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DNY59/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Roger Stone, the longtime friend and former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump, is being sentenced Thursday morning at federal court in Washington amid speculation that Trump could pardon him depending on what happens.

His fate took on new significance last week when the career prosecutors who handled the case recommended a sentence of seven to nine years for Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering in November.

After Trump tweeted that recommendation was a "miscarriage of justice," Attorney General William Barr overruled the prosecutors, and the Justice Department called on Judge Amy Berman Jackson to give Stone a much lighter sentence. Shortly after, in an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, Barr warned Trump to stop tweeting and commenting on the case, saying he was making it "impossible" to do his job. Sources have told ABC News that Barr, who called the Stone prosecution "righteous," is seriously considering resigning.

Stone was convicted of misleading congressional investigators on several key elements of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including communications he had with the Trump campaign about discussions he had about the WikiLeaks dissemination of damaging documents stolen from Democrats during the campaign.

Here is how the story is unfolding:

12:34 p.m. Judge Jackson sentences Stone to 40 months in prison

11:23 a.m. Judge takes break in proceedings, Stone says he won't speak on his own behalf

"At this point I want to take a short break," Judge Jackson says.

It is not clear whether she will announce the sentence immediately upon reconvening.

After his defense counsel concluded an impassioned plea for a sentence with no incarceration, Roger Stone rises to say he chooses not to speak on his own behalf.

We are now in a 10-15 minute break.

11:16 a.m. Judge demands government explain sentencing recommendation confusion

The new government prosecutor on Stone's case takes to the lectern to "apologize to the court for any confusion" caused by the Justice Department's dual sentencing recommendation memorandums.

"This confusion was not caused by the original trial team," Crabb says. "There was nothing in bad faith about the prosecution team's recommendation."

Jackson interrupts to ask several questions about who ordered the new memorandum, why an additional memorandum was filed, and what caused any discrepancies in the two documents.

Crabb says the first memorandum was approved by the U.S. attorney.

"What I understand is, there was a miscommunication between the U.S. attorney's office and main Justice," Crabb says, referring back to comments Attorney General Barr made in his interview with ABC News.

Seemingly unsatisfied, Jackson asks Crabb to continue.

"This prosecution was - and this prosecution is - righteous," Crabb says. He then urges the court to impose a substantial term of incarceration.

Pressed by Jackson about how the second memorandum was crafted, Crabb says he could not "engage in a discussion about the internal deliberations."

He refuses to say whether he wrote the memorandum -- even though he signed it. Asked if he was ordered to write the second memoradum, Crabb again says he would not discuss it.

Seth Ginsburg, defense counsel for Stone, then takes the lectern to make his case for leniency, calling Judge Jackson's attention to Stone's age and family situation: "He just became a grandfather."

"Mr. Stone has many admirable qualities," Ginsburg adds.

11:04 a.m. Judge Jackson blasts Stone over his social media posts, including those about her

Another proposed sentence enhancement, another win for prosecutors.

Judge Jackson blasts Stone for his out-of-court conduct ahead of his trial, specifically social media posts that criticized the court, the judge, and the government prosecutors.

"It's important to note he didn't just fire off a few intemperate emails ... it wasn't accidental," Judge Jackson says. "He knew exactly what he was doing."

"This is intolerable for the administration of justice," Jackson says. "We had to waste considerable amount of time ... to get the defendant to comply with court orders."

"Therefore I'm going to add the two levels and we are now at a Level 27," Jackson concludes.

Judge Jackson then lists a few mitigating factors before turning to the sentencing grid, which dictates which sentence is appropriate after all sentence enhancements and downward departures are considered.

Both parties will now have an opportunity to speak.

10:55 a.m. Judges sides with defense on proposed sentence enhancement for obstructive conduct

On a third proposed sentence enhancement, Judge Jackson sides with defense counsel -- alleviating some pressure on Stone.

"I'm not going to add two more levels for that," Jackson says, after hearing arguments about a proposed enhancement for additional obstructive conduct.

She is now addressing an additional sentence enhancement -- specifically related to Stone's controversial social media postings about Judge Jackson herself.

10:43 a.m. Judge appears to side with government on seriousness of Stone's witness tampering

In a blow to Stone, Judge Jackson has twice sided with prosecutors, who have sought to invoke sentence level increases based on a statute accounting for physical threats.

After an exchange about the veracity of prosecutors' claims that Stone did, in fact, threaten his longtime associate, Randy Credico (and Credico's therapy dog, Bianca), Jackson sides with the government.

Justifying her decision to side with prosecutors, she recites several specific quotes -- many of which include expletives -- that reflect Stone's threats against Credico and his dog.

ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas points out that Judge Jackson is taking her time, asking both sides to clarify positions taken in their sentencing memorandums.

She is meticulously taking note of arguments made by both parties and asking for explanations where she perceives ambiguity.

10:24 a.m. Stone's defense lawyer pushes back on charge of witness tampering

Judge Jackson, reading from a piece of paper, ticks through the counts Stone was found guilty of at trial. She runs through an explanation of her sentencing process, interrupting herself briefly to ask a member of the audience to remove his or her sunglasses.

"For those who woke up last week and became persuaded that the guidelines are harsh," Jackson says.

A lawyer for Stone, Seth Ginsburg, then rises to make the case that Stone's conduct and words carried little weight, particularly those used in the charge of witness tampering.

"Even though the words on their face could be read as threatening," Ginsburg says, "it's our position is that the words themselves did not constitute a threat at all."

"Stone is known for using rough, hyperbolic language. Mr. Credico knew that. He knew that it was Stone being Stone. All bark and no bite," Ginsburg continues, referring to Randy Credico, a mercurial radio host, comedian and impressionist who was a key witness in the government’s case against Stone. Stone is accused of threatening him and his dog.

Reminded by Judge Jackson that she has the power to impose a sentence lower than called for in sentencing guidelines, Ginsburg shoots back: "Yes, and I hope you will!"

10:12 a.m. Judge Jackson addresses the Justice Department's sentencing recommendations

Judge Jackson addresses the sentencing memorandum controversy in perfunctory terms -- noting the existence of both the case prosecutors' original recommendation and the subsequent Justice Department recommendation of a much shorter sentence. She stops short of editorializing.

"I also received the government's supplemental memorandum," Jackson says. "I note that the initial memorandum has not been withdrawn."

Jackson goes on to explain additional materials filed as part of the case, including the slew of letters written on Stone's behalf by friends and supporters urging the judge to grant him leniency.

10:05 a.m. Court proceedings have begun

Attorneys for each side have introduced themselves.

“We are here this morning for Roger Stone’s sentencing,” Judge Jackson says.

8:45 a.m. Stone arrives amid protests outside courthouse

Stone arrived with his wife, lawyers and entourage at the federal courthouse. Known for his sometimes flashy attire, he wore a fedora and sunglasses, smiled but said nothing.

Protesters held up a large banner that said "#PardonRogerStone."

Overnight, despite Barr's warning not to comment on the case, President Trump at about 2 a.m. tweeted a clip of Fox News host Tucker Carlson calling the Stone case a “shocking insult to the American tradition of equal justice.” Trump pinned the tweet on his feed.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020

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US Congress(NEW YORK) -- Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a loyal Republican, joined the hosts of ABC’s The View Thursday, further defending President Donald Trump for his actions, including the long list of pardons the president handed out this week.

Gaetz, who was one of Trump’s most fervid defenders during the House impeachment inquiry and Senate trial, said his "pardon power" shouldn't be limited.

"Trump has pardoned 26 people, [former President Barack] Obama pardoned over 1700, [former President Bill] Clinton pardoned 459," he said, adding, "If you look at the original intent of the pardon power, it cannot be limited."

On Tuesday, Trump pardoned or commuted sentences for at least 11 individuals, some of whom were avid political defenders and allies of the president. Among the list of high-profile individuals are former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who pleaded guilty to felony charges including tax fraud and lying to White House officials after the 9/11 attacks, and former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- who attempted to sell the Senate seat left open when former President Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election for campaign money.

Blagojevich -- who was supposed to serve time until 2024 -- called himself a "Trump-ocrat" after being commuted on Tuesday.

At the same time The View hosts pressed Gaetz on his support of Trump, another long-time friend and adviser of the president, Roger Stone, is being sentenced in federal court. Stone has been charged with obstructing justice, witness tampering and five counts of lying to Congress.

His appearance comes amid a disagreement between line prosecutors and the Justice Department’s recommendation for lessening his sentencing -- four of the prosecutors who signed onto the sentencing memorandum withdrew from the case in protest, one of whom even resigned from the Justice Department. Trump also expressed sympathy for Stone on Tuesday, leading to questions about a possible pardon from the president.

When co-host Sunny Hostin asked Gaetz if he thinks Trump should pardon Stone, he said "I do."

"I would agree that Roger Stone should be pardoned. If for no other reason than people in this country like Peter Struck, Lisa Page, Andrew McCabe ... have not faced consequences," he said.

He was also asked about Trump's recent designation of the ambassador to Germany -- Richard Grenell -- as acting director of national intelligence.

When host Joy Behar asked about Grenell and him potentially being a "yes man," Gaetz stood by the president's designation.

"If you look at the team he's assembled with people like [former National Security adviser] John Bolton, the president regularly surrounds himself with people who disagree with him," Gaetz said. "I think some of the most spirited discussions I've had have been with -- have been with [Sens.] Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, [and] myself and the president discussing foreign policy."

Grenell, the first openly gay member designated to a cabinet position, wouldn't have been allowed to serve in national intelligence 50 years ago, Gawtz pointed out.

"But just for a moment, I would like to take a second to reflect on the fact that this is a good thing in this country that we do not ban gay people from being able to patriotically serve in the intelligence community," he said, praising Trump for his decision.

Hostin then interrupted, saying, "Just transgendered people."

"Well we shouldn't be banning anybody based on who they are and who they love," Gaetz said. " That's not the kind of Republican I am, and it's not the kind of Republican the president is."

Gaetz also tore into the Democrats following Wednesday night’s fiery debate in Las Vegas, where former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg took the stage and faced attacks from the other Democratic candidates for the first time.

"It's fascinating right now that the Democratic party is likely not going to nominate a Democrat," he said. "They're either going to nominate a Socialist or someone who some time ago was a Republican."

He lashed out at former Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently been slipping in the polls.

"What state is he going to win?" Gaetz said about Joe Biden. "I mean, this is a man -- the fundamental premise of the Biden campaign is that he is electable, and he can't seem to win elections."

Bloomberg has received criticism for the unmatched amount of money he’s spent on his campaign thus far and Gaetz wrote off his campaign strategy, saying he still sees Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the front-runner.

"Michael Bloomberg spent nearly half a billion dollars and still finds himself with the bronze medal in that poll. This is Bernie Sanders' party," Gaetz said on Fox News' The Ingraham Angle.

Still, he said "none of them" can beat the president.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC(NEW YORK) -- On the heels of a fiery debate Wednesday night in Nevada, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren appeared on ABC’s The View, the morning after the flying verbal volleys on stage.

Many of those shots came from Warren -- and Thursday on The View she addressed her feisty performance -- going after former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who in turn had testy moments between each other.

Her immediate jab at Bloomberg over how he allegedly has treated women in his employ set the tone for the entire debate, and coming off disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, it was clear that Warren viewed Wednesday’s debate as a make or break moment for her campaign.

“I'd like to talk about who we're running against. A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Warren said during the debate to audible gasps in the debate hall, alluding to the slew of recent stories on the mistreatment of women in the workplace at Bloomberg’s companies.

Right off the top, Warren was asked about the shots fired at her many fellow Democrats -- and whether it was misdirected, when the eventual target is President Donald Trump.

"Look, the Democrats have to pick the person who has the best possible chance at beating Donald Trump. So this is about beating Donald Trump. It's about who's going to be able to do that. And yesterday mayor Bloomberg announced that everyone should drop out of the race except himself and Bernie Sanders, and they should decide who the nominee will be. Well, I take exception to that. I've been told to sit down and be quiet enough in my life. I'm ready to stay in this fight," she said.

Part of that job, she said, was to shed light on Bloomberg's records when it comes to women.

"The American people are not going to take kindly" to his comments about women, she said, adding that she feels he is a "risky candidate" to choose... "we need someone with rock solid values who has a history of getting change done. And who knows how to find. That's why I'm in this race."

Warren hit Bloomberg again on his lack of transparency and the danger that might pose to the Democratic party's bid against Trump.

"The Democrats should not appoint someone who has a history of embracing racially outrageous practices like stop and frisk and redlining," she told the show's hosts and added that she doesn't feel the party should nominate someone who has "been charged with discrimination against women, or with sexual harassment. And it's just shoveled some of his money to cover it up."

Warren also came at Bloomberg on Thursday morning for his past support of stop and frisk -- a controversial policing tactic that disproportionately impacted blacks and Latinos during his tenure as mayor. Bloomberg has since apologized for supporting the practice since entering the 2020 presidential race.

"I listened to his apology for stop and frisk. And I thought it was just wholly wrong," Warren said. "To suddenly years later, the days before he announced, that he wants to be president of the whole United States. He suddenly comes up with, Oh, I'm so sorry that I had a plan that inadvertently hurt people - you know that is just simply not good enough, it reveals his character. It reveals his understanding of race in America."

She called the timing of his apology and subsequent tour to black enclaves to seek to vocalize his contrition disingenuous.

"I am not a person of color... I have not been thrown across the hood of a car in my own neighborhood," Warren continued. "But I try to learn from the people who have - and it is clear that what Mayor Bloomberg has learned so far is that he can hire enough ads have enough money that he can insulate himself from any recognition of what his actions did to other human beings, and it was wrong, and he is not accounted for it."

Warren continued to rail at Bloomberg on issues of race, emphasizing as she has in recent days on his recently resurfaced comments from 2008, regarding the discriminatory housing practice of redlining.

Her pointed line of attack comes as Warren herself battles a slide from the top of the Democratic pack, limping out of the first two early state contests: a third place finish in Iowa, fourth in New Hampshire. Now, however, Warren has made it clear -- she's ready for a fresh fight.

She'll need it too -- a strong showing at the Nevada caucuses this weekend would help to reestablish her campaign and reengage her in the front-runner fray.

In what marks a complete shift from her debate strategy to this point, Warren consistently and aggressively attacked her rivals on topic after topic.

She also called her rivals out on health care -- one of her signature issues -- reducing Buttigieg's plan to a "slogan" and a "powerpoint," and Klobuchar's even further -- a post-it note.

In a sign that her performance may have resonated, at least with her supporters, Warren had the best fundraising hour of her entire campaign during the debate, including $425,000 raised in just half an hour at one point. Her campaign tweeted that they raised $2.8 million from Wednesday night's debate.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former Rep. Katie Hill said she doesn't regret stepping down from her seat in Congress last year, but she does believe the fact that she was a bisexual woman played a huge part in "sensationalizing" the scandal.

"We haven't seen as many of the sex scandals with women," Hill told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview that aired Thursday on Good Morning America.

The House Ethics Committee announced in October 2019 that it would investigate Hill for allegedly having a sexual relationship with one of her congressional staffers -- an allegation she continued to deny to Stephanopoulos. The alleged relationship would have been a violation of House rules that were established in February 2018 following the #MeToo movement.

Hill has admitted to -- and apologized for -- having a relationship with a campaign staffer when she was running for Congress in 2018. That relationship was not covered by House rules since Hill was not a member of Congress at the time.

'Biggest mistake': Hill on not setting boundaries during her 2018 campaign

During the interview, Hill told Stephanopoulos it was "absolutely" her biggest mistake to have a relationship with a campaign staffer.

Even though she had no political experience when she began running for Congress, she said she should have set employer-employee boundaries.

"You're truly in the trenches with these -- this very small team," she said. "Where I think I made the biggest mistake was not setting those boundaries from the very beginning."

It was non-consensual cyber exploitation: Hill on the leaked nude photos of her

Along with the relationship allegations, nude photos of her were published online without her consent. At the time, Hill claimed that her "abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate" her was behind it, and referred to the incident as "revenge porn."

Now, she tells Stephanopoulos that there is a problem with the term "revenge porn," but still believes her ex-husband was behind the initial photo leak.

"It implies A) that there's something to be taking revenge for, right?" Hill said. "That the woman maybe did something wrong in the first place. And pornography also could imply that -- or could imply that it was -- it was consensual, and it's not."

Representatives for Kenny Heslep, Hill's estranged husband, told ABC News he denies the allegations.

"Ms. Hill has made no allegations of abuse in her petition for dissolution," Heslep's lawyers told ABC News, saying he is asking for privacy during this moment. "Mr. Heslep denies any allegations of abuse or wrongdoing outright. The parties are currently in the process of negotiating an amicable settlement."

Hill's father, Mike Hill, released a public statement to defend his daughter last October. He called Heslep "evil" and said he hoped Hill would seek legal ramifications, citing California's Penal Code 647(j)(4), which outlaws distributing intimate images that would knowingly cause harm.

'I made the right call': Hill on stepping down from Congress

Hill announced her resignation less than a week after the initial investigation was announced. One of Hill's last actions as a member of Congress was to vote in favor of the impeachment inquiry resolution into President Donald Trump.

"I strongly feel that I made the right call in stepping down, for several reasons," Hill said. "One of which is that I -- I did not want to be a liability to my colleagues."

Outgoing Rep. Katie Hill: "The mistakes I made and the people I've hurt that led to this moment will haunt me for the rest of my life and I have to come to terms with that. Ever since those images first came out, I've barely left my bed."

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 31, 2019

Hill's election was historic. She was one of the first openly bisexual members of Congress, and she was a leader among the freshman class of Democrats.

Just before Hill's last speech on the House floor on Oct. 31, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Hill an "outstanding young public servant" and told reporters that "Hill's decision to resign is her decision."

Hill represented California's 25th district, and her old seat is now being fought for in a highly-anticipated election.

Katie Hill: "I came here to give a voice to the unheard in the halls of power. I wanted to show young people, queer people, working people, imperfect people that they belong here because this is the people's House. I fell short of that and I'm sorry."

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 31, 2019

Since stepping down from her role in Congress, she hasn't stopped being a public figure. Hill has launched a group called HER Time, which supports female candidates who want to run for political offices.

After Hill announced her resignation, she told the public that she had considered committing suicide. In her interview with Stephanopoulos, she said that it was her family, and the young women who looked up to her, that pulled her out of those dark moments.

"If the ultimate outcome was that this destroyed me, and I committed suicide, then what does that, what does that tell them?" Hill said. "And that can't -- that couldn't be my final story."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- President Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton defended his decision not to share what information he may know about the president's personal involvement in activities in Ukraine until after his book is published, ultimately claiming his testimony would have been insignificant.

"People can argue about what I should have said and what I should have done," Bolton said Wednesday at Vanderbilt University, during his second public appearance of the week. "I will bet you a dollar right here and now my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome."

"I sleep at night because I have followed my conscience," he continued.

Bolton appeared alongside his predecessor, President Barack Obama's national security advisor Susan Rice, who questioned his decision to remain silent despite not being subpoenaed to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

"It's inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of a gross abuse of presidential power, that I would withhold my testimony," Rice stated to a round of applause. "I would feel like I was shamefully violating my oath that I took to support and defend the Constitution."

Democrats were eager to hear from Bolton during the Senate impeachment trial after multiple witnesses painted him as someone both aware of and opposed to the president's efforts in Ukraine. Senate Republicans ultimately defeated Their efforts, an outcome Bolton admitted Wednesday night that he did not expect.

But Bolton also harshly criticized the process, saying the House had "committed impeachment malpractice."

"The process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away from the president because it was so partisan," Bolton said.

In his upcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, Bolton makes at least two explosive allegations about Trump, according to excerpts of the manuscript obtained and released by the New York Times: that Trump personally tied aid to Ukraine with investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and that Trump tasked Bolton with setting up a meeting between Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney.

Despite a repeated stated desire to do so, Bolton has refrained from sharing his knowledge on impeachment-related matters while his book goes through a pre-publication security review for classified information with the White House National Security Council. Wednesday night, he warned of an "implied threat of criminal prosecution" if he were to "just spill [his] guts."

Rice questioned this reasoning, noting she had experienced her fair share "of trepidation about going through the clearance process at the White House" with her own book.

"I can't say that at any point, the fact of being in the pre-clearance process caused me to refuse to share information with Congress and the public that I thought was of national import," Rice continued. "I just don't understand using the fact of the pre-clearance process as a reason not to be forthcoming."

Bolton on Monday night had accused the Trump administration of "censorship" in its review process while speaking at Duke University, which was his first public remarks since the conclusion of Trump's impeachment trial.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mario Tama/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- There have been contentious arguments, strong policy disagreements and tense exchanges on the eight debate stages thus far in the primary cycle, and then there was Wednesday night’s brawl in Las Vegas.

From its onset, the debate shedded any semblance of civility and exposed the strengths and weakness of the six Democratic contenders that stood on the stage at a critical time for their campaigns, just days before Nevadans hold their caucuses and weeks before the Super Tuesday contests award the largest swath of delegates yet.

He may not have appeared on a single ballot, or won a single delegate, but former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the newcomer on the stage, was the lightning rod at the center of near-constant attacks, turning in an uneven performance as the field grapples with his rise in the polls.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren turned in a fiesty performance, going after Bloomberg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who in turn had testy moments between each other. Former Vice President Joe Biden also mixed it up with Bloomberg as he tries to revive his faltering campaign. Meanwhile Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has taken a sizable lead in recent national polls, fended off attacks on policy and his personal health.

Here are five takeaways from a Democratic debate full of fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip.

Everybody versus Bloomberg

With perhaps the entire field recognizing the urgency of Wednesday’s debate, it took less than 10 minutes for the most divisive debate of the cycle to emerge.

The gloves came off, early and often, for the Democratic contenders eager to poke holes in Bloomberg’s record and argument for why he’s the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in November.

“I'd like to talk about who we're running against. A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Warren said to audible gasps in the debate hall, alluding to the slew of recent stories on the mistreatment of women in the workplace at Bloomberg’s companies.

“Let's put forward someone who's actually a Democrat...We shouldn't have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said slamming both Bloomberg and Sanders.

“The mayor says that he has a great record, that he’s done these wonderful things. Well, the fact -- the fact of the matter is, he has not managed his city very, very well when he was there. He didn't get a whole lot done,” said Biden, who went after Bloomberg’s past criticism of the landmark Affordable Care Act and his criminal justice record.

For his part, Bloomberg largely tried to stay above the fray, defending the astronomical amount of money he’s poured into his campaign, more than $400 million to this point.

“I'm spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we've ever had and If I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids,” Bloomberg said.

A feisty Warren comes out swinging and doesn’t stop

Warren is in a fight for her political life, and Wednesday night made it clear she’s willing to fight harder than ever before to get back to the top of the pack.

In what marks a complete shift from her debate strategy to this point, Warren consistently and aggressively attacked her rivals on topic after topic.

Her immediate jab at Bloomberg set the tone for the entire debate, and coming off disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire it was crystal clear that Warren viewed Wednesday’s debate as a make or break moment for her campaign.

On health care, the Massachusetts senator went after Buttigieg and Klobuchar, labeling their plans as either “Powerpoints,” or “two paragraphs.”

“Amy, I looked online at your plan, it's two paragraphs. Families are suffering. And they need a plan,” Warren said, eliciting incredulous responses from the former South Bend Mayor and Minnesota Senator.

Warren also dinged Sanders, describing his candidacy as a gamble on a “revolution,” that may not form a winning coalition in November.

In a sign that her performance may have resonated, at least with her supporters, Warren had the best fundraising hour of her entire campaign during the debate, including $425,000 raised in just half an hour at one point.

Warren needs a strong showing in the Nevada caucuses this weekend to reestablish her campaign among the top tier, and the next three days will show if Wednesday night helped her get back in the fray.

Experience clashes with vision, with scarce talk of Trump

Wednesday night’s debate offered a distillation of the candidate’s central arguments, experience versus vision, pragmatism versus idealism, and those contrasts, which have defined the race so far, were fuel for some of the night’s most impactful moments.

“You're staking your candidacy on your Washington experience,” Buttigieg said, taking aim at Klobuchar for forgetting the name of the Mexican President in a recent interview.

“Are you trying to say that I'm dumb or are you mocking me here, Pete?” Klobuchar responded, sparking a lengthy exchange between the two Midwesterners.

Sanders and Warren again pushed forward their progressive agendas, labeling their opponents as nothing more than a continuation of the “status quo,” despite their lofty rhetoric.

“If my plan is the status quo, why was it attacked by the insurance industry the moment it came out?” Buttigieg said in response to Sanders’ criticism of his healthcare plan.

Biden clung to his argument that his long record of delivering on progressive change, largely staying out of the night’s most contentious fights but chiding many on the stage for past blemishes on their records.

The continuous clashes however did not allow candidates much time to make their arguments as to why they are the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump, despite that being the top priority of Democratic voters.

“We have not been talking enough about Donald Trump!” Klobuchar lamented mid-debate.

“I can't think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg quipped during a discussion on economic policy.

Bloomberg makes an uneven debate debut

In his Democratic debate debut -- the first time the former mayor has graced the debate stage in decades -- Bloomberg found himself at times, ducking incoming fire as it came from every direction, and other times, standing tall as he sought to cast his candidacy as the one who can take on Donald Trump.

Among the many achilles heels he faced Wednesday night, Bloomberg struggled the most to meet the moment when confronted over both his past support for the controversial policy of “stop-and-frisk” policing and allegations that he directed crude and sexist comments towards female employees within the company that bares his name, and holding them still in confidentiality agreements.

“If I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with Stop and Frisk,” he said during the first hour of the matchup, seeking to end the debate over the policy there.

On stage, as he addressed the accusations against him by former female employees, he appeared to get more rattled as he was pushed on the issue by his rivals, and ultimately and awkwardly said, “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than, maybe, they didn't like a joke I told,” to audible groans in the audience.

The agitation with Bloomberg’s presence on stage could be felt in both the other candidates’ pointed and frequent strikes against him, and as the candidates chimed in with more muted reactions to his responses.

After Bloomberg said he would release his tax returns “in a few weeks,” but added that he’s only been in the race for 10 weeks, Buttigieg interjected with a sharp attack, saying, “That's right, we have. Engaging with voters, humbling ourselves.”

But the billionaire philanthropist found his stride as he outlined his approach to tackling climate change, ticking through his extensive knowledge of the issue, before arguing for a more urgent timeline, saying, “No scientist thinks the numbers for 2050 anymore. They’re 2040, 2030."

He also showed his strength as he took on Sanders’ support for employee ownership in companies, arguing, “I can't think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation. This is ridiculous. We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn't work.”

Electability remains at the forefront of the Democrats’ arena

In between the punches, the Democratic contenders sought to pitch the electability of their respective campaigns, each offering a distinct argument that attempted to play on their strengths as a candidate.

“Democrats want to beat Donald Trump. But they are worried. They are worried about gambling on a narrow vision that doesn't address the fears of millions of Americans across this country who see real problems and want real change. They are worried about gambling on a revolution that won't bring along a majority of this country,” Warren argued.

“I have repeatedly said that we have to win big. The way we win big is winning states like Nevada. But also, winning the senate races in Arizona and in Colorado and beyond. And the reason we want to do that is to send Mitch McConnell packing,” said Klobuchar, emphasizing her Midwestern roots.

“I'm asking for your vote, because America is running out of time. And this is our only chance to defeat Donald Trump. If you look at the choice between a revolution or the status quo and you don't see where you fit in that picture, then join us,” Buttigieg offered.

The return to the electability pitch, despite the intense squabbling on stage, shows that these Democrats still clearly see Trump as their main targets, but still differ vastly in how that objective is achieved.

Even an attempt at unity fell back into the field’s division during the debate’s closing moments.

“The bottom is all of us are united in defeating the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country. That we agree on,” Sanders said in his closing statement before launching into a contrast on healthcare.

Ultimately the decision on which candidate has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump lies where it always has: the voters.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since his indictment in January 2019, Roger Stone's path to Thursday's sentencing hearing has been anything but ordinary. But given his long history as a political dirty trickster, perhaps it should come as no surprise that his legal woes have followed an equally unusual trajectory.

The veteran Republican operative was found guilty in November of obstructing justice, witness tampering and five counts of lying to Congress. His pre-trial proceedings were largely marked by his out-of-court statements, triggering progressively tighter gag orders. His trial featured testimony from a comedian who repeatedly invoked characters from The Godfather: Part II.

But less than two weeks before his sentencing, the most consequential twist: a disagreement between line prosecutors and the Justice Department's political leadership over Stone's sentencing recommendation, the fallout from which continues to resonate throughout Washington. And looming over it all? A possible pardon from his longtime friend, President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday again expressed sympathy for Stone.

The two go back decades, and at his trial late last year, prosecutors connected Stone's crimes with an effort to protect Trump. Stone, 67, has previously taken credit for persuading the president to get into politics and once served as an adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.

After formally leaving the campaign in late 2015, Stone remained in touch with multiple senior advisers to Trump -- and Trump himself. According to testimony and evidence presented at his trial, Stone became the campaign's informal point-person on all things WikiLeaks -- a relationship that underpinned lies he eventually told during sworn testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017. Stone was convicted of misleading the committee on several key elements of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including communications he had with the Trump campaign about discussing WikiLeaks dissemination of damaging documents stolen from Democrats during the campaign.

Stone was arrested in a pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home on Jan. 25, 2019. In the 10 months leading to his trial, Stone repeatedly made inflammatory comments about the judge overseeing his case and the prosecutors who brought charges. After posting an image to social media with U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson apparently shown in the crosshairs of a firearm scope, she issued a gag order preventing him and his legal team from speaking publicly about the case.

At trial in November, jurors found him guilty on all seven counts. But in the weeks leading up to his sentencing hearing, Stone's lawyers twice made last-ditch efforts to get a new trial by raising issues with at least two jurors.

Last week, unsealed court documents revealed that Judge Jackson denied a previous sealed motion for a new trial filed by Stone's defense team earlier this month involving a post-trial objection to one of the jurors. The individual disclosed during the jury selection process that they had a legal background and had worked for the IRS. A second sealed motion for a new trial was filed by Stone's attorneys last Friday citing alleged jury misconduct. Details of both the request and the Justice Department's subsequent opposition to their motion are mostly unknown while under seal.

In a conference call with Stone, his defense team and two DOJ prosecutors on Tuesday, Jackson said that she has decided not to delay Stone's sentencing in light of the defense's latest bid for a new trial. But, Jackson said on the call, "I will ensure that the execution of sentence and the deadline for the filing of a notice of appeal will be deferred to ensure that the defendant has had the benefit of the ruling on the motion before filing any notice of appeal."

Since his conviction, the national interest in Stone's legal fortunes has waned. But that changed earlier this month when Trump unexpectedly weighed in on a sentencing recommendation filed by the four Justice Department prosecutors running Stone's case. Last week, those prosecutors told the court that Stone's crimes and his out-of-court conduct warranted a prison term of seven to nine years.

Within hours of their filing that sentencing recommendation, at 1:48 a.m., a message appeared on the president's Twitter feed: "This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice."

The next day, a senior Justice Department official told reporters that "the department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation," and that "the department will clarify its position later today at the court."

That statement prompted all four Justice Department prosecutors who signed onto the sentencing memorandum to withdraw from Stone's case in protest. One of those prosecutors resigned from the department entirely.

Later that day, a new prosecutor on the case filed an amended memorandum arguing that the previous recommendation of seven to nine years "would not be appropriate" -- and instead "defers to the court as to what specific sentence is appropriate," but implored Jackson to take into consideration Stone's "advanced age, health, personal circumstances and lack of criminal history in fashioning an appropriate sentence."

In the aftermath of the sentencing controversy, Attorney General William Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas that Trump "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," but he should stop tweeting about certain Justice Department cases.

"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr said, adding that the tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job."

On Tuesday, ABC News reported that Barr had told people close to Trump that he is considering resigning over the tweets.

Regardless of the sentence Judge Jackson imposes on Stone, a wild-card factor could render the terms inconsequential: a pardon from Trump -- which he has not ruled out. On Tuesday, the president expressed sympathy for his longtime confidant and downplayed Stone's role in his campaign.

"I think Roger Stone's been treated unfairly," Trump said.

Asked whether he believes Stone deserves to serve time in prison, Trump replied, "you're going to see what happens, let's see what happens."

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DKart/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In defiance of Attorney General Bill Barr's warnings that he stop tweeting about the Justice Department and criminal cases, President Donald Trump fired off more than a dozen retweets and tweets on Wednesday that seemed to support calls from conservative allies that Barr should “clean house” at DOJ.

A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment when asked about the president's retweets.

On Tuesday, Trump had pointedly pushed back on Barr, who as attorney general is traditionally viewed as the nation's chief law enforcement officer.

"I’m allowed to be totally involved," Trump said. "I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

Trump stopped short of directly criticizing Barr on Wednesday, mostly retweeting the sentiments of others.

There must be JUSTICE. This can never happen to a President, or our Country, again!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020

Several of Trump's retweets came from Tom Fitton, president of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch. Fitton claimed on Twitter Tuesday that Trump was “the victim of a seditious conspiracy” by the Justice Department and FBI in terms of the investigation into the presidents 2016 presidential campaign and its connection to Russia.

As the president continued to ignore appeals from the attorney general, he faces the possibility of Barr acting on his warnings. Barr told people close to Trump Tuesday that he is considering resigning over the tweets that Barr had previously said make it “impossible” to do his job, sources tell ABC News.

All of this online turmoil follows more than a week of Trump openly expressing his outrage at the case against his longtime ally Roger Stone, who is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday morning for lying to Congress, obstructing a congressional inquiry and witness tampering.

Last week, the president took to Twitter criticizing the sentencing recommendation made by the DOJ calling it "horrible and very unfair."

Hours later, Barr stepped in to lower the sentencing recommendation, prompting questions about whether the Justice Department is being swayed by the White House and Washington politics.

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has named Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, to be the acting director of national intelligence.

Trump posted the announcement on Twitter, and also thanked Joseph Maguire who has been serving as the acting DNI since Dan Coats resigned Aug. 15.


....for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020

In the tweet, the president also said Maguire may serve in another capacity within the administration.

The 53-year-old is a staunch Trump supporter who has served as ambassador in Berlin since May 8, 2018. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 56-42 vote on April 26, 2018.

Grenell will become the first openly gay member of the cabinet. The Michigan native is also a former spokesman at the United Nations and worked on the 2012 presidential campaign of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

According to ABC News' records, on Sept. 14, 2019, Grenell joined the president at the White House for dinner with Fred and Cindy Warmbier, whose son Otto died shortly after being released from captivity in North Korea in June 2017.

Grenell received a master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University and completed a bachelor degree at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, according to his biography posted on the State Department's website.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Ahead of the Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, co-hosted by NBC, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent, the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden released a new digital video slamming former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for his past comments about former President Barack Obama.

“Welcome to the debates, Mike. We have a lot to catch up on about Barack Obama’s record,” Biden tweeted with a video set to circus-like music appearing to mock Bloomberg’s use of memes.

Welcome to the debates, Mike. We have a lot to catch up on about Barack Obama’s record.

— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) February 19, 2020

Using the template of an Instagram direct message, Biden’s team goes after Bloomberg for his criticism of Obama’s record on the climate and economy.

“Hello Internet, I’m spending a lot of money this year. And I’d like to use it to make you think I’m a fan of Barack Obama. I’m not though. Quite the opposite,” the video reads.

The video features sound bites and news clips of Bloomberg speaking critically of Obamacare and Wall Street reforms. It also includes a clip of Bloomberg saying he thinks the country is “more segregated in terms of race” under Obama.

“Oh, I also refused to endorse him in 2008. But if a half a billion dollars in ads won’t make you ignore my record, that’s okay. I’ll always have my real friends,” the video continues, showing photos and clips of Bloomberg talking with or about Donald Trump.

The video ends with a statement saying, “Money can’t rewrite history.”

The Bloomberg team responded quickly, cutting their own digital ad by using clips from a 2013 speech at a conference where Biden praises Bloomberg.

"We are honored to have Joe’s support," the campaign tweeted alongside the video.

Joe Biden has dedicated his life to this country.

As a senator, and as a vice president, he has always stood by the side of great men.

We are honored to have Joe’s support.

— Team Bloomberg (@Mike2020) February 19, 2020

“The best way to predict the future is to create it. I don't know anybody I've worked with in my career -- and I've been hanging around a long time -- who does more to create the future than you, Mike,” Biden said at the Clinton Global Initiative conference before presenting the Leadership in Public Service award to Bloomberg in 2013.

“Mike has what every public officials should have: passion matched with principal," Biden said in the speech. "Your legacy extends well beyond the five boroughs, the nation and the world has continued to benefit from the leadership that you have shown, and I am absolutely confident it's going to exist in the years to come. The thing I like about Mike is not about words. It's always about action."

“I'm Mike Bloomberg and I approve this message," the ad ends.

Biden's Communications Director Kate Bedingfield took issue with Bloomberg's response video.

"Using video and audio to imply you have an endorsement you don’t have. Yep, this tracks," she said in a tweet.

When asked about the video released by Bloomberg's campaign, Biden laughed it off, taking a swipe at the former mayor.

"Are you kidding me? I don’t endorse Republicans,” Biden told reporters while marching on the picket line with culinary workers outside of the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The same message was later tweeted from the candidate's account.

"He’s basically been a Republican his whole life," Biden continued. "The fact of the matter is he didn’t endorse Barack or me when we ran... He’s using Barack’s pictures like they’re good buddies. I’m going to talk about his record."

On a call with reporters ahead of the debate, Biden's aides lit into Bloomberg, signaling that the former vice president intends to draw a sharp contrast with the former mayor on the debate stage.

One senior campaign official for Biden called recent stories about Bloomberg "disturbing," saying they have "questions about what else is still out there."

"$60 billion can buy you a lot of ads but it cannot erase your record, and it cannot purchase character,” the campaign official said.

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Former longtime Nevada lawmaker Harry Reid has declined to endorse a candidate ahead of the state's Democratic caucus, but he did speak strongly against Medicare for All, the hallmark policy plan of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign.

"I think the world of Bernie Sanders," Reid said in an interview for the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast on Wednesday, speaking highly of his former Senate colleague.

But Reid, who served as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, including as majority leader for eight years, said it didn't matter which candidate comes out in support of Sanders' signature health care plan: "I’m against it."

"It’s impractical ... There’s not a chance in hell it would pass," he told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, instead advocating for strengthening the Affordable Care Act -- or Obamacare -- and looking to pass a public option.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- another presidential candidate -- has also been a major supporter of Medicare for All.

"One of the things that I feel very good about is that I discovered Elizabeth Warren, brought her to Washington when we had the Wall Street collapse," Reid said, adding "She became head of the oversight committee and did a really good job ... so I think the world of Elizabeth Warren"

Reid spoke to Klein ahead of tonight's Democratic primary debate, the ninth in the 2020 cycle, which will feature six candidates. The lineup includes for the first time since he entered the race in late November: former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

In the interview, Reid defended Bloomberg's past Republican party affiliation, and praised the former mayor, despite the billionaire candidate skipping out on campaigning in the early nominating states, including Nevada, and not filing to be on the Democratic ballot for the "first in the west" caucus.

"He has, like a lot of candidates, a lot of warts and pimples," Reid said. "But the one thing I have to say about him is no one in the country has done more in climate and guns than he has. So I respect him if for no other reason, those two things that he's done I think have been wonderful."

NBC and MSNBC are hosting the debate in partnership with The Nevada Independent. It airs live starting at 9 p.m. ET from the Paris Theater in Las Vegas.

Reid also weighed in on the Nevada Democratic caucuses, the third nominating contest for this cycle, which are set to take place on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. ET. While he conceded to Klein that he has a favorite in the race, he's chosen not to endorse ahead of the caucuses, preferring to "stay out of it."

"I want the caucus to go unhindered by anything that I'm doing wrong," Reid said.

After a reporting snafu caused by a flawed mobile app on the night of the Iowa Caucus led to delayed and disputed results, Reid was confident the Nevada Democrats, who abandoned plans to use the same reporting app, would avoid the "debacle" that happened in Iowa.

"We have the best state party organization in the country -- no question about that," Reid said. "We aren't using any of (Iowa's) software. We're using nothing that they had, and we feel very comfortable that we're going to have a good, respectable vote."

On "Powerhouse Politics," Reid touted the Silver State's diverse electorate, and he advocated for Nevada to move ahead in the primary calendar, taking the first contest position away from Iowa.

"Nevada is like the rest of the country. We're a diverse community," he said. "It should be the first state people come to test their viability."

The first two nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are predominantly white, but Nevada is a majority-minority state with a nearly one-third Latinx population and 10% African American population. It also home to one of the fastest-growing Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the country.

The state is also home to more than 13,000 Dreamers and more than 4,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and 14% of Nevadans are union members - the largest organized labor presence of any early state, according to the Nevada Democratic Party.

On Saturday, Reid participated in the first day of the Nevada Democrats' early voting, which he said was "really simple." On "Powerhouse Politics," he applauded adding the new option for voters as "really the right thing to do."

"We had some long lines, but... I’m not really concerned about that. Why? Because people are wanting to vote," he said, adding that over 60% of voters who participated were either first-time caucus participants or first-time voters in general.

Between Saturday and Tuesday, voters could go to any open early voting location in the county in which they're registered to vote and fill out a ballot, ranking a minimum of three candidates and a maximum of five candidates, in lieu of participating in the traditional caucus. More than 70,000 Democrats participated in early voting, according to Molly Forgey, communications director for the Nevada Democratic Party. In the 2016 Democratic caucus, only 84,000 people total participated.

Staying true to not publicly favoring any one candidate, Reid ranked "uncommitted" three times on his ballot.

A total of 36 pledged delegates are at stake in Nevada on Saturday, and Reid said he thinks any of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination could beat President Donald Trump.

"Two months ago, Trump was amoral. Today he’s amoral. He's a man who has done such damage to our country, and frankly, our standing in the world community. He is a man that is dangerous for so many different reasons," he told Klein. "

However, the former majority leader cautioned that Democrats "can’t take for granted that Trump will lose," saying, "He could win, and we have to be vigilant and make sure we do everything, and that the man is not reelected."

"But I think any of our people who want to be president of the United States who are Democrats, they'll thump Trump," Reid said. "I repeat, we will thump Trump."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


csfotoimages/iStock(PHOENIX) -- President Donald Trump is kicking off a West Coast campaign swing Wednesday with a rally in Phoenix, the capital of a state he lost in 2016 but hopes to flip in 2020.

Trump's event at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum marks the first of three rallies in three states in three days -- his biggest reelection-related time investment this cycle.

Following his stop in Arizona, Trump will take his road show to Colorado on Thursday and then Nevada on on Friday, the day before the crucial Democratic Nevada caucus.

The Arizona rally is another attempt by the president to counter Democrats, who have a critical debate Wednesday night featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's surging in the polls, and Mike Bloomberg's first such appearance.

Trump supporters in Arizona waiting in line hours before the event said they're unfazed by Bloomberg's unprecedented spending ahead of the former New York City mayor's debate debut.

"I think it's fabulous," Ronda Dooley told ABC News. "I wan't him to pour more and more money after a dream that I don't think would be able to come to fruition."

Oscar Lopez, another Trump supporter, said he's worried about Bloomberg, reiterating a familiar attack the president's used against the billionaire.

"I know that they are joking and saying that he'll stand on a box, because he's supposed to be a little guy, little Mike or whatever," Lopez told ABC News. "We'll see."

With Friday's Nevada rally a day before the state's Democratic caucus, Trump's trip is a prime example of the president's desire to counter each event on the Democrats' calendar, refusing to cede a single news cycle.

But the president's trip is more than just counterprogramming -- he's planning to bring home millions of dollars for his reelection campaign thanks to two high-dollar California fundraisers.

A source familiar told ABC News that Trump may raise $14 million.

The president held a fundraiser on Tuesday in Beverly Hills with around 300 attendees and will head to another in Rancho Mirage on Wednesday with 60 attendees. The latter event, at Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison's California golf course and estate, marks a major tech mogul publicly backing the president, potentially a huge win for Trump in an election year.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty Images(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) -- President Donald Trump is expected to highlight his administration’s efforts to divert more water to farmers in California during his visit to Bakersfield on Wednesday, fulfilling a campaign promise and raising concerns among environmental advocates about the impact on at-risk ecosystems in the state.

The move highlights one of his campaign promises to farmers that he would lift environmental regulations he calls "overly burdensome" and, specifically in California, make water more available for agriculture.

Trump is expected to formally approve an Interior Department decision that would allow more water in California's Central Valley region to be diverted to farmers.

The federally-managed project has been a point of contention between farmers and conservationists who say diverting too much water could damage critical ecosystems, including for a tiny endangered fish called the delta smelt that serves as a crucial food source for other species of fish like salmon. Farmers say they need the water to preserve agriculture production during droughts.

But critics say the documents the president will approve have found different results than opinions under other administrations that raised concerns about the impact of diverting more water from fish populations.

"Making that permanent is potentially a death warrant for the larger Bay delta ecosystem," John Buse, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity told ABC News, calling it a “total abdication” of the government’s conservation responsibilities.

"The president on previous campaign trips has made fun of the delta smelt but it's really a larger ecosystem wide collapse that we're talking about," he said.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups have filed legal challenges to the decision to allow the project to move forward.

The move could also bring back questions about the appearance of a conflict of interest with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on this issue, whose former client will get the bulk of the water contracts under this new plan. Interior says ethics officers cleared Bernhardt of any wrongdoing.

The president has previously weighed in on the contentious issue of water management in California during wildfire season, criticizing the state's Democratic leaders for how they manage water in the state that he inaccurately said could have been used to put out fires.

The debate about water is one of many areas where Trump has publicly attacked California lawmakers, criticizing them on how they manage wildfires, environmental issues and homelessness.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DenisTangneyJr/iStock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The Utah Senate unanimously passed a bill that effectively decriminalizes polygamy between consenting adults.

The bill would make polygamy an infraction, amending the current penalty punishable by up to five years in prison. Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson sponsored the bill.

It passed Tuesday and now will make its way to the House of Representatives.

Polygamy is most often considered to be a relationship between one man and multiple women, whom he claims are his wives.

However, cases where an arrangement stems from threat or coercion, or occurs under fraudulent pretenses, would remain a third-degree felony.

Representatives from Utah's Senate or House didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

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Google Maps/Greater Idaho(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- The political divide in Oregon has gotten so severe that some conservative residents are fighting to secede and join Idaho.

The group known as "Greater Idaho" is seeking to create a ballot proposal in Oregon that would secede 19 counties located in the east and merge them with its neighbors.

Mike McCarter, one of the petitioners, said in a Facebook post that he and his neighbors are unhappy with the state legislature's work that threatens "our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values."

"We tried voting those legislators out but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored. This is our last resort," he said.

Greater Idaho says that two counties, Josephine and Douglas, have so far accepted the ballot proposal. The group is also seeking to add rural areas in California to the new state boundaries.

Over the last couple of years, there have been campaigns by some Californians and Oregon residents to secede and form the State of Jefferson, but those efforts failed. Priscilla Southwell, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon, said Greater Idaho's measure, will likely end up as a symbolic move.

"I think seceding will be unlikely that it will get enough signatures let alone pass," she said.

Southwell noted that Oregon may gain an additional seat in Congress following the next Census because of the state's population increase. The residents who are seeking secession may have a chance to vote for someone who represents their interests, according to Southwell.

"I would be an easier option," she said.

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