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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel indictments against 13 Russian nationals revealed that a key aspect of the alleged covert assault on the 2016 presidential election was an attempt to suppress turnout by African-American voters, an undertaking described in great detail in the papers filed in federal court Friday.“Of particular concern, the indictments show how the Russians tried to suppress the votes of minorities across the United States in order to help Donald Trump win the presidency,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement.The indictment describes repeated efforts to foment distrust of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, evidence of an effort to “encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.” Christopher Anders, deputy director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, said this alleged suppression of minority votes should be of grave concern to both American citizens and investigators.“Buried literally in the middle of the indictment is a paragraph that should jar every American committed to the long fight for voting rights,” Anders wrote in a statement. “The Russians allegedly masqueraded as African-American and American Muslim activists to urge minority voters to abstain from voting in the 2016 election or to vote for a third-party candidate… Both the special counsel and Congress should investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents in this alleged targeting of minority voters in 2016. Such actions, if proven, would be criminal.”According to the indictment, the alleged conspirators used an Instagram account called “Woke Blacks” to tell followers a month before the 2016 election that “we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.” Less than a week before Election Day, the accused Russians purchased Instagram advertisements on an account called “Blacktivist” that read in part: “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”In October 2017, ABC News interviewed several black activists who described efforts to recruit them that, in retrospect, they realized were tied to the Russian operation.Conrad James, an activist in Raleigh, North Carolina, says he was approached in September 2016 by a woman who claimed to represent BlackMattersUS and asked him to speak at a rally they were hosting in Charlotte. James said more than 600 people turned up.“They definitely were trying to stir-up trouble,” James said of BlackMattersUS. “Their intent was obviously to have some type of emotionally filled rally where people are adding fuel to the fire that was already happening around Charlotte.”A pair of bloggers whose social media posts and YouTube videos were pushed out from the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg troll farm named in the indictment, carried the most pointed political messages.“We, the black people, we stand in one unity” said one post, by a pair of bloggers purporting to be from Atlanta named Williams and Kalvin. “We stand in one to say that Hillary Clinton is not our candidate.”Federal officials and Facebook executives confirmed to ABC News that the William and Kalvin videos, first reported on by the Daily Beast, originated not in Atlanta, but in Russia.Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a press conference Friday that, in the end, officials do not believe the Russian operations did anything to alter the final vote tally of the presidential contest.“There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election,” Rosenstein said.White House spokesperson Raj Shah issued a statement acknowledging the Department of Justice’s findings and commending their work.“We condemn all fore
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(LEAVENWORTH, Kansas) -- A congressional hopeful in Kansas is under fire by some people for deciding to continue his raffle for a rifle to support his campaign.Tyler Tannahill, of Leavenworth, announced the AR-15 giveaway via his Twitter page on Feb. 13. However, the AR-15 is the same type of weapon that was used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.“I don’t think we have a gun problem. I think it’s a mental health issue, problem," Tannahill told ABC affiliate KMBC-TV Thursday, adding it's why the rifle raffle will continue.“We don’t support people going into schools and shooting them up. That’s absolutely not what we support. We support the Second Amendment, and your right to protect yourself, your life, your property, and your family,” he told KMBC-TV.Tannahill said the raffle is being done legally and that the winner would need to go to a gun store and pass all the legal federal background checks.Social media was mixed on his giveaway up until the Florida school shooting, which is when comments on Tannahill’s Facebook page became heated, with many people calling him out for continuing the raffle.However, there seems to still be some enthusiasm for the contest as more than 400 people have signed up for it since the announcement.Tannahill is campaigning for the Kansas second district congressional seat currently held by Republican Lynn Jenkins.
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  • Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump visited Broward Health North Hospital to meet with wounded students, their family members and the hospital medical team on Friday evening following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and 14 injured."The job they've done is incredible and I want to congratulate you," Trump said as he shook hands with Dr. Igor Nichiporenko -- a trauma surgeon.Later, Trump said he had met with some of the victims' parents and said they were in "really great shape" given the circumstances.Trump also met with first responders at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.“Thank you all very much. Fantastic job. Thank you,” he told the first responders before calling for them to get raises. "Incredible job and everybody is talking about it."The president told the officers that while at the hospital he met a female victim who had been shot four times, including in the lung. He said the first responders, by their quick actions, had saved her life.U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi were also at Trump's meeting with the officers.Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about changing the nation's gun laws, but said earlier that he is “working with Congress on many fronts” without elaboration.Sources with direct knowledge of President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida high school shooting confirm to ABC News, that the president has said on multiple occasions including Friday morning “we have to do something.”White House sources tell ABC News that it remains unclear what exactly the president wants to ultimately do, but he does want to know what options are available to the administration.Sources confirm that, since the shooting, members of the administration have reached out to survivors, relatives of victims and locally elected officials in communities that have previously faced a school shooting.Axios reported Friday White House officials were in the process of contacting individuals connected to past mass shootings such as Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, sites of some of the most deadly mass shootings in modern American history.Reached by ABC News, several families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook told ABC News Friday they have not been contacted by the Trump administration.The president tweeted Friday morning that he is “working with Congress on many fronts” but did not elaborate.Appearing on Fox News, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the administration will be looking into a host of potential policy prescriptions going forward, with “mental health and school safety at the forefront.”“The president wants to take leadership and actually fix this problem and create best practices across the country,” Shah told FOX, saying “there are a lot of specific policy proposal we'll be looking at.”Shah said there will be discussion soon with the nation’s governors at the National Governor’s Association and said that state and local leaders will be at the forefront of efforts in charting out a path for preventative next steps.President Trump has been a close ally of the National Rifle Association – securing their endorsement during the 2016 elections. Almost every day during the race Trump would talk about the second amendment.“I love the second amendment, I’m a member of the NRA my sons are members of the NRA, I’m the strongest on the second amendment.”The NRA spent $30 million in support of efforts to elect Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump was the first sitting president in decades to address the NRA's convention last year."The eight year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House," Trump told the gathering.However, Trump
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following revelations that disgraced White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter held a top security clearance even after the FBI discovered allegations of domestic abuse against him, the White House on Friday released a five-page memo from Chief of Staff John Kelly that outlines changes he plans to make to the security clearance process.Kelly acknowledged "we should -- and in the future, must -- do better," but he does not admit any personal wrongdoing.In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Kelly says going forward the FBI should hand deliver to the White House its background investigations on individuals in senior positions and "verbally brief the White House counsel on any information in those files they deem to be significantly derogatory."Kelly's memo comes in the wake of a White House scandal that called into question how security clearances are issued, and who in the White House is able to gain access to classified information without the proper clearance.Porter, who was accused of domestic violence by his two ex-wives, was able to access classified information as the President's Staff Secretary while only holding an interim clearance.Kelly's memo says that future interim clearances must be granted a temporary clearance of 180 days, with an option to extend for an additional 90 days "if no significant derogatory information that would call into question whether interim status is appropriate."It also says that individuals working under interim clearance status, as Porter did, would only be able to access highly classified information with "explicit Chief of Staff's approval, which would be granted only in the most compelling circumstances."The memo implies Kelly had no prior knowledge of the seriousness of the claims against Porter, who was handling classified documents while working closely with Trump.The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats criticized the current clearance system during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this week. "The process is broken. It needs to be reformed," said Coats. "We have situations where we need people in places but we don't have [clearance]."The White House came under fire for its response to Porter, and questions surrounding who knew what -- and when -- about Porter's health.Vice President Mike Pence admitted on Wednesday that the White House "could have handled this better.""This administration has no tolerance for domestic violence, nor should any American," Pence said.But when asked by the Wall Street Journal if the situation could have been handled better, Kelly said "No, it was all done right."The White House has not said who, if anyone, was briefed by the FBI briefed on concerns about Rob Porter. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate this week that it gave the White House four reports on Porter's background.The President has voiced frustration over the handling of domestic abuse allegations involving one of his closest aides, and even discussed possible replaces for Kelly, sources close to the president told ABC News.But for now, Kelly is focusing on future projects. Kelly's memo states that he will create a working group, made up of White House counsel Don McGahn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Wray. The working group, wrote Kelly, will study the clearance process and "modernize standards across the Executive Branch.""It is clear that new administrations will face similar challenges in the future and one of the most important things that a new White House staff must do correctly starting on Inauguration Day is to get the security clearance and suitability reviews processes right," wrote Kelly."We have a duty to the American people to ensure that, if nothing else, clearance and security protocols are passed down and become institutional knowledge of the White House."
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The reactions to the country's latest mass shooting appear to be falling along fairly familiar party lines, with a number of key Republicans saying that now is not the time to discuss any gun control reforms while some Democrats demand action.Elected Democrats aren't the only ones calling for action, however, as they're being joined by students that survived the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and others in the Parkland, Florida, community.The varying reactions started to pour in shortly after the shooting on Wednesday.Pushing back on the calls for actionEarly that evening, just hours after the attack, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Flor., was asked by a Fox News reporter if he thought it was appropriate to talk about gun control reform after the attack."It’s not, only because people don’t know how this happened... who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack," Rubio told Fox News."I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it. There may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts? I think that we can always have that debate but if you’re going to have the debate about this particular incident, you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law you claim could have prevented it," Rubio said.Later that evening, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that "there's a time" to talk about changes in the wake of horrible events but did not say specifically when that time was."There's a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding that we make sure that people are safe," Scott said Wednesday evening.Conservative blogger Tomi Lahren joined the chorus Wednesday night as well, tweeting that "the left" was being too quick to jump on the issue."Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn't about a gun it's about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting" she wrote on Twitter.The following day, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., echoed Rubio's sentiments, saying that "this is not a time to jump to some conclusion not knowing the full facts. We've got a lot more information we need to know.""This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings. We need to think less about taking sides, and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together," Ryan said on Thursday.Pleas from those connected to shootingsSen. Bill Nelson, Rubio's Democratic counterpart, has repeatedly said that "enough is enough" in the wake of the shooting in his home state.In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Nelson said that he's not alone in calling for what he calls "common sense" changes to gun laws."All of these students are speaking out so boldly, and maybe just maybe this is the turning point," he said of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have called for change.The students and their parents have made some of the most poignant pleas, including Lori Alhadeff, the mother of 14-year-old victim Alyssa."President Trump, you say 'what can you do?' You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands. Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot!" Alhadeff screamed during an interview with CNN on Thursday.Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has been outspoken in his repeated calls for increased gun control measures for years in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in his district."If you are not working today to try to fix this, to try to stop these shootings, then you're an accomplice. Those are tough words but they're true," Murphy told ABC News on Thursday.Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel spoke Thursday night at a vigil to honor the victims, and shar
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