• iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House confirmed Wednesday it is planning for a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, known as the "Gang of 8," to receive a highly-classified intelligence briefing on the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling, reversing plans to exclude Democrats altogether.ABC News first reported the plans to hold a separate briefing for Democrats, citing multiple administration and congressional sources.While details of the bipartisan meeting are still being worked out, a Republican-only briefing will go on as scheduled Thursday.“Tomorrow’s meeting will proceed as previously scheduled. A separate meeting of the bipartisan Gang of 8 with DOJ, law enforcement and intelligence officials is being planned following the Memorial Day recess,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.The briefing for the GOP lawmakers will be conducted by officials from the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence, according to the White House.The bipartisan "Gang of 8" includes the Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate as well as the respective party leaders from the House and Senate intelligence committees.The briefing comes as after the president issued a 'demand' that the Justice Department investigate unproven allegations the FBI spied on his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump and his congressional allies, led by House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif., believe secret FBI documents will shed light on those allegations.The FBI has, until now, resisted turning over the documents for fears of revealing confidential sources and methods.Trump's demands for an investigation followed media reports that said the FBI used an informant to make contact with members of his campaign, only after the agency obtained information that members of the Trump team had suspicious contacts with Russians during the 2016 election.Earlier Wednesday, the Senate's top Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer, formally requested the Justice Department include the "Gang of 8" or reconsider holding the meeting altogether.“Tomorrow’s meeting will proceed as previously scheduled. A separate meeting of the bipartisan Gang of 8 with DOJ, law enforcement and intelligence officials is being planned following the Memorial Day recess.” – Raj Shah WH Principal Deputy Press Secretary
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  • Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, spent nearly seven hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team earlier this year for a second interview, a source familiar with the meeting confirmed Wednesday to ABC News.The source added that, in the two times Kushner has met with investigators, it was in the role of witness – not as a target. The first interview, which happened in late 2017, largely dealt with Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn., according to the source.The second, which occurred in April of this year, focused on the campaign, the transition and other topics, including the circumstances of the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the source said, adding that there were no questions about Kushner’s financial dealings or his family business.The news of the Mueller interview comes as ABC News has learned Kushner has been granted a permanent security clearance on Wednesday after a lengthy review by the White House and FBI, according to a source familiar with the matter.Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, confirmed the change in Kushner's security status. This caps a nearly 18- month review of his security application, which was held up after Kushner failed to disclose contacts he had with foreign officials – including Russians – as required by law.“With respect to the news about his clearances, as we stated before, his application was properly submitted, reviewed by numerous career officials and underwent the normal process,” Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement.“Having completed all of these processes, he’s looking forward to continuing to do the work the president has asked him to do.”In February, Kushner was stripped of his temporary, high-level security clearance after White House chief of staff John Kelly imposed new rules designed to crack down on West Wing staff with long-pending background investigations, sources told ABC News at the time.Another attorney for Kushner, Jamie Gorelick, said that Kushner's security clearance form, known as an SF-86, was "prematurely submitted" and that "among other errors, [it] did not list any contacts with foreign government officials."Kushner later updated the questionnaire multiple times to account for all relevant meetings, including "over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries," Gorelick told ABC News.It was not immediately clear whether Kushner had access to some classified material in the months since his clearance was downgraded. At the time, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Kushner's downgraded clearance may still allow him access to sensitive information, but details were never clarified.
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  • Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A longtime business associate of President Trump’s former personal attorney has agreed to cooperate with the government as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors in New York, a source familiar with the agreement told ABC News.Evgeny Friedman, 46, a Russian immigrant known as the “Taxi King,” was chief executive of Taxiclub Management Inc. which managed a fleet of more than 800 cabs, including some controlled by Cohen and his wife. He was accused of failing to pay the state $5 million in surcharges on taxi rides and pleaded guilty in Albany County to a single count of tax fraud.“The Taxi King admitted that he built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers,” New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood said. “Friedman pocketed money that should have provided much-needed investment in our transit system and he’ll now have to pay back every cent.”His plea deal, announced Tuesday, requires Friedman to assist federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York who have been investigating Cohen’s business practices and hush payments to women, the source said, as well as paying the $5 million owed to the state. Friedman was facing what would have amounted to a life sentence, the source said, but if he satisfies the terms of the agreement, he will receive just five years of probation.In a statement to ABC News, Friedman expressed regret for his actions and sought to distance Cohen, who he described as a “dear, dear personal friend” from the scandal.“I plead guilty to a felony, I am humbled and shamed!” Friedman said. “This is me taking responsibility for my actions! … Michael is a dear, dear personal friend and a passive client! That's it! This is a very difficult day for myself and my family! I had been an officer of the court in excess of 20 years and now I am a felon! I hate that I have been grouped in this runaway train that I am not a part of!”While prosecutors declined to discuss with ABC News how Friedman is prepared to assist them in the criminal investigation of Cohen, they typically know in advance what a potential witness could offer in exchange for a reduced sentence. There is no specific mention of cooperation in a transcript of the plea hearing obtained by ABC News, but prosecutor Ben Clark mentioned “other factors known to the AG” in outlining the terms of the agreement.“The Attorney General's office agrees that if the defendant fulfills these conditions, and taking into account all other factors known to the AG at the time of sentencing, we would recommend that he would receive a sentence of 5 years’ probation.”Later in the hearing the judge warned that a violation of the agreement by Friedman would likely lead to a prison sentence of up to 3 to 9 years.Legal experts agree that the terms of the deal appear to be very favorable for Friedman, suggesting that he agreed to provide something of significant value to prosecutors.Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said the terms of the deal appear to signify a substantial level of cooperation.“A no jail time deal like this strongly suggests a level of cooperation significant enough to incriminate other significant subjects,” he said. “And those who are prosecuted under New York State law, cannot be saved by a Presidential pardon.”Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, described it as a “very good deal” for Friedman that could prove a major headache for both Cohen and Trump.“This defendant [Friedman] could potentially have a seismic impact on the president’s case because he is a direct threat to Michael Cohen, who is direct threat to the president,” he said.Michael Volkov, a defense attorney at The Volkov Law Group, sounded a grim note on Cohen’s legal prospects afte
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  • Twitter(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump can't block people from his Twitter account because they disagree with his political views, saying such action violates the First Amendment.U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University."This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, 'block' a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States," the judge wrote in her ruling."The answer to both questions is no."There was no immediate response from the White House on the ruling.The Knight First Amendment Institute filed the lawsuit in July 2017 on behalf of seven people who had been blocked from the president's @realDonaldTrump Twitter account after they had individually "tweeted messages critical of the President or his policies in reply to tweets from @realDonaldTrump."The suit also named as defendants Daniel Scavino, the White House director of social media and assistant to the president; White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.In her ruling, the judge said Sanders and Hicks were no longer defendants in the suit.Since being blocked, the plaintiffs were unable to see the president's tweets, which include policy proposals and cabinet appointments. The blocked individuals have had to use workarounds or go through third-party accounts to view the president's tweets, according to the lawsuit."These limitations are cognizable injuries-in-fact," the lawsuit contended. "The individual plaintiffs' ability to communicate using Twitter has been encumbered by these limitations (regardless of whether they are harms cognizable under the First Amendment)," according to the suit.In her ruling, Buchwald rejected arguments from the president's lawyers "that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the president's personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs."Buchwald issued a "declaratory judgment" on behalf of the plaintiff, specifically stating that "the blocking of the individual plaintiffs from the @realdonaldtrump account because of their expressed political views violates the First Amendment" and writing, "no government official -- including the President -- is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared."“We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform,” Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, said in a statement. “The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end.”
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  • Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has formally denied allegations made by a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who is suing him for defamation.Trump's legal team submitted its answer to the lawsuit filed in New York by Summer Zervos, who appeared on the reality show in 2005.The president denied he subjected Zervos to unwanted advances and denied claims that he "debased and denigrated" her by making false statements on the campaign trail.Zervos alleged he defamed her after she came forward in the waning weeks of the campaign with allegations that Trump had groped and kissed her a decade ago without consent.Trump has sought, so far unsuccessfully, to freeze the case while he tries to have it dismissed. His attorney, Marc Kasowitz, has signaled his intent to appeal to the state’s highest court but, in the meantime, was obligated to issue a formal response to the allegations."We look forward to proving that his denials are baseless,” Mariann Wang, Zervos’ attorney, said in a statement.The only assertion in the lawsuit Trump admits to: “In July 2016, Mr. Trump was selected as the presidential nominee for the Republican Party.”Judge Jennifer Schecter is allowing the case to move forward despite Trump’s pursuit of an appeal, raising the prospect that both the president and his campaign will be required to respond to discovery requests and, possibly, depositions.The Trump campaign is currently facing a deadline of Tuesday to respond to a wide-ranging subpoena from Zervos’ lawyers, seeking documents and records related to Zervos and to all the other women who made allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump prior to the election.Kasowitz filed a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals earlier this week. Trump’s side has maintained -- despite the setbacks thus far -- that Trump is immune, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, from lawsuits in state court while he is serving as president of the United States.
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  • Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the June meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward as scheduled, despite growing concerns among White House officials and the president that the North Koreans could scuttle the summit.Those concerns, according to a senior White House official, began about two weeks ago when a North Korean delegation failed to show up at a planning meeting for the summit with U.S. officials.Though, according to the official, the U.S. will be sending a delegation back to Singapore later this week for yet another sit-down.In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, Secretary Pompeo said the summit is "still scheduled for June 12th," and put the burden on North Korea to show tangible steps towards ridding the country of its nuclear weapons before the U.S. makes any concessions."Our eyes are wide open to the lessons of history, but we're optimistic that we can achieve an outcome that will be great for the world," Pompeo said. "Our posture will not change until we see credible steps taken toward the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."Pompeo's remarks came just a day after President Trump seemed to open the door to incremental concessions to North Korea in the event it started taking steps to denuclearize, appearing to back away from a demand that it happen immediately and completely."All in one would be nice, I can tell you," Trump said. "I'm not going to go beyond that. It would certainly be better if it were all in one. Does it have to be? I don’t think I want to totally commit myself."In the same set of remarks, Trump also tempered expectations for the summit happening on its previously announced date, even as the White House said it continues to move forward as if it's on schedule."So there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's okay," Trump said alongside South Korean President Moon in the Oval Office Tuesday. "That doesn’t mean it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12th."
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