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rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate overwhelmingly cleared a measure Wednesday that would send emergency humanitarian relief to the southern border but is markedly different from a bill passed by the House -- leaving lawmakers little time to reconcile their bills before they leave town on Thursday for the July Fourth recess.

The final vote in the Senate was 84-8.

Late Tuesday night, the House voted mostly along party lines to approve a $4.5 billion measure that addresses conditions of detention centers where migrant children are being held. The White House has vowed to veto this version.

“They had to drag their bill way to the left to earn the support of most Democrats. As a result the House has not made much progress toward actually making a law. Just more ‘Resistance theater.’ The Senate has a better and more bipartisan way forward," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

The Senate’s version doesn’t go as far in laying out clear standards on detention centers and how children must be treated. It also calls for $145 million to go to the Pentagon to aid with border control, which House Democrats are not likely to support.

“This is a solid bill. It provides the resources needed to address the crisis we face. It contains no poison pills, and it is poised to pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support, unlike the version that came out of the House last night,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement.

Identical legislation must pass both chambers before the president can sign a bill into law.

But on Wednesday, there was a glimmer of hope. The president, speaking on the South Lawn, told reporters that he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the border bill and acknowledged that “we are moving along very well with a bipartisan bill in the Senate.”

“It's very far along and I believe the House is going to also be getting together with the Senate,” Trump said. “Hopefully they can get something done.”

He added: “I think that a lot of people are starting to realize that I was right when I said we have a crisis of the border.”

Several lawmakers on Wednesday expressed their frustrations regarding the treatment of children at the southern border after a photo of a deceased father and daughter drowned while crossing the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, Texas, was published. Authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S.

“It's terrible. We need to stop people from taking this journey and try to make life better in their home countries. We need to turn off the flow and turn on the aid to Central America,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters on Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called out Trump for failing to address the crisis at the border.

“The president's actions at the border are a whirlwind of incompetence leading to pictures like this,” he said.

“So President Trump, if you want to know the real reason there's chaos at the border, look in the mirror,” Schumer said. “The president continues to blame Democrats, but the real problem is the president.”

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Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday attacked Robert Mueller hours after word came that the former special counsel had agreed to testify before Congress in public on July 17.

Trump once again labeled Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt" and a "hoax" and accused him of illegally handling the derogatory text messages exchanged between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, saying Mueller had "terminated" the messages, calling that "illegal."

"That's a crime," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo.

Trump has argued the point before in attacking Mueller, including in a tweet dating back to December 2018.

Mueller was "obviously not a Trump fan," the president said.

Later Wednesday, as he left the White House for the G-20 summit in Japan, Trump once again lashed out at Mueller agreeing to Democrats' demands he testify .

"There was no collusion, no obstruction, no nothing. How many times do have to hear it? It never ends. He keeps going on and on. I've been going through this for two and a half years. The criminal activity was on the other side. With the fake dossier, the phony fraudulent dossier, and all the other things ... this is a disgraceful thing," he told reporters.

"I heard about it last night, and I just said, "Does it ever end? At what point does it end?" It's a disgrace. No obstruction, no collusion," Trump said.

ABC News' Chief Washington Correspondent Terry Moran asked the president if he would try to block Mueller from testifying.

"I don't know anything about it, I just heard," Trump responded. "And my only response to Mueller is, does it ever stop? After all of these years, time and people, does it ever stop? And the Democrats use it to try and divert from what they have, because what they've done -- if you look and you see, and it's just my opinion, tremendous criminal activity on their side. And they know it, and this is the diversion. But I ask you this -- does it ever stop?"

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- It's a single, haunting photograph that tells a horrible story, and almost 2,000 miles away, and may have a critical impact on the deadlocked immigration debate in Washington.

The father is seen lying face down in Rio Grande river near Brownsville, Texas -- his 23-month old daughter's arm around his neck -- both dead after authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico into the U.S.

Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez had reportedly ferried his daughter, Valeria, to the U.S. side of the river first before returning for her mother, Tania Vanessa Avalos. But Valeria apparently jumped in after him, and when he tried to rescue her, both were swept away by the current.

The New York Times put the photo on its front page, one of many newspapers around the nation to do so.

The top Senate Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday morning next to a poster-sized version of the photo, saying migrants such as the father and daughter were trying to escape brutality, starvation and threats of rape and murder in their home countries.

"Any normal person would flee," he said.

"We all -- Democrats, Republicans, Americans -- have a responsibility to act here," Schumer said, as the Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday on emergency border funding, including money at detention centers where reports say children have been mistreated.

Across the Capitol, a similar sentiment came from the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, at a hearing on what to do about the immigration crisis.

"I realize tragedies occur in this country -- all over the world. I don't want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border,” said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. “I hope that picture alone with catalyze this Congress, this Senate, this committee to do something.”

The photos also show the child's mother pointing out to Mexican authorities where she said her husband and daughter were swept away by the current hundreds of yards from where they had tried to cross.

The image of the dead father and daughter, and other photos, were captured by journalist Julia Le Duc.

The photograph has drawn swift and impassioned attention around the world to the desperate conditions that migrants can face both in their home countries and during their efforts to reach the U.S.

“The deaths of Oscar and Valeria represent a failure to address the violence and desperation pushing people to take journeys of danger for the prospect of a life in safety and dignity,” the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is compounded by the absence of safe pathways for people to seek protection, leaving people with no other choice than to risk their lives.”

In a tweet, Mexico's former ambassador the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, said, “This tragedy is what happens when you try to enforce your way out of a #migration crisis. And in the end, the only winners will be the human smugglers and traffickers.”

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liveslow/iStock(MIAMI) -- The first Democratic debates are here, and the 2020 contenders are converging on two stages in Miami -- the site of the first debates on Wednesday and Thursday -- in the crucial battleground state of Florida.

In the initial months of the campaign season, the presidential hopefuls have been looking to break out from the sprawling field. Now, 20 Democrats are seeking to use the early introduction to Democratic primary voters, beyond the coffee shops and house parties in the early nominating states, to reset the playing field.

The debates will take place over two nights and air on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo beginning at 9 EDT.

The first debates might usher in a breakout performance or a disappointing one, but it will also give candidates their first opportunity to show their differences and pitch their wide array of policy prescriptions to the major issues like climate change, gun control, health care, foreign policy, immigration and criminal justice reform, that have been percolating in the Democratic primary so far.

The first 10 candidates set to square off on Wednesday are:

  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  • Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

On Wednesday night, standing at the center podiums will be Warren and O'Rourke. The Massachusetts senator, currently a top-tier candidate after narrowing the gap between former Vice President Joe Biden in recent polls, will have the chance to set the tone against some of the more moderate candidates -- Klobuchar, Delaney and Ryan -- with her progressive agenda stacked with detailed policy proposals.

For O'Rourke, the debate is an opportunity to recapture the prominence and spectacle that surrounded his entry into the contest back in March -- and amass enough traction to put him among the higher polling candidates before the second debate in July.

For Booker, who arrives in Miami after last week's clash with Biden over his rival repeating a refrain of praise for segregationist senators at a fundraiser, the pressure is on to overcome lagging poll numbers that put him in the middle of the field. He has spent the early days of the week doing push-ups, drinking "lots" of LaCroix, and eating some popcorn to prepare for the big night.

"Debate prep is serious and one should take it seriously, but you also have to have moments where you can take a break, reset, get back in it," a campaign aide told ABC News.

For Delaney, who has been prepping in part by watching the crowded Republican debates in 2016, his campaign team said the goal is to "make a little bit of a splash and see what happens."

"Wednesday night is going to be a dog fight, let's not kid ourselves," said national press secretary Michael Hopkins. "We're going to try to be the adults in the room and be more about substance than about flash."

Inslee arrived in Miami early to meet with and learn from folks on the ground and on the front lines of climate change.

"Our focus is largely on the governor presenting his message, and I think there are two things that set him apart -- he's the only candidate who's saying climate change needs to be the No. 1 priority," Inslee's communications director Jared Leopold told ABC News.

On night two, although it won't be Biden clashing with Booker, he will be standing alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as they are expected to bump elbows to woo the Democratic base and establish their front-runner status.


As candidates finish final preps for the opening night of the first debates, the brewing fight in Washington over immigration and the human toll on migrant children and families is looming over Miami.

Before taking the first stage Wednesday, some 2020 Democrats are shifting their attention to a local temporary shelter for thousands of unaccompanied children in Homestead, FL -- a backdrop to condemn President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Warren appeared at the shelter earlier Wednesday and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is planning to head there in the afternoon, alongside protesters who are gathered outside the facility, including actress Alyssa Milano.

"I think it’s very important to shine a light on what’s happening here and continue to beat the drum and use my platform to educate and empower people," Milano told ABC News.

The two presidential candidates from Texas, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro are expected to visit on Thursday and Friday. California Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, are also expected to stop at the center on Friday, according to their campaigns.

A day before the first debate, NBC announced that each night will be split into five segments with four commercial breaks over the two hours. Throughout each segment, candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups, according to NBC.

In order to qualify for the debates in June and July, candidates must earn at least 1 percent support in three separate national or early-state polls conducted from Jan. 1 to two weeks before the given debate, or receive donations from at least 65,000 people across 20 different states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state. The number of debate participants has been capped at 20 by the Democratic National Committee.

There are three declared candidates who will not appear on either stage, after failing to meet the DNC's qualification standards for the first debate: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have subpoenaed former special counsel Robert Mueller for his testimony before Congress, according to a press release issued Tuesday evening.

"Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence tonight, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has agreed to testify before both committees on July 17 in open session," according to the release.

Mueller is expected to sit before both committees in two separate open hearings on July 17, according to congressional aides, with the possibility that some testimony will occur in closed session.

"We are pleased that the American people will hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "The Mueller Report revealed that the Russians waged a 'sweeping and systematic' attack on our elections, and America's top intelligence and law enforcement officials have warned that the Russians will attack our elections again."

She added that members of Congress must honor their oath and follow the facts to "protect our democracy."

Mueller broke a nearly two-year silence when he made a brief public statement at the Department of Justice in late May.

During his comments, Mueller said he had no further plans to speak publicly on matters that were addressed in his over 400-page report.

"The report is my testimony," Mueller said.

In response to the news of Mueller's upcoming testimony before Congress, President Donald Trump's lead attorney Jay Sekulow told ABC News, "Bob Mueller agreed to testify. He already said his testimony will be his report. We expect his testimony will be the report."

He added that he also expects Mueller to have to respond to any irregularities that occurred during his investigation.

Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report on April 2018. The report found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but declined to make a prosecutorial decision on whether the president obstructed justice during the course of the 22-month-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The release of the redacted report elicited near-immediate calls from Democrats, who called for a release of the unredacted documents. Members of the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have called for the full report to be shared with Congress.

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uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The House voted 230 to 195, mostly down party lines, late Tuesday night to approve a $4.5 billion measure to send humanitarian relief to the southern border, addressing concerns about conditions of detention centers where migrant children are being held.

But before any migrants realize the benefits of the package, Republicans and President Donald Trump must also act -- and so far the road ahead seems bumpy.

The White House has vowed to veto this version, and the Senate must pass a bill next -- whether it’s their version or the House’s -- before the president can sign anything into law.

Three Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and just four Democrats opposed the vote -- they were all freshmen Democrats, and arguably the highest profile freshmen from the 116th Congress: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. All four said earlier in the week they would vote against the bill due to its funding of Immigration and Customs (ICE), which they have called for to be abolished.

Crossing the aisle to vote in favor were Republican moderate Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd, of Texas, and Chris Smith, of New Jersey.

The House goes on recess for 11 days on Thursday afternoon, so time is running short on lawmakers hoping for a bipartisan compromise.

The Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday on its own version, but identical legislation must pass both chambers before the president can sign a bill into law.

The House vote comes as the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has told employees he is resigning from the agency and CBP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Tuesday denied the allegations of mistreatment of children at the centers but said an internal investigation was underway.

"When we go to the floor, you will see our bill," Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC News. "It’s for the children, the children, the children. It’s about lifting them up in a way that takes them beyond what we do today. This is a very strong step for us, a very strong first step for us for the children. It’s very exciting."

Trump expressed optimism that lawmakers would meet his $4.5 billion request for humanitarian assistance, even though the White House has signaled he would veto the House Democrats' version.

"Hopefully we're getting funding today. It's a humane bill. It's about humanity, helping children," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon. "Mexico is doing much more for us than the Democrats and Congress. So it's a real simple thing to do. They just refuse to do it. I think we should probably be successful with humanitarian aid. It's going to have a big impact."

Pelosi has had to deal with Ocasio-Cortez and some other Democrats who were opposing the bill, wanting more specific language mandating how children should be treated and more restrictions on how the Trump administration can use the money to implement its immigration policies.

The bill addresses the immediate controversy by appropriating $934.5 million for processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items, blankets, medical services, and safe transportation.

Early Tuesday morning, the White House issued a veto threat asserting the House legislation "contains a number of problematic policy provisions that would hinder the Administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws and protect children."

"The House majority has put forward a partisan bill that underfunds necessary accounts and seeks to take advantage of the current crisis by inserting policy provisions that would make our country less safe," a White House statement noted. "By opposing detention beds—where illegal migrants are placed pending their removal—Democrat lawmakers are declaring their belief that illegal immigrants, including those who skip court hearings or commit additional crimes, should be allowed to remain in our country indefinitely."

The Senate could vote on its own version of a border supplemental Tuesday, increasing pressure on Democrats to successfully clear their version, which has created some divisions within the Democratic Caucus, putting its passage in jeopardy.

"The Senate has a good bill. Our bill is much better. But if we are going to prevail we have to have a good, strong vote. You can find fault with any bill that comes down the pike, but we must respect the bill for what is does rather criticize it for what it does not," Pelosi told her caucus during a meeting Tuesday morning, according to a senior aide in the room. "A vote against this bill is a vote for Donald Trump and his inhumane, outside-the-circle of civilized attitude toward the children."

Monday night, Ocasio-Cortez, the New York freshman, and other Democrats dissatisfied with the bill huddled in Pelosi’s office, deliberating over plans to put their version of the $4.5 billion border aid package on the floor Tuesday.

Ocasio-Cortez expressed frustration that Republicans aren’t facing greater pressure and criticism over conditions at the detention centers, vowing to oppose the measure brought forward by party leaders.

"I will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics," she said.

On Monday night, Pelosi expressed a desire to further enhance protections for children in the bill, leaving Democrats scrambling to incorporate the proposals in an amendment ahead of a vote Tuesday.

After speaking to Pelosi on Friday night, Trump delayed mass deportation raids for two weeks, pressuring Congress to pass an immigration bill.

Democrats concede a comprehensive immigration bill is not possible to craft before Trump’s deadline, and Pelosi said the bill that came to a vote on Tuesday "isn’t an immigration bill."

"It’s not an immigration bill. It’s an appropriations bill to meet the needs of our children so we can remove the needs that they have but also the shame that we should have that they don’t have diapers and toothbrushes and the care," she said. "I said to the members, we have to have a country where every child knows that they are in their parents’ arms. Literally or figuratively. We are the arms of these children in terms of this appropriation is concerned. We want them to feel that comfort."

"I’m very proud of our members," Pelosi said. "So much work has gone into it to have a back and forth so we have the strongest possible bill. But again, it’s not an immigration bill. It is an appropriations bill to meet the needs of the children."

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Scott Heins/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Tiffany Cabán, the progressive public defender whose bid to become Queens district attorney was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, declared victory in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, though results of the New York race are not expected to be finalized for several days.

Just after midnight, with 98.58 percent of precincts reporting, Cabán held a lead of 1.27 percentage points, or 1,090 votes, over Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in the six-way race.

"When we started this thing, they said I was too young. They said I didn't look like a district attorney," Cabán told a jubilant crowd of supporters. "They said we could not build a movement from the grassroots. They said we could not win. But we did it, y'all."

But Katz had a different message for her supporters.

"We are doing a recount," Katz said, according to the New York Daily News.

Rory Lancman, who dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Katz, still received 1,168 votes -- less than the difference between Katz and Cabán.

The race was vaulted to national prominence last week, when Cabán announced the endorsements of Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., liberal icons who are also rivals in the 2020 race. Ocasio-Cortez threw her support behind Cabán in May and on Sunday she headlined a rally for Cabán in Queens.

The primary comes almost a year after Ocasio-Cortez blindsided the political world in a stunning defeat of Democratic heavyweight Joe Crowley, the longtime congressman seen as a potential successor to now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Katz drew support from the same broad coalition as Crowley.

If Cabán wins, she would become the youngest and by far the most progressive New York district attorney in memory.

"This race is going to have an immediate and profound effect on the lives of the 2.3 million people in Queens, but I also do see it as having a big national impact," Cabán told ABC News in an interview last week. "There's a real opportunity to be a model for what criminal justice reform looks like, especially in larger urban areas."

The population of Queens is more than 15 U.S. states (New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming).

Cabán was hailed by Warren and Ocasio-Cortez after her apparent victory Tuesday night.

"Tiffany Cabán took on virtually the entire political establishment and built a grassroots movement," Sanders wrote on Twitter. "This is a victory for working people everywhere who are fighting for real political change and demanding we end cash bail, mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs."

"I am so incredibly proud of @CabanForQueens -- and EVERY single person who showed up for this election today," Ocasio-Cortez, who represents part of Queens, said on Twitter. "No matter how this ends, you all have stunned NY politics tonight."

"When people come together, we can beat big money in elections. People power is no fluke," Ocasio-Cortez continued.

The winner will be the first new face in the DA's office in decades. Richard Brown, who became Queens DA in 1991, died in office last month, shortly after announcing that he would not seek another term. The Democrat who prevails will be the overwhelming favorite to win in the general election on Nov. 5 in heavily Democratic Queens.

Brown presented himself as a “law and order” prosecutor, and he presided over a historic drop in crime during his time in office. But critics say that his methods fueled the mass incarceration of minority New Yorkers and wreaked havoc in Queens' poorest neighborhoods.

Cabán introduced herself to voters as a "queer, Latina career public defender," and vowed to be a "decarceral" prosecutor -- reversing large-scale incarceration. She offered a long list of offenses that her office would decline to prosecute, including subway fare evasion, marijuana possession, sex work and resisting arrest when there is no other underlying crime.

Katz campaigned as the more moderate choice, casting herself as both a reformer and a steady hand with deep ties across the borough.

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adamkaz/iStock(MIAMI) -- With the first primary debates set to kick off Wednesday in Miami, the Democratic candidates have been preparing to make their case to the American people for why they -- and not one of the other 19 debating over two nights -- should be the person to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

The candidates, however, won't have much time on stage to pitch their campaign. According to NBC, the network hosting the first debates along with MSNBC and Telemundo, each two-hour televised night will be separated into five segments with four commercial breaks. Candidates will only have one minute to respond to questions and just 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups. The candidates also will have an opportunity to give closing remarks, but there will be no opening statements.

"It's going to be really hard for some people who aren't equipped with the ability to edit ... it's really hard for a politician to give any kind of answer in one-minute increments," former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., told ABC News in a phone interview.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who started preparing within the last two weeks, said the short time limit is his "biggest challenge" as he prepares to take the stage on Wednesday.

"For me, it's really trying to condense everything … into one minute. I mean, it's literally going to be speed dating with the American people," Ryan told CNN Tuesday. "So within one minute, you've got to leave some impression with them about who you are, where you come from and what you stand for."

This may be an opportunity for a candidate like Ryan, who's lower polling average landed him on the outskirts of the debate stage, to have a breakout moment.

"There’s so many opportunities for the candidates who are not polling as well," Democratic strategist and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a phone interview. "It’s an opportunity for them to say, 'Hey, what about me?'"

"The people who are always going to benefit the most from this, regardless of format, are going to be the people who you don't know," Heitkamp said, adding that the candidates with the greatest name recognition -- former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders -- have the most to lose during the debates.

"People have an expectation of them," she said. "You always want a lower expectation. People that people have high expectations of, I think, have the most to risk."

Biden has been preparing for weeks by reading briefing books and participating in rehearsals, people familiar with his preparations told The New York Times.

ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd said Biden is under the most pressure, a point Heitkamp echoed, telling ABC News that the highest expectations are going to be for the former vice president.

Sanders told CNN that he's been "studying the issues" and trying to hone how to contrast his vision with his competitors on stage Thursday night, but said he won't "get into personal controversy and gossip."

"We are going to be debating the real issues facing the American people," he added.

Brazile said the challenge for Sanders will be whether he can again be "the Bernie" of the 2020 race, a reference to how he shook the establishment during his 2016 presidential run.

"He was the one who essentially got Democrats on their feet by challenging the party from the outside in," she said. "Does he still have enough fuel in his tank to be the sort of outsider, insider establishment candidate?"

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been preparing by holding mock debates with his team, communications director Jared Leopold told ABC News. He started preparing in April.

"This debate prep is unlike any other that he or anyone else has ever done," Leopold said, referencing the sheer number of candidates on stage with him. "Rather than focus on a lot of back and forth (between the candidates), our focus is largely on the governor presenting his message."

Leopold added that the rapid-fire format of the debates due to the number of candidates running is part of the reason Inslee has been calling on the DNC to hold a debate specifically on climate change, the signature issue of the governor's campaign.

"There's a lot that needs to be discussed with climate change that can't be solved -- can't be answered in-depth in 30 seconds, 60 seconds," he said.

Dowd said Warren, the highest-polling candidate on stage Wednesday night, could stand to benefit by not sharing a stage with most of the other early front-runners -- Biden, Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Standing next to Biden and Sanders could work for Buttigieg, as the two candidates are about twice his age.

"It shows the Democratic party is looking ahead and not just looking back," Dowd added.

The 37-year-old mayor told supporters at a private fundraiser in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Friday that he's excited for the debate, and while it's important to win "it's also really important for us to recognize that the way to win is not to try so hard to play it safe that we inspire nobody."

Dowd said the question over the two nights will be whether the "dominant players" can continue their momentum, or gain even more, and whether some of the lower polling candidates, noting California Rep. Eric Swalwell and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker "can get some footing."

A campaign aide for Booker, who will be next to Warren on the first night, told ABC News that Booker isn't looking for a "breakout moment" during the debate, but rather wants to introduce himself to a national audience. The aide said Booker, whose debate prep rituals include doing push-ups, eating popcorn and drinking "lots" of LaCroix, wants to reiterate his larger campaign message and push some of the details of his policy proposals, like his plan to grant clemency to more than 17,000 nonviolent drug offenders by executive action.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, however, is hoping to "make a little bit of a splash," Michael Hopkins, his national press secretary, told ABC News.

Delaney, who will debate on the first night, has been preparing by watching the crowded Republican primary debates of the 2016 election. He plans to "be more about substance than about flash," Hopkins said, but also will hit Booker and Warren over their support for Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan.

Dowd said the debates in June and July are the "group stage" and the candidates need to be focused on getting to the "knockout stage," which he said starts with ABC's September debates, which have stricter qualifying guidelines.

"The candidates that are polling at 1 or 2% have to figure out a way" to get to those debates, Dowd said. "Can they get themselves to September? I think that's got to be their whole goal."

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who also takes the stage Wednesday night, is one of those candidates. His national press secretary Sawyer Hackett told ABC News that Castro, who he said is preparing by drawing on his experience speaking at events that feature multiple 2020 competitors, sees this debate as a chance to "lay out his vision for the future of the country, to talk about his experience ... and his accomplishments."

"The debates present a new opportunity to reach a new audience of people that maybe haven’t heard about him before, or maybe haven’t considered him as an option and in their consideration of who they vote for," Sawyer said.

"Many (candidates) will have to use this as an introduction… or a reintroduction," Brazile told ABC News.

She said that voters, many of whom "are not ready to get hitched," will be looking for a candidate "who can pick up passengers."

"This is a shopping spree, and Democrats are still shopping around for a leader, not just to take on the current incumbent, but also a leader who can help seize the future," she said.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose central campaign promise is establishing a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for Americans over the age of 18, told ABC News in South Carolina last weekend that he's been preparing by focusing on his message as most Americans are still learning who is vying for the nomination.

"What you're going to have to watch for is is someone like Yang going to be adept enough at pivoting back to his major theme," Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp had a warning for the Democratic candidates: Don't go after each other.

"I honestly think that that would be the worst mistake ... someone could make," she said, telling ABC News she has been traveling around the country speaking to Democratic voters and they don't have an appetite for infighting. "They want to see ideas."

It may be hard to shy away from taking on the current occupant of the White House, however.

"Mentioning Trump’s name will resonate, but ... these Democratic candidates recognize that they’re not just speaking to the base" but to Independents and disaffected Republicans, too.

While Brazile said she hopes the night isn't all about President Donald Trump, Heitkamp said going after the president could be a way for lower-polling candidates to "make a mark" -- as long as the delivery is there.

She said the candidates may not have really thought about the potential for Trump to respond via his favorite platform, Twitter.

"One of the best things that you can do to elevate your position in the Democratic Party is to incur the wrath of the president," she said.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- Vice President Mike Pence helped roll out the Trump campaign’s first 2020 coalition in Miami on Tuesday, less than 10 miles away from where Democrats are set to take the stage for their first primary debate a day later.

During the around 45-minute speech kicking off the new effort aimed at turning out Latino voters, the vice president was clearly in campaign mode, often making the event feel like a mini Trump rally -- "lock her up" and "build the wall" chants and all. The event took place at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport & Convention Center, with a few hundred people in attendance.

According to campaign aides, the "Latinos for Trump" roll out in Miami is part of the reelection campaign's counter programming strategy ahead of the this week's first Democratic debates with a goal of getting the vice president on the ground early in the Sunshine State to paint the Democrats as far-left radicals.

During his speech, Pence offered an early rebuttal to the 20 Democrats who will have two nights all to themselves starting Wednesday night, often pegging the entire group as radicals who want to bring socialism to the country, while shying away from naming or singling out any individual candidate by name.

"Democrats are going to gather here in Miami tomorrow night to begin to make their case to the American people. I mean they're gonna take they're going to take the stage," Pence said.

"They're actually going to take the stage and advocate more taxes, more regulation -- something called Medicare for All," Pence told the receptive crowd. "I think you all know what Medicare for All really means is quality health care for none. ... Latino Americans know better than most about the cost of socialism."

While Pence didn’t name any 2020 Democrat directly, taking a page out of the president’s reelection speech, he did make a passing reference to former Vice President Joe Biden’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment.

"It's amazing to think we live in a time when Democrats running for president are out there advocating late term abortion and defending and now probably tomorrow night you're gonna see there's now seems to be even a litmus test in the democratic campaign for president, that the taxpayer funding of abortion I guess is now required for all of their candidates to be supported throughout pregnancy," the vice president said, seemingly alluding to 2020 Democratic front-runner Biden's recent reversal on the Hyde Amendment.

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Tom Brenner/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ground Zero recovery workers and activists had a "great" meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Tuesday afternoon, following a public feud over the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

"It was productive," longtime activist John Feal told reporters outside the Capitol, following the meeting with McConnell.

"For now, we're going to put down our swords and pick up our rakes," Feal said.

After the meeting, McConnell told ABC News that he had a "good" meeting with the activists.

Earlier this month, comedian Jon Stewart made an emotional appeal to Congress to make the victim compensation fund permanent. With first responders and their advocates behind him, Stewart ripped Congress for failing to fully fund the program.

"They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!" he shouted.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which Stewart and others have battled to protect for years, is set to run out of money in December 2020.

Two weeks ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in support of refunding the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which was created to provide compensation to anyone who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.

Stewart has called out McConnell on several occasions for his inaction in the past regarding the bill.

Stewart promised in his testimony before Congress that he and other advocates wouldn't allow a "certain someone" in the Senate to use the program as a "political football" in spending negotiations, referring to McConnell.

McConnell retaliated on "Fox and Friends" saying he didn't know why Stewart was "bent out of shape," and denied that he was moving slowly on the issue. He also said the extension would pass when it came up for renewal.

Feal says the meeting with McConnell Tuesday was "laid back" and relaxed -- adding that in previous years -- meetings with McConnell and his staff were "heated" and "emotional."

"We covered every issue that we thought we could cover," Feal said. "He actually sat for this one. The other ones he was quick to get up and leave his staff with us."

Feal told reporters that they secured a commitment from McConnell to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in the Senate sometime in August, which is sooner than they expected. It is expected to clear the House in July, Feal said.

"Today Mitch McConnell promised to work for us. I'm going to take him for his word," Feal said Tuesday.

Feal said they left McConnell with a badge belonging to retired New York Police detective Luis Alvarez as a reminder of the losses they have suffered. Alvarez, who testified with Stewart earlier this month, is not expected to live long after a battle with Stage 4 cancer. He was diagnosed 16 years after he rushed to Ground Zero after the twin towers collapsed.

"We wanted the Senate majority leader to be reminded of people like Detective Luis Alvarez," Feal said.

"So he's got his badge now. If he strays from his commitment, then we'll go back into attack mode."

Asked about the badge he received, McConnell told ABC News, "It was a great gift, and I really appreciated it."

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wingedwolf/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement's acting head, Mark Morgan, has been tapped to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection, following John Sanders' resignation from the position, a government official told ABC News.

The change in leadership comes as CBP faces new round of scrutiny regarding the conditions at certain Border Protection facilities where children are being held and new allegations that children are being neglected while in the agency's custody at these locations.

Sanders made his announcement in an email to CBP employees, which was obtained by ABC News on Tuesday. His departure follows allegations made by independent inspectors who claimed migrant children were being kept at border stations with deplorable conditions, including a facility that one doctor compared to "torture facilities."

CBP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Tuesday, denied allegations of mistreatment at Border Patrol facilities, but said an internal investigation was underway. Two other administration officials said Sanders' resignation was not tied to the recent allegations of neglect at one facility in Clint, Texas.

ABC News previously reported that physician Dolly Lucio Sevier, who was granted access to the largest CBP detention center in the country in McAllen, Texas, described the facility as having "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water or adequate food."

In an earlier interview with ABC News, Lucio Sevier said the facility "felt worse than jail."

"It just felt, you know, lawless," she said. "I mean, imagine your own children there. I can't imagine my child being there and not being broken."

At a separate facility in Clint, Texas, lawyers said the conditions were just as bad.

Warren Binford is a law professor at Willamette University who interviewed children at the facility and said that there were infants and toddlers sleeping on concrete floors, as well as older children having to care for younger children -- a feat, he said, they were not equipped to do, ABC News has previously reported.

CBP officials told reporters on Tuesday that they had not seen evidence of neglect or abuse at the Clint facility and had returned 100 children to the center after being moved out.

When asked on the call if there was any concern about moving the children back to a facility that had allegations of mistreatment, one CBP official said they were "not concerned" because "a full investigation will be completed."

"And frankly, as I said earlier, I personally don't believe these allegations," the official told reporters.

But Lucio Sevier, told ABC News that she stands by her comments and that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection "cannot deny the deplorable conditions."

"I stand by what I said," she said.

That includes that the children in these holding facilities aren't getting access to soap, toothbrushes and showering only once every week to three weeks. The children were "dirty," she said. "I stand by everything."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, CBP officials told reporters that they were not short on items such as toothbrushes and that children were given snacks and juice on demand. They have refused news organizations access to the facilities, however, saying the officials there are too busy trying to process the children and find places for them at more long-term shelters.

Sanders has served as acting commissioner since April and is the chief operating officer of the agency. Sanders previously worked as the chief technology officer for the Transportation Security Administration, according to CBP, and has "more than 30 years of national security experience."

When he was tapped to serve as acting commissioner, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan called Sanders "instrumental" to the agency.

"In addition to bringing greater focus on the agency's operational requirements, he has provided strategic direction and oversight to critical enterprise services and operations support functions across the agency. With John Sanders' leadership, CBP will continue to excel, remain ever vigilant, and accomplish the mission with steadfast resolve," McAleenan said at the time.

In his message, Sanders said he told acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan his resignation was effective July 5.

"In that letter, I quoted a wise man who said to me, 'each man will judge their success by their own metrics,'" he wrote to employees. "Although I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful, I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career."

He later added, "Don't underestimate the power of momentum as you continue to tackle some of this country's most difficult challenges."

Morgan previously served chief of Border Patrol with CBP before he began his role with ICE.

In an interview earlier this year with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, Morgan said that he had been to detention facilities "where I've walked up to these individuals that are so-called minors, 17 or under, and I've looked them, and I've looked at their eyes, Tucker, and I've said, 'That is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.' It's unequivocal."

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is accused of allegedly using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, allegedly tapped into some of that money to also finance romantic trysts with multiple congressional aides and lobbyists, according to federal prosecutors in new court filings.

In documents filed Monday, federal prosecutors detailed allegations against Hunter, saying that he used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for alcohol, romantic getaways to Lake Tahoe, golf outings and Uber rides to carry out "a series of intimate relationships" with individuals identified as numbers 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

In one instance, prosecutors said Hunter and "Individual 14" spent a January 2010 weekend together at a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, skiing and ordering room service. When the weekend ended, court documents allege, Hunter paid the $1,008 hotel tab using campaign funds from his campaign credit card.

Prosecutors said that at that time, Hunter's personal bank accounts "had a negative balance," suggesting that "he could not have paid for the weekend without dipping into campaign funds."

"Hunter's intimate relationships furnished part of his motive to embezzle from the campaign," court documents said. "Carrying out all these affairs did not come cheap...Given the pronounced financial difficulties the Hunters were facing, his use of campaign funds to pursue these relationships was necessary for Hunter to satisfy his desire for intimacy."

In an August 2018 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a lawyer for Hunter accused the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California of political bias against the representative, writing: "While there may be evidence of infidelity, irresponsibility or alcohol dependence, once properly understood, the underlying facts do not equate to criminal activity; these allegations are, however, intended to embarrass and humiliate the congressman shortly before a crucial election and also alienate him from his wife."

The accusations revealed Monday came just days after the Rep. Hunter’s wife, who also faces charges that she used hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign donations along with Duncan Hunter to pay for personal expenses, changed her plea with the court.

On Thursday, Margaret Hunter, who worked as her husband's campaign manager, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in exchange for her testimony and cooperation with prosecutors -- possibly setting the stage for her testify against her spouse.

Margaret Hunter had initially pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday, Duncan Hunter said the indictment was meant to inflict "as much political damage as possible."

"It was politically motivated at the beginning, it remains politically motivated now," he told the AP.

In August 2018, both Duncan Hunter and Margaret Hunter were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on charges that they converted more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, and filed false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission.

The 48-page indictment alleges that the Hunters illegally used campaign money to pay for expenses that they could not otherwise afford from 2009 through 2016. The purchases allegedly included family vacations to Italy, Hawaii, Phoenix and Boise, Idaho; school tuition; dental work; theater tickets; and domestic and international travel for almost a dozen relatives.

The Hunters also allegedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on smaller purchases, including fast food, movie tickets, golf outings, video games, coffee, groceries, home utilities and expensive meals, according to the indictment.

To allegedly conceal their personal spending, the Hunters mischaracterized the purchases in FEC filings as "campaign travel," "dinner with volunteers/contributors," "toy drives," "teacher/parent and supporter events," and other false descriptions, according to the indictment.

The House Ethics Committee was investigating allegations of Hunter's improper use of campaign funds, but announced in March 2018 that it would continue to defer to the Department of Justice investigation.

Duncan Hunter has maintained in the past that he was not aware of the improper spending, and that he'd repaid his campaign committee roughly $60,000 to cover the expenses.

A plainspoken former Marine, Duncan Hunter has served in Congress since 2009, after replacing his father who was retiring, former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter. He was one of the first lawmakers to endorse President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

His trial is scheduled for Sept. 10.

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Rep. Duncan Hunter accused of using campaign funds to lead 'series of intimate relationships' outside his marriage

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MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened Iran with "great and overwhelming force" and potential "obliteration" in some areas if it attacks "anything American" after Iranian leaders said the White House "is afflicted by mental retardation" and they are permanently closing doors to diplomacy in the wake of U.S. sanctions.

Trump called statements made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and a spokesperson for Iran's foreign minister "ignorant and insulting," and then -- after brandishing U.S. military power -- issued a stark threat: "Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas,

The president said Iranian leadership doesn't "understand the words "nice" or "compassion." "Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world," he added.

"Whatever they want to do, I'm ready," Trump said at an afternoon photo-op. "We cannot allow Iran to have a path to nuclear weapons," he said, after saying he's "not going to need an exit strategy."

Last week, Trump pulled back on a military strike against Iran for shooting down an American surveillance drone, saying he would impose more sanctions, which he announced on Monday, including ones targeting Iran's supreme leader and other top officials in the the Iranian regime.

The president's tweets came hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a medical conference that the United States' sanctions against Iran are a "failure," and said "the White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do."

 Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted that the sanctions against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif means a "permanent closure of diplomacy." The president signed sanctions against Iranian leaders on Monday in the Oval Office, and the president said he planned to sanction Zarif by the end of the week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the sanctions target Khamenei and Iranian military leaders who were connected to the downing of a U.S. military drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week and people connected to the recent attack on oil tankers in the region.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said that he spoke to the president before the tweets were sent out. "He asked me to get the message out," Bolton said.

 But at a news conference in Israel on Tuesday, Bolton said that despite the sanctions, the United States still welcomes negotiations with Iran if they plan to "completely and verifiably" eliminate its nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile systems and support for terror networks.

"All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door," Bolton said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during an unannounced visit to Kabul, Afghanistan called the comments from President Rouhani "immature and childlike."

"But know that the United States will remain steadfast in undertaking the actions that the president laid out in his strategy to create stability throughout the Middle East, which includes the campaign we have, the economic campaign, the pressure campaign that we have on the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

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TriggerPhoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Several major federal agencies, which collect vast amounts of personal data about American citizens, as part of their work have routinely failed to adequately protect that information for years, according to a congressional report.

"After a decade of negligence, our federal agencies have failed at implementing basic cybersecurity practices, leaving classified, personal and sensitive information unsafe and vulnerable to theft," Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations, said in a statement. "The federal government can and must do a better job of shoring up our defenses against the rising cybersecurity threats."

The report, published Tuesday, is based on a review of past inspector general reports at eight major U.S. federal departments: Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education and the Social Security Administration.

It said that the number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies have grown substantially over the last decade to more then 35,000 reported incidents in 2017 -- including the massive breach of personal information of federal workers in 2015 from the Office of Personnel Management.

But based on the IG reports, congressional researchers found the agencies still "currently fail to comply with basic cybersecurity standards," including leaving systems unpatched and relying far too much on "legacy" systems -- both of which create potential openings for hackers to slip in and steal Americans' data.

In the case of the Department of Education, which the report says collects financial data on students and parents applying for college loans, an inspector general report said that the agency has been unable, since 2011, to "prevent unauthorized outside devices from easily connecting to the agency's network."

The Department of Housing and Urban Development keeps prospective homeowners' financial records for loan considerations, but it "does not have a mature process for monitoring network and web application data exfiltration," the report said, which could compromise access to personal information.

The Department of Homeland Security, which maintains travel records for U.S. citizens traveling to and from abroad and whose mission includes protecting the U.S. from cyberattacks, "[f]or the last ten fiscal years […] failed to appropriately remediate cyber vulnerabilities by ensuring security patches were properly applied," the report said.

Representatives for the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report. In response to a 2018 DHS inspector general report that also criticized the DHS's cybersecurity practices, DHS management said "corrective actions" were underway.

"While some federal agencies appear to have made progress in recent years, this report makes it clear that there is still much work to be done," subcommittee Ranking Member Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said. "But we know that the threats posed by cyber-attacks continue to evolve and grow every day, so it is crucial that agencies across our government prioritize efforts to better protect their networks from hackers."

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Bet_Noire/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Melania Trump announced on Twitter on Tuesday that outgoing press secretary Sarah Sanders will be replaced by her communications director, Stephanie Grisham.

Grisham will serve as both press secretary and Communications Director.

@FLOTUS: I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 - @POTUS & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse. #BeBest

 

I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 - @potus & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse. #BeBest

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 25, 2019

 

Grisham is President Trump's third press secretary after Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders, who announced last week she would be departing at the end of the month to spend more time with her young family in Arkansas.

In a tweet, Sanders said Grisham "will be an incredible asset to the President and the country.

"I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy to leave our team in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job. Proud to have another mom and a great friend in this role."

Grisham, a single mother of two boys, is one of the longest-serving members of the Trump administration, and began as a campaign aide in 2015. As communications director and deputy chief of staff for the first lady, Grisham developed a reputation for making statements with statements.

After President Trump tweeted MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was "bleeding badly" from a face-lift, Grisham responded on behalf of the first lady by stating, "When her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”

In an unusual move, after then-deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel tangled with the East Wing ahead of the first lady's solo trip to Africa, Grisham issued a statement calling for her to be removed from her role. "It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”

And of course, there was the jacket that read "I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” the first lady wore on a trip to visit migrant children held in detention centers. When asked by ABC News about why she wore the jacket, Grisham replied, "It’s just a jacket.There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope this isn't what the media is going to choose to focus on." The president later tweeted the jacket's message was aimed at the press.

Grisham, who travels almost everywhere the first lady goes, will continue to serve the East Wing as she transitions into her new roles.

She will travel as press secretary on the president's trip to the G-20 in Osaka, Japan, this week.

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