give the Democratic response to Trump's address, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last Friday.

The Democratic governor of a largely conservative state, Beshear, was a strong supporter of Obamacare and an expansion of Medicaid in 2014. Within two years, his state's uninsured rate fell nearly 13 percentage points, according to Gallup.

"Under Governor Beshear’s leadership, Kentucky became one of the great success stories of the Affordable Care Act," Pelosi said in a statement. "Governor Beshear is an experienced job-creator and a uniquely credible voice on the devastating consequences of Republicans’ plans to Make America Sick Again."

The Democrats also announced that immigration activist Astrid Silva, a DREAMer who came to the United States at age 4, will deliver the Spanish-language response.

She'll be the first non-lawmaker to deliver the official Spanish response for either party.

“While President Trump unleashes a cruel deportation dragnet on hard-working immigrant families, Astrid Silva personifies the values that have always made America strong,” Pelosi said.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — On Tuesday, most of the nation's political elite — from Vice President Mike Pence to House Speaker Paul Ryan — will file into the House chamber to hear President Trump outline his national agenda. But one member of the administration definitely won't be watching in person.

During major presidential addresses, the administration isolates one cabinet-level official in an undisclosed location. That person takes control if a disaster were to wipe out all those in the presidential line of succession.

Usually selected by the president's chief-of-staff, the identity of the so-called "designated survivor" is kept secret until shortly before the event.

If the president dies or is removed from office, he's succeeded by the vice president, followed by the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate, currently Utah Republican Orrin Hatch. According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the president pro tempore is followed, in order, by the secretaries of state, treasury, and defense, the attorney general, and the secretaries of the interior, agriculture, commerce, labor, health and human services, housing and urban development, transportation, energy, education, veterans affairs and homeland security.

According to historians, the practice dates back to the 1960s, when the nation, rocked by the Cold War, began fearing a nuclear attack. It was not until the 1980s, however, that the survivors' identities became matter of public record.

Prior to the attacks on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, the designated survivor had a relatively relaxed evening. One survivor recalled spending the night with his daughter, while another hosted a pizza party in the White House.

But post-9/11, security was beefed up: the designated survivor now undergoes hours of briefings and even practices disaster scenarios. Shortly before the president's speech, the designated survivor is whisked out of the nation's capital, accompanied by presidential-level security and a military aide carrying the "football," a briefcase that houses the nuclear launch codes.

During President Trump's inauguration in January, then-President Obama's secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, served as the designated survivor.

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MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- After not seeing a tweet from President Trump all night long, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel decided to take action.

He tweeted at Trump live on stage, saying he was "worried" about the president after the show had gone on for more than two hours.

First Kimmel wrote, "Hey @realDonaldTrump u up?" The crowd erupted in laughter.

Hey @realDonaldTrump u up?

— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) February 27, 2017

Next, he made it a bit personal, writing, "@realDonaldTrump #Merylsayshi."

Kimmel was referring to Trump tweeting about the 20-time Oscar nominee after she spoke out about the president at the Golden Globe Awards.

@realDonaldTrump #Merylsayshi

— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) February 27, 2017

Streep gave a speech at the Golden Globes, and though she never mentioned Trump by name, she said a "person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country" gave an impression of a disabled reporter during one of his campaign stops.

He responded by tweeting, saying she was "over-rated."

"Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never 'mocked' a disabled reporter," he wrote.

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Well, the big night is finally here! The 2017 Oscars have begun, and your host for the evening Jimmy Kimmel has taken the stage.

In his opening monologue, the late-night host did not hold back, poking fun at President Donald Trump, close friend and pretend-enemy Matt Damon, and even Denzel Washington.

Kimmel came out and immediately addressed the elephant in the room. He said that many people had told him that the country is so divided right now he should address it. "I can't do that," he said.

"There's only one 'Braveheart' in the room," he said of Oscar-winner Mel Gibson, who is nominated again this year for his new film "Hacksaw Ridge." "And he's not going to unite us either," he added as the crowd laughed.

Kimmel got more serious then when he said that if everyone watching right now "took a moment to reach out to one person you disagree with and have a positive, considerate conversation ... we could really make America great again."

But just as quick, the host's jokes began rolling again. Kimmel feigned as if he wanted to bury the hatchet with Matt Damon before making fun of the actor's choice to pass up starring in "Manchester by the Sea" only to star in a "Chinese ponytail movie instead and that movie went on to lose $80 million. Smooth move dumba---."

"When I first met Matt, I was the fat one," he also joked.

Kimmel's first crack on Trump was thanking him because, "remember when last year the Oscars were considered racist?"

After picking on Oscar nominee Denzel Washington for directing himself in the film "Fences," he teased French actress and nominee Isabelle Huppert.

"We didn't see 'Elle,' but we absolutely loved it," he said. "I'm glad Homeland Security let you in tonight," he added, a joke apparently about Trump's order restricting entry into the U.S. of people from seven Muslim-majority countries which has been put on hold by the courts.

Finally, Kimmel closed with a riff on Meryl Streep, the actress who is nominated for her 20th Oscar this year whom Trump called overrated after she gave a speech at the Golden Globes that criticized the president without naming him.

"One actress has stood the test of time for her many uninspiring and overrated performances," he said. "[She's] phoned it in for more than 50 films. This is Meryl's 20th Oscar nomination ... she wasn't even in a movie this year, we just wrote her name in out of habit."

He closed with, "Some of you will [win tonight] and give a speech that the president of the United States will tweet about in all caps."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- While Hollywood rolls out the red carpet for the Oscars, the president and first lady hosted a night of glamour of their own Sunday night. But instead of movie stars, the guests at the White House were the nation's governors.

It's an annual tradition for the president to invite the nation's governors to the White House for a dinner. Sunday night's Governor's Ball was a first for President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in acting as host and hostess of the White House for a gala-style event.

"I hear this is a record number of governors, 46 and that’s the highest that have ever showed up for this evening," the commander-in-chief said during his toast.

The theme of the dinner was "Spring's Renewal," with the first lady noting in a statement that "the scents of jasmine and roses fill the air as we give thanks for this great Nation and the glory of renewal."

The first lady also says the night will be an opportunity to leave political labels behind and unite.

"I am proud to invite all the governors to the White House for this important annual event," the first lady also said. "Tonight, we come together as one Nation, leaving political labels and partisan interests behind."

However, President Trump did briefly tout the accomplishments of his young presidency -- highlighting border security:

"I can say that after four weeks, it’s been a lot of fun accomplished but we’ve accomplished almost everything we’ve started out to accomplish -- the borders are stricter, tighter," he said, complimenting Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly's work.

He also teased the group's upcoming discussion of former President Obama's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

"Tomorrow we're going to meet and we’re going discuss things like perhaps healthcare will come up, perhaps and I think we've made a lot of progress on that and we’re going to have a speech Tuesday night and we’re going to be speaking very specifically about a very complicated subject," the Trump said. "We’re going to have it fixed, and we’re going to repeal and replace, and I think you’re going to see something very special."

 

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iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- As part of a new initiative to support the American Civil Liberties Union, Oscar nominees and other stars are wearing blue ribbons with the organization's name on them.

Already spotted wearing the ribbons, part of the "Stand With ACLU" campaign, are Lin-Manuel Miranda and his mother, Loving star Ruth Negga and more.

"For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States," the organization lists as its mission on its official website.

The organization launched the campaign this week, and the Oscars actually aren't the first event at which celebs have supported the cause. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Casey Affleck wore one last night at the Independent Spirit Awards. The outlet adds that in the past three months, the organization's membership has doubled and it has raised millions in online donations.

In February, the ACLU announced it would create a "rapid response team" to help those deported or kept out of the United States following President Donald Trump's travel ban, which has since been halted by a federal court judge in Washington state.

#Hamilton's @Lin_Manuel is also wearing a blue @ACLU ribbon. He brought his mom to the #Oscars. pic.twitter.com/yHAxx5Htwt

— Veronica Miracle (@VeronicaABC30) February 26, 2017

In a blog post on the group's website on Friday, the ACLU wrote, "The ACLU will continue to defend our basic freedoms and hold this administration accountable for every unlawful or unconstitutional measure they propose. We will use the courts as one avenue to aggressively advance our agenda, but we cannot do it alone."

As stars walk the Oscars red carpet, the official ACLU Twitter page has been sharing photos of the celebs wearing the ribbons and even cracking jokes.

"Who ever thought we'd be fashion icons?" the organization wrote, thanking the celebs for their support.

Who ever thought we'd be fashion icons? #Oscars https://t.co/ii6f71xKq3

— ACLU National (@ACLU) February 26, 2017

Thanks @Lin_Manuel, glad you gladly join the fight. And when our children tell our story, they’ll tell the story of tonight. #Oscars https://t.co/k5wgvUFRlt

— ACLU National (@ACLU) February 26, 2017

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The new chair of the Democratic National Committee acknowledged the party made mistakes in its past election strategy and has work ahead to win more seats at all levels of government.

“We didn't invest enough in our state party infrastructure,” newly-elected DNC Chair Tom Perez told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. “We didn't invest enough in grassroots organizing. We ignored rural swaths of America.”

“We need an every zip code strategy. We need to redefine the role of the DNC so that we're helping to elect people from the school board to the Senate,” Perez added.

The former Obama administration labor secretary was elected as the Democratic National Committee’s new chair on Saturday after a close race against the other leading contender, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. Perez won by 235 to 200 on a second round of voting after none of the candidates received the majority of votes on the first ballot.

In a show of unity, Perez immediately after his election named Ellison as deputy chair, and the two stood together at the podium. Many in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party had backed Ellison, who was an early supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary, and who was backed by Sanders to lead the DNC. Ellison was also endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Stephanopoulos asked about apparent discord at the DNC meeting with some protest chants after Perez won, and Sanders' statement later that it was “imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before.”

Perez responded that “Congressman Ellison and I are united, and our values our identical ... We want to make sure that everyone has a fair shake. These are things that Donald Trump is fighting against."

“Our Democratic unity is Donald Trump's worst nightmare,” Perez said. "When we lead with our values, we win. And that's what we're going to do."

The new DNC chair added, "There is such an electricity out there across America, and it's not just the traditional activists ... Congressman Ellison has been spectacular at tapping into that grassroots advocacy. And we're working together to translate this activism into results.”

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ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- When Hollywood stars celebrate their Oscar wins at the annual Governors Ball bash on Sunday, Donald and Melania Trump will be hosting their own White House Governors’ Ball in Washington, D.C.

The scheduling conflict means Trump will likely not be watching the 89th Academy Awards live on TV.

 “The first lady has put a lot of time into this event that's going to occur and welcoming our nation's governors to the capital,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday. “And I have a feeling that that's where the president and the first lady are going to be focused on on Sunday night, and so we'll go from there.”

Trump did not tweet about the Academy Awards last year. Instead, in between appearances on Sunday morning shows and a speech in Alabama, Trump directed at least one of his Feb. 28 tweets at his then-presidential opponent, Sen. Marco Rubio, calling him a "lightweight no show Senator from Florida."

In 2015, Trump deemed that year's ceremony, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, an "insult" to previous Oscars. He also got technical, criticizing even the ceremony's graphics.

What ever happened to the good old days of The Academy Awards. This show is an insult to the past, just plain bad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2015

Worst graphics and stage backdrop ever at the Oscars. Show is terrible, really BORING!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2015


In 2014, Trump declared the awards ceremony “AWFUL” and compared it to the website for then-President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars that year, while "12 Years a Slave" won best picture and stars including Matthew McConaughey and Lupita Nyong’o took home top acting honors.

Was President Obama in charge of this years Academy Awards - they remind me of the ObamaCare website! #Oscars.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014

I'm having a real hard time watching the Academy Awards (so far). The last song was terrible! Kim should sue her plastic surgeon! #Oscars

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014

This cannot be the the Academy Awards #Oscars AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014


He also declared the evening "amateur night," criticized DeGeneres' longtime producer and seemed to imply the awards show was "dishonest."

Which is worse and which is more dishonest - the #Oscars or the Emmys?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014

Little Andy Lassner, who lives his life through Ellen and has nothing else going for himself, is having a really bad night! #Oscars

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014

Ellen is sadly having a hard time with her lines. #Oscars

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014


That year the future commander-in-chief also retweeted supporters who appeared to indicate Trump's no-holds-barred Oscar tweets would make him a good president.

"@CashMoneyBonas: @realDonaldTrump I wish I was watching your presidency campaign instead of the oscars"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014

"@reza_rezvani: @realDonaldTrump You need to run for President. This country needs you. #Trump2016" zip. I know! #Oscars

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2014


Trump told his Twitter followers in 2013 that he was tweeting that year’s ceremony, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, due to “popular demand.”

By popular demand, I will be tweeting on the very tainted Academy Awards tonight!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2013


Despite writing in a 2012 tweet that McFarlane being named Oscar host was “something new that should be fun,” Trump called the ceremony "very average" the morning after.

...Overall, the Academy Awards were very average at best.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2013


In between his reviews of McFarlane, Trump called “Django Unchained,” a best picture nominee, the “most racist movie I have ever seen," slammed the British accent of Daniel-Day Lewis, who won best actor for "Lincoln," and deemed the Oscar set "very tacky."

Trump was so angry about the Oscars in 2012, hosted by Billy Crystal, that he took to another form of social media, YouTube, to vent.

Trump, looking straight into a camera at his desk in Trump Tower, called for a security guard to be fired after Sacha Baron Cohen, dressed as his character in “The Dictator,” sprinkled what he claimed to be ashes on Ryan Seacrest during E’s Oscars red carpet coverage.

Trump also called the ceremony "boring," said people were sleeping through it and used the occasion to take a dig at Vanity Fair, whose editor, Graydon Carter, has a long-running feud with Trump.

“Nobody enjoyed it. There was no good feeling and it was really like symblomatic [sic] of what happened to Vanity Fair,” Trump said. “...It used to be a wonderful magazine. Right now it’s boring, just like the party they had.”

I hear the worst, or at least most boring, Academy Awards party this year was the @VanityFair party. It's lost (cont) http://t.co/u5SS2G0Q

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2012


Just one year earlier, in 2011, Trump and his wife attended the Oscars. The couple also attended the Vanity Fair Oscar party at the Sunset Tower Hotel, as seen in photographs taken at the time.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that President Trump will have no positive achievements to point to when he gives his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

"He has nothing to show for it but fear in every way," Pelosi told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos Sunday on This Week. "To people who are sick -- fear, to people who are immigrants -- fear, to people who are concerned about the greed on Wall Street -- taking us back to where we were."

Pelosi also said she doesn't believe Republicans will be able to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature health care law, as many in the GOP have promised.

"How can they do it?" she said. "They do not have the votes."

"They've been baying at the moon that they had a better idea" than the health care act known as Obamacare, the Democratic leader said of Republicans. "They've come up with nothing ... They don't have a replacement. What they have put forth and outlined will cost more to consumers. It will cover fewer people. It will give tax breaks to the wealthiest people."

The Democratic Party's response to the President Trump's speech to Congress on Tuesday will be delivered by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Beshear's work in Kentucky is "proof positive that the Affordable Care Act works," indicating he was selected to counter Republican's plans to repeal and replace the law. In addition, Nevada immigration activist and "dreamer" Astrid Silva will give the Democrats' Spanish-language response.

Stephanopoulos also asked Pelosi her view on whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from overseeing the FBI and Justice Department's investigation of Russia's alleged interference in the presidential election.

A leading GOP member of Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, said on Bill Maher's show, Real Time, on Friday that a special prosecutor is needed.

"You cannot have somebody -- a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions -- who was on the [Trump] campaign and who is an appointee," Issa told Maher. "You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office."

Pelosi told Stephanopoulos, "The attorney general must recuse himself ... You have seen a flurry of activities that are completely inappropriate -- encouraging lawmakers, encouraging intelligence officials to say that something is one way or another [about the Russia probe]. Let's have the investigation and find out the truth."

The California Democrat was referring to news that White House staff spoke to both the FBI and the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees about rebutting reports that Trump associates had contact with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.

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MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) --  For decades, going to the movies has given people a two-hour escape from the daily news cycle. But at the Academy Awards -- the pinnacle event in Hollywood -- winners on occasion have used the platform to bring attention to political issues.

ABC News film critic Peter Travers predicts this year will "be the most political year of the Academy Awards ever."

When did the Oscars become so political?

1973

Hollywood insiders often point to the 1973 Oscars as the precursor to political speeches.

That year Marlon Brando asked Sacheen Littlefeather, the president of National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, to attend the Oscars on his behalf.

 Littlefeather told the audience "that [Brando] very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award" because of "the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry" and "recent happenings" at Wounded Knee Creek, on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Weeks before the awards show, protesters at Wounded Knee called for the resignation of tribal council president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption, and for the U.S. government to reexamine treaties with Native Americans.

Her comments were met by applause and boos. She said she hoped her speech wouldn't "intrude" on the night.

 After Littlefeather's speech, "everybody at the time was wildly upset" because they felt politics and Hollywood should be separate, Travers said.

1978

In 1978 Vanessa Redgrave was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in "Julia," in which she played an anti-Nazi activist. Redgrave, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians, had narrated and helped fund the documentary “The Palestinian.”

 When Redgrave stepped on stage to accept her award, she praised the Academy for its support.

"I salute you ... and I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you've stood firm, and you have refused to be intimated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums," Redgrave said to the crowd as the Academy members booed.

 Without pausing, Redgrave continued, "Whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression."

"And I salute that record, and I salute all of you, for having stood firm and having dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch-hunt," she said, which was met with more boos. "Against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believed in. I salute you and I thank you and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against antisemitism and fascism."

When Redgrave was first nominated, she was "opposed very aggressively by Jewish groups because of her support of Palestinians," said Akira Mizuta Lippit, vice dean of faculty at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

Supporters of the Jewish Defense League picketed outside the awards ceremony and burned an effigy of Redgrave.

"There was a large protest," Lippit told ABC News. "And she spoke out against the protest and praised the Academy for moving forward with her nomination."

 Travers said Redgrave "called it as she saw it ... she called people 'hoodlums' -- she was angry, there were protesters outside" and she resented that they were carrying placards against her because of her position on Palestinians.

But "there was tremendous backlash at the time for her having anything political to say," Travers said.

Lippit said Redgrave faced so much backlash after that speech because her fellow Academy members thought it was "inappropriate to take a political stance at a ceremonial event like this."

But "in many ways [it] served as a catalyst because it really opened up the question ... what are the limits?" he added.

1999

Director Elia Kazan was given an honorary Academy Award in 1999, decades after his involvement with The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) -- a group in the 1950s that investigated Americans suspected of having Communist ties.

If an actor or writer proffered names of people who were involved in "leftist, socialist activities," Lippit explained, that person "would be allowed to continue and resume" their career. If someone refused, that individual could become blacklisted from Hollywood. Many, like Kazan, likely provided names to protect themselves, Lippit said.

Kazan never apologized for his actions and "became a pariah for many people," Lippit said. The honorary Academy Award "was a big debate" that "really divided the community."

Some, like Warren Beatty, were supportive, Lippit said, and "felt [Kazan] should be recognized for the work he accomplished as a director." Others, however, felt that "you could not forgive a man who had betrayed others in the profession in order to save himself."

 Lippit said Kagan's situation presented an interesting dilemma in Hollywood.

"It really raises the question: if one can completely quarantine politics from entertainment and whether that's even a valid question. Is entertainment, as we define it, something that needs to be kept strictly segregated from the social, political world ... when in fact entertainment reflects in many cases the world that we live in, or the world that we have lived in," he explained.

The trend of political speeches continued through the years. Halle Berry proclaimed her best actress win symbolically opened the door for other African American actresses in the industry while Michael Moore focused his 2003 Oscar speech on bashing President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.

 In 2009, when Dustin Lance Black won best original screenplay for "Milk," he said the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk gave him hope as a teen.

"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago," Black said in his speech, "I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what anyone tells you God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours."

 More recently climate change has become a hot topic at the Oscars.

Best actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio pleaded for action on climate change in his 2016 speech.

"Making 'The Revenant' was about man's relationship to the natural world -- a world we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow," DiCaprio said. "Climate change is real. ... Let us not take this planet for granted, I do not take tonight for granted."

What to expect on Sunday

This year, Travers predicted Mahershala Ali, who is Muslim, will get political if he wins for best supporting actor.

And he may not be the only one. If Viola Davis nabs an Oscar for her performance in "Fences," she "isn't going to mince words about what's going on in her head," noted Travers.

 Moreover, Travers believes this year will "be the most political year of the Academy Awards ever" for two reasons: the Trump administration and the #OscarsSoWhite backlash from 2015.

At the Golden Globes in January, Meryl Streep, in her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, went on the attack against Trump, calling him out (though not by name) for his treatment of a disabled reporter and the press.

Trump later responded by tweeting that Streep was "over-rated" and a "flunky" of Hillary Clinton.

Travers said the criticism of Trump by Hollywood wasn't "name calling."

"They all seem to have an agenda," he said.

Besides tension with Trump, Travers said the Academy is "dealing with their own two-year criticism for not recognizing minorities in any of those major awards."

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the criticism by making changes to membership policies, which would, she hoped, create more opportunities for minorities.

Do political speeches lead to change?

Ted Johnson, senior editor at Variety, said these speeches can ultimately launch various initiatives.

"Presidential administrations are aware of the ability of the Oscars to be a platform," he told ABC News in an email. "Joe Biden introduced Lady Gaga at last year's Oscars as a way to highlight the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Ronald Reagan addressed the ceremony by video in 1981, and Franklin Roosevelt addressed the Oscars in 1941."

He also gave the example of Patricia Arquette, who won an Oscar in 2015 for "Boyhood." The publicity following her speech on equal pay for women encouraged one California lawmaker to introduce equal pay legislation in the state. It passed later that year, Johnson noted.

 According to Lippit, these speeches "will only have an indirect effect -- on climate change policy, for example -- but they do sometimes have a significant impact on public opinion, which can lead to policy changes."

With 100 million people watching, Travers said, "Would anybody give up the opportunity to get something off their chest? I don't think so."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Following President Donald Trump's announcement Saturday that he plans to skip April's star-studded White House Correspondents' Dinner, many celebrities took to Twitter to celebrate his decision.

I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017

Comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted, "Shhhh. This is r big chance! We sneak in #Obama & #Hillary, tell Trump he's "president of United States of Mar-a-Lago" & #resist #Indivisible."

Shhhh.This is r big chance! We sneak in #Obama & #Hillary, tell Trump he's "president of United States of Mar-a-Lago" & #resist #Indivisible https://t.co/Z4NYnn7oFA

— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) February 25, 2017

Longtime Trump nemesis Rosie' O'Donnell was less kind, tweeting, "seriously - u need to get help."

I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017

And comedian Billy Eichner, who regularly tweets anti-Trump comments, implied the president is thin-skinned, writing, "HAHAHAHA WHAT A SNOWFLAKE."

HAHAHAHA WHAT A SNOWFLAKE https://t.co/8HGUEAzHSR

— billy eichner (@billyeichner) February 25, 2017

Below, more celebrities react to Trump's no-show RSVP:

ZACH BRAFF

Does this mean the parties are back on? https://t.co/DfVnzAYxSG

— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) February 25, 2017

.@AlecBaldwin time to suit up. https://t.co/DfVnzAYxSG

— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) February 25, 2017

ARSENIO HALL

WHAT!? Trump says he won't attend White House Correspondents Dinner - ABC News - https://t.co/b3aNOZadsB via @ABC @tjmshow

— Arsenio Hall (@ArsenioHall) February 25, 2017

GEORGE TAKEI

If @AlecBaldwin fills in for @realDonaldTrump at the Correspondents dinner, a bit of karmic balance might be restored to the universe.

— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 26, 2017

DON CHEADLE

Trump declines to attend White House correspondents' dinner - CNN Winner winner, chicken dinner ... https://t.co/GG4E0HA0W4

— Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle) February 25, 2017

JESSICA CHASTAIN

#WHCD raises money for scholarships for young journalists, just as it has every year since 1921 #FreedomOfThePress #NoPropagandaPress pic.twitter.com/NBfIlj7kjF

— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) February 25, 2017

SAMANTHA RONSON

I am now available to dj any and all parties 🎉 https://t.co/xl0HuiU6Jf

— samantha ronson (@samantharonson) February 25, 2017

ALYSSA MILANO

Trump is rsvp'ing "will not attend". https://t.co/MPfRxhuzJW

— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) February 25, 2017

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