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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation returned on Tuesday from a holiday weekend to a government still partially shut down, 32 days after the costly political impasse began.

But there may be movement in the Senate in the coming days following an announcement by President Donald Trump over the weekend that would trade protections for DACA recipients -- undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children -- for wall funding. Though the plan was quickly rejected by Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the Senate floor Tuesday that there would be a vote on a bill resembling the president's plan.

"It's a strong proposal, its the only thing on the table and later this week we'll vote on it," McConnell said Tuesday afternoon.

The measure is expected to be rejected by Democrats, which McConnell pointed out. Both sides are eager to avoid blame for the shutdown, though recent ABC News/Washington Post polling shows a majority of Americans blame the president and the GOP.

"Do Democrats really want to throw federal workers, and all Americans, under the bus -- just to keep their political fight going with the president?" McConnell said.

Speaking shortly after McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called attempts to blame Democrats for the shutdown "far from reality," dismissing the president's proposal as "one-sided, harshly partisan" and "made in bad faith."

"The American people know that President Trump is responsible for the shutdown and now they have learned that Leader McConnell is a co-conspirator in the shutdown," Schumer said.

Schumer repeatedly denied Trump's claim that his proposal was a compromise, instead calling it "more hostage taking" because of the involvement of so-called Dreamers, or DACA recipients.

Schumer compared the president bartering with DACA to "bargaining for stolen goods," saying Trump "created the problem on his own" when he took action to roll the program back months ago.

"No one -- no one can call this new proposal a compromise," Schumer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi similarly criticized the president's proposal Tuesday as she returned to Capitol Hill from a tour of a restaurant opened last week by local chef and activist Jose Andres to serve free meals to feed federal workers. Pelosi said she was initially "optimistic" but, after hearing the particulars, determined it was a "nonstarter."

"Let me be very clear – open up government. Open the government, let’s talk," she said. "We can’t have a president, every time he has an objection, to say I’ll shut down government until you come to my way of thinking."

The White House continued to push the plan Tuesday, putting pressure on Democrats by saying the 800,000 furloughed federal workers would be guaranteed to start missing a second paycheck if a deal is not reached by midnight. White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley made the claim on Fox News.

The Senate measure is likely to encompass funding for the president's wall as well as funding for the 25 percent of the government that's been shut down for the last month. The bill may also include billions of dollars in disaster aid and an extension on a bill that protects women from violence, aides said.

It remains to be seen if the bill will advance in the Senate, given that most Democrats are united in demanding that President Donald Trump must reopen the government before they will begin talks about funding border security.

House Democrats said they would again introduce a measure to fund and reopen the government - measures McConnell has repeatedly refused to take up in the Senate.

The president kicks off day 32 with a tweet

Over the weekend, the president offered Democrats a deal: temporary protections for some undocumented immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border security funding. Democrats turned Trump down and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill a "non-starter."

Following a busy weekend of tweets on his new suggestion, the president began Tuesday with another call for a border wall and a promise not to "cave," despite the 800,000 federal workers without pay while the government is closed.

The president also claimed, without supporting evidence and contrary to studies, that "With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S."

Available data shows that overall, crime rates are lower among immigrant groups than they are among native-born Americans. As for the president's claim about drugs, the 2018 Drug Threat Assessment from the DEA found that large amounts of drugs enter the U.S. at the southwest border, though the drugs largely come through legal points of entry -- which would not be addressed by a border wall.

Where negotiations stand

Trump announced on Saturday that in exchange for border wall funding and ending the partial government shutdown, he would extend temporary protections for so-called "Dreamers" and those with Temporary Protected Status -- two key issues for congressional Democrats, who nevertheless held their ground on refusing the president's demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding.

Trump also said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the proposal to a vote in the Senate this week.

Twenty-five minutes before the planned start of the president's Saturday remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement, saying that "initial reports" about Trump's announcement "make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also rejected the plan.

TSA continues to feel heavy effect of shutdown; up to 10 percent of workers called out sick Sunday

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported Monday that TSA employees called out at a national rate of 10 percent on Sunday, a record high and a jump from 3.1 percent one year ago on the same weekend.

According to a statement from TSA, many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to "financial limitations."

About 7.5 percent of the TSA workforce called out on Monday, the agency reported on Tuesday, compared to 3.3 percent on the same day last year.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello told ABC News they're in "uncharted territory" as the start of February approaches and rent or mortgage payments are due, which “could have a compounding effect,” Bilello said, and force contingency plans at airports nationwide.

TSA employees have worked without pay for 32 days. Nationwide, TSA screened 1.78 million passengers Sunday.

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Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- In a new round of staff hires, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential exploratory committee is making diversity a key priority, as she and other Democratic hopefuls try to position themselves for a long primary battle.

Gillibrand’s newest round of campaign staff hires, announced Tuesday morning, includes several veterans of her Senate office and previous congressional campaigns. The group includes two African American staffers, one Latina and one Filipina. Of the six new staffers, four are women. “We are proud to announce the hiring of this talented group of strategists, who together have exceptional records of success at the national, state and local level,” said Gillibrand communications director Meredith Kelly. “The campaign is firing on all cylinders coming off of Senator Gillibrand’s successful trip to Iowa, and these dynamic new hires will build on that momentum.”

The emerging field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders is already breaking records for diversity and includes several women, mothers, grandmothers and women and men of color. An LGBTQ candidate may announce his run as well soon.

Minority voters could also be more important in determining the Democratic nominee than in any primary year to date, up to and including 2008, as demonstrated by a recent report showing that Republican-leaning voter groups like "whites without a college degree" are likely to drop in 2020 while other groups, like African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are all expected to increase.

The campaign is also bringing on staffers who are party mainstays.

Evan Lukaske, most recently the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s northeast press secretary, will join as Gillibrand’s national press secretary. Alexandria Phillips, who previously worked in both Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Senate offices, will serve as traveling press secretary.

Stephanie Conahan and Erica Bordador, who were both part of her campaign fundraising team previously, will serve as finance and deputy finance director, respectively.

Gregory Smiley, the campaign manager on Gillibrand’s 2018 re-election campaign, will serve as her national political director. And Alexandra Sanchez, her Senate research director and adviser since Gillibrand joined the Senate in 2009, will serve as her research director.

Gillibrand announced her first round of campaign hires earlier this month, before her Iowa trip over the weekend.

While some likely Democratic candidates have not even made their announcements yet, others including Gillibrand and several of her Senate colleagues are already far along in standing up a robust campaign infrastructure.

Some of her Senate colleagues and primary opponents have also made major hires this month. On Friday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that her campaign was bringing on four New Hampshire experts to support her in that state’s early primary.

California Sen. Kamala Harris announced that her presidential campaign, based in Baltimore, MD, will be managed by Juan Rodriguez, who also ran her 2016 Senate race, and chaired by Maya Harris, her sister and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Other Clinton alums on Harris’ team include general counsel Marc Elias, national finance director Angelique Cannon, senior adviser David Huynh and communications director Lily Adams.

Former congressman John Delaney, the first announced presidential candidate, already has six field offices open in the first caucus state of Iowa.

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Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is preparing for two different State of the Union speeches – one a more traditional address delivered to Congress in the House chamber or some other location in D.C., the other prepared for a political rally at a location outside of Washington, D.C. that has yet to be determined, according to multiple sources familiar with the planning.

Sources told ABC News that the president was previously planning two separate versions of the State of the Union – one version if the government was still shut down and another if the government was open.

However, now the planning has evolved, assuming the government shutdown could drag on past next Tuesday – the expected delivery date of the address. If the president decides to deliver a speech in rally form, it would mark the first rally style event the president has attended since the partial shutdown began.

As part of the ongoing political tit-for-tat between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Republicans are encouraging Trump to force Pelosi to officially disinvite him, by suggesting the president announce he still intends to deliver the State of the Union from the House chamber, according to Republican sources involved in the discussions.

A senior administration official confirmed to ABC News that the White House has sent an email to the House Sergeant at Arms requesting a walkthrough of the chamber to prep for the State of the Union address. The White House is still moving forward as planned on the address as they wait to hear whether Pelosi is officially rescinding her invitation.

In a letter to the president last week, Pelosi suggested to Trump that his address, scheduled for Jan. 29, be delayed because of the partial government shutdown. Pelosi proposed the delay out of security concerns, noting that the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security remain unfunded.

Hours after Pelosi's letter became public, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pushed back in a tweet against the implication that the shutdown has harmed the department's ability to secure the event.

The president tweeted Sunday that "there are so many options" he's considering to give the address.

"Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options - including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance. White a contract is a contract, I'll get back to you soon!"

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said on Fox News Tuesday that the White House had "no announcement at this time" on the president's plans but added that "Nancy Pelosi does not dictate to the president when he will or will not have a conversation with the American people."

While Pelosi's letter to the president left the invitation on the table for him to speak on Jan. 29, she told ABC News last week that her communique underscores her concerns are about security.

"Our letter is clear about what our concerns are. Just read the letter again, okay?" Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "It's about security."

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Bet_Noire/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders spent most of Thursday afternoon stepping in and out of her private office to field questions from reporters huddled in the hallway, seeking more answers on the president’s surprise letter denying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use of military aircraft for her congressional delegation overseas.

The crowding of the West Wing hallway, in what is known as 'upper press,' has become the new norm for reporters seeking information or comment from the White House on major headlines over the past 35 days – a record for the span of time without an on-camera briefing during President Donald Trump’s time in office.

Sanders has not briefed once yet in 2019, and has broken the previous Trump White House record for no press briefings set between Oct. 29 and Nov. 27 last year, a 29-day period during the fall where the 'disappearing' press briefing seemed to enter the 'endangered species' territory.

The Trump White House has not only lapsed its own personal record for the span of time with no press briefings – according to the University of California Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, but Sanders has also surpassed the all-time record for time with no on-camera briefings since they began during the Clinton administration.

Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning to explain why Sanders no longer briefs reporters from the briefing room, saying it’s because “the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.”

“I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway!” Trump said. “Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!”

Two weeks ago, reporters were informed via an overhead announcement that Sanders would be holding her first briefing of the year. But instead, the president entered the briefing room for the first time.

He then refused to take any questions after delivering a statement on border security surrounded by various Customs and Border Patrol agents.

In Sanders' most recent briefing on Dec. 18, the leading headlines involved the president moving forward with his ban on bump stocks and the delay in the sentencing for his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

She claimed at the time that the White House was actively finding ways to fund the president’s border wall from outside agencies and signaled to Congress that the president would accept a continuing resolution to keep the government open that did not include wall money.

It was the next day that the White House announced Trump wouldn't accept any funding bill without money for a wall, setting the stage for the partial government shutdown that has roiled Washington the past 28 days and left 800,000 government employees either working without pay or furloughed.

Other major stories in the 31-day span with no briefings have included the departure of the White House chief of staff, the resignation of the defense secretary, the sudden announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and other major headlines in the Russia investigation.

In contrast, former Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney held 10 daily briefings with reporters through the 17-day government shutdown in 2013, in addition to a more than hour-long press conference held by former President Obama in the White House briefing room.

In order to receive comment on news-of-day stories from the White House as daily briefings have phased out, reporters often reach out over email or walk up to the press office to seek comment from officials in person.

The only on-camera opportunities for reporters to question White House officials have come when they gather on the driveway in front of the West Wing to conduct short gaggles with Sanders, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley following their appearances on cable networks, predominantly Fox News.

Sanders, for example, most recently spoke to reporters in a driveway question-and-answer session Friday for less than four minutes after a pre-taped interview with Fox News, where she took questions on North Korea, the government shutdown and the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, among other topics.

Sanders did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on this story.

The trend of fewer briefings is in sharp contrast to President Trump’s own frequent engagements with reporters.

According to data compiled by presidential press scholar Martha Kumar, Trump is well on track to become the most “accessible” president based on statistics dating back to the time of Ronald Reagan.

The measure is based on the total number of interviews, short Q&As and news conferences he has held compared to his predecessors.

According to the UCSB presidency project, "the length of time between briefings is longer than any of the preceding 13 press secretaries."

But that access has been effectively traded off with the growing absence of daily briefings, which previous administrations dating back to the Clinton administration generally utilized to offer official responses to major stories, as well as to transmit some of the more mundane and process-oriented messaging in specific policy areas.

It allowed reporters from outlets around the world and in different coverage areas to press the White House on its positions, and ask questions that wouldn't typically be put to the president.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, March 14, the committee announced Monday, setting up another high-profile hearing for the chief oversight panel following former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's appearance in February.

Democrats, are expected to question Ross on efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a controversial move that has prompted legal challenges.

"After several weeks of discussions, Secretary Wilbur Ross has now agreed to testify before the Oversight Committee voluntarily and without a subpoena," House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement. "Committee Members expect Secretary Ross to provide complete and truthful answers to a wide range of questions, including questions regarding the ongoing preparations for the census, the addition of a citizenship question, and other topics. The Committee also expects full compliance with all of our outstanding document requests prior to the hearing.”

Last week, a federal judge in New York blocked the Trump administration from asking about citizenship in the 2020 census, finding that Ross "violated the public trust" in his effort to insert the citizenship question, calling his decision to do so "arbitrary and capricious."

While the Supreme Court said last week that it won't hear a case related to the citizenship question that was scheduled to be argued next month, the issue could make its way back before the highest court in the future.

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Martin H. Simon - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday seized on a viral confrontation between Catholic high school students and Native American protesters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial over the weekend to attack the news media.
 
"Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. "They have captivated the attention of the world, and I know they will use it for the good - maybe even to bring people together. It started off unpleasant, but can end in a dream!"

Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be. They have captivated the attention of the world, and I know they will use it for the good - maybe even to bring people together. It started off unpleasant, but can end in a dream!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019

Conservative news outlets have latched onto the story as evidence of media bias, after videos over the weekend showed students from the all-male Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky -- with several wearing red 'Make America Great Again' caps -- chanting and appearing to taunt a small group of Native American protesters at an Indigenous Peoples March.

The president specifically defended junior Nick Sandmann, who in one video was shown staring down protester Nathan Phillips as he chanted and banged on a ceremonial drum. Videos later surfaced that showed Phillips and the protesters walking toward the students before they were encircled, and Sandmann in a statement disputed that he ever sought confrontation with the group.

"I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation," Sandmann said, adding that he and his family have received death threats since the initial video went viral.

Trump on Monday evening tweeted about the incident, tagging Fox News host Tucker Carlson, saying the students including Sandmann were "treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media."

Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback! “New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American” @TuckerCarlson

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019

Trump in the past has drawn condemnation from the Native American community for his rhetoric. He regularly refers to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas" and earlier this month tweeted that a video Warren made would have been "a smash" if she did it from Bighorn or Wounded Knee with her husband dressed in "full Indian garb."

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota invited the president to visit tribal communities, tweeting, "the Wounded Knee Massacre was one of the darkest moments in our history. It should never be used as a punchline."

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- Nine days after Donald Trump won the presidency, as scores of supporters clamored for meetings with his transition team, the Hollywood producer of The Apprentice, Mark Burnett, reached out to one of Trump’s closest advisers to see if he would sit down with a banker who has long held ties to Russia.

The banker, Robert Foresman, never got the role he was seeking with the fledgling Trump administration. But he has recently attracted the attention of congressional investigators as one more name on an expanding list of Americans with established ties inside the Kremlin who appears to have been seeking access to the newly elected president’s inner circle, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Foresman, who is now vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS’s investment arm, lived for years in Moscow, where he led a $3 billion Russian investment fund and was touted by his new company as someone who maintains connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Reached by phone, Foresman declined to comment. Attorneys he has hired, including one in Washington who was hired to deal with the congressional probe, also declined to discuss the matter.

What is known about Foresman’s efforts to meet with Trump’s team during the post-election period in late 2016 stems from internal presidential inaugural committee emails reviewed by ABC News, testimony and court filings in an unrelated legal matter and three sources who had knowledge of Foresman’s communications, but who would only talk about the subject on the condition that they not be named due the sensitivity of ongoing investigations.

Foresman was not an early Trump supporter. In 2015, he donated to both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, campaign records show. But in mid-November, Foresman sought contacts inside Trump’s orbit. And with Burnett’s help, he found his way onto the daily calendar of Thomas Barrack, who at the time was chairing what would become Trump’s $100 million inaugural fund, internal emails show.

Foresman was listed on Barrack’s schedule after a series of other meetings Barrack had that day -- including a 10 a.m. sit-down with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and a 3 p.m. meeting with the president-elect. Foresman’s name appears without a scheduled time, and a notation, “Mark Burnett contact,” next to it. A spokesperson for Burnett declined to comment.

Email exchanges shared with ABC News show Barrack’s meeting with Foresman was ultimately canceled. But sources said Foresman continued to pursue a roll with the Trump team. In January, he secured a meeting with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, according to two sources familiar with Foresman’s contacts. An attorney for Flynn, Robert Kelner, declined to comment. Flynn was one of six co-chairs of Trump’s transition team.

Also during the transition, Foresman held a December meeting in New York with the chairman of a state-owned Russian development bank, Sergei Gorkov, according to a recent court filing in an unrelated case. Gorkov was the same banker who flew from Moscow to New York for one day that month to meet with Kushner.

Foresman’s meeting with Gorkov has been one focus of a legal fight in a civil matter related to the Russian oil business, which has spotlighted new details about Foresman’s Russian connections. In a series of court filings, Foresman’s attorney has defended his refusal to answer questions about his meeting with Gorkov, about his responses to requests for documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee and about interviews with federal agents.

“We do note for the fullness of the record that Mr. Foresman was instructed not to answer certain questions about interviews by federal agents,” Foresman’s attorney, Robert H. Pees, wrote in a Jan. 9 filing in the matter, which remains pending before a federal judge.

Senate interest in Foresman is not a secret. One year ago, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent a letter to Foresman, saying the Senate Intelligence Committee “has reason to believe that you sought to engage the Trump campaign in discussions concerning outreach from senior Kremlin officials.” A spokesman for the committee declined to comment on what was received in reply.

Foresman’s efforts to make contact with the Trump team attracted attention in part because of a belief by investigators that he has longstanding business connections in the Kremlin, sources told ABC News. Those ties stem, in part, from a relationship he has had with Matthias Warnig, a former member of the East German secret police, as described in court filings.

In 2014, the New York Times described Warnig as one of the six officials considered to be part of Putin’s “inner circle” of advisers. The article noted that: “When Mr. Putin’s wife was badly injured in a car accident, Mr. Warnig’s bank arranged to pay for her medical care in Germany.”

Foresman also confirmed during a deposition that he has met another of the men in Putin’s “inner circle,” Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister who is now chairman of the Russian state oil producer, Rosneft. Foresman is asked about classified diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks, in which he is described as having “worked with Sechin over many years,” and is quoted praising Sechin as “very smart,” “incredibly hard working” and “exceptionally courteous.” Foresman said he “would not have said that I worked with Sechin over many years,” but that otherwise, the cable “looks broadly familiar and accurate.”

During his time in Moscow, Foresman served on the board of the Russian-American Institute, which was the precursor to a faith-based western-style Russian-American Christian University.

There has been renewed interest in Foresman in recent weeks, coming as prosecutors in New York have ratcheted up inquiries into the events that occurred during the Trump transition and in the lead up to the Trump inauguration, sources have confirmed to ABC News.

Foresman is not the only westerner with long ties to Russia whose outreach to Trump insiders has attracted attention.

Some have become high-profile figures in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation -- such as former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Republican political consultant Sam Patten, who developed contacts in the Ukraine, helped arrange a $50,000 straw donation to the Trump inaugural fund so a Ukrainian oligarch could attend, according to a plea agreement he reached with Mueller’s team. Patten has not yet been sentenced, and a status report on his cooperation was submitted under seal on Dec. 31 -- an indication he is continuing to provide assistance to investigators.

But there are others, like Foresman, who have surfaced on the radar of congressional investigators, whose connection to the investigation into Russian influence in 2016 remain unclear.

Americans with ties to Russia were among the 17 recipients of letters from Feinstein similar to the Jan. 25, 2018 letter sent to Foresman. The letters sought information about any possible contacts between Russians, American intermediaries and Trump insiders during the campaign and transition. Among them was conservative political consultant Paul Erickson, who was reported to be romantically involved with Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina. She pleaded guilty in December to operating as an agent of the Russian government in the U.S. without registering and is awaiting sentencing.

Earlier this week, the lawyers handling Foresman’s unrelated civil case said Foresman “refused" at his deposition to say whether or how he responded to this [Feinstein] letter, unilaterally declaring these questions “not relevant.” Lawyers in that case said in court filings that Foresman refused to disclose details of a meeting he held with Gorkov the Russian banker. The attorneys have asked a federal judge to compel him to answer.

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Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images(HARLEM, N.Y.) -- On Monday, at the fourth annual MLK Now event, which honors the legacy and birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., journalist Jemele Hill hosted a celebration that included performances by award-winning artist Common, Blackkklansman actor John David Washington and musician Samora Pinderhughes.

A panel composed of activists, religious leaders and athletes, at the historic Riverside Church in Harlem, New York, also discussed a variety of topics including voting rights and NFL players' kneeling during the national anthem. But the stand-out moment of the night was a special conversation between award-winning author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The first time the two have shared the same stage, Coates began the conversation by saying when he was asked who in the political scene today embodies King's radical vision, he believed it was Ocasio-Cortez.

"The real issues of our country do not belong to a party, they are baked into our culture," Ocasio-Cortez said, discussing the first time she truly felt aware of her racial identity.

Growing up in a white community in the Bronx, and later attending school in a liberal, affluent suburb, Ocasio-Cortez, the daughter of a domestic worker, said she was the only Puerto Rican in her classroom.

Coates didn't beat around the bush, telling Ocasio-Cortez straight up that she needed to address a lack of general knowledge surrounding many of her proposals.

Her response alluded to her upbringing, with a mother who taught her the importance of not paying too much attention to others' criticisms. Ocasio-Cortez said she knows it's a deliberate strategy to attack her, the messenger, so it discredits her message.

She added that the way she's being treated is not unlike a few of the criticisms lobbed at King in the 1960s. Letters have surfaced as some of the strongest evidence that details the covert efforts of the FBI to discredit King and his movement. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover believed King was a threat to the social order and that he was influenced by those he surrounded himself, including communists.

"It's when he started to get into this economic message that things started to get very dangerous for him," Ocasio-Cortez said, while pointing out that the church in which they were currently speaking is where King gave his famous "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech in 1967, which startled many supporters and led to a rift with the NAACP. Still, the speech is considered a turning point in public opinion toward the Vietnam War.

Similarly, King's "Mountaintop" speech, delivered the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, drew attention to economic inequality, as he already was in town to support striking African-American sanitation workers.

King's perceived radicalism is what made him a target.

Ocasio-Cortez told Coates it's not surprising to see many in the U.S. returning to the tactics of criticizing those "who speak truth to power."

Coates responded by asking the congresswoman to respond to criticism of her plan to increase the top marginal tax rate, on income of more than $10 million, to 70 percent.

"Where do we draw the line in terms of our excess?" said Ocasio-Cortez, questioning how it's moral to live in a world with billionaires while other people are struggling through poverty.

"The task of the movement today," Coates said, referring to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, and how it wasn't a great deal for everyone, "is to craft one that argues for a better world, one that argues for a state that tries to make for just outcomes."

When considering issues including the criminal justice system, immigration and education, younger voters and activists are hungry for change, and that change begins with understanding our shared past, Ocasio-Cortez said.

"Until America tells the truth about itself," she added, "we are not going to heal."

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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is walking back comments he has made about the timeline of the Trump Organization's "Moscow Project."

In an interview with ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in December, Giuliani said Trump was having conversations with his former personal attorney Michael Cohen about the project up until and around Nov. 2016. He has repeated those claims in recent interviews.

"According to the answers that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to -- covered up to November 2016. Said he had conversations with him but the president didn't hide this," Giuliani told Stephanopoulos, indicating that this was the timeline the president provided in his written responses to special counsel Robert Mueller's questions.

Giuliani also told the New York Times on Sunday that he was basing this information on conversations he had with the president and said the discussions were ongoing throughout the entire election. Giuliani told the Times that the president told him that conversations about the project were "going on from the day I announced to the day I won."

Now, the president's personal attorney has reversed course, saying his statements were "hypothetical."

“My recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President," Giuliani said in a statement to ABC News. "My comments did not represent the actual timing or circumstances of any such discussions. The point is that the proposal was in the earliest stage and did not advance beyond a free non-binding letter of intent.”

Trump frequently denied a connection to Russia during the election.

“I don’t know Putin, have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia,” he said at an Oct. 2016 rally.

Much remains unknown about the plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Cohen worked hand-in-hand with Felix Sater, a Russian-born business associate who scouted deals for the Trump Organization, to set in motion plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow. The two even conceived an idea to offer a $50 million penthouse in the prospective building to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a source familiar with the deal told ABC News.

The public first learned in the summer of 2017 that Cohen had been pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow even after his boss had begun to campaign for president.

At the time, Cohen told members of Congress that the deal never progressed beyond an initial "letter of intent" and it was halted in Jan. 2016, before the Iowa caucuses.

But later, Cohen admitted in court that he made the false statements about the project “to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual 1.” Individual 1 was believed to be Trump, based on the description in court documents.

The president during the campaign denied working on any deals with Russia but tweeted late last year that he “lightly looked at doing a building in Moscow.”

Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison for financial crimes, lying to Congress and for two violations of campaign finance law.

He’s scheduled to report to prison in early March, but he could have a busy month of congressional testimony before then.

He has already agreed to appear publicly before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7, and Schiff has expressed interest in bringing Cohen back to the House Intelligence Committee for an interview behind closed doors.

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ABCNews.com(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited coffee shops, gift stores and even a brewing company to meet with voters during a whirlwind weekend trip in a push to make headway 13 months before the Iowa caucuses in what will be a crowded Democratic field.

The residents who gathered to hear her speak, came for a variety of reasons.

Sandi O’Brien, vice chair for the Woodbury County Democrats, went to a gathering in Sioux City on Friday during her lunch break and brought a copy of the senator’s book and a permanent marker for her to sign it.

“Today I’m not so much listening for policy as I am just to get a feel for her personally to see if she’s authentic and how she would do against [President Donald] Trump,” she said.

Janet Hopkins and her 15-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, saw the senator announce her presidential bid days earlier and went to meet her at a coffee shop in Sioux City to talk about universal healthcare.

“Chloe has had six open heart surgeries, she just got back from Mayo not too long ago,” Hopkins said. “If I’m gone or her parents are gone, is Chloe going to be able to provide for herself?”

The senator sat down with the two for several minutes and told Chloe to "keep going" and that she would fight for her. They also talked about school and what subjects Chloe likes to study. The senator noted that her son, Theo, is also 15.

Even at friendly meet-and-greets organized by local Democratic organizations, the senator from New York faced tough questions about some of the decisions she has made during her time in Congress.

At a house party organized by local Democrats, a resident asked the senator to explain why she used to have an “A” rating from the NRA.

“I had only really looked at guns through the lens of hunting. My mom still shoots the Thanksgiving turkey but when I became a senator I recognized I had a lot to learn about my state and all the 20 million people I was going to represent,” Gillibrand said.

Once considered a moderate Democrat, Gillibrand first served in the House and represented a Republican-leaning district in upstate New York where she admittedly had conservative views on topics like immigration and gun rights.

“I proudly have an ‘F’ rating with the NRA," she later added.

Throughout the weekend, Gillibrand was repeatedly asked about her comments on former Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who stepped down after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were raised against him. She was the first senator to call on him to resign, a move that reportedly garnered some backlash from those among her ranks.

“My decision was not to remain silent and you have to stand up for what’s right, especially when it’s hard,” said Gillibrand. “If you create a pass because you love someone or you like someone, or admire someone, or they’re part of your team, it’s not okay. It’s just not.”

Not all Iowans saw her comments on Franken as contentious, in fact, it helped her clinch her first political endorsement. Kyla Paterson, the first transgender chair of the Stonewall Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party, said she was moved to back Gillibrand because she called for Franken’s ouster.

“I would not have endorsed her if she didn’t,” said Paterson. “She stood on principle, not because it was an opportunistic thing.”

Gillibrand took the stage at the Women’s March Iowa where she spoke to a crowd of hundreds inside the state capitol as thousands more participated in marches across the country.

Cheers erupted as the presidential hopeful praised the victories that female voters have been able to achieve and she asked the crowd to picture a world with more women in power.

“Despite that progress, women still do not represent 51 percent of elected leaders in this country," she said. "Imagine just for a moment what America would look like if it did. Imagine what would be possible."

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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- California Sen. Kamala Harris announced Monday on "Good Morning America" that she will be running for president in 2020, a move that could make her the first woman and woman of color to serve as U.S. president if elected.

Before Harris was elected in 2016 as the junior senator representing California, she was the state's attorney general for six years and San Francisco's district attorney for seven years. Born to an Indian mother and Jamaican father in Oakland, Harris "had a stroller-eye view of the Civil Rights movement," according to her official Senate bio.

Harris has been compared to former President Barack Obama for quickly rising through the ranks of the Democratic Party, and for having presidential ambitions after serving for just a short time in the Senate. Harris has previously said she feels the country is ready to make history by electing a woman of color as president.

"We need to give the American public more credit,” she said on 'GMA' when asked if the country was ready for a woman of color to be president. “We have so much more in common than what separates us."

Here’s what you need to know:

Name: Kamala Devi Harris

Age: 54

Birthplace: Oakland, California

Party:
Democrat

What she does now:

U.S. Senator from California. Elected in 2016, she serves on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on the Budget.

What she used to do:


Served as the attorney general of California from 2011 to 2017. Served as the district attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010. Prior to that Harris worked for San Francisco's City Attorney, Louise Renne, as the chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division and as the deputy district attorney in Alameda County. She attended Howard University and received her law degree from the University of California, Hastings.

Career as a prosecutor:

Beginning her career as the deputy district attorney in Alameda County, Harris specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases. She was the first African-American woman to be elected district attorney of San Francisco and started a program that gave first-time drug offenders an opportunity to earn a high-school diploma and offered them job opportunities.

Harris was also the first woman, first African-American and first Asian-American to serve as California's attorney general, and refers to herself as a "progressive prosecutor." However, Harris has recently received criticism for some of her stances as a prosecutor. Lara Bazelon, a University of San Francisco law professor, wrote in a New York Times op-ed last week that if Harris "wants people who care about dismantling mass incarceration and correcting miscarriages of justice to vote for her, she needs to radically break with her past."

While Harris personally opposes the death penalty, she promised to defend it as California's attorney general in 2014, and appealed a federal judge’s decision that it was unconstitutional. Harris also won a $25 billion settlement for California homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis, but refused to prosecute Steven Mnuchin's OneWest Bank for foreclosure violations in 2013.

What she did as a senator:

Elected in 2016, Harris has quickly made a name for herself. She drew attention for her focused questioning during last year's Supreme Court confirmation hearings for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris called Kavanaugh "unfit" to serve on the Supreme Court.

During an emotional exchange between Harris and Professor Christine Blasey Ford, Harris said she believed Ford and praised her courage for coming forward.

"You have passed a polygraph and submitted the results to this committee. Judge Kavanaugh has not. You have called for outside witnesses to testify and for expert witnesses to testify. Judge Kavanaugh has not. But most importantly, you have called for an independent FBI investigation into the facts. Judge Kavanaugh has not," Harris said.

A vocal critic of President Donald Trump, Harris called his border wall "a vanity project," and described the partial government shutdown -- now the longest-running in U.S. history that has left about 800,000 federal workers without pay -- "an emergency of his own creation."

Harris also recently announced the "LIFT Act," a tax proposal that aims to help U.S. families earning less than $100,000 a year to become eligible for a monthly tax credit of up to $500, or $6,000 a year.

What you might not know about her:

Harris is the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, and is the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history.

In Sanskrit, her name means "lotus."

She is the author of a newly-released memoir, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey," and the children's book, "Superheroes Are Everywhere." Harris credits her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, with empowering her to look for solutions. "I was raised that, when you see a problem, you don't complain about it, you go and do something about it," Harris previously said in a "Good Morning America" interview.

Harris chose to announce her campaign on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, citing the civil rights leader as an inspiration that inspires her. Her campaign colors -- yellow, red and blue -- are a homage to the campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman ever to run for president from a major party, and who launched her presidential bid 47 years ago this week, according to Harris' campaign.

In October, Harris took a two-day trip through Iowa for the first time in a decade to campaign for state-level Democratic candidates there. The last time Harris visited was in 2008 to campaign for then-Sen. Barack Obama.

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Rex_Wholster/iStock(PHOENIX) -- Four humanitarian aid volunteers have been found guilty in federal court on charges related to them leaving food and water in a protected wilderness for migrants crossing the border near Arizona.

Each of the women convicted are part of Tucson and Phoenix-based advocacy group No More Deaths, which seeks to end the deaths of undocumented immigrants crossing the desert regions near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the group's website.

The charges stem from an incident on Aug. 14, 2017, when the helpers encountered a U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona after they operated a vehicle there without a permit and left behind gallon jugs of water and cans of beans, the Arizona Republic reported.

The location was near where three migrants who crossed the border weeks earlier had gotten lost, according to the Phoenix newspaper. One of the migrants was never found.

Volunteer Natalie Hoffman was charged with operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area, the verdict states. She and volunteers Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were also charged with entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandonment of property, according to the verdict, which was filed in the U.S. District of Arizona on Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco wrote in his decision that a federal law requires people who access Cabeza Prieta to obtain a permit for entry, which would require the applicant to remain on designated roads and not leave anything within the refuge.

"In short: with authorized permits, pack it in/pack it out," Velasco wrote.

Not only did the women not get a permit for access, they also left water, food and crates on the protected land, the verdict states.

"All of this, in addition to violating the law, erodes the national decision to maintain the Refuge in its pristine nature," Velasco wrote.

In addition, the preserve is "littered with unexploded military ordinance" because it is surrounded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, according to the verdict. The Tohono O’Odham nation and U.S. Border Patrol are also nearby, Velasco wrote.

After the trial began last week, Orozco-McCormick testified that she considered the work to be "sacred" and compared the refuge to a graveyard due to all the migrants who have died there, the Arizona Republic reported.

The women did not seek a permit because they would have been required to sign an agreement, which is required of anyone seeking a permit, according to the Republic.

When Hoffman was asked why she didn't sign the document, she replied, "I was there to leave water," the newspaper reported.

Velasco wrote in his decision that the defendants claimed they were acting in accordance with a higher law, adding that one of the defendants claimed "her conduct is not civil disobedience, but rather civil initiative, which is somehow not a criminal offense."

The women did not known their conduct could be punishable for up to six months in prison, and each acted on "the mistaken belief that the worst that could happen was that they could be banned" or fined, according to the verdict. No More Deaths did not inform them their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal offense, Velasco wrote.

The court will decide on an "agreeable date" for sentencing next week. In addition to six months in prison, the women may also face a $500 fine each, the Tucson Sentinel reported.

After the decision was filed, protesters with No More Deaths held a "vibrant noise demonstration" outside of the Eloy Detention Center in Pinal County, Arizona, the group wrote on Instagram.

"We wanted those inside to know we see them, that we know they resist, that they are not forgotten," the group wrote. "We took this action because though our work is so often centered on the death and suffering in the desert, but we know the story doesn't end there."

Neither No More Deaths nor an attorney for the volunteers immediately returned ABC News' request for comment.

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Al Drago/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at a breakfast Monday morning in Washington honoring Martin Luther King Jr., said that white Americans need to acknowledge and admit the fact that systemic racism still exists and must be rooted out.

"The bottom line is we have a lot to root out, but most of all the systematic racism that most of us whites don't like to acknowledge even exists," Biden said at an event hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network. "We don't even consciously acknowledge it. But it's been built into every aspect of our system."

 He continued, "Because when your schools are substandard, when your houses are undervalued, when your car insurance costs more for no apparent reason, when poverty rates for black Americans is still twice that of white Americans, ... there's something we have to admit. Not you -- we -- White America has to admit there's a still a systematic racism. And it goes almost unnoticed by so many of us."

Biden also expressed optimism that positive change is on its way, referencing the historic nature of the presidential inauguration he attended 10 years ago this weekend, when Barack Obama became the nation's first African-American president.

"There I was, it just hit me, standing, waiting for a black man to come 28 miles from Philadelphia to pick me up and take me on a 128-mile ride to be sworn in as president and vice president United States. Don't tell me, don't tell me things can't change!" Biden said to applause.

The former vice president is the subject of intense speculation over whether or not he will mount a presidential campaign in 2020 to try to unseat President Donald Trump.

While he did not move closer to announcing a presidential bid Monday, another presidential contender, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stoked further speculation about both his and Biden's presidential plans during comments at the same Washington event.

"Whatever the next year brings for Joe and me and I know we'll both keep our eyes on the real prize, and that is electing a Democrat to the White House in 2020, and getting our country back on track," Bloomberg said. "I haven't had a chance yet to talk to the Vice President at length today but I did want to get some pointers from him on how it's like to live in Washington, D.C."

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Rich Fury/Getty Images for Fashion Nova(WASHINGTON) -- Tomi Lahren insulted Cardi B's intelligence on Twitter and it went about as well as you might expect, with ripple effects prompting a subsequent feud between Lahren and a member of Congress over the weekend.

"Looks like @iamcardib is the latest genius political mind to endorse the Democrats. HA! Keep it up, guys! #MAGA2020," the outspoken conservative commentator tweeted on Wednesday.

 Lahren, who is a supporter of President Donald Trump, appeared to be referencing an expletive-laden video Cardi B shared on social media last week wherein the rapper criticizes Trump and expresses fear over the government shutdown -- which is now the longest in U.S. history.

The rapper fired back on Sunday, tweeting, "Leave me alone I will dog walk you."

This prompted debates on social media about the meaning of the term, with some pointing to an Urban Dictionary definition: "When you’re beating someone’s a-- and you’re dragging them as if you were walking a dog."

Lahren, who is a Fox Nation host, doubled down with a second tweet insulting the Grammy-winning rapper's intelligence, writing, "I’m sure you would. Still doesn’t make your political rambling any less moronic. #BuildthatWall."

Cardi quickly clapped back with an insult of her own, accusing Lahren of being a "sheep" -- someone who follows others but can't think for themselves.

"You’re so blinded with racism that you don’t even realize the decisions the president you root for is destroying the country you claim to love so much .You are a perfect example on no matter how educated or smart you think you are you still a SHEEP!" the "Bodak Yellow" rapper tweeted.

Cardi's response appeared to please another firebrand on Twitter -- Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who became the youngest woman elected to Congress in 2018.

"Why do people think they can mess with Bronx women without getting roasted? They act as though our borough hasn’t been perfecting the clapback game since the Sugarhill Gang ?? y’all just found it on Twitter," the congresswoman wrote.

Cardi B, whose full name is Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, was born and raised in the Bronx, and Ocasio-Cortez represents the eastern part of the borough.

Lahren, who appeared to be referencing Cardi's "dog walk" comment, accused the congresswoman of applauding violence.

"Aren’t you the same girl who whines about Trump inciting violence? Now you applaud it because it’s against a female conservative you disagree with politically? Convenient. P.S. I do fully acknowledge @iamcardib is smarter than YOU," Lahren wrote.

Ocasio-Cortez's response was to Cardi's tweet referring to Lahren as a "sheep" and not to the tweet where the rapper said she would "dog walk" Lahren. ABC News has reached out to the congresswoman's office, but a request for comment was not immediately returned.

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Marilyn Nieves/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As the nation honors civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, a host of Democrats believed to be eyeing a presidential bid in 2020 will be delivering high-profile speeches across the country on what is shaping up to be a precursor to a long and crowded campaign to unseat President Donald Trump.

At least six major contenders for the Democratic nomination are slated to give speeches or are attending events honoring King, a major opportunity for them to speak to an issue that promises to be front and center during the 2020 campaign: race.

Amid speculation that they both might seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered tributes honoring King at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton.

Biden, who has said he will announce his 2020 plans sometime in the near future, started his remarks joking he "had an announcement to make." He quickly transitioned, however, to the need to carry MLK’s legacy forward and continue to fight the "dark forces" that assassinated King and are still visible in society, referencing the racial unrest in Charlottesville in 2017.

"That was [King’s] last ... among his last words spoken, ‘to make America what it ought to be.' America's been made better by all the struggles many of you in this room have endured and led," Biden said. "But we've learned the last two years it doesn't take much to awaken hate, bring those folks out from under the rocks -- part of American society that's always been there will always be there."

Biden discussed the racism that exists in the U.S, and the need to stay vigilant against voting rights restrictions and the need for criminal justice reform, acknowledging he hasn’t always gotten it right on the latter.

"You know I've been in this fight for a long time. It goes not just to voting rights, it goes with the criminal justice system," he said. "I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right, but I've always tried."

Biden said he is optimistic about the future of the country and the millennial generation, who he believes will lead the way. He also reflected on the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, in which he played a central role 10 years ago this weekend.

"There I was, it just hit me, standing, waiting for a black man to come 28 miles from Philadelphia to pick me up and take me on a 128-mile mile ride to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States," he said. "Don't tell me things can't change!"

Bloomberg, who last year registered as a Democrat and has not shot down questions about whether he will seek the White House in 2020, said whatever happens in the next year, both he and Biden are focused on defeating Trump.

"Whatever the next year brings for Joe and me ... I know we'll both keep our eyes on the real prize, and that is electing a Democrat to the White House in 2020, and getting our country back on track," Bloomberg said.

The former New York City mayor, who was a registered Independent for 11 years and a Republican prior to that, also joked that he wanted to ask Biden for tips on what life is like in the nation's capital.

"I haven't had a chance yet to talk to the vice president at length today but I did want to get some pointers from him on how it's like to live in Washington, D.C.," Bloomberg said to muted laughs. "I actually thought that was funnier than you did."

The flurry of campaign activity also comes as California Sen. Kamala Harris made her presidential bid official in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" with anchors Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos.

"I love my country. I love my country," Harris said. "This is a moment in time that I feel a sense of responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are."

Harris also said she was "proud" to announce her campaign on the same day the nation honors Dr. King.

"The thing about Dr. King that always inspires me is that he was aspirational. He was aspirational like our country is aspirational," Harris said, "We know that we've not yet reached those ideals. But our strength is that we fight to reach those ideals," Harris said. "So today, the day we celebrate Dr. King, is a very special day for all of us as Americans and I'm honored to be able to make my announcement on the day we commemorate him."

President Trump also marked the holiday with a brief visit to the site memorializing Dr. King along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., later tweeting a video saying it was an "honor" to pay tribute to King.

 Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) both spoke at the NAACP "King Day at the Dome" event in Columbia, South Carolina, giving harsh rebukes of Trump as they honored Dr. King.

"Today we talk about justice, today we talk about racism. And I must tell you, it gives me no pleasure to tell you that we now have a president of the United States who is a racist," Sanders said on the steps of the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia.

 "We are gathered together because we believe in our democracy, and we know in this country the power of the people is always greater than the people in power," said Booker, who referenced a "spiritual dissatisfaction" with the current state of American society in his speech.

"We're dissatisfied that we live in a society that's getting seduced by celebrity and forget that significance is more important than celebrity, that purpose is more important than popularity, that we cannot be a nation that loves power more than it loves people," Booker added.

Sanders, who was Hillary Clinton's top rival for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, won just 26 percent of the vote in South Carolina in the 2016 Democratic primary, a harbinger of his later struggles with black voters, who propelled Clinton to victory in every single southern state.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY) who last week announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee and is fresh off her first campaign swing in Iowa, joined at a National Action Network event in Harlem.

 In her speech, Gillibrand struck an aspirational tone while decrying what she says are President Trump's attempts to "tear this country apart."

"Every generation has chosen to make a more perfect union, to bring more people into those rights. For a reason – because that’s who we are as Americans. Despite all our flaws. We want to bring people together, not tear them apart," Gillibrand said at an event alongside Sharpton and other elected officials in New York City.

"Until now. Until this person in this President, who has chosen to tear this country apart, against all racial lines against all religious lines. Every division, every line you can find."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has also announced a presidential exploratory committee and has made campaign trips to Iowa and New Hampshire in recent weeks, spoke at a breakfast in Boston honoring King Monday morning.

Many Democrats are hoping that the types of conversations about race in speeches on Monday will extend beyond the holiday and that candidates will have honest conversations about issues facing communities of color all across America.

Both Warren and Gillibrand sought to highlight the economic plight of those communities in sleekly produced videos announcing their exploratory committees.

"It is outrageous to ask women of color to bear the burdens of every single one of these fights over and over again," Gillibrand said in a clip featured in her announcement video.

"Working families today face a lot tougher path than my family did," Warren said in her announcement video. "And families of color face a path that is steeper and rockier, and a path made even harder by generations of discrimination."

 Former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro made an explicit reference to the Black Lives Matter movement during his presidential announcement earlier this month.

"If police in Charleston can arrest Dylann Roof after he murdered nine people worshipping at Bible study without hurting him, then don’t tell me that Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and Aiyana Jones, and Eric Garner, and Jason Pero, and Stephon Clark, and Sandra Bland shouldn’t still be alive today, too," Castro said during his announcement speech in San Antonio, referring to African-Americans who were killed in encounters with police. "We’re going to keep saying their names and those of too many others just like them who were victims of state violence. We’re going to keep saying that Black Lives Matter while working toward a justice system where it’s true."

The Democratic field in 2020, which could be as large as 20 candidates, including potentially eight U.S. senators, is shaping up to be one of the most diverse in history.

Of the seven major candidates who have formally announced presidential bids or exploratory committees, one, Harris, is African-American, Castro, is Latino and another, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, is Asian; additionally, four five of the candidates are women.

Other candidates of color who have been rumored to have 2020 aspirations include Booker, former Attorney General Eric Holder and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, among others.

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