• ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department is acknowledging that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States last year when filling out his security clearance form -- a disclosure that an FBI official advised Sessions he didn't have to make since the meetings were through his official capacity as a U.S. senator, according to a department official.The lack of disclosure about Sessions' two meetings with Russian Ambassador Secret Kislyak was first reported by CNN.The encounters ultimately led to Sessions announcing in March that he was recusing himself from any investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.The documentation for Sessions' clearance requested a list of contacts with foreign governments or their representatives over a period of the previous seven years.The Justice Department official with knowledge of the situation, explaining the FBI's recommendation, said that the stipulation would be particularly burdensome and broad for a senator.The Justice Department's Deputy Director of Public Affairs Ian Prior issued a response to CNN's story Wednesday evening, portraying Sessions as having followed the instructions given to him."As a United States Senator, the Attorney General met hundreds—if not thousands—of foreign dignitaries and their staff," said Prior in the statement. "In filling out the SF-86 form, the Attorney General’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the FBI investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities."Kislyak has been at the center of the Russian controversies swirling around the White House since Trump's election. His contact with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Flynn's actions to mislead the administration about the nature of their conversations lead to Flynn's forced resignation in February.The ambassador was also present for a White House meeting earlier this month in which President Donald Trump shared classified intelligence.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Mike Levine/ABC(WASHINGTON) -- Even with the Senate Intelligence Committee focused this week on its investigation of Russia's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election, the committee met behind closed doors Wednesday for a classified briefing from senior FBI and Homeland Security officials over another alleged threat emanating from Moscow: a major software company whose products are used widely across the United States.The visit from FBI and Homeland Security officials has long been planned. But congressional sources told ABC News that in recent days the agenda expanded to specifically include an update on U.S. intelligence about Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based firm that has become one of the world’s largest and most respected cybersecurity firms.Current and former U.S. officials worry that state-sponsored hackers could try to exploit Kaspersky Lab’s anti-virus software to steal and manipulate users’ files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the U.S. And they point to Kaspersky Lab executives with previous ties to Russian intelligence and military agencies.“We are very much concerned about this, very much concerned about the security of our country," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said about Kaspersky Lab at a recent Senate hearing.The company has repeatedly insisted it poses no threat to U.S. customers and would never allow itself to be used as a tool of the Russian government.But in a secret memorandum sent last month to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate Intelligence Committee raised possible red flags about Kaspersky Lab and urged the intelligence community to address potential risks posed by the company’s powerful market position.“This [is an] important national security issue,” declared the bipartisan memorandum, described to ABC News by congressional sources.In February, the Department of Homeland Security issued a secret report on the matter to other government agencies. And the FBI is in the midst of a counterintelligence investigation looking into the nature of Kaspersky Lab’s relationship to the Russian government, sources with knowledge of the probe told ABC News.Among the high-level officials briefing senators today was FBI Assistant Director Gregory Brower, the head of the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs.During a televised Senate Intelligence Committee hearing two weeks ago, senior members of the U.S. intelligence community for the first time publicly expressed concern that Kaspersky Lab could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland.At the hearing, the acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that his agency is “very concerned about it … and we are focused on it closely.”Robert Cardillo, the director of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said he is “aware of the Kaspersky lab challenge and/or threat.” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the matter “has risen to the director of the CIA as well.” And the head of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers, said he is “personally aware and involved” in “national security issues” associated with Kaspersky Lab.Until those remarks at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, such concerns have been communicated only behind closed doors and in private memos, as ABC News first disclosed in a report two days before the Senate hearing.“I think we do ourselves a disservice by not speaking about this openly,” Michael Carpenter, who until January served as the Defense Department's deputy assistant secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, told ABC News.Products from Kaspersky Lab are widely used in homes and businesses throughout the U.S.But ABC News found that -- largely through outside vendors -- Kaspersky Lab software has also been procured by such federal agencies as the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Consumer Product
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could these be the first splashes of an impending blue wave?Only time will tell, but Democrats have flipped two statehouse seats in New Hampshire and New York in districts won by Donald Trump.Democrat Edie DesMarais narrowly defeated Republican Matthew Panche in New Hampshire last night, winning by 4 percentage points — just 56 votes. Trump won that district, 51 to 44 percent, according to an analysis by the Daily Kos.Wolfeboro, the major city in that district, has long been a GOP stronghold in the statehouse — which has 400 members, the largest in the nation. Democrats have never won that district, according to the state's Democratic Party. Representative-elect Edie DesMarais becomes 1st EVER Wolfeboro Democratic Representative. First seat to flip since 2016 election #nhpolitics
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The latest analysis of the GOP’s health care bill concludes that the plan would leave 14 million more people uninsured next year if it becomes law, a number that rises to 23 million by 2026.The bill, known as the American Health Care Act, passed the House with only one vote to spare earlier this month.The new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office shows little improvement in the number of uninsured from the scoring done on past iterations of the bill, which ultimately were not voted upon.The CBO's estimate also indicates that the Republican health care plan would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion oven ten years. The slight revision from the previous estimates will allow Senate Republicans to avoid a Democratic filibuster.Senate budget rules require the AHCA to save $2 billion over ten years in order to be taken up under reconciliation – a process that would allow Senate Republicans to pass the bill with only 51 votes.If the nonpartisan CBO determined that the bill didn't pass muster for reconciliation, Democrats would have been able to hold up the bill with filibuster, which could send the bill back to House Republicans to amend and hold another vote.An earlier analysis of the bill estimated that 24 million Americans would lose health insurance by 2026 if it becomes law.Wednesday's report also estimates that the GOP bill would raise premiums over time for people who are less healthy in states that seek and receive the controversial waivers from rules enforcing the coverage of pre-existing conditions from the Department of Health and Human Services.The analysis appears to undermine the Republican argument that the proposal wouldn't impact Americans with pre-existing conditions. The CBO indicates that it would by making health care less affordable for some consumers."Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all," reads the report.The report echoes earlier analyses which predicted that premiums could rise greatly for a portion of the population that would no longer receive tax credits at the rate it does under the current law -- namely, older and poorer policy holders.The CBO's analysis of subsidies in 2026 indicates that net premiums for a 64-year-old earning $28,500 would rise from $1,700 to between $13,600-$16,100 under the AHCA, depending on whether the person lives in a state requesting waivers for market regulations.Savings could become more common for wealthier individuals who would benefit from tax credits pegged to age rather than income, according to examples cited by the CBO. As the law stipulates, an individual earning $68,200 in the CBO's example receives the same credit as someone at the same age earning $28,500.Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House have criticized the CBO for inaccuracies in its analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. While the CBO overestimated the number of people who would ultimately receive insurance, it was correct in noting that the amount of those uninsured would fall.With all CBO reports, Wednesday's analysis notes that there are a number of factors that contribute to the uncertainty of its forecasts but that it "endeavored to develop estimates that are in the middle of the distribution of potential outcomes."Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday he disagreed with President Trump’s description of former FBI Director James Comey as a "nut job.""I don’t agree with that and he’s not," Ryan said in an interview with Mike Allen at a conference with media company Axios.The New York Times reported Friday that Trump called Comey a "nut job" in his Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, one day after he fired him from the FBI. The White House did not deny the report to ABC News."I like Jim Comey," Ryan said Wednesday. "I know that there are people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned about decisions he made."Ryan said Comey was put in an "impossible position" at the FBI with the Clinton email investigation, after former President Bill Clinton met briefly with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport in Phoenix.After that encounter, Lynch said she would accept the recommendation of the FBI in the investigation, recusing herself from leadership of the probe.Ryan said he supported letting the Russian election interference investigations "take their course" at the Department of Justice and on Capitol Hill, declining to comment about items "under ongoing review."He praised Trump’s "energy and engagement," noting his involvement in passing the GOP health care bill in the House."I’ve never seen a president ... get so deeply engaged on a person-to-person basis to help achieve a goal," he said.The Wisconsin Republican also predicted that Congress would be able to send Trump a tax reform bill by December 23rd, the end of the legislative calendar.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, told ABC News that he will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on June 6 as part of its ongoing investigation of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.He also confirmed to ABC News that he has retained legal counsel.In a May 23 letter addressed to Representatives L. Michael Conway and Adam Schiff, the ranking members of the committee, Page outlined his objections to former CIA director John Brennan’s testimony Tuesday that Russia “brazenly interfered” in the election."I saw interaction that in my mind raised questions of whether it was collusion," Brennan said. "It was necessary to pull threads."Page, however, dismissed Brennan’s claims as “false Russia conspiracy theories,” and provided a five-page “Appendix,” complete with footnotes, detailing a point-by-point protest.“The vast majority of the open session testimony by Mr, Brennan and other Clinton/Obama regime appointees who have recently appeared before your committee loyally presented one biased viewpoint and base of experience.” Page wrote. “When I have my turn next month, I look forward to adding some accurate insights regarding what has really been happening in Russia over recent years including 2016.”When reached for comment, a spokesman for Rep. Schiff said the congressman would not confirm or comment on upcoming witnesses. The committee has typically not announced its plans until much closer to a scheduled hearing.Page, a New York businessman who owns a consulting firm called Global Energy Capital, joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016, but after he traveled to Moscow in July to deliver a speech at the New Economic School advocating for better relations with Russia, the campaign attempted to distance their candidate from Page.In an interview with ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America in April, Page wavered on whether he discussed easing sanctions against Russia with anyone in the Russian government during that trip."Something may have come up in a conversation," Page replied. "I have no recollection, and there's nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.""Someone may have brought it up," he continued. "And if it was, it was not something I was offering or that someone was asking for." Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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