• Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen raised eyebrows Tuesday when she told reporters on Capitol Hill that she is "not aware" of a conclusion by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.Nielsen's statement appeared to directly contradict the findings of a 2017 intelligence assessment on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election that concluded Putin was interested in hurting Clinton's chances and later helping those of Donald Trump.She made the remarks in response to a reporter's question after holding a classified meeting on 2018 election security with members of the House of Representatives.Asked if she had any reason to doubt Vladimir Putin tried to help President Trump win, Nielsen answered she was "not aware" of the conclusion that Putin's "specific intent was to help President Trump win."A spokesman for Nielsen later said told ABC News that Nielsen has been consistent in her support of the intelligence community findings on Russian meddling and that she was simply taking issue with the premise of the question."The Secretary agrees with that [intelligence] assessment, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a statement to ABC News. "But the question asked by the reporter did not reflect the specific language in the assessment itself, so the Secretary correctly stated she had not seen the conclusion as characterized by the reporter."A declassified version of the January 2017 report, "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections," found that Russia's goals "were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency." The report also says clearly that, as the influence campaign evolved, "Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."It does not say, however, that Putin's aim was to help Trump from the outset but instead says at that point, the Russians were intent on hurting Clinton. Therefore, Nielsen may have simply been taking issue with the reporter's question, without saying so directly.But given a chance to clarify her remark moments later, she would not directly answer whether she believed Putin ever tried to help Donald Trump, which the intelligence assessment clearly says he eventually did."I do believe that Russia did and will continue to try to manipulate Americans' perspective on a whole variety of issues," Nielsen said.President Trump has always expressed disdain for any suggestion that Vladimir Putin helped him get elected. He calls accusations of campaign collusion an "excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election."Nevertheless, the intelligence assessment was clear on the point that, eventually, Putin's aim was to help Trump. "We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him," the assessment read.Last week, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said, "the Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton."However, Republicans on the deeply divided House Intelligence Committee recently broke with the assessment of their counterparts in the Senate as well as the intelligence community, issuing a report late last month that concluded Putin did not favor a particular candidate.
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  • Education Images/UIG via Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- The hair stylist who claims Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens used partially nude photos of her to blackmail her into keeping quiet about their love affair told a St. Louis TV station, "I'm not lying."In her first media interview, the woman told NBC affiliate KSDK-TV that she regrets having the brief fling with Greitens and wishes she could apologize to the Republican governor's wife."I'm in the middle of the most difficult, crazy fight that I didn't ask to be a part of," she said. "And I feel like I'm this easy punching bag, yet I haven't thrown any punches."I didn't want this," said the woman, who was only identified in court filings by her initials as K.S. and declined to show her face on camera. "I wasn't out to get anyone. I really was just trying to live my life."Greitens, the married father of two young children, has admitted to having a consensual sexual relationship with the woman in 2015, months before he successfully ran for governor on a platform of family values. He has adamantly rejected any criminal wrongdoing, denying his accuser's allegation that he surreptitiously took cellphone photos of her blindfolded and partially nude during a rendezvous in the basement of his home on March 21, 2015."There's no blackmail. The mistake I made was I engaged in a consensual relationship with a woman who wasn't my wife. It is a mistake that I'm deeply sorry for. Sorry to Sheena, my boys and everybody who relied on us," Greitens said in a January interview with Fox affiliate KTVI-TV.Greitens' former mistress said the governor's denials about parts of their relationship prompted her to speak out."The second that he denied the things that were the most hurtful, that were the most hurtful for me to now have to relive, I just realized: now I have this decision," the woman told KSDK. "The only ethical thing I felt that I could do was to tell the truth."While the compromising photos have never surfaced, Greitens had been scheduled to go on trial this month on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from the allegations. The case against Greitens was dropped May 14 by St. Louis prosecutors.A special prosecutor was appointed this week to determine if the case should be re-filed against Greitens, a former Navy SEAL.The woman's affair with Greitens was first publicly exposed by her ex-husband, who secretly recorded her admitting to the affair.Earlier this year, she testified behind closed doors to the Missouri House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight. The committee released excerpts of her testimony this month and said she was a credible witness.In her testimony, she claimed that Greitens blindfolded her and bound her hands to pull-up rings before he allegedly ripped open her shirt and pulled her pants down. She claimed she then heard what sounded like a picture being taken.She testified that Greitens later told her, "Don't even mention my name to anybody at all because if you do, I'm going to take these pictures, and I'm going to put them everywhere I can."In the interview with KSDK, she stood by her story.“Yes, I do stand by them. They were hard to talk about. Really, really, really hard to talk about, but I absolutely stand by it,” she said. "I have no ill intention, other than not being made to be a liar. I'm not lying. This was hard. It was hard at the time, it's hard to talk about now. I'm not lying. That's it. I want to move on. I want to heal."She said her one big regret is that she hurt Greitens' wife, Sheena Greitens."I would absolutely apologize," she said when asked what she would say if she could speak to the governor's wife. "I shouldn't have been involved with him. I shouldn't have gone into her home. I know that."Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Lucy McBath for Congress(NEW YORK) -- As the nation watched Friday's high school shooting unfold in Texas – the sixth since the attack in Parkland, Fla. – Lucy McBath was on the campaign trail in Georgia.She knew what the parents were going through.“I was just as angry and devastated on Friday with Santa Fe as I was for Parkland because Jordan was the same age as all these children that have been gunned down,” she said.Her son Jordan was 17 when he was shot and killed in 2012 by a stranger at a gas station.Now, McBath is part of a growing movement: parents who've lost a child to gun violence running for office.“I never expected this to happen but I know that in light of all my experiences, to not to do anything is a tragedy in itself,” McBath said in an interview with ABC News.McBath, a former flight attendant and spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, is running for Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.She was originally running for state House but she switched to run for U.S. House in March, after the Parkland shooting.That deadly shooting inspired others to run as well, including two parents whose teenage daughters were killed at the Florida high school and are now running for seats on their county’s school board.“I’m sure you'll continue to see more parents like myself who are losing their children standing up. It's just going to happen,” McBath said.If Georgia’s 6th district sounds familiar, that’s because a special election there last year was widely reported on and viewed as a barometer of public opinion on President Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton nearly turned the district blue in 2016, losing by less than two percentage points to Trump in a district that hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in Congress since 1979.Democratic hopes were defeated by Republican Rep. Karen Handel, who beat opponent Jon Ossoff and made history by becoming Georgia’s first ever woman to represent the state in Congress. Since that June 2017 special election, however, Democratic enthusiasm has led to pickups in states like Pennsylvania and Alabama.“We know the eyes and ears of the nation are here, we’re really trying to make sure that democracy works here in our state and make sure that it works for everybody,” McBath said. “At least I am,” the candidate added with a laugh.McBath will face three other Democratic candidates on Tuesday: former TV news anchor Bobby Kaple, businessman Kevin Abel and management consultant Steve Knight Griffin. Kaple, who had $290,000 in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period, has the endorsement of Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, and numerous prominent Democrats in the state.McBath finished the pre-primary reporting period with about $69,000 in the bank but recently received a donation a large $540,000 donation from Everytown for Gun Violence for television ads.Georgia is a red state, which makes it a tough for a candidate running on a platform of stricter gun control.But Georgia is also a state that faces more firearms deaths than the national average. In 2016, 1,571 people died in Georgia from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — bringing the rate of deaths to 15 per every 100,000 residents. The national average in 2016 was 11.8 per 100,000 population.But McBath is adamant that she is not an anti-gun candidate. According to her campaign, McBath wants background checks for all gun sales, the defeat of conceal carry reciprocity, a higher minimum age of purchase and laws that ban domestic abusers and criminals from buying guns.“The thing about it is that I'm not against guns. I’m not against the Second Amendment. I’m not against law-abiding gun owners and hunters owning their guns,” she said.What she is against, she said, is people who “want to use their guns in a
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is forcefully pushing back on a report that asserts that President Donald Trump’s cell phones are not equipped with sufficiently advanced security features and that the president has resisted efforts to swap out the phones as frequently as they should be.“The White House is confident in the security protocols in place for the President’s use of communications devices,” a senior White House official told ABC News.POLITICO reported Monday that the president has resisted efforts to swap out his phone on a monthly basis because it was inconvenient. While the White House declined to say exactly how frequently the president’s devices are rotated, citing security concerns, the senior official stressed that the process is routine and regular.“The president has accepted every device and process related to mobile phones recommended by White House Information Technology,” the official said.The president uses at least two separate devices at any given time, according to the White House, with one device being used specifically for Twitter and a separate device used for making calls.“The call-capable phones are seamlessly swapped out on a regular basis through routine support operations,” said the official, who noted that the phone used for tweeting does not have to be swapped out with as much frequency as the phone for calls.“Because of the security controls of the Twitter phone and the Twitter account, it does not necessitate regular change out,” the official said.The POLITICO report further asserted that the president’s cell phone security procedures are a break from the protocols followed by his predecessors. But a White House official insisted that, due to the fast-paced evolution in cell phone technology and security, comparisons can’t be fairly drawn between President Trump’s phone security protocols and those utilized during the Obama-era.“Due to inherent capabilities and advancement in technologies, these devices are more secure than any Obama era devices,” the official said.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats could ask the Department of Justice to prosecute Blackwater founder Erik Prince on charges he misled Congress about his relationship with the Trump campaign, amid new reports about foreign efforts to influence the campaign, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Monday In an interview with ABC News.Schiff said Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are weighing whether to send criminal referrals to the Justice Department for several witnesses they believe lied in testimony in the panel’s Russia investigation.“We are in the process of doing our research into how we ought to handle the situation when we’re concerned people testified falsely to the committee,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in an interview to ABC News, adding that criminal referrals could “potentially” be one way Democrats handle the issue.Prince arranged and attended an August 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., an adviser to the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and an Israeli social media specialist who had an offer to help the Trump campaign, according to a New York Times report confirmed by ABC News.Two sources familiar with the meeting told ABC News that Prince arranged the Trump Tower huddle just weeks before Election Day. A spokesman for Prince, who is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' brother. declined to comment on the meeting.Prince, speaking to the committee behind closed doors in November of 2017, told lawmakers he had only met Trump Jr. "at a campaign event" during the election, and “played no official, or, really, unofficial role” with the Trump campaign, according to a transcript released by the committee.“If the allegations are true that there was this second Trump Tower meeting that Erik Prince participated in, then clearly he wasn’t forthcoming with our committee,” Schiff said.Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who led the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, declined to comment on questions about Prince’s testimony and said he wasn’t familiar with reports of the August 2016 Trump Tower meeting.This isn't the first time Prince's testimony to Congress has been questioned: Previously, special counsel Robert Mueller obtained evidence that Prince's January 2017 meeting with a Russian financier in the Seychelles was more than the casual encounter over drinks he described to lawmakers, sources told ABC News.Prince told congressional investigators he didn’t travel to the Seychelles “to meet any Russian guy” and testified that his trip was there for a meeting with officials from the United Arab Emirates about future business opportunities.George Nader, a well-connected Lebanese-American businessman, has told Mueller’s investigators that he set up Prince’s meeting with Kiril Dmitriev, the CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, and briefed Prince on Dmitriev in New York City before Prince traveled to Africa for the meeting, sources familiar with the investigation said.“If the previous allegations that George Nader set up the meeting in the Seychelles for the purpose of Prince meeting with this Russian banker, if those allegations are true then clearly Prince testified falsely before our committee,” Schiff said.Republicans have already issued criminal referrals to DOJ for Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey and former British spy Christopher Steele, among others associated with the presidential campaign and Russia probe.Even if Democrats decide to ask DOJ to prosecute witnesses -- lying to Congress is a federal crime that comes with up to five years in prison -- the department isn’t required to take up a referral. Anyone can make a criminal referral, but the decision to launch an investigation still rests with federal prosecutors.But the Justice Department has prosecuted individuals for allegedly lyin
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Democratic Party is still getting its footing this primary season in its quest to capitalize on a favorable political environment and retake the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and governorships across the country this November.When voters in Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia and Texas head to the polls Tuesday, some of the more contentious battles Democrats have been fighting this year will finally be settled. The results will provide insights into a key debate within the Democratic Party as the midterms draw near: should the focus be on inspiring the base or winning over independents?Expensive and high-profile primaries for U.S. House seats have been raging from suburban Houston to central Kentucky to the same Georgia district where Democrats narrowly failed to flip the seat that once belonged to President Trump's former Secretary of Health and Human Services -- Tom Price.In Texas, runoff elections for a number of competitive U.S. House seats will be settled, including in the three GOP-held congressional districts Hillary Clinton captured in the 2016 presidential election. Observers will likely keep the closest eye on Texas' 7th Congressional District -- where Democrats Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Laura Moser will square off one last time in a race marred by clumsy meddling by the campaign arm of national Democrats.Also in Georgia, a state national Democrats have been trying to turn blue on the presidential level in recent years, the gubernatorial race highlights tensions in both parties, with Democrats divided between two women with the same first name and Republicans grappling with ultra-conservative candidates talking up their conservative credentials and undying loyalty to President Trump. With crowded primaries aplenty, many races in the state are expected to move to runoff elections in July.Here is a closer look at some of Tuesday's key races.A messy Democratic primary in suburban Houston comes to a headAll eyes were on TX-07 in the state’s March primary and the outcome of the runoff will continue to be a crucial barometer of the sentiments of Democratic voters. In Houston’s 7th Congressional District, Democrats are hoping to flip a House seat the GOP has held for 50 years in a district that is at the center of immigration, changing demographics and hurricane reconstruction. It’s one of three districts that Clinton marginally won in the 2016 election which has led it to be a top target amongst the Democratic party.TX-07 Two democrats – former journalist Laura Moser and lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher – will go head to head in the May runoff in hopes of unseating Rep. John Culberson, who is running for re-election.This district made national headlines when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee came out against Moser, a progressive candidate from its own party. In the organization's website post, Moser was described as a “Washington insider who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress.”The organization also cited an article in which she reportedly stated she would rather have her teeth pulled out without anesthesia than live in Texas, a comment Moser says was taken out of context. Despite the attacks, Moser advanced in the runoffs.“In an electorate where many people were voting as much to cast a vote against President Trump as to choose a nominee, Moser served as a great vehicle for that protest,” Rice political science professor Mark Jones said. This race exemplifies “the growing civil war within the Democratic party nationally,” Jones explained.Since then, it seems the DCCC has quieted its attacks.“It seemed to many voters here, both Fletcher and Moser supporters that it was unjustified,” Stein said.While the organization has identified the district as competitive they have not backed a specific candidate in its “Red to Blue” program which sets out to arm candidates with organizational and f
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