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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)(WASHINGTON) -- As cases rise in the colder months and amid concerns of a new COVID-19 variant, President Joe Biden announced a plan Thursday for a winter coronavirus strategy that includes making at-home rapid tests free, extending the mask requirement on public transit and requiring more stringent testing protocols for all international travelers.

The latest plan does not include more aggressive measures like requiring testing for domestic flights or mandating testing for passengers after their arrival in the U.S.

To allow for free rapid tests, senior administration officials say the more than 150 million Americans with private insurance will be able to submit for reimbursement to their insurance companies through the same rule that allows tests on site to be covered by insurance.

To reach uninsured Americans and those on Medicare or Medicaid, the Biden administration will send 50 million at-home tests to 20,000 federal sites around the country to be handed out for free.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and Treasury Department will put out guidance by Jan. 15 to determine exactly how many tests will be covered and at what frequency, the plan said, and it will not retroactively cover tests already purchased.

Senior administration officials said they are confident in the supply of rapid tests to meet the possible demand of Americans who will now be able to get them at no cost.

"Supply will quadruple this month from where it was at the end of summer, so we're doing a ton to ramp up all tests, but specifically a big focus on ramping up these at-home tests," a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Wednesday night.

The extension of mask mandates on public transportation, including airplanes, rails and buses, will now go through March 18, per the plan, and tighter requirements for travel into the United States will go into place early next week.

The new travel rules call for proof of a negative COVID test within one day of travel to the U.S. for all passengers, regardless of their vaccination status or nationality.

The plan also puts a heavy emphasis on booster shots, which have had a sluggish uptake in the U.S. but experts urge for added protection in the face of the new omicron variant and its many unknowns.

Pharmacies will expand locations and hours to administer booster shots through December, according to the plan, and the Biden administration will up its outreach efforts through a public education campaign aimed at seniors and new family vaccination clinics that can be a one-stop shop for kids vaccines, adult vaccines and booster shots.

Biden also raises the possibility that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer suggest that schoolchildren quarantine for 14 days after exposure, instead relying on the popular "test-to-stay" policy that allows kids to keep attending school so long as they test negative each day.

"The CDC has been studying approaches to quarantine and testing, including looking at the science and data of how they may keep school communities safe. CDC will release their findings on these approaches in the coming weeks," according to the plan.

In all, the new strategy comes as cases continue to rise, a combination of colder weather pushing people indoors together and vaccine immunity waning among people who got the shot more than six months ago and haven't yet gotten a booster.

There are also new concerns about omicron, which has more mutations than previous variants but is still mostly a mystery -- from how transmissible it is to its capability to cause more severe disease or evade vaccines.

On Monday, Biden reassured Americans that his administration is taking every precaution to protect the public from the omicron variant and that he doesn't expect this to be the "new normal."

"It's a new variant that's cause for concern, but not a cause for panic," the president said. "And we're gonna fight this with science and speed. We're not going to fight it with chaos and confusion, and we believe we can deal with it."

The administration's ban on incoming travel from eight countries in southern Africa went into effect this week after the variant was first detected in Botswana. It has since been found in nearly 30 countries, including in the U.S. on Wednesday.

Over the past year, Biden has focused his efforts to defeat COVID on increasing vaccinations and testing.

When the country didn't meet his goal of 70% of all adults vaccinated with at least one shot by July, and as cases spiked again from the delta variant's arrival over the summer, Biden moved forward on vaccine mandates.

Though the mandates were supposed to apply to all federal government employees, health care workers and employees of large private companies, the rollout has been met with lawsuits and lax deadlines.

The mandate for government employees initially was supposed to be implemented in late November, but the government has delayed firing employees who refused to comply until after the holidays.

Still, 92% of federal employees had their first dose as of last week.

The mandates on health care workers and employees of large companies have faced legal challenges that halted them until a decision in higher courts later this winter.

But many hospitals and companies have gone ahead with mandates on their own, often successfully.

The nation's public health experts have continued to push vaccines and boosters as the best defense against the variant, even as they wait for more data.

"We don't know everything we need to know about the omicron variants, but we know that vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from severe illness and complications from all known SARS-CoV-2 variants to date," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, 71% of adults over 18 and almost 60% of the entire American population are currently fully vaccinated. Nearly 100 million adults who are eligible for boosters have yet to get them.

Reflecting on the past year, Biden on Monday said, "we're in a very different place" as we enter December, noting that vaccinations were just being rolled out and the majority of schools were still closed in 2020.

"Last Christmas, our children were at risk without a vaccine. This Christmas, we have safe and effective vaccines for children ages 5 and older, with more than 19 million children and counting now vaccinated," Biden said.

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday began to hear historic arguments over a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, asks the justices directly to reconsider the precedent set by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

This means that the justices, a majority of whom are conservative, have the real opportunity to lessen the right to an abortion or possibly overturn the landmark case that made abortion a federally protected right nearly half a century ago.

Legal scholars are raising the alarm that if the court should decide to uphold the Mississippi ban, it could clear the way for new restrictions on abortion across the U.S.

ABC News legal analyst Kate Shaw, a professor at Cardozo Law School, told ABC News' "Start Here" that as many as 30 states would restrict abortions if Roe gets overturned.

"It's certainly possible that there will be a majority of justices on board to just overturn Roe and Casey and rule that the Constitution doesn't protect a right to terminate a pregnancy," Shaw said. That would leave each state to decide for itself, and "a number of states already have laws on the books that go into effect immediately."

According to a report from The Guttmacher Institute, 21 states have these so-called trigger laws, some of which include bans on abortion after six or eight weeks of pregnancy, effectively banning all abortions. Several other states without trigger laws, according to Shaw, would likely "move very quickly" to prohibit abortion should Roe be overturned.

Shaw said she believes that the court could reach a compromise solution that still would allow Mississippi to enforce its 15-week, and even though that also "would be a dramatic change in the constitutional law of abortion, but that they do that without overturning Roe and Casey, simply suggesting that Roe and Casey undervalued the state's interest in protecting potential life, and thus that this viability line should be reconsidered."

Such a ruling could give states more power to restrict abortions, Shaw continued, "but it would not allow them to prohibit or criminalize all abortions."

This report was featured in the Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, episode of "Start Here," ABC News' daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday declined to comment on the claim former President Donald Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows makes in an upcoming book, according to the Guardian, that Trump had a positive COVID-19 test three days before their first presidential debate.

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce asked Biden, who was 78 and, like Trump, unvaccinated when they shared the stage in the September debate, if he believes Trump put him at risk of contracting the potentially fatal virus.

Biden paused, and then responded with a smirk, "I don't think about the former president."

Later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki took a different tone -- slamming Republicans and Trump allies she said had appeared to withhold the positive test result.

"What is not lost on us is that no one should be surprised that currently in Congress, as we're looking at the government staying open, you have supporters of the former president, supporters of the former president who withheld information, reportedly, about testing positive and appeared apparently at a debate, also held events at the White House, reportedly, with military veterans and military families," she said.

She said the White House did not know about Meadows' claim prior to the story breaking in The Guardian.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who notably was the target of Trump's ire for his messaging surrounding the virus, also said he "certainly was not aware of his test positivity or negativity" when ABC News Correspondent Karen Travers asked him about the revelation at the afternoon White House briefing.

"I'm not going to specifically talk about who put who at risk, but I would say, as I've said, not only from an individual but for everybody, that if you test positive, you should be quarantining yourself," he said.

The Guardian , which says it obtained a copy of Meadows' upcoming book, reported that Trump test positive on Sept. 26, sending shockwaves through the White House, before a second COVID-19 test came back negative, according to the Meadows account.

ABC News has not independently confirmed the book's contents.

According to the debate rules, each candidate was required "to test negative for the virus within seventy-two hours of the start time" of the Sept. 29 debate in Cleveland, Meadows recalls understanding in the book, according to The Guardian.

But Trump, then 74, was determined to go to the debate and face Biden, regardless, according to the account.

"Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there," Meadows writes, according to the excerpt in The Guardian.

Trump's reportedly positive, then negative, in tests were taken on the same day of the now-infamous packed Rose Garden ceremony, described as a "superspreader event," in which Trump announced he would nominate now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

At least 11 guests, including press secretary Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins, tested positive afterward.

Meadows called Trump, who was on Air Force One at the time, with news of the positive test before calling back that he tested negative after another screening.

Trump went on to headline a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania, that evening, and held public events at the White House in the coming days.

Meadows has dodged questions surrounding Trump and COVID-19 since the president tweeted in the early hours of Oct. 2 that he tested positive, at the time, repeatedly refused to tell reporters when he had last tested negative.

Two senior Trump officials later told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl they had heard Trump tested positive before the debate but Meadows told Karl several months ago that was not true.

"Some people say you first got -- you got an initial positive test even before the debate. Is that true or is that not true?" Karl asked Trump in a March 18 interview at Mar-a-Lago for his new book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."

"No," Trump responded. "No, that's not true."

In a new statement on Wednesday, the former president called the reporting "fake news" -- but did not flat out deny that he had tested positive before the debate.

"The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate," he said.

Notably, Meadows did not write explicitly, according to The Guardian excerpts, that Trump had COVID-19 before the debate but that he had an initial positive test that was followed by a more reliable negative test.

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Wednesday will recommend the full House hold former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in contempt for refusing to cooperate with their investigation in the latest effort to ratchet up pressure on the former president’s aides and allies.

The move comes as Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, agreed to cooperate with the panel, turning over thousands of pages of records and agreeing to appear for a deposition in the coming days.

The full chamber could vote to hold Clark, the former acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division, in contempt as soon as Thursday, making him the second Trump associate after Steve Bannon to be reprimanded by Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

After a House vote, the Justice Department would determine whether to prosecute Clark as it has Bannon, who was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for spurning the panel’s subpoena.

Bannon has pleaded not guilty and faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for each charge.

Unlike Bannon, Clark appeared before the committee with his attorney on Nov. 5, in response to a subpoena for records and testimony.

But he left after 90 minutes, after refusing to answer any questions, citing claims of executive privilege, which the committee has disputed, and Trump’s ongoing legal challenge to the panel’s inquiry.

Clark declined to answer direct questions about his knowledge of Georgia election law and his conversations with members of Congress, both of which committee members argued would not be covered by any claims of executive privilege.

The committee also sought to question him about Trump’s efforts to get the Justice Department to investigate baseless claims of election fraud.

Ahead of the Capitol riot, Clark played a prominent role advancing Trump's efforts to challenge the election results inside his administration. He circulated a draft letter inside the Justice Department to urge Georgia's governor and top Georgia officials to convene the state legislature to investigate voter fraud claims.

On Tuesday, committee members spent four hours interviewing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a source familiar with the interview confirmed to ABC News.

Raffensperger was the target of a pressure campaign from then-President Trump and his aides and allies last year over the results of the presidential election in Georgia. Joe Biden was the first Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election in nearly three decades.

ABC News' Alex Mallin, Katherine Faulders and Ben Siegel contributed to this report.

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(ATLANTA) -- Stacy Abrams will be back on the campaign trail in a second bid for governor of Georgia, setting the stage for a possible rematch with GOP Gov. Brian Kemp whom she lost to in 2018.

Abrams, hoping to become the nation's first Black chief state executive, made her campaign announcement Wednesday on Twitter.

"I’m running for Governor because opportunity in our state shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or access to power," Abrams said in an announcement video.

In 2018, she ran a closely-watched race for governor against Kemp, but lost by almost 2 points.

Following the loss, Abrams continued to gain notoriety as she advocated for voting rights legislation. She launched the Fair Fight voter protection organization, which is credited with helping Joe Biden win Georgia in 2020, as well as Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win the state's two Senate seats.

"We believe in this place and our folks who deserve to be seen and heard and have a voice because in the end, we are one GA."

Abrams highlighted the work she’s accomplished since leaving the campaign trail in an announcement video that shows Abrams at community events and features various scenes of Georgians at work. I've worked to do my part to help families make it through paying off medical debt for 68,000 Georgians expanding access to vaccines, bringing supplies to overwhelmed food banks, lending a hand across our state, especially in rural Georgia," she said.

Kemp may face a Republican primary challenge.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard historic arguments over a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with conservative justices openly raising the prospect of overturning decades of legal precedent since the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

After almost two hours, the conservative majority appeared headed toward changing 30 years of settled law protecting a woman's right to end a pregnancy before fetal viability and upholding the Mississippi ban, which legal scholars say could clear the way for stringent new restrictions on abortion in roughly half the country.

"Viability it seems to me has nothing to do with choice," said Chief Justice John Roberts. "Why is 15 weeks not enough time?"

"That's not a dramatic departure from viability," Roberts added of the state law and the line it would draw.

Since the 1973 landmark Roe ruling and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case that affirmed the decision, the court has never allowed states to prohibit the termination of pregnancies prior to fetal viability outside the womb, roughly 24 weeks, according to medical experts.

Mississippi argues Roe was wrongly decided and that each state should be allowed to set its own policy.

Scott Stewart, the solicitor general of Mississippi and a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, spoke first, saying that the precedents the Supreme Court set with Roe and Casey in 1992 "damaged the democratic process" and "poisoned the law," adding, "they've choked off compromise."

"For 50 years they've kept this court at the center of a political battle that it can never resolve," he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court should have taken up the case since the legal right to an abortion based on viability has been a long-standing precedent.

"There has been some difference of opinion with respect to undue burden, but the right of the woman to choose, the right to control her own body has been fairly set since Casey and never challenged. You want us to reject that viability line and adopt something different," she said. "Thirty (justices) since Casey have reaffirmed the basic viability line. Four have said no to the members of this court, but 15 justices have said yes or varying political backgrounds."

Referring to comments from a Mississippi lawmaker, she said, "The Senate sponsor said we're doing it because we have new justices on the Supreme Court," noting the new makeup of the court with three conservative justice appointed by former President Donald Trump.

"Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?" she asked.

Justice Stephen Breyer stressed the importance of stare decisis -- the legal principle that courts generally adhere to precedent.

"To overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to reexamine a watershed decision would subvert the court's legitimacy beyond any serious question," Breyer said.

Jackson Women's Health and its allies say the high court's protection of a woman's right to choose the procedure is clear, well-established and should be respected.

But the current court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, is widely considered more sympathetic to abortion rights opponents than any in a generation.

Conservative justices homed in on the current viability standard of roughly 24 weeks, with Justice Samuel Alito describing the line set as "arbitrary."

As Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, argued the impact of pregnancy, Alito responded, "If a woman wants to be free of the burdens of pregnancy, that interest does not disappear the moment the viability line is crossed," adding, "The fetus has an interest in having a life, and that doesn’t change from the point before viability and after viability.”

When Justice Thomas asked her to identify the constitutional right at issue -- whether to abortion, privacy or autonomy, Rikelman replied, "It's liberty."

"It’s the textual protection in the 14th Amendment that the state can’t deny someone liberty without the due process of law," she said.

"Allowing a state to take control of a woman's body and force her to undergo the physical demands for risks and life-altering consequences pregnancy is a fundamental deprivation for liberty, and once the court recognizes that liberty interest deserves heightened protection, it does need to draw a workable line of viability that logically balances the interests at stake," Rikelman added.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked if the court's decisions in Roe and Casey were wrong to begin with, how that would counter the stare decisis principle.

"The Constitution is neither pro-life nor pro-choice on abortion. If we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong, why don't we return to neutrality? Doesn't the history of this court's practice with respect to those cases tells us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality, and not stick with those precedents in the same way that all those other cases did?"

Later, Kavanaugh asked Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, arguing the Biden administration's support for abortion providers, "Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress?"

"There'll be different answers in Mississippi in New York, different answers and Alabama than California because they're two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat different way," Kavanaugh said, signaling he might support handing the issue back to the states, despite saying at his confirmation hearings that Roe was "settled law."

Prelogar replied that it's not up to states to decide whether to honor fundamental rights.

A former clerk to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan, Prelogar earlier said, "The court has never revoked a right that is so fundamental to so many Americans and so central to their ability to participate fully and equally in society. The court should not overrule the central component of women's liberty."

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who's personal views on abortion factored large during her confirmation hearing last year, raised doubts about how sweeping the impact would be if the court sides with Mississippi. "Don't Safe Haven Laws take care of that?" she said, referring to legislation in nearly every state allowing a parent to abandon a newborn baby without fear of prosecution in the event life circumstances make them unable to parent.

Majorities of Americans support the Supreme Court upholding Roe v. Wade and oppose states making it harder for abortion clinics to operate, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll this month. Three in four Americans, including majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats, say the decision of whether or not to have an abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor.

But Americans appear more sharply divided on the type of ban at issue in Mississippi. A Marquette University Law School poll this month found 37% favored upholding a 15-week ban, with 32% opposed.

Overshadowing the case is the Supreme Court's still-pending decision in a separate dispute over Texas' unprecedented six-week abortion ban, SB8, which has been in effect for nearly three months and dominated national headlines.

The justices gave the Texas law a highly expedited hearing, during which a majority appeared skeptical of its enforcement scheme that encourages citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets an unlawful abortion for the chance at a $10,000 bounty. Many observers assumed the court would quickly move to put the law on hold, but it has not done so.

A decision in the Mississippi and Texas cases are expected by the end of the court's term in June 2022.

The abortion rights battle at the Supreme Court comes as Republican-led states have enacted more than 100 new abortion restrictions so far this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

Twenty-one states have laws in place that would quickly impose abortion bans in the event the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

Fourteen states plus Washington, D.C., have laws explicitly protecting access to abortion care, according to Guttmacher.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert's faith-based attacks on Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim, are "indecent" and "dangerous" and suggested it is a publicity ploy.

"To see a member of Congress attacking another member is not a good thing. Right? Under any circumstance. Whether it's ethnic, generational, gender, or gender ID, whatever. But to see the supposed people of faith denouncing other people's's indecent. It's indecent," Pelosi said to House Democrats during a closed-door meeting, according to a source familiar with her remarks.

"So, this is hard because these people are doing it for the publicity. There's a judgment that has to be made about how we contribute to their fundraising and their publicity on how obnoxious and disgusting they can be. But I do think it has to be clear that there is no place for that," Pelosi said.

"These people do not respect the House that they serve in. We have to make sure that the public understands that we do," Pelosi said.

In a video posted to Twitter last week, Boebert referred to Omar as a member of the "Jihad Squad" and claimed that a Capitol Police officer thought she was a suicide bomber in an encounter in an elevator on Capitol Hill.

Boebert apologized on Twitter Friday "to anyone in the Muslim community I offended," adding that she had reached out to Omar's office to speak with her directly, but the phone call did not go well.

Omar hung up on Boebert after the Colorado Republican refused to make a public apology to her, according to a statement from Omar and Boebert's account of the call.

Democratic leadership is now figuring out how to respond to Boebert's anti-Muslim attacks, though Pelosi noted in her remarks Wednesday that there are "different views" among the caucus regarding the appropriate response.

A senior Democratic aide confirmed to ABC News that House leadership discussed a possible resolution condemning Islamophobia but didn't make any decisions during a meeting Tuesday night.

Other options could include possibly censuring Boebert and stripping her of her committee assignments.

Late last month, the House voted to censure GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona over a video he tweeted depicting violence against Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and President Joe Biden. He was also removed from his committee assignments.

Earlier this year, House Democrats also voted to remove GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments over her violent social media posts aimed at Democrats.

During a press conference Wednesday, House Democratic caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries accused the Republican Party of having a "total meltdown," and he pummeled Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy over his inability to reign in warring members.

"Republicans are having a complete and total meltdown. Attacking each other. 'Liar,' 'clown,' 'trash,' grifter,' 'nuts,'" Jeffries said, using some of the terms GOP Reps. Greene and Nancy Mace have flung at each other in the last 24 hours.

Greene and Mace are publicly feuding after Mace condemned Boebert for making the anti-Muslim remarks. Greene then denounced Mace for having criticized Boebert.

McCarthy met separately with both Greene and Mace late Tuesday night at the Capitol and told them both to stop the public feuding, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

McCarthy has not publicly commented on the matter, nor has he publicly rebuked Boebert for her bigoted attack on Omar.

ABC News requested comment from Mace and Greene, but neither of them immediately replied.

"What happened to the kinder and gentler Republican Party? It doesn't exist. They are having a complete and total meltdown," Jeffries said.

"The so-called leader has no control over what's happening, and the American people are hurt as a result," he said of McCarthy.

"It would be nice if we had a functional party on the other side of the aisle that could focus on the economy, on inflation, on the problems of the American people, but instead, they're focused on attacking each other and trying to prove loyalty to the cult. Shame on them. It's a disgrace over there," he added.

"What more does Kevin McCarthy need to see? What more does this guy really need to see?" Jeffries said.

ABC News has reached out to McCarthy's office for comment but has not heard back.

Democratic Reps. Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Andre Carson forcefully condemned Boebert's anti-Muslim remarks late Tuesday night.

Omar, Tlaib and Carson are the only three Muslims in Congress.

"We may only be three among hundreds serving in Congress, but we are strong advocates that won't shy away in demanding better for our communities. No one deserves to feel hate or racism solely based on one's faith. It's completely unacceptable," Tlaib said.

A shaken Omar spoke of her difficult experiences as a Muslim American -- from the person who told her she would never be elected to Congress for wearing a hijab, to the bigoted reception she received from some Republican members when she was first elected.

"So, when a sitting member of Congress calls a colleague a member of the "jihad squad" and falsifies a story to suggest that I will blow up the Capitol, it is not just attack on me, but on millions of American Muslims across this country," Omar said of Boebert.

"We cannot pretend that this hate speech from leading politicians doesn't have real consequences," Omar said Tuesday. "The truth is that anti-Muslim hate is on the rise both here at home and around the world."

Omar said she has received "hundreds" of death threats often triggered by Republican attacks.

She held up her phone to the mics and played out a disturbingly graphic voicemail she received from an unidentified male just hours after she got off the phone with Boebert on Monday -- highlighting the types of threats she said she regularly receives.

The man made several racist and bigoted remarks about Omar, and also threatened her life.

"Condemning this should not be a partisan issue," Omar said. "This is about our basic humanity and fundamental rights of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. Yet, while some members of the Republican Party have condemned this, to date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to hold their members accountable."

Omar said she wants "appropriate action" taken against Boebert but will leave it to leadership to decide what that means. She did not seem keen on the idea of a resolution that would condemn Islamophobia, noting that it's been done before.

"This kind of hateful rhetoric and actions cannot go without punishment. There has to be accountability," she said.

Jeffries said there are "active discussions" underway to make sure Boebert is held accountable.

"We're continuing to have discussions -- leadership, House Democratic Caucus -- to make sure that we support our colleague, because clearly, this type of dangerous rhetoric is endangering Ilhan Omar and it endangers other members of this Congress," Jeffries said.

"We needed to act as it related to the situation with Paul Gosar and we needed to act as it related to the situation with Marjorie Taylor Greene and we're going to need to make sure that Lauren Boebert is held accountable for her hatred, for her bigotry, for her Islamophobia and for jeopardizing the health and safety and wellbeing of a fellow member of Congress," Jeffries said.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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Jackson Women's Health Organization is Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic. - ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider a case that could fundamentally transform abortion rights in America by overturning Roe v. Wade and clearing the way for stringent new restrictions on abortion in roughly half the country.

"This is the most important Supreme Court case on abortion since Roe in 1973, and I don't think it's particularly close," said Sherif Girgis, Notre Dame law professor and former clerk to Justice Samuel Alito.

The justices will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health over a Mississippi law that prohibits termination of pregnancies after 15 weeks. Lower courts have found the ban plainly unconstitutional under the half century of legal precedent since Roe and put it on hold.

Fetal viability outside the womb -- around 24 to 26 weeks, according to medical experts -- has been the long-standing line before which states cannot ban abortions. Mississippi is asking the justices to eliminate that standard and allow each state to set its own policy.

"Roe v. Wade has hindered a healthy political dialogue about abortion, and perhaps most importantly, about how we as a society care for the dignity of women and children," said Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who is leading defense of the state law.

The case will be heard by a court whose conservative majority of justices is widely viewed as more sympathetic to opponents of abortion rights than any in a generation. The three most recently appointed justices were all elevated to the high court by former President Donald Trump with the express purpose of overturning Roe.

​​"The new crop of quite conservative justices on the court seems to put special stock in how wrong a previous opinion was, and they all think that Roe was very, very wrong," said Cardozo Law professor and ABC News legal analyst Kate Shaw. "I think that will be an important factor in their decision whether to revisit it."

The fact that the court decided to take up the case -- without a clear conflict among lower courts or ambiguity in legal precedent -- suggests to many legal scholars that a decision favoring Mississippi is highly likely.

"The court has long surprised us," said Shaw, "but it seems to me a vanishingly slim chance that the court will strike down the Mississippi law."

A decision upholding the state's 15-week abortion ban would implicitly reverse nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and open the door to state restrictions much earlier in pregnancy.

"You cannot uphold Mississippi's 15-week ban on abortion and continue the precedent of Roe v. Wade. They're not compatible," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is leading the legal battle against the law. "There is no middle ground."

Majorities of Americans support the Supreme Court upholding Roe v. Wade and oppose states making it harder for abortion clinics to operate, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll this month. Three in four Americans, including majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats, say the decision of whether or not to have an abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor.

University of California, Berkeley Law professor Daniel Farber said the legal options before the court are stark and extreme. "I think between those two options, I think overruling Roe would win the day," Farber said.

Some abortion law scholars believe the justices may attempt a more moderate approach -- at least in appearance -- by upholding the Mississippi law while explaining that they are changing, rather than overturning, the standard set by Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

"The court might say, 'We are not finding that there's no constitutional protection for abortion, only that these earlier decisions didn't give sufficient weight to other kinds of state interests,'" said Shaw. "So, perhaps states may be able to ban abortions prior to viability, but that doesn't mean they have carte blanche to ban all abortions."

Mississippi has just one remaining abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health, that only provides abortion services up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. The state argues that a ban starting at 15 weeks would not impose a significant burden on most women.

While Americans are broadly supportive of abortion rights, they appear more sharply divided on the type of ban at issue in Mississippi. A Marquette University Law School poll this month found 37% favored upholding a 15-week ban, with 32% opposed.

Overshadowing the case is the Supreme Court's still-pending decision in a separate dispute over Texas' unprecedented six-week abortion ban, SB8, which has been in effect for nearly three months and dominated national headlines.

"SB8 has the effect of making the Mississippi statute look quite moderate," said Julia Mahoney, a law professor at the University of Virginia. "So in a sense, upholding the Mississippi statute looks now like kind of a middle ground."

The justices gave the Texas law a highly expedited hearing, during which a majority appeared skeptical of its enforcement scheme that encourages citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets an unlawful abortion for the chance at a $10,000 bounty. Many observers assumed the court would quickly move to put the law on hold, but it has not done so.

Girgis said the delay suggests the justices "hit some snags" in their negotiations and may have decided to resolve the dispute in tandem with the Mississippi case.

"If they end up reversing Casey and Roe, then obviously the question of the constitutionality of SB8 becomes a lot easier," Girgis said.

In the meantime, access to abortion care for millions of women in the nation's second-most populous state remains on hold and could be suspended for months longer. The court is not expected to issue a decision in the Mississippi case until June.

"We're waiting on tenterhooks to hear from the court," said Northup of Texas law SB8. "But it is just quite unconscionable that we're so many months in, allowing this law to be in effect when it clearly violates Roe v. Wade."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh could be the key vote to watch in both cases, analysts said. He sided with the majority more than any other justice last term and notably broke with Chief Justice John Roberts in September to allow SB8 to take effect.

"From a tea leaf reading standpoint, we're watching Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett," said Mary Ziegler, Florida State Law professor and a leading abortion law historian.

"I think she may have some incentive, certainly not to save Roe, but to take her time in unraveling Roe rather than kind of delivering an immediate death blow," Ziegler said of Barrett, the court's newest and youngest member. "We don't know what Brett Kavanaugh, who is no longer beholden to John Roberts to get the deciding vote, will say about abortion."

The abortion rights battle at the Supreme Court comes as Republican-led states have enacted more than 100 new abortion restrictions so far this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. Twenty-one states have laws in place that would quickly impose abortion bans in the event the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

Fourteen states plus Washington, D.C., have laws explicitly protecting access to abortion care, according to Guttmacher.

"If the court follows the rule of law, we will prevail," Northrup said. "But we are ready to fight on every front if there should be a reversal of Roe."

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(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, said she had an "unproductive" call with Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., on Monday over her anti-Muslim remarks and claimed the Colorado Republican refused to publicly apologize for suggesting she was a terrorist.

Instead, Omar claimed in a new statement that Boebert "doubled down on her hurtful and dangerous comments," which led Omar to "end the unproductive call."

In a video posted to Twitter last week, Boebert referred to Omar as a member of the "Jihad Squad" and claimed that a Capitol Police officer thought she was a terrorist in an encounter in an elevator on Capitol Hill.

She was condemned by Democrats and some Republicans for the remarks and apologized on Twitter Friday "to anyone in the Muslim community I offended," adding that she had reached out to Omar's office to speak with her directly.

Apparently, that call did not go well.

Omar hung up on Boebert after the Colorado Republican refused to make a public apology to her, according to a statement from Omar and Boebert's account of the call.

"I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate," Omar said, adding that Boebert "doubled down" on her comments.

In an Instagram video recapping their conversation, Boebert said she refused to make a public apology directly to Omar and instead demanded the Minnesota Democrat apologize for her "Anti-American" rhetoric.

"Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of cancel culture 101, and a pillar of the Democrat Party. Make no mistake, I will continue to put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists," Boebert said in her video. "Unfortunately, Ilhan can't say the same thing, and our country is worse off for it."

Omar and Democratic leaders, issuing a rare joint statement last week, have called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans to hold Republicans accountable for the anti-Muslim rhetoric, but the California Republican has said nothing publicly about the exchange.

In her statement on Monday, Omar demanded McCarthy "actually hold his party accountable" for "repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment." Her office also said she is routinely subjected to harassment and death threats.

Omar added in a tweet on Friday that "normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims."

ABC News' Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who served under former President Donald Trump until his firing in the wake of the 2020 election, has sued the Department of Defense over redactions they made to his upcoming book.

Esper's memoir, set to be released in May of 2022, is expected to chronicle his time in the Trump administration, in which he served first as Secretary of the Army and then as Secretary of Defense until Trump tweeted about his firing on Nov. 9, 2020, following weeks of contention.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington on Sunday, said that Esper engaged in "extensive coordination" with the Department's Office of Pre-publication and Security Review.

Esper alleges the review "dragged on" for six months and when he finally heard back on Oct. 7 after reaching out in May, there was no explanation given for some redactions.

"No written explanation was offered to justify the deletions," Esper wrote in an e-mail to current Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. "My follow-on conversations with the DOPSR official handling my case confirmed my assessment. He similarly has been unable to assert that the redacted items contain classified information or compromise national security."

Esper said he was asked not to quote his conversations with Trump or other foreign officials, although much of the material "was already in the public domain," according to Esper.

His attorneys argue in the lawsuit that the Defense Department "has unlawfully imposed a prior restraint upon Mr. Esper by delaying, obstructing and infringing on his constitutional right to publish his unclassified manuscript entitled 'A Sacred Oath.'"

The former defense secretary also said he had already met with Austin's chief of staff and the Defense Department's Director of Administration and Management, Mike Donley.

"I should not be required to change my views, opinions, or descriptions of events simply because they may be too candid at times for normal diplomatic protocol. After all, the DOPSR process is about protecting classified information and not harming national security -- two important standards to which I am fully committed. Moreover, my Constitutional rights should not be abridged because my story or choice of words may prompt uncomfortable discussions in foreign policy circles," he said in the suit.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby responded in a statement on Monday.

"We are aware of Mr. Esper’s concerns regarding the pre-publication of his memoir. As with all such reviews, the Department takes seriously its obligation to balance national security with an author’s narrative desire. Given that this matter is now under litigation, we will refrain from commenting further," Kirby said.

In a memo reported first by ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl in his new book Betrayal, the Presidential Personnel Office under the direction of John McEntee, a favorite aide of Trump, made a case for firing Esper three weeks before Esper was terminated.

Reasons outlined for his firing in the memo included that Esper "barred the Confederate flag" on military bases, "opposed the President's direction to utilize American forces to put down riots," "focused the Department on Russia," and was "actively pushing for 'diversity and inclusion.'"

ABC News' Matt Seyler contributed to this report.

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- With the COVID-19 omicron variant sending shockwaves around the world, President Joe Biden is set to address the nation surrounding the new variant following a morning briefing from his White House COVID-19 Response Team.

The president announced Friday that starting this week, the U.S. will restrict travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Experts predict it's only a matter of time before the variant first detected in southern Africa is circulating in the U.S.

The omicron variant was first detected last week in Botswana and cases have since been confirmed in several countries including South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Japan and Canada. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the variant as one of concern on Friday.

In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America on Monday, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, argued omicron gives Americans more reason to get their COVID-19 booster shots -- or for getting the jab if they haven’t been vaccinated already.

“We just need to make sure that we know we have tools against the virus in general," Fauci said.

Fauci told Biden in a meeting on Sunday that it would likely take two weeks for a better picture of omicron’s transmissibility and severity, according to a White House readout of the meeting. Fauci said on ABC's "This Week" that it will also take time to determine if the current COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the new variant.

“The pharmaceutical companies are preparing to make a specific booster for this, but we may not need that,” Fauci said on Good Morning America.

Biden will address the public twice Monday. Following a meeting with CEOs from different business sectors, Biden will also deliver remarks about the supply chain and inflation concerns.

The president continues to face low polling numbers and mounting political pressure heading into the holiday season with several crises converging, from the ongoing pandemic to supply chain woes and rising consumer prices.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she’s confident President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan will be passed by Christmas, but Republicans, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, are still firmly opposed.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., told "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the Build Back Better Act would help create jobs, which she said is crucial right now because of labor shortages in certain fields.

"We've got workforce issues, and that's why this Build Back Better Act is so important," Klobuchar said. "We need people, we need kids to go into jobs that we have shortages. We don’t have a shortage of sports marketing degrees. We have a shortage of health care workers. We have a shortage of plumbers, electricians, construction workers. This bill puts us on the right path."

The House passed the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act on Nov. 19 along party lines, 220-213, with one Democrat voting "no." The legislation includes $555 billion for climate initiatives, $109 billion for universal pre-K, $150 billion for affordable housing and $167 billion for Medicare expansion.

Cassidy, R-La., told Stephanopoulos the Build Back Better plan is "a bad, bad, bad bill."

"There's corporate welfare. It's going to raise the price of gasoline at least about 20 cents a gallon. And it begins to have federal dictates as to how your child's preschool is handled, the curriculum even," he said.

President Joe Biden applauded the House for passing the Build Back Better Act and said in a statement it would help improve the economy if enacted.

"The United States House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act to take another giant step forward in carrying out my economic plan to create jobs, reduce costs, make our country more competitive, and give working people and the middle class a fighting chance," he said.

The bill now heads to the Senate, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Manchin D-W.Va. -- key players in ensuring that the bill passes in the Senate -- have not agreed to support the latest version of the bill yet.

"Sen. Manchin is still at the negotiating table, talking to us every day, talking to us about voting rights, getting that bill done, restoring the Senate," Klobuchar said. "He's talking to us about this bill."

Cassidy argued that the social spending bill will fuel inflation, which is currently at a 30-year high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stephanopoulos pointed out that the Biden administration has brought forward 17 Nobel Prize-winning economists who said the bill won't increase inflation, but Cassidy argued that, according to the Washington Post's Fact Checker, those economists "said that was the bill they had then, not the bill they have now."

"They point out that if you are going to avoid inflation, then you've got to be able to pay for it," Cassidy said.

The Washington Post spoke to six of the 17 economists who signed the letter in support of the bill when the package totaled $3.5 trillion. The Post found that while "some indicated that the proposed changes [to the bill] have lessened the potential impact on inflationary pressures," none of them backed away from their signing of the letter.

Inflation has been a mounting concern among Americans. Democrats are concerned, too, as Biden's polling numbers drop, with 55% of Americans disapproving of his handling of the economy and 50% blaming Biden directly for inflation, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

On Tuesday, Biden announced that he would authorize a release of 50 million barrels from the U.S. strategic oil reserve, hoping to lower surging gas prices.

"I look at it this way -- we’ve got an increased demand, shortage of supply. The petroleum reserve was a temporary measure," Klobuchar said.

Cassidy has blamed the Biden administration for the high gas prices and in a tweet referred to Biden tapping into the strategic oil reserve as a "Band-Aid fix."

Lawmakers are also facing another challenge. In October, Congress voted to temporarily raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion and put off the risk of the United States defaulting on its debt -- which the treasury secretary said would be "catastrophic" -- until mid-December.

Now, the time has come for negotiations to ramp up, but Republicans and Democrats are still butting heads.

"You know, if the Republicans want to scrooge out on us, and increase people’s interest rates and make it hard to make car payments -- go ahead, make that case," Klobuchar said. "We're going to stop them from doing that."

With only a couple weeks left until the U.S. reaches the debt limit, Stephanopoulos pressed Cassidy on why he’s against raising the debt ceiling.

"You mentioned the tax cuts. Republicans passed a huge tax cut under President Trump -- that's one of the things that extending the debt limit has to pay for," Stephanopoulos said. "So why are you against extending the debt limit?"

"The debt limit in the past has been the result of bipartisan negotiations, bipartisan both about the spending, bipartisan both about the debt limit," Cassidy said. "If you haven't noticed, Republicans have not been invited in at all to discuss this."

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Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(COLORADO) -- Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) issued an apology on Friday for remarks she made that used anti-Muslim tropes to refer to Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic representative from Minnesota and one of only three Muslim members of Congress.

Later on Friday, Omar sent a tweet calling for House leadership to take "appropriate action."

Omar added that "normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims."

In an undated video that went viral on Thursday, Boebert said that she was getting into an elevator with one of her staffers when a Capitol police officer rushed over to the elevator with "fret [sic] all over his face," trying to open the door as it was closing.

She then claimed that, upon seeing Omar to her left, she said: "Well, she doesn't have a backpack. We should be fine," implying that Omar could have been carrying explosives in a backpack -- an anti-Muslim trope.

Boebert also called Omar a part of a so-called "jihad squad" twice in the video.

"I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction," Boebert tweeted on Friday.

Omar said on Thursday that Boebert made up the story, and said that anti-Muslim racism should not be allowed in Congress.

"Fact, this buffoon looks down when she sees me at the Capitol, this whole story is made up," Omar tweeted on Thursday night. "Anti-Muslim bigotry isn't funny & shouldn't be normalized. Congress can't be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation."

Omar received support from some fellow representatives, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who called Boebert's remarks "shameful, deeply offensive and dangerous."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), another Muslim member of Congress, wrote on Thursday night, "These pathetic racist lies will not only endanger the life of @IlhanMN, but will increase hate crimes towards Muslims. The continued silence & inaction towards this hate-filled colleague and others is enabling violence. It must stop."

One representative across the aisle, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), retweeted the video with the comment, "Boebert is TRASH." Republican congressional leaders have not commented yet on Boebert's remarks.

Edward Mitchell, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told CNN on Friday morning that Boebert's comments were "beyond the pale."

"You've gotta remember, Lauren Boebert is not some comedian at a club. She is a sitting member of Congress speaking to her constituents... I will say the more disturbing thing is that the audience applauded, and laughed, and that Republican leaders did not condemn this yet," Mitchell said.

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(Nantucket, MA) -- President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spent the first part of their holiday hosting a virtual meeting with service members from around the world to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and thank them for their service.

From Coast Guard Station Brant Point in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the Bidens addressed members representing all six military branches -- the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Space Force.

After that, the president met outside with roughly two dozen members of the Coast Guard, shaking their hands and presenting them with challenge coins, which are historically collectible pieces.

The president said the "blessings of Thanksgiving are especially meaningful" this year after so many families and friends couldn't gather last year because of surging COVID-19 cases.

"We also keep in our hearts those who we've lost," the president said. "And those who have an empty seat at their kitchen table or their dining room table this year because of this virus, or another cruel twist of fate or accident, we pray for them."

Thanksgiving in Nantucket is a decades-long tradition for the Biden family. The first lady also confirmed that they would be taking part once again in the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday afternoon.

"We're all going to be there," she said. "We're all going together."

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(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Four years after "Unite the Right" was held in Charlottesville, Virginia, a federal jury has ordered the white nationalist leaders and organizations who backed the deadly rally to pay more than $25 million in damages to nine plaintiffs.

The rally began as a protest against removing a prominent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and it turned deadly when James Alex Fields Jr., a self-proclaimed admirer of Adolf Hitler, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others. Fields later was sentenced to life in prison.

The 11-person jury that announced judgment in the case of Sines v. Kessler did so on its third day of deliberations. Plaintiffs in the civil case initially had asked the jury to consider judgments ranging from $7 million to $10 million for physical injuries and $3 million to $5 million for pain and suffering.

Despite the $25 million judgment, the jury also announced it was deadlocked on the first two federal claims of the existence of a conspiracy possibly motivated by animus toward Black or Jewish individuals.

The two deadlocked federal claims in the civil lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, were based on a rarely used post-Civil War law, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The law allows private citizens to sue other citizens for civil rights violations and for conspiring to interfere with the civil rights of others. Some rally organizers and attendees have maintained that they merely were exercising their right to free speech.

Integrity First for America, a civil rights nonprofit that's supported the plaintiffs in their years-long legal battle, told ABC News that the battle isn't over.

"Our team is committed to holding these defendants liable," Executive Director Amy Spitalnick said in a statement Tuesday. "Our plaintiffs also secured default judgments against seven other defendants that we'll be pursuing."

Those potential defendants include: the East Coast Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights, Nationalist Front and Moonbase Holdings, LLC, Andrew Anglin and Augustus Sol Invictus.

Following the jury's decision, Roberta A. Kaplan and Karen L. Dunn, lawyers for one of the plaintiffs, said in a joint statement that the verdict "sends a loud and clear message that facts matter, the law matters, and that the laws of this country will not tolerate the use of violence to deprive racial and religious minorities of the basic right we all share to live as free and equal citizens."

Added Spitalnick: "At a time when extremism is on the rise and democracy is under threat, this case provides a model for accountability."


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