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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal court has unsealed a filing against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in which prosecutors with the special counsel’s office accuse Manafort of conducting “a series of bank frauds,” new, uncharged allegations that come on top of the conspiracy and money laundering charges he already faces.

The filing says the government has opposed a more lenient bail package for Manafort “in light of additional criminal conduct that we have learned since the Court’s initial bail determination,” and adds that the conduct in question “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

Manafort already faces a raft of charges in federal court, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Most of those charges stem from work he conducted overseas for political work in Ukraine.

He is the most senior Trump campaign adviser to face charges as part of the special prosecutor’s investigation into meddling by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The charges he is facing don’t relate to his brief tenure at the helm of the Trump campaign.

The bank fraud allegations leveled in the new court filings have not been formally charged, at least not in public.

Instead, prosecutors elected to reference the claims of additional criminal conduct as part of an attempt to prevent Manafort from altering the terms of his $10 million bail arrangement.

Manafort and prosecutors have struggled for weeks to reach an agreement over which of his many real estate holdings would satisfy the court as collateral.

Manafort has been confined to his home in Alexandria, Virginia, since being indicted in October.

The filings made public Friday night made no mention of Manafort’s longtime colleague, Rick Gates, who was indicted at the same time. Both Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges in the underlying indictment.

A spokesman for the Manafort legal team did not respond to a request for comment late Friday.

The new allegations include an assertion that he doctored records in order to secure loans for one of the properties he owns.

“Manafort provided the bank with doctored profit and loss statements for [his company] DMP International LLC for both 2015 and 2016, overstating its income by millions of dollars,” prosecutors wrote.

“At the next bail hearing, we can proffer to the Court additional evidence related to this and the other bank frauds and conspiracies, which the Court may find relevant to the bail risk posed by Manafort as well as the risk that the banks may foreclose on the real estate being proposed by Manafort to secure his release.”

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups of violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere "with U.S. elections and political processes," according to the agency.

The indictment depicts an elaborate scheme in which some of the Russians accused allegedly came to the U.S. with the deliberate intention of undermining the American political and electoral process, including the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the Russians charged called their work "information warfare against the United States" with the goal of spreading distrust of candidates and the political system in general.

Some defendants "communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign" without revealing their association with Russia. The indictment also says the defendants posted negative information about a number of candidates during the last general election.

The individuals operated social media pages and groups designed to attract American audiences with a strategic goal to "sow discord in the U.S. political system". They staged rallies and had a basic infrastructure which included computers and other support systems.

Ultimately, the "defendants' operations included supporting the presidential campaign on then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton" his Democratic rival, according to the indictment.

According to the agency, "the indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president has been briefed on the indictments.

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Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump visited Broward Health North Hospital to meet with wounded students, their family members and the hospital medical team on Friday evening following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and 14 injured.

"The job they've done is incredible and I want to congratulate you," Trump said as he shook hands with Dr. Igor Nichiporenko -- a trauma surgeon.

Later, Trump said he had met with some of the victims' parents and said they were in "really great shape" given the circumstances.

Trump also met with first responders at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

“Thank you all very much. Fantastic job. Thank you,” he told the first responders before calling for them to get raises. "Incredible job and everybody is talking about it."

The president told the officers that while at the hospital he met a female victim who had been shot four times, including in the lung. He said the first responders, by their quick actions, had saved her life.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi were also at Trump's meeting with the officers.

Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about changing the nation's gun laws, but said earlier that he is “working with Congress on many fronts” without elaboration.

Sources with direct knowledge of President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida high school shooting confirm to ABC News, that the president has said on multiple occasions including Friday morning “we have to do something.”

White House sources tell ABC News that it remains unclear what exactly the president wants to ultimately do, but he does want to know what options are available to the administration.

Sources confirm that, since the shooting, members of the administration have reached out to survivors, relatives of victims and locally elected officials in communities that have previously faced a school shooting.

Axios reported Friday White House officials were in the process of contacting individuals connected to past mass shootings such as Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, sites of some of the most deadly mass shootings in modern American history.
Reached by ABC News, several families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook told ABC News Friday they have not been contacted by the Trump administration.

The president tweeted this morning that he is “working with Congress on many fronts” but did not elaborate.

Appearing on Fox News, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the administration will be looking into a host of potential policy prescriptions going forward, with “mental health and school safety at the forefront.”

“The president wants to take leadership and actually fix this problem and create best practices across the country,” Shah told FOX, saying “there are a lot of specific policy proposal we'll be looking at.”

Shah said there will be discussion soon with the nation’s governors at the National Governor’s Association and said that state and local leaders will be at the forefront of efforts in charting out a path for preventative next steps.

President Trump has been a close ally of the National Rifle Association – securing their endorsement during the 2016 elections. Almost every day during the race Trump would talk about the second amendment.

“I love the second amendment, I’m a member of the NRA my sons are members of the NRA, I’m the strongest on the second amendment.”

The NRA spent $30 million in support of efforts to elect Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump was the first sitting president in decades to address the NRA's convention last year.

"The eight year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House," Trump told the gathering.

However, Trump position on gun policy has evolved.

In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve” Trump seemed to take a different stance especially in regards to assault weapons.

"I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun," he said. "With today’s Internet technology we should be able to tell within seventy-two hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”

Going back to the campaign, Trump came out against the NRA in allowing people on the no fly list to purchase guns.

"We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns," Trump told ABC News last year.

Asked if his position is that those on the no-fly or terror watch list should not be able to purchase a gun, Trump responded, "I'd like to see that, and I'd like to say it. And it's simpler. It's just simpler." Trump later took a meeting on the subject with the NRA.

A White House source told ABC News Friday that one of the areas the president has asked about in meetings since this week’s shooting is the background check process.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following revelations that disgraced White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter held a top security clearance even after the FBI discovered allegations of domestic abuse against him, the White House on Friday released a five-page memo from Chief of Staff John Kelly that outlines changes he plans to make to the security clearance process.

Kelly acknowledged "we should -- and in the future, must -- do better," but he does not admit any personal wrongdoing.

In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Kelly says going forward the FBI should hand deliver to the White House its background investigations on individuals in senior positions and "verbally brief the White House counsel on any information in those files they deem to be significantly derogatory."

Kelly's memo comes in the wake of a White House scandal that called into question how security clearances are issued, and who in the White House is able to gain access to classified information without the proper clearance.

Porter, who was accused of domestic violence by his two ex-wives, was able to access classified information as the President's Staff Secretary while only holding an interim clearance.

Kelly's memo says that future interim clearances must be granted a temporary clearance of 180 days, with an option to extend for an additional 90 days "if no significant derogatory information that would call into question whether interim status is appropriate."

It also says that individuals working under interim clearance status, as Porter did, would only be able to access highly classified information with "explicit Chief of Staff's approval, which would be granted only in the most compelling circumstances."

The memo implies Kelly had no prior knowledge of the seriousness of the claims against Porter, who was handling classified documents while working closely with Trump.

The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats criticized the current clearance system during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this week. "The process is broken. It needs to be reformed," said Coats. "We have situations where we need people in places but we don't have [clearance]."

The White House came under fire for its response to Porter, and questions surrounding who knew what -- and when -- about Porter's health.

Vice President Mike Pence admitted on Wednesday that the White House "could have handled this better."

"This administration has no tolerance for domestic violence, nor should any American," Pence said.

But when asked by the Wall Street Journal if the situation could have been handled better, Kelly said "No, it was all done right."

The White House has not said who, if anyone, was briefed by the FBI briefed on concerns about Rob Porter. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate this week that it gave the White House four reports on Porter's background.

The President has voiced frustration over the handling of domestic abuse allegations involving one of his closest aides, and even discussed possible replaces for Kelly, sources close to the president told ABC News.

But for now, Kelly is focusing on future projects. Kelly's memo states that he will create a working group, made up of White House counsel Don McGahn, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Wray. The working group, wrote Kelly, will study the clearance process and "modernize standards across the Executive Branch."

"It is clear that new administrations will face similar challenges in the future and one of the most important things that a new White House staff must do correctly starting on Inauguration Day is to get the security clearance and suitability reviews processes right," wrote Kelly.

"We have a duty to the American people to ensure that, if nothing else, clearance and security protocols are passed down and become institutional knowledge of the White House."

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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- The reactions to the country's latest mass shooting appear to be falling along fairly familiar party lines, with a number of key Republicans saying that now is not the time to discuss any gun control reforms while some Democrats demand action.

Elected Democrats aren't the only ones calling for action, however, as they're being joined by students that survived the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and others in the Parkland, Florida, community.

The varying reactions started to pour in shortly after the shooting on Wednesday.

Pushing back on the calls for action


Early that evening, just hours after the attack, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Flor., was asked by a Fox News reporter if he thought it was appropriate to talk about gun control reform after the attack.

"It’s not, only because people don’t know how this happened... who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack," Rubio told Fox News.

"I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it. There may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts? I think that we can always have that debate but if you’re going to have the debate about this particular incident, you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law you claim could have prevented it," Rubio said.

Later that evening, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that "there's a time" to talk about changes in the wake of horrible events but did not say specifically when that time was.

"There's a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding that we make sure that people are safe," Scott said Wednesday evening.

Conservative blogger Tomi Lahren joined the chorus Wednesday night as well, tweeting that "the left" was being too quick to jump on the issue.

"Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn't about a gun it's about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting" she wrote on Twitter.

The following day, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., echoed Rubio's sentiments, saying that "this is not a time to jump to some conclusion not knowing the full facts. We've got a lot more information we need to know."

"This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings. We need to think less about taking sides, and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together," Ryan said on Thursday.

Pleas from those connected to shootings

Sen. Bill Nelson, Rubio's Democratic counterpart, has repeatedly said that "enough is enough" in the wake of the shooting in his home state.

In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Nelson said that he's not alone in calling for what he calls "common sense" changes to gun laws.

"All of these students are speaking out so boldly, and maybe just maybe this is the turning point," he said of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have called for change.

The students and their parents have made some of the most poignant pleas, including Lori Alhadeff, the mother of 14-year-old victim Alyssa.

"President Trump, you say 'what can you do?' You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands. Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot!" Alhadeff screamed during an interview with CNN on Thursday.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has been outspoken in his repeated calls for increased gun control measures for years in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in his district.

"If you are not working today to try to fix this, to try to stop these shootings, then you're an accomplice. Those are tough words but they're true," Murphy told ABC News on Thursday.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel spoke Thursday night at a vigil to honor the victims, and shared a warning for elected officials.

"If you are an elected official and you want to keep things the way they are and not do things differently, if you want to keep the gun laws as they are now - you will not get re-elected in Broward County," he said.

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Jeff Kravitz / Contributor via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former Playboy playmate who says she had an affair with Donald Trump has publicly commented on the alleged relationship.

Karen McDougal has said she had the affair with Trump beginning in June 2006, an allegation that resurfaced on Friday in Ronan Farrow's report in The New Yorker.

The White House issued a statement denying The New Yorker story, saying, "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”

Donald Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model reveals 'systemic' pattern of concealing stories, says Ronan Farrow

This isn't McDougal's first foray into the public eye.

McDougal was a Playmate of the Month in December 1997, Playmate of the Year in 1998, and the runner-up for Playmate of the Decade for the 1990s.

Health issues

McDougal, 46, has previously addressed breast-implant illness, from which she says she has recovered.

She spoke to People magazine in February 2017 about the illness, saying she got breast implants in 1996 and began suffering from poor health seven years later.

"I would get sick every couple of months and be sick for six to eight weeks at a time," she told People. "It just never went away."

McDougal learned of breast implant illness in 2016 and had her implants removed in January 2017, she said.

"I noticed right away that I had no more blurry vision, I wasn’t blacking out or passing out,” she told the magazine. “I didn’t have the severe migraines, my joint pain was gone, my sound sensitivity was better.”

Her public profile

She regularly shares inspirational quotes and humorous memes on her public Twitter account, using it to promote her magazine appearances.

In a January post featuring an OK magazine article about her, McDougal is cited as a model and lifestyle expert and weighs in on hostess gifts for partygoers.

McDougal posted a similar feature in December from Star magazine where she doled out holiday party advice.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian groups were indicted for allegedly trying to interfere with "U.S. elections and political processes," according to the Justice Department.

The 37-page indictment details the elaborate alleged scheme in which some of the Russians accused supposedly came to the U.S. with the intention of undermining the American political and electoral process, including the 2016 presidential election.

Read the full text here.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sources with direct knowledge of President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida high school shooting confirm to ABC News that the president has said on multiple occasions, including Friday morning, that “we have to do something.”

White House sources tell ABC News that it remains unclear what exactly the president wants to ultimately do, but he does want to know what options are available to the administration.

A source confirmed to ABC News that, since the shooting, members of the administration have reached out to survivors, relatives of victims and locally elected officials in communities that have previously faced a school shooting.

Axios reported Friday that White House officials were in the process of contacting individuals connected to past mass shootings such as Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School, sites of some of the most deadly mass shootings in modern American history.

Reached by ABC News, several families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook told ABC News Friday that they have not been contacted by the Trump administration.

The president tweeted Friday morning that he is “working with Congress on many fronts,” but did not elaborate.

Appearing on Fox News, White House spokesman Raj Shah said the administration will be looking into a host of potential policy prescriptions going forward, with “mental health and school safety at the forefront.”

“The president wants to take leadership and actually fix this problem and create best practices across the country,” Shah told FOX.

Shah said there will be discussions soon with the nation’s governors at the National Governor’s Association and said state and local leaders will be at the forefront of efforts in charting out a path for preventative next steps.

President Trump has been a close ally of the National Rifle Association, securing their endorsement during the 2016 election. Almost every day during the race, Trump would talk about the Second Amendment.

“I love the Second Amendment. I’m a member of the NRA. My sons are members of the NRA.  I’m the strongest on the Second Amendment.”

The NRA spent $30 million in support of efforts to elect Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump was the first sitting president in decades to address the NRA's convention last year.

"The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House," Trump told the gathering.

However, Trump's position on gun policy has evolved.

In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve,” Trump seemed to take a different stance, especially in regards to assault weapons.

"I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun," he said. "With today’s Internet technology, we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record.”

Going back to the campaign, Trump came out against the NRA in allowing people on the no-fly list to purchase guns.

"We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns," Trump told ABC News last year.

Asked if his position is that those on the no-fly or terror watch list should not be able to purchase a gun, Trump responded, "I'd like to see that, and I'd like to say it. And it's simpler. It's just simpler." Trump later took a meeting on the subject with the NRA.

A White House source told ABC News Friday that one of the areas the president has asked about in meetings since this week’s shooting is the background check process.

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Chris Kleponis/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Those loyal to Donald Trump went to great lengths to conceal his alleged affair with former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal through secret meetings, pay-offs and legal agreements, according to Ronan Farrow's latest report in The New Yorker.

In an Friday interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, Farrow said McDougal's firsthand account of her alleged affair with Trump, beginning in June 2006, reveals a "systemic" pattern of "catch and kill," or purchasing a story in order to sweep it under the rug.

"The underlying chronicle of the affair reveals a lot of important patterns that we're now seeing in the multiple accounts of either consensual affairs or alleged nonconsensual activity with Trump," Farrow said.

According to Farrow, McDougal recorded her alleged nine-month relationship with Trump "in an eight-page, handwritten document" provided to The New Yorker by her friend, John Crawford. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, at the time of the alleged affair.

Throughout the course of their alleged affair, "Trump flew McDougal to public events across the country but hid the fact that he paid for her travel," Farrow wrote in the magazine. McDougal ended the relationship in April 2007, according to Farrow.

In November 2016, just four days before the presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported that American Media Inc. (AMI), publisher of the National Enquirer, had paid $150,000 for the exclusive rights to McDougal's story.

“AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump,” according to a written statement the company gave to The Journal in 2016.

In a statement to The New Yorker, AMI said it never published the story because the company said it didn't find McDougal's account credible.

"Six former AMI employees tell me that's not the case," Farrow said on Good Morning America.

Farrow said this "catch and kill" method was "routine activity" by AMI CEO and Chairman David Pecker, "who has publicly pledged his loyalty to Trump."

"This is the interesting and potentially troubling dimension," Farrow said. "These dirty stories about high-profile individuals would be used as leverage over those individuals -- obviously national security implications here when that happens to be the president."

He added, "Our reporting certainly suggests that, again, according to those AMI insiders, there was knowledge of this loyalty to Trump and that this flowed from that. We do not report that Trump ordered this."

In a statement to The New Yorker, AMI refuted that it had any leverage over Trump. “The suggestion that AMI holds any influence over the president of the United States, while flattering, is laughable,” the statement said.

A White House spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News that Trump denies having had an affair with the former Playboy model. "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal."

Farrow reported that McDougal declined to discuss the details about the alleged affair with him, for fear of violating the contract she signed with AMI.

"She feels she was trapped into an exploitative contract that bound her to silence, and that's something that she finds very frustrating," Farrow told Stephanopoulos. "She was sort of backed into a situation where she feared the story was going to leak, and she signed this deal after pitching it in several places. She, I think, readily admits that she consented to that deal, but feels now the heavy burden of silence."

According to Farrow, AMI said an amendment to McDougal’s contract, which was signed after Trump won the 2016 presidential election, allowed her to "respond to legitimate press inquiries" about the alleged affair.

"She says she cannot," Farrow said. "She and her representatives feel that that is not the case, looking at the letter of the contract."

This week, Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen acknowledged using his private funds shortly before the 2016 presidential election to pay $130,000 to a porn actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Trump.

“In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Cohen said in a statement emailed to ABC News on Wednesday, referencing the actress also known as Stormy Daniels.

Cohen’s statement, first reported by The New York Times, came in direct response to a Jan. 22 complaint filed by Common Cause, a watchdog group, with the Federal Election Commission, questioning whether the payment represented an illegal, in-kind contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign or whether the campaign reimbursed Cohen for the expense.

In the wake of other allegations of affairs involving Trump, Farrow said there has been an "uptick in contact" between AMI and McDougal.

"That contact has sharply increased and, as recently as several days ago, they were aggressively seeking to have her sign new contracts," he said.

Farrow said his reporting divulges "new" and "unprecedented" revelations about Trump.

"In this country, the most powerful and wealthy men can command an elaborate system to silence people with stories about them that they don't want out in the public, and obviously for a sitting president to be the beneficiary of such a system is a pretty unprecedented thing," he said.

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George Frey/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Former Massachusetts governor and one-time Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is running for the U.S. Senate in Utah, he officially announced Friday morning.

Romney, 70, was the Republican Party's presidential standard-bearer in 2012, eventually losing the general election to then-President Barack Obama.

With Romney's potential arrival in Washington comes notably real tension between him and the man now occupying the Oval Office: President Donald Trump.

Romney called Trump a "phony" and a "fraud" during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump has regularly taken to Twitter to criticize Romney.

He met with Utahans throughout the state Friday to kick off his campaign, a Romney source told ABC News.

In his first formal public appearance on camera since announcing his campaign, Romney delivered the keynote speech Friday night for the Utah County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Provo, Utah.

Romney spoke for a little over a half hour in his first on-camera remarks and addressed criticism of his tenuous connection to the state of Utah right off the bat.

"It is an emotional time for me to come back and be in this city," Romney said. "Ann and I lived here for three years while we were going to school. This is where our oldest son was born, at Utah Valley Hospital. I remember it very, very well the feelings as we drove into town, looked to see how much of it remained the same, and how much of it is different."

Romney also addressed gun violence, saying the school shooting Wednesday in Parkland, Florida, was "unthinkable and unimaginable." In a departure from many Republicans in Congress, including Speaker Paul Ryan, he said now was the time to discuss fixes for the problem.

"As a legacy to those who have been killed and lost, we must take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again -- and heaven forbid from happening in our great state," he said. "I believe this is a time for us to have this discussion because it is very much in our minds. I don't know what the answers are to make our schools safer. I don't have all the answers, I've got some ideas. But I think we can't just sit and wait and hope and expect things are gonna get better, because these things just keep on happening.

"Now I've looked at some federal legislation -- I don't see any federal legislation that would have prevented these attacks and so I don't support passing some new federal law of the nature I described. Although an exception may be for Sen. Orrin Hatch's proposal, that he's been promoting, that's been for enhanced background checks. My own view, having served as a governor, is that the best place for finding solutions for school violence is going to be at the state and local level where things are able to happen at a more advanced, responsive manner.

He was light on specifics, but mentioned enhanced security at schools and police patrols, as well as intervention teams for children with mental health issues and "perhaps the age and psychological restrictions on gun purchases."

Romney, never known for his sense of humor, did manage to get a few cracks off, saying he was taking questions from submitted on social media to "break up the monotony of my 3 1/2-hour speech."

"I do want to dispel the rumor that I only ran for president as a stepping stone to become U.S. senator from Utah," Romney joked.

Romney also touted his ability to work across the aisle in his time as a Republican governor in Massachusetts with what he called a "90 percent Democratic legislature."

Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Reps. Mia Love, R-Utah, and John Curtis, R-Utah, were expected to attend the speech, according to a dinner invitation obtained by ABC News.

The Utah County Republican Party had lined up the former Republican presidential nominee as its keynote speaker before Romney announced his intentions to run for Senate and there was no coordination between the party and campaign, Craig said.

The seat Romney is seeking is held by longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who announced earlier this year that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

In his announcement video today, Romney does not mention Trump but did have a few thoughts on the immigration debate waging in Washington.

"Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world,” Romney says. “Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

After taking some time off from politics, Romney also said, he and wife Ann decided that running for the Senate was the right decision.

"Over the last five years, Ann and I have spent a good deal of time with our 24 grandchildren. I've gone back to business, campaigned for Republicans and met with young people across the country," Romney says in the video. "Given all that America faces, we feel that this is the right time for me to serve our state and our country."

Romney's GOP running mate in the 2012 presidential campaign, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, reacted to the news Friday, releasing a statement that read in part: "This is a terrific day for the United States Senate."

"I was honored to join Mitt Romney on the national ticket in 2012 and couldn't be happier that he's running for this seat," Ryan added. "Our party and our country are always better off when Mitt is engaged, and I know that he will put his unparalleled experience, conservative leadership, and life time of service to work for Utah in the U.S. Senate."

While the primary and general election races to succeed Hatch are not expected to be competitive, Democrats still criticized Romney's announcement, saying he "desperately wants to separate himself from the extremism of the current administration."

"Utah deserves a Senator who will expand opportunities and fight to improve the lives of everyone, not another multi-millionaire looking out for himself, his rich neighbors and the special interests," Democratic National Committee spokesman Vedant Patel wrote in a statement released this morning.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Thursday failed to advance four proposals that addressed immigration reform, one of which was backed by the White House.

With the hopes Congress comes to an agreement on immigration this week now completely out of reach, the fate of the "Dreamers" -- and the deadline for Congress to act -- is now murkier than ever.

The Trump-endorsed bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, checked the boxes of Trump's "four pillars" -- imposing cuts on legal immigration while giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.

“This vote is proof that President Trump’s plan will never become law. If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass," Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement.

Late Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying, in part, that "the Schumer Democrats in the Senate demonstrated again that they are not serious about DACA, they are not serious about immigration reform, and they are not serious about homeland security. They filibustered a proposal with an extremely generous path to citizenship because it also contained reforms that secured our border and secured our immigration system."

Sanders said the next step would be for Republicans in the House to advance a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul.

The Trump administration announced last year it would end protections for DACA recipients on March 5, but in recent days, two separate federal court injunctions have effectively halted that process, instructing the Department of Justice to maintain the current DACA program as it was before the Sept. 5 announcement.

It's also likely the Supreme Court could take up the case as soon as Friday. Either way, it means the deadline for DACA is now in the hands of the judicial system -- and without a deadline, Congress is less likely to act.

Meanwhile, negotiations are at a complete standstill.

Lawmakers have spent weeks discussing ways to shield Dreamers from deportation -- the bitter infighting even amounting to a government shutdown late last month. Republicans, in turn, promised Democrats a debate in good faith on the contentious issue if they kept the government funded and open.

All the while, lawmakers have faced increasing pressure from a turbulent president who has vowed to veto any bill that doesn't address his four pillars on immigration.

Over in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan has downplayed the March 5 deadline, admitting it is an “important deadline,” but because of the nationwide injunctions, the deadline is “not as important as it was before.”

Instead, he’s imposed a deadline at the end of next month to resolve the issue.

“This place works better with deadlines, and we want to operate on deadlines,” Ryan said. “We clearly need to address this issue in March.”

And what about the Dreamers?

The federal judge who issued the most recent injunction this week noted that while the government will resume DACA renewals, it does not have to accept new DACA applications.

In the meantime, more than 19,000 Dreamers have already lost their DACA status, according to Sen. Dick Durbin, the top Democratic immigration negotiator.

On March 5, Durbin says 1,000 Dreamers will lose their work permits every day for the following two years. They could be subject to deportation.

The federal judge who issued the injunction noted that some of them may face the loss of health care, imposing burdens not on the immigrants themselves, but also on public hospitals.

And employers will be hurt too, as DACA recipients lose their jobs, “resulting in staggering adverse economic impacts” that could include up to $800 million in lost tax revenue, the judge wrote in his ruling.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Several railroads will likely fail to meet congressionally-mandated deadlines for installation of Positive Train Control, technology that could have prevented at least 23 deaths and more than 300 injuries over the past decade, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt testified Thursday.

PTC uses an integrated set of sensors on trains and tracks to automatically slow or stop locomotives in dangerous situations. It's designed to prevent overspeed derailments, work zone incursions, and train-to-train collisions, such as the Feb. 4 crash in Cayce, S.C., where an Amtrak train slammed into a parked freight train, killing two people and injuring more than a hundred others. The current technology does not prevent grade-crossing accidents, like the one involving a train carrying GOP lawmakers in Crozet, Va.

“It took us less than nine years to put a person on the moon, and the industry can’t get this done?” a frustrated John Tolman, the rail workers union vice-president, asked at the hearing.

Back in 2008, Congress passed a law requiring PTC be activated by 2015. But in 2012, Congress extended the hardware instillation deadline to 2018, and even gave railroads the option to apply for a 24-month extension to "flip the switch," effectively extending the activation deadline to 2020. Despite these accommodations, some rail companies won't have hardware ready to go by the end of the year - forcing the companies that will have to comply with the deadlines, like Amtrak, to suspend service on tracks that lack the technology.

"Without PTC, the system is too vulnerable to single points of failure, many of which are dependent upon the memory of a single human being interacting with a big, complicated system" Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson testified.

Limited availability of parts and complications integrating equipment from different vendors has slowed the process, several industry experts explained.

After getting skewered for what some lawmakers saw as a failure to hold railroads accountable, the Federal Railroad Administration Thursday announced $73 million in grant money to pay for safetyinitiatives like PTC and improved grade crossings.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Republican and Democratic candidates running to represent southwest Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District are in a virtual dead-heat with less than a month to go before the highly anticipated March special election and with President Donald Trump's aura looming over the race.

A new poll conducted by Monmouth University found Republican Rick Saccone garnering the support of 49 percent of respondents, compared to 46 percent for Democrat Conor Lamb, well within the 5.5 percent margin of error in the poll of likely voters.

The survey could serve as a shot of momentum for Lamb, whose campaign faces the daunting task of flipping the deep-red district that favored Trump over Hillary Clinton by nearly 20 points in 2016 and where former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy ran unopposed in his last two races.

The seat, which came open when Murphy resigned in October amid a sex scandal, has since been eyed by some ambitious Democrats who believe that momentum from the party's electoral victories in 2017 — including Sen. Doug Jones' improbable triumph in Alabama's special Senate election in December — would carry into 2018 and eventually the November midterm elections.

The Monmouth poll, released Thursday, drew upon what it described as a "surge model" featuring turnout "similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year." In additional models that weighted responses based on turnout lower than the 2014 midterms and based on turnout at presidential election levels, the Saccone-Lamb split changes to 50-45 and 48-44, respectively, still within the poll's margin of error.

According to Monmouth, likely Democratic voters are far more engaged than their Republican counterparts, with 48 percent of the Democrats responding that they are following the election "closely," compared to 26 percent of Republicans. Such interest, which is usually a key contributor to an election's turnout, has adversely affected Saccone, a fourth term state representative, in the poll.

"If all potential voters were likely to cast a ballot next month, Saccone would hold an even larger lead of 48 percent to 41 percent over Lamb in the current poll," Monmouth noted in a press release accompanying the results.

Approval of Trump's presidency slightly outpaces disapproval among the district's likely voters. 51 percent said they approved of the president, versus 48 percent registering disapproval — a more positive result than the majority of recent national polls conducted on the topic. Some 84 percent of the 320 likely voters surveyed by Monmouth said it was important that they cast a vote for Congress to show support for or opposition to Trump.

The president was scheduled to travel to Ambridge, Pennsylvania — just outside of the 18th district — next week for a campaign rally where it was likely that he would have stumped for Saccone, but the trip was postponed Thursday afternoon out of respect for the victims and survivors of Wednesday's school shooting in Florida, the Trump campaign said. Though the orignal announcement of the event mentioned neither the special election or the GOP candidate, Trump formally endorsed Saccone in January (a fact known by 58 percent of Monmouth's respondents) and a fundraising email sent by the Trump campaign Thursday said that the president would be in the state "because… Saccone is running for Congress."

Lamb, a former assistant U.S. attorney and current Marine corps reservist, attracted the support of 64 percent of self-described moderates in the Monmouth poll and holds the edge over Saccone in favorable-unfavorable ratings at 49-31, compared to the Republican's 48-39 split.

For many in the district, Lamb's political independence, should he win, is a key factor. Though advertisements from the National Republican Congressional Committee and others have attempted to paint the 33-year-old Democrat as a liberal in the mold of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., -- going so far as to label the candidate one of Pelosi's "sheep," in a play-on-words with his surname -- Lamb has said he would not support Pelosi as the party's leader should he win.

However, only 40 percent of the likely voters tallied by Monmouth had heard of Lamb's pledge, though 18 percent said it increases their likelihood of supporting him.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the deadly mass shooting in a high school in Florida, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have so far struggled to come up with a solution in the contentious gun control debate.

“Congress should do its job,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday morning, before calling for patience, not action.

“We need to step back,” Ryan said, and “pull together,” adding now is “not the time to jump to conclusions.”

But Democrats disagree, adamantly insisting Congress must start listening to the will of the American public.

“Washington is unwilling to listen to our constituents and we should start,” Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said Thursday. “We have a generation of children that is growing up in our country who have to go to school worrying about this happening and that's not fair to them.”

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he agreed that something needs to be done, but he isn’t supporting any specific action.

“Just because I don't have an easy answer at my fingertips doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find the right answer,” he said.

His constituents have spoken up though since the shooting, and have said “enough is enough,” and that they want Congress to do something.

Rubio said he agreed. “The question is, what is that something that will work?”

“We can pass laws, there are plenty of ideas out there, but those laws wouldn't solve the problem,” Rubio said.

Asked if mental health laws deserve a second look, given all the red flags raised about the alleged shooter in Florida, Rubio said “potentially,” but noted “a lot of that is at the state level too.”

“There isn't a single gun law that's been proposed here would have prevented a single one of these mass shootings,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., continues to push legislation that would ban assault weapons, like the AR-15 used by the alleged gunman in Florida. She has also led the charge to ban bump stocks, like the device used in the Las Vegas shooting –- an effort that is now stalled on Capitol Hill, despite initial glimmers of compromise.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, disagreed with his colleagues calling for stricter gun controls.

“This is not a gun control issue, this is an idiot control issue," he said.

But Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, an outspoken advocate for gun control, said Congress is to blame.

“There's a reason why this happens in the United States and nowhere else, because of Congressional inaction,” he said. “If you are not working today to try to fix this, to try to stop these shootings, then you're an accomplice. Those are tough words but they're true.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In his first three months as the new secretary of the Army, Mark Esper says President Donald Trump's transgender ban -- and its potential implementation -- "hasn't come up" as he's traveled to U.S. bases at home and abroad.

"It really hasn't come up," Esper told reporters on Thursday when asked whether soldiers had concerns about serving beside openly transgender individuals.

The secretary has already visited soldiers across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Afghanistan and Europe. Their concerns are likely the quality of food and their pay, he said.

Esper said he met with "six or seven" active-duty transgender soldiers in his first 30 days as secretary and found their perspectives "helpful" as he thinks through the issue.

Next Wednesday, the Pentagon must submit to Trump an implementation plan to address military service by transgender individuals in accordance with an August White House memo. That memo directed the Pentagon to ban transgender individuals from openly serving in or joining the military, but it's unclear what the defense department will recommend to the White House next week.

The new policy is supposed to go into effect on March 23, but there have already been multiple court challenges to the ban.

Esper said he has spoken with mixed-gender infantry and cavalry units whose soldiers emphasized that the issue boiled down to everyone meeting the same standard.

"Everybody wants to be treated with a clear set of standards," Esper said, adding, "At the end of the day, the Army is a standards-based organization."

Beginning on Jan. 1, the Pentagon began allowing transgender individuals to join the military in compliance with a federal court ruling. Entry requirements are based on guidelines issued by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2016 when he lifted the ban on transgender service members. Those guidelines include certifications from a medical provider about an applicant's health.

Last year, defense officials estimated there were about 200 transgender individuals in the military who had self-reported to their services a desire for some form of medical treatment related to their gender identity.

However, the actual number of transgender service members is still unknown, primarily because military personnel records do not currently track transgender individuals.

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News Headlines for Sat., Feb. 17, 2018

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