Politics News

iStock(NEW YORK) -- A newly-elected Massachusetts city councilwoman who publicized an intimidating anonymous voicemail, was confronted by the caller, again. This time the conversation was less about hate and more about "reconciliation."

Earlier this week, Councilwoman Julia Mejia posted a five-minute video on YouTube where she used a man's hateful voicemail to send a message to him and her constituents to join in a conversation about their concerns.

Mejia reached out to the person on the other end of the Jan. 17 call on Friday and patiently got the man -- identified as "Mike" -- to chat with a different tone.

The caller, who says he is not from the Boston area, admitted he was "hostile" because he was "angry" about "illegal aliens."

"I'm a hothead sometimes. I am not a hateful person," the caller said before burying the hatchet with Mejia.

"We need to make space for people with different beliefs to come together because, at the end of the day, people like Mike love this country just as much as we do," wrote Mejia. "We need to keep the line of communication open and I am excited to continue the conversation with my new BFF Mike."

Two days before Mejia received the audio from "Mike," she proposed her first order of business as councilwoman after she was sworn in on Jan. 6, which was to hold a public hearing regarding her proposal to create sanctuary locations for undocumented students.

"Mike" was not on board for such a suggestion.

"You're really something. What a, what a great way to start, eh? Aiding and abating criminals. The very fact that they are illegal they are breaking the law," his voicemail said.

Mejia, who identifies as Afro-Latino and is the first immigrant voted as a councilperson in the state's history, became the third woman of color which holds a public figure position to call out examples of recent threats they receive almost daily.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- House managers, who continue to argue the Senate should subpoena additional witnesses and documents from an uncooperative White House, on Friday will detail President Donald Trump's resistance in making their case for the second article of impeachment -- "obstruction of Congress" -- in their final day of arguments when his trial resumes at 1 p.m.

Democrats now have less than eight hours left before the president's legal team takes the Senate floor on Saturday to begin up to 24 hours of opening arguments over three days.

Senators are preparing for an abbreviated session on Saturday, with sources telling ABC News to expect a 9 a.m. to noon schedule, concerned Trump's defense team's opening arguments may get buried over the weekend.

President Trump weighed in Friday morning on the Saturday session, calling it "Death Valley in T.V."

"After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin' Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.," Trump tweeted.

On Thursday, House managers argued the constitutional underpinnings of their abuse-of-power case against President Trump -- saying that his effort to pressure Ukraine into a investigation into his political opponent was exactly what the framers guarded against when they gave Congress the power to remove a sitting president. They also laid out in great detail how Rudy Giuliani, under Trump's direction, conducted a shadow diplomacy in Ukraine to further the president's political interests, they say, and pursued a discredited conspiracy theory that Kyiv interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

In his closing statement, Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, made an impassioned plea, telling senators that Trump's actions demonstrate he puts himself over country and that they must remove the president if they find he is guilty of the accused actions.

"If you find him guilty you must find that he should be removed," Schiff said, "because right matters. Because right matters and the truth matters, otherwise we are lost."

Democrats also detailed a defense of former Vice President Joe Biden and the role his son, Hunter Biden, played on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian oil company, seeming to prepare for counterattacks likely to come when Trump's legal team takes the stage. They argued there's no evidence of any wrongdoing and pursuing the Bidens is irrelevant.

Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said upon hearing the Democrats' defense of Biden that their team would determine the appropriate way to respond now that Democrats "opened the door" to the Bidens.

"What I don't understand is for the last five hours, it's been a lot about Joe Biden and Burisma," Sekulow said after Thursday's dinner break. "They kind of opened the door for that response. So we'll determine as a defense team the appropriate way to do it."

Behind closed doors, the Senate Republican leadership is also laying the groundwork in its caucus for a vote against subpoenaing witnesses by warning that a guaranteed White House court fight over executive privilege would stall the trial and paralyze the Senate for months.

GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowkski of Alaska, one of the four GOP senators Democrats would need to support their call for witnesses, pointedly criticized the Democrats' strategy.

"The House made a decision that they didn't want to slow things down by having to go through the courts," Murkowski told CNN. "And yet now they're basically saying, ‘You guys gotta go through the courts. We didn't, but we need you to.'"

Here is how the day is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.

1:35 p.m. Talk of censure among Senate Republicans?

Would an acquittal send the message it’s OK for a president to use the power of his or her office to conduct opposition research?

Republicans have a tough time answering that question, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, and some senators say there is renewed talk about censure because of it.

“I think that's simply because there's a feeling that this (conviction) isn't going to go through, and the question earlier -- does this, doesn't acquittal send the wrong message,” GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana tells Dwyer.

“All the information we're looking at, it's in a prism, a very binary outcome. You're either acquitted, or you're convicted, and if you're convicted it’s the death sentence. There's no kind of range, or spectrum. ...I think it means that when you do bring a case, especially for as this applies to the future, you better have all your ducks in a row, it better be solid, and most importantly, it ought to be a little bipartisan when it arrives over here,” Braun says.

1:05 p.m. As trial resumes, McConnell says Saturday session to start at 10 a.m.

The Senate reconvenes to hear the House Democrats' third and last day of arguments. When the session begins Friday, Democrats have seven hours and 53 minutes left of the allotted 24 hours to present their case.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will take breaks throughout the day Friday and will reconvene Saturday morning at 10 a.m. for President Trump's defense team to begin their opening arguments.

11:20 a.m. Schumer comments on recording appearing to capture Trump on Yovanovitch saying 'Take her out'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had limited comment on a recording reviewed by ABC News that appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached.

"Get rid of her!" is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it."

"I haven't seen that so I won't comment on that yet," Schumer says,"but I can say that the granularity of the description of the specific treatment of this prized, wonderful public servant, Ambassador Yovanovitch, I think stuck in people's minds again. I think there's tremendous sympathy for Ambassador Yovanovitch from one end of America to the other, my guess is the hearts of many of our Republican senators. So, I don't know that thing, but I do know that Yovanovitch was terribly treated."

Separately, asked by ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce about the report, Rep. Adam Schiff said: “Plainly, if the president, at the urging of Giuliani or Parnas or Fruman, if this is additional evidence of his involvement ... it could certainly corroborate much of what we’ve heard.”

He said he couldn’t comment further since he hasn’t reviewed the tape or report.

At his news conference, Schumer also kept up his pressure on Republicans to agree to Democratic demands for witnesses and documents.

"Every day we hear a different story from many Senate Republicans about why they oppose a fair trial, about why we can have witnesses and documents. It's usually some shiny object that has nothing to do with the actual facts and law of the case, so now here's the latest one: That is it'll take too long if we do it later," Schumer says. "Let me say this: First, we heard the Republicans all vote to delay things. The Mitch Mcconnell scheme was to say because he knew that a lot of Republicans were seriously thinking of witnesses and of documents, they said, 'let's not do it now. Let's hear the arguments and then do it.' And now they're saying, 'We don't have enough time to do it.'"

"It's a very flimsy excuse," Schumer adds.

With regard to the Republican argument that President Trump was sure to invoke executive privilege, triggering a lengthy court fight, Schumer says, "There's a simple answer when our Republican friends claim it would take too long. Go tell the president not to invoke executive privilege. He's the one delaying it. Not us."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired – and speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born America who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached.

"Get rid of her!" is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it."

On the recording, it appears the two Giuliani associates are telling President Trump that the U.S. ambassador has been bad-mouthing him, which leads directly to the apparent remarks by the President. The recording was made by Fruman according to sources familiar with the tape.

“Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

During the conversation, several of the participants can be heard laughing with the President. At another point, the recording appears to capture Trump praising his new choice of Secretary of State, saying emphatically: “Pompeo is the best.” But the most striking moment comes when Parnes and the President discuss the dismissal of his ambassador to Ukraine.

Parnas appears to say: "The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She's still left over from the Clinton administration," Parnas can be heard telling Trump. "She's basically walking around telling everybody 'Wait, he's gonna get impeached, just wait," he said. (Yovanovitch actually had served in the State Department since the Reagan Administration.)

It was not until a year later that Yovanovitch was recalled from her position -- in April 2019. She said the decision was based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives” that she was disloyal to and undermining Trump.

House investigators have been attempting to document – in part with text messages supplied by Parnas -- an almost year-long effort on the part of Parnas and Giuliani to get Yovanovitch removed from her post. At times, the messages made public by the House Intelligence Committee show Giuliani boasting to Parnas about his efforts to have Yovanovitch recalled from Kyiv.

"Boy I'm so powerful I can intimidate the entire Ukrainian government” Giuliani messaged Parnas in May 2019. “Please don't tell anyone I can't get the crooked Ambassador fired or I did three times and she's still there.”

The identities of others participating in the recorded conversation are unclear. During an early portion of the recording where video can be seen, Donald Trump Jr. appears on the recording posing for pictures with others. Sources say they were attending a larger event happening at the hotel that night for a super PAC that supports the president.

Another clip seen on the recording, according to the sources, is of individuals entering what appears to be a suite at the Trump Hotel for the intimate dinner. The phone that was recording the Trump conversation appears to be placed down on a table with the audio still recording the conversation between the commander-in-chief and other guests, according to the sources. The image of the president does not appear on the video reviewed by ABC News.

In a recent interview with MSNBC, Parnas publicly recounted his memories of the scene at the dinner and said that Trump turned to John [DeStefano], who was his deputy chief of staff at the time, and said, ‘Fire her,’ he claimed.

“We all, there was a silence in the room. He responded to him, said Mr. President, we can't do that right now because [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo hasn't been confirmed yet, that Pompeo is not confirmed yet and we don't have -- this is when [former Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson was gone, but Pompeo was confirmed, so they go, wait until -- so several conversations he mentioned it again.“

However, Pompeo had been confirmed and privately sworn in days earlier.

A copy of the recording is now in the custody of federal prosecutors in New York's Southern District.

Trump’s supporters have maintained that no evidence has been put forward directly linking Trump to any of the alleged impeachable actions. And Trump has maintained that removing Yovanovitch was within his right.

Trump has distanced himself from Parnas, who is under federal indictment in New York in a campaign finance case, and the president’s supporters have questioned his credibility and motives.

"I don't know him," the president said just last week when asked about Parnas. "I don't know Parnas other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people, including people today that I didn't meet. But I just met him. I don't know him at all. Don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from, know nothing about him. I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax."

As ABC News previously reported, Parnas, who cooperated with the House impeachment probe of Trump, began providing materials that were in his custody to congressional investigators late last year.

Just last week, Parnas' attorney transferred more materials after a series of rulings from the judge in his criminal case, granting him permission to share records obtained by the government with House impeachment investigators to comply with a subpoena, including documents seized from Parnas’ home and the complete extraction of Parnas’ iPhone 11 and Samsung phone, seized from him upon his arrest in October 2019.

Joseph A. Bondy, Parnas' attorney, tweeted at the time that the materials were brought to House investigators "despite every stumbling block placed in our path" since his client's arrest.

The records, which were mostly WhatsApp messages, also included 59 pages of emails and handwritten letters that appear to describe Giuliani's attempts to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and an effort to remove Yovanovitch from her post.

One email exchange appears to suggest Parnas and his associates had Yovanovitch “under physical surveillance in Kyiv,” according to the committee’s cover letter.

During her congressional testimony, Yovanovitch said she received a call from the State Department that “there were concerns about my security.”

Giuliani is a subject of the probe being led by the New York prosecutors, sources said. Parnas' cohort, Igor Fruman was also arrested at the same time and faces similar charges though he is not cooperating with the congressional investigations. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Parnas and Fruman were indicted by the Southern District of New York on charges including conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud, false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records as part of an alleged scheme to circumvent federal campaign finance laws against straw donations and foreign contributions. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC (NEW YORK) -- The campaign manager for 2020 hopeful Elizabeth Warren, Roger Lau, outlined the campaign's goals to secure nearly 2,000 delegates and win the nomination -- as well as take back the Senate, expand the majority in the House and flip state legislatures across the country -- in a memo to supporters Friday morning.

It's the third such memo of the campaign. The first came in September and the second was in March. Though Friday's memo is tied to the one-year anniversary of Warren's campaign, it's also an effort to rally the troops, set supporters' sights on the future and exude confidence in their operation, despite the campaign's dips in the polls and current struggle to be in control of their narrative.

"Our immediate goal is to secure the close to 2,000 delegates necessary to win the Democratic nomination," Lau wrote. "For the last 13 months we have built and executed our plan to win. We expect this to be a long nomination fight and have built our campaign to sustain well past Super Tuesday and stay resilient no matter what breathless media narratives come when voting begins."

According to Lau, the campaign will hit the goals outlined -- which also includes defeating President Donald Trump in the Electoral College and the popular vote -- with a combination of Warren's face-to-face interactions with voters and a large ground operation.

Warren has traveled to 30 states and Puerto Rico, had around 100,000 one-on-one conversations with voters -- a number based on how many photos she's taken in her "selfie lines" after events -- and the campaign has more than 1,000 staff in 31 states and D.C., according to Lau's memo.  

The campaign listed Super Tuesday states as a big part of hitting their delegate goal, marking it clearly with maps and pointing out that Super Tuesday states hold 34.1% of delegates.

Lau touted their work in those states, especially California and Virginia, where they've had staff on the ground since last fall. The memo repeatedly emphasized the campaign's faith in grassroots organizing, which Lau said is 80% of their efforts in all Super Tuesday states.

As for the rest of the country, Lau said they plan to have staff on the ground in all 50 states by mid-April.

"From Alabama to Washington State, we have several hundred organizing staffers in states that vote between Super Tuesday and the first week in April. And by mid-April, we will have organizers on the ground in the remaining states, completing the full map," Lau wrote.   They also plan to expand into the five U.S. territories, including D.C. and Puerto Rico.

"As the primary moves towards the convention in July, we will be organizing in all 57 states and territories," Lau wrote.

Lau also promised, however, that they will keep organizing in states after the primaries and caucuses -- including in Iowa, a state most Democratic campaigns have spent nearly all of their time and money campaigning in ahead of the caucus but that went to Trump in 2016.

"This means that as we build our campaign to win delegates in every state and territory to secure the Democratic nomination, we're doing it with an eye towards sustaining it through the general election. For instance, after the very first contest, we will keep staff on the ground and offices open in Iowa," Lau said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday amplified attacks on a key impeachment witness and Purple Heart veteran, after Democrats played clips of his testimony during the Senate trial the night before.

Trump shared a Fox News clip of Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee sharply criticizing U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the first White House official to cooperate with the House impeachment investigation.

"He has a problem with judgment, that has been pointed out," Blackburn said on the conservative cable channel. "He has had problems with going outside his chain of command, which is exactly what he did here."

After Democrats on Thursday used video of Vindman's House testimony, Blackburn took to Twitter to question the military officer's patriotism. She also called his decision to raise concerns about President Trump “vindictive.”

“Adam Schiff is hailing Alexander Vindman as an American patriot,” Blackburn tweeted. “How patriotic is it to badmouth and ridicule our great nation in front of Russia, America’s greatest enemy?”

Lt. Col. Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, testified before the House about his concerns over a July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. Democrats have pointed to Vindman’s account as part of the evidence that Trump pressured the Ukrainians to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Blackburn made multiple unsubstantiated claims on twitter Thursday that Vindman had worked with an anonymous whistle-blower to leak the phone call and “wanted to take out Trump.”

Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer defended Vindman at a press conference Friday morning, referencing the Army officer’s testimony when he evoked a conversation about his father over the consequences of speaking out.

“When Vindman stepped forward, a Purple Heart veteran and said his dad called him and said ‘aren't you worried this will hurt you?'” Schumer recalled. “He said this is America. We believe in the truth. The truth matters. Right matters.”

Vindman used the phrase "right matters" in his testimony in explaining why he felt compelled to speak out against President Trump. House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff repeatedly echoed Vindman’s words in his closing arguments on the Senate floor Thursday.

"If right doesn't matter, it doesn't matter how good the constitution is,” Schiff said. “It doesn't matter how brilliant the framers were. It doesn't matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. If right doesn't matter, we're lost. If the truth doesn't matter, we're lost."

While Vindman continues to serve at the White House, he has largely stayed out of the public eye since his testimony. His lawyer admonished the senator in a statement to ABC News on Thursday.

“That a member of the Senate – at a moment when the Senate is undertaking its most solemn responsibility – would choose to take to Twitter to spread slander about a member of the military is a testament to cowardice,” said David Pressman, Vindman’s legal counsel. “While Senator Blackburn fires off defamatory tweets, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman will continue to do what he has always done: serve our country dutifully and with honor.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- As Democrats lay out their impeachment case against President Donald Trump on the Senate floor, his reelection campaign continues to build its support base off of the impeachment -- this time with a new television ad.

The ad, captured by ad research firm CMAG/Kantar in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, blasts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "and the far left" for "trying to overturn his election with a sham impeachment" and urges viewers show support for the president by texting the campaign.

The new TV ad is the latest major play by the campaign to boost their already massive internal supporter list via text message, which the team then turns around and uses for fundraising. Early last year, the campaign started plastering the the same text code featured in the new TV ad all over everything from videos, memes, to campaign staffer’s Twitter handles.

The Trump campaign is scheduled to drop a $10 million Super Bowl ad that weekend, marking the single biggest TV ad spending in a week by the campaign this cycle, according to media analysis group CMAG/Kantar.

According to CMAG's data, the Trump campaign's second biggest ad buy was during the first week of October, when the campaign spent about $3.8 million on television ads and $1.8 million on digital ads.

The Trump campaign has also bashed Democrats over impeachment in fundraising emails and texts to supporters and through new Facebook ads asking for donations in the first week of the Senate impeachment trial, calling the impeachment a "witch hunt" and "war on democracy."

In another email blast sent out to the campaign’s list of millions of supporters on Thursday, Trump’s reelection team slammed lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff as a liar, claiming he was "caught in yet ANOTHER LIE." However, the email did not detail what Schiff said that the campaign was calling into question.

Hours before the Senate impeachment trial officially began, Trump's campaign launched a string of new anti-impeachment Facebook ads on Tuesday, with some falsely claiming House Democrats' efforts to impeach the president have "failed."

The team set a goal of raising $2 million in the first 24 hours of the trial, but have yet to disclose any new fundraising numbers or if they’ve reached that goal. They previously said they raised $15 million in 72 hours after Pelosi first announced the impeachment inquiry last September.

In all, the Trump campaign has spent a total of $52 million on ads so far this cycle, with nearly $35 million on digital ads on Facebook and Google and a little more than $17 million on broadcast and cable television ads.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the $10 million ad buy is for a spot during the Super Bowl next Sunday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held on to the articles of impeachment for almost a month before delivering them to the Senate -- a decision that Republicans blasted as inconsistent with her claim it was urgent to remove President Donald Trump to protect the integrity of the 2020 election.

While critics argue she undercut the House case with that delay, both Pelosi and House impeachment managers point to the significance of the evidence that's surfaced since the House passed the articles of impeachment on Dec. 18.

"Time has been our friend in all this," Pelosi has said, calling the new evidence "incriminating."

Democrats have talked extensively about some of the newly emerged evidence in making their arguments at the Senate trial, but it hasn't yet been formally admitted as they demanded. On a party-line vote, the GOP-led Senate voted to consider whether it should be allowed only later in the trial, after all arguments are made and senators ask written questions. Democrats called that exactly backwards.

91 minutes between Ukraine phone call and withholding of aid

On Dec. 22, documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity revealed White House officials requested almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine be held 91 minutes after Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

According to a record of the call released by the White House, the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy took place between 9:03 a.m. and 9:33 a.m.

At 11:04 a.m., Mike Duffey, an official with the White House’s budget office, sent an email to Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, the chief of staff to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Pentagon's chief financial officer. In that email, he instructed them to put a hold on the aid.

A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget responded to the revelation by saying, “to pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the new evidence "explosive," pushing his case for Duffey and other key players to be called as witnesses at the Senate trial.

"A top administration official, one that we've requested, is saying 'stop the aid' 91 minutes after Trump called Zelenskiy, and said 'keep it hush-hush," Schumer said. "What more do you need to request a witness?"

Unredacted email says aid freeze was at 'clear direction of POTUS'

On Jan. 2, an unredacted version of an email disclosed Duffey ordered the Pentagon to keep the freeze in U.S. assistance to Ukraine at the “clear direction from the POTUS.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial, said these emails undermined the White House’s argument that the aid was held for a legitimate reason. U.S. law provides exemptions for the executive branch to withhold spending if the administration informs Congress of such decisions on a timely basis, which was not the case with the Ukranian aid.

"The documents show a compelling desire to prevent Congress from finding out,” Schiff said in a statement. “If there was a legitimate reason to place the hold and there was no concern about violating the law, they would have told Congress. But of course they did not, since the whole point of the aide freeze was to coerce Ukraine into interfering in our election to help the president.”

Despite Democrats' call for witnesses, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed for a swift trial without them. The Senate ultimately rejected Schumer's proposed amendment to the Senate trial rules, which would have subpoenaed testimony from Duffey. The amendment failed along party lines.

In a tweet, Pelosi said the emails showed an “unprecedented, total obstruction of Congress” by the president.

Bolton willing to testify if subpoenaed

Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, released a statement on Jan. 6 saying he was willing to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed.

Bolton was one of the four individuals Schumer demanded the Senate call as witnesses, noting his attorney previously told House lawyers Bolton was “personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far,” putting more pressure on Republicans to call new witnesses.

Schumer called Bolton's statement "momentum for uncovering the truth."

"Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up," he said.

Pelosi echoed Schumer on Twitter.

"The President & Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses. They must allow key witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves," she said.

Parnas says ‘Trump knew exactly what was going on’ with Ukraine

In an interview on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, claimed Trump was fully aware of Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine.

In an interview on CNN the following evening, Parnas said both his and Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine were “all about 2020, to make sure [Trump] had another four years.”

Parnas participated in the first of these interviews on Jan. 15, the same day Pelosi officially began the process to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Shortly after delivering the articles, the House Intelligence Committee published new records gathered from Parnas as part of a subpoena request from September. The records included voicemails, photographs, videos and messages further linking Giuliani to his involvement in Ukraine -- a key part being the efforts to dismiss former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

In one text exchange from March 2019, a Connecticut man and a Trump donor named Robert F. Hyde texted Parnas: "Wow. Can't believe Trump hasn't fired that bitch. I'll get right in that."

The texts came one month before Yovanovitch was fired from her post, but Parnas and Hyde dismissed the exchange as not serious.

The president adamantly denied ever knowing much about Parnas and what he was up to with Giuliani, to which Parnas responded he was “lying.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Senators were settling in for a long day of constitutional arguments for impeachment Thursday afternoon when a familiar sound snapped the room to attention: the voice of President Donald Trump.

Republicans and Democrats turned to face the bank of television screens in the chamber as Rep. Adam Schiff teed up a now-infamous clip of Trump telling reporters in October that he had hoped Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would open a probe into the Biden family.

Pres. Trump urges China to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son—even as he faces an impeachment inquiry for pushing Ukraine to do the same. https://t.co/dCTAOhQE2P pic.twitter.com/OdxJNRF2HE

— ABC News (@ABC) October 3, 2019

It was a vivid example Thursday of how Democrats are using an unprecedented number of video clips of congressional hearings, White House news conferences and, most notably, Trump himself, in an effort to hammer home their argument for removing the president from office.

Denied the opportunity to question witnesses by Senate Republicans, Democrats have played more than 140 video clips over two days of opening arguments, bringing the president, his associates and administration officials into the chamber.

They've played snippets of Trump's remarks on the White House North Lawn in October -- when the president told reporters he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and that China should as well -- at least half-a-dozen times.

"It's stunning," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said of the sensation of watching Trump -- in his own words -- from his desk in the Senate chamber.

Republican managers in the trial of President Bill Clinton 21 years ago used video in their arguments and senators watched videotaped witness depositions later in the proceedings. But no case for a president's impeachment has ever relied so heavily on hearing and seeing the president, his top aides and other key witnesses -- or the ability to repeatedly project them to the full Senate and to the public to reinforce their presentations.

"Their use of video has been incredibly effective," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Wednesday evening. "I've been very impressed at the way they've told the story, and I think it's really hard for Republicans to hear it all in one place."

"They've done a good job of presenting," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a retiring moderate who some Democrats believe could be persuaded to support calling witnesses, told reporters Thursday. "We have a lot to consider."

Unlike Clinton, who tried to limit commenting on his impeachment and the allegations against him as the process unfolded, Trump is a voracious consumer of news who makes his case repeatedly on social media each day. He weighed in on a near-daily basis as House Democrats continued to investigate the Ukraine affair last year.

"It's important to bring that evidence and testimony to life for the senators," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y, an impeachment manager, told ABC News after the first day of arguments.

Republicans, including some who have been critical and skeptical of the Democrats' case, have acknowledged the effectiveness of the clips and other exhibits, including text message exchanges and emails obtained by House investigators.

"It gets people's attention, sure," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told ABC News.

"Is there new information, since I didn't watch television of the House hearings? Am I seeing stuff I didn't see before? Yeah," Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., told ABC News. "But, of course, you also want to see what the rebuttal arguments are."

Others say the Democrats' exhibits haven't affected their opinions about the case against the president, and criticized Democrats for being repetitive.

"It's not really changing our opinion, we're just hearing that same message," Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Thursday.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. was more blunt.

"There's nothing new that really adds to their case," he said. "We shouldn't even be in an impeachment inquiry."

Beyond the captive audience in the Senate chamber, Democrats, including the House managers, have said they're trying to reach the American people, and continue to make the case that Trump abused his power.

While Democrats privately admit that persuading 20 Republicans to join them in voting to convict Trump is unlikely, they are more hopeful that the four moderate GOP senators Democrats have targeted could be convinced -- either by the managers' presentations or constituents -- to bring additional evidence and witnesses into the trial.

"It may have an effect on them," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday of the managers' use of video. "But even if it doesn't, I bet tonight had an effect on the public, and that redounds to some Republicans."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- With the Iowa Caucuses just 10 days away, Former Vice President Joe Biden is hitting the airwaves with a new campaign ad that claims he’s the safest choice when it comes to defeating President Donald Trump in November.

The campaign’s latest ad, obtained first by ABC News, focuses on a potential general election match-up between Trump and the former vice president, and makes the starkest argument to date about Biden’s electability.

“Every day he is president, Donald Trump poses a threat to America and the world. We have to beat him. Joe Biden is the strongest candidate to do it,” says the 30-second ad, touting Biden’s lead in polls both nationally and in important states likely needed to win the election in November.

“This is no time to take a risk. We need our strongest candidate. So let’s nominate the Democrat Trump fears the most. Vote Biden. Beat Trump,” the narration concludes.

The ad suggesting Biden is the Democrats' safest choice in 2020 comes as Iowa caucus-goers are making their final decisions about who to support in the "first in the nation" contest on Feb. 3, and as the Senate impeachment trial is underway in Washington, D.C.

While Biden has largely avoided discussing the issue of impeachment while campaigning, the former vice president’s name was invoked often as Democrats made their case that Trump allegedly withheld aid from Ukraine in order to get President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden and his son to help Trump politically.

While several of his 2020 rivals have been forced off the campaign trail to take part in the Senate trial, the former vice president has spent 11 days in Iowa since the beginning of the year and will return to the Hawkeye state Saturday.

Biden will spend the final nine days before the caucuses begin holding events in “every corner of the state” as he tries to close the deal with those Iowans still unsure about who they plan to support, according to the campaign.

From the start of his third presidential bid, electability has been a key component of Biden’s argument to voters, with him saying he could bring the country together and win back disillusioned Democrats who left the party in 2016.

As the caucuses near, other candidates have also sought to argue their electability, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who originally focused on bold ideas and enthusiasm in her sell to voters, but has recently pivoted to billing herself as a unity candidate.

The latest polling in Iowa has largely shown a four-way contest with Biden, Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg all vying for the top spot. Fivethirtyeight’s primary forecast currently shows Biden with a 2 in 5 chance of winning the most delegates in Iowa, followed by Bernie Sanders with a 1 in 4 chance.

Biden’s team is also launching a pair of 15-second ads on YouTube -- “Worried” and “Strength” -- featuring testimonials from Iowa voters about why they feel Biden is the strongest Democratic candidate to defeat the president. Biden's campaign says the ads are targeting Iowa's undecided voters.

The new ad, which is part of a previously announced $4 million ad-buy leading up to the Iowa caucuses, will be broadcast in five TV markets, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Sioux City, and across the state on Hulu.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In many ways 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg has more on the line in the Iowa caucuses than any of the other front-runners in the race.

Buttigieg, who is still a relative newcomer to the national spotlight, is banking on a win or a top finish to buoy his campaign and show the rest of country he can win.

In front of crowds he is confident. “I believe we will win the Iowa caucuses,” the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, enthusiastically declared on stage in Cedar Rapids this past week. But off stage the former mayor has been increasingly realistic with reporters as his campaign enters the final 10 days of what will be the biggest test of his candidacy.

Asked by ABC News in Newton, Iowa, if there’s a path forward for his campaign if he fails to do that, Buttigieg maintained that “it’s certainly very important for us to do well.”

“It is the first opportunity for us to show versus tell that we can earn voter support, that we can build that success that we're then going to continue to need to do in further primaries towards the nomination and on in general. So, very important to do well here,” he said.

A few days later in Mount Pleasant he added, “We will continue working with an underdog mentality … We've got to do well here in Iowa because it's our first opportunity to actually demonstrate versus saying that we're able to win an election.”

Buttigieg has built an impressive ground operation in the Hawkeye state. His team has over 100 organizers and more than 30 field offices, including 14 in the crucial counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and helped re-elect him as president in 2012, but then surprisingly flipped for Donald Trump in 2016. These areas, in Southeast Iowa, have been a major target for 2020 Democratic candidates and Buttigieg’s campaign says they feel very good about their work in these counties.

Outside Iowa, his footprint is smaller. Buttigieg has been performing well in New Hampshire and consistently turns out large crowds at his events, but has less than half the offices there than he does in Iowa and just over 75 staff on the ground.

In Nevada, which votes third in the Democratic primary, he’s boosted his staff to more than 65 and has 12 offices across the state. And in South Carolina, an area where he has little support from African American voters, the mayor has 50 full-time staffers and seven offices, according to the campaign.

Recent Fox News polls out of the last two early states show Buttigieg in single digits, but as he’s laid out in Iowa, he’s counting on voters to remain undecided, hoping they take note of how the race plays out.

“I think there are a lot of voters here who will be looking for that show of strength and Iowa is of course the first opportunity on the calendar to demonstrate that, so it becomes more important than ever,” he said in Nevada this month.

Latest polling out of Iowa shows a dip in support for Buttigieg. A Monmouth University poll released on Jan. 13 shows him down 5 points, at 17% support, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden at the top. Another CNN/DMR/Mediacom poll released two days late showed a 9-point decline for him, with Sanders at the top of the field.

Buttigieg has been leaning in to his rustbelt background and Washington outsider status in this final stretch, setting him apart from his other top competitors who’ve made a name for themselves on Capitol Hill.

“I respect everybody who is competing to be the nominee and to be the president, but I just come at this from a different place. My perspective is formed from a different personal experience,” Buttigieg told a caucus-goer in Burlington after being asked what he brings to the table that his fellow candidates do not.

For voters like Stephanie Shepard, 40, from Des Moines, that sensibility is as appealing as his background as a military veteran.

"He just has what it takes to unify us," she said.

He is also embracing comparisons of himself to then-Sen. Barack Obama when he first ran for president in 2008. Buttigieg is inviting Iowans to take a chance on him, the way they chose to embrace another unknown political newcomer.

“Twelve years ago Iowa changed America's understanding of what it looked like to have a viable presidential candidate who was viewed as improbable from the outset," he said. "A young man with a funny name from over the border in Illinois, and you put him on the path to the presidency.”

As Buttigieg campaigns throughout Iowa in these final days, he says he won’t be changing up his message from what it's been over the past year.

“The message won't change because my values haven't changed, but you will see us continuing to build toward a closing argument that really brings home why I’m the best nominee to defeat Donald Trump and would be the best president for the moment that comes next,” he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It's the second day of Democrats laying out their case to remove President Donald Trump from office.

Here are three things to know:

Democrats use GOP words during Clinton against them

Trump's legal team won't be able to lay out their defense until House Democratic impeachment managers use up their allotted 24 hours.

But lawyer Alan Dershowitz seemed to tip his hand earlier this week when he said on ABC's "This Week" that "abuse of power" isn't an impeachable offense under the Constitution.

So perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that House Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Jerry Nadler used much of his time on Thursday to try to dismantle that argument.

In one remarkable moment, he played a video clip of Graham in 1999 making the case that a president can be removed from office for abuse of power, even without being convicted of a crime. Graham was not in his seat at the time the video clip played.

"You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role," Graham said at the time. "Impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."

In comments unearthed by CNN, Dershowitz said in 1998 that "it doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime."

Democrats invoked history, from George Washington to Richard Nixon

Democrats repeatedly referred to historical figures to make their case.

Nadler insisted that "no president has abused his power in this way" since George Washington took office in 1789. He noted a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson warning of foreign influence in U.S. elections. And he noted other framers who wrote of the need for impeachment to remove potentially corrupt presidents.

And Democrats again cited a quote from Alexander Hamilton warning of a man "unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty" whose goal is to "throw things into confusion that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind."

Of Trump's actions, Nadler said at one point, "It puts even President Nixon to shame."

Trump allies protested with fidget spinners, books and sketches

Staying alert remained a bipartisan struggle on Thursday, as senators repeatedly rose from their seats and paced the back wall or wandered back to their cloakroom off the Senate floor.

And while some senators appeared to doze off at points -- including Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders -- most senators appeared to pay attention, with more moderate and vulnerable Republicans, such as Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney – perhaps mindful of the optics – appearing eager to listen.

Still, several Trump allies on Thursday seemed to go out of their way make their point that the trial was frivolous. At a lunch of GOP senators, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina handed out stress balls and fidget spinners -- more common in elementary schools than the Senate chamber. Burr could be seen playing with his spinner, while Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Tom Cotton of Arkansas had spinners sitting on their desks.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who worked a crossword puzzle the day before, opted on Thursday to sketch or trace the U.S. Capitol. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was brazen enough to read a book as Democrats spoke, while Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi had one sitting on her desk.

Before launching into a third day of arguments, Schiff said it was "extraordinary" to have such a captive audience of senators.

"Of course, it doesn't hurt that the morning starts out every day with a Sergeant-at-Arms warning you that if you don't, you will be imprisoned," he said, a reference to 18th century language still used by the Senate during impeachments.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


EMPPhotography/iStock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Seeing for himself the "terrible" conditions of Mississippi's troubled prisons, the new governor on Thursday announced a series of reforms to boost safety for inmates and staff following a series of violent deaths, riots, escapes and a federal lawsuit backed by hip hop artist Yo Gotti and music mogul Jay-Z.

Gov. Tate Reeves, who took over as governor last week, said he's hit the ground running to "stop the bleeding" in a state corrections system critics have called inhumane.

"We know that there are problems in the system," he told reporters at a press conference. "We don't want to hide them, we want to fix them."

He announced a series of "common sense" changes he's already begun implementing, including a crackdown on contraband cellphones, which, he said, have been used to coordinate violence throughout the prison system. He's also seeking a process to weed out guards who are corrupt or have gang affiliations.

He also said maintenance teams are being sent to the state's most notorious prison, Parchman, to improve conditions he called "terrible."

In the past month, 10 inmates have died in Mississippi prisons, with eight of those at Parchman. Most were killed in riots in late December and early January that led to a statewide lockdown.

In the past week alone, three inmates have died at Parchman, including one by suicide, officials said.

The crisis at the prisons caught the attention of Yo Gotti and Jay-Z, who supported a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of 29 Mississippi prisoners who accused state correctional officials of doing little to stop the violent outbreaks.

"Individuals held in Mississippi's prisons are dying because Mississippi has failed to fund its prisons," the lawsuit said. "Violence reigns because prisons are understaffed."

The lawsuit named Mississippi Department of Corrections former Commissioner Pelicia Hall and Mississippi State Penitentiary Superintendent Marshall Turner among the defendants.

"Plaintiffs' lives are in peril," the lawsuit said. "These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights."

Last week, Reeves appointed Tommy Taylor, the former mayor of Boyle, Mississippi, and chairman of the House Corrections Committee, to serve as the interim commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

Reeves said he and Taylor spent Wednesday and Thursday touring the prisons, including Parchman, the state's largest and oldest penitentiary.

"We ... saw some pretty rough conditions, particularly in Unit 29, where some inmates have just torn the place apart," Reeves said. "I went to the room where the riots happened. Inmates that are known to be dangerous are being housed together without any structure to prevent violent collision. This has to be addressed."

Reeves said his administration is considering reopening the state's Walnut Grove prison in Leake County, a privately run facility shut down due to corruption in 2016.

"We're paying for it right now as a state, and no one is there," Reeves said of the Walnut Grove facility. "It's not a country club, but the physical conditions are better than what some are dealing with in units in Parchman."

A major issue at Parchman has been inmates hiding and passing contraband to each other, including weapons and cellphones.

"The construction of the cells in Walnut Grove would limit that," the governor said. "In each cell, the walls are poured concrete. This prevents the ability to chip away at mortar as compared to cinder-block cells, which tend to be hollow in the middle."

He also said Walnut Grove has both electronic and manual cells, which creates flexibility for housing different types of inmates.

"A benefit of that flexibility is a majority of the prison can physically hold inmates as early as tomorrow," Reeves said.

He also said he plans to place senior leadership on the front lines at Parchman.

"We're making sure that a senior officer will be present on the grounds at all times to prevent the leadership void that can lead to chaos," Reeves said.

He said another common-sense plan is to "make sure that people who are at risk of creating more violence aren't in jobs or locations that give them access to potential tools or targets of violence."

Reeves said he isn't just making "empty promises," but conceded that reforming the prisons' "won't be fixed overnight."

"Ultimately, this is not about the problems of the past," Reeves said. "This is about paving the way for a better future for the system and for Mississippi, and I am committed to seeing this through every step of the way."

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DJ McCoy/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has announced plans to attend and address the crowd at this week's March for Life, which would make him the first sitting president to do so.

The annual anti-abortion rally in the nation's capital is scheduled for Friday.

The president made the announcement via Twitter, writing, "See you on Friday...Big Crowd!" retweeting the official March for Life account. While other presidents have videoed or called into the event, Trump would be the first to appear in person.

Trump has worked to highlight the major anti-abortion event each year he's been in office. Vice President Mike Pence became the first sitting vice president to speak at the march in 2017, with Trump becoming the first president to address the rally by video the following year.

"President Trump is the most pro-life President in the history of our country, and becoming the first President to speak at the March for Life is further evidence of that," Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for the Trump campaign, told ABC News in a statement.

Trump's decision to appear is part of a larger effort to reach out to evangelical Christians, a core section of his conservative base.

Trump's campaign kicked off the 2020 election year ramping up religious voter outreach, launching "Evangelicals for Trump" with a massive rally-like event at a Miami megachurch.

"We're standing up to the pro-abortion lobby like never before -- we will never shy away from the battle to protect innocent life," Trump said at the kickoff in January.

At rallies across the country, the president's reelection pitch often has included his record on abortion as president, using that stance as a cudgel against Democratic rivals.

But Trump's history on abortion is complicated. In a 1999 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said that he was "very pro-choice," but during his 2016 presidential run he said that he'd "evolved" on the issue when asked during an August 2015 Republican debate.

Since getting elected, Trump's record on the issue has matched his campaign rhetoric. He's worked to appoint anti-abortion judges, cut taxpayer funding for abortions and blocked funds for Planned Parenthood.

The announcement of the president's plan to attend the rally comes just days after Susan B. Anthony List pledged $52 million to help reelect Trump and other anti-abortion candidates.

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Kameleon007/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration will implement new plans this week that could limit travel for pregnant women coming to the United States to give birth, according to vetting guidelines released Thursday morning.

Consular officers around the world will have more power starting on Friday to deny applications for women they believe are traveling for the "primary purpose" of giving birth.

The changes aim to crack down on what the administration calls "birth tourism" and impact those applying for temporary visas to travel for business and vacation. Officers, however, have been instructed not to ask an applicant if she is pregnant unless her stated reasons for travel raises the question first.

For example, one State Department official said questions about whether or not the applicant is seeking medical care could lead to questions about pregnancy.

"Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Thursday.

When speaking to reporters following the announcement, State Department officials could not point to specific examples of national security threats linked to "birth tourism."

One official described a "growing trend" of women stating they were traveling to give birth, but acknowledged that the department does not maintain an official count.

Trump administration officials have already considered changing citizenship rights for those born in the country. In 2018, Trump himself vowed to end birthright citizenship through an executive order.

His comments were met with push back from lawmakers at the time.

"This rule is yet another attempt by the administration to control women’s bodies, driven by racist and misogynist assumptions about women born outside of the United States," said Shilpa Phadke, a vice president at the Center for American Progress -- a liberal policy think-tank.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been working with the State Department to plan enforcement measures for the new restrictions, acting ICE Director Matthew Albence told reporters Thursday.

"I think it’s a big problem," Albence said, although the agency didn't immediately provide information on the scope of fraudulent visa use related to pregnancy.

ICE does not typically share specific details regarding investigations, but agency investigators in California have been put on alert and investigative practices will be adjusted to enforce the new policy, an agency official told ABC News.

"If we can solve or at least address a large part of this problem by changing a regulatory process or rules that [the State Department] employs it only makes good sense," Albence said

Agents may look into a suspect’s financial transactions and hospital records and often work with commercial airlines as part of the agency’s standard investigative procedures for rooting out fraud cases, including "birth tourism."

"We will certainly continue to vigorously prosecute and investigate those cases that fall under our purview," Albence said.

In a case last year, federal prosecutors indicted 19 people for charging victims thousands of dollars with the promise of getting them to the United States to give birth.

The defendants were charged with defrauding their victims and laundering money following an ICE investigation.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is at the White House Thursday, back from his trip to the world stage in Switzerland with little to distract him from watching or otherwise monitoring his impeachment trial in the Senate, as Democrats enter the second of three days they have to make opening arguments.

Aside from brief statements to the media during breaks in the trial on Capitol Hill, the Trump's legal team will have to wait until Saturday to mount their full defense.

But despite the constraints on the president’s legal team as the Democrats continue to have the floor in the Senate uninterrupted -- a slow pace that his lawyers have sought to explain to the president who favors an aggressive defense posture -- that hasn’t kept the president from unleashing a fiery defense of his own.

He has turned to his favored medium to unleash his counter-punching instincts -- sending out a string of tweets blasting the impeachment process.

On Wednesday, even as he split his day between Switzerland and the US, the president used his trans-Atlantic plane ride home to set a personal record of Twitter activity. He fired off more than 140 tweets and retweets -- the most of any one day of his presidency -- according to the tracking website Factba.se.

The president on Wednesday also held court with an impromptu press conference in Switzerland during which he blasted the impeachment as a "hoax," said he personally was in favor of hearing from witnesses in the trial -- in conflict with his own legal team’s position -- and even flirted with the idea of creating a bit of political theater by personally going to the Senate to sit in on the trial (an idea his lawyers have signaled they would advise against).

And by Thursday morning, the president was back it, blasting out a series of tweets in the early morning hours from the White House residence to blast the process and decry the House inquiry that led to his impeachment as the “Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!”

The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for? They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020

White House Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters Thursday morning that the president is “pleased” with the way things have gone so far and that the president’s defense team is looking forward to their chance to present before the Senate.

“The president has been very pleased with the way it's going for a myriad of reasons. One is because the evidence and the facts prove that he's done nothing wrong. We're looking forward to the chance when we get to lay out our case, the attorneys are excited about that and they're going to attack it on that front,” he said.

Gidley went on to blast the House inquiry, claiming “this president has been denied due process that any other American citizen would get in any other situation, you get a traffic ticket, you get treated more fairly than this president has been treated.”

When the Trump team’s turn to present in the Senate comes beginning on Saturday, the president’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, says they will “be putting on but an affirmative case in defense of the president, but we will also be pointing out some of the errors in the case that [the managers] presented.”

Sources tell ABC News they are expected to move at a faster clip to keep the momentum going, and under directions from the president, keep things from becoming boring.

Still, the details of their defense strategy are evolving, according to sources, and the lawyers have declined to reveal the details of their strategy and how many of the allotted 24 hours over three days they plan to use to present their case.

While the defense team ultimately did not present a motion to dismiss on Wednesday, the president’s lawyers says it remains an option on the table going forward. The president has been keen to keep a dismissal as an option, sources have said, despite the political reality that such a motion lacks adequate support.

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