• ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has promised to help cover the mounting legal costs for White House staff members caught up in the investigations of Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, a White House official told ABC News.The official's account confirmed a report on Saturday by Axios that Trump has promised to help White House staff members pay legal costs connected with the probe of Russia's alleged election meddling and of any possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.The news of Trump's offer comes a few weeks after it was disclosed that the Republican National Committee spent about $430,000 in August covering legal costs for President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. in connection to the Russia probe.The RNC spent more than $230,000 in August on the president's legal costs in the matter. The committee also paid nearly $200,000 on legal fees for Trump Jr.
    Read more...
  • Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images(COLLEGE STATION, Texas) -- President Donald Trump will appear via video message on Saturday night at a hurricane relief concert in a Texas college town, where five former U.S. presidents will be in attendance, the White House confirmed.Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush are coming together for the "One America Appeal" concert at Texas A&M University's Reed Arena in College Station to raise money for relief efforts from the recent hurricane devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.The concert features country music band Alabama, Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams as well as Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.Trump has taped a video message to be played at the fundraising event.
    Read more...
  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Amber Gustafson, a mother of three, launched her campaign for the Iowa State Senate the day after the Las Vegas gun massacre.She had been planning the event for weeks, so despite the terrible news and the calls she got from friends and fellow gun-safety activists all night, she did not consider postponing. The tragedy, in fact, underscored the reason she had gotten involved in politics.The time for fighting from the outside had passed, Gustafson believed.After spending years lobbying lawmakers to pass gun control solutions, she now wants to be the one in office.Gustafson is one of a growing number of gun control activists, mostly women, seeking elected office next year, especially at the state and local level.An increasingly powerful grassroots groupThe trend is a perhaps a sign of a changing conversation nationwide over gun safety, but is also clearly the result of the work of an increasingly powerful grassroots lobbying group: Moms Demand Action. The organization has encouraged its volunteers to not only petition lawmakers, but run themselves.Moms Demand Action was founded in 2012 after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 young children and six adults. Over just the past three years, it has grown from 4,500 active volunteers to nearly 70,000, with chapters in every state."For nearly five years, Moms Demand Action volunteers have been working in statehouses to demand that more is done to prevent gun violence," the group's founder, Shannon Watts, told ABC News. "I couldn't be more proud of the volunteers who are now determined to run for their statehouses, school boards and city councils to ensure constituents’ voices are louder than gun lobbyists.”She added, “Women hold just a fraction of elected positions in America, yet we are the majority of voters."Other gun control activists have noticed a change too.“I definitely see a huge surge of candidates who want to run on this issue, candidates who want to make it a key part of their primary, who are trying to tell voters that being a gun violence prevention champion is a central issue of their campaign,” said Isabelle James, the political director at Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, an organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband. Giffords was shot in the head in 2011 while meeting with constituents in Arizona.From unspeakable loss to speaking outLucia McBath said people had been telling her to run for office for years.She became a gun control activist after her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida, by a man who had complained about the loud rap music coming from the car carrying the teen and his friends.A flight attendant at the time of her son's murder, McBath started speaking out on gun-violence prevention and eventually joined the staff of Moms Demand Action as a national spokeswomen for the organization. This year, she decided it was time to run for office herself, and she is now candidate to represent a district in the Atlanta area in the Georgia House of Representatives.“It became clearer to me that maybe only way we were going to be able to change what was happening in the country was to get in on the inside,” she told ABC News. “Yes, I have been helping to building this huge external movement around the nation. Yes, that’s fine and dandy, but if we cannot get gun control champions on the inside … then it is going to take much, much longer for us to beat the goliath of the NRA gun lobby.”McBath said her son, Jordan, would have loved the idea.“He would be the one pushing me, 'Go get them,'” she said. “I learned how to champion other people through my child. … I have to be able to carry out his legacy.”A need for people who will 'talk to both sides'Gustafson, who lives in Ankeny, Iowa, on the outskirts of Des Moines, s
    Read more...
  • Central Press/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump said he will allow the release of long-classified CIA and FBI documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.The thousands of documents are set for release by the National Archives on Oct. 26, but it has been unclear if President Trump would block their release on the basis of national security concerns.The president tweeted Saturday morning that he will allow the release "subject to the release of further information." It's not clear what information he referred to.Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.
    Read more...
  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- After meeting separately with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, both Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain said the military should do more to keep members of Congress aware of its counterterrorism operations around the world.Sen. Graham told reporters that one of the open questions surrounding the ambush in Niger, which killed four Americans, is whether it was the result of an intelligence failure.“It’s too early to say. That’s exactly the questions we should be asking ourselves. In war you fail, you make mistakes and the whole goal is to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them.”Graham said Sen. McCain will likely hold a hearing on the operation, and the strategy more broadly, next week. A spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee did not comment.Graham also said the military will likely change its rules of engagement in Africa, and anywhere else they need to be changed, so that forces can hit targets based on their status – for example, a member of the Taliban or ISIS – versus their conduct.That will likely prompt a debate in Congress over the broader counterterrorism strategy and the need for an updated Authorization for the Use of Military Force or "AUMF" – a debate which certain members have called for repeatedly over the years but which has largely been stagnant.Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will testify at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the current AUMF next week.“The many questions surrounding the death of American servicemembers in Niger show the urgent need to have a public discussion about the current extent of our military operations around the world,” Sen. Tim Kaine, a longtime proponent of an updated AUMF, said in a statement.The counterterrorism fight is going to shift to Africa more and more, Graham said.“You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less. You’re going to see more aggression by the United States towards our enemies, not less. You're going to have decisions being made not at the White House but in the field. And I support that entire construct.”McCain met separately with Mattis, and after the meeting, with the secretary at his side, McCain said he and Mattis talked about the need for his committee to receive more information about the Niger ambush."I felt that we were not getting sufficient amount of information and we are clearing a lot of that up," McCain said.Mattis added, "We can do better at communication. We can always improve on communication and that's exactly what we'll do.Ahead of his meeting with McCain, Mattis was asked if the threat of the subpoena prompted him to meet with the senator. "Are you kidding me?" Mattis said to the reporter.Mattis said the president is "kept fully informed' on the Niger ambush, but declined to say how often he is briefed about the timeline.
    Read more...
  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials have violated federal record-keeping laws by not promptly forwarding private emails to public accounts, a top House Democrat said Friday.In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said White House lawyers told committee staff that "several White House employees came forward and 'confessed' that they failed to forward official records from their personal email accounts to their governmental email accounts within 20 days, as the Presidential Records Act requires.""However, the White House officials refused to identify these employees," Cummings wrote. "When asked whether Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner complied with the Presidential Records Act, these White House officials replied, 'You should talk to Mr. Kushner’s counsel about that.'"It's unclear whether the White House employees ever forwarded their personal emails to their governmental email accounts.The Maryland Democrat is pressuring the chairman to push the White House to turn over documents on the use of private email in the West Wing, after reports that at least six senior officials, including President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, have used private email while working at the White House.Cummings has also asked Gowdy to allow a committee vote on a subpoena to the White House for email documents and information.The White House declined to identify any of the individuals to the committee while the White House counsel's office continues to review private email use internally, Cummings said.Several White House aides did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment on Cummings's account of the briefing.In a statement, Gowdy pushed back on Cummings's description of the White House briefing, saying "allegations that we have completed our engagement with the White House on this issue are absurd.""The Democrats assertion that the White House has not cooperated is false. Our investigation into private email use for official business is government-wide and not about one entity. The Committee has been looking at the use of private email for years. I’m glad my Democrat colleagues now acknowledge the severity of the issue. The White House provided a briefing this week to share specific details on all of our outstanding questions and committed to follow up at the conclusion of an ongoing investigation," he said.Gowdy also said he spoke with a cabinet-level official to "ensure their full compliance" in the investigation of private email use at the White House and all federal agencies."We need the documents -- not the drama," he said.Gowdy sent letters to the White House and federal agencies Friday afternoon urging cooperation with the panel's investigation into private email use. The White House committed to following up with the panel's initial request for information following the internal review of staff email practices, he indicated in his letter.While it is not illegal for West Wing employees to use private email, White House officials are required to forward any official business done on private email accounts to their government email accounts within 20 days, under the Presidential Records Act.
    Read more...