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Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer, exchanged hundreds of phone calls and text messages with Columbus Nova, the American financial firm tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, according to court document unsealed Wednesday.

The communications began the day Donald Trump was elected and lasted for the next eight months, the document said.

“Telephone records related to Cohen’s cellular telephone show that on or about November 8, 2016, the day of the presidential election, a telephone registered to Cohen exchanged the first in a series of text messages with the CEO of Columbus Nova, LLC,” the document said.

“Between approximately November 8, 2016 and July 14, 2017, telephone records showed over 230 telephone calls and 950 text messages were exchanged between Cohen’s cellular telephone and the CEO of Columbus Nova.”

The document was among a total of five search warrant applications were unsealed by the order of a federal judge in Washington, DC on Wednesday at the request of news organizations. They show how federal prosecutors were initially suspicious of Cohen’s Russia contacts and possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), though ultimately those were not part of the charges that sent Cohen to prison for three years.

FARA requires agents working on behalf of a foreign government "political or quasi-political capacity" to identify themselves as such and provide information relating to their activities and financing to the U.S. government.

The feds were also curious, the documents show, about Columbus Nova’s payments of nearly a half million dollars to a consulting company that Cohen established.

“The United States continues to investigate if any of the payments or financial relationships…were connected to Cohen’s involvement in the distribution of a plan to lift Russian sanctions,” the document said.

Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, did not immediately respond to an email from ABC News requesting comment on the new disclosures.

Earlier this month Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges of campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and a bevy of financial crimes, reported to the federal corrections facility in Otisville, New York, to begin serving his sentence.

Federal prosecutors implicated the president in Cohen's campaign finance violation, writing in court documents that then-candidate Trump directed Cohen to make payments in an effort to keep adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal from making their allegations of affairs with Trump public. Trump has denied directing Cohen to break the law.

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OlegAlbinsky/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Yet another White House meeting between President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blew up on Wednesday and in classic Washington fashion, both sides worked quickly to spin what happened while sources spilled their version of what was going on behind the scenes.

With the threat of impeachment all the talk in the capital, the president made a surprise Rose Garden appearance to say he had told Pelosi and Schumer he would refuse to negotiate on how to pay for a $2 trillion infrastructure plan -- or deal on anything else -- because Pelosi earlier in the day had accused him of “engaging in a cover-up” in the face of congressional investigations.

Standing at a podium with a prepared sign attached reading “NO Collusion, NO Obstruction" Trump told reporters, “Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people that just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups."

He was angry that just hours earlier, Pelosi, after a hastily-called Democratic caucus meeting on members' growing calls for impeachment, said, "We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe the president of the United States in engaged in a cover-up."

Sources tell ABC News that the president arrived late to the White House meeting with lawmakers and shook no hands. He told lawmakers that he is in favor of working with Democrats on infrastructure, trade, and the farm bill but then made reference to the speaker’s comments about his taking part in a "cover-up.”

The sources said the president told Pelosi, Schumer, and others gathered that they needed to get all of the investigations over before they could talk about anything else. There were echoes of the meeting in January when the president stormed out of the room as lawmakers tried to come to a deal to avert a government shutdown.

According to one person in the room this time, they realized something was off when Trump didn’t make his way to the center of the table, where he customarily sits, started talking and then turned around and left before anyone could respond.

Senior level administration sources tell ABC News some aides close to the president tried to stop him for marching to the Rose Garden for the last-minute press conference.

The president, according to sources, was mad from first thing Wednesday morning and the Pelosi remarks about a “cover-up” pushed him over the edge. He then demanded to speak to cameras.

But the president may have played into Pelosi's hands.

Instead of attention aimed on how she is trying to hold her caucus back from impeachment -- a step Democratic leaders think could imperil their chances of taking down Trump at the ballot box in 2020 -- Pelosi and Schumer could change the focus to the president’s behavior.

"For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part that he really couldn't come -- match the greatness of the challenge that we have. Wasn't really respectful of the Congress and the White House working together," the speaker told reporters on Capitol Hill after returning from the White House.

Schumer, standing next to Pelosi, said, “It's clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president's part. It was planned. When we got in the room, the curtains were closed, referring to the Cabinet Room where they met, which has windows looking out on Rose Garden where preparations were being made for Trump's angry comments.

Schumer claimed Trump had planned the scene beforehand because he didn't want to have to agree to raise taxes to pay for the giant insfrastructure package.

"To watch what just happened in the White House would make your jaw drop," Schumer said.

"I pray for the president of the United States," Pelosi told reporters. "I pray for the United States of America."

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Win McNamee / Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a hearing Wednesday examining the Department of Homeland Security’s latest budget requests, Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood accused the Trump administration of crafting “intentional” policies that have resulted in the deaths of migrants apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Congress has been more than willing to provide the resources and work with you to address the security and humanitarian concerns, but at this point with five kids that have died, five thousand separated from their families, I feel like and the evidence is really clear that this is intentional," Underwood said. "It's intentional. It's a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration and it's cruel and inhumane."

Throughout the hearing, DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan was pressed repeatedly by Democrats over the way migrants are treated in U.S. custody.

"That's an appalling accusation and our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day," McAleenan said in response to Underwood's charge.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson temporarily stopped the proceedings after a Republican member asked for Underwood’s comments to be removed from the record. Following some procedural confusion, the committee voted to strike Underwood’s comments and continued with questions for the acting secretary.

When pressed on the current state of migrant holding facilities at the border, the acting secretary acknowledged that “those conditions are not acceptable. He said funding from Congress was needed to improve Customs and Border Protection facilities along the border.

"These tragedies are devastating to us and they are avoidable," McAleenan said.

Dem. Rep. Nanette Barragán further pressed McAleenan, saying Trump administration policies have intentionally inflicted hardship on migrants to deter crossings. Referencing the Trump administration’s now discontinued zero tolerance policy, Barragan called the practice “despicable.”

"This administration is on record in saying they did this to deter people from coming," Barragán said. "And so to knowingly separate children and families by prosecuting parents that was going to result in the separation and then mentally harm children, that's despicable. And that is why people believe that what this administration is doing is intentional."

Earlier this week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus demanded the administration take action following news of a teen who died while being held in Border Patrol custody.

The 16-year-old, who was traveling without his parents, died at a U.S. Border Patrol station on Monday while waiting to be picked up by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Joined by fellow Democratic caucus members, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said the Trump administration should end policies that force migrants to return to Mexico throughout the asylum process.

"This is an epidemic of death by the Trump administration," Castro told reporters.

The Hispanic Caucus chairman accused the administration of withholding information from Congressional inquiries, citing the recent death of a 2-year-old whose name has not been made public.

"They're concealing the truth of these atrocities to the American people," Castro said.

Authorities continue to raise warnings about the dangerous conditions faced by thousands of migrants traveling to the U.S. through Mexico. Last year Border Patrol recorded 283 deaths along the southern border.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump responded angrily on Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim earlier in the day that he's 'engaged in a cover-up."

"I don't do cover-ups," Trump said in remarks in the White House Rose Garden after reporters were given just a few minutes advance notice.

Trump spoke just minutes after Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer met with him to find common ground on infrastructure.

"There's was no collusion, no obstruction. We've been doing this since I've been president," he said.

"I've said from the beginning, right from the beginning that you can't go down both tracks. You can go down the investigation track or you can go down the investment track."

Trump said he told Pelosi and Schumer about the infrastructure plan: "You can't do it under these circumstances. So, get these phony investigations over with."

Minutes later, in a news conference of their own after they returned to the Capitol, Pelosi and Schumer shot back.

"To watch what just happened in the White House would make your jaw drop," Schumer said.

He said the president's remarks were not spur-of-the-moment but "a pre-planned excuse" because Trump wanted to avoid raising taxes to pay for an infrastructure plan. Schumer cited a sign placed on the president's podium listing details and costs of the Mueller investigation that he said must have been prepared well ahead of time.

Pelosi did not address the "cover-up" language she and the president used but said "we went in in a spirit of bipartisanship" to the White House meeting and that Trump "took a pass" on a chance to do a bipartisan infrastrcuture effort. "It makes me wonder why he did," she said.

"I pray for the President of the United States," she said. "I pray for the United States of America."

Shortly afterward, Pelosi told an audience at a Washington forum that the White House meeting with Trump was "very strange."

She said Trump is obstructing justice and repeated her claim that he is "engaged in a cover-up. "

"That could be an impeachable offense," she said.

Pelosi had emerged from a closed-door meeting with all House Democrats on Wednesday morning , iincluding a growing number pressuring her to move forward with an impeachment inquiry, saying, "We believe that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States. And we believe the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up."

Pelosi, along with five Democratic chairs, gave rank-and-file members an overview of the House’s ongoing investigations into the Trump administration.

Afterwards, Pelosi denied that there are cracks in her Democratic ranks.

“Our members are fine. You all see something that is really not happening in our caucus,” Pelosi told ABC News’ Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce. “Our members are honoring their oath of office. They have different views, but there’s no division.”

During the caucus meeting, Pelosi urged the group to stay the course, pointing to the House’s recent success in court after a federal judge upheld Democrats’ subpoena of Trump’s financial records, and the Justice Department’s agreement to comply with a House Intelligence Committee subpoena for counterintelligence materials related to the Mueller investigation.

“We do believe that it's important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States,” she said.

She called it a "very productive meeting" but was apparently sticking with her previous strategy of having various Democratic-led committees conduct separate investigations, including the House Judiciary Committee led by Rep. Jerry Nadler, and then deciding later whether the politically-risky move of impeachment was warranted.

"Jerry Nadler spoke in the beginning to give us a context for all of this," she said. "It was a very positive meeting, a respectful sharing of ideas, I think a very impressive presentation by our chairs. We do believe that it is important to follow the facts."

"We do have our legislative agenda that we are moving forward on," she said.

Other Democrats, including House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and several rank-and-file members, reaffirmed their support for impeachment, as discussion of opening an impeachment inquiry has surfaced on Capitol Hill this week.

“We have a responsibility to impeach him,” Waters told colleagues behind closed doors, which was met with some applause.

“No one is above the law,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., one of a handful of House Judiciary Committee members to call for impeachment after former White House counsel Don McGahn did not comply with a subpoena to appear before the panel.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., another impeachment advocate, made the case to colleagues that Republicans – including Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and George Conway, the conservative lawyer and husband of White House advisor Kellyanne Conway – are now supportive of the effort.

“I hope the message is not that we have to wait months and months for all of these things to wind through the courts.” he said after the meeting. “Because that would essentially be a slow-walk strategy of betting everything on the election, and punting, essentially, our constitutional duty in this moment.”

The meeting appeared to change few minds in the caucus.

Freshman Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said it would be “irresponsible” for Democrats to use impeachment to help the committees collect documents and information.

“We’ve got to follow the facts,” Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., a moderate freshman member of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC News. “There’s more information that we need before we can make a decision like that.”

Two senior Democratic aides who attended the meeting said that about two-thirds of members who spoke up during the caucus discussion urged lawmakers to stay the course. The aides downplayed the growing calls for impeachment – now topping 26 lawmakers – as a minority view among 235 members.

Rep. Mark Pocan, who announced his support Tuesday for an impeachment inquiry, explained his stance, telling reporters “it’s the president’s conduct,” particularly in the wake of the Mueller report, that has given more Democrats the impression that there is a “cover up.”

“I still feel very strongly that we need to do something stronger than what Congress has been doing,” Pocan, D-Wis., said. “The Mueller report may have laid out very serious charges of obstruction, and he said it’s up to Congress to deal with that, but more importantly it’s the conduct that’s happened since then. It’s the continued refusal to have people come and be witnesses in Congress. It’s starting to look more like a cover up. And continued obstruction.”

Despite being faced with frustrated Democrats calling for her to take a harder-line, Pelosi on Tuesday continued to try to deflect the reality that her caucus is beginning to shift toward impeachment, telling ABC News, "No," when asked if she was under increased pressure to impeach Trump.

"We don't have division," she told reporters.

But after Trump blocked former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying Tuesday, one after the other, several Democrats publicly bucked Pelosi, including Pocan, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who said Trump's "stonewalling" of Congress "only enhances the President's appearance of guilt," and "has pushed Congress to a point where we must start an impeachment inquiry."

"Regrettably, the President's most recent actions and continued disrespect for the Constitution are forcing us down the road to impeachment," Pocan said. "The President and his associates are engaging in a campaign of obstruction and lawlessness that undermines the rule of law and does not reflect the actions of someone who is ‘exonerated' as innocent. Congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight and get the information we need to deliver the truth to the American public regarding Russia's interference in our elections."

"I think impeachment, what's also tough about this conversation is when we say impeachment a lot of people don't know what that process means in the House," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said. "I think that right now what we need to do is at least be on that track and at least be in the process of impeachment."

For months, Pelosi has attempted to keep her caucus in line, urging them to withhold calls for impeachment in order to focus on the Democrats' legislative agenda. She has openly downplayed the prospects of successfully impeaching Trump, given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment and a Republican firewall in the Senate.

But after Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash broke ranks with his GOP colleagues and said he believes President Trump "engaged in impeachable conduct," some Democrats believe Pelosi is running out of excuses.

Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said she will introduce a "Resolution of Investigation" this week, asking the full House of Representatives to authorize an investigation intended to determine whether impeachment powers should be exercised.

"What the American people want and deserve is deliberate and judicious action by the United States Congress," she tweeted. "We have to educate before we activate. Just like the Nixon tapes did. I will be introducing such a resolution. The time is now that Congress refuses to accept a rejection of its legal requests."

Democrats in support of launching an impeachment inquiry believe opening the inquiry would help streamline Democrats' investigations and strengthen their hand in the courts as they battle with the Trump administration over information and testimony. They have also said that opening the inquiry wouldn't necessarily lead to a full House vote to refer the matter to the Senate for a trial.

Pelosi and her top lieutenants, in their rebuttal to Democrats now pushing for impeachment, have said that the majority has not exhausted all of their options to force the administration to heel. They have floated changing House rules to levy fines on individuals who flout congressional subpoenas, among other possibilities.

"We still have unexhausted avenues here," Pelosi told Democrats in a closed-door meeting Monday, according to an aide in the room.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the decision to proceed on impeachment will ultimately be "a collective judgment" from Democrats.

"I'm not saying that the Caucus is going to vote on it, but what I'm saying is there will be discussions among the leadership and among the Caucus as to whether or not we have reached a point where it is clear that the responsibility is to move ahead on that. I don't think we're there at this point in time," Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday. "I don't probably think there's any Democrat who probably wouldn't in their gut say, you know, he's done some things that probably justify impeachment.

"The majority of Democrats continue to believe that we need to continue to pursue the avenue that we've been on in trying to elicit information, testimony, review the Mueller report, review other items that have gone on," he continued. "And, you know, if the facts lead us to a broader action, so be it."

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dug in Wednesday on the administration's refusal to release President Donald Trump’s tax returns, shrugging off questions about a draft legal analysis by the Internal Revenue Service that undercuts the administration's official position on the matter.

“Our issue is that we want to make sure that the IRS is not weaponized for any party," he told lawmakers.

In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin said he hadn’t seen the "supposed" IRS memo until that morning. He also told lawmakers that he wasn’t sure who wrote it and why it wasn’t widely circulated.

Noting "different legal views," the secretary reiterated his expectation that the matter will wind up being decided in the courts.

“On this one request, we’ve been advised that there are different legal views,” Mnuchin told lawmakers. “And this is why it will most likely go to the third branch of government. And if the third branch of government opines on Congress’ right, then we would obviously supply the documents.”

The memo, first reported by the Washington Post late Tuesday, found a president's tax returns should be released to Congress unless executive privilege is used.

The IRS said the memo was a draft paper prepared last fall that was never finalized and “not the official position of the IRS.”

“The IRS Commissioner and the Chief Counsel were unaware of the paper until this week’s media inquiry,” the IRS said Wednesday. “The document was not sent to Treasury.”

Mnuchin has previously said the tax returns shouldn't be released because there is no legislative purpose for them. Democrats say the returns are needed to determine whether Trump is running the government in a way that could benefit him financially.

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Alex Edelman/Getty Images(NORFOLK, Va.) -- Eastern Virginia Medical School released its report into a racist photo that appeared on the yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday but said they could not "conclusively determine" the identity of either person in that photo.

"With respect to the Photograph on Governor Northam's personal page, we could not conclusively determine the identity of either individual depicted in the Photograph. The Governor himself has made inconsistent public statements in this regard. No individual that we interviewed has told us from personal knowledge that the Governor is in the Photograph, and no individual with knowledge has come forward to us to report that the Governor is in the Photograph," the report, released to reporters Wednesday morning, said.

The photo, which depicts two individuals, one wearing blackface and the other a KKK robe, came to light in early February this year, and sparked a range of outcry and widespread calls for Northam, a Democrat, to resign his office.

At a press conference the day after the photo controversy erupted, Northam said that he did not believe he is either person in the racist photo, but admitted that he did once darken his face to resemble Michael Jackson during a dance contest in 1984.

"Yesterday I took responsibility for content that appeared on my page that was clearly racist and offensive. I will not excuse the content of the photo. It was offensive, racist and despicable. I was seeing it for the first time. I was unaware of what was on my page. I was appalled that they appeared on my page," Northam said at a lengthy press conference at Virginia's Executive Mansion on Feb. 2.

"I believe now I am not either of the people in that photo. It is disgusting, offensive, racist," Northam said.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Northam again denied that he is in the racist photo, but apologized for both the incident and his response to the explosive revelation.

"I am not in the racist and offensive photo that appears under my name in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook," wrote Northam, whose term ends in 2021. "That being said, I know and understand the events of early February and my response to them have caused hurt for many Virginians and for that, I am sorry. I felt it was important to take accountability for the photo’s presence on my page, but rather than providing clarity, I instead deepened pain and confusion."

At a press conference on Wednesday, Richard V. Homan, the medical school's president and provost, said that the school hired an outside law firm, McGuireWoods, to conduct the investigation in order to "maintain the public’s trust and ensure an independent and objective assessment of the past."

"Their publication was hurtful, particularly to the African-American community and to our campus community," Homan said. "It should never have happened."

"Unless we face this fact head-on, this bias and racism will not abate. Uncomfortable silence only perpetuates these problems. We must engage in direct conversations, even if they are uncomfortable, even if they are difficult. Notwithstanding, talking is not enough," Homan added.

The report, headed by Richard Cullen, a senior partner at McGuireWoods and a former Virginia attorney general and former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, found that no one "with first-hand knowledge of an actual mistake on any page, including any personal page, within the 1984 yearbook" and no evidence that the photo was placed in error. The report also identified 10 photographs depicting individuals in blackface based on the law firm’s review of all the school's yearbooks, according to investigators.

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TriggerPhoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Top congressional Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer head to the White House Wednesday morning to meet with President Donald Trump for a second round of talks on President Donald Trump’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

While a previous meeting ended with both sides saying they were looking for common ground, Trump raises tensions Tuesday night with a letter sent to Pelosi and Schumer saying he wants Congress to first take up the proposed USMCA trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

"Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package," Trump said.

Before Trump's letter, Pelosi and Schumer put out a statement outlining their objectives.

“In our conversations with the President, Democrats will continue to insist on our principles: that any plan we support be big, bold and bipartisan; that it be comprehensive, future-focused, green and resilient; and that it be a jobs and ownership-boost with strong Buy America, labor, and women, veteran and minority-owned business protections,” they said in a joint statement.

This temporary truce is in sharp contrast to previous acrimonious showdowns but it comes amid the bitterly-disputed question of impeachment as Pelosi will be fresh from a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning to deal with growing pressure from Democrats to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi and Schumer first met with Trump on infrastructure three weeks ago in a meeting that they called “constructive” and first announced a tentative plan to spend $2 trillion to tackle U.S. infrastructure in a “big and bold way.” Pelosi and Schumer said they are looking forward to hearing from the president on how he plans to pay for this infrastructure package in Wednesday's meeting.

However, Trump expressed concern in a Fox News interview Sunday, saying he thought the White House was "being played by the Democrats a little bit.”

“You know, I think what they want me to do is say, 'Well, what we'll do is raise taxes,' and we'll do this and this and this, and then they'll have a news conference, see, 'Trump wants to raise taxes,'" Trump said.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since his first presidential bid, Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of big-money politics, saying "I don't need anybody's money," mocking Republican candidates backed by the Koch brothers as "puppets" and even calling super PACs a "scam."

But big donors have found a path to supporting Trump’s reelection bid. Employing the methods honed by a generation of Washington insiders, donors are sending large-dollar contributions to America First Action. The "approved” Trump fundraising committee, known as a super PAC, that is "run by allies of the President" and promises to be a "trusted supporter of President Trump's policies and agendas."

That super PAC has assumed a leadership role in vacuuming up large-dollar contributions -- including more than $10 million from some of the most generous GOP donors, including Las Vegas casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, and $4 million from California real estate mogul Geoffrey Palmer.

America First Action is not the only group lending support to the Trump reelection bid. Some of the same committees formed during his 2016 bid are also attempting a return to support the president's second run.

America First Action

Launched by former Trump campaign aides in April of 2017 and currently headed by GOP operative Brian Walsh, America First Action has quickly locked down its title as the main pro-Trump outside fundraising vehicle, raising nearly $40 million and spending more than $36 million in just the first two years of its operation, with support from some of the most generous GOP donors, including Adelson, according to campaign finance records filed to the Federal Election Commission.

With the absence of a presidential election during the 2018 cycle, the super PAC mainly focused on supporting Trump's allies in congressional races, spending nearly $30 million on some of the key races during the midterms, including the Indiana, the Missouri and Montana Senate races, while its 501(c)(4) nonprofit arm, America First Policies, has been focused on promoting the president's policies on immigration and border security, according to campaign finance records and Facebook ad library data.

The super PAC recently recruited former Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, a wealthy former professional wrestling executive and a major 2016 Trump campaign booster, as the head of its fundraising operation.

America First Action is also one of the biggest spenders at the Trump hotel in Washington, hosting lavish fundraisers and events featuring some of Trump's closest allies or often the president himself.


Prior to running America First Action, Walsh headed an anti-Hillary Clinton super PAC called Future45 during the 2016 cycle.

Future45, however, really ended up in the spotlight over the last two months of the race when Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts, previously one of the front-runners of the #NeverTrump movement, assumed control of the operation and raised $30 million for Trump, most notably $20 million from Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, who had been mostly silent about the presidential election until then.

The super PAC's nonprofit spin-off, 45 Committee, which wasn't required to disclose donors because nonprofits that report to the Internal Revenue Services don't have the same disclosure requirements as political groups that report to the FEC, appealed to top GOP donors who had previously subscribed to the anti-Trump sentiment but wanted to secretly support Trump, according to a Politico report at the time.

Ricketts, whose family had previously been threatened by Trump over a tweet that "They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!" has since won over the president's heart, being named the Republican National Committee finance chairman last year and recently becoming the finance chair of Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the RNC. It's still unclear what Trump meant when he said the Ricketts have a lot to hide.

Future45 has continued to raise money from big-name Republican donors, including multiple seven-figure checks from the Ricketts family, hedge fund manager Paul Singer and financing executive Charles Schwab during the 2018 election cycle, FEC records show. Much of the $6 million the group raised, however, went to congressional races.

45 Committee's activities are still largely shrouded, but limited information from various public disclosure reports shows that the group has been diligent in attacking Democrats and supporting Trump's policies such as Brett Kavanaugh's nomination for the Supreme Court.

Great America PAC

Founded by Republican strategist Eric Beach and currently led by veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins, Great America PAC was one of the few groups that had been loyal to Trump from the very beginning.

One of the biggest pro-Trump super PACs throughout the 2016 election cycle, Great America PAC raised more than $28 million and spent more than $23 million throughout 2016, according to campaign finance records. The super PAC launched a pro-Trump reelection campaign immediately after his inauguration, spending just shy of $10 million already, more than $6 million which has gone to supporting the president.

Last month, Great America PAC blasted out Facebook ads promoting first lady Melania Trump's birthday and calling special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election the "Largest Political Scam Ever," according to Facebook ad library data. More recently, the group launched multiple ad campaigns hitting at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, calling him "creepy Joe."

Rebuilding America Now

Once touted by then-Trump's running mate Mike Pence as "one of the best ways to stop Clinton and help elect Donald Trump," Rebuilding America Now is now in the middle of a "kickback scheme" allegations.

Founded by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's longtime associate Tom Barrack and run by Manafort's family friend Laurance Gay, the super PAC raised and spent more than $23 million in support of Trump during the 2016 election, FEC records show, but has been mostly been quiet since with no fundraising activities and just minimal social media postings.

The now-dormant group, however, was thrust back into the public eye late last year when it was linked to a mysterious $125,000 payment to Manafort that he lied about to the special counsel's team. In explaining his interest in the payment to a judge, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann described Rebuilding America Now's operation as a "kickback scheme," designed to profit those running the PAC. While the word "kickback" was redacted in court documents, sources confirmed to ABC News that the redacted portions corresponded with the word.

Gay was paid about $378,000 by Rebuilding America Now during the 2016 cycle and continued to be paid nearly $1 million during the 2018 cycle, according to FEC records.

The New York Times reported in December that Rebuilding America Now has also been examined by New York prosecutors for possible illegal foreign donations.

The Committee to Defend the President

The Committee to Defend the President has been one of the most aggressive pro-Trump super PACs so far this year, already spending nearly $1 million in support of Trump, according to campaign finance records.

The group, previously known as Stop Hillary PAC, however, was founded by Republican consultant Guy Short, who has called Trump a "liar" and said that he "spent thousands of dollars of [his] own money" to become a Colorado delegate for the Republican party "to make sure Donald Trump is NOT our nominee."

The PAC changed its name quickly after Trump took office, raised nearly $9 million and spent more than $4 million in support of Trump during 2018 cycle, FEC filings show.

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YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, said Wednesday morning that the Justice Department will turn over subpoenaed documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 Russian election meddling -- dialing back tensions between the administration and lawmakers over the matter.

A DOJ counteroffer made Tuesday included a concession to make available some underlying evidence that helped inform Mueller's report. DOJ officials had initially balked at such an overture as recently as last week, which led Schiff to set a Wednesday deadline to respond and threatened Attorney General William Barr with "unspecified enforcement action."

It wasn't clear on what terms the matter was decided, but in a statement Wednesday morning Schiff said, “The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production. That initial production should be completed by the end of next week."

"The Department has repeatedly acknowledged the Committee’s legitimate oversight interest in these materials. I look forward to, and expect, continued compliance by the Department so we can do our vital oversight work,” he said.

The threatened enforcement action could have included a resolution of contempt or hefty fines.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd in DOJ's latest offer said all members of the House Intel Committee would be able to view a less-redacted version of "Volume 1" of the Mueller report that dealt primarily with outlining Russia's efforts to meddle in the election.

A separate DOJ official said that the department had "already begun the process of identifying, locating and reviewing" some of the materials provided by Mueller's team separate from the report that could be in line with what Schiff has requested.

But, the official added, it was "a process that will not continue should the committee take the unnecessary and unproductive step of moving to hold the attorney general in contempt."

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump campaign went on the defensive Tuesday, pushing back against news reports of an internal poll that showed the president losing in key battleground states.

Sources familiar with the polling told ABC News the results surprised some members of the Trump team, particularly in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where the data showed the president losing.

In response, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale took to Twitter, calling the figures "selectively leaked information." Parscale argued that "the picture being painted is intentionally false, because the information only pertains to a subset of questions asked.” He did not reveal what questions were asked in the poll.

Parscale also said the "numbers will tell a different story" once Democrats have "been through ... a brutal primary" and the eventual nominee faces President Donald Trump in the general election.

“We will win these states again in 2020 and in fact, expand the map to include new states where the President was competitive in 2016,” he added.

Parscale said reporting on any potential matchup 18 months before an election is “pointless.”

“The results are so speculative as to be almost meaningless,” he said.

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Kena Betancur/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a newly released agenda, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tackles an issue that has been a cornerstone of her congressional career -- paid family leave and policies that offer support to working families.

The plan, aimed at parents with young children, is dubbed the “Family Bill of Rights." The plan focuses on a number of areas Gillibrand wants to see changed to make raising children safer and more affordable: pregnancy, fertility treatments, adoption, safe nurseries for newborns, paid family leave, affordable childcare and universal pre-K.

Gillibrand's focus on families isn't new, she's introduced a paid family leave bill every year since 2013.

The push for parent-centric policy has gained popularity as the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have sought to address affordability in raising children.

In February, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a plan to create government-funded child care centers that would be free for low-income families. Several Democratic candidates, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker have called for universal pre-K. Booker, Harris, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Michael Bennet, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar have all co-sponsored Gillibrand’s paid family leave bill.

The president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, has taken up the issue as an advisor to her father.

But for Gillibrand, enacting the proposal would make an issue that was a cornerstone of her Senate career a key administrative priority.

“Passing the Family Bill of Rights will be my priority in my first 100 days as president,” Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement. “And I believe it will transform American families and their ability to achieve the American Dream."

Though she did not offer details on an estimated final cost, Gillibrand said she plans to pay for the plan by passing a Financial Transaction Tax. According to the Congressional Budget Office , the tax could yield $777 billion in revenue over the next decade.

The plan calls for equipping hospitals with better resources and standardizing practices to prevent complications and death during childbirth and addressing the racial disparity in maternal mortality rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women die of pregnancy-related deaths at a rate three to four times higher than white women. The plan also calls for increased access to obstetric care in rural areas where women may have to travel further to see a doctor.

Gillibrand’s proposal would aim to make fertility treatments more affordable and mandate that insurance companies cover the cost of fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization for couples who have trouble conceiving naturally.

The Family Bill of Rights would give equal adoption rights to potential parents regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status or religion and offer tax credits to families who adopt.

In her proposal, Gillibrand said she would launch a program that would provide supplies for new parents like diapers, blankets and clothing in a box with a mattress that could be used as a nursery bed. The plan calls for the program to be administered through the Department of Health and Human Services with state organizations.

Similar programs are already in effect in Ohio, Alabama, New Jersey and Texas.

A national paid family and medical leave program would be created under the plan and every child would be auto-enrolled in CHIP at birth and offered access to Medicaid's Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment program. Parents would be able to opt out.

Gillibrand’s plan also calls for creating universal pre-K programs and expanding access for children with disabilities. Parents would receive a bigger tax credit for child care costs under the plan. It would cover up to 50 percent of $12,000 in qualifying childcare.

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TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A trove of documents related to the government’s case against Michael Cohen, the president’s onetime personal attorney, will remain redacted for now, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, after prosecutors informed the court that some information in them pertains to “an ongoing investigation.”

Judge William Pauley’s ruling on Tuesday suggests the government’s probe of potential campaign finance violations during the 2016 presidential election remains active. During his plea hearing last year, Cohen implicated his former boss in the scheme.

“In view of the ongoing aspects of the government's investigation,” Pauley wrote Tuesday, “this court determines that continued redaction of the materials is justified at this juncture.”

The “materials” to which Pauley referred include nearly 900 pages of previously sealed court records describing the basis for an April 2018 search on Cohen’s home, office and hotel room.

Cohen, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence, pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

Federal prosecutors accused Cohen of violating campaign finance laws by paying off two women who allege to have had affairs with President Donald Trump. Cohen, at his plea hearing, said he acted “in coordination with and at the direction of” the then-candidate to execute the payments.

Trump has argued the payments amount to nothing more than a “simple private transaction,” and do not qualify as campaign finance violations.

On Tuesday, Pauley asked prosecutors to justify their request to keep certain information secret by July 15, at which time the government must “[identify] the individuals or entities subject to any ongoing investigations and [explain] any need for continued redaction.”

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drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- After hearing from top Trump officials, Democratic lawmakers are expressing alarm over the administration's posture in the Middle East and the possibility of a conflict with Iran.

In particular, some members of Congress even accused the Trump administration of "misrepresenting" U.S. intelligence about an Iranian threat and escalating tensions without a plan to prevent a larger conflict.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford briefed the House and Senate Tuesday on President Donald Trump's Iran strategy, recent intelligence of an increased Iranian threat and the U.S. reaction to it, including the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers and the ordered departure of non-emergency personnel from Iraq.

"This is about deterrence, not about war. We're not about going to war. This is about continuing to protect our interests in the Middle East," Shanahan told reporters after both briefings.

Pompeo added that the administration has "plenty of ways" to communicate with Iran to de-escalate the situation.

But Democrats in both chambers left the briefings Tuesday with concerns about the administration's actions.

"I truly believe that the intel has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by Secretary Pompeo, by [national security adviser John] Bolton and other people that do want us to go to war in Iran, as a repeat to Iraq," said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who served as a Marine in Iraq.

Most members said the greater fear was of conflict by accident -- that tensions would escalate and the two sides would be pushed into fighting.

"I worry very much, that intentionally or unintentionally, we can create a situation in which a war will take place," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. "When you do that, you're talking about a war that will go on and on and on."

Republicans, however, defended the administration's actions, saying they had helped to deter attacks on American personnel and interests and push back on Iran in ways that previous administrations hadn't.

"We're ready to respond if we have to. The best thing to happen is for everybody to calm down and Iran to back off and I'm hoping that this show of force will result in de-escalating, not escalating," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"This is purely defensive and deterrence in nature," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

But Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., argued the administration's actions were "blind escalation" without a "thoughtful inter-departmental strategy for how this is ultimately going to wind up in a better deal" between the U.S. and Iran.

"It doesn't seem like well thought out policies," he added.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Calif., also expressed concern about how long it took senior officials to brief Congress. The White House first announced it was speeding up the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group on May 5 because of "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran.

"When you're trying to put together a policy like this, the co-equal branch of government that is the United States Congress should be far enough up on your list that it doesn't take you a week before you get to us, so it is not an acceptable answer for the Secretary of State to say to Congress, 'Sorry we didn't brief you earlier, but we were busy.' That doesn't fly," Smith said, adding that he was not satisfied with the briefing.

It was a sentiment shared across the Capitol by Senate Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he told the three senior officials that they had to do a better job consulting Congress and the American people.

Shanahan pledged afterwards to be "more communicative with the American public."

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VallarieE/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is demanding answers on the latest death of a minor who had been apprehended at the border.

The 16-year-old, who was traveling without his parents, died at a U.S. Border Patrol station on Monday while waiting to be picked up by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Joined by fellow Democratic caucus members, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said Tuesday that the Trump administration must end policies that force migrants to remain in Mexico during the asylum process.

"This is an epidemic of death by the Trump administration," Castro told reporters.

The Hispanic Caucus chairman accused the administration of withholding information from Congressional inquiries, citing the recent death of a 2-year-old whose name has not been made public.

"They're concealing the truth of these atrocities to the American people," Castro said.

Democrats have consistently railed against the administration, following the recent deaths of minors in U.S. custody, with threats to launch congressional inquiries and oversight probes.

The death on Monday of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, marks the third time in the past month that a minor has died after being apprehended along the border.

U.S. authorities have struggled to handle the influx of migrant families and children who, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, mostly turn themselves over to agents after crossing.

According to the CBP, Vasquez was picked up on May 13 near Hidalgo, Texas, and was sent to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station in the Rio Grande Valley.

Federal law generally requires minors to be transferred to a Health and Human Services shelter within 72 hours of their arrest. A CBP official said officers follow instructions from HHS in determining where and when to send apprehended kids.

CBP said in a statement on Monday that the teen had been found unresponsive earlier in the day.

"The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family," said acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders. "CBP is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody."

Mexican and U.S. authorities have warned of the dangers migrants face in attempting to make the journey north. Last year, Border Patrol recorded 283 migrant deaths along the southern border.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday issued subpoenas for documents and testimony from Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, two former senior White House officials, as they condemned former White House counsel Don McGahn's dismissal of a subpoena for his testimony, and vowed to hold him in contempt of Congress.

McGahn failed to appear at committee hearing on Tuesday morning after being directed not to testify by President Donald Trump.

"Our subpoenas are not optional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said at the start of Tuesday's hearing as he faced an empty chair reserved for McGahn at the witness table.

"This committee will hear Mr. McGahn's testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it," he said.

McGahn’s defiance of the committee’s subpoena is the latest episode in the struggle between Democrats and the Trump administration over documents and testimony demanded by Congress.

On Tuesday, they tried to move forward with their investigation into special counsel Robert Mueller's findings, issuing subpoenas for Hicks and Donaldson, who served as McGahn’s deputy in the White House, to provide documents and testimony to the panel in June.

The administration's resistance to Democrats' oversight efforts, capped by McGahn's decision to skip Tuesday's hearing, led some members of the Judiciary Committee and the Democratic leadership team to call for the start of impeachment proceedings against Trump.

 At Tuesday’s hearing, Republicans accused Democrats of staging a spectacle to attack Trump.

“The theater is open,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the panel, said Tuesday of the hearing without McGahn, and the Democrats' larger investigation.

“Democrats claim we need to dig deeper — deeper than the two years of investigation conducted by what is considered a prosecutorial dream team — because that probe ended without criminal charges against the president or his family,” he said.

“Now Democrats are trying desperately to make something out of nothing, which is why the chairman haphazardly subpoenaed today’s witness.”

Collins also took a jab at Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. who brought fried chicken to the committee's hearing at which Attorney General William Barr failed to show.

Trump on Monday told McGahn he shouldn't tell Congress about events relating to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and in a letter to Nadler, the attorney for McGahn said he "remains obligated to maintain the status quo and respect the president's instructions. In the event an accommodation is agreed between the Committee and the White House, Mr. McGahn will of course comply with that accommodation."

Nadler, in a letter to McGahn Monday evening, argued that the former White House counsel isn't shielded from testifying about the episode of obstruction detailed in the Mueller report, and said the White House counsel did not formally invoke executive privilege.

He warned McGahn against skipping Tuesday's hearing, and said the committee would "use all enforcement mechanisms at its disposal," later telling reporters that the committee would move to hold him in contempt of Congress in the coming weeks.

Some Democrats have bristled at McGahn's dismissal of the committee's subpoena, and called for Democratic leaders to launch impeachment proceedings to aid in their investigations.

"There is a tremendous level of frustration at our inability to get witnesses and documents that are necessary to do our work," Rep. David Ciccilline, D-R.I., a member of the committee and Democratic leadership, told reporters Monday.

"We are getting to that point if Mr. McGann does not appear it will then establish a pattern from this president to not only have obstructed or attempted to obstruct justice as details in the Mueller Report, but an ongoing effort to prevent the American people from knowing the full truth engaging in a cover up and behaving as if he's above the law," he said.

"The Mueller Report documents a shocking pattern of obstruction of justice," Nadler said in a statement earlier Monday after news of the president's direction to McGahn. "The President acted again and again -- perhaps criminally -- to protect himself from federal law enforcement.

"Don McGahn personally witnessed the most egregious of these acts. President Trump knows this. He clearly does not want the American people to hear firsthand about his alleged misconduct, and so he has attempted to block Mr. McGahn from speaking in public tomorrow."

Earlier Monday, in a letter to Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote "that McGahn is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters occurring during his service as a senior adviser to the President," citing previous Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinions, along with OLC guidance specific to McGahn's testimony.

"The Democrats do not like the conclusion of the Mueller investigation -- no collusion, no conspiracy, and no obstruction -- and want a wasteful and unnecessary do-over," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Monday.

Democrats are considering other actions beyond impeachment to strengthen their hand in court and push back on what they say is the administration's unprecedented stonewalling of Congress: some lawmakers and aides have suggested amending House rules to allow Congress to exercise its inherent contempt powers, and levy fines against individuals who defy congressional subpoenas.

They will face another test in June: The committee has asked Donaldson and Hicks to provide documents by June 4th, related to concerns about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. and other key episodes examined by Mueller in his investigation.

Democrats have also asked Hicks, one of Trump's closest aides in the White House and during the 2016 campaign, to testify on June 19, and for Donaldson to appear before the committee on June 24th.

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