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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- After meeting separately with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, both Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain said the military should do more to keep members of Congress aware of its counterterrorism operations around the world.

Sen. Graham told reporters that one of the open questions surrounding the ambush in Niger, which killed four Americans, is whether it was the result of an intelligence failure.

“It’s too early to say. That’s exactly the questions we should be asking ourselves. In war you fail, you make mistakes and the whole goal is to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them.”

Graham said Sen. McCain will likely hold a hearing on the operation, and the strategy more broadly, next week. A spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee did not comment.

Graham also said the military will likely change its rules of engagement in Africa, and anywhere else they need to be changed, so that forces can hit targets based on their status – for example, a member of the Taliban or ISIS – versus their conduct.

That will likely prompt a debate in Congress over the broader counterterrorism strategy and the need for an updated Authorization for the Use of Military Force or "AUMF" – a debate which certain members have called for repeatedly over the years but which has largely been stagnant.

Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will testify at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the current AUMF next week.

“The many questions surrounding the death of American servicemembers in Niger show the urgent need to have a public discussion about the current extent of our military operations around the world,” Sen. Tim Kaine, a longtime proponent of an updated AUMF, said in a statement.

The counterterrorism fight is going to shift to Africa more and more, Graham said.

“You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less. You’re going to see more aggression by the United States towards our enemies, not less. You're going to have decisions being made not at the White House but in the field. And I support that entire construct.”

McCain met separately with Mattis, and after the meeting, with the secretary at his side, McCain said he and Mattis talked about the need for his committee to receive more information about the Niger ambush.

"I felt that we were not getting sufficient amount of information and we are clearing a lot of that up," McCain said.

Mattis added, "We can do better at communication. We can always improve on communication and that's exactly what we'll do.

Ahead of his meeting with McCain, Mattis was asked if the threat of the subpoena prompted him to meet with the senator. "Are you kidding me?" Mattis said to the reporter.

Mattis said the president is "kept fully informed' on the Niger ambush, but declined to say how often he is briefed about the timeline.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials have violated federal record-keeping laws by not promptly forwarding private emails to public accounts, a top House Democrat said Friday.

In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said White House lawyers told committee staff that "several White House employees came forward and 'confessed' that they failed to forward official records from their personal email accounts to their governmental email accounts within 20 days, as the Presidential Records Act requires."

"However, the White House officials refused to identify these employees," Cummings wrote. "When asked whether Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner complied with the Presidential Records Act, these White House officials replied, 'You should talk to Mr. Kushner’s counsel about that.'"

It's unclear whether the White House employees ever forwarded their personal emails to their governmental email accounts.

The Maryland Democrat is pressuring the chairman to push the White House to turn over documents on the use of private email in the West Wing, after reports that at least six senior officials, including President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, have used private email while working at the White House.

Cummings has also asked Gowdy to allow a committee vote on a subpoena to the White House for email documents and information.

The White House declined to identify any of the individuals to the committee while the White House counsel's office continues to review private email use internally, Cummings said.

Several White House aides did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment on Cummings's account of the briefing.

In a statement, Gowdy pushed back on Cummings's description of the White House briefing, saying "allegations that we have completed our engagement with the White House on this issue are absurd."

"The Democrats assertion that the White House has not cooperated is false. Our investigation into private email use for official business is government-wide and not about one entity. The Committee has been looking at the use of private email for years. I’m glad my Democrat colleagues now acknowledge the severity of the issue. The White House provided a briefing this week to share specific details on all of our outstanding questions and committed to follow up at the conclusion of an ongoing investigation," he said.

Gowdy also said he spoke with a cabinet-level official to "ensure their full compliance" in the investigation of private email use at the White House and all federal agencies.

"We need the documents -- not the drama," he said.

Gowdy sent letters to the White House and federal agencies Friday afternoon urging cooperation with the panel's investigation into private email use. The White House committed to following up with the panel's initial request for information following the internal review of staff email practices, he indicated in his letter.

While it is not illegal for West Wing employees to use private email, White House officials are required to forward any official business done on private email accounts to their government email accounts within 20 days, under the Presidential Records Act.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Representative Frederica Wilson alleged that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly employed "a racist term" in his criticism of her actions after she assailed President Donald Trump over his call to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger.

Kelly, who addressed reporters at the White House press briefing Thursday, rebuked Wilson, D-Fla., for deriding Trump's comments on the condolence call. Without mentioning Wilson by name, Kelly also appeared to attack her for comments he said she made at the opening of a FBI field office in Miami in 2015, which was named for FBI agents killed in the line of duty.

"A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building," Kelly said Thursday. "We were stunned, stunned that she'd done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned."

The congresswoman responded to Kelly in an interview with CNN Friday morning, taking umbrage at the metaphor Kelly employed in his criticism of her.

"I think that's a racist term too, I'm thinking about that when we looked it up in the dictionary because I had never heard of an empty barrel and I don't like to be dragged into something like that," Wilson told CNN.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders repeated Kelly's "empty barrel" comment to reporters at Friday's press briefing and explained, "If you don't understand that reference I'll put it a little more simply. As we say in the south, all hat, no cattle."

Sanders further pointed to Kelly's military rank as a reason not to question his criticism of the congresswoman after reporters pointed out Friday that video of Wilson's speech at the FBI event obtained by The Sun-Sentinel newspaper appeared to refute Kelly's account.

"If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you, but I think if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general I think that's something highly inappropriate," Sanders said.

In her interview with CNN, Wilson called attention to the fact that she wasn't serving when funding for the FBI office was secured.

"I was not even in Congress in 2009. So that's a lie. How dare he? However, I named the building at the behest of Director [James] Comey with the help of Speaker [John] Boehner working across party lines, so he didn't tell the truth and he needs to stop telling lies on me," she responded.

Wilson was in a car with Myeshia Johnson when she received a call from Trump earlier this week about the death of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, in Niger earlier this month. She took issue with what she said Trump told Mrs. Johnson: that her husband "must have known what he signed up for."

Trump later criticized the congresswoman and denied her account of the conversation on Twitter.

Kelly said Trump's comments to Johnson were based on what he was told in 2010 by Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when his son Robert Kelly was killed in combat. Kelly said the president asked him for advice about what to say.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- By a vote of 51-49, Senate Republicans passed a fiscal 2018 budget right along party lines, with every single Democrat voting against the budget framework, and all Republicans, save for one, voting for it.

The fiscal 2018 budget passed late-Thursday night is not a legally binding document, but it does serve as an outline of federal spending and revenues. It gives Congress some level of control over the appropriations process of how funds will be spent.

The measure is estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, and contains about $5.1 trillion in spending cuts.

The bill now heads to the House for approval.

Comprehensive tax overhaul

The ultimate goal for the GOP is to overhaul the U.S. tax code system, which would be a much-needed victory for the party after numerous failed attempts at passing legislation earlier this year.

The budget framework sets up rules that allow for a reconciliation process that tells the Senate Finance Committee that a tax bill cannot be filibustered if it adds $1.5 trillion or less to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Under the process of reconciliation, the GOP tax bill only needs a simple majority of 51 votes to clear the Senate chamber. It also means Democrats will not be allowed to filibuster on the floor, a stalling tactic that requires 60 votes to break.

Republicans wouldn’t need a single Democratic vote to pass their tax bill under this process.

Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid

Democrats have warned more than $1 trillion will be cut from Medicaid, and about $470 billion would will be cut from Medicare over a decade.

“This nasty and backwards budget green lights cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to give a tax break to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans,” Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “It shifts the burden from the wealthy and puts it squarely on the back of the middle class, and blows a hole in the deficit to boot.”

But the chairman of the Budget Committee, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., has rebutted such claims as being “false accusations.”

“Let me be clear: The budget we have put forward does not cut Medicare. Medicare spending increases every year,” Enzi said earlier this month.

Oil exploration

The budget could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration.

Nearly every Republican voted to block an amendment that would have protected the mass of land from oil exploration. Republicans can pass a bill that would open the land for drilling with a 51-majority in the Senate rather than the 60-votes needed for most legislation.

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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- One of the roughly dozen women who came forward with accusations of sexual harassment or assault against Donald Trump during the presidential campaign doubts that the uproar over allegations against Harvey Weinstein will lead to lasting change.

Jessica Leeds alleged last year that Trump groped her on an airplane in the late-1970s, which the president has repeatedly denied. Leeds, 75, said she is skeptical that any changes in the handling and prevention of sexual assault and harassment will occur, likening the public uproar to the call for action when controversial events prompt heated debate about race relations in America.

“Every once in a while, we say we need to discuss the problems with racial issues and we don’t, so I somewhat fear that after the headlines fade… it won’t change things,” Leeds told ABC News of the Weinstein backlash.

The chorus of claims against Hollywood producer Weinstein have prompted renewed national discourse about sexual harassment and assault, with more and more women – including a number of A-list celebrities – coming forward with their allegations, which include rape.

A spokesperson for Weinstein has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex, in a statement to The New Yorker.

The reverberations are being felt outside Hollywood, too, with the popular #MeToo social media campaign prompting women across the world to talk about their experiences, in the hopes of showing how widespread sexual harassment has become.

Leeds, when asked whether she thinks momentum from the Weinstein allegations will have an impact, said, “I would love to believe so,” adding it would be good “if it is empowering that women feel that they don’t have to put up with this s---.”

“I sense [that] since we don’t see really any men coming forward [in support of women], that we've got a long way to go,” said Leeds, who lives in New York City.

Leeds noted how while Weinstein has faced consequences from the outcry over the allegations against him, including his dismissal from the board of his eponymous company and from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, Trump did not face similar consequences, and “now have Trump as our president.”

She noted that Billy Bush lost his job at NBC IN 2016 after release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” recording MADE IN 2005 on which Trump was heard talking to Bush about grabbing women “by the p----,” which Trump defended as “locker-room talk” before going on to win the election.

“I must admit I’ve found myself saying that after Trump was elected and people would still come up to me and thank me, and I would say ‘But it didn’t help.’ I truly was disappointed that we couldn’t make the objections for Trump the person stick. It’s like he is Teflon,” she told ABC News

“I don’t expect fairness in the world. It’s always a problem,” she added. “But Trump has got so many other problems that he's inflicting upon the United States that the sexual harassment is kind of low on the totem pole of problems that we have with him being president.”

Leeds went public in a New York Times article on Oct. 12, 2016 – discussing an alleged decades-old interaction with Trump -- four days after the “Access Hollywood” recording was released, and three days after the second presidential debate, during which Trump denied ever kissing or groping women without consent.

“That so infuriated me,” Leeds said.

Leeds had been telling friends throughout the campaign about the alleged interaction she had with Trump in the late-1970s when she was a traveling businesswoman. She first went public with her allegations in The New York Times, saying she and Trump were seated beside each other in the first class cabin of a plane. During one point in the flight, Trump lifted the armrest and grabbed her breast and put his hand up her skirt, she alleged to The Times.

Leeds never pursued any legal action against Trump, and Trump has repeatedly denied all of the allegations made by Leeds and the other women who came forward during the campaign. Ten days after The Times article appeared, Trump threatened to sue the women who made the allegations, though he never did so.

Leeds heard Trump’s threats on TV "but nothing came of it," she told ABC News.

The trauma from the alleged incident on the plane still resonates with Leeds, she said.

“It doesn’t mean a lot to men that they exercise this power over women,” Leeds added.

“The harassment is like, ‘Oh, well, I have this itch.’… They don’t think, ‘I’m going to bother this woman and she’s going to have nightmares,’” she said.

“It doesn’t even get on their radar the emotional trauma that they are inflicting.”

After coming forward, Leeds said, her children guarded her from the negative reactions. They “would not let me answer the phone, and I didn’t have any interest in checking Facebook or whatever it is because I don’t know how,” she said.

“All of the reaction I got face to face ... [which was] mostly in New York City, was unbelievably positive,” she said, noting how nearly every woman who would come up to her after the article was published would say two things.

“They would say, ‘Thank you’ and, ‘You're so brave,’” she said.

“I didn’t feel particularly brave. I was just angry at Trump lying, but he does have a problem with telling the truth but that's a different story all together,” Leeds said.

The time gap between her alleged incident with Trump and the recent accusations against Weinstein and others sent an disturbing message to Leeds, she said.

“I had been wrong: I really had thought that things were better for women, working women, and there was less of the sexual aggression in the work place,” she said.

“It still happens.”

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that while President Donald Trump’s actions on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have been “heartbreaking,” she has “confidence” he will stand by the young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as "Dreamers," going forward.

Pelosi told ABC's The View Friday that every president "in recent history," including Republicans like Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, "have been respectful of what immigration means to our country."

In contrast, she said Trump “is the first president who’s made a departure in a very negative way. It’s unfortunate.”

Specifically, the California congresswoman said it was “heartbreaking” that the Trump administration imposed an Oct. 5 deadline for young immigrants who had been covered under DACA to renew their permits. After that deadline, no DACA recipients have been allowed to renew their protected status. Many missed that deadline.

However, Pelosi said she has confidence that Trump "would not walk away from his support for the Dreamers."

"I think he supports the Dreamers because the American people support the Dreamers," she added.

She said she opened the conversation about DACA with Trump during a dinner in September with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The pair came to the table with "a list of concerns" and disappointments about Trump's actions, Pelosi said. They were looking for an issue they could work with Trump on as "a confidence builder" so that Democrats could feel it was possible to move forward and work with the president.

“For us, that is DACA,” Pelosi said of the key “threshold” the president needed to cross with the two Democratic party leaders.

“If we can have agreement on this and confidence, then we can do other things,” Pelosi said. “If we don't have that confidence, it will be very hard to do it."

Ultimately, the president said he would support the DREAM Act and in exchange, Pelosi said, “We would work with him on some border issues.”

“We have a responsibility to protect our border,” Pelosi said. “We don't have a responsibility to…start a reign of terror by going after families and other people."

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  First lady Melania Trump’s inaugural gown went on display Friday at the Smithsonian, part of an exhibit that features various inaugural gowns of former first ladies.

Trump, who participated in the gown’s unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, offered praise for the designer Herve Pierre, who collaborated with Trump on the off-the-shoulder, full-length creme-colored couture gown.

“It can be a daunting task to choose an outfit that will be mesmerized and become part of our nation's story and forever history,” Trump said of deciding what to wear for the inaugural ball.

Sharing the story of the gown’s creation, Trump revealed that she was so focused on the dramatic changes that she and her family were facing in the wake of her husband’s election victory, Pierre only had two weeks to design and create the gown.

“We were very busy with all that goes into preparing for a new administration and all of the changes that we, as a family, would be facing,” Trump said. “To be honest, what I would wear to the inaugural ball was the last thing on my mind. By the time I got around to thinking about my choice, poor Herve was only given two weeks this piece.”

In donating the gown, Trump conveyed her family’s gratitude in representing the nation at the White House and said she hoped the gown serves as one piece of her family’s legacy in Washington.

“It is now my hope that this piece is one of the many great beginnings to our family’s history here in Washington, D.C. The president, Barron, and I love living here, and we are so honored to represent this country,” she said.

The gowns in the Smithsonian’s first ladies collection span over 200 years and includes the historic silk pink gown worn by Martha Washington at the nation’s first inauguration as well as the gown worn by Trump’s most immediate predecessor, Michelle Obama.

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U.S. Government (NEW YORK) --  Senate Republicans passed a budget late Thursday night following a series of votes, setting the stage for the GOP's ultimate goal of tackling tax reform later this year.

The measure is estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, and contains about $4 trillion in spending cuts, including nearly $500 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to replace America’s failing tax codes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor after the bill was approved.

The Senate’s plan passed along party lines, with 51 Republicans voting in favor of the bill, and all Democrats voting against it.

The 51-49 vote sets the stage for debate later this year to dramatically overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in three decades.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone Republican senator who opposed the measure.

“I could not in good conscience vote for a budget that ignores spending caps that have been the law of the land for years and simply pretend it didn’t matter,” Paul said in a statement.

Following the budget's passage, the White House released the following statement: "President Donald J. Trump applauds the Senate for passing its FY 2018 Budget Resolution today and taking an important step in advancing the Administration’s pro-growth and pro-jobs legislative agenda. This resolution creates a pathway to unleash the potential of the American economy through tax reform and tax cuts, simplifying the overcomplicated tax code, providing financial relief for families across the country, and making American businesses globally competitive. President Trump looks forward to final enactment of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution so we can bring jobs back to our country."

And White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a photo of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at a gala dinner benefiting the UNHCR at the Kuwaiti embassy at which the first lady was honored. "Great night honoring @FLOTUS & perfect ending w/ @POTUS announcing passage of budget—major step forward for tax cuts," Sanders tweeted.

Great night honoring @FLOTUS & perfect ending w/ @POTUS announcing passage of budget—major step forward for tax cuts pic.twitter.com/3icggLPvNf

— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 20, 2017

The resolution is a nonbinding budget framework, and is a legislative vehicle that will allow Republicans to pass a tax plan under the rules of reconciliation. This means the GOP tax bill could pass without a single Democratic vote. It also avoids a filibuster attempt by Democrats.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Budget Committee, told reporters Thursday afternoon, "This is the biggest hoax hatched upon the American people ever, that this budget process even exists. The only thing about this that matters is preparation for tax reform."

The Senate opted to fast-track the bill by adopting an amendment that aligned its budget to the House's version of the bill, which was approved in the House chamber last week.

The move to align the two plans is intended to help speed up the process in getting final passage from both chambers of Congress, by foregoing a conference committee to work out the difference in the two documents.

Before the final vote, the Senate agreed to a bipartisan amendment that called the entire budget voting process "utter nonsense."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, I think it will go down in history as one of the worst budgets Congress has ever passed."

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Responding to growing revelations about the scale of the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election over social media, a pair of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Thursday to force Facebook and other social media companies to disclose more details about political ads on their platforms.

The proposal from Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, which is also backed by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, would update existing election law governing political television and radio ads to also include digital ads.

It would also require platforms to keep a public file on any ads from groups and people spending more than $500 -– which would include copies of the ads, the number of views, and contact information for the purchaser. Facebook revealed earlier this month that fake accounts linked to a Russian company spent $100,000 on roughly 3,000 political ads on the platform, a disclosure Warner referred to as the “tip of the iceberg.”

While Facebook, Twitter and other social media sights have fought regulation efforts on Capitol Hill in the past, the companies have pledged to do a better job self-policing their platforms. Klobuchar said any changes should be written in into law. “It has to cover everyone. you can't just have a few companies doing it voluntarily,” she said.

A Facebook spokesman said the company is open to working with lawmakers and reviewing the proposal.

“We look forward to engaging with Congress and the Federal Election Commission on these issues,” a Twitter spokesman said.

The legislative push comes amid new fears that the United States has done little to address concerns about Russian interference in the U.S. election ahead of gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, and the 2018 midterm elections.

“Our next election is only 383 days away, Russia will keep trying to divide our country,” Klobuchar said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, said the United States is “probably not” doing enough to defend against future meddling by Russia and other foreign powers. “We’re not,” Sessions said. “It requires a real review.”

Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the United States still lacks a “whole-of-government approach” to addressing foreign interference.

“Many members of the Trump administration acknowledge this problem,” he said. “I don't think we are helped in terms of making Americans fully aware when the president continues to dismiss the evidence of Russian intervention.”

He also said the Russian efforts are still underway, citing a report that Twitter suspended a fake account purporting to be the Tennessee Republican party that linked to a Russian-backed “troll farm.”

The senators hope to pass the legislation early in 2018, ahead of the midterm primary elections. They suggested it could make it through the Senate as part of a larger legislative package -- potentially from the Senate Armed Services Committee led by McCain, who is also a longtime advocate of transparency in campaign finance.



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DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images(NEWARK, N.J.) -- Former President Obama made his much-anticipated first post-presidential appearance on the campaign trail Thursday, speaking at events for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia before elections there next month.

Appearing at a rally in Richmond, Virginia with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, Obama commented on the political climate in the country.

“Folks don't feel good right now about what they see, they don't feel as if our public life reflects our best,” Obama said, “Instead of our politics reflecting our values, we've got politics infecting our communities.”

Obama did not mention President Trump by name, but did offer some pointed criticism that appeared to be directed at him.

"You'll notice I haven't been commenting on politics a lot lately, but here's one thing I know: If you have to win a campaign by dividing people you're not going to be able to govern them. You won't be able to unite them later if that's how you start,” Obama told the crowd of thousands at the Richmond convention center.

Obama also got animated when offering some deeply personal thoughts on the events over the summer in Charlottesville.

“We saw what happened in Charlottesville, but we also saw what happened after Charlottesville, when the biggest gatherings of all rejected fear and rejected hate and the decency and goodwill of the American people came out,” Obama said. “That's how we rise. We don't rise up by repeating the past, we rise up by learning from the past.”

The race between Northam and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is considered the only competitive statewide race in the nation this year, raising the stakes for Obama’s visit to the state with the election less than three weeks away.

Obama slammed Gillespie for television advertisements attacking Northam over recent MS-13 gang violence in the Commonwealth, dismissing it as nothing more than fear-mongering.

“It's a tactic by the way that shows Ralph's opponent doesn't really think very highly of Virginians,” Obama said, adding, “If he honestly thought these were serious issues he'd offer serious solutions. But he's not because what he's really trying to deliver is fear. What he really believes is if you scare enough voters you might score just enough votes to win an election.”

The former president is still popular in Virginia, a state he won in 2008 and 2012.

Appearing at an event earlier in the day in Newark with Phil Murphy, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Germany during the Obama administration, the former president praised Murphy as the right choice for New Jersey voters.

"When Phil and his family said I’m ready to go, I’m willing to step out there and step into what can be a pretty tough political environment, I wasn’t surprised because I knew him," Obama said, "I knew their character."

Obama’s re-emergence comes as President Trump has taken aim at various parts of his legacy, including the Iran nuclear agreement and the Affordable Care Act and as the controversy around Trump’s interactions with families of fallen U.S. soldiers persists.

Obama shied away from calling out Trump directly in his remarks in Newark, instead hammering his critique of the state of U.S. politics Thursday.

"Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That’s folks looking 50 years back, it’s the 21st century, not the 19th century," Obama said.

The former president also told the crowd to ignore the polls and focusing on turning out as much grassroots support as possible.

"I don't know if y'all noticed, but you can't take any election for granted," Obama said, "I don't care what the polls say. I don't care what the pundits say."

Aides to the former president said Obama planned to stick to policy instead of political attacks on President Trump.

“It’s in no one’s interest – including the former president’s, the Democratic Party’s, or the country’s – for President Obama to become the face of any resistance or the party,” a senior adviser to the former president wrote in a statement to ABC News, “Instead, he is creating the space for leaders in the party to craft the best path forward that will make our country better.

“He is acutely aware that when he consumes political oxygen, it can stifle the attention that should be on current and emerging leaders in the party.”

The elections in New Jersey and Virginia will take place Nov. 7.

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Thursday on the Senate floor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced their bipartisan health care bill that aims to fund federal subsidies for two years and stabilize individual insurance markets.

After working on a bipartisan, short-term fix to health care for months, Alexander and Murray presented their legislation and named a list of 22 other Democratic and Republican co-sponsors that could help propel their bill forward. Among the supporters are Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine -- the three senators who sunk the Republican Party's effort to repeal and replace Obamacare this summer.

With the added support for the proposal, said Alexander, it “sounds like something that might actually become law before the end of the year.”

The bill has gained the support of 10 bipartisan governors, the America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, and a group of 29 non-partisan patient, consumer, and health care groups.

But while Alexander and Murray have sent a clear signal they intend to continue working on their bill, it is still in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring the bill to the floor for votes, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has said he only intends to support repealing and replacing Obamacare.

President Donald Trump has sent mixed signals about whether or not he can support the legislation as well.

Alexander said that over the course of 10 days, he’s taken four phone calls from the president to discuss cost-sharing reductions.

“The president encouraged me, and I said Mr. President, thank you for your leadership, thank you for four calls in ten days on this, and Sen. Murray and I hope you will consider it and strengthen it if you would like to. And he said he would,” Alexander said.

Trump has expressed his concerns about cost-sharing reductions benefitting insurance companies.

“I have great respect, as you know, for both of the senators you mentioned. And if they can come up with a short-term solution. What I did say is I don't want the insurance companies making any more money than they have to, because you look at the stock prices of the insurance prices from the time of the creation of Obamacare,” said Trump Thursday in the Oval Office.

But Murray and Alexander said they both worked hard to make sure consumers -- and not insurance companies -- benefit.

“The one issue we did not disagree on but we worked the hardest on, and had the most discussion on, was how we make sure we have the language in place in this that consumers benefit and it is not a bailout for insurers,” said Murray.

Despite some mixed signals from Trump and no commitment from McConnell for a vote, Murray and Alexander are intent on moving their bill forward. The two have been working for months on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to fix a small, but stressed, part of the health care marketplace. The bill aims to benefit the premiums of about six percent of the population, or 18 million Americans who go into the individual markets to buy health care coverage. Most Americans are insured by the government or their employers.

But the individual marketplace isn’t the only part of the Affordable Care Act the Alexander-Murray bill hopes to change. With Open Enrollment for Obamacare marketplaces less than two weeks away, the bill also hopes to reinstate much of the funding that was stripped by the federal government this year to help people enroll in health insurance plans.

In the midst of all this, other senators have been working to promote their own health care plans. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., whose health care reform bill was the latest to fail, just announced that they are working on an alternative measure to stabilize markets to the Alexander-Murray bill -- this despite the fact that both Graham and Cassidy are co-sponsors of the Alexander-Murray bill.

Graham and Cassidy say that they want their bill to include "more flexibility provisions." The Alexander-Murray plan gives states more flexibility to receive waivers to create their own programs and opens up catastrophic plans to people over the age of 30.

“Without a stabilization package, the market will collapse and advance premium tax credits will spike," they said in a joint statement. "This would increase the costs to the American taxpayer.”

This week, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., also introduced their own health care bill, known as Medicare-X, which allows for a public option on Obamacare exchanges that they hope is a moderate Democrat response to the growing support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for all" bill

For now, Alexander and Murray are committed to finding ways to provide consumers short-term relief.

Alexander gave a stern warning to his Senate colleagues who have been uncertain about funding the cost-sharing reduction payments: “Unless they're replaced with something else temporarily, there will be chaos in this country and millions of Americans will be hurt.”

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- A clearly frustrated, bipartisan panel of senators on Thursday threatened to subpoena the Trump administration’s cyber czar, demanding to know how the White House plans to address "the disarray" that has embodied the U.S. government's response to cyber threats from Russia and other adversaries.

"Do you know that for eight years we've been trying to get a policy? For eight years we’ve been trying to get a strategy," an exasperated Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told top cyber officials from the FBI, Defense Department, and Department of Homeland Security during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

At the end of the hearing's witness table, sitting beside Defense Department Assistant Secretary Kenneth Rapuano, was an empty chair that had been set aside for White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce, who declined an invitation to appear before the committee.

A more coordinated effort

Senators indicated they want a more coordinated federal effort to combat growing cyber threats and prevent Russia from trying to influence U.S. elections as they had last year.

Republicans and Democrats alike mocked what they described as a confusing and compartmentalized distribution of authorities for government agencies, and McCain said it’s important that a single, high-level administration official coordinates the government-wide effort.

"Mr. Joyce’s absence here, whose job it is to do all this, is an example of the disarray in which this whole issue rests," said McCain, the committee's chairman.

McCain also accused the Defense Department of deflecting responsibility for certain cyber-related threats, particularly threats against U.S. elections systems.

Rapuano told McCain, "When you look at the separation of authorities between state and local government, the lead for that coordination and support in our current system is DHS."

Rapuano added that it's problematic for the Pentagon to be "attempting to insert itself into a process."

But McCain countered: "It's the Department of Defense's job to defend this nation; that’s why it's called the Department of Defense."

"This is cyber warfare. Cyber is warfare," McCain told Rapuano. "Cyber is an attempt to destroy a democracy. That is what [Russian president Vladimir] Putin is all about.

"I steadfastly reject your shuffling off the responsibilities of cyber over to the Department of Homeland Security," McCain added.

'A lot of work to do'

Generally, DHS is charged with protecting "critical infrastructure," assisting states in their efforts to protect voting systems, and distributing threat information to other government agencies and private-sector partners. The FBI is responsible for investigating intrusions and potential threats from foreign governments, and the Defense Department is responsible for protecting military systems and developing offensive cyber tools.

A chart, provided by the U.S. government, was displayed at Thursday’s hearing to outline those differences.

"For eight years, we’ve been trying to get something besides this convoluted chart," McCain said.

The DHS official testifying, Chris Krebs, noted that he's only been in his role at the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate for eight weeks, but he understands the Senators' unease.

"I share your frustration, and I think we have a lot of work to do," Krebs said. "I think this is going to require both the executive branch and the Congress working together to continue understanding how we need to address this threat."

McCain shot back: "Well, when the coordinator doesn't show up for a hearing, that’s not an encouraging sign."

At that point, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told McCain he should "consider a subpoena to get the main witness" to appear.

"I think that has to be discussed in the committee," McCain responded.

Threats of subpoenas

Asked why Joyce did not show up to Thursday’s hearing, a White House spokesman said: “It has been the longstanding practice of presidents of both parties not to make White House advisers available for congressional testimony or oversight. This practice is rooted in the separation of powers and in the confidentiality interests of the executive branch. Officials from relevant departments and agencies are available to accommodate the committee's legitimate oversight needs without violating the confidentiality interests that attach to White House staff.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Rapuano said he was not aware of any specific effort within his department to prepare a coordinated response to threats against upcoming elections, but Krebs said DHS has "absolutely" been engaged in such an effort.

"I didn’t need anybody to tell me to stand up a task force," Krebs said, adding that it was one of the first things he did after joining DHS from the private sector.

DHS has also recently issued security clearances to "a number" of state election officials so they can be read-in on classified information pertaining to threats against their systems, Krebs said.

"There’s no question [foreign hackers] are going to come back, and we’re going to be fighting them every day," Krebs said.

McCain's threat to subpoena Joyce was his second of the day. After Thursday's hearing, he said he is willing to subpoena Trump administration officials to get more information about the recent ambush in Niger in which four American soldiers were killed.

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly emotionally addressed the outreach made in the aftermath of a U.S. servicemember's death at Thursday's White House press briefing on Thursday, a description that came on a week in which President Donald Trump found himself in the midst of a controversy over his alleged comments to the widow of a fallen soldier and claims about former presidents' engagement.

Kelly, whose son, First Lieutenant Robert M. Kelly, was killed in action in 2010, described the process of alerting a fallen service member's family about their death and transporting their body back to the United States.

"Most Americans don't know what happens when we lose one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines or Coast Guardsmen in combat," Kelly said.

 Kelly described the painstaking process of bringing a fallen soldier home.

"Their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud," he said adding that a fellow soldier "puts them on a helicopter as a routine and sends them home."

The bodies are packed in ice, he said, placed in the plane and flown to Europe. The soldier's remains are once again packed in ice and flown to Dover Air Force Base.

Once at Dover, the bodies are embalmed, then someone "meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the metals that they've earned, the emblems of their service and then puts them on another airplane linked up to the casualty officer escort that takes them home," Kelly continued.

A casualty officer then makes the solemn call to the home of the family, "very early in the morning and waits for the first lights to come on."

"And then he knocks on the door, typically the mom or dad will answer, wife. And if there is a wife this is happening in two different places, if the parents are divorced, three different places. And the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member and stays with that family until, well for a long long time, even after the internment," Kelly said.

On Monday, Trump claimed that President Barack Obama did not make phone calls to service members' families following their deaths, though later partially walked back the comments saying, "I don't know if he did. No, no, no… was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't."

The president then received criticism when Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla. claimed that he told the widow of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson "he knew what he signed up for" during a condolence call.

Kelly told reporters on Thursday that the most important calls he received came in the immediate aftermath of his son's death.

"Hours after my son was killed his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was," Kelly said.



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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump touted his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, giving the federal relief effort a “10,” after noting that the storm’s devastation was worse than that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“I'd say it was a 10. I'd it was probably most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search. When you talk about all of the different levels,” Trump said in a meeting in the Oval Office Thursday with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello. “And even when you talk about lives saved you look at numbers. I think it was worse than Katrina. In many ways, worse than anything we've seen.”

During a visit to the island earlier this month, the president said that the territory’s officials “can be proud” of the relatively low death toll on the island compared to Katrina, which resulted in the loss over over 1,200 lives in the U.S.'s Gulf Coast. As of Wednesday, the death toll in Puerto Rico sat at 48.

The president said he thinks the administration has done “a really great job,” while Rossello said much still has to be done on the island where more than 80 percent of electricity consumers remains without power four weeks after Maria’s devastation.

“A lot still has to be done. We're hopeful that with this meeting that we're going to have, we're going to talk about the immediate needs for Puerto Rico," Rossello told the president. "What we need to go to get out of the sustaining phase. What we need to do to stabilize Puerto Rico and what we need to do to build Puerto Rico stronger and better than before."

“I am confident that with your commitment, with your support, Mr. President, we'll be able to come out of this in the long haul together with Puerto Rico, give the citizens of Puerto Rico the adequate resources," said Rossello.

"Treat us the same as citizens in Texas and Florida and elsewhere," he added.

Prior to meeting with the president, Gov. Rossello revealed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to restore power to his besieged island’s electricity grid, according to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who met the governor and recounted his conversation to reporters.

“Apparently, according to the government of Puerto Rico, they have yet to execute on a power restoration contract to begin the restoration work, even the immediate work. So we need to see what are the impediments to that happening,” Rubio said after the nearly hour-long meeting.

He added, “Four weeks after the storm, they are where Florida was 48 hours after the storm.”

Rubio also said the $36.5 billion disaster relief package, which the Senate is likely to vote on late Thursday night, is too wrapped up in red tape to provide immediate relief to the U.S. territory.

He said that in order for the Puerto Rican government to access some of the funds, it will first need to conduct time-consuming damage assessments, preventing the government from being able to immediately allocate the money.

“It's great that there's a bunch of money sitting there, that there's a pile of money ready to help with assistance, but if their ability to get a hold of that money and use it is going to require a three-month process, then it's not going to do a lot of good,” he said.

Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure was facing a "crisis" prior to Hurricane Maria, according to a report commissioned by the Puerto Rican Electrical Power Authority in November 2016. The analysis noted that the island's power grid was "literally falling apart" due to poor maintenance and planning.



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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi is the latest seasoned House Republican to call it quits, announcing he’ll resign by Jan. 31 to accept a lucrative position in the Buckeye State rather than finish his ninth term on Capitol Hill.

Suddenly, there’s less hyperbole when House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., identifies this moment as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the tax code, with decades of GOP experience heading for greener pastures.

Since the dawn of Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee has been the most powerful, coveted committee post a lawmaker can seek, as members of the panel have constitutional jurisdiction over the power of the purse.

That makes them popular candidates for higher political office, and deeply attractive recruits at lobbying firms on K Street, who can offer salaries far above the $174,000 members of the House are paid each year.

After seizing majority control in 2011, the initial GOP chairman, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, led the committee for four years before retiring and cashing in at PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm. Ryan handed off the chairman’s gavel for Ways and Means after less than a year when he was elected speaker in 2015.

There is not even legislative text of a tax bill yet, but Tiberi’s decision represents the sixth Ways and Means Republican, out of 24 GOPers on the panel, to decide to leave the House.

Republican Reps. Sam Johnson of Texas, Dave Reichert of Washington and Lynn Jenkins of Kansas are leaving public office while Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and Jim Renacci of Ohio are mounting campaigns for governor.

“I have been presented with an opportunity to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable that will allow me to continue to work on public policy issues impacting Ohioans while also spending more time with my family,” Tiberi wrote in a statement announcing his intent to resign. “Leaving Congress is not a decision I take lightly but after a lot of consideration, it is the best one for me, my wife, Denice, and our four wonderful daughters.”

Tiberi’s announcement signals he intends to serve until the ongoing attempt at tax reform reaches a conclusion.

The number of House Republicans not seeking re-election (24) is not trending higher than previous election cycles, and is not far out of tune with the number of Democrats (11) moving on from the House.

Beyond Tiberi's looming resignation, four Republicans took appointments in the Trump administration, one resigned in disgrace, another resigned on fair terms in favor of a gig at Fox News, seven more are retiring and 10 are seeking higher office.

No matter how safe GOP leaders insist those Republican districts are, the 13-seat split between GOP and Democratic retirements puts the Republicans at a slight disadvantage heading into next year’s midterm elections, though their 46-seat overall majority helps create a cushion.

The bottom line: If Ryan is going to hand President Donald Trump a major legislative victory in his first year in office, tax overhaul might be the last best chance before the GOP’s grip on majority control is potentially dissolved.

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WJTN Headlines for Friday Oct 20, 2017

The Chautauqua County Legislature will vote next week on a just over $236-million, 2018 budget that reduces the tax rate by 4-cents per thousand full-value.    That from A...

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