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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Facebook announced they are making a portal that will allow users to find out if they liked pages or followed Instagram accounts made by the Internet Research Agency, the Russian internet company that was revealed to be troll farm after the 2016 election.

 The portal will provide a database of those potential pages and accounts that would have been liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017, before and after the 2016 election.

 “This is part of our ongoing effort to protect our platforms and the people who use them from bad actors who try to undermine our democracy,” Facebook wrote in a press release announcing the tool.

It will not show specific ads or posts that users may have seen. It will only show the pages and accounts a user has liked or followed that have been linked to Russian meddling.

The tool is set to be available by the end of the year.

The portal will be part of the Help Center on Facebook.

Facebook is among the tech giants that have recently come under fire for their lack of attention on Russian activity on their platform that may have tried to divide the nation and create mistrust during the election of 2016.

Within the last few weeks, the House Intelligence Committee released photos of 3,000 ads during a hearing in which Facebook, Google, and Twitter were testifying before Congress, acknowledging Russian meddling on their platforms.

The social media giant has said that potentially 150 million people have seen the Russian-linked content on Facebook and Instagram.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has started a handful of initiatives that he says aim to better security and transparency for the social network.

In an effort to increase the transparency surrounding advertisements in the future, Facebook previously announced that they are going to make it possible to see what ads that pages are running as well as requiring confirmation of people’s identities before they can buy U.S. election ads.

Facebook has also said they are hiring 10,000 people consisting of engineers, ad reviewers and security experts to better identify violations and fake accounts in addition to updating their policies to block ads that are proved fake by third-party fact-checking organizations.

In order to address fake news, Facebook initiated work to stop misinformation by removing potential financial incentives for advertisers and made updates to hide more clickbait stories for users back in the spring.

“It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election,” Facebook wrote in their most recent statement.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released an open letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, accusing the agency of stonewalling his office's investigation into what he called a "massive scheme" to inundate the FCC's public net neutrality review process with fake comments.

"The process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity," Schneiderman wrote to Pai, a Republican appointed to head the agency by President Donald Trump.

Net neutrality rules prevent internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others from charging more to access certain websites. The rules were established to provide an equal playing field online.

Under Democratic leadership, the FCC approved net neutrality rules in 2015, but the agency is now controlled by Republican appointees and has taken a different stance under the Trump administration. Pai rolled out the FCC's plan to scrap the Obama-era rules ahead of a vote scheduled to take place on Dec. 14.

The process allows the public to comment on the changes and weigh in on the issue before the agency makes its final decision.

"Enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules" were first reported in May of this year, Schneiderman's letter said.

The false comments attempted "to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue," according to Schneiderman's letter.

An FCC spokesperson told ABC News Schneiderman's "so-called investigation is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama Administration's heavy-handed Internet regulations to gain publicity for himself."

In his letter, Schneiderman writes that he has "long publicly advocated for strong net neutrality rules," but said his investigation is about "the right to control one’s own identity and prevent the corruption of a process designed to solicit the opinion of real people and institutions."

The FCC said it would base its decision on facts and legal arguments, not on repetitive form letters that surface in the commenting process, the spokesperson said. The agency received some 7.5 million comments consisting of the same form letter and it also received over 400,000 comments from the same address in Russia in support of the Obama-era rule, according to the spokesperson.

Many of the fake comments "misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process," the letter continued, noting that "hundreds of thousands of Americans likely were victimized in the same way."

Schneiderman said the false use of names and addresses amounts to a crime "akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale." The FCC, Schneiderman wrote, "has refused to provide ... information that is critical to the investigation."

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US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas is apologizing for a graphic image of himself that emerged on social media this week, confirming he took the picture and sent it to women with whom he was pursuing relationships.

"While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women," Barton, 68, told the Texas Tribune in a statement. His office has not responded to inquiries from ABC News.

"Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down," the statement added.

In the wake of fresh allegations of sexual misconduct by members of Congress, the circulating image resembling Barton had been a topic of growing concern among Texas Republicans on Capitol Hill, with some aides quietly speculating that it was in fact the Texas congressman.

The episode is seen as an embarrassing disclosure for a prominent House Republican - the longest-serving congressman from Texas - and one that could threaten his political career.

Asked whether House Speaker Paul Ryan believes Barton should resign, Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong told ABC: “The speaker has spoken to Rep. Barton on this matter. We will keep those conversations between the two of them.”

Barton, the former chairman of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, recently announced plans to run for re-election. He told the Texas Tribune he is now reconsidering his future in light of these revelations.

Barton has been a vocal advocate against sexual predators online as a member of a congressional task force and spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill alongside victims in 2007.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Two of the biggest mass shootings in modern American history have taken place within just the past 50 days.

And in the aftermath, there seems to be no real, reasoned gun debate face-to-face or online -- just a deepening division between Americans on the left and on the right.

But there is a growing group of people doing the unexpected. They’re called the Liberal Gun Club, just one of a number of left-leaning gun clubs now in operation, who seem to support less gun restrictions and agree with the NRA on some points.

“I’m Lara. I’m a liberal. I voted for Hilary Clinton. But I’m a strong Second Amendment supporter,” Lara Smith, a lawyer and the president of the California chapter of the Liberal Gun Club, told ABC News’ “Nightline.”

The club was founded in 2008, and they hold conventions, advise politicians, stage so-called “Meet in the Middle” events, educate and train.

“The mission of the Liberal Gun Club is education,” said Smith.

Smith said she was anti-gun and started shooting only four years ago. After giving it a try, researching the issue and having too many arguments with her gun-loving, former Marine husband, Ed Smith, she changed her views.

Lara Smith is an instructor to Shemira Fermon, a veterinarian nurse and new member of the Liberal Gun Club.

“I’ve always been into guns but I’ve never found anyone that made me feel comfortable learning how to use them as tools not toys,” Shemira Fermon told “Nightline.”

“I see everybody else’s views as inconsistent. Abortion and gun rights are the flip side of the same issue. If you’re for banning one and not the other there’s a real inherent inconsistency in there. My view is that neither of them should be banned,” said Lara Smith. “I’m arguing that I’m more liberal than even my liberal friends. The liberal view on most things is, I might not like it, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ban it.”

Smith said she’s experienced mixed reactions from people with different political views at the gun range. “Some places the reaction is, ‘The Liberal Gun Club, what’s that? That’s great!’ Some places it’s like, ‘Are you one of those libtards?’” Smith said.

Members of the Liberal Gun Club say they also face some flak from liberal friends and coworkers.

“Who to talk to about it and who not to,” Ed Smith told “Nightline.” “There are definitely people you can tell you don’t want to bring up the topic.”

The Liberal Gun Club says it now has 7,500 members nationwide. They agree with their more right-wing brothers and sisters on some points.

“The government says, ‘Hey we’re going to change this so everybody has to give up their guns.’ What else is going to be next?” said Fermon.

However, there are some points they disagree with.

“Particularly under this administration, I don’t want to give up any of my constitutional rights,” said Lara Smith.

“I have an issue, and trust issues in general with law enforcement,” Fermon said. “Now you’re telling me what little slim chance of protection I had is now gone, and is given to people that I don’t trust at all. How is that fair?”

The NRA has a reported 5 million members, but only a reported 19 percent of gun owners in America are actually NRA members too.

According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Republicans and right-leaning independents own guns. And 20 percent of Democrats or left-leaning independents own guns.

“I think a lot more people have guns here that are liberal than we know about,” said Ed Smith.

When it comes to mass shootings, Lara Smith says she doesn’t think banning guns is the answer.

“The only suggestions we’re getting are, ‘Out of my cold, dead hands. We’re doing nothing’ or, ‘Ban this kind of gun!’ Those aren’t solutions,” Lara Smith said. “I don’t think bans are the answer. I think there are these huge societal issues that we have to look at.”

Lara Smith said she agrees with President Donald Trump, who, after the Sutherland Springs church shooting, said, “This is a mental health issue at the highest level.”

She also said she believes people shouldn’t have a gun if they’re not trained to use it: “Oh my god, you should not be carrying a gun in public unless you are trained.”

Lara and Ed Smith said they think it makes sense to have background checks when you purchase your first firearm.

“These guns existed way before this increase in mass shooting,” Lara Smith said.

She added, “Everybody wants this to stop. Everybody wants to stop these mass shootings, right? I think we just disagree on....”

“... How to do it right,” said Fermon.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she supports repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a key provision in the Senate Republican tax bill, but she refrained from offering a full endorsement of the tax package.

"I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed," Murkowski wrote in an op-ed for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “That is the fundamental reason why I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception and also why I co-sponsored a bill to repeal the individual mandate tax penalty starting as early as 2013. And that is why I support the repeal of that tax."

Murkowski, who was one of three GOP senators to vote against a partial repeal of Obamacare this summer, notably did not say whether she would vote for the Republican tax plan the Senate will consider after Thanksgiving break.

Murkowski is among a number of Republican holdouts on the tax plan. If all Democrats oppose the measure, Senate Republicans can only afford to lose two votes.

On Sunday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that she wants to see revisions to the plan.

"I want to see changes in that bill, and I think there will be changes," Collins, who opposes the individual mandate repeal, said on ABC News' "This Week".

Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., announced his opposition to the Senate tax plan, saying it favors corporations over pass-through businesses. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and John McCain, R-Ariz., have also voiced concerns about the measure.

The House passed a $1.5 trillion tax plan that decreased the number of tax brackets and cuts the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. The Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill similar to the House plan out of committee last week, but the Senate measure includes a repeal of the individual mandate.

If the Senate passes a tax package, the bill would be reconciled with the measure passed by the House. President Trump has said he wants to sign a tax bill by Christmas.

"We're going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas -- hopefully that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present,” Trump said Monday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A federal court ordered a halt Tuesday to President Donald Trump's proposed ban of transgender service members from serving in the military.

The court issued a preliminary injunction, which was publicly announced by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is a part of the lawsuit fighting against the ban.

The legal move stops any ban on transgender individuals from serving in or being recruited by the military and allows any transition-related surgeries to take place, if those are a part of the individual's medical plan.

The ACLU views the preliminary injunction as a win.

"Today is a victory for transgender service members across the country," said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, in a statement. "We’re pleased that the courts have stepped in to ensure that trans service members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."

“First and foremost, the health and welfare of our service members is of the utmost importance, and one of our top priorities," US Army Major Dave Eastburn, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement to ABC News on Wednesday. "That said, current interim guidance laid forth by the secretary of defense clearly states that persons diagnosed with gender dysphoria, by a military medical professional, will continue to serve. The current policy is under review, and a recommendation will be made on the conditions of that policy from the secretary to the White House sometime early next year. For specific details on the verdict from the Baltimore District Court, I would direct you to the Department of Justice.”

Department of Justice spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the department is considering its next move.

“We disagree with the courts ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps. Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the president ordered, and because none of the plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service," Ehrsam said.

In a statement, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said, "The president's directive is legal and promotes our national security. The Department of Justice will vigorously defend it."

This is the second legal blockage that Trump's proposed ban has faced. When ABC News reached the Department of Justice in late October about the first temporary blockage that stopped any ban on recruiting, a spokesperson said, "We disagree with the court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps."

Trump's proposed ban was first announced in a series of tweets, in which the commander-in-chief said that transgender service members would be banned from serving in any capacity.

Immediately following those July 26 tweets, military leaders worked quickly to assuage some of their service members’ concerns without directly contradicting Trump.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued his own guidance the next day, saying there would be no immediate changes until further instructions were handed down from the president. "In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford said at the time.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Lindsay Menz, who has accused Sen. Al Franken of groping her at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, is speaking out about the alleged incident for the first time on camera Wednesday morning.

"My husband steps away from us to take the photo. I stand next to Sen. Franken, and he pulls me into him and then he moves his hand to my butt," Menz, 33, told ABC News' Chief National Correspondent Tom Llamas. "I was shocked."

She added, "I was surprised and kind of wondering, 'Did that really just happen?'"

In a statement to ABC News, Franken said, "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

Menz's claim comes just days after Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006.

In a Nov. 16 blog post, Tweeden claimed that Franken, then a comedian, “forcibly kissed me without my consent” while rehearsing for a skit on a 2006 USO tour to entertain U.S. troops in Afghanistan. She also posted a photo in which she claims it shows Franken groping her while she was asleep on a military plane.

Franken, who was elected as a Democratic senator for Minnesota in 2008, responded to the accusations in a statement obtained by ABC News.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it,” he said.

As a guest on ABC's The View on Nov. 17, Tweeden shared a letter she said Franken sent her that day:

“It says, ‘Dear Leeann, I want to apologize to you personally. I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture. But that doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I understand why you can feel violated by that photo. I remember that rehearsal differently. But what's important is the impact on you and you felt violated by my actions, and for that I apologize. I have tremendous respect for your work for the USO. And I am ashamed that my actions ruined that experience for you. I am so sorry. Sincerely, Al Franken.' ”

According to Tweeden, Franken also asked to meet with her personally.

Menz told ABC News she wanted to speak publicly about her own alleged experience with Franken so that people believe Tweeden's story and she doesn't feel alone.

A spokesperson for Franken told ABC News on Monday night that the senator doesn't plan to resign in light of the second accuser coming forward. The Senate Ethics Committee will investigate the allegations against Franken.

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United States Congress(NEW YORK) -- Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., was accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman earlier this year, as he faces a new ethics investigation after denying a separate report that alleges he sexually harassed a female aide, leading to a reported five-figure payout funded by taxpayers.

"The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative John Conyers, Jr. may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff, discriminated against certain staff on the basis of age, and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes," Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chair and ranking member of the House Ethics Committee, announced today. "The committee ... has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding these allegations." Conyers is already under investigation by the ethics committee for a separate matter pertaining to his former chief of staff.

Conyers, the longest-serving current member in the House of Representatives, said in a statement that he “expressly and vehemently” denies the allegations, which were first reported by Buzzfeed.

On Monday, BuzzFeed published a report that said Conyers' office paid a female aide more than $27,000 as part of a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint.

In his statement, Conyers, 88, said that his office “resolved the allegations,” though with an “express denial of liability, in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.”

“The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment,” Conyers said.

A second woman accused Conyers of sexual misconduct, outlined in court documents whose details were first published Tuesday by BuzzFeed.

Conyers' longtime scheduler filed a complaint in federal court earlier this year alleging "sexual advances in the form of inappropriate comments and touches" that were so frequent "that they created a hostile work environment." She says in the filings, which were obtained by ABC News, that she's known Conyers since 2006 and began working as a scheduler in 2015. The woman alleges the repeated harassment led her to suffer “insomnia, anxiety, depression and chest pains.” She eventually requested sick leave in 2016, but when she wouldn't provide medical documents explaining the reason for her sick leave, her position was terminated. The woman says in the filings she didn't want to provide the documents because of an “atmosphere of mistrust.”

In the filings, the woman asked the court to keep the complaint under seal to protect her privacy. The judge rejected that request, and then the woman dropped the case.

Asked for comment on the scheduler's complaint, Conyers' spokesperson told ABC News: “[The former staffer] voluntarily decided to drop her case.”

Prior to the ethics committee's announcement, several Democrats demanded an investigation, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. -- two of Conyers’ colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee -- as well as Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.

“As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the ethics committee.”

Speier called into question the amount of money that is used to settle sexual harassment cases, and whether members have used their taxpayer-funded office budgets “to make settlements under the guise of severance payments."

"If this is true, the amount of taxpayer money used to settle these cases is even higher than the number that’s been provided by the Office of Compliance,” she said.

Lofgren released her own statement on the allegations, writing, “The reports about Congressman Conyers are as serious as they get. The Committee on Ethics should take up this matter immediately with a goal of promptly assessing the validity of the news account. This reported behavior cannot be tolerated in the House of Representatives or anywhere else.”

Conyers pledged to “fully cooperate with an investigation” before the committee's announcement Tuesday afternoon.

“The process must be fair to both the employee and the accused. The current media environment is bringing a much-needed focus to the important issue of preventing harassment in workplaces across the country,” he said. “However, equally important to keep in mind in this particular moment is the principle of due process and that those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until an investigation establishes otherwise. In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the Conyers report “extremely troubling,” and pointed to an ongoing review of “all policies and procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination.”

“People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination,” Ryan stated.

Although BuzzFeed reports that the settlement was paid during John Boehner’s tenure as House speaker, Boehner spokesman Dave Schnittger said the Ohio Republican was not aware of the Conyers settlement.

"Speaker Boehner was not aware of this,” Schnittger said, adding that he asked Boehner about it today.

Pelosi said she was not aware of the settlement.

“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms,” Pelosi said in a statement. “I strongly support her efforts.”

A spokesman did not immediately say whether Pelosi supports stripping Conyers of his post as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

Conyers' home newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, called for the representative to resign in a Wednesday column by the paper's editorial board, saying "whatever Conyers' eventual legacy will be, his tenure as a member of Congress must end -- now."

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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump spoke publicly about embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore for the first time Tuesday, saying of the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him: "You have to listen to him also" and "He totally denies it."

Speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn before leaving Washington to travel to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump stopped short of fully endorsing Moore — whose candidacy and two stints as Alabama chief justice attracted controversy even before the sexual impropriety allegations — but attacked Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

"We don't need a liberal person in there," said Trump. "Jones — I've looked at his record, it's terrible on crime. It's terrible on the border. It's terrible on the military."

The White House earlier said that Trump believes that "the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their senator should be" but added that "if the allegations are true," he believes Moore would step aside.

Trump called attention to the position Moore has taken since the accusations emerged two weeks ago.

"Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it. By the way, he totally denies it," Trump said.

He teased that he will let reporters know "next week" whether he will campaign for Moore.

Asked if he had a message for women as he addressed the accusations, Trump called it "a very special time because a lot of things are coming out," referring to the numerous public figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past several weeks.

"I think it's very, very good for women," he said. "And I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out. I'm very happy it's being exposed."

Moore again denied the allegations against him Tuesday night in an interview on the Alabama Cable Network, saying, "I never dated underage women and I never engaged in sexual misconduct with anybody. I mean, you have to understand, I was deputy district attorney, then a circuit judge. I go by the law."

The candidate, who held a press conference to refute allegations Tuesday afternoon, also said further proof of his innocence would be coming soon.

"It takes time to develop a case and file a case because you just don't go file a case without some proof," Moore said. "And we're getting proof, we're getting things. In fact today we had a conference, press conference, where a lot of this was brought out. And we'll continue to do that. And there are things coming out in the future that I can’t talk about."

The allegations against Moore began with the publication of a Washington Post report on Nov. 9, in which it was claimed he made sexual advances on a 14-year-old girl in the late 1970s. Moore has since been accused of sexual misconduct by additional women and has had several prominent members of his party call for him to withdraw from the Senate race. Moore has denied all the allegations against him.

Trump was accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women during last year's presidential campaign, claims he has denied.

On the allegations facing Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Trump said he only recently learned about the ones against Conyers and, on Franken, said he would let the senator "speak for himself."

Conyers said in a statement Tuesday that he "expressly and vehemently" denies a report that he harassed a female aide and that the accusation was resolved with an "express denial of liability.


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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News reported this week that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has now told the Justice Department to turn over any emails and other documents related to, among other things, the May 9 firing of James Comey as FBI director.

The move is a strong signal that Mueller’s team is actively investigating whether President Trump tried to obstruct a federal criminal probe over Russia’s attempts to influence last year’s presidential election.

But what exactly is known about the controversial move to ax Comey, and what could it mean for what Mueller’s team is still hoping to uncover? Shifting narratives and conflicting messages about possible intentions and directives before the May firing took place have helped make it all quite murky.

Here is a breakdown of the known facts, and the unanswered questions, about the whole matter.

What the White House said publicly

The White House released a statement after the firing, pointing to recommendations from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as key motivating factors.

"President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions," the White House statement read.

Rosenstein wrote a memorandum, dated May 9, to Sessions, criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, as well as Comey’s July 5, 2016, news conference on the FBI’s ultimate findings in that probe.

“I cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote.

The White House released its statement, a letter that Trump wrote to Comey, including the president’s claim that Comey told him he was not under investigation in relation to the Russia probe, as well as the memos from both Rosenstein and Sessions urging the president to fire Mueller.

"While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau," Trump wrote in his letter to Comey.

"It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

When the official word arrived

Shortly after 5 p.m. ET May 9, Trump called several members of Congress to inform them of his decision. According to then-press secretary Sean Spicer, Trump reached out to House and Senate leadership. Trump called House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and left a message for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

He also spoke to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Dianne Feinstein of California.

Comey's termination was read to him over the phone while he was traveling for the bureau in Los Angeles, two FBI sources told ABC News. He was there for a field office inspection and a recruitment event that evening as part of the FBI's efforts to boost diversity.

A different FBI official told ABC News that Comey first learned of his firing by seeing news reports on TV. Comey was "surprised, really surprised" and was "caught flat-footed," the official said.

A White House official confirmed to ABC News that Keith Schiller, the president's longtime bodyguard and then-Oval Office director of operations, hand-delivered Trump's termination letter to FBI headquarters.

FBI agents and staff were stunned by the news, FBI sources told ABC News.

Motivations for the memo


In the days immediately after Comey’s firing, different White House officials, including Spicer and then-deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders, denied that Trump had influenced or directed Rosenstein to write the memo that suggested Comey be fired.

That differed from other accounts.

On May 10, Sen. Feinstein said that during his call with her, Trump said "the department's a mess, I asked Rosenstein and Sessions to look into it," apparently referring to the FBI.

In a May 18 closed-door briefing with the Senate, Rosenstein reportedly told them that "he knew that Comey was going to be removed prior to him writing his memo," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said, though Rosenstein has not confirmed that publicly.

And in the wake of Comey’s firing, Trump told NBC News, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’"

How it relates to the Russia investigation

The nature of the interactions and any alleged directives shared between the White House and the key Department of Justice officials before the Comey dismissal is now a part of special counsel Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

ABC News has since learned from a source that Mueller's team is eager to obtain emails related to the firing of Comey. Mueller's investigators now seek not only communications between Justice Department officials themselves, but also any communications with White House counterparts, the source said.

During a House hearing in June, Rosenstein refused to say whether he consulted with the White House before Comey's firing or whether anyone asked him to write his memo, insisting such questions "may well be within the scope of the special counsel's investigation."

Rosenstein still maintains final supervision over the Russia investigation being led by Mueller, even though he was interviewed by Mueller's team as a witness for his own role in Comey's firing.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., is facing a new ethics investigation after denying a report on Tuesday that alleges he sexually harassed a female aide, leading to a five-figure payout funded by taxpayers.

"The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative John Conyers, Jr. may have engaged in sexual harassment of members of his staff, discriminated against certain staff on the basis of age, and used official resources for impermissible personal purposes," Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chair and ranking member of the House Ethics Committee, announced Tuesday. "The committee ... has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding these allegations."

Conyers, the longest-serving current member in the House of Representatives, said in a statement that he “expressly and vehemently” denies the allegations, which were first reported by Buzzfeed.

On Monday, Buzzfeed published a report that said Conyers' office paid a female aide more than $27,000 as part of a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint.

In his statement, Conyers, 88, said that his office “resolved the allegations,” though with an “express denial of liability, in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.”

“The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment,” Conyers said.

Prior to the ethics committee's announcement, several Democrats demanded an investigation, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. -- two of Conyers’ colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee -- as well as Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.

“As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the ethics committee.”

Speier called into question the amount of money that is used to settle sexual harassment cases, and whether members have used their taxpayer-funded office budgets “to make settlements under the guise of severance payments."

"If this is true, the amount of taxpayer money used to settle these cases is even higher than the number that’s been provided by the Office of Compliance,” she said.

Lofgren released her own statement on the allegations, writing, “The reports about Congressman Conyers are as serious as they get. The Committee on Ethics should take up this matter immediately with a goal of promptly assessing the validity of the news account. This reported behavior cannot be tolerated in the House of Representatives or anywhere else.”

Conyers pledged to “fully cooperate with an investigation” before the committee's announcement Tuesday afternoon.

“The process must be fair to both the employee and the accused. The current media environment is bringing a much-needed focus to the important issue of preventing harassment in workplaces across the country,” he said. “However, equally important to keep in mind in this particular moment is the principle of due process and that those accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until an investigation establishes otherwise. In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Conyers report “extremely troubling,” and pointed to an ongoing review of “all policies and procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination.”

“People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination,” Ryan stated.

Although Buzzfeed reports that the settlement was paid during John Boehner’s tenure as House speaker, Boehner spokesman Dave Schnittger said the Ohio Republican was not aware of the Conyers settlement.

"Speaker Boehner was not aware of this,” Schnittger said, adding that he asked Boehner about it on Tuesday.

Pelosi said she was not aware of the settlement.

“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms,” Pelosi said in a statement. “I strongly support her efforts.”

A spokesman did not immediately say whether Pelosi supports stripping Conyers of his post as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

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Design Pics/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communication Commission appears bound to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules prohibiting internet service providers from slowing or blocking certain websites. The action is led by President Donald Trump appointee FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former commission official and Verizon attorney, who previously said the new Republican majority FCC leadership would "fire up the weed whacker" and dismantle industry regulations.

The action is expected to put more power in the hands of the internet service providers, allowing companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast to block or slow certain websites, giving priority to those who pay for it.

Under the proposed rule, the providers would have to disclose whether they engage in certain types of conduct, such as blocking and prioritization, and explicitly say what is throttled and what is blocked. This information would have to be on an easily accessible website hosted by the company or the FCC.

Pai argues the previous administration's "heavy-handed" rules holding back such power from the telecommunications companies hinder investment, innovation and job creation.

Critics say the proposal puts too much power in the hands of just a few massive corporations and small businesses will suffer from the prioritization. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., went as far as to call it "a disaster."

On a call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, a senior FCC official said the ban on prioritization of websites led to higher prices for households purchasing high-speed internet.

The additional revenue point for internet service providers would allow the companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast to lower their prices, the official suggested.

A different FCC official, not on the call, opposed the announcement. He said regardless of the impact on internet provider prices, costs for services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon could rise because those companies would have to pay the fees for prioritization.

INCOMPAS, a trade group with members including Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft, came out against the proposal.

"Since the 2015 Open Internet Order, we have seen an unprecedented increase in streaming services that save consumer’s money," INCOMPAS said in a letter to the FCC after calling the action "a violation of bipartisan principles that have governed a free and open internet for decades."

The draft order is expected to be released on Wednesday, 22 days before the scheduled vote on Dec. 14. The senior official said the commission is showing more transparency than the Democratic-majority version of two years that passed the original net-neutrality rules. That 2015 order was not released to the public until after the commission voted on it.

The vote next month is expected to pass on a 3-2 vote, along party lines, but at least one FCC Commissioner has pledged to fight to it.

Jessica Rosenworcel, who first joined the FCC as an Obama appointee and was nominated again by Trump, called the proposal is "ridiculous and offensive."

A Google spokesperson told ABC News "the FCC’s net neutrality rules are working well for consumers and we’re disappointed in the proposal released today."

Netflix also came out against the proposal.

USTelecom, a trade association representing much of the telecommunications industry such as AT&T and Verizon, came out in support of the action.

At one point on Sunday afternoon, #netneutrality was the leading trend on Twitter in the U.S., running at approximately 54,000 tweets per hour.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday made his first pardons since wiping Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s contempt of court conviction in August.

One pardonee, referred to as "Drumstick" by the White House, is a heavy-set, white male with a wingspan of about five feet. A gorgeous gobbler of the species Meleagris gallapavo, Drumstick beat out fellow fowl Wishbone to be honored at the annual presidential turkey pardon ceremony, stuffing his opponent in a landslide 20-point victory on a White House Twitter poll.

"Today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will grant a presidential pardon to a Turkey," said President Trump, flanked by wife, Melania, and son, Barron, at the Rose Garden ceremony.

The two providential poultry will join last year's lucky birds, Tater and Tot, at Virginia Tech's Gobbler's Rest exhibit, "to live out their days in the folds of the Blue Ridge Mountains," according to the university.

“As many of you know I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor,” Trump said. “I have been informed by the White House counsel's office that Tater and Tot's pardons cannot under any circumstances be revoked so we are not going to revoke them. Tater and Tot, you can rest easy.”

The focus then turned back to the turkey of honor.

"Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned," Trump told the bird. As applause erupted, the bird lifted his head to gobble at the crowd.

According to the White House Historical Association (WHHA), the practice of presidents saving turkeys from becoming holiday meals may date back to Abraham Lincoln.

In 1865, White House reporter Noah Brooks recounted an anecdote Lincoln told him: A live turkey was brought home for Christmas dinner, but Lincoln's son interceded on behalf of the animal.

"The argument was that the turkey had as good a right to live as any body else, and his plea was admitted and the turkey's life spared," Brooks wrote.

President Harry Truman was the first to be given birds by the National Turkey Federation, the same organization that presented President Trump with Wishbone and Drumstick -- but Truman likely dined on his.

"It was 70 years ago that the national Turkey federation first presented the national Thanksgiving Turkey to President Harry Truman, who I might add did not grant the pardon," Trump said. "He refused; he was a tough cookie."

The Kennedy, Nixon and Carter administrations reportedly turned away turkeys they were presented with, and sending them off to farms became common practice under President Reagan, according to the WHHA. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush became the first to make the pardon explicit.

"But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy — he's granted a residential pardon as of right now — and allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here," Bush said.

President Obama began the current tradition of pardoning two turkeys in 2009. But just as today, only one bird is honored at the annual ceremony. Recent honorees were chosen by vote on social media.

 

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, spoke over the phone for "more than one hour" Tuesday, discussing efforts to combat terrorism and the situations in North Korea, Ukraine and Syria, according to details provided by the White House.

The conversation came a day after Putin met with Syrian leader Bashar al Assad Monday evening in Sochi, Russia.

Trump and Putin had met for an informal meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Vietnam on Nov. 11, as Trump was on a five-country tour of Asia.

The president's interactions with Putin continue to be scrutinized by administration critics as special counsel Robert Mueller and committees in the House and Senate continue to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

During the Asia trip, Trump said Putin told him Russia did not meddle in the election, and that he "believes that [Putin] believes that." But Trump added that he trusted the U.S. intelligence community, which determined in January that Russia, guided by Putin, took efforts to interfere in the election.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates have been given a limited release from house arrest to allow them to travel for Thanksgiving.

Manafort and Gates were indicted on charges including conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and working as unregistered foreign agents. They both surrendered to authorities on Oct. 30 and pleaded not guilty on all charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

Tuesday, a U.S. district court judge granted both Manafort and Gates "limited release" but sealed the portion of the proceedings that detail the specifics of their travel. Neither will be allowed to consume alcohol during their release and must wear their GPS devices throughout.
Manafort, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has requested that he be able to travel locally for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gates requested the ability to travel away from home for 18 hours to family gatherings in Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday. Eleven hours are on Thanksgiving Day, eight the day after.
Neither of the men were in the court hearing Tuesday.

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