Political News

Democrats launch dads caucus to focus on family issues, push for paid leave

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(WASHINGTON) -- Four House Democrats launched the Congressional Dads Caucus on Thursday, joining together around a legislative agenda that includes expanding parental leave, the child tax credit and other family-first initiatives.

Reps. Jimmy Gomez of California, Andy Kim of New Jersey and Dan Goldman of New York -- all fathers -- announced the formation of the caucus alongside Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a member of the Moms in the House.

"The formation of this caucus is rooted in a simple idea that dads need to do our part in advancing policies that will make a difference in the lives of so many working families across the country," Gomez said.

The group, which is hoping to grow its membership, will work to advance legislation that they say supports working families, like expanding parental leave, the child tax credit and child care.

Efforts to boost paid leave have previously stalled in the Democratic Senate and appear unlikely to advance in the current Republican House.

"In addition to supporting legislation that advance these solutions, the Caucus will host briefings and events designed to educate and inform Members of Congress and the public about the needs of working parents, including a national paid family and medical leave program and affordable childcare," Gomez's office said in a news release.

Gomez made waves on social media earlier in the month when he brought his infant son, Hodge, to the Capitol during Kevin McCarthy's fight for the speakership.

"I realized I wanted to bring him to the [House] floor to have him witness history, but also to recognize that he is what we're fighting for," Gomez told ABC News' Jay O'Brien during the speaker election.

"He represents the millions of kids that don't have the privilege to be on the floor," Gomez said then.

The launch of the dads caucus comes as three House Republicans and three Democrats establish a working group on paid family leave, two of its members said during a Washington Post Live event on Wednesday.

But as that bipartisan group prepares to commence meeting in the coming weeks, the dads caucus has launched without Republican members.

"One of the things I didn't want to do is wait for the bipartisan, bicameral strategy in order to start the dads conference because that's been tried before," Gomez said Thursday.

"If there's a Republican who believes in a national paid family leave or expanding the child tax credit or affordable child care, let's have this discussion," he told reporters.

Republicans on board with those policy proposals would be "more than welcome to join," he added.

However, such an agenda has been a tough pill to swallow for even some Democrats. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, seen as one of the most conservative members of his party, opposed major parts of President Joe Biden's social spending package known as the Build Back Better plan and paid family leave was ultimately stripped out.

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Sleepy RNC chair race turns into contentious 3-way contest over party's future

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(DANA POINT, Calif.) -- Republican National Committee members will elect a new chair at a ritzy hotel in Dana Point on Friday, closing out an unusually contentious race that could have outsized implications as the GOP gears up for the 2024 elections.

Incumbent Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who is running for a fourth term, is the favorite in Friday's election, though she faces a challenge from attorney Harmeet Dhillon and a long-shot bid from My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. Typically a sleepy affair, the chair's race this year morphed into a debate over personality and strategy, with surrogates for the candidates lobbing personal attacks over last year's election operations.

The acrimony has largely been fueled by a broader reckoning over Republicans' underperformance in the 2022 elections, with McDaniel insisting certain aspects of the midterms were out of her control and Dhillon panning what she claims was a fundamental lack of strategy and misallocation of resources on the part of the national party.

McDaniel still retains support from well over half of the 168 voting RNC members -- the threshold she needs to clinch reelection -- though frustrated members say the stakes are high for whomever wins the chair.

"I think Ronna is likely to win but probably by a smaller margin than she may expect. There is pretty profound desire for change from the committee. But there's also dissatisfaction with the way Harmeet has run her campaign," said one undecided committee member. "And I think the important thing is, whoever wins, the party has got to come together -- and that starts with Ronna and Harmeet."

"2024 just has so much at stake with the White House in play," this member said. "I think many Americans think the country is on the wrong track. As a party, we just can't afford to underperform in '24. We clearly underperformed in '22, and there are a lot of reasons for that. We can't do it again."

Ahead of the race, McDaniel released a letter boasting endorsements from more than 100 of the 168 voting RNC members, handing her buffer room to shed support to a challenger and still be on strong footing.

Dhillon, who has represented former President Donald Trump against the House Jan. 6 committee, also got a late start in the race.

McDaniel only added to the number of supporters in recent days, announcing endorsements from a small handful of state party chairs who are also RNC members.

Dhillon, however, has waged a full court press, leaning on both meetings with RNC members and outside allies including Fox News personalities to raise the heat and try to help her beat that daunting math.

RNC members predict that she's succeeded in peeling off at least a few signees from McDaniel's letter, though it's unclear just how many defectors Dhillon can win over in Friday's secret ballot.

In an interview, Dhillon claimed the pro-McDaniel letter is inaccurate and said she's "hoping and planning to win," though she wouldn't say how many votes she believes she has behind her heading into Friday.

"I have an estimate, but I'm not sharing that information publicly because some of those people want to stay private," she insisted. "That said, several people are privately committed to us, and I'm picking up votes -- several a day."

Dhillon said her challenge to McDaniel is fueled by three main concerns, including "an inexplicable failure" by RNC leadership to take advantage of mail-in and early voting to the full extent that it's allowed -- even as Trump and some other Republicans tell voters to embrace in-person ballots.

Dhillon also accused the national party of "wasting" millions of dollars on "consultants who don't produce results" and failing to promote "clear and concise messaging and direction for our candidates," citing conflicting stances among candidates around the Supreme Court's ruling scrapping constitutional protections for abortion.

"We failed," Dhillon said. "And again, these are sort of critical, basic building blocks of winning elections. And until we get these things right, I don't know that donors, voters or candidates are going to have confidence in the party, and that's terrible because the RNC plays a critical role in our elections."

Dhillon also argued that McDaniel didn't take a muscular enough approach in advising local and state officials on which candidates could be potent in general elections.

"Ultimately, voters have to select who the candidate is. But there are many inflection points along the way between the time somebody wakes up and says, 'I can be the next United States senator,' versus the day we are counting the ballots and coming up short,'" Dhillon said. "I think the idea that everybody else gets a say, Democrats get a say, President Trump gets a say, various PACs get to say, but the party doesn't get a say? I don't think so."

Kari Lake, who traveled to the RNC meeting in California to drum up support for Dhillon after her failed Arizona gubernatorial bid, echoed the need for different leadership.

"I am so excited to see such quality candidates stepping forward to say, 'Let's move on, Ronna. Thank you very much for your service, we need a change in America,'" Lake told reporters Wednesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who cruised to reelection in the midterms despite GOP disappointments elsewhere, told conservative activist and host Charlie Kirk on Thursday that he "like[s] what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC outside" of Washington.

"I think we need a change, and I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC," DeSantis said.

Lindell asserted in a phone interview with ABC News that he and Dhillon have enough combined power to at least keep the simple majority away from McDaniel.

"I believe Ronna McDaniel is well under the 85 needed," Lindell said. "Kind of like what happened in Congress [with Kevin McCarthy's protracted speakership election]. This is very similar, only it's very much to my advantage because it's a secret vote."

"If it was an open vote, I think it'd be hard for anybody to win because of the promises that are made -- and all of the sudden you're going to get that carrot pulled back if you vote elsewhere," he said.

Lindell, like Dhillon, sought to project confidence about his chances to overcome McDaniel's broad support.

"Remember, it's a secret ballot -- and guess what, no machines. Isn't that great?" Lindell said, laughing. (The businessman has continued to spread baseless claims about electronic voting machines.)

Despite the challenges, McDaniel's pull on her caucus remains strong. During a candidate forum on Wednesday night at the Waldorf Astoria in Dana Point, McDaniel was the only candidate to receive a standing ovation from RNC members, according to several sources who were present in the room. Supporters milled about the lobby of the Waldorf later that evening, sporting campaign buttons -- a bright red "Roll With RONNA for RNC chair" fastened to several members' lapels and dresses.

McDaniel, whose spokesperson did not make her available for an interview after multiple requests, has insisted that her critics are overestimating the power of the RNC chair and that she does not have the power to pick candidates or impose messaging discipline on any nominee.

And with six years of running the RNC under her belt, McDaniel, a member of the Romney family's whose GOP ties stretch back decades, still boasts a hefty roster of supporters who maintain that she has the institutional knowledge and donor base to propel the GOP to victory next year.

"I think she's demonstrated the skills and the temperament and the passion to run the organization in a way that's gonna benefit parties around the country and, hopefully, our presidential candidate, too," said an RNC member supporting McDaniel.

One thing uniting McDaniel and Dhillon are vows to remain neutral in the 2024 GOP primary -- as mandated by RNC bylaws -- despite both of their links to Trump and claims from members of different camps that their preferred candidate's opponent would not be able to sufficiently cut ties.

But beyond debates over campaign operations, what has made the race particularly divisive is the sharpening of swipes over strategy into attacks on character and professional threats.

Oscar Brock, a national committee member from Tennessee, sent an email in November to others in the RNC blasting McDaniel after Trump dined with antisemites Nick Fuentes and Ye, saying he was "flabbergasted" by what he suggested was an insufficient response by the national party.

One Dhillon ally, meanwhile, released other members' contact information and Kirk, a hardline activist supporting Dhillon, sent out an email to RNC members warning he could replace them with those who "better represent the grassroots voice." On top of that, Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have promoted Dhillon and criticized McDaniel in an apparent bid to apply pressure to the 168 who will elect the chair.

"This was the first time that I'm aware of where we've had a lot more outside involvement. I think for Harmeet, I think that was a smart strategy, but I wouldn't say it was perfectly implemented. And I think it's helped her and hurt her," the undecided RNC member said. "The strategy is probably a smart one, but I think she overplayed her hand"

"We had people like Charlie Kirk sending emails to RNC members threatening us. That's not very effective. Certainly doesn't make him very popular with RNC members," the member said. "And I think that really hurt her."

Members on all sides of the race concede it has gotten ugly, though they say the long-term divisions run no deeper than strategy.

But in the short-term, even Dhillon supporters who say she's run a strong campaign also say her chances are murky.

"The party isn't fractured. A lot of us are simply disappointed with Ronna's stewardship of the RNC and know we need a change," Bill Palatucci, a member from New Jersey who endorsed Dhillon, said earlier this week.

Still, "If I was a betting man, I would think the incumbent wins," Palatucci said. "But Harmeet has run an excellent campaign very aggressively and has made a lot of progress and continues to make progress. So, we really won't know until we get out there."

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Doug Emhoff departs for European trip focused on Holocaust remembrance, combating antisemitism

Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

(WASHINGTON) -- Second gentleman Doug Emhoff departed Thursday for Poland and Germany on a six-day trip that is aimed at Holocaust education and remembrance as well as combating antisemitism worldwide, according to senior administration officials.

Emhoff's events will focus on honoring the victims of the Holocaust and see "the Second Gentleman educating the public on the true nature of the Holocaust," one official said.

Notable stops include visits in Poland to the Auschwitz death camp on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Friday, and to Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory museum on Saturday.

Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, will also aim to address antisemitism globally, particularly amid what advocates have warned is a spike in recent years.

"While some of those before us in government, in this fight, may have been able to travel abroad to discuss the issue of antisemitism globally, without the need to spend much time on antisemitism in the United States, we can no longer do so," one administration official told reporters Wednesday, previewing the trip.

"Modern technology and internet, with social media in particular, allows ideas to spread with unprecedented rapidity. Hatred now faces no borders, and we will take an all-of-government and all-societal approach to combat that hate," the official added.

While Emhoff's trip will also aim to strengthen relationships with European allies on this issue, the second gentleman is not expected to deliver new policy proposals or deliverables.

"I would also think of it in many ways as a listening session," one official said, nothing it's more important than ever to share ideas for best steps forward as the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle.

"The trip is about reflecting on what we know is a dark, difficult history and then renewing our commitment to take action in current times," the official said.

Officials said the trip was designed "to trace the trajectory of Jewish life in Europe, past, present and future."

Emhoff will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and state museum on Friday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, attending a ceremony alongside some Holocaust survivors. Then, he will attend a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland.

He is scheduled to visit Schindler's factory museum on Saturday, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic film "Schindler's List," which was inspired by Schindler's efforts to shield Jews during World War II.

Later that day, Emhoff will also meet with Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, officials said.

On Sunday, the second gentlemen will tour the historic Jewish Quarter of Krakow and visit Galicia, Poland, before heading on to Berlin, where he will meet with various European officials engaged in combating antisemitism in a "convening of Special Envoy coordinators."

Emhoff will gather Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to hold an interfaith discussion on Tuesday in Berlin and make stops at Berlin's Holocaust memorial and other historic sites.

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DOJ seizes notorious ransomware group's website

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice, FBI and international law enforcement partners mounted a major cyber crackdown against the notorious Russia-linked ransomware gang the Hive on Thursday, seizing its website and dismantling much of its digital infrastructure.

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized this site as part of a coordinated law enforcement action taken against Hive Ransomware," a note on Hive's leak site, shown in English and Russian languages, said Thursday.

Hive ransomware actors have "victimized" over 1,300 companies worldwide, and are believed to have received approximately $100 million in ransom payments, according to information previously released by the FBI, authorities said.

"Last night, the Justice Department dismantled an international ransomware network responsible for extorting and attempting to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from victims in the United States and around the world," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday.

The Hive gang is known to threaten companies they target by warning they'll leak their information on the internet, according to bulletins released by law enforcement. Their hackers typically leave a ransom note with instructions on the network.

In one instance last month, Hive hackers allegedly took the data of 270,000 people from the largest medical complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The information they stole included full names, addresses, medical records, payment info and in some cases social security numbers of patients at the hospital.

"The coordinated disruption of Hive's computer networks, following months of decrypting victims around the world, shows what we can accomplish by combining a relentless search for useful technical information to share with victims with investigation aimed at developing operations that hit our adversaries hard," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

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Adam Schiff is running for California Senate seat

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(WASHINGTON) -- California Rep. Adam Schiff on Thursday announced he will run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's seat in 2024 -- though the longtime congresswoman has not yet announced whether she will retire or seek reelection.

Schiff, a prominent Democrat and former House Intelligence Committee chairman, is the latest in what is expected to be a long list of candidates for Feinstein's seat, which she has held since 1992.

In his announcement, Schiff invoked "MAGA extremists" and what he called a dysfunctional economy for "millions of Americans" as reasons he was entering the race.

"We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of our country. ... And at this moment, we need a fighter for our democracy and our families," he said.

A few weeks ago, California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter announced that she would also seek Feinstein's seat. In her announcement video, Porter said it was time for new leadership in the U.S. Senate. (At 49, Porter is nearly half the age of Feinstein, who is 89.)

"I don't do Congress the way others often do. I use whatever power I have, speak hard truths to the powers that be," Porter said. "To not just challenge the status quo, but call it out."

Schiff and Porter's announcements further highlight questions about Feinstein's future.

The senator has long been one of the most prominent members of her caucus, but she has more recently sought to dismiss scrutiny of her memory and stamina, given her age and amid multiple news reports that claimed she could be forgetful and confused.

"My mind is fine," she said in 2018 -- echoing that in 2020 comments to The Los Angeles Times: "I don’t feel my cognitive abilities have diminished. ... Do I forget something sometimes? Quite possibly."

“I meet regularly with leaders. I’m not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours," she told The San Francisco Chronicle last April.

Feinstein filed paperwork in 2021 to run for reelection.

She told reporters this week that a decision about running in 2024 would be made in the "next couple of months."

California has a jungle primary where voters choose any candidate, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election. That means two Democrats could be pitted against each other during the general election, which is what happened when Feinstein ran for reelection in 2018.

The list of Senate candidates is likely to grow soon.

A source close to Democratic California Rep. Barbara Lee confirmed to ABC News that she intends to run for Feinstein's seat and shared that with the Congressional Black Caucus during a meeting earlier this month.

However, the source explained that this was in no way an official announcement, saying that Lee wants to be respectful of Feinstein.

Another source also said that Lee has been in touch with senior state Democrats about the likely campaign.

A fourth Democratic candidate could be California Rep. Ro Khanna, who co-chaired Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign.

Nearly two years away from the general election and California's Senate race is likely to be one of the most high-profile and most competitive, among Democrats, of the cycle -- in part because the enormous state has many prominent politicians and because Senate seats there so rarely open up.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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Senators on intel committee demand to see Biden and Trump docs, in rare bipartisan outrage

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(WASHINGTON) -- Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee emerged outraged from a two-hour secure briefing with Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines, threatening to grind the chamber's business to a halt if the Biden administration does not provide access to the classified documents seized from the current president and former President Donald Trump.

Senators in both parties have claimed the administration is refusing to let them see the materials, even blocking lawmakers with the highest security clearance, like Senate Intelligence Committee members, while the special counsel probes are ongoing over how Biden and Trump handled the classified records while out of office.

"I'm very disappointed with the lack of detail and a timeline on when we're going to get a briefing, not on anything dealing with criminality -- that's an appropriate Department of Justice responsibility -- but it is our responsibility to make sure that we, in our role as intelligence oversight, know if there's been any intelligence compromise," Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va, said in a rare rebuke of the administration.

"Every member of the committee, regardless of Democrat or Republican, [was] unanimous in that this position that we are left in ... until somehow a special counsel designates that it's OK for us to get briefed is not going to stand," Warner said. "And all things will be on the table to make sure that doesn't happen," he warned.

The bipartisan outrage could paralyze the work of the Senate, should senators make good on their threats in a chamber where it takes the unanimous agreement of every member to move onto bills, take up nominees and more.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a panel member, echoed Warner's threat and took it a step further: He said he is prepared to block nominees, withhold funding for government programs and "take every step I can" to impose consequences on the administration until the classified documents are provided.

"Until the administration stops stonewalling Congress, there will be pain as a consequence," Cotton said.

A spokesperson for the White House counsel's office referred a request for comment on this criticism to the Department or Justice or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Neither office for the special counsels investigating Biden and Trump immediately responded to requests for comment.

Federal authorities have said classified materials were found at both Biden and Trump's homes and were retained after both men left office -- in Biden's case, in the years after he was a senator and vice president and before he was elected president in 2020.

The contents of the documents remain unclear and lawmakers say an intelligence review is key to understanding what problems may have been created by the handling of the records.

Cotton on Wednesday called the administration's special counsel concerns a "farce," pointing to the intelligence panel's past review of sensitive, top-secret information related to the Russia collusion probe while special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was ongoing.

"There's no reason why Congress cannot review these documents in a secure, classified setting so we can make an assessment about what damage it may have caused to national security," Cotton said.

Warner concurred -- in an exceedingly rare moment of agreement with Cotton. During the Russia investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee was given rare access to the most sensitive documents, Warner said.

"Our committee got those briefings, in certain cases because we had the trust of the intelligence community -- had access to even raw intelligence -- but it was handled appropriately," he said. "Our goal is to make sure that we make that intelligence assessment of whether our nation's security has been compromised."

While Congress has been seeking a risk assessment since the FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in August, Cotton said a risk assessment won't be enough to satisfy his concerns.

"I think, ultimately, we will get a damage assessment. The real question in my mind though is: Do we have the underlying document on which that assessment is for or are we expected to take on face what the DNI has concluded or what the FBI has concluded?" he said.

The committee's vice chair, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, added to the bipartisan agreement, dismissing as "untenable" the position that the DNI has taken on keeping documents out of the hands of Congress.

"It cannot be that your answer is that we can't tell you what was discovered until the special counsel allows us to. The information we're asking for has no bearing whatsoever, that would interfere in no way, with a criminal investigation," he said.

Regardless of the standoff over documents, lawmakers of every stripe said it's time for Congress to consider legislative changes to the current, "broken" system.

"We've got to fix this for all folks leaving government, for those inside government, on how they deal with documents," Warner said. "This has been kind of a problem that's been bubbling for some time. It's now playing out in real time, and our committee is going to take it up and [there is] broad agreement that this needs to be addressed."

ABC News' Alexander Mallin and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Texas, 19 other states sue Biden admin over migrant parole program

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(WASHINGTON) -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading 20 states who are suing the Biden administration over a federal migrant parole program announced earlier this month.

The program established a pathway for up to 30,000 migrants each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to petition for asylum in the U.S. President Joe Biden launched the program as part of a series of new border enforcement actions, which also includes a commitment from the Mexican government to accept up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries if they don't meet the requirements for asylum or parole.

In a press release, on Tuesday, Paxton's office argued that the program "unlawfully creates a de facto pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of aliens."

Along with Texas, 19 mostly GOP-led states joined the suit filed in the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Texas.

"Every state in America, especially border states like Texas, is being crushed by the impacts of illegal immigration. The Biden open borders agenda has created a humanitarian crisis that is increasing crime and violence in our streets, overwhelming local communities, and worsening the opioid crisis," Paxton said.

"This unlawful amnesty program, which will invite hundreds of thousands of aliens into the U.S. every year, will only make this immigration crisis drastically worse," he continued.

An administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday on the Biden's enforcement actions said they are confident they have the legal authority to implement this program.

“Many leaders of these states keep claiming we need to secure the border, but then they turned around and try to block every measure that we take to do just that,” the official said. “They don't want real solutions They would rather just keep using immigration to try to score political points.”

That view echoes what the White House said earlier this month, accusing Republicans in office of "playing political games and obstructing real solutions to fix our broken immigration system."

"Until and unless Congress delivers the funding as well as comprehensive immigration reform measures President Biden requested, the United States' broken immigration system will indeed remain broken," the White House said then.

Preliminary data released Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security showed the new border enforcement measures, which include the parole program, are working, department officials insisted.

Border Patrol apprehensions of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are down 97% since December. The average number of migrant apprehensions from those countries -- a key indicator of illegal migration -- is at 115 per day, down from 3,367 per day at the beginning of December, according to the agency.

But some immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers have also criticized the president's parole program for, they say, providing too-narrow a pathway for migrants to seek asylum.

In order to apply, asylum-seekers must meet strict requirements like applying from their home countries and must have a sponsor in the U.S. who can be financially responsible for them. The agreement with Mexico to expel up to 30,000 migrants each month from the four countries also opens the door for more expulsions under Title 42, a public health policy implemented under President Donald Trump in the early days of COVID-19 that quickly expels and prevents migrants from seeking asylum, citing the threat of viral spread.

Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and California's Alex Padilla issued a joint statement after the president's announcement earlier this month. The three took particular issue with the continued use of Title 42 for migrant expulsions.

"Continuing to use this failed and inhumane Trump-era policy put in place to address a public health crisis will do nothing to restore the rule of law at the border. Instead, it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich human smuggling networks," they said. "We are pleased to see an increase in the access to parole for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, but this narrow benefit will exclude thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process."

America First Legal, a conservative group launched by former Trump aide Stephen Miller, is also involved in the case. Alaska is one of the 20 states as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claiming they face "substantial, irreparable harms from the Department's abuses of its parole authority, which allow potentially hundreds of thousands of additional aliens to enter each of their already overwhelmed territories."

The lawsuit claims, in part, that 5,000-11,000 immigrants live illegally in Alaska, which claims it spends up to $72 million a year in education, health care, public assistance and general government services for them.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council, said Alaska's involvement in the suit shows "how fundamentally unserious" it is.

"That Alaska is trying to claim that a program allowing Cubans to enter the country legally is going to create an increase in undocumented immigrants in Alaska is fundamentally unserious," Reichlin-Melnick said. "No person should be able to say that with a straight face. Alaska is not going to be overwhelmed by migrants -- that's just reality."

"They are not attached to the continental United States and that would require migrants to travel all the way to the border, cross the border, cross into Canada, travel through Canada and then cross back into the United States to get to Alaska," Reichlin-Melnick said.

The suit is the latest legal battle that border-adjacent and largely GOP-led states have waged against the Biden administration's immigration policies, which they call "reckless." These states have tried in multiple cases to undermine the federal government's agenda on a wide range of issues, including Biden's attempt to dismantle Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy and to continue to exclude young migrants from imminent deportation.

The new lawsuit also takes issue with the fact that the parole program was rolled out without going through the notice and comment rule-making process, which the states allege the administration is required to do.

However, another program targeting Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion that was launched in April 2021 establishes similar requirements for asylum-seekers. It has not been met with a legal challenge, Reichlin-Melnick noted.

"We're seeing them filing a lawsuit attempting to block Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians and Latinos from entering the United States through the exact same means by which Ukrainians have been allowed in to no legal challenge at all on the part of the same plaintiffs," he said.

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Santos lists new treasurer -- who says he doesn't work for the congressman

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(WASHINGTON) -- With a disclosure filing deadline approaching as questions swirl around his use of campaign funds, embattled Rep. George Santos' campaign appears to be left without a treasurer.

On Wednesday, several fundraising committees associated with the freshman congressman from New York filed amendments to their statements of organizations, notifying the Federal Election Commission of a new treasurer.

But the newly listed treasurer, Thomas Datwyler, a veteran campaign finance treasurer who has served on multiple other political organizations, says he does not work for the Santos campaign and that the filings were signed under his name without his consent.

"On Monday, we informed the Santos campaign that Mr. Datwyler would not be serving as treasurer," Datwyler's attorney Derek Ross told ABC News. "It appears that there's been a disconnect between that conversation and the filings today, which we did not authorize."

Adav Noti, former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now senior vice president and legal director of the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, told ABC News that someone with the committees' login credentials would have had to file those amendments and list Datwyler's name as the new treasurer.

"This is a very, very strange situation because those amendments that were filed today are electronically signed, or at least they say they're electronically signed by the new treasurer," Noti said. "I don't really understand how this could have happened."

"It's completely illegal to sign somebody else's name on a federal filing without their consent. That is a big, big no-no," Noti said.

A source familiar with the matter told ABC News that Datwyler and his legal team are awaiting the FEC's guidance on how to proceed.

Nancy Marks of Campaigns Unlimited, the previous treasurer listed for Santos' campaign committee as well as various other affiliated committees, did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

The committees' sudden change of their treasurer comes after the Santos campaign on Tuesday filed a number of amendments to their previous quarterly disclosures on fundraising and expenditures.

Among the changes the campaign reported in Tuesday's amended filings was a potential indication that at least $625,000 in campaign loans that Santos had previously reported as self-funded might not be sourced from his "personal funds."

While marking that those loans, still listed under his name George Anthony Devolder Santos, are not from his "personal funds," the amended filings did not disclose what the original source of those loans is, as required by federal campaign finance laws.

Other questions have been raised regarding the Santos campaign's fundraising and spending, including donors that appear to have given more than the federal contribution limit, and dozens of expenditures of $199.99 each, just under the $200 threshold that requires a receipt when reporting campaign expenses to the FEC.

"I'm not at all surprised that they're changing treasurers given that the campaign has legal exposure and Nancy Marks has legal exposure, and they're presumably all lawyering up," Noti said. "It would be very difficult for them to maintain a business relationship while they're all being investigated in a potentially adverse position."

Experts said the Santos campaign's potential lack of treasurer puts the embattled congressman in a difficult situation with the approach of the deadline for year-end campaign filings at the end of January.

"It's not uncommon for treasurers to quit or leave for various reasons, and that doesn't absolve the campaign of its filing responsibility," Noti said. "So even if they continue to have a fight over who the treasurer and it's not resolved by the year-end filing deadline, the FEC does not give excuses."

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Apprehensions of migrants from 4 Latin American countries fall sharply: DHS

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Homeland Security is taking a victory lap as preliminary data released Wednesday shows a sharp decline in certain migrants crossing the border.

Border Patrol apprehensions of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are down 97% since December. The average number of migrant apprehensions from those countries -- a key indicator of illegal migration -- is at 115 per day, down from 3,367 per day at the beginning of December, according to the agency.

In the face of continued Republican criticism of "reckless" border policies, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement: "These expanded border enforcement measures are working."

"It is incomprehensible that some states who stand to benefit from these highly effective enforcement measures are seeking to block them and cause more irregular migration at our southern border," Mayorkas said.

The new data comes as a group of mostly GOP-led states is suing the Biden administration over its latest immigration policy initiative.

But the administration is crediting the migration decline to the simultaneous rollout of its border crackdown and parole programs for Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans.

Earlier this month, Mexico agreed to accept 30,000 unauthorized migrants a month from those three countries plus Venezuela while the U.S. committed to establishing a narrow parole pathway for 30,000 more each month.

"We realize that these are temporary solutions and not a permanent fix," one senior administration official said Wednesday, stressing the need for action from Congress.

The parole program was an expansion of a prior process only for Venezuelan nationals that had been capped at a lower level. Now since Jan. 5, about 1,700 have been paroled into the U.S. through the expanded program while thousands more have been approved and are awaiting travel.

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Donald Trump allowed back on Facebook and Instagram, Meta announces

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(NEW YORK) -- Meta announced it is allowing former President Donald Trump back on Facebook and Instagram "in the coming weeks," ending a two-year suspension.

Trump was locked out of his accounts on Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 7. 2021, in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, over concerns that his posts were inciting violence. Facebook later said the suspension will hold for two years, at which point it would come under reassessment.

"The suspension was an extraordinary decision taken in extraordinary circumstances," Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said in a statement Wednesday. "The normal state of affairs is that the public should be able to hear from a former President of the United States, and a declared candidate for that office again, on our platforms."

"Now that the time period of the suspension has elapsed, the question is not whether we choose to reinstate Mr. Trump’s accounts, but whether there remain such extraordinary circumstances that extending the suspension beyond the original two-year period is justified," the statement continued.

Clegg said Meta is instating "new guardrails," and that Trump now faces "heightened penalties for repeat offenses."

"In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation," Clegg said.

Attorneys for Trump had recently written to executives of Meta requesting a meeting to discuss "prompt reinstatement to the platform," according to a copy of the letter reviewed by ABC News.

The letter, which is addressed to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and two other executives, claims the ban on Trump's account "has dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse," and represents "a deliberate effort by a private company to silence Mr. Trump's political voice."

Trump, who announced a third bid for the White House last year, responded to his reinstatement in a post on his social network Truth Social

"Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution," he said.

Trump did not indicate in the post if he intends to use Facebook or Instagram.

The former president was also permanently suspended from Twitter in the wake of the Capitol attack, with the social media site's leadership at the time saying the ban was due to fears of further incitement of violence.

Elon Musk eventually reinstated Trump's Twitter account in November 2022, after posting an online poll asking Twitter users if he should unban the former president.

Trump has not tweeted since being reinstated.

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

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Jill Biden donates her Inauguration Day outfits to Smithsonian's first ladies exhibit

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(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Jill Biden on Wednesday gave both of her 2021 inaugural outfits to The First Ladies Collection, part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Biden presented her ocean blue dress and matching overcoat, designed by Alexandra O'Neill, which she wore to the presidential swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20, 2021, and her evening inaugural attire -- an ivory silk wool dress and cashmere coat designed by Gabriela Hearst.

"Clothing is an art and articulation. It's a manifestation of a moment of time -- it's history," Biden said Wednesday. "I'm deeply honored to play a small part in a big moment of our history, alongside two visionary designers."

Both Hearst and O'Neill attended Wednesday's event and shared their sentiment and thanks for the first lady and Smithsonian.

"As a designer, I couldn't think of a better muse," Hearst said to Biden. "You use your platform to service as an educator."

Biden's matching face masks for each outfit will also be displayed in the exhibit.

"They're just pieces of small cloth, but they represent the enormity of what we all faced at the time," she said.

Wednesday's exhibit was the first time since Jan. 11 that has Biden made a public appearance, after having a minor medical procedure to remove lesions and cancerous tissue.

The collection features 27 dresses from first ladies including Jacqueline Kennedy, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump, and other items of historical significance, according to the Smithsonian.

"The First Ladies Collection is one of the most enduring and popular exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution," Anthea Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan director at the National Museum of American History, said in a statement.

The exhibit will be available to the public at the National Museum of American History starting Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.

Wrapping up her speech on Wednesday, Biden said: "I look forward to adding some men's wear to this gallery in the future."

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George Santos now indicates $625K of loans to his campaign might not be 'personal'

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(WASHINGTON) -- New campaign disclosures from embattled Rep. George Santos suggest that at least $625,000 in campaign loans he had previously reported as self-funded might not be sourced from his "personal funds."

Campaign finance experts say Santos, R-N.Y., may be violating campaign finance laws by not properly disclosing the original sources of those loans.

In a series of amendments filed on Tuesday, Santos marked two loans that he had previously reported as loans from himself -- $500,000 from March 2022 and $125,000 from October 2022 -- as not from "personal funds from the candidate."

In a previous version of his campaign disclosure, the $500,000 was reported as a loan from George Anthony Devolder-Santos, with a checked box indicating it was from "personal funds of the candidate."

But in an amendment to that report filed on Tuesday, that box was left unchecked.

Similarly, in another amendment filed on Tuesday, the $125,000 loan was reported as a self-loan from Santos but it had an unmarked box now indicating that it's not from his personal funds. That loan was previously reported under the contributions section, with a memo that it was a self-loan from Santos.

Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert and the deputy executive director of Documented, said a campaign loan reported under a candidate but not marked as "personal funds of the candidate" usually means that the loan is secured through a bank or another person.

Under campaign finance laws, disclosures of such loans are required to be accompanied by the original source of the loans as well as the due date and the interest rate, Fischer said.

But Santos' amended filings did not disclose any of that information.

Santos declined to comment on the changes when asked by reporters outside his office on Wednesday: "I have no comment for you on that ... I have no clue on what you are talking about," he said.

Fischer said Santos' new amendments "make no sense" and added that "unchecking the box is not going to absolve Santos from any legal liabilities."

Adav Noti, former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now senior vice president and legal director of Campaign Legal Center, said the possibility of the changes being unintentional clerical errors, which the Santos campaign has a history of, should not be discounted at this point.

"I don't think the amendments shed light either way on anything that happened," Noti said. "There's one checkbox on one form that was changed. There's no indication that that was intentional, and there's all sorts of indication that it might have just been sloppiness."

Regardless of the intention of the changes, campaign finance lawyer and Deputy Executive Director of the Funders' Committee for Civic Participation Paul Seamus Ryan emphasized the importance of proper disclosures of campaign funds.

"Disclosure of the source and terms of such a loan is important because federal law requires that loans obtained by a candidate for use in the candidate's campaign must be on the usual and customary terms that would be offered to any similarly situated borrower," Ryan said.

"I'm not sure what Santos' motivation was for the loan-related amendments, but he hasn't cleared up potential violations of federal law," Ryan added.

Santos, who was elected in November to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District, has been under mounting scrutiny over his finances -- with 2022 disclosures indicating millions in assets after previously disclosing less than $60,000 in income in 2020 -- as well as a string of falsehoods and embellishments he told about his background.

Democrats have also filed a complaint against him with the House Ethics Committee.

Santos has insisted he is not a criminal and vowed to serve his term for his constituents, suggesting it's up to them to reelect him or vote him out of office. He was recently given assignments on two lower-level congressional committees: the panels for small business and science, space and technology.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that "I will hold him [Santos] to the same standard I hold anyone else elected."

If Santos is found to have broken the law, then "we will remove him," McCarthy said, though it was unclear what punishment McCarthy was promising.

ABC News' Lauren Peller and Rachel Scott contributed to this report.

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Harris to visit Monterey Park to meet with victims' families

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Monterey Park, California, on Wednesday to meet with victims' families days after a mass shooter there killed 11 and wounded at least nine others at a Lunar New Year celebration inside a dance studio.

"As we grieve Saturday's mass shooting in California, we already face two more this week alone in Half Moon Bay and Oakland," Harris wrote on Twitter Tuesday, acknowledging the subsequent shootings in her home state this week.

"Tomorrow I will visit Monterey Park to stand and mourn with the community. Doug and I continue to pray for healing and recovery for all those impacted," she wrote.

In Monterey Park, Brandon Tsay disarmed the shooter. Tsay later told ABC News he realized "everybody would die" if he didn't take control of the situation, adding, "Something came over me."

On Monday, seven people were killed in Half Moon Bay, in a mass shooting across two farms, authorities said, with workplace violence believed to be the motive. And only hours later in Oakland, at least one person was killed and seven more injured in another mass shooting at a gas station.

It's unclear if the vice president will renew calls for an assault weapons ban while in Monterey Park -- an action she and President Joe Biden support but which lacks the necessary backing among Republican lawmakers, many of whom say restrictions on firearms are ineffective and unconstitutional.

Congress broke a nearly 30-year stalemate last year by passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the first major piece of federal gun reform to clear both chambers since what's known as the 1993 Brady bill. The BSCA was crafted in the aftermath of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 young children and two teachers.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, alongside Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, on Monday reintroduced a federal assault weapons ban and legislation that would raise the minimum purchase age for assault-style weapons to 21. But that legislation is unlikely to move forward.

Harris spoke about the Monterey Park shooting at a Sunday appearance in Florida to mark 50 years since Roe v. Wade, saying, "Yet another community has been torn apart by senseless gun violence."

"All of us in this room and in our country understand this violence must stop," she said then. "President Biden and I and our administration will continue to provide full support to the local authorities as we learn more."

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. has seen more mass shootings than days in 2023.

ABC News' Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Woman pleads guilty to mailing ricin to then-President Donald Trump

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(WASHINGTON) -- A Canadian-French dual national has pleaded guilty to charges that she mailed threatening letters containing the poison ricin to then-President Donald Trump, as well as eight Texas law enforcement officers, in 2020.

Pascale Cecile Veronique Ferrier, 55, faces over 21 years in prison if a judge agrees to accept the terms of her plea agreement.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26.

"There is no place for political violence in our country, and no excuse for threatening public officials or endangering our public servants," U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves said in a statement. "We hope this resolution will serve as a warning that using our mail system to send a toxic substance and other threats of this type will cost you your freedom for many years."

Ferrier admitted in plea records to making the ricin at her home in Quebec in September 2020 and mailing it to Trump and the eight Texas officials, who she blamed for being connected to a prior incident where she was detained in the spring of 2019.

The letter addressed to Trump instructed him to "[g]ive up and remove [his] application for this election."

After mailing the letters, Ferrier drove a car from Canada to the Peace Bridge Border Crossing in Buffalo, New York, where border patrol officials arrested her and found her in possession of a loaded firearm, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and other weapons.

She has remained in custody since then.

"This woman did not succeed in her efforts to poison numerous public officials in our district, but her actions still created fear and stress for many of these dedicated public servants," U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said in a statement. "We are grateful for the hard work of the FBI and our other law enforcement partners in identifying and apprehending her."

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McConnell says it's up to McCarthy and Biden to negotiate a deal on the debt ceiling

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(WASHINGTON) -- The debt ceiling debate continues to loom large on Capitol Hill as both sides prepare for a showdown that the Treasury Department has said could throw the U.S. economy into a tailspin if it isn't able to borrow more money.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday made it clear that his chamber will play a backseat role in the process, telling reporters that he "can't imagine" a debt ceiling proposal that could first pass in the Senate and then in the House.

"In this current situation, the debt ceiling fix -- if there is one or has to be dealt with -- has to come out of the House," he said.

"I think the final solution to this particular episode lies between Speaker McCarthy and the president," McConnell said.

With his new Republican majority, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to try and bring what he calls fiscal discipline to Washington, though congressional Democrats and the Biden White House have rejected the push for spending cuts as a partisan tactic that could "wreck" numerous livelihoods while weakening popular programs like Social Security.

It's not yet entirely clear what McCarthy and his conference hope to reduce.

On Tuesday, the speaker told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott "no" when asked if he will change his mind on negotiating the debt ceiling with the White House.

"For the president to say he wouldn't even negotiate -- that's irresponsible. We're going to be responsible. We're going to be sensible, and we're going to get this done together. So the longer he waits, the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs," McCarthy said. "We should sit down and get this done and stop playing politics."

The debt ceiling is a cap set by Congress on the amount of money the federal government can borrow to pay its current bills. The limit, now set at about $31.4 trillion, doesn't authorize new spending.

The Treasury Department has said the U.S. hit that limit last week but that it can likely keep the government funded through early summer, through "extraordinary measures" and its standard cash flow.

McConnell said Tuesday that it was "entirely reasonable" for McCarthy to put spending cuts on the table and said he "wished him well" in talking with President Joe Biden.

"That's where a solution lies," said McConnell -- whose been in such negotiations before. In 2011, he cut a last-minute deal with then-Vice President Biden to save the nation from debt default.

But the White House has repeatedly said raising the debt ceiling is non-negotiable and should be done without related cuts, especially on programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Biden said Tuesday, as he met with the new Democratic leadership at the White House, that he had "no intention of letting the Republicans wreck our economy."

"Apparently, they're genuinely serious about cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare," Biden said of some of the measures proposed by Republican members, adding with a hint of sarcasm: "And I love their 30% sales tax."

McCarthy last week said that he agreed to meet with Biden to discuss the debt ceiling, and while White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said Biden looks forward to sitting down with the new speaker, she reiterated their position on the issue was not up for debate.

"If you look at the debt ceiling right now, 90% of it was before the president walked in," she told reporters on Tuesday. "So this is their duty."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats are going to present a collective front.

"The bottom line is that we said that our unity is our strength," Schumer told reporters after meeting with Biden Tuesday. "The president, the House, the Senate are going to be on the same page talking about what we should do," he said.

"And one of the things we want to do on the debt ceiling is tell Republicans, 'Tell us your plan,'" Schumer said.

One thing most Senate Republicans seem to agree on is avoiding cuts to defense spending.

"I think that I've always said that if you don't get national security right, the rest is conversation. That's the job -- job #1. So, I hope that as they have conversations over there [in the House] about this year's funding levels that national security won't be part of that," Senate Minority Whip John Thune told ABC News.

In the meantime, the Treasury Department is employing "extraordinary measures" to stave off a debt crisis. The latest measure announced by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is an alteration as of Monday to the investments in government-run funds for retirees.

"I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States," Yellen wrote.

She previously wrote to McCarthy that she didn't expect the department's "cash and extraordinary measures will be exhausted before early June."

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