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How Arizona's abortion ban may affect the midterms

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(NEW YORK) -- The Arizona court ruling on Friday upholding the state's 1901 law banning abortions is rattling voters and elected officials.

The law provides no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities and makes performing abortions punishable by two to five years in prison.

ABC News' Libby Cathey, who is covering the midterm elections in Arizona and one of the embeds featured on the Hulu show Power Trip, spoke with "Start Here" Monday about how this ruling, and the battle for abortion rights since the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade, will affect the races.

START HERE: So, first of all, can you just explain this ruling to me because we saw some states change their laws right after Roe fell, but this seemed to catch a lot of people way off guard.

LIBBY CATHEY: Yes. So, just to backtrack, there's this law on the books in Arizona dating back to 1864 that bans all abortions and dishes out two to five years of jail time for those who help with one, except to save a mother's life. And it feels like this law was really forgotten about. It dates back to before Arizona was even a state, but when the Supreme Court overturned Roe with the Dobbs decision in June, the Republican attorney general here, Mark Brnovich, said he will enforce this law. He will prosecute doctors who try to help women get an abortion.

So Planned Parenthood sued him, saying this was unconstitutional, this violates privacy rights, and the court had put an injunction in place that providers had hoped would stay. That did not happen. So on Friday afternoon, a state judge in Arizona reinstated this territorial era, near-total ban on abortion. And the timing was big too, because on Saturday, a ban on abortions after 15 weeks was set to go into effect. That was passed earlier this year by the legislature, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. And Ducey says this slightly less restrictive ban after 15 weeks is the law of the land.

START HERE: So it's about to be less restrictive and all of a sudden it's way, way, way more restrictive than anyone thought.

CATHEY: Right. So, and at the same time, the Republican attorney general, Mark Brnovich, is saying that this more restrictive law is the law of the land. So you can have two conflicting statements here. And this all just happened over the weekend, and I think there's a lot of confusion about it.

START HERE: Yes. So as a result of this, what is the current rule in Arizona like? What can a pregnant woman do or not do? What can an abortion provider do or not do?

CATHEY: So the reality is abortion is illegal in the state of Arizona right now. If women want to get an abortion, they'll need to go to California or go to another state to get one. And Planned Parenthood clinics are still open. They can help point women to other resources and provide contraception. But medical abortions, essentially, medication given to end a pregnancy before ten weeks, oftentimes before women even know they're pregnant. All of those services have stopped.

I was at a press conference on Saturday where a doctor said all the chatter among her physicians, Facebook groups, [and] among doctors in Arizona is they feel their hands are tied. She used the words moral injury. And abortion rights supporters protesting outside the state capitol this weekend, they all say, point blank, women and girls will die because of this law. It will be like going back into a time when women resort to really desperate measures to end a pregnancy or women die themselves because of pregnancy complications, especially when doctors here can get two to five years of jail time for helping them.

START HERE: And just so I'm crystal clear, no exceptions at all?

CATHEY: There is no exception to rape or incest in either of those two abortion bans we just talked about. Both of them do have an exception to save the mother's life. But again, because of that, the prosecution -- and I think it scares a lot of people. So a lot of people will be having to go out the state or just not get an abortion at all. Democrats here say it's one of the more restrictive laws in the country. And Arizona is a very red state, or it has been…but this has the potential to change a lot of things.

START HERE: And that's what I'm wondering next, because I'm looking at Arizona's House races right now where they have nine House seats. FiveThirtyEight's forecast says at this moment, Republicans are expected to win five of those nine House seats like bare majority. Could something like this change the landscape of the midterms in a place like Arizona?

CATHEY: This has the potential to be a big game-changer. One Republican consultant told me that all the polling we've seen in Arizona that you've just mentioned here, it can be thrown out of the window. You have a Democratic candidate for attorney general here, Kris Mayes. She won't prosecute any abortion ban violations. She thinks all these bans are unconstitutional. You have Democrat Katie Hobbs. She's running for governor. She's been trying to get abortion at the forefront of the race for governor against Kari Lake. Lake is proudly against abortion. And so this ruling may very well help them here in a few weeks when ballots go out. I mean, Republicans want to be talking about inflation and immigration and crime, but now they're going to have to address this.

START HERE: Well, I don't think I quite understood this until now, that, like, normally you're voting because you think someone might affect abortion rights in your state. Say it really matters to you. Here you got the Democrats saying, "I will not enforce this law." You got the Republicans saying, "I will enforce this law." Hence, whoever votes for the attorney general or maybe the governor, you are deciding directly how abortion rights are about to be treated.

CATHEY: Exactly. And then that's what Democrats and their supporters are at least saying. And that's what they're trying to drive home with voters. The Republicans say they'd enforce these bans. The Democrats say they wouldn't. And to that, to that matter, to in the Senate race, you've got Blake Masters and Mark Kelly and you've got Democrats there saying that Blake Masters would support a total ban on abortion at a national level. So these are all issues that are being resurfaced because of this ruling. And while it's not like Kansas, where there's a literal initiative on the issue of abortion, Democrats and their supporters here say abortion is certainly on the ballot in Arizona.

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Biden's student loan forgiveness will cost $400B, new estimate says, as White House pushes back

Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's federal student loan forgiveness plan will cost $400 billion over 10 years, according to a revised estimate this week from the Congressional Budget Office.

That's a lower number than from one leading outside estimate, but the nonpartisan federal agency's projection drew quick pushback from the White House, which is sensitive to criticism it is growing rather than reducing the government deficit.

In a letter sent Monday to North Carolina Republicans Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Virginia Foxx following their inquiries into Biden's announcement last month to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loans, the CBO noted that the cost of pausing repayments through the end of 2022 will add an additional $20 million onto that $400 billion price tag.

That CBO estimate does not include the cost of another feature of Biden's plan: lowering the maximum amount a borrower can pay back to 5% of their income, down from 10%. The nonpartisan Committee for Responsible Federal Budget estimates that would tack on $120 million.

The CBO score, which the agency estimates is "highly uncertain" due to components that include projections dependent on future economic conditions and on how future terms of loans might be modified, is slightly less than the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School assessment that all three components of the forgiveness plan would cost about $605 billion.

Opponents of Biden's student loan program -- including some members of his own party -- have insisted that the plan is impractical during a time of historic inflation rates and high gas prices, though the many Democratic supporters of the plan say it helps addresses education's affordability issues.

The White House maintains that the cost of the student loan forgiveness plan pales in comparison to the president's ability to foster debt reduction elsewhere.

The estimated loan cancellation price comes in higher than the $300 million amount that the Biden-backed Inflation Reduction Act is expected to reduce the federal deficit by, however. (An administration official noted to ABC News that, overall, the cash flow impact of debt cancellation will be very small in 2023 -- about $21 billion.)

MORE: Biden's student loan forgiveness policy: How to apply, who qualifies, more
In a statement, a White House spokesman emphasized that the president is still likely to reduce the federal deficit this year, despite the outlay for debt forgiveness, and the spokesman compared that with a major tax cut under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump.

"The Biden-Harris Administration's student debt relief plan provides breathing room to tens of millions of working families. It gives people who have been struggling with student debt that shot they want at starting a business, buying that first home, or just having a slightly easier time paying the monthly bills," Abdullah Hasan said. "It's a stark contrast to the Trump tax bill, which ballooned the deficit by nearly $2 trillion and provided the vast majority of benefits to big corporations and the wealthiest individuals."

The White House also circulated a memo pushing back on the CBO estimate, noting that it assumed a 90% participation rate in the forgiveness program -- though similar, smaller-scale programs had much lower participation.

The White House memo challenged how the CBO arrived at $400 billion, suggesting that the agency's own logic pegged the number at around $250 billion.

The debt cancellation program is expected to open for applications in October.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden and DeSantis haven't spoken directly as Hurricane Ian bears down on Florida

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(WASHINGTON) -- Ahead of Hurricane Ian's expected landfall in Florida, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that President Joe Biden has yet to speak directly with GOP Gov. Ron Desantis.

"We don't have any calls to preview or that's locked into there, at this time," Jean-Pierre said when asked by ABC Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega.

Jean-Pierre insisted that the politically tense relationship between the two men is not at issue.

"It's about the people of Florida. It's not about public officials, especially in this time. And so again, the president, as president of the United States, as president for -- for folks in red states and blue states, he's going to keep that commitment. And you have seen him do that over the course of the 19 months when there has been extreme -- extreme events, extreme weather that has happened again in blue states and red states," she said.

When another reporter pointed out that President Biden never spoke with Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves during the height of Jackson's water crisis, Jean-Pierre said the administration showed up for Mississippians, even without a Biden call to Reeves.

"When you mentioned the governor of Mississippi, they, you’re right, they didn't speak and we still were able to deliver for the folks in Jackson and for the folks of Mississippi. You had our EPA administrator on the ground, you had FEMA administrator on the ground and not just them, but also folks who work for those -- for those two agencies. And you have the Army Corps of Engineers. And so we put the full -- the full power of the administration. We surged resources on the ground, to make sure that we did everything that we can to help the people of Mississippi. This is the same, there's no difference here," she insisted.

She did say that FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who was in Miami Monday, will appear in the White House briefing room Tuesday to provide an update.

"FEMA has prepositioned supplies at strategic locations in Florida and also Alabama. That includes generators, millions of meals and millions of liters of water. FEMA also has staff on the ground supporting planning and preparation efforts. Tomorrow, Administrator Criswell will provide an update on the efforts underway in Florida -- Florida to prepare for Hurricane Ian as well as ongoing recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and also Alaska," Jean-Pierre said.

Biden has declared a state of emergency exists in Florida and has ordered federal aid to supplement state efforts.

An unrelated Biden trip to Florida scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed because of the storm.

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McConnell calls Democrat Kyrsten Sinema 'the most effective first-term senator'

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(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Monday doubled down on her controversial support for the filibuster and displayed her unconventional friendship with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell during a speech hosted by the Republican in his home state of Kentucky.

Speaking at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, Sinema reiterated her stance that the Senate should continue passing legislation under a 60-vote threshold, clarifying that she hopes to resurrect the filibuster for "everything," including all judicial and executive branch nominees. That move would almost guarantee that the 50-50 Senate would block nearly all of President Joe Biden's appointments.

"I committed to the 60-vote threshold, it's been an incredibly unpopular view. I actually think we should restore the 60 vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already," the moderate Democrat said during her speech on "The Future of Political Discourse and the Importance of Bipartisanship."

"It would make it harder for us to confirm judges. It would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration. But I believe by restoring, we'd actually see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance which is what I believe our forefathers intended."

Sinema has over the past two years been the outlier among fellow Democratic senators who have attempted to pass legislation in a tied Senate, remaining steadfast in her allegiance to the filibuster rule despite mounting criticism. Her main argument against eliminating the filibuster was that doing so might turn the Senate into the House -- a lower chamber without the longstanding Senate rule.

"The trouble with that is …the House with elections every two years, representing a smaller group of voters by each House, they really represent the passions of the moment in the political spectrum," she said, noting the impending midterm elections just over a month and a half away. Sinema is not yet up for reelection for another term.

"Control changes between the House and the Senate every couple of years, it's likely to change again, in just a few weeks … The Senate was designed to be a place that moves slowly to cool down those passions, to think more strategically and long term about the legislation before us."

Ahead of her remarks, Sinema was called "the most effective first term senator I've seen in my time in the Senate," by McConnell, who has served 37 years in the chamber and is poised to break records for leadership longevity.

His selection of Sinema for the bipartisan speaking series means the Arizonan is now part of a longstanding list of political heavyweights, including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Biden while he was vice president and Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state.

"She is today what we have too few of in the Democratic Party, a genuine, moderate, and a dealmaker," McConnell said, noting with particular reverence her dedication to the Senate's 60-vote threshold rule.

"It took one hell of a lot of guts for Kyrsten Sinema to stand up and say, 'I'm not going to break the institution in order to achieve a short-term goal,'" he said, noting her departure from the Democrats' desire to lower the threshold.

McConnell also said that former President Donald Trump "would harangue me on virtually a weekly basis," about the same idea.

He also applauded Sinema's involvement in moving forward bipartisan legislation -- a role she has enjoyed as one of the few swing votes in the 50-50 Senate.

"Kyrsten has been right in the middle of, if not the principal leader, in getting us to an outcome in a highly partisan time, on infrastructure on school safety, mental health, postal reform, that ships bill you name it, every single thing that we've been able to work together on," McConnell said.

Sinema, too, touted her friendship with the top Republican during her speech.

"At first glance, Sen. McConnell and I have relatively little -- or some could even say nothing -- in common," she said. "For starters, he drinks bourbon, I drink wine. He's from the Southeast and I'm from the great Southwest. He wears suits and ties, and I wear dresses and these fierce sneakers. Perhaps most obviously, we come from opposing political parties."

"But despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship — one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution, our love for our home states and a dogged determination on behalf of our constituents."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senate stumbles toward government shutdown with impasse over energy policy

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(WASHINGTON) -- Congress has just three legislative days remaining to avert a fast-approaching government shutdown at the end of the week, and much of its ability to keep the government running will depend upon whether lawmakers can navigate an impasse over energy policy.

In the few days that remain, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will try to lead the Senate in passage of a short-term funding bill that is expected to include Sen. Joe Manchin's energy permitting reform legislation. Schumer struck a deal with Manchin to include energy permitting reform, a top priority for the West Virginia moderate Democrat, on a must-pass piece of legislation before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 in order to secure Manchin's crucial support for Democrats' keystone Inflation Reduction Act.

But with the passage of the health care and environmental bill now in the rearview mirror, Schumer's behind-the-scenes deal making has come home to roost. The fiscal year ends on Friday, leaving the Democratic caucus in both chambers deeply divided with just days to a shutdown.

On Tuesday, the Senate will take a key test vote to determine the fate of Manchin's legislation as it considers a bill to fund the government through mid-December.

Schumer, with the backing of the White House, is sticking to his promise to include the Manchin legislation, introduced Wednesday, in the short-term funding bill. The Manchin bill would accelerate energy projects mandating that federal environmental reviews essentially be completed in two and a half years, a substantial increase from today's process.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Sunday, Manchin argued that his proposed legislation would bring the country in line with allied countries like Canada and Australia by reducing timelines on energy products from the current five to 10 years.

He called his bill, which speeds up permitting process for both renewable projects like wind and solar as well as non-renewable energies like oil and gas, "the kind of balanced and all-of-the-above energy approach America needs if we are to defend this nation's energy security from those who seem hell-bent on weakening it."

But it's proven a tough pill to swallow for some progressives, many of whom knew of the outlines of the Schumer-Manchin deal before the IRA vote but not the specifics, which were just unveiled at the end of last week. They're pushing back against what they see as a deal that goes counter to the very progress the IRA is expected to make against climate change.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is organizing a letter to Schumer -- signed by a number of liberal senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders -- asking that a vote on legislation speeding up permits occur separately from one on funding the government, according to an aide to the Oregon Democrat.

But the Senate group, like the more than 80 House progressives who oppose the deal in the House, stopped short of threatening to vote against the government funding bill if permitting reform is attached.

Sanders, however, has said unequivocally he intends to vote against funding the government if it includes Manchin's bill.

In a scathing dear colleague letter on Friday, Sanders urged his fellow lawmakers to block the "disastrous side deal recently introduced by Senator Manchin to make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to destroy the planet and pollute the environment."

"Next week, Congress has a fundamental choice to make. We can listen to the fossil fuel industry and climate deniers who are spending huge amounts of money on lobbying and campaign contributions to pass this side deal. Or we can listen to the scientists and the environmental community who are telling us loudly and clearly to reject it," Sanders wrote.

It is that Sanders' opposition in the narrowly divided Senate that has put Schumer in something of a bind. He needs GOP votes on government funding, but Republicans -- feeling they have leverage -- are anxious to pay Manchin back for what they see as his betrayal when he pivoted from opposing the Democrats' sweeping climate and health bill to casting the deciding "yes" vote.

Manchin, in his Sunday op-ed, accused GOP leadership of playing politics in standing in the way of his legislation while promoting a competing, though slightly more expensive, bill by his home state GOP colleague, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. The bills are remarkably similar, especially in that both guarantee the approval of a top project for West Virginia -- the as-yet-unbuilt Mountain Valley Pipeline which is intended to carry natural gas some 300 miles from northern West Virginia into southern Virginia. The project is tied up in litigation.

It's in part because of the greenlighted Mountain Valley Pipeline project that Capito said she intends to support Manchin's legislation when it comes to the floor. She'll back the short term funding bill with Manchin's legislation attached during Tuesday's test vote.

But it's not clear if other Republicans will be ready to give Manchin another win.

According to an aide, Manchin spent the weekend working the phones and shored up the support of several other Republicans. He's still confident there's a path to the 60 votes necessary to clear Tuesday's procedural vote on the short term funding bill that will include his legislation.

Despite Manchin's optimism, that vote faces major headwinds. That's why there's a backup plan to keep the government funded.

If the bill fails to get the necessary 60 votes to proceed, Schumer is largely expected to strip Manchin's permitting reform legislation and barrel forward. That's essential not only to keep the lights on in Washington but also to secure funds for a few other bipartisan priorities.

There is support from both parties for additional funding to assist Ukraine in the ongoing war against Russia. The short term funding bill is expected to include at least $12 billion in economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

The bill is also expected to include disaster aid for Jackson, Mississippi's ongoing water crisis. A flood in Jackson last month brought to a head years of water system failures in the area, leaving residents without access to clean drinking water.

A potential funding crisis at the Food and Drug Administration will also be averted. After months of behind-the-scenes squabbling, negotiators reached an agreement late last week to include language reauthorizing FDA user fees in this short term package. Authorization for those fees on companies which seek authorization from the FDA for new drugs must be renewed every five years. Current authorization expires Friday.

The FDA uses the user fees to fund an expedited approval process for new and innovative drugs and medical technologies. By including this language in the short term bill, the FDA won't be sending pink slips to workers who helped authorize COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.

But other COVID-19 priorities are expected to fall by the wayside, yet again.

The administration wanted Congress to approve an additional $22 billion in funds to combat COVID-19 to fund vaccine research and additional testing. Republicans have blocked multiple efforts to secure these funds, arguing that there is still remaining funding that's yet to be utilized, and questioning the necessity of additional spending.

The administration's efforts to secure COVID money were not helped, however, by Biden's comments on "60 Minutes" earlier this month that "the pandemic is over."

Republican Whip John Thune told reporters last week that Biden's comments make it "​​eminently harder for sure" to persuade the GOP to support additional funds.

The fate of a separate $4 billion request from the White House to combat monkeypox remains uncertain.

The Senate is expected to act sometime this week to avert a shutdown, at which point the House will have to swiftly take up and pass the legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the chamber may work through the weekend to secure funding if necessary.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden to propose new rule requiring airlines to disclose extra fees upfront

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Monday is expected to announce a new proposed rule that would allow fliers to see the total cost of an airline ticket, including extra fees, before they click on "purchase."

Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel search websites would have to disclose fees upfront -- the first time the airfare is displayed -- charges associated with baggage, sitting with your child, and changing or cancelling your flight.

The announcement is part of a larger effort from the White House to help lower prices for consumers as record high inflation continues. It also comes with midterm elections approaching.

"Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a release. "This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money."

Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, believes giving clearer disclosure of these fees upfront will be a "major win for travelers" by making it "far easier" to compare the full cost of different flight options.

He explained that some airlines now make more money on fees than fares, partly due to the fact that fees are exempt from the 7.5% federal excise tax on airfare.

Airlines for America (A4A), which represents major U.S. passenger airlines, responded to the rule arguing that airlines already "offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown."

"U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees and ticket terms," the group said in a statement. "A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket. This includes transparency regarding taxes and government fees on airline tickets, which account for more than 20 percent of many domestic one-stop, roundtrip tickets."

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal before it can be finalized.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Next Jan. 6 hearing may be 'more sweeping,' Schiff says, as committee weighs criminal referral

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Ahead of what could be their final investigative hearing, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, members of the House Jan. 6 committee on Sunday offered a small preview of what is to come as they rapidly approach the end of their timeline.

“We're not disclosing yet what the focus will be. I can say that, as this may be the last hearing of this nature -- that is, one that is focused on sort of the factual record -- I think it'll be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on CNN’s State of the Union.

"But it too will be in very thematic," he said of the hearing. "It will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election. And the public will certainly learn things it hasn't seen before, but it will also understand information it already has in a different context by seeing how it relates to other elements of this plot."

After the committee's vice-chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, said Saturday that she believes the group will move forward unanimously, Schiff agreed and went a bit further when asked if there was going to be an unanimous criminal referral made about the former president's conduct. (Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong and cast the committee, which includes two Republicans, as partisan.)

“It will be ... my recommendation, my feeling, that we should make referrals," Schiff said. "But we will get to a decision as a committee, and we will all abide by that decision, and I will join our committee members if they feel differently."

Cheney has also said the committee received around 800,000 pages of communications from the Secret Service in response to a subpoena. Members of the committee said Sunday they are still going through that information.

While the provided materials are not a substitute for the Jan. 6-related messages that were deleted, they offer some additional context, according to Schiff.

“We are still investigating how that came about [the deleted messages] and why that came about. And I hope and believe the Justice Department, on that issue, is also looking at whether laws were broken in the destruction of that evidence," Schiff said on CNN. "But we do have a mountain of information that we need to go through. But I think it's fair to say that it won't be a complete substitute for some of the most important evidence, which would have been on those phones."

Asked about former committee adviser Denver Riggleman’s recent suggestion that “the White House switchboard had connected to a rioter's phone” during the attack on the Capitol last year -- and if he viewed such a development as significant to the investigation -- Schiff downplayed the comment.

"I can't comment on the particulars. I can say that each of the issues that Mr. Riggleman raised during the period he was with the committee, which ended quite some time ago, we looked into. And one of the things that has given our committee credibility is we've been very careful about what we say, not to overstate matters,” Schiff said, adding, "Without the advantage of the additional information we've gathered since he left the committee, it poses real risks to be suggesting things. So, we have looked into all of these issues."

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., appeared on NBC's Meet the Press and was asked about the likelihood that the Jan. 6 committee will have testimony from Ginni Thomas and Newt Gingrich before Wednesday’s hearing.

“I doubt that. But I think that there is an agreement in place with Ginni Thomas to come and talk and I know the committee is very interested,” Raskin said, referring to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, a noted conservative activist who was in touch with Trump's team as he pushed to overturn the 2020 results.

Raskin said that those testimonies -- once they are given -- will be included in the committee's final report if the hearings have already concluded.

He was also asked if that report will be finished by the midterm elections.

“I don't know whether it will be done then, but our commitment is to get it done by the end of this Congress [by January]," Raskin said. "The House of Representatives, unlike the Senate, ends every two years. A completely new Congress comes in. So that’s the end of our lease on life and we have to get it out to the people.”

Pressed further on the amount of work still left for them to do, Raskin pledged that the committee will “make sure our materials are made public and available for the future, and we're going to preserve them. We're not going to allow them to be destroyed.”

The committee chair, Bennie Thompson, told reporters last week that the hearings were wrapping up.

"Unless something else develops, this hearing, at this point, is the final hearing. But it's not in stone because things happen," Thompson, D-Miss., said then.

He promised "substantial footage" of the riot and "significant witness testimony" that hadn't previously been released.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Cheney says she'll campaign against Lake, Mastriano because of their election denials

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(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., reiterated this weekend that she would campaign against election deniers, singling out Republican gubernatorial nominees in Arizona and Pennsylvania who've floated conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential race.

Cheney, who lost her primary last month to a challenger endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday that she would seek to prevent Arizona Republican Kari Lake and Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano from being elected to their states' governors' mansions.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure Kari Lake is not elected," Cheney said at the closing night of the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.

"I think we have to do everything we can in '22 to make sure those people don't get elected," she added.

Turning to the governor's race in Pennsylvania, she said, "We have to make sure [Doug] Mastriano doesn't win."

She also criticized Republican leaders like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for, in her words, accommodating election deniers even as she praised Youngkin because he "hasn't bought into the toxin of Donald Trump."

When asked if her efforts to stop Lake, Mastriano and others could include campaigning for Democrats, Cheney simply replied, "Yes."

"In this election, you have to vote for the person who actually believes in democracy," she said. "And that is just crucial, because if we elect election deniers, if we elect people who said that they're not going to certify results or who are going to try to steal elections, then we really are putting the republic at risk."

Cheney's latest comments offer more specificity on a vow she made earlier this year while being interviewed by ABC News: to make faith in the electoral process a litmus test in the midterms.

"I'm going to be very focused on working to ensure that we do everything we can not to elect election deniers. ... We've got election deniers that have been nominated for really important positions all across the country. And I'm going to work against those people, I'm going to work to support their opponents; I think it matters that much," she told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in August.

In taking on Lake and Mastriano, Cheney is challenging two far-right Republicans who are popular with conservative voters and who could have outsized sway in two key presidential battlegrounds.

Lake has been adamant in making unfounded claims that election fraud threw the 2020 White House race and has said she wouldn't have certified Arizona's results from that year.

Mastriano, who has promoted similar groundless allegations, would have the power as governor to appoint Pennsylvania's secretary of state, who oversees elections there.

After Cheney's criticism Saturday, Lake shot back in an interview on Fox News, pointing to Cheney's loss in Wyoming last month.

"That might be the biggest, best gift I've ever received. I mean, the people of Wyoming can't stand her. I'm pretty much sure that the people of Arizona don't like Liz Cheney," Lake said Sunday. (Mastriano’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cheney from ABC News.)

Beyond Lake and Mastriano, Cheney called out Youngkin, who has said President Joe Biden was legitimately elected but who will campaign soon with Lake.

"That's the kind of thing we cannot see in our party. We cannot see an accommodation like that," Cheney said on Saturday.

In response to Cheney's criticism, Youngkin's office referred ABC News to what he said when appeared at the Texas Tribune Festival.

There, when asked about campaigning for Lake given her attacks on elections, he cited Virginia's issues grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic -- relating in particular to school closures and "economic progress" -- and said, "I was elected in 2021 and therefore was able to go to work in a state that had been blue and demonstrate what I believe are conservative commonsense solutions to problems and progress that we've made. I think I'm uniquely positioned to share this perspective."

Cheney's own electoral future is unclear. After her primary loss, she launched a political group that some saw as a potential vehicle for a 2024 presidential bid of her own -- a prospect she has not ruled out.

However, one thing she has ruled out is supporting Trump if he runs in two years, even going so far as to say she could leave a party that was once nearly synonymous with her last name.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure he is not the nominee," she said. "And if he is the nominee, I won't be a Republican."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump can't 'declassify documents by saying so,' GOP Sen. Barrasso acknowledges when pressed

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After Donald Trump suggested last week that as president “you can declassify just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it,” Republican Wyoming Senator John Barrasso disagreed -- but only after George Stephanopoulos pressed him on the issue twice on ABC’s “This Week.”

During an interview on Sunday, Barrasso was asked by Stephanopoulos about Trump's handling of classified material, which is under federal investigation as Trump denies wrongdoing.

Trump claimed to Fox News' Sean Hannity last week that while "different people see different things," his view of this authority was absolute: "If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified. Even by thinking about it."

Stephanopoulos asked if Barrasso agreed. The senator said that he had not heard about such an assertion and pivoted to criticizing the Department of Justice's court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago.

Barrasso said that he had "never seen anything like that before," referring to the FBI "raid" Trump's home, and that it had "become political."

Stephanopoulos pushed back: "You know that a president can't declassify documents by thinking about it. Why can't you say so?"

The senator, who also said that he isn't versed in the rules of presidential declassification and wants to get a briefing from the DOJ on the investigation, then agreed with Stephanopoulos. He said, "I don't think a president can declassify documents by saying so, by thinking about it."

That view lines up with what outside experts have told ABC News: The president must document his declassification process somewhere, whatever his process was.

Barrasso spent much of his "This Week" appearance pushing back on President Joe Biden's foreign policy, including addressing the potential revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.

Stephanopoulos opened up the interview by having Barrasso respond to Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser. Sullivan was also interviewed on "This Week" on Sunday and said nuclear negotiations -- so Iran never has a weapon "they can threaten the world with" -- could be effective at the same time the White House was putting public pressure on the country over its treatment of women and protesters.

"Did you find his argument convincing for staying in the Iran nuclear talks?" Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso.

"No deal with Iran, George, is a good deal … They continue to claim 'death to America.' We cannot allow them to have a nuclear weapon," Barrasso said.

Stephanopoulos also sought clarity from Barrasso on the GOP and Ukraine.

Citing criticism of American's continued aid to Ukraine by some Republicans, like Ohio Senate nominee J.D. Vance, Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso if Democrats were right to warn that the GOP may restrict future support if they retake Congress.

"No. There continues to be bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate for weapons to Ukraine," Barrasso said.

He said he wanted the White House to be quicker in providing weapons to Ukraine and said "we ought to be producing more American energy to help our European allies" and American consumers who are dealing with the fallout of the conflict with Russia, a major energy provider.

Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso, just as he asked Sullivan: "Do you believe that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's hold on power is secure?"

"I'm not sure," Barrasso, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. "He is in a deep hole right now and he's dug this hole. And I thought his statement to the country there really was desperate. It didn't show really confidence or strength."

"The Foreign Relations Committee is going to have a hearing this Wednesday on what additional things we can do in terms of sanctions [on Russia]," Barrasso said. "And also we have a secure briefing on Thursday in the Senate to take a look right at what's happening on the ground in Ukraine."

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US sees signs Russia is 'struggling,' has warned of catastrophe if Putin uses nuclear weapon: Sullivan

Tal Axelrod, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. is seeing evidence that Russia is "struggling" in its invasion of Ukraine and has warned Moscow that there would be "catastrophic consequences" if it were to use a nuclear weapon in its war against Kyiv, the White House national security adviser said Sunday.

Jake Sullivan, in an interview with ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, pointed both to the protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin's mobilization of 300,000 reservists and to what Sullivan called "sham" annexation referendums in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

"These are definitely not signs of strength or confidence. Quite the opposite: They're signs that Russia and Putin are struggling badly," Sullivan said while noting Putin's autocratic hold on the country made it hard to make definitive assessments from the outside.

"It will be the Russian people, ultimately, who make the determination about how Russia proceeds and the extent to which that there is resistance and pushback to what Vladimir Putin has tried to do, calling up these hundreds of thousands of young men," Sullivan added.

"Do you want them to rise up and replace Putin?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"At the end of the day, the future of Russian politics is going to be dictated, not by Washington, not by anyone in Europe, but by the people inside Russia," Sullivan responded. "And what you are seeing in the streets right now is a deep unhappiness with what Putin is doing."

His comments come amid escalating rhetoric from Putin as Russian forces have been forced to cede large swaths of northeast Ukraine while retreating from a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month.

Last week, Putin called up reservists and suggested that tactical nuclear weapons could be used to change the course of the war, groundlessly accusing the West of threatening Russia's territorial integrity. Since before attacking Ukraine in February, Putin has cast the invasion as a matter of Russian national security.

"The territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction," Putin said in a speech last week.

"I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries," Putin added.

On "This Week," Sullivan declined to explain precisely what warnings have been communicated between Russia and the U.S. but he said that there would be dire repercussions if such a weapon were used.

"We have communicated directly, privately, to the Russians at very high levels that there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia if they use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. We have been clear with them and emphatic with them that the United States will respond decisively alongside our allies and partners," Sullivan said.

"So that means taking the fight directly to Russia?" Stephanopoulos asked.

Sullivan demurred: "We've been careful in how we talk about this publicly because, from our perspective, we want to lay down the principle that there would be catastrophic consequences but not engage in a game of rhetorical tit-for-tat."

Stephanopoulos also asked Sullivan if protests in Iran over the death of a woman who was not adhering to the country's strict female dress code would be enough to topple the government in Tehran.

"The United States ... hasn't necessarily over many decades had a great track record of perfectly predicting when protests turn into political change, and I can't perfectly predict that sitting here today. What I can say is they do reflect a deep-seated and widespread belief among the population of Iran, the citizens abroad, the women of Iran, that they deserve their dignity and their rights," Sullivan said.

Stephanopoulos pressed, given the Iranian government's actions, if the Biden administration should continue seeking to revive the Obama-era nuclear deal which President Donald Trump scrapped. Conservatives have repeatedly criticized those efforts.

Sullivan said that the White House feels diplomacy and political pressure can go hand-in-hand.

"The fact that we are in nuclear talks is in no way slowing us down from speaking out and acting on behalf of the people of Iran," he said. "We're not going to slow down one inch in our defense and advocacy for the rights of the women and citizens of Iran."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden struggles, as does his party, as most Democrats look elsewhere for 2024: POLL

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With his party struggling in the midterms, his economic stewardship under fire and his overall job approval under 40%, a clear majority of Democrats in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the party should replace Joe Biden as its nominee for president in 2024.

In the November midterm election ahead, registered voters divide 47%-46% between the Republican and the Democratic candidate in their House district, historically not enough to prevent typical first-midterm losses. And one likely voter model has a 51%-46% Republican-Democratic split.

Looking two years off, just 35% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Biden for the 2024 nomination; 56% want the party to pick someone else.

Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, for their part, split 47%-46% on whether Donald Trump should be their 2024 nominee -- a 20-point drop for Trump compared with his 2020 nomination.

The unpopularity of both figures may encourage third-party hopefuls, though they rarely do well.

In a head-to-head rematch, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a 48%-46% Biden-Trump contest, essentially tied. Among registered voters, the numbers reverse to 46%-48%. That’s even while 52% of Americans say Trump should be charged with a crime in any of the matters in which he’s under federal investigation, similar to views after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

On issues, the survey finds broad opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling eliminating a constitutional right to abortion and a big Democratic advantage in trust to handle the issue. But there's no sign it's impacting propensity to vote in comparison with other issues: four rank higher in importance and two of them -- the economy, overall, and inflation, specifically -- work strongly in the GOP's favor.

Biden and the midterms

The president's standing customarily is critical to his party's fortunes in midterms -- and Biden is well under water. Thirty-nine percent of Americans approve of his job performance while 53% disapprove, about where he's been steadily the past year.

Specifically on the economy, with inflation near a 40-year high, his approval rating is 36% while 57% disapprove -- a 21-point deficit.

Each election has its own dynamic but in midterm elections since 1946, when a president has had more than 50% job approval, his party has lost an average of 14 seats. When the president's approval has been less than 50% -- as Biden's is by a considerable margin now -- his party has lost an average of 37 seats.

There's one slightly better result for Biden: 40% say he's accomplished a great deal or a good amount as president, up from 35% last fall. This usually is a tepid measure; it's averaged 43% across four presidents in 11 previous polls since 1993.

There's something else the Democrats can hang on to; their current results are better than last November, when the Republicans led in national House vote preferences by 10 percentage points, 51%-41% -- the largest midterm Republican lead in ABC/Post polls dating back 40 years.

It's true, too, that national House vote polling offers only a rough gauge of ultimate seats won or lost, in what, after all, are local races, influenced by incumbency, gerrymandering, candidate attributes and local as well as national issues.

Issues

The Democrats are not without ammunition in midterm campaigning: As noted, Americans broadly reject the U.S. Supreme Court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion -- 29% support it, with 64% opposed. (Indeed, 53% strongly oppose it, compared with 21% strongly in support.)

And the public trusts the Democratic Party over the Republican Party to handle abortion by a wide 20 points. In another measure, while 31% say the Democratic Party is too permissive on abortion, many more, 50%, say the GOP is too restrictive.

But if abortion keeps the Republicans from entirely nationalizing the election around the economy, it doesn't defang the public's economic discontent.

Seventy-four percent say the economy is in bad shape, up from 58% in the spring after Biden took office. The GOP leads the Democrats by 16 points in trust to handle the economy overall and by 19 points in trust to handle inflation. Equally important, 84% call the economy a top issue in their vote for Congress and 76% say the same about inflation. Many fewer, 62%, call abortion a top issue.

Other issues also differentiate the parties. In addition to the economy, the Republicans can be expected to focus on crime in the campaigns' closing weeks; they lead by 14 points in trust to handle it, and it's highly important to 69%.

Democrats, in return, hold a wide 23-point advantage in trust to handle climate change, though it's highly important to far fewer, 50%.

The parties run closely on two other issues -- education and schools, Democrats +6, highly important to 77%; and immigration, essentially an even division, highly important to 61%.

When these are assessed as a combination of importance and party preference, inflation and the economy top the list, followed by abortion, then climate change, crime, education and immigration.

While inflation, the economy and abortion are marquee issues, one stands out for another reason: The Republicans' 14-point advantage in trust to handle crime matches its largest since 1991. Among independents, it's a whopping 34-point GOP lead.

Indeed, on abortion, supporters of the Supreme Court ruling are more apt than its critics to say voting is more important to them in this election than in previous midterms, 73% vs. 64%. Also, 76% of the ruling's supporters say they're certain to vote, as are 70% of its opponents.

Intention to turn out is influenced by other factors. Among all adults, it's considerably higher among whites -- 72% certain to vote -- than among Black people (55%) or Hispanics (46%) -- a result that advantages Republicans, whose support is strongest by far among whites.

Groups

Beyond differential turnout, weakness in midterm vote preference among Black and Hispanic voters may compound Democratic concerns.

While Democratic House candidates lead their Republican opponents by 61 points among Black adults who are registered to vote, that compares with at least 79-point margins in exit polls in the past four midterms.

This survey's sample of Hispanics who are registered to vote is too small for reliable analysis, but the contest among them looks much closer than recent Democratic margins -- 40 points in 2018, 27 points in 2014 and 22 points in 2010.

Republican candidates, meanwhile, show some strength among registered voters who don't have a college degree, +11 points in vote preference compared with an even split in the 2018 ABC News exit poll.

A factor: Non-college adults are 8 points more likely than those with four-year degrees to say they're not just concerned but upset about the current inflation rate. Results among other groups don't provide evidence for the hypothesis that the abortion ruling might boost the Democrats, compared with past years, among some women.

Women younger than 40 support the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 points, but did so by 43 points in the 2018 exit poll. Suburban women split about evenly between the parties (44-47% Democratic-Republican), about the same as among suburban men (45-50% Democratic-Republican).

Independent women are +5 GOP in vote preference; independent men, essentially the same, +3. Independents overall -- often a swing voter group -- divide 42-47% between Democratic and Republican candidates. This is a group that voted Democratic by 12 points in 2018 -- but Republican by 14 points in 2014 (when the GOP won 13 House seats) and by 19 points in 2010 (when the GOP won 63 seats).

Lastly, there are some milestones in Biden's approval rating. He's at new lows in approval among liberals (68%), Southerners (33%) and people in the middle- to upper-middle income range (34%). And his strong approval among Black adults -- among the most stalwart Democratic groups -- is at a career-low 31%.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 18-21, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults, including 908 registered voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions in the full sample are 28%-24%-41%, Democrats-Republicans-independents, and 27%-26%-40% among registered voters.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New nuclear threats raise risk from a 'cornered Putin': Experts

ILYA PITALEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Even before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, U.S. officials warned global peace would be endangered if Russian President Vladimir Putin were allowed to brazenly seize another sovereign country.

At the same time, analysts have warned that if he faced no option but defeat in that bid, the outcome could prove to be even more dangerous -- a so-called "cornered Putin."

Ukrainian successes on the battlefield have not only pushed Russian troops back but now have pushed Putin further into a corner -- forcing him to take a series of dramatic steps to reinvigorate his brutal campaign: a sweeping military draft, labeled as a "partial mobilization," to surge thousands of soldiers to the fight, and orchestrating what the West has called "sham" referenda in occupied territories in Ukraine -- intended to pave the way for them to be "annexed" -- considered, in Putin's view, to be part of Russia.

Most alarming, in a rare televised address, Putin also issued a new round of thinly-veiled nuclear threats -- warning that Russia will use "all available means" to protect what he now portrays as Russian people and territory.

While some of his rhetoric isn't new, the changed circumstances in the conflict are. ABC News spoke to experts and former U.S. officials about why Putin's latest saber-rattling escalates risks -- for both Putin and the world.

Losing the home crowd

Putin's "partial mobilization" to send Russians who have gone through military training to serve in Ukraine is broadly seen as a tacit acknowledgement that his military is failing to accomplish Moscow's goals in Ukraine.

But Max Bergmann, a former State Department official and the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says it also puts Putin's control over his own country in question.

"What is clearly happening here is that the Russian military position in Ukraine is collapsing," he said. "Forcing people to go and fight in Ukraine is an extremely risky political decision. This is one of the most incredibly disruptive things that can be done to a society."

Although economic penalties for the invasion continue to have a mounting impact, Bergmann says the move will bring the war home to many Russians for the first time. And what's worse, he adds, is that Putin hasn't even officially called his invasion of Ukraine a war -- still describing it as a "special military operation."

"There's a total disconnect between the Russian government messaging that this is just some sort of tactical military effort in Ukraine, versus the need to suddenly rip men that have maybe at one time in their life served in the military for a year away from their families -- many with children -- and from their jobs, off to a battlefield where tens of thousands of people are dying," he said.

Despite the Kremlin's efforts to silence protest, Bergmann says if enough discontent builds, Putin risks losing public support, and with it, his grasp on power.

"He is gambling his entire regime over Ukraine," he said.

A powerful tool in Putin's arsenal is the state propaganda machine, but Bergmann believes Putin still has a steep hill to climb in portraying the war as defending the motherland.

"Putin hopes he can harken back to Russia's past of repelling invaders, whether it's Napoleon's army or Hitler's. But then, Russia was being invaded. It was an existential war. This is a war of imperial ambition," he said. "He's going to have to work incredibly hard to convince the Russian public that it's worth it to lose their husbands, fathers and sons in an oblast in Ukraine."

While the Russian president still appears to wield uncompromising control, Bergmann warns the tide can shift quickly.

"Autocratic regimes look incredibly stable until they're not," he said.

Buying time

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly, warned Moscow was trying to wait his fighters out.

"Russia wants to spend the winter on the occupied territory of Ukraine and prepare forces to attempt a new offensive," he said in a recorded address.

Analysts also say buying time to move newly conscripted troops to the front might be the motivator behind other elements of Putin's strategy.

"Those troops will take a while to get to the battlefield," said John Hardie, deputy director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Russia Program. "It's definitely a game on his part."

Putin's latest efforts towards annexation, coupled with promises to defend its land, are likely aimed at giving Ukraine second thoughts about pursuing its counteroffensive -- and giving the West second thoughts about supporting it, Hardie and Bergmann said. But they say it's unlikely to prove effective.

"Putin's hope is that this causes Ukraine and the West to freak out to give some pause about further advances," Bergmann said. "But I think support for Ukraine will remain strong. And that Ukraine is going to advance militarily as it sees fit."

One senior administration official called the referenda a "crass and desperate" maneuver that would not alter the U.S. outlook on the conflict, and predicted that other powers around the world -- even those more closely aligned with Russia -- would not be significantly swayed.

Still farther to fall

If Putin's attempts to delay Ukraine's military progress fail, the most pressing question becomes whether he will make good on his threats to go nuclear -- and what the U.S. and its allies might do in response.

"It's something that you have to take very seriously. Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal," said Bergmann. "And when the Russian president starts making nuclear threats, it's something everyone has to pay attention to."

While both Hardie and Bergmann agree Putin doesn't appear ready to resort to the nuclear option, they say deterrence must be the priority. American officials have publicly and privately warned Moscow against using nuclear weapons, and Hardie said they should also press countries the Kremlin might be more receptive to listening to -- such as China and India -- to send the same messages.

But the consequences Russia could expect to face are less clear.

"Are we actually ready to do something more than sanctions? I tend to think we are probably not. I think the administration rightly wants to avoid World War III," said Hardie.

Because of this, the Biden administration's "strategic ambiguity" on repercussions is the best available avenue, he argues.

"If offers the benefit of leaving doubt in Putin's mind," Hardie said.

While Putin could ultimately disregard any doubts, Hardie says it will likely require Putin to grow considerably more desperate.

"I think this would be very much a last resort," he said, noting the Kremlin might test the waters first with demonstrations before hitting critical infrastructure or troop concentrations. "But I think we're a long way from that point."

But Hardie said a significant incursion into Crimea -- the peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 -- would likely move the needle much more, and that it's possible Putin will decide to protect any newly annexed territory with the same ferocity.

"We're in uncharted waters," he said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Voters in these states have abortion-related questions on the ballot in November

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Abortion access, legalized marijuana and antiquated laws on slavery are some of the topics that will be addressed in ballot measures in midterm elections.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it ruled there was no right to an abortion granted under the Constitution, leaving it up to states to determine how to regulate the medical procedure.

In an August primary, Kansas became the first state to let voters decide on abortion since the court’s ruling, and residents overwhelmingly rejected a bid to remove abortion protections from its state constitution.

Five more states -- California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont -- have abortion-related questions on the ballot this November, leaving it up to voters whether to protect or restrict abortion rights in their respective states.

Initiatives to protect or expand abortion rights


California

In California, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from denying or interfering with a person’s “reproductive freedom,” granting Californians a fundamental right to choose to get an abortion or use contraceptives.

The measure aims to amend the constitution to protect reproductive rights already granted and protected by state laws.

In The Golden State, abortion is currently legal until fetal viability, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which generally is until 24 weeks’ to 26 weeks’ gestation.

Vermont

In Vermont, voters will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to include a right to “personal reproductive autonomy,” which will include abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group focusing on sexual and reproductive health, abortion is currently legal during any stage of pregnancy in Vermont, but there is no explicit protection granted under the constitution.

In 2019, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a bill stating abortion is a “fundamental right” and protecting rights to family planning, contraception and sterilization.

Michigan

Michigan voters will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would add protections for reproductive rights this November.

The proposed amendment defines reproductive freedom as "the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care."

After Michigan’s Board of Canvassers failed to reach a decision on whether to add a question to the ballot, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of adding the question.

A state abortion ban on the books since 1931 is also being challenged in court, but is not currently in effect. Last month, a state judge ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, prohibiting prosecutors from bringing charges against physicians who provide abortion services.

Initiatives to eliminate or restrict abortion rights


Kentucky

Voters in Kentucky will decide on an amendment to the state’s constitution that would specify that a right to abortion does not exist nor is the government required to allocate funding for abortion.

Abortion is currently banned in the state after a trigger law went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Under the law, anybody who performs or attempts to perform an abortion will be charged with a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. The only exception is if the mother's health is at risk.

This ban and another ban, which prohibits abortions after six weeks, are currently being challenged in court. The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments on Nov. 15 on whether to issue a temporary injunction on the ban until the legal challenges are resolved.

Montana

Montana voters will decide whether to approve of or reject a bill passed by the state legislature which would change the state constitution to define all fetuses “born alive” as legal persons, including those born after an abortion.

The proposal would define “born alive” as the complete expulsion or extraction of a human infant at any stage of development, who after extraction breathes, has a beating heart or has definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut or what the birth method is, according to the bill.

If approved by voters, the bill would grant any infant born alive the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment. A provider who fails to provide the medical attention could face a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

In August, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling to block three abortion bans that were passed in 2021 while the litigation plays out.

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Arizona Democrats warn 'girls will die' after judge upholds near-total abortion ban

Lynne Gilbert/Getty Images

(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Democrats gathered outside the Republican attorney general's office on Saturday to hit their Republican opponents on abortion and warn that women and girls will die in the state after a judge upheld a 121-year-old law on reinstating a near-total ban on the procedure.

"This law is about controlling women by attempting to control our bodies and our lives," said Democratic candidate for attorney general Kris Mayes. "Women and girls will die because of it…and it's a glaring black eye for the state of Arizona nationally."

Mayes said the law violates privacy rights of women in the state and that she would not enforce any abortion bans if elected attorney general.

"Under this ban, it's Arizona women and families who will suffer the most," said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Democratic nominee for governor. "And as a mother, I'm furious that my 20-year-old daughter will have fewer rights than I did 50 years ago. The overwhelming majority of Arizonans support access to safe and legal abortion. This decision is a direct affront to what we the people, the voters, Arizonans, want."

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson on Friday handed down a highly-anticipated decision in favor of a 1901 law prohibiting all abortions other than those necessary to save the life of the mother. The statute, which has language dating back to 1864, also mandates two to five years in prison for anyone who provides an abortion.

Hobbs' and Mayes' Republican opponents -- Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, as well as Senate candidate Blake Masters -- have all said they support the territorial-era abortion ban, but "are currently hiding under a rock somewhere," said Mayes, noting they haven't publicly weighed in since the ruling.

"Their silence speaks volumes," Mayes said. "That's for a reason. They know how absolutely unpopular this 1901 law is. They know how indefensible is it, and they know that when Nov. 8 comes, the people of Arizona are going to resoundingly reject this extreme abortion ban, this attack on the people of Arizona, by voting them down."

ABC News has reached out to the Republican campaigns on the decision. No candidate has offered a public comment.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said through his spokesperson late Friday that the 15-week ban passed by the GOP-controlled legislature earlier this year would go into effect Saturday and would be the law of the land.

But the new law doesn't repeal the 1901 law, its Republican supporters say, which was in place until a court injunction in 1973 shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade established a constitutional right to abortion.

Hobbs said Saturday Ducey was deliberately being unclear about what exactly the rules are governing abortion access in the state to protect Republican candidates.

"It's clear that he's trying to create confusion about what is in effect," Hobbs said, "and hide from this deeply unpopular position that this 1901 ban is and provide some cover for Republicans. They know this is gonna hurt them at the ballot box."

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has argued that the older law should take precedence and filed the motion in July to have the Pima County court lift the injunction after the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe.

Barrett Marson, a longtime Republican strategist in the state, told ABC News the decision coming down just weeks before early ballots go out in Arizona "has the potential to impact a wide range of races."

"This has gone from theoretical to real life, and this is not an issue Republicans want to talk about. They want to talk about the border, inflation, economy and crime," Marson said. "This is not the issue that Republicans want to run on, and they are going to be forced to answer to it."

But he also noted, that with a Republican majority in the state legislature, "This is now the law of the land, if you will, and there's nothing Katie Hobbs or Kris Mayes can do about it necessarily."

The White House ripped the decision as "dangerous" and potentially "catastrophic" as President Joe Biden leans into criticizing GOP attempts to restrict abortion access ahead of the midterms.

"Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights, including through Senator Graham's proposed national abortion ban," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Saturday.

Dr. Baharak Tabarsi, a family medicine doctor who joined the Democratic candidates but identified herself as an Independent voter, said she and her fellow health care providers are devastated by the decision.

"There's confusion, there's chaos and I will use the word moral injury towards clinicians having our hands tied behind our backs."

Abortion rights supporters are expected to gather Saturday outside the Arizona State Capitol at 5 p.m. MT / 8 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Republicans hammer crime in key Wisconsin races; Democrats say they want to distract from abortion

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) - Republicans are going on the attack in Wisconsin -- drawing a "fact check" in rebuttal from the state's Democratic governor -- as they press what they see as an advantage on the issue of crime and law enforcement support in the final weeks before crucial midterm races there.

A recent spate of ads released by GOP groups attacking the Democratic nominees running for office have pushed them to go on the defense, with incumbent Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday working to debunk, he said, a TV spot from the Republican Governors Association that claimed his policies played a role in the release of hundreds of violent criminals by the state's parole commission.

Democratic operatives say conservatives' focus on crime is a distraction from other key issues on which voters view them less favorably, like abortion access post Roe. Evers' Republican challenger, Tim Michels, opposes abortion in almost all cases.

"I'm principled; my wife and I, we know we have to answer to somebody higher than anybody on the face of this earth. We're pro-life because of our faith," he has said.

But a Marquette University Law School Poll released earlier this month analyzing Wisconsin's Senate and governor race showed that 61% of registered voters were concerned about crime. The issue ranked among the top-five issues for voters in the state.

In response to the RGA ad, which sought to link Evers to the release of "over 800 convicted criminals," "270 murderers and attempted murderers" and "44 child rapists," the Evers campaign said "of the 884 convicted criminals released under Gov. Evers' administration, nearly half were released because their release was required by law."

His campaign stressed that, in Wisconsin, "only the parole chair can decide who gets let out of prison on parole. The governor has no role in these decisions," adding that the parole chair, John Tate, "never received a full confirmation hearing" and that he was unanimously recommended for confirmation by a Republican-controlled Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

And as to the RGA ad's claims that the governor's "liberal policies" have made local communities less safe, Evers' campaign pointed out that the governor signed a bill in April preventing violent criminals and sex offenders from being released early from prison in the future. Evers contrasted that with Michels, who opposes gun law changes including so-called "red flag" legislation, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from people they believe may present a danger to themselves or others.

Michels said in June: "It's not the guns. It's a cultural problem today. And a lot of it is a byproduct of the whole 'defund the police' movement, where cops became bad guys."

The Republican Party and their Wisconsin nominees have also spotlighted two members of the law enforcement community who have publicly announced that they never actually endorsed Democratic Senate nominee Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, despite their names being initially filed under a list by the campaign detailing officers who support him.

Both La Crosse County Sheriff's Captain John Siegel -- who is running for county sheriff -- and Racine County Deputy Malik Frazier's names were listed but have since been removed by the Barnes campaign. The coalition of law enforcement that supports Barnes now includes 15 members, two of whom are active-duty sheriffs from Rock County and Green County.

Wisconsin Right Now first reported on Siegel's removal from the list. Siegel told the outlet that he never endorsed the lieutenant governor and that he did not plan to endorse anyone in the state's Senate race.

When reached by ABC News, Lt. Michael Luell, a spokesman with the Racine County Sheriff's Office, said that Deputy Malik Frazier "expressed some level of surprise" when he saw his name on the list of law enforcement who supported Barnes.

"[Frazier] stated that he may be personally supporting Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, but he did not intend to professionally endorse him, and that professional endorsement was a mistake made by the Barnes' campaign," Luell said. (La Crosse County Sheriff's Captain John Siegel did not respond to a request from ABC News for comment.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned super PAC, has recently published multiple ads targeting Barnes' support to eliminate cash bail, an issue that its supporter say would remove an excessive financial burden on people accused of even minor infractions -- but which the GOP ad contends would set "accused criminals free into the community before trial."

In a statement to ABC News in response to the negative ads, Maddy McDaniel, a Barnes campaign spokeswoman, said: "Ron Johnson defended the criminals whose insurrection injured 140 police officers. He loves to point fingers about crime, but then voted against police funding while Lt. Governor Barnes and Governor Evers actually invested in public safety and law enforcement."

Some outside Democratic strategists cast the Republican ads focusing on crime as "fear mongering" and a distraction from their other weaknesses on the trail.

"There's no question that [Republicans] want people to be scared," said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki, adding, "They're trying to create an alternative environment that they think is better for them politically. But we know that the biggest story in American politics this year is the attack on women's reproductive freedom."

A new Spectrum News/Siena College poll released this week showed Evers with a 5-point lead over Michels in a race that FiveThirtyEight says favors Evers. The Spectrum/Siena poll also asked voters about their take on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade, with 72% of Wisconsinites polled saying they want a new abortion law in the state versus relying on the state's "1849 law" that broadly bans the procedure.

In a Marquette Law School poll released last week, 51% of Wisconsin voters surveyed said Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson "doesn't share their values" versus 41% for Lt. Gov. Barnes.

Zepecki, the strategist, said that he believes "nobody buys" that Evers is "just flinging open the jail cell or ushering people out into the streets. That's insane."

As for the two members of law enforcement who were removed from the list of endorsements for Barnes, Zepecki said he does not foresee that negatively influencing the relatively small share of undecided voters in Wisconsin.

"I think this is much ado about nothing," he argued. "This is the stuff that happens when you got campaigns that are trying to do 7,000 things with not enough staff and not enough time before Election Day, so I have a hard time believing that this has got to change anybody's mind in this election, particularly talking about the truly undecided voters."

Alec Zimmerman, a spokesperson for Johnson's campaign, had another view: "Mandela Barnes can't even tell the truth about who is endorsing his campaign -- voters shouldn't believe a word that comes out of his mouth."

On Wednesday, Johnson's campaign announced a bipartisan coalition of 51 sheriffs who had endorsed him.

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