• Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Six years ago, the contested story of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Native American heritage began its rise from local newspapers to national headlines, and eventually into presidential speeches and Twitter feeds.On Wednesday, Warren raised the subject herself — not budging from the story she has relayed for years — in a surprise speech to the National Congress of American Indians.“I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here. You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe,And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career,” Warren said.The stories she grew up with are real, Warren said, which is what she has regularly said on the matter. There is no known documentation of Warren’s Native American ancestry (though somewhere in the 2012 back-and-forth a genealogist estimated Warren was 1/32 Cherokee), but the senator has steadfastly argued that she was raised on stories of Native American family members and this is what she knows to be her family's heritage.One such story is the beginning of her parents’ marriage back in Oklahoma, where she was raised. Her mother was “a beauty,” Warren said, and her father “fell head over heels in love with her.”“But my mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped,” she said.Warren has been adamant about the pride she feels to be Native American — though the topic has dogged her politically. At the event, a days-long policy summit in Washington, D.C., attended by a wide range of tribal leaders, Warren described her dedication to fight against the “country’s disrespect of Native people.”“For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials,” she said.Warren used President Donald Trump’s nickname for her, Pocahontas, as an example of the disrespect.“So I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”The president has repeatedly called Warren “Pocahontas” in campaign speeches, tweets and once when honoring Navajo WWII veterans.“She said she's Native American. And I said Pocahontas, it's Pocahontas. And somebody said to me, one of the media, Mr. Trump, would you apologize? I said yes I'll apologize, to Pocahontas I will apologize, because Pocahontas is insulted by the statement,” Trump said on the campaign trail in June of 2016.The questions began, however, four years earlier. At the time, the Republican incumbent senator of Massachusetts, Scott Brown, was up against Warren for the senate seat. He brought up Warren’s undocumented claim of Native American heritage in a debate and asserted that she’d been using it to get ahead in jobs.The main evidence of Warren’s use of her heritage was to list herself as a minority in a legal directory in the 1980s and 90s. She was later described as the only minority female faculty member at Harvard Law School in a 1996 survey report on diversity.Warren has repeatedly denied that she ever used it to advance her career. “All I can say is, I busted my tail as a teacher. I am qualified for my job," she said in 2012.On her family, Warren said, “They’re gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take
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  • Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The organization tasked with putting on President Donald Trump’s inauguration last year paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm run by an adviser and close friend of Melania Trump, according to tax filings made public Thursday.The adviser, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, created a company, WIS Media Partners based in California that handled some of the festivities throughout the days leading up to the president’s inauguration.The firm, as described by a source with knowledge of Winston-Wolkoff’s dealings, paid out contracts to other sub-contractors that were hired, used some of the funds to hire sub-contractors. But Winston-Wolkoff was paid $1.62 million directly for her work, according to the source.Winston-Wolkoff has not responded to an inquiry from ABC News. She is currently a member of the first lady’s staff.The news of the filing was first reported by the New York Times.“Mrs. Trump had no involvement with the PIC, and had no knowledge of how funds were spent,” said the first lady’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham in a statement to ABC News. The first lady’s office went on to describe Winston-Wolkoff as a “special government employee with the Office of the First Lady. She volunteers her time and receives no salary for her efforts.”According to the filing, the other top payouts went to an event production organization for $25 million, a ticketing agency tasked with creating all the tickets and invitations for the festivities that was just shy of $4 million and another nearly $4 million payment to David Monn an event planner based in New York. A source with direct knowledge said Monn was recommended to the committee by Winston-Wolkoff but was paid directly, not part of her much larger payment.The leadership of any Presidential Inauguration Committee can hire any organization at their own discretion.Other top payouts went to a second event production organization, which was paid $25 million, a ticketing agency received $4 million to design and print the tickets and invitations for the festivities, and nearly $4 million payment to David Monn, a third event planner based in New York, according to the charitable tax filing, known as a Form 990.Reached by phone, a representative for David Monn LLC declined immediate comment.The tax filing is the first time since last year’s event that there is a clearer picture of how the $107 million raised was spent for the inauguration. The inauguration committee was led by the president’s longtime friend Thomas Barrack, who the president, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge, recently approached to see if he would be inclined to be his next Chief of Staff.Barrack has said he would not take that job, according to sources.Barrack was not paid as part of his role overseeing the inaugural festivities.As part of their tax filing Thursday, the Inauguration Committee also released details of how it donated $5 million to other organizations.The break down includes:The American Red Cross (Hurricane Relief Efforts) $1,000,000Samaritan’s Purse (Hurricane Relief Efforts) $1,000,000The Salvation Army (Hurricane Relief Efforts) $1,000,000Smithsonian Institution $250,000The White House Historical Association $1,000,000Vice President’s Residence Foundation $750,000Some of these donations were already announced publicly in the wake of the multiple hurricanes last year. As part of their statement, the Inaugural Committee says they have a remaining $2.7 million which would be used for any final payments and whatever is eventually left over will also be donated to charity.
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - -Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon again refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday, spurring calls from the panel’s leading Democrat to hold him in contempt of Congress.“I think the next step for Congress to take is to initiate contempt proceedings,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters after the interview.Bannon apparently was not as tight-lipped when he also met with special counsel Robert Mueller's team this week. The former top White House aide met with Mueller’s team for 20 hours over several days, sources close to Bannon confirmed to ABC News.Former Trump legal team spokesman Mark Corallo met Thursday with Mueller's team, according to sources familiar with the meeting.While meeting with congressional investigators, Bannon, according to Schiff and Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is helping to lead the Russia investigation, would only answer questions from a list of 25 provided by the White House.“He did not answer all the questions we’d like answered,” Conaway said.Bannon, who spent roughly three hours behind closed doors, repeatedly “asserted that he had been instructed to invoke executive privilege on behalf of the president,” Schiff said.Schiff said the executive privilege claims in the congressional interview – which he said covered questions about the transition, administration, and Bannon’s post-White House activities - were “breathtaking,” “insupportable” and “at times it was laughable.”At one point, Schiff fumed, Bannon refused to discuss conversations he had after leaving the White House with “people who played no role in the administration.”“There is no plausible claim of privilege that could apply to those circumstances,” he said.Schiff called the list of questions from the White House that Bannon limited himself to answering were “self-serving” and “misleading.”“There were questions along the lines of, ‘did you meet with x?’ And because the question was written by the White House the answer was invariably 'no,'” he recalled.“When we asked the question, ‘Did you talk with x,’ the answer was 'yes.' When we asked, ‘What did they discuss?’ there was the invocation of privilege,” Schiff said.Schiff said accepting the White House’s “stonewalling” of Congress would have “deep implications” for future congressional investigations.He said Bannon did not make a case against being held in contempt to the committee, an opportunity provided to him under House rules.“I don’t know why Mr. Bannon would go along with this strategy unless this is an effort to re-ingratiate himself with the White House,” Schiff said.Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Conaway suggested he’d have to confer with House lawyers and House Speaker Paul Ryan about how to go about responding to Bannon, and potentially holding him in contempt of Congress.A key figure in the Trump campaign and West Wing until he was forced out of the administration in August, Bannon has been at odds with the House panel investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election over his testimony.He first met with the committee behind closed doors in January, when he told congressional investigators privately that the meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in June 2016 at Trump Tower was "unpatriotic," according to sources familiar with the meeting.Bannon's comments came after he attempted to distance himself from disparaging comments he made about the meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," by author Michael Wolff.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio.
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  • Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Local officials in Parkland, Florida, and their federal counterparts are grappling with Wednesday's deadly school shooting and proposing what they believe are necessary changes.Like so many prior school shootings and other mass shootings across the country, the debate over whether it is appropriate to discuss changes to gun control laws so soon after the tragedy is mixed in with grief.And like so many other mass shootings, some shift attention toward the need for mental health support and treatment to prevent actions of future would-be shooters.Here's a rundown of the split in the debate among local and federal officials who have come out of either side.Calling for gun control discussions
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  • Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has often pointed to mental illness as the underlying cause for mass shootings, but one of his earliest actions as president was to undo a regulation that would have made it more difficult for people with a known mental illness to buy guns.Nearly a year ago, on Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump signed H.J. Res. 40, effectively ending the Social Security Administration's requirement to enter the names of people who receive mental health benefits into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This is the database used by the FBI to determine who is able to purchase firearms.President Trump has addressed the nation about mass shootings four times throughout his time in office. On Thursday, President Trump tweeted that the shooter involved in Florida’s Parkland High School tragedy showed signs of being “mentally disturbed,” and urged for greater awareness for similar cases.In November, President Trump cited mental health as the reason for the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting that left 26 people dead."Mental health is your problem here. This was a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual, a lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn't a guns situation," President Trump said of the First Baptist Church shooting during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.According to estimates from the previous administration, had the Obama-era regulation gone into effect, an estimated 75,000 individuals with mental illnesses would have been added to the database. These individuals would have been notified by the Social Security Administration of their possible restrictions to buy firearms but would have the opportunity go through an appeal process.Although the rule was made effective days before Trump took office in January 2017, compliance was not required until December 2017.At the time, the optics of the bill’s signing seemed to be downplayed by the White House despite the president’s busy, public schedule that day — he addressed the Joint Session of Congress later that evening.The White House has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Defense is instating a new policy that could lead to thousands of service members, who are deemed unfit to deploy overseas, to lose their jobs, according to a U.S. defense official.Robert Wilkie, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told senators this week that on any given day, about 13 to 14 percent of the force -- about 286,000 service members -- is medically unable to deploy. The defense official estimated that the total number of non-deployable service members could be as high as 300,000.An individual can be designated non-deployable for a number of reasons, like traumatic brain injury, out of date vaccines, failing fitness tests, mental health concerns and pregnancy. Other examples include neck or back pain that prohibits the service member from wearing a helmet and body armor.Last July, Secretary of Defense James Mattis directed the office responsible for personnel and readiness to identify changes to military personnel policies that will "ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future."According to a Pentagon memo released Thursday, the new policy states that any service member (with the exception of pregnant or post-partum individuals) who has been non-deployable for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation (the process to leave the military) or referred to the Disability Evaluation System. The services have until Oct. 1 to begin the mandatory processing.Only the secretaries who head the military services will be authorized to grant waivers that would keep a service member on the payroll, although the secretary will be allowed to delegate that authority to someone else within the service's headquarters.Command Sergeant Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford, told Military Times that nearly 100,000 service members are non-deployable for easily fixable administrative issues, like not having the required dental exams, while about 116,000 are due to short or long-term injuries. About 20,000 are non-deployable due to pregnancy.“Because the more of these people we have that can’t deploy and do their mission, that means somebody else has to pull their weight for them, or we have a void or a degradation in capability, because we don’t have the requisite people," Troxell said.Secretary of the Army Mark Esper told reporters on Thursday that the new policy will help address readiness levels in the Army.He said that having more non-deployable soldiers within his ranks means that those who are able to deploy have to leave their families and serve overseas much more often -- straining the force.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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