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(NEW YORK) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday was set to deliver his first speech as president to the United Nations General Assembly, kicking off a week of global engagements amid tensions with key allies.

The president was scheduled to speak in the 10 a.m. hour at United Nations headquarters in New York. The White House said Biden hoped to turn the page from conflict to global cooperation and competition.

The large, international gathering amid a global pandemic has led to special precautions to keep world leaders safe.

The UN has agreed to “enhanced cleaning” of the main podium between leaders’ speeches, "changing out microphone heads, re-routing delegations to different 'green rooms,' and the use of air purifiers," a senior Biden administration official said.

Biden’s speech will follow remarks from Brazilian Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro, who has refused to get vaccinated, has consistently downplayed the virus's seriousness and was even fined for not wearing a mask in Brazil.

After his remarks, Biden plans to meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at noon before departing for Washington, where he'll host British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House late in the afternoon, according to the White House.

The meetings come amid a diplomatic spat with France, which has expressed displeasure with Biden for a just announced defense partnership with Australia and United Kingdom -- which led to Australia nixing a major defense deal with France.

A senior adviser to the president said Biden's remarks -- one of his biggest opportunities to date to deliver his message on U.S. foreign policy -- will "center on the proposition that we are closing the chapter on 20 years of war and opening a chapter of intensive diplomacy by rallying allies and partners and institutions to deal with the major challenges of our time," including COVID-19, climate change, emerging technologies, rules of the road on trade and economics, investments in clean infrastructure, and a modern approach to counterterrorism.

Speaking to reporters Monday, the adviser stressed that Biden would also advocate for "vigorous competition with great powers, but not a new Cold War."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, during a press briefing on Monday, also said that the president will "reaffirm that the United States is not turning inward," especially as the assembly follows closely on the heels of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan.

"The president will essentially drive home the message that ending the war in Afghanistan closed a chapter focused on war and opens a chapter focused on personal, purposeful, effective intensive American diplomacy, defined by working with allies and partners to solve problems that can't be solved by military force. And that require the cooperation of many nations around the world as well as non-state actors from the private sector and non-governmental organizations and international institutions," the adviser said.

"This will be the central theme of his speech, which will really lift up some of these big hard challenges that will define the scope and shape of prosperity and security for the people of the United States and for people of the world in the years ahead. And he will reinforce the notion that our futures in our fortunes are really interconnected and bound up with one another. And so we all have to work together to cooperate in service of solving problems and seizing opportunities that lie before us," the adviser added.

Given Biden's key campaign pledge of restoring the standing of the U.S. on the world stage, the remarks could be a critical test. The speech is one part of a week that will see Biden focusing on global partnerships, amid tensions on the global stage in the wake of the AUKUS deal announced last week with Australia and the United Kingdom, aimed at curbing China's influence on in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal angered the French by undercutting a sizable deal they had with Australia for nuclear-powered submarine technology.

"But what you'll hear him talk about tomorrow is the president's going to lay out the case for why the next decade will determine our future. Not just for the United States, but for the global community. And he will talk, and this will be a central part of his remarks, about the importance of re-establishing our alliances after the last several years," Psaki said Monday. "I also think it's important to note that establishing alliances doesn't mean that you won't have disagreements or you won't have disagreements about how to approach any particular issue in the world."

Administration officials also confirmed that Biden is currently working to find time to speak with France's President Emmanuel Macron, clearly hoping to try and smooth things over with an important U.S. ally, after a diplomatic dustup over the submarine deal with Australia.

"The president wants to communicate his desire to work closely with France in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and to talk about specific practical measures that we can undertake together. We understand the French position, we don't share their view in terms of how this all developed, but we understand their position. And we will continue to be engaged in the coming days on this," the adviser said. "And we look forward to the phone call between President Biden and President Macron once its time is fixed on the books, we think that will be an important moment an opportunity for the two leaders to speak directly with one another."

The White House also outlined the rest of the president's week, including several engagements with world leaders both in New York and back in Washington following his remarks at UNGA.

In addition to his remarks, Biden will meet on Tuesday with Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison, before returning to Washington to host a bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

On Wednesday, as has been previously announced, Biden will host a summit on COVID-19 to "rally the world urgently to work towards ending this pandemic as rapidly as possible and building our systems better to be able to handle the next pandemic," the White House said.

"He believes that it is high time for the world to come together and not just national leaders. But he's placing a heavy emphasis on international institutions, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, all of the actors who collectively have the capacity to beat COVID-19. And he is going to call for an all-hands-on-deck effort that can end this pandemic much more rapidly than if we allow for things to unfold without the kind of focus sustained energy and effort that is required," the official previewed of the summit.

The United States will also have a series of announcements about our own further contributions beyond what we've already contributed to ending the pandemic globally, according to the senior administration official.

On Friday, in addition to the first in-person meeting of the Quad countries (India, Japan, Australia and the U.S.) in Washington, Biden will hold individual meetings with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.

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(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans are holding firm against a hike to the federal debt limit, even as Democratic leaders announced Monday that they would link the raise in the borrowing limit to a must-pass government funding measure.

Government funding is set to expire at the end of September and administration officials are projecting that the United States could default on its credit in the coming weeks. The White House has warned an unprecedented default could send shockwaves through the economy and trigger a recession.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for weeks has dug in against support of a hike to the debt limit, arguing that Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, should be held responsible for the move. But Senate Democrats worked with Republicans under the Trump administration to raise the debt limit on multiple occasions, and they said it's a bipartisan responsibility.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Monday looked to ratchet up the pressure on Republicans by linking the increase in the federal spending limit to a resolution aimed at keeping the government open past a fast-approaching end of the fiscal year. That resolution includes aid for Afghan refugees and emergency funding for natural disaster relief.

"The American people expect our Republican colleagues to live up to their responsibilities and make good on the debts they proudly helped incur," the leaders wrote in a statement, pointing to $908 billion COVID relief legislation passed under former President Donald Trump.

Within moments of the Democratic announcement that the two measures would be tied, McConnell threw cold water on the plan. In floor remarks Monday afternoon, he doubled down on his long-held opposition to raising the debt limit.

Republicans would support an extension to government funding, McConnell said, but not if it includes a lift to the debt ceiling.

"Since Democrats decided to go it alone they will not get Senate Republican's help with raising the debt limit," McConnell said Monday.

Almost all Senate Republicans are in line behind McConnell, vowing to vote against a raise to the limit because they oppose additional massive spending measures that Democrats are currently working to craft.

Their biggest opposition is to a $3.5 trillion spending measure that encompasses many of President Joe Biden's agenda items and which is exempt from the normal 60-vote threshold in the Senate. Democrats can pass it without any GOP support, and a raise in the limit should be tied to that bill, Republicans argue.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday his vote on raising the debt limit would be "absolutely no."

"The Democrats say they don't need our votes to spend money they want to spend, but they do need our votes to pay for it," Romney said. "That dog won't hunt."

"I will not be consenting to anything that makes it easier for Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to bankrupt our kids," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, joining a chorus of other Republicans who also said Monday they won't support a government funding stop-gap that includes a raise to the debt limit.

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin accused Republicans of being politically motivated in their opposition and said they are failing to take responsibility for their actions.

"I certainly hope Sen. McConnell is not going to do damage to America and its economy out of an act of political spite," Durbin said. "If he won't stand up and take responsibility for things which he and his members supported in the Trump administration it shows this is a totally political effort."

But pressed on what Democrats would do if Republican opposition held, Durbin was frank: "I don't know."

The House is expected to vote to raise the debt limit and fund government on Tuesday, after the Rules Committee takes up the matter. Schumer said Democrats in the Senate will hold a vote to raise the limit in the coming weeks, but without at least 10 Republicans to support the measure, there's little that can be done aside from inclusion in the $3.5 trillion package. If the United States defaults on its debt in the coming weeks, it will be the first time in history this occurs. U.S. creditworthiness would take a hit, and markets could be severely impacted.

At least one Republican, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, said he would vote with Democrats on the measure because it would include hurricane relief for his home state. However he predicted that the bill would still fall short of 60 votes.

As they grapple with a looming government funding deadline and potential credit default, Democratic lawmakers are also at odds over how to advance their $3.5 trillion social policy package and the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Progressives have vowed to withhold votes in the House for the Senate infrastructure agreement until their policy demands are met for the larger package. But moderates in the House and Senate have threatened to sink Biden's major policy package over its scale and individual provisions.

"I've never seen anything like this," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said of the to-do list before Congress. "I don't know how's it going to end."

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(WASHINGTON) -- Opposition to the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks with the project nearly complete. Environmentalists, Hollywood celebrities and Democratic lawmakers have called on the White House to intervene at the eleventh hour, arguing that the risk of a potential spill is too great and tribal sovereignty has been violated.

If completed and fully operational, the Line 3 pipeline will be able to carry 760,000 barrels a day of Canadian oil from North Dakota to Wisconsin. Most of the opposition has centered around 337 miles of the pipeline in Minnesota that crisscrosses dozens of bodies of water, including near the start of the Mississippi River.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in protests around the pipeline.

“The main concern is a spill. It crosses so many rivers, if a spill happens at a river site, the entire stream would be contaminated … our ecosystems would never recover,” Sam Strong, secretary of the Red Lake Nation, told ABC News.

More than 50 cities rely on the Mississippi for daily water supply, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Service.

“It’s some of the most pristine land in the entire United States, one of our national treasures, and they chose to put this pipeline directly through those headwaters. Who is making those decisions?” he said.

The company building the Line 3 pipeline, Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. said the pipeline is actually safer for the surrounding area than the older pipes it's replacing. The EPA and Department of Justice ordered the company to replace the aging lines in 2017 and Enbridge Chief Communications Officer Mike Fernandez said they've taken multiple steps to limit the impact on the sensitive ecosystems around the new lines, including using thicker materials and engineering lines to go deeper below areas that feed into the Mississippi.

“This has been a six-year regulatory legal, science-based process where everything's been tested,” Fernandez told ABC News in an interview.

But the construction hasn't been without problems. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fined Enbridge $3.3 million for “unauthorized groundwater appropriation," on Friday. According to the state agency, Enbridge has dug deeper in some areas during construction than its permits allow, and, as a result, the company disturbed an aquifer and released millions of gallons of groundwater while the state struggles with a drought.

The Red Lake Nation joined the White Earth Band of the Ojibwe tribe, Honor the Earth, the Sierra Club and others in a number of lawsuits trying to stop the project, but the Minnesota Courts sided with the State and Enbridge Energy, the pipeline owner, in the lengthy permitting process.

A D.C. federal court has yet to rule on a lawsuit arguing that permits for the project issued by the Army Corps of Engineers should be re-evaluated.

The Department of Justice, so far, has defended the Corps, and the White House has deflected questions, citing that case. Activists argue the president and his team could, if they chose, take a more active role and ask the Corps to conduct further impact studies.

“President Biden took decisive action on day one in office to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline protecting cultural resources, land and water of tribal nations along the route. Now, President Biden, Jaime Pinkham [Acting, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works] and the US Army Corps of Engineers have the full authority to hit pause on these pipelines until a proper assessment of the dangers they pose is completed,” a group of tribal leaders wrote Friday.

The project began as a replacement. Enbridge was instructed in 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to replace the old, failing pipeline. The company said the new pipes are engineered to be safer for the surrounding area.

“This has been a six-year regulatory legal, science-based process where everything's been tested,” Enbridge’s Chief Communications Officer Mike Fernandez told ABC News.

Those protesting the pipeline, though, balk at the notion that this was about just upgrading pipelines. After all the permitting, mapping, and debate, the new pipeline now runs on a route that is a third new, and the pipeline will be able to carry nearly double the amount of oil, according to Enbridge and state documents.

Questions of tribal sovereignty

Fernandez said the new route was evidence that tribes were consulted in the process as the line was adjusted around some landmarks and tribal borders. A few local tribes have agreed to work with Enbridge Energy and allow the pipeline to run through their land. Others, however, have braced for the pipeline to cross land they lay claim to without their permission.

“We can say that there was consultation or conference with our tribes, but at the end of the day, those words, those feelings, those thoughts were not taken into consideration when decision making was done. And so for me, that feels very insincere,” Minnesota State Senator Mary Kunesh told ABC News at a protest rally Labor Day weekend in Bemidji, Minnesota. She said she's seen echoes of Standing Rock and the debate over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

After repeatedly writing to the White House asking President Joe Biden to intervene, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., brought several of her fellow Democratic colleagues to her home-state to meet with the “water protectors,” as many in the opposition call themselves.

“It is really not just an environmental issue here. It is an issue of, you know, solidarity with our indigenous neighbors. It is about standing up for Indian nations. It's about fulfilling the treaty rights that we have as part of our laws in this country,” Omar told ABC News during the group’s trip.

Earlier this month, the White Earth Band of the Ojibwe tribe brought a novel case to tribal court, listing wild rice as the key plaintiff, and arguing nature itself has the right to exist and is threatened by this project.

Emission reduction goals and the energy future

Biden held a second global summit on climate change Friday and urged his counterparts to set aggressive benchmarks for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Still, climate scientist Heidi Roop, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said it is hard to imagine the president meeting his own emission goals with a new pipeline like this bringing more oil to market.

“The new pipeline is designed to carry around 760,000 barrels of oil a day. If we look at the emissions associated with the combustion of that amount of fuel, it translates roughly into around 38 million, the equivalent of 38 million cars on the road. Every year, or around 45 coal-fired power plants burning,” Roop told ABC News.

“If we just consider the consequences to climate change investments in fossil fuel infrastructure that will increase our ability to consume fossil fuels, which are the root cause of our warming planet, sets us in the wrong direction,” Roop continued. “If we want to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate. We have to start considering other tools in our toolbox that are going to support and sustain society.”

Fernandez said Enbridge wanted to be a part of transitioning to an energy future that relied more on cleaner energy but argued there was still a strong goal demand for oil.

Complicating the debate around for this pipeline in particular, is the exact type of Canadian oil that Line 3 is designed to transport: tar sands. A heavier oil that requires significant energy to both mine and refine, tar sands is considered one of the dirtiest options.

“So the question is, are we going to have the same demand for oil in 2015, if we have it 2021, and I don't think that's the case," Arvind Ravikumar, an expert in the climate impacts and energy infrastructure and associate professor at the University of Texas - Austin, told ABC News. "Therefore, when we are thinking about building these new pipelines, we have to think not just about the climate impacts of the oil that's going to flow in tomorrow, but about whether that infrastructure for fossil fuels is necessary for the next 30 years.”

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(WASHINGTON) -- A decorated group of more than 500 current and former American women Olympians and professional and collegiate athletes is warning the U.S. Supreme Court in a new legal filing that eroding access to abortion care in America will be "devastating" to women's athletics at all levels.

"If the state compelled women athletes to carry pregnancies to term and give birth, it could derail women's athletic careers, academic futures, and economic livelihoods at a large scale," the women write. "Such a fundamental restriction on bodily integrity and human autonomy would never be imposed on a male athlete, though he would be equally responsible for a pregnancy."

Among the named signatories are U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe; Olympic water polo player Ashleigh Johnson; WNBA star Diana Taurasi; U.S. women's soccer national team captain Becky Sauerbrunn; and, Layshia Clarendon, a former WNBA all-star and current vice president of the Women's National Basketball Players Association.

The filing -- known as an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief -- was made in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a blockbuster abortion rights showdown scheduled or oral argument at the Supreme Court on Dec. 1.

The state of Mississippi has explicitly asked the court to overturn nearly 50 years of abortion rights precedent since the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, allowing states to set stringent new restrictions on early-term abortions, if not outlaw them entirely.

"As women athletes and people in sports, we must have the power to make important decisions about our own bodies and exert control over our reproductive lives," Rapinoe said in a statement. "I am honored to stand with the hundreds of athletes who have signed onto this Supreme Court brief to help champion not only our constitutional rights, but also those of future generations of athletes."

The signatories are all women who "have exercised, relied on the availability of, or support the constitutional right to abortion care in order to meet the demands of their sports," according to the brief.

Women's rights advocates said it was the first time a large group of female American athletes publicly took a stand in support of abortion access.

Crissy Perham, a double gold medalist and captain of the 1992 U.S. Olympic swim team, offered one of several personal testimonies in the brief attesting to her experience obtaining an abortion.

"When I was in college, I was on birth control, but I accidentally became pregnant," she wrote. "I decided to have an abortion. I wasn't ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I was given a second chance at life."

"That choice ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate and a proud mother today," Perham wrote.

Several athletes described the importance of the Supreme Court precedent in laying the groundwork for more women to participate in athletics and as a "safeguard" in case birth control failed.

"As a victim of rape during my junior year of college, I was comforted in the fact that if I were to fall pregnant and need an abortion, I would have access to that service," a Division I field hockey player, who was not identified by name, wrote in the brief.

Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman on the U.S. Olympic water polo team and member of the gold-medal 2016 and 2021 Olympic teams, said she wants the justices to see abortion access a matter of racial justice.

The case will be argued in December and is expected to be decided by the end of June 2022.

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Trump's top military adviser was "not going rogue" when he held secret phone calls with his Chinese counterpart before and after the 2020 election, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa said on "Good Morning America" Monday.

"He was not going rogue," Costa told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview. "He was reading people in throughout the national security community, trying to contain a situation and a president he believed was in serious mental decline."

According to their new book "Peril," which chronicles the end of the Trump administration, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng in October 2020 and January 2021 to dispel Chinese fears that Trump was planning a secret attack and to assure him the U.S. was not on the verge of collapse after the Capitol riot.

"If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise," Milley said on the October call, according to the book.

While Trump and Republicans accused Milley of treason and called on President Joe Biden to fire him amid reports of his phone calls, Costa told Stephanopoulos that Milley was "reading people in" on his conversations, suggesting that their reporting in the book was being misconstrued.

Even though the calls "were held on a top secret back channel, they were not secret," Costa said. "This was not someone who was working in isolation."

Added Woodward: "Two days after the insurrection at the Capitol was a moment of maximum tension."

Speaking to The Associated Press last week in Greece, Milley said the calls were "routine" and done "to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”

He said he was prepared to defend his actions in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week.

The new book, which goes on sale Sep. 21, also details how former Vice President Mike Pence grappled with his duties to certify the election results on Jan. 6, as Trump repeatedly pressured him to overturn Biden's victory.

Pence consulted the Senate parliamentarian and former Vice President Dan Quayle on how to approach his ceremonial role presiding over the electoral vote count.

"You don't know the position I'm in," Pence told Quayle.

"I do know the position you're in," Quayle replied, according to the book. "I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That's all you do. You have no power."

Pence, who is eyeing a 2024 White House bid, was "trying to ride both horses," Woodward said. He was trying to "do his constitutional duty but also keep the avenues to Trump open," Woodward added.

Woodward and Costa conducted more than 200 deep background interviews with witnesses or firsthand participants in events described in the book.

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(NEW YORK) -- The White House on Monday announced a new international air travel system starting in early November, requiring all foreign nationals traveling to the United States to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S. bound plane -- ending the separation of some families since March 2020.

The new system, along with the vaccine requirement, would include stepped up testing, contact tracing and masking, officials said.

For fully vaccinated international travelers, the 14-day quarantine would go away. The specific vaccines that qualify a traveler as “fully vaccinated” will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

”This new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID from passengers flying internationally into the United States or requiring adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States to be fully vaccinated. It's based on public health. It requires fully vaccinated individuals. And so this is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so is a strong system,” Zients said.

The announcement came as President Joe Biden prepared to head to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday and a day before he was to meet at the White House with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

(WASHINGTON) -- A new book details scenes from the early days of Joe Biden's presidency, including that Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly complained to Biden about calling him a "killer" in an ABC News interview.

"I'm upset you called me a killer," Putin said to Biden on an April 13 phone call, Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa wrote in their new book, Peril.

Biden told Putin his comment, made in a March 16 interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, was "not something premeditated," according to the book.

"I was asked a question. I gave an answer. It was an interview on a totally different topic," Biden said, before he invited Putin to meet with him in person.

Stephanopoulos interviewed Woodward and Costa Monday on Good Morning America, in their first interview about the book's contents.

The book, obtained by ABC News ahead of its Sept. 21 release, recounts the 2020 presidential election and the chaos of the final months of the Trump administration -- before and after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot -- based on more than 200 interviews with firsthand witnesses and participants.

Peril also chronicles the first several months of Biden's presidency, detailing his administration's efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, early efforts to work with Congress and internal deliberations over the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

This includes how Biden has apparently adjusted to life in the White House, which he reportedly called "the tomb" and likened to the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

"It was lonely. Cold. The virus made social events impossible, at least at the start," Woodward and Costa wrote, adding that Biden preferred "relaxing with the grandkids back in Delaware."

"Being upstairs at the White House feels like you're staying at someone else's house," White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is quoted as telling others, according to the book.

The book also describes how Biden and his aides reportedly refer to Trump in private: The president and his advisers "hated to utter Trump's name," and aides avoided using "the 'T' word," the authors claim.

"Trump's existence permeated the White House, even the residence. One night, Biden wandered into a room where a huge video screen covered the wall. To relax, Trump used to upload programs to virtually play the world's most famous golf courses," they wrote. "'What a f------ a------,' Biden once said as he surveyed the former president's toys."

Biden's aides "noticed he could be prickly and tough at times and would walk into the Oval Office unhappy some mornings about another round of Trump talk on MSNBC's pundit roundtable, 'Morning Joe'," Woodward and Costa wrote in the book.

Woodward and Costa claimed Biden's aides worked to keep him away from "unscripted events or long interviews" to avoid gaffes, a "cocooning of the president" known as "the wall," they wrote.

On Afghanistan, Biden eventually overruled Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in his decision to withdraw U.S. troops, after both secretaries suggested a phased pullout to try to encourage a political settlement with the Taliban, according to "Peril."

"Our mission is to stop Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and US allies by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, not to deliver a death blow to the Taliban," Biden said in a National Security Council meeting, according to the book.

Biden "said he did not know what would come next. The outcome was unclear, he acknowledged," they claimed in the book.

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(WASHINGTON) — Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday that U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie's acknowledgement that the Aug. 29 drone strike near the Kabul airport was "a mistake" was the correct response.

"I thought what Gen. McKenzie did was right," Mullen told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

Ten civilians were killed in the strike, which the U.S. believed was targeting a terrorist, but instead killed an aid worker, seven children and others in the area.

"We now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-Khorasan or were a direct threat to U.S. forces," McKenzie said Friday.

"I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed," he added.

"How can such a huge mistake happen?" Raddatz asked the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"We've done this for years ... we've had drone strikes that were very effective over many years and didn't kill any civilians and we've also had drone strikes which did," Mullen said.

He added that the over-the-horizon-capability -- or airstrikes that don't require troops to be based in the country -- is there, but the strike's execution being in a "confused environment" contributed to the difficulty of the situation.

"And should there be accountability for this?" Raddatz asked Mullen.

"I absolutely think there should," Mullen responded.

He also added that there should be accountability for the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding, "I hope that there is."

Separately, Mullen also spoke about the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley in light of revelations in Washington Post journalists, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's new book, "Peril." According to the book, Milley secretly reached out to China's military leaders in the waning months of Donald Trump's presidency and assured them that Trump would not attack to stay in office.

Mullen echoed other leaders who said that communicating "with counterparts around the world is routine" and he added that he was encouraged the line of communication with China remained open during the tumultuous time.

"There was a time when we had no communications with China, or we'd have a problem with China, they'd cut off all mil-to-mil connections," Mullen said.

However, Mullen said that the reported assurance Milley gave to China that he would call them in the event of a strike, wasn't routine, and on that point, he told Raddatz, "Yes, well, I'm hopeful that actually -- that part of it isn't true."

Mullen said that he was more concerned China would be worried about a U.S. nuclear attack.

"It speaks to the need to have these open communications, so that we don't miscalculate," he said.

Milley reportedly went so far as to make sure he was alerted if Trump ever took steps to launch an attack on China. As a military adviser to the president, he's otherwise outside of the chain of command.

Mullen cited the extra precaution as "fairly routine ... for something this serious."

Mullen also said that he sympathized with the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I don't know if anyone has been in a more difficult situation than Mark Milley," Mullen said. "I know him well enough to know that he would really try to do the best thing for our country. And I think he did that."

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(LOS ANGELES) — Efforts to combat misinformation intensified on Twitter during the days leading up to Tuesday’s recall election to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who appears to have retained his gubernatorial seat, according to an ABC News projection of the election results.

Since the 2020 presidential election, there's been more awareness of the damaging effects of the spread of misinformation on social media with fears that increasing numbers of people are engaging with false content.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, which provides record management and election services, said it took to Twitter to counter misleading information and provide context to viral posts leading up to the recall election. The department said it also used Twitter to clear up confusion over casting ballots, ballot status and the color of ballot boxes.

For example: in response to a viral photo reposted on Twitter showing an election worker wearing a “Trump 2020” hat and shirt, the department clarified on Tuesday that the person was later contacted and was “no longer working at the vote center.” The photo racked up more than 34,000 likes and more than 8,000 retweets by Thursday, according to statistics on the post, with some Twitter users debating the legality of an election worker wearing political clothing.

The department’s response also garnered notable engagement on Twitter and was referenced by other users, further spreading the update that the department removed the worker.

Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, said the worker broke the department’s internal policy requiring nonpartisan clothing for employees, adding that the worker was released after he refused to change.

First Draft director Claire Wardle said the department’s Twitter activity was “a very good sign” that organizations are making an effort to combat misinformation, even before it goes viral.

First Draft is an organization that describes itself as working to “protect communities from harmful misinformation” through knowledge, research and training.

Wardle said the department took an approach known as “prebunking,” which includes correcting false claims, answering questions early on and providing explanations.

“All of that is helping people get a much better sense about what to trust and what not to trust,” Wardle said.

Wardle said an important part of the process is to give context to posts that may not be fake, but could still be misleading and damaging.

On the weekend before the recall election, the department said it fielded numerous questions after an “equipment issue” reportedly caused some voters to have trouble casting their ballots.

Throughout the weekend, the department posted on Twitter that voters who encountered the issue were given provisional ballots and that the equipment was replaced. The department’s repeated reinforcement of accurate information may have helped resolve confusion on the issue, it says, preventing it from spiraling into full-fledged falsehoods.

Conservative radio host Larry Elder, the frontrunner to replace Newsom if recalled, made unsubstantiated claims of possible voter fraud during the recall election, saying there could be "shenanigans" similar to some unsubstantiated claims of a rigged 2020 presidential election.

The country clerk, in real-time on social media, addressed concerns or questions pertaining to the recall election, arguably helping to ward off their evolving into a misinformation wildfire spreading through the internet. The department said in one instance, it answered a Twitter user’s question about the equipment issue within five minutes. Other responses came several hours later or the next day.

Sanchez, in addition to being a spokesperson, led the team that monitored social media platforms during the recall election. He said while the majority of posts were general voting inquiries, the team took action when it identified misleading and inaccurate information.

“We provide resources and try to quell those who are aiming to mislead or misguide and -- or in some cases interfere -- with the election and the information that goes along with obviously educating voters,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the department has been actively monitoring and engaging with social media for years, including during the 2020 presidential election. Last year, the department was countering misinformation about ballots, he said, and even calming fears about fire alarms.

“These [social media platforms] are very powerful tools. Our voters are on them. We should be on them as well and leverage their ability to reach masses,” Sanchez said.

Twitter has made strong statements against election misinformation on its platform and has implemented a labeling policy. "However, the volume and speed at which misinformation has the potential to spread online means that this alone is not enough. Twitter said in January that it was piloting a new approach to addressing misinformation on the platform, alongside its labeling policy, to "broaden the range of voices" involved in the process."

Wardle pointed to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection as a catalyst that may have influenced organizations to focus more on battling political misinformation. Wardle said the 2020 election and events that followed were an example of “the harm that can be done if you leave misinformation to flourish.”

“It's a really critical time now to try and rebuild trust in the electoral system,” Wardle said.

While there is a spotlight on election misinformation this year, policing online misinformation is not a new strategy.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency launched its rumor control page ahead of last year’s presidential election, with the goal to help voters “distinguish between rumors and facts on election security issues.”

Public figures in key battleground states also used Twitter to dispel falsehoods during the presidential election.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned voters in 2020 about misinformation related to robocalls and voters with outstanding warrants. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office utilized an election task force last year, which also highlighted misleading information.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Before 1973, fatal "back-alley" and "coat-hanger" procedures in places where abortion was illegal became emblematic of the impact of abortion bans.

But in modern times, those images have become obsolete with the use of medication abortion, advocates say.

This has become especially relevant in light of Texas' new abortion law that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, making it inaccessible for many across the state.

"An abortion road trip is a thing of the past," said Elisa Wells, co-founder and co-director of Plan C, an abortion research and pro-abortion rights advocacy group. "We have safe and effective medical technology in the form of abortion pills and online access to care that can deliver it directly to your doorstep. This is the 21st century and everybody deserves the same access to care that we have through mainstream medical channels."

In a medication abortion, patients take two pills: mifepristone, which stops the production of progesterone, and misoprostol, which causes the abortion. Without progesterone, uterine lining breaks down and a pregnancy is prevented from continuing, according to Planned Parenthood.

The regimen is approved by the FDA to end pregnancies up to ​10 weeks.

Mifepristone is only supplied to health care providers who meet certain qualifications and is recommended by the FDA to be taken by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber to ensure safe use.

But, advocates say, people still seek abortions when governments restrict access to the procedures, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research organization.

With no other options for a legal abortion, some feel forced into unsupervised or illegal tactics to obtain one -- which could include obtaining medication through methods like utilizing a telehealth appointment with a provider in a state where it is legal, having pills mailed via international organizations on the internet, or crossing the border to Mexico, where misoprostol is sold in pharmacies as an ulcer medication.

Safety concerns

Medication abortion with both mifepristone and misoprostol is effective more than 95% of the time, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A 2013 study of 47,283 subjects found 0.3% were hospitalized for complications, such as vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or infection.

In medical settings where it is legal, doctors say it is safe for patients to take the pills and have an abortion at home. For example, some Planned Parenthood locations have begun offering at-home services via telehealth where that is legal.

A recent study by Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, found evidence that medication abortion care administered online via telehealth providers is feasible and safe.

Still, there are some medical concerns about obtaining pills to self-manage an abortion outside of doctors' guidance. International pills haven't been checked by U.S. authorities for quality, and people who acquire misoprostol on their own may not know the right dosages without the guidance of a clinician.

Misoprostol, which is sold across the border without mifepristone, is 85% successful in inducing abortion in the first trimester on its own, according to the International Women's Health Coalition. A 2019 research article in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal found that misoprostol alone is an effective, safe option for people seeking an abortion in their first trimester.

Overall, however, advocates say the risk level is low.

"It (may not be) legally safe, but it is medically safe. And I think that accessing these medications in an unregulated way may be the only recourse for many people, the only way to have reproductive autonomy," Upadhyay told ABC News.

Legal questions

While studies indicate medical concerns are relatively limited, there are legal questions about accessing medication abortion.

International providers who operate on the internet, for example, often skirt around local legislation restricting abortion access.

Thirty-four states only allow physicians to help patients obtain medication abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Nineteen states require physicians be physically present with the patient, which essentially bans the use of telemedicine to prescribe the medication.

Meanwhile, the new Texas law, which the Supreme Court allowed to go into effect but is being legally challenged, authorizes private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who "aids or abets" an abortion -- but not the patient themself.

With that, it's unclear how lawsuits against online providers would fare in Texas -- but the law implies that doctors from out of state, online providers or people who drive others to get an abortion may be at risk if a fetal heartbeat had been detected and known at the time of the abortion.

"If an individual were to get an abortion, that individual would not be penalized, but everyone who was involved in that patient's care would be at risk of getting sued by someone who's part of the anti-abortion movement," said Dr. Meera Shah, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic.

Restricted access

Self-managed abortion has been pushed into the spotlight by the Texas law, which is the most restrictive abortion ban to go into effect in decades.

"This is driving patients into a panic," said Shah. "Our health centers in Texas are getting inundated with phone calls from patients, trying to figure out where they can get care or how they can get care."

Before the Texas ban directly restricted access to abortion, other states had made it difficult for abortion clinics to remain open, forcing anyone in search of an in-clinic procedure or an in-person physician consultation to travel long distances for an available provider.

Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a research group at the University of California, San Francisco's Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health found that there are at least 27 "abortion deserts" in the country -- cities with populations of over 100,000 where residents must travel more than 100 miles to reach a clinic.

ANSIRH has also found that denying people an abortion can cause economic hardship and insecurity. People denied an abortion are more likely to stay with a violent or abusive partner and are more likely to raise the child alone.

"What's so important is to focus on people who are the most underserved: those are the people who won't know about Aid Access, won't be able to travel, low income populations and immigrant populations, people with limited English proficiency," Upadhyay said.

"These are the people that are going to end up having to carry to term because they just have no other choice," she added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The "Justice for J6" rally was billed as a protest for defendants being detained in connection with the January insurrection at the Capitol.

At least 610 individuals have been federally charged for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol, according to the Department of Justice. Most of the roughly 60 who remain behind bars are suspects prosecutors and judges have identified as posing a credible and ongoing threat to the public's safety.

Many of the same far-right groups and individuals who promoted the original Jan. 6 rally-turned insurrection this time warned supporters to avoid the demonstration at all costs. Former President Donald Trump has called it a "setup" but also released a statement supporting those charged.

With the House and Senate both out, no lawmakers were at the Capitol on Saturday. But preventative security measures were taken, including the reinstallation of temporary fencing around the Capitol complex.

Latest developments:

  • Man with knife arrested, Capitol Police say
  • Rally organizer lays out 'ground rules'
  • Counterprotesters arrive ahead of rally
  • US Capitol Police swear in law enforcement partners ahead of rally
  • Capitol Police prepared in case of violence but hopeful for peaceful event

Here is how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Check back for updates.

Sep 18, 3:16 pm
Man with gun detained at rally, police say

A man who allegedly had a gun at the rally has been detained and charged with unlawful activities, Capitol Police said.

A witness told police they saw "what appeared to be a handgun" on a man in the crowd at 1:30 p.m., Capitol Police said on Twitter. The man did have a gun, police said in a followup tweet.

"At this time, it is not clear why the man was at the demonstration," police said.

Sep 18, 2:54 pm
Up to 450 people turn out for rally

About 400 to 450 people were "inside the protest area" Saturday, Capitol Police said after the "Justice for J6" rally concluded.

That number did not include law enforcement, police said.

The rally fell short of expectations, with organizers having secured a permit for 700 attendees.

Organizer Matt Braynard thanked demonstrators who showed up for "trusting" him.

Despite the turnout, the event drew a large law enforcement and media presence. Capitol Police said Friday they were working with over 27 agencies from around the region to secure the event.

Sep 18, 2:05 pm
Rally concludes without any known major incidents

The "Justice for J6" rally wrapped up Saturday afternoon after about an hour of speeches, without any major known incidents.

Authorities had warned of possible threats of violence at the event, and Capitol Police officers could be seen in riot gear standing on the perimeter of the crowd as people gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee also said in a video message Saturday that the department had security "covered" for the event and was ensuring that people could "peacefully express their First Amendment rights."

Capitol Police said they arrested a man for a weapons violation shortly before the rally kicked off. He allegedly had a knife. Additional details were not immediately available.

No other arrests have been reported at this time.

The Capitol Police Civil Disturbance Unit also responded to a group of protestors and counterprotestors near the Capitol and "separated the groups without incident," police said.

Sep 18, 1:34 pm
Man with knife arrested, Capitol Police say

Right before the rally kicked off, Capitol Police say they arrested a man with a knife for a weapons violation.

The arrest happened at 12:40 p.m., authorities said. No other details were immediately provided.

Knives are one of over a dozen prohibited items and activities on Capitol Grounds, along with firearms, mace, ammunition and other items.

In the days leading up to the rally, DC Police posted signage in the area of the rally that stated: "All firearms prohibited within 1000 feet of this sign."

Sep 18, 1:11 pm
Rally organizer lays out 'ground rules'

Rally organizer Matt Braynard laid out "some ground rules" at the start of the protest, urging the crowd to be respectful of law enforcement.

"There are uniformed officers here who I demand that you respect, you are kind to, you're respectful to and you're obedient to," he said. "They're here to keep us safe."

He condemned the violence of the insurrection while calling for transparency in the investigation of the Jan. 6 riot.

"Anybody who engaged in that kind of violence or property destruction that day deserves to be tried with a speedy trial," he said.

"This is about the many people who were there that day who have not been charged with violence, not been accused of assaulting a police officer or destroying property and the disparate treatment they received," he continued.

At least 610 people have been federally charged in connection with the insurrection. About 60 remain behind bars, most of whom are suspects prosecutors and judges have identified as posing a credible threat to public safety based on either their alleged violent assaults against police or role in planning the riot.

-ABC News' Alexander Mallin

Sep 18, 11:45 am
Counterprotesters arrive ahead of rally

Counterprotesters could be seen gathering near the Capitol ahead of Saturday's rally, toting signs and flags.

One man had a hand-painted sign with the word "Loser" on it, which he told the Associated Press referred to former President Donald Trump.

A woman could also be seen carrying Black Lives Matter flags.

It is unclear how many protesters and counterprotesters will show up for the event, though organizers have secured a permit for 700 attendees.

Sep 18, 10:54 am
US Capitol Police swear in law enforcement partners ahead of rally

Hours before the rally is set to take place, U.S. Capitol Police swore in local, state and federal law enforcement partners Saturday morning, giving the officers jurisdiction in the areas surrounding the Capitol.

Capitol Police said Friday they are working with over 27 agencies from around the region to secure the event.

Officers from Fairfax County, Virginia, to Montgomery County, Maryland, are supposed to be on hand to help Capitol Police.

-ABC News' Luke Barr

Sep 18, 10:12 am
Capitol Police prepared in case of violence but hopeful for peaceful event

U.S. Capitol Police are prepared for potential violence at the "Justice for J6" rally, though are hopeful Saturday's event "remains peaceful," U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Tom Manger said.

"There have been some threats of violence associated" with the rally, Manger told reporters at a press briefing Friday. "We have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful and that if violence does occur, that we can stop it as quickly as possible."

Capitol Police leadership has been working over the last eight months "to ensure that we don't have a repeat of January 6," Manger added.

Manger told ABC News’ Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott he is most concerned about violent conflicts between protesters and counterprotesters.

Fencing started going up around the Capitol complex earlier this week as part of an "enhanced security posture" to shield the Capitol from any violence, authorities said.

-ABC News' Luke Barr

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- Law enforcement leaders were unified in their message on Friday: We are prepared for the "Justice for J6" rally.

The event on Saturday, billed as a protest against defendants being detained in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, has law enforcement on high alert as they seek to avoid the kind of violence that ensued during the Capitol riot.

"There have been some threats of violence associated with this events for tomorrow. And we have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful and that if violence does occur, that we can stop it as quickly as possible," U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Tom Manger told reporters at a press conference on Friday.

"Over the last eight months, the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police Department has been preparing, working to ensure that we don't have a repeat of January 6," Manger continued.

Fencing around the Capitol complex starting going up on Wednesday night, Capitol Police said, as part of the "enhanced security posture" to shield the Capitol from any violence that could break out.

Manger told ABC News’ Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott he is most concerned about violent conflicts between protesters and counterprotesters.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday warned that some individuals involved in or opposed to the rally "may seek to engage in violence" but said there was no "specific or credible plot associated with the event," according to a bulletin shared with state and local law enforcement and obtained by ABC News.

There was, however, a caveat.

"Lone offenders and small groups of individuals can mobilize to violence with little-to-no warning, particularly in response to confrontational encounters with perceived opponents or calls for escalation by key influencers," the bulletin says. "The likely use of encrypted or closed communication platforms by those seeking to commit violence challenges law enforcement's ability to identify and disrupt potential plotting."

In early September, some social media users "discussed storming the US Capitol on the night before the rally, and one user commented on kidnapping an identified member of Congress," the bulletin says. House offices were encouraged to work remotely Friday, according to a Thursday email from the House Administration Committee and obtained by ABC News.

Melissa Smislova, the deputy under secretary for intelligence and enterprise readiness at the DHS, told attendees at the Homeland Security Enterprise Forum on Tuesday that the department expects 700 people in Washington for the event, the same number permitted to attend.

Top DHS officials, including Homeland security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, have said they've stepped up their communications with state and local partners in advance of the event.

Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The Food and Drug Administration's independent advisory committee will convene in open session Friday to review the latest data submitted by Pfizer and discuss whether a booster dose is safe enough for widespread use and whether it's necessary and effective at improving protection levels against COVID-19.

Their vote will be non-binding -- the FDA is not required to follow the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee's (VRBPAC) recommendations -- but they generally do so.

After that vote, the FDA will decide whether they will formally amend their current vaccine approval for Pfizer. Next week the matter heads to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's independent advisory panel (ACIP), where that panel will weigh on a more granular level who should get a booster and when? The CDC director will then formally sign off on whatever ACIP recommends.

Friday morning's opening remarks are set to kick off at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed by introductions by the FDA, presentations from CDC representatives, a discussion about booster protection and a presentation from Pfizer executives who will make the case for why boosters are appropriate.

After a public hearing portion in the afternoon and a question-and-answer session on both Pfizer's and the FDA's presentations, the committee will debate the issue for roughly two hours. A vote is expected at about 4:45 p.m. ET, if they stay on schedule.

The meeting Friday comes amid a contentious debate on the timeline for boosters, with some health experts vehement that the data and timing is still premature.

Two top FDA officials who are leaving the agency later this year publicly waded into the debate on Monday, splitting from the agency and arguing in a scientific journal that it was too soon to give booster shots to the general public since the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious disease.

Both are scheduled to attend Friday's discussion. One of them, the director of the agency's office of vaccines research and review, is supposed to give an overarching introduction of the topic for the FDA in the beginning of the day.

Also joining Friday's meeting is the head of Israel's public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy Preis, who is set to present data on booster protection against COVID infection and severe disease.

In a review of Pfizer's data, also released Wednesday, the FDA appeared to be noncommittal on the necessity for boosters. The agency pointed out that Pfizer's efficacy data could be hampered by the limitations of studying boosters in real-world situations, which can introduce complicating factors.

"There are many po­ten­tial­ly rel­e­vant stud­ies, but FDA has not in­de­pen­dent­ly re­viewed or ver­i­fied the un­der­ly­ing da­ta or their con­clu­sions," the agency wrote in its briefing.

Naming no one -- but nodding to those lingering concerns -- Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla penned an open letter on Thursday making the case for booster shots.

"This week we are approaching another pivotal moment in our ongoing fight against the virus," Bourla writes of Friday's FDA advisory committee. "Since the start of this pandemic, Pfizer and BioNTech have pledged to follow the science and keep people informed about our progress to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We have stayed true to our commitment of full transparency without selectively cherry-picking data."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(RICHMOND, Va.) -- On the eve of the first day of early voting, gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin faced off in the first debate of the general election campaign, presenting contrasting visions for how to lead Virginia over the next four years.

Democrat McAuliffe, who served as the commonwealth's top executive between 2014 and 2018, touted his past record throughout the debate, arguing in his closing statement that Virginia needs someone "who's done this job before to lead us through" the pandemic, plugging his 20 policy plans. But Republican Youngkin, a former private equity executive, repeatedly took aim at that same record, urging voters to "embrace someone new" to politics over the "old, recycled policies from a tired politician."

During the hour-long event, the nominees repeatedly clashed, sparring over COVID vaccine mandates, economic policy and abortion rights. But on one critical issue -- the question of whether they would accept the results of the election if they lost, even narrowly -- they were in agreement.

"Absolutely," both candidates pledged, each confident they would come out on top.

Also asked if he agreed with former President Donald Trump's baseless allegations that Democrats may try to cheat in this contest, Youngkin, whom Trump endorsed, said, "No ... I think we're gonna have a clean, fair election."

The debate was held at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. The tiny town of about 1,000 residents sits in the middle of the southwestern Buchanan County, which borders both West Virginia and Kentucky. The region is a Republican stronghold, but the next and final debate, scheduled for Sept. 28 in Alexandria, will take place in vote-rich and reliably blue Northern Virginia. With only two debates agreed to by both candidates, Virginia voters won't see them face off at all the month before the election. The AARP of Virginia, which has sponsored gubernatorial and Senate debates for the last 15 years, canceled its Oct. 12 debate in the state capital after Youngkin declined to participate.

Fighting the coronavirus, recovering from the pandemic

Each candidate advocated that Virginians should get vaccinated against the coronavirus, but while McAuliffe favors mandates, Youngkin stressed personal responsibility.

"I have been a strong, strong advocate for everyone to get the vaccine. I do believe that individuals should be allowed to make that decision on their own," Youngkin said. "I think what we need to do right now is make sure that everyone in Virginia understands that getting the vaccine is the most important thing we can do."

The Republican, who disputed McAuliffe's characterization that he is "anti-vax," also said he does not believe President Joe Biden has the authority to require companies with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccinations, as he did with a new federal rule last week.

McAuliffe, who did specifically weigh in on Biden's policy, made clear that when it comes to him and his opponent on this issue, "I am for requiring ... vaccinations, he's not."

"I've called for employers to mandate their employees. I've called for everyone who works in a hospital to be vaccinated, call for every individual who works in a long-term care facility or a nursing home. Everybody who works in K-12, everybody who attends higher ed," McAuliffe said. "I have been very strongly on this from day one."

Pressed on whether he would have Virginia require eligible school children, currently those over the age of 12 get vaccinated, McAuliffe said, "Absolutely -- you bet I would. I want everybody vaccinated."

Given the opportunity to ask Youngkin a question, McAuliffe again focused on this issue, asking if his opponent would favor requiring a nurse working with immunocompromised cancer patients be vaccinated. Youngkin didn't sway from his position, saying the "nurse should fully understand that getting the vaccination is the best way to protect her health and those around her."

Both candidates are former businessmen, but they argued over their plans to recovery from the pandemic, to rebuild and create jobs.

"What I'll do as governor is build a booming economy as I did before. (I) created a large amount of revenue, I left with a big surplus," McAuliffe said, also referencing a Washington Post editorial that said Youngkin's economic plan "would run our economy into the ditch."

The former governor claimed, citing "independent reports," that Youngkin's plan would cut $10 billion from education funds, leading to 43,000 less teachers and cutting $50 million from the commonwealth's law enforcement budget. Youngkin, standing at the podium next to him, could be heard saying, "Not true," while he shook his head.

"God made me with a big nose, but Terry McAuliffe has racked up so many Pinocchios I'm afraid you can't fit in the building. Everything he's just said is categorically false. The studies he's claiming that had been written weren't even on my plan and if you've read my plan, Terry, you would know that," Youngkin said. "By the way, if Terry McAuliffe is your next governor ... get your checkbook out, because he's gonna have to raise taxes for you. My plan, in fact, recognizes that our economy stalled under his leadership."


Spurred by the Supreme Court declining to block the most restrictive abortion law in Texas earlier this month, abortion was thrust into the forefront of the Virginia gubernatorial campaign, and on Thursday, it was one of the most contentious moments of the night. The Texas law has a unique -- and controversial -- citizen-enforcement method, essentially outlawing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, only giving exceptions to when the life of the mother is endangered.

Youngkin was asked whether he would enact a law, if passed by the state legislature, that banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected, excluding in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered. Despite the moderator pressing, the Republican nominee would not directly answer, but said he is "pro-life," supports all three of the aforementioned exceptions and believes a "pain-threshold bill legislation would be appropriate." That is understood to be 20 weeks post-fertilization, but the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health legislation, calls that an "unfounded assertion."

Youngkin cast McAuliffe as "the most extreme pro-abortion candidate in America today," but McAuliffe cast himself as a "brick wall" to protecting choice in women's reproductive health.

"I'll say this again to every woman watching tonight. I will protect your rights, I believe a woman ought to make a decision about her own reproductive rights, and I will support those," McAuliffe said. "I am terrified today about what's happened with the Trump Supreme Court. I am terrified today that they will rollback Roe v. Wade, so ... the only thing I would like to see is enshrining Roe v. Wade in the Virginia constitution."

McAuliffe said he supports "the laws that we have on the books today," which only allows a woman to receive an abortion after the second trimester in select circumstances when three doctors agree the woman's life or health is significantly endangered. However, he was asked about a specific proposed bill that would reduce that to just one doctor's opinion. McAuliffe said in rural areas of the state, there often aren't three doctors.

"That really puts women in rural communities at a real disadvantage. So if they came up with a solution -- and a woman's life has to be in danger, has to be certified -- and if you have a legitimate doctor that says this woman, her life is in danger, of course I would support that," he said. "I'll do anything I can."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- A lawyer whose firm represented Hillary Clinton's campaign during the 2016 presidential election was indicted Thursday by special counsel John Durham on a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI.

Michael Sussmann, an attorney for the Perkins Coie law firm who previously represented the Democratic National Committee following the hacking of its servers by Russia during the 2016 campaign, is accused of lying "about the capacity in which he was providing allegations to the FBI" when he met with a top lawyer from the bureau in September 2016 and provided him information about potential ties between a Russian bank and computer servers in the Trump Organization.

"Specifically, SUSSMANN state falsely that he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations "for any client," which led the FBI General Counsel (James A. Baker) to understand that SUSSMANN was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative," prosecutors write in the indictment.

They allege instead that Sussmamn intentionally misled the FBI general counsel because he was acting at the time on behalf of an unnamed tech executive, an "U.S. internet company" and Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign.

Prior to his indictment Thursday, Sussmann's attorneys provided a statement to ABC News maintaining his innocence.

"Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime," attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth of the law firm Latham and Watkins said. "Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work."

"We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name," they added.

Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in May 2019 to investigate allegations of misconduct by members of the FBI and the intelligence community in their investigation of potential ties between Russia and former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for the presidency. Before his resignation, Barr appointed Durham as special counsel extending his tenure into the Biden administration.

While Durham's probe has long since lapsed the total duration of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, prior to Thursday he had yielded only one indictment against a lower-level FBI lawyer who admitted to doctoring an email used in seeking surveillance against a former aide to Trump's campaign. That lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, was sentenced to probation earlier this year.

Durham has been tasked with creating a report outlining his findings, though it will be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to determine whether to make those findings public. Garland has said publicly he has no intention of interfering in Durham's work.

The indictment alleges Sussmann began in 2016 working with a U.S. tech executive and other cyber researchers in coordination with the Clinton campaign to assemble "white papers" on a potential communications channel between the Trump Organization and Russian-owned Alfa Bank. Sussmann later provided Baker with the documents in a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting where he is alleged to have made the false statement about who he was acting on behalf of at the time.

The connections were later examined by the FBI, but not substantiated.

In a 2017 deposition with House lawmakers, Sussmann said that he requested the meeting on behalf of a client who was a cybersecurity expert that held data he said showed ties between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. According to a source familiar with the matter, his legal team denied in meetings with Durham's team that his meeting with Baker was coordinated or on behalf of members of Clinton's campaign.

The meeting between Sussman and Baker occurred more than a month after the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation -- looking into whether people associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government's efforts to interfere with the 2016 campaign -- was opened on July 31.

Days earlier, on July 27, 2016, then-candidate Trump said publicly at a campaign event, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the more than 30,000 emails that are missing." This was an apparent reference to Clinton emails that had been stored on a private server during the time she had served as secretary of state.

In the spring of 2016, Russian military intelligence had hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Emails and documents stolen by the Russians had already been leaked in June and July of 2016 and Trump continued to encourage more leaks as they continued throughout the campaign.

The New York Times, which first reported news of Durham's plans to seek an indictment against Sussmann, also reported that Garland has declined to overrule Durham's decision.

Sussmann's legal team has communicated to Durham's team that they believe his case will fall apart under scrutiny for several different reasons, a source said. They have noted that Sussmann's alleged statement to Baker was made nearly five years ago and in a private meeting with no witnesses. And they argue the statements identified by Durham are immaterial in that they likely had no significant impact on any actual investigation being conducted by the FBI at the time.

In the indictment, however, prosecutors contend the statement was material "because, among other reasons, Sussmann's false statement misled the FBI general counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann's clients."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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