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  • Jeff Kravitz / Contributor via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former Playboy playmate who says she had an affair with Donald Trump has publicly commented on the alleged relationship.Karen McDougal has said she had the affair with Trump beginning in June 2006, an allegation that resurfaced on Friday in Ronan Farrow's report in The New Yorker.The White House issued a statement denying The New Yorker story, saying, "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”Donald Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model reveals 'systemic' pattern of concealing stories, says Ronan FarrowThis isn't McDougal's first foray into the public eye.McDougal was a Playmate of the Month in December 1997, Playmate of the Year in 1998, and the runner-up for Playmate of the Decade for the 1990s.Health issuesMcDougal, 46, has previously addressed breast-implant illness, from which she says she has recovered.She spoke to People magazine in February 2017 about the illness, saying she got breast implants in 1996 and began suffering from poor health seven years later."I would get sick every couple of months and be sick for six to eight weeks at a time," she told People. "It just never went away."McDougal learned of breast implant illness in 2016 and had her implants removed in January 2017, she said."I noticed right away that I had no more blurry vision, I wasn’t blacking out or passing out,” she told the magazine. “I didn’t have the severe migraines, my joint pain was gone, my sound sensitivity was better.”Her public profileShe regularly shares inspirational quotes and humorous memes on her public Twitter account, using it to promote her magazine appearances.In a January post featuring an OK magazine article about her, McDougal is cited as a model and lifestyle expert and weighs in on hostess gifts for partygoers.McDougal posted a similar feature in December from Star magazine where she doled out holiday party advice.
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  • Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The head of U.S. intelligence told Congress Tuesday that Russia, just as it did in the 2016 presidential election, is determined to meddle in the 2018 midterms in order “to undermine democracy, sew discord and undermine our values.”Officials tell ABC News that the Russians plan not only to use social media to sow discord through “fake news” but are probing state election systems to see if they can be infiltrated."We’ve seen some activity (directed) at state elected officials that were attempts to electronically to search those individuals," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr told ABC News. "So we assume that there’s still the intent and we certainly know there’s the capability."Intelligence agencies are already seeing hard evidence that the Russians will perhaps act more aggressively than in 2016.“Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Throughout the entire community we have not seen any evidence of any significant change from last year.”Coats was joined by the heads of the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Asked by committee vice chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., whether they agreed that Russian activity is undiminished, all agreed with Coats. “This is not going to change or stop,” said NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers.Democrats expressed concern that President Donald Trump’s anger over the investigation into whether his campaign concluded with the Russians in 2016 will undercut the government’s ability to respond forcefully to continued Russian interference.The president, said Warner, “continues to deny the threat posed by Russia. He didn't increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn't even tweeted a single concern. This threat, I believe, demands a whole-of-government response, and that response needs to start with leadership at the top.”“All morning we've heard the story of Russia influencing our campaigns and indeed in the current campaigns for the midterms,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, before asking FBI director Chris Wray: “Has the president directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are ongoing?“We're taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt…” responded Wray.“Directed by the president?” Reed interrupted.“Not as specifically directed,” said Wray.None of the other agency heads could say that the president had directed them to counter Russian meddling, and while senators probed for a detailed plan on how to counter Russian active measures, the witnesses made clear that there is no comprehensive plan in place or being developed.“The president has made very clear we have an obligation from our perspective from the foreign intelligence perspective to do everything we can the make sure there is a deep and thorough understanding of every threat including threats from Russia,” said CIA Director Mike Pompeo.Beyond Russian election interference, the hearing detailed a series of serious threats to the United States, including North Korea’s continued drive to develop a nuclear arsenal capable of annihilating the U.S. and the possibility that Pyongyang may conduct an atmospheric nuclear detonation over the Pacific after the Olympics, and the potential threat from Chinese technology embedded in U.S. products.“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” said Coats, “under attack by entities that are using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States. From U.S. businesses, to the federal government, to stat
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  • Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(MILWAUKEE) -- One way for your parents to show they disapprove of your political aspirations is to donate - to your opponent.That's exactly what the parents of Wisconsin GOP Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson did, maxing out donations to his Democratic opponent, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, according to Federal Election Commission records.Just months after their son announced his campaign to unseat Baldwin, Donna and Mike Nicholson each gave her $2,700 - the maximum amount legally permitted per election.One person who wasn't surprised: Kevin Nicholson.“My parents have a different worldview than I do, and it is not surprising that they would support a candidate like Tammy Baldwin who shares their perspective,” Nicholson said in a statement provided to ABC News.Nicholson, a relative newcomer to Republican politics, has been open about his ideological evolution, including his upbringing in a Democratic family and even his past as president of the College Democrats of America.“I’m a conservative today not because I was born one," Nicholson said, "but because of the experience I earned as a Marine in combat, my experience as a husband and father, my choice to be a Christian, the schools I chose to attend and the decision to pursue the career that I have.”His mother, Donna Nicholson, has been just as committed to her liberal leanings, making several hundred small and mid-sized donations totaling more than $10,000 to Democratic candidates and PACs over the last 10 years.And this is not the first time she has supported Baldwin: she donated more than $400 to her between 2012 and 2016, but nowhere near the $5,400 she and her husband donated in December.Democrats tracking the race closely tell ABC News the political tension between family members – playing out on the national stage - raises questions about when and how Kevin Nicholson became a Republican and how he's connected with some of the biggest Republican mega-donors.Some Republicans have questioned Nicholson's loyalty after he was caught on tape a few months ago criticizing House Speaker Paul Ryan.Once backed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Nicholson seems to have locked up unlimited support from Richard Uihlein, the founder of Wisconsin-based shipping company Uline. He has already funneled millions of dollars into pro-Nicholson outside groups, his aggressive spending helping to make the Wisconsin Senate race one of the most expensive so far this year.Early in the election cycle, Uihlein dropped checks totaling $3.5 million to fund a pro-Nicholson super PAC called Solutions for Wisconsin. The super PAC has spent $209,056 to support Nicholson. Two other outside groups, also primarily funded by Uihlein, Americas PAC and Restoration PAC, have spent $1.9 million and $1.6 million respectively either in support of Nicholson or against Baldwin.All told, super PACs and political nonprofits have spent more than $5.7 million in the Wisconsin Senate race so far this election cycle, all of it for Nicholson's benefit.Baldwin, however, has been a prolific fundraiser in her own right. The Democratic incumbent raised a total of $2.8 million in the last quarter of 2017 and started this year with nearly seven million in her war chest. Nicholson’s campaign has only collected $801,201 during the same period, leaving him with just a little more than half a million to spend and $40,256 in debt.
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  • Richard B. Levine(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is proposing a drastic change to how millions of people in the U.S. receive food stamps by replacing cards with an equivalent cash value with a "Blue Apron-type" delivery box of food purchased by the government.Unlike Blue Apron, which includes meat and produce, the food delivery box would include only shelf-stable foods like canned goods, rice and pasta, and other processed foods. The proposal also says that all of the products will be grown or sources in the U.S. and would represent a portion of that household's food stamps allotment.USDA calls the food delivery program "America's Harvest Box."In 2017 about 42.2 million people participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more casually known as food stamps. The government paid more than $68 billion to provide benefits of an average of $125.79 per month for each person.The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the food delivery box idea internally and Office and Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a briefing Monday that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue "wanted to give it a chance.""USDA America’s Harvest Box is a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families – and all of it is home grown by American farmers and producers. It maintains the same level of food value as SNAP participants currently receive, provides states flexibility in administering the program, and is responsible to the taxpayers,” Perdue said in a statement.The 2019 budget proposal says that the box program would cut SNAP costs in half by allowing the government to buy in bulk. Over the next 10 years it says the government would spend $129 billion less on the program, citing both the savings on retail costs and declining participation in the program.Mulvaney likened the idea to a "Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash. It lowers the cost to us because we can buy prices at wholesale, whereas they have to buy it at retail. It also makes sure that they're getting nutritious food. So we're pretty excited about that. That's a tremendous cost savings."A memo on the "Harvest Box" program says it will be up to states to figure out how to distribute the boxes through existing partnerships or "directly to residences through commercial and/or retail delivery sources." The budget proposal does not include any funding for distributing the boxes.The president of Feeding America Matt Knott said food stamps are designed to be the first line of defense against hunger and that the infrastructure of food banks and other charities wouldn't be able to make up for the cuts.Cuts to food snaps and other programs like it typically face a tough fight and could be removed by the agriculture committees, who typically take up any changes to the program in the Farm Bill that is reauthorized every five years. The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees released a joint statement Monday saying that the budget will not prevent them from doing their job of producing a Farm Bill that benefits farmers, consumers, and other stakeholders.Other advocates said that the food box proposal was more of a distraction from other cuts and changes in the proposed budgets, like support for additional work requirements that could make it harder for some people to be eligible for benefits.Current USDA requirements say that able-bodied adults without children can only get three months of food stamps in three years unless they work or participate in a job training program at least 20 hours a week. USDA would likely not change that requirement but could grant states waivers to impose stricter requirements at the state level. The USDA's budget proposal says that the agency plans for 1.4 million fewer people to receive benefits in 2019."Under the guise of being "helpful," the Harvest Food Box is a sha
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  • Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after allegations of domestic abuse came to light — including stark photos of one ex-wife with a black eye and a harrowing account of violence from a second ex-wife — former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter sought to downplay the narrative, instead offering stories of household mishaps and minor squabbles to explain the women’s wounds, two sources with knowledge of his account told ABC News.Porter told senior staffers his first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, received a black eye and facial bruises during an argument as the two struggled over Venetian glass in their hotel room while on vacation in Venice in the early 2000s after they were married.He said that “[Holderness] was ready to throw glass onto the floor to smash and they both lunged for the glass and there was a struggle,” according to two people with knowledge of the account.Porter went on to say that she bruised her eye when she fell during their struggle and denied punching her. He also said that the was first time they had a physical altercation and that there were no elbows or knees involved.Holderness told the Daily Mail that he punched her in the face.In the case of the restraining order that his second ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby filed against him for allegedly breaking into their house with his fist, Porter said that he was merely tapping the glass pane with his index finger, according to the two people with knowledge of what he shared with senior staff.Porter said he and Willoughby were separated at the time. He returned to the house to collect his clothes, and while tapping the glass door pane with his index finger, his knuckle went through the glass. Porter said he went into the house to wrap up the wound but Willoughby told him to leave, and then she called the police.She said that he punched through the door with his fist, according to a criminal complaint reviewed by ABC News.Neither the White House nor Porter responded to requests for comment.The divergent tales and Porter’s own adamant denials to a group of senior staffers were part of what led the White House to initially defend him, sources told ABC News.In addition to the confusion over Porter’s accounts, there is also conflicting messaging on the actual timeline of events that led to Porter’s resignation on Wednesday.After delivering his account to senior White House staffers on Wednesday morning many of them encouraged Porter "to stay and fight," according to the source. A smaller number of those told were incredulous and thought his story wasn't believable.That afternoon White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in the White House briefing room that Porter would resign, and defended him, saying “the President and Chief of staff have had full faith in his ability and his performance.”It’s unclear if Porter’s account was shared with President Donald Trump and if that played a role in his decision to continue to defend Porter.In a tweet over the weekend the president implied the lives of the accused are being ruined, asking "is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"It remains unclear why it took more than 12 hours after the photo of Holderness with a black eye surfaced for Chief of Staff General John Kelly to release a statement condemning Porter.Both Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and legislative affairs director Marc Short seemed to provide on Sunday accounts inconsistent with the reported timeline of events that led to Porter’s resignation on Wednesday.“I think what you saw happen this week… was completely reasonable and normal,” Mulvaney told Fox News on Sunday.He claimed that Porter had initially come to both Trump and Kelly with an explanation disputing the Daily Mail’s original story detailing spousal abuse – but that “it became obvious when the photographs came
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