Political News

Biden labels Buffalo shooting 'domestic terrorism' after visiting scene

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(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Assuming his role as consoler in chief, President Joe Biden traveled to Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday to visit a community in mourning and call out the dangers of white supremacy on the national stage following Saturday's racially-motivated mass shooting at a supermarket that left 10 Black people dead, three wounded and others fearing for their lives.

Biden wanted to meet with victims' families to "try to bring some comfort to the community, particularly to those who lost loved ones" and "grieve with them," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

He and first lady Jill Biden visited the Tops market memorial to pay their respects on Tuesday morning, laying flowers. They then met behind closed doors with the families of victims and first responders at a community center. During an afternoon address, Biden called on Americans to reject white supremacy, calling it a "poison" that's "running through our body politic."

"What happened here is simple, straightforward," Biden said. "Terrorism. Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted in the service of hate. And the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people as being inherently inferior to any other group," he said.

Alluding to the "great replacement theory" conspiracy, an idea espoused by the alleged shooter and echoed in language used by some Republicans and media figures, Biden called on Americans to "reject the lie" and condemned those "who spread the lie for power, for political gain and for profit."

"We need to say as clearly enforced as we can, that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America," Biden said. "Silence is complicity, is complicity. We cannot remain silent."

The president also named each victim in the attack and their ages, giving details of their everyday lives before they were suddenly gunned down.

"I know tragedy will come again. It cannot be forever overcome. It cannot be fully understood either. But there are certain things we can do," Biden added.

The president called on Congress to pass legislation to "keep assault weapons off our street" and to do more to "prevent people from being radicalized to violence," such as addressing what he called "the relentless exploitation of the Internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism."

"We just need to have the courage to do that, to stand up over the American experiment in which democracy is in danger -- like it hasn't been in my lifetime," he said. "The American experiment in democracy is in danger at this hour. Hate and fear are being given too much oxygen by those who pretend to love America."

Biden has said in the past that he was compelled to run for office, in part, because of how former President Donald Trump responded to white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was the first president to directly address white supremacy in his inaugural speech, calling it "domestic terrorism that we must confront" and released the first-ever national strategy to counter domestic terrorism.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing Ruth Whitfield, an 86-year-old who was among those killed Saturday, had called on the Biden administration to label the shooting an act of domestic terrorism, which the president did Tuesday.

"We can't sugarcoat it, we can't try to explain it away talking about mental illness," Crump said in a press conference with the victims' families on Monday. "This was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a young white supremacist."

Biden's first in-person comments on the shooting came while speaking at an event on Sunday to honor law enforcement officers killed on duty, where he described the accused gunman as "armed with weapons of war and a hate-filled soul." He also said that he has been receiving updates from his team at the White House, which remains in close contact with the Department of Justice, while it investigates the shooting as both a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.

"As they do, we must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America," Biden said. "Our hearts are heavy once again, but the resolve must never, ever waver."

During a previously scheduled Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House on Monday, Biden also paid tribute to retired Buffalo Police Department officer Aaron Salter, the security guard at the Tops Friendly Market who was killed after engaging the shooter and "gave his life trying to save others," Biden said.

"He actually was able to shoot the assailant twice, but he [the assailant] had a bulletproof vest, and he [Slater] lost his life in the process," Biden added.

On a somber Monday afternoon, Jean-Pierre -- taking over for former White House press secretary Jen Psaki -- began her first briefing by reading out the names of each victim of the shooting and giving a little description of who they were.

Asked who or what may have influenced the shooter, Jean-Pierre opted, at first, to speak about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which saw one counterprotester dead, saying Biden "is determined as he was back then, and he is determined today, to make sure that we fight back against those forces of hate and evil and violence."

When pressed again by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega about elected officials who have expressed views echoing those espoused by the alleged gunman, such as Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Jean-Pierre said the administration would call out those who "spew this type of hate" -- but refused to name anyone -- and gave few details about what the White House can do to prevent these kinds of views from becoming more widespread.

"What we're going to continue to do anyone, any one person, right, doesn't matter who they are, who spews this type of hate, hatred, we're going to, we're going to call out we're going to condemn that," she said. "I'm not going to speak or call out any individual names. I'm saying that this is something that we need to call out. And so this is what the president has been doing and will continue to do that."

"I'm not going to get into a back and forth on names and who said what," Jean-Pierre added. "We're just saying, if someone does that, if there's an individual that is espousing hate, xenophobia, you know, has, you know, has just white supremacy type of extremism, we need to call that out. And this president has done that."

With renewed calls for gun control from the public, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC's This Week Sunday that Democrats in Congress is "of course trying to do something about gun violence" but noted that efforts to address mass shootings on Capitol Hill have fallen short not in the House but in the Senate, where Republicans have opposed gun control measures, making it impossible for Democrats to advance legislation over the 60-vote threshold in the chamber.

A document obtained by ABC News Monday appears to show how the alleged shooter, Payton Gendron, 18, carefully planned out his attack at least two months before he was arrested at the supermarket on Saturday and charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

ABC News' Justin Gomez and Armando Garcia contributed to this report.

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Primary races in five states foreshadow contentious midterm elections

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(WASHINGTON) -- Primary elections on Tuesday night in five states will showcase some of the many factors that have been swirling around the 2022 midterm elections, including the power of endorsements, shakeups from redistricting, and the uncertain futures of the Democratic and Republican parties.

The Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary race is among the most competitive to watch. The seat, held by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, could be critical for Democrats to maintain their slim control in the Senate.

The Senate race was shaken up in late 2020 when celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz threw his hat in the ring for the open seat. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Oz in April, saying that he would be most likely able to win the general election.

But during a rally held by Trump in Pennsylvania, some voters on the ground were skeptical of Oz, telling ABC News they did not like his changing stances on COVID vaccines, abortion and the Second Amendment.

Oz faces challengers including businessman Dave McCormick and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, who has gained a recent surge of support.

In the days leading up to the primary, Trump came after Barnette, saying she could not win the general election. He also went after her past.

Barnette's newfound prominence also brought to light a series of Islamophobic and inflammatory comments posted to social media. ABC News has also verified images first shared by an independent researcher of Barnette marching toward the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. One of the videos shows Barnette walking behind a man indicted in connection with the day's events and who prosecutors described as "a self-identified member of the Proud Boys."

ABC News reached out to Barnette's campaign for comment but has not received a response. The campaign told NBC, "Kathy was in DC to support President Trump and demand election accountability. Any assertion that she participated in or supported the destruction of property is intentionally false. She has no connection whatsoever to the Proud Boys."

In the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, the three leading candidates are Lt. Gov John Fetterman, Rep. Conor Lamb and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

Fetterman served as the mayor of the small borough of Braddock, just outside Pittsburgh, for 16 years before being elected as lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Tom Wolf four years ago. He ran for Senate in 2016 but lost in the primary.

Fetterman, a progressive and the frontrunner in the race, suffered a stroke just days before Tuesday's primary -- taking him off the trail in the final stretch -- but said in a statement he expects to make a full recovery.

Kenyatta made his mark on the national stage in the summer of 2020 as a Democratic National Convention keynote speaker whom the party identified as part of a group of "diverse voices from the next generation of party leaders." He was a strong ally of President Joe Biden's throughout the 2020 general election.

Lamb, who has staked out a centrist position in the primary, currently represents Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He has picked up key endorsements, including from many labor unions, in the eastern part of the state.

Then there's Pennsylvania's fierce GOP gubernatorial primary. Whoever wins the governor's race in November will also appoint a secretary of state -- the chief election officer in the state where the "big lie" and Trump's false claims that he is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election run deep.

Several candidates are vying for the GOP nomination, while Attorney General Josh Shapiro runs unopposed in the Democratic primary for governor. The races shifted dramatically in recent days when Trump endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who's attracted conservative grassroots support for his efforts to try to overturn the state's 2020 presidential result.

Mastriano attended the Jan. 6 insurrection, organizing buses to the "Stop the Steal" rally and was caught on camera walking past barricades at the Capitol ahead of the deadly protests though he has denied participating in any violence. The House Jan. 6 committee has subpoenaed him, given that he was in communication with Trump on that infamous day, but neither he nor the committee has confirmed whether he complied with the order.

In North Carolina, GOP Sen. Richard Burr announced last year he would not seek reelection. There are over 10 candidates in the race to replace him -- including the three leading candidates, Rep. Ted Budd, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker.

Budd, who was endorsed by Trump, struggled earlier in the year in the polls and fundraising but now is doing better and leading in the polls.

In the Democratic Senate primary in North Carolina, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is a front runner. If Beasley wins the general election, she could become the only Black woman to serve as a senator in the 118th Congress.

Rep. David Price of North Carolina's 4th Congressional District is retiring and a crowded Democratic field is fighting for his spot. Eight Democrats filed their candidacy paperwork, including musician and American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken. If Aiken wins the primary and the general, he would become the first openly gay member of Congress from the South.

Elsewhere in North Carolina, the Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District is another hotly contested race. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, considered a right-wing firebrand in the party, has dealt with many controversies during his freshman year in Congress. On Tuesday, voters will decide if they want to keep him around. Many top GOP members have indicated that they want him gone -- including both Republican senators from North Carolina.

But on Monday, Trump -- who has endorsed Cawthorn -- took to his own social media platform Truth Social to defend Cawthorn, saying he believes that while Cawthorn made some "foolish mistakes" he deserves a second chance.

In Kentucky, leading the pack in the Democratic primary race is Charles Booker, who made a run for Senate in 2020 -- losing in the primary to Amy McGrath, who went on to compete in the general against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Over in Idaho, sparks have flown in the Republican primary in the race for Idaho's governor, with incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little attempting to hold onto his position against the best efforts of his own lieutenant governor, Republican Janice McGeachin. This is the first time a sitting governor has been challenged by their own lieutenant governor of the same party since 1938.

The pair have been playing something of political cat and mouse for a few months: When Little was out of state, McGeachin has, more than once, issued anti-mask mandate-related executive orders in her role as acting governor, which Little would then rescind upon his return.

In Oregon, widely considered a blue state, there is a chance for the Republican party to make a play for the open governor's seat since term-limited Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is unpopular in the state.

In the Democratic primary for Oregon's newly redistricted 5th Congressional district, incumbent Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader is facing intraparty controversy for keeping a key drug provision in Biden's signature Build Back Better plan from advancing.

Despite that, Schrader was the first candidate in 2022 to get Biden's endorsement, a potential indicator of how much the president wants Democrats to hold onto their seats in the House.

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Congress to hold first hearing on UFOs in over 50 years

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(WASHINGTON) -- Almost a year after a long-awaited U.S. intelligence report on UFOs provided few answers to what military pilots had encountered in more than 140 incidents, top Pentagon officials will face Congress on Tuesday in the first hearing in more than 50 years focused on UFOs.

The intelligence report could only explain one of the military's 144 encounters with Unexplained Aerial Phenomena, the military's new term used to describe UFOs, reported since 2004. That report did not contain the words "alien" or "extraterrestrial" and said that the unexplained UAP incidents would require further study. Still, it did say that most of the phenomena were likely physical objects.

Appearing before a House Intelligence subcommittee on Tuesday will be Ronald Moultrie, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official and Scott Bray, the deputy director of Naval Intelligence, who will be asked by members of Congress if there are any updates.

Committee chairman Rep. Andre Carson, D-N.Y., tweeted last week that "Americans need to know more about these unexplained occurrences."

At the hearing, the defense officials are expected to play videos of some of the encounters that military personnel have had with UAPs to demonstrate how investigators try to determine what is going on in the incidents, according to a U.S. official.

The public's renewed interest in UFOs has been sparked in recent years by the leaks of once classified videos and the Navy's declassification of videos that recorded its pilots' encounters.

Jeremy Corbell, a documentary filmmaker and UFO enthusiast, who has released some of those videos, said the hearing reflects the public's interest in UFOs.

"What is so great is that this is a direct response to public will," Corbell told ABC News. "It is direct response to public pressure. It is representative government representing the citizens and their interest."

"And I am encouraged by the public desire to know and find out the truth of what UFOs represent to humankind," Corbell added. "It's the biggest story of our time. And finally, we're beginning to have the conversation without ridicule and stigma that has so injured the search for scientific truth on this topic."

At a Pentagon briefing on Monday, the Pentagon's top spokesman, John Kirby, said its officials were looking forward to talking "about the work that we're doing to get a better handle on the process itself" of investigating UAP incidents.

"It's about organizing around the efforts so that there's a common collection process for how these reports get brought into the system, how they get analyzed, how they get investigated, and then how they get adjudicated," Kirby told reporters at the briefing. "That's what we've really got to get our arms around."

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White House expands flights to Cuba, reverses other Trump admin restrictions

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(WASHINGTON) -- The White House announced a historic shift in its policy toward Cuba Monday night, saying that for the first time in six decades it will sign off on an American company investing in a private Cuba-based and Cuban-owned business.

The deal is pending approval by the Cuban government but could open the door for additional American dollars flowing to entrepreneurs in the island nation.

Additionally, the Biden administration said it would authorize flights to Cuba beyond Havana, reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which allows Cubans to join family members in the U.S. on a temporary basis with the potential for obtaining permanent status, and lift the $1,000 per quarter limit on remittances per sender-receiver pair and allow for donative (non-family) remittances.

A senior administration official said these changes have been in the works for a long time, and will be “implemented in the coming weeks,” but “some will take place faster than others."

The administration characterizes these moves as “measures to further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities.”

However, the moves are garnering bipartisan criticism.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said that in the wake of the 2021 pro-democracy uprising, the announcement risks sending “the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons.”

“For years, the United States foolishly eased travel restrictions arguing millions of American dollars would bring about freedom and nothing changed,” he said in a statement Monday.

“The regime in #Cuba threatened Biden with mass migration and have sympathizers inside the administration and the result is today we see the first steps back to the failed Obama policies on Cuba," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted.

The administration will also “encourage commercial opportunities outside of the state sector” by authorizing access to expanded cloud technology, e-commerce platforms, as well as explore options to “expand support of additional payment options for Internet-based activities, electronic payments, and business with independent Cuban entrepreneurs," officials said.

Biden's admin says it will not alter the Cuba Restricted List, entities with which the U.S. government generally prohibits direct financial reactions, "because they would disproportionately benefit the Cuban military, intelligence and security services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba,” as defined by the State Department, according to senior administration officials.

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Melania Trump gives first post-White House interview: On her critics, volunteer work, more

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(WASHINGTON) -- In her first sit-down interview since leaving Washington, Melania Trump appeared on Fox News on Sunday where she addressed some of her ongoing work as a former first lady and looked back at her time in the White House -- and what came after.

It was a rare public appearance for Donald Trump's wife, who has eschewed the spotlight since leaving the East Wing, compared to the former president.

"Life is great and [I'm] keeping it busy. And, you know, time flies fast and we are just -- everybody is doing very well," Melania told Pete Hegseth on "Fox & Friends Weekend."

She and her husband relocated to their Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, when his term ended in January 2021 and Melania has kept an even lower profile out of office than while she was first lady, traveling between Trump properties in New Jersey, New York and Florida and spending much of her time with her family and her teenage son, Barron.

Speaking with Hegseth on Sunday, Melania Trump said that she had "enjoyed living in the White House. To be first lady of the United States was my greatest honor." But she said she still bristled at the scrutiny of her time in the White House, including when she stirred controversy with some of her fashion choices such as wearing an "I Really Don't Care Do U?" jacket while visiting migrant children in 2018, which she insisted was a message for the media.

In her Fox News interview, Melania dismissed criticism of her as unfair -- responding to a question from Hegseth about why, as a major public figure and former model, she was not on the cover of Vogue while in the White House.

"They're biased and they have likes and dislikes. And it's so obvious," she said. "And I think American people and everyone see it. It was their decision. And I have much more important things to do and I did in the White House than being on the cover of Vogue."

"People I see always criticize me, whatever I do, and I'm used to that," Trump added. "I move forward and I'm here to helping people. And that is the mission."

Representatives with Vogue did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. The magazine's editor in chief, Anna Wintour, said in 2019 about covering Melania as first lady that "I think it's important for Vogue to support women who are leading change in this country."

Elsewhere in her "Fox & Friends" interview, Melania talked about her work with children in foster care with a project called Fostering the Future as part of the "BeBest" initiative she started in the White House and has continued.

"Those people who criticize me, I would encourage them to help in their own community or maybe join my Foster the Future initiative," she told Hegseth.

So far, that work has included appearances to foster care organizations in Florida; she said on Fox News that a portion of the money from sales of her burgeoning NFT collection would also "will go towards education, providing education, opportunities for foster care children who are aging out of foster system," though it's unclear how much money will be donated in this way.

Those funds will be supporting scholarships as well, Melania said. One recipient, Michael Weitzman, spoke by phone during Melania's "Fox & Friends" interview and said the support was "literally a dream come true."

Melania also addressed various political issues, echoing her husband in criticizing President Joe Biden's administration on issues including border and immigration policy and the shortage of baby formula, which she called "heartbreaking."

Like former President Trump, Melania spoke obliquely -- teasingly -- about a 2024 bid for office. "Never say never," she said.

She was not asked and did not address the Trump family's ongoing legal issues and investigations, including the congressional probe of the pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol riot and a related effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

The former president denied any wrongdoing; he has cast the investigations as politically motivated witch hunts.

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Supreme Court strikes campaign finance rule in win for Sen. Ted Cruz

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court's conservative majority Monday struck down a 20-year-old campaign finance limit aimed at curbing corruption in politics, delivering a win to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who had challenged the federal law.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in an opinion joined by the five other conservative justices, said that caps on a candidate's use of campaign contributions to repay a personal loan to his or her campaign violate First Amendment rights to engage in political speech.

Cruz loaned $260,000 to his reelection campaign in 2018, one day before the vote. After the election, he was unable to recoup the full amount from campaign coffers because the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 set a $250,000 limit and imposes a strict 20-day post-election grace period for repayment.

"This limit on the use of post-election funds increases the risk that candidate loans over $250,000 will not be repaid in full, inhibiting candidates from making such loans in the first place," Roberts wrote.

"The First Amendment 'has its fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office,'" Roberts wrote, quoting from a 1971 court decision. "It safeguards the ability of a candidate to use personal funds to finance campaign speech, protecting his freedom 'to speak without legislative limit on behalf of his own candidacy.'"

"This broad protection, we have explained, 'reflects our profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,'" Roberts continued. "This provision, by design and effect, burdens candidates who wish to make expenditures on behalf of their own candidacy through personal loans."

The decision means Cruz can legally recover the remaining $10,000.

Justice Elena Kagan, in a dissent joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, blasted the decision as a blow to public integrity, opening the door to self-enrichment by politicians.

"Political contributions that will line a candidate’s own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption. The candidate has a more-than-usual interest in obtaining the money (to replenish his personal finances), and is now in a position to give something in return," she wrote. "The donors well understand his situation, and are eager to take advantage of it. In short, everyone’s incentives are stacked to enhance the risk of dirty dealing."

"At the very least—even if an illicit exchange does not occur— the public will predictably perceive corruption in post-election payments directly enriching an officeholder," Kagan added. "Congress enacted Section 304 to protect against those harms. In striking down the law today, the Court greenlights all the sordid bargains Congress thought right to stop."

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In wake of Buffalo shooting, Liz Cheney says House GOP leaders 'enabled white nationalism'

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(WASHINGTON) -- Top Republicans in the House of Representatives are facing new scrutiny as critics, including within their own party, contend they failed to condemn the same racist rhetoric espoused by the suspected gunman who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket on Saturday.

The far-right conspiracy that white Americans are being intentionally replaced by minorities and immigrants -- known as the "great replacement theory" -- was included in a 180-page screed posted online by the alleged shooter.

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a frequent critic of her own party, on Monday singled out what she called a parallel between those beliefs and the behavior of some fellow conservatives.

"The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism," she wrote in a tweet. "History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them."

Cheney was notably replaced last year from her No. 3 post in the House's Republican leadership after saying she would "not sit back and watch in silence" as former President Donald Trump continued to falsely claim he won the presidential election.

In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, Cheney's successor, has become a primary target of criticism over how members of the GOP have voiced ideas similar to "replacement theory."

"Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION. Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington," Stefanik said in a Facebook ad for her reelection, which launched last August.

According to Facebook, the ad, pushed out repeatedly, reached hundreds of thousands of people.

When Stefanik first tweeted condolences to her home state on Saturday, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the only other House Republican to sit on the Jan. 6 select committee with Cheney, said in a tweet, "Did you know: @EliseStefanik pushes white replacement theory?"

"The #3 in the house GOP. @Liz_Cheney got removed for demanding truth. @GOPLeader should be asked about this," Kinzinger added.

Fueling the criticism on social media was a 2021 editorial from Stefanik's hometown newspaper, The Albany Times Union, which blasted her last September in a piece titled "How low, Miss Stefanik?"

The editorial board had focused on Stefanik's "despicable" Facebook ads that echoed elements of "replacement theory." Her ads didn't mention the conspiracy theory by name, but they insisted, in part, that Democrats were looking to grant citizenship to immigrants who entered the country illegally in order to somehow gain an enduring majority -- or, in Stefanik's words, a "permanent election insurrection."

With the piece recirculating on social media in the wake of the shooting, Stefanik and her team are pushing back on the renewed focus on her campaign ads.

Her office said Monday that making any link between her past comments and the shooting was a "new disgusting low" for Democrats and "Never Trump" Republicans as well as the media.

"Despite sickening and false reporting, Congresswoman Stefanik has never advocated for any racist position or made a racist statement," Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser, said in a statement.

"The shooting was an act of evil and the criminal should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he added.

Stefanik, DeGrasse said, "opposes mass amnesty for illegal immigrants …. She strongly supports legal immigration and is one of the national leaders credited with diversifying the Republican Party through candidate recruitment and messaging."

ABC News previously reported that evidence points to the Buffalo shooting being a calculated, racially-motivated execution by the suspect, an 18-year-old white man, according to multiple sources and a review of FBI cases and testimony. The teen gunman allegedly wanted a race war and livestreamed his attack in an apparent effort to spur others to kill minorities, sources said.

The FBI is investigating the mass shooting as a hate crime and a case of "racially motivated violent extremism" after Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described the attack as a "straight-up racially motivated hate crime."

The suspect has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder and is being held without bail.

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Buffalo gunman was 'armed with weapons of war and hate-filled soul': Biden


(WASHINGTON) -- The gunman who opened fire on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what authorities described as a "racially-motivated attack" has a "hate-filled soul," President Joe Biden said Sunday.

While speaking at an event to honor law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2021, Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were praying for the victims and their families.

"A lone gunman, armed with weapons of war and hate-filled soul, shot and killed 10 innocent people in cold blood at a grocery store on Saturday afternoon," the president told the crowd outside of the Capitol.

All 10 victims who died in the attack are Black, law enforcement officials said. One of the wounded victims was Black while the two others were white, they said.

Biden said the Justice Department has stated publicly that it's investigating the matter as "a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism."

"As they do, we must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America," Biden said. "Hearts are heavy once against but our resolve must never, ever waver."

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Saturday that the Justice Department is "committed to conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation into this shooting and to seeking justice for these innocent victims."

An 18-year-old male suspect, Payton Gendron, is in custody, according to the Buffalo Police Department. Authorities allege Gendron shot four people in the parking lot before moving inside the store, where he proceeded to shoot nine more people.

Gendron live-streamed the attack on social media and etched the names of previous mass shooters and racial epithets on the gun he allegedly used during the attack, a source familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia said during a new conference on Sunday afternoon that the evidence collected so far indicates "this is an absolute racist hate crime."

Gendron is believed to have written a 180-page document which fixated on "replacement theory," a white supremacist belief that non-whites will eventually replace white people because they have higher birth rates, authorities said.

Other racist and anti-Semitic tropes were reportedly included in the document, which the suspect appears to have posted online before the attack.

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Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen says he suffered 'minor stroke,' is hospitalized

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(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., was hospitalized this weekend after suffering a minor stroke, he said Sunday.

He was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after experiencing lightheadedness and acute neck pain while delivering a speech in western Maryland, the senator said in a statement.

An angiogram Sunday indicated he had "experienced a minor stroke in the form of a small venous tear at the back of my head," Van Hollen said, adding that he has been told there are no "long-term effects or damage as a result of this incident."

His doctors advised him to remain under observation for a few days, out of an abundance of caution, the senator said.

"I look forward to returning to work in the Senate later this week and thank the medical team for their excellent care," he added.

"This weekend, after feeling lightheaded while delivering a speech, I sought medical attention at the recommendation of the Attending Physician," he tweeted when sharing his statement. "I’m feeling much better but will follow doctors' orders and curtail my schedule for the next few days."

The news comes after Pennsylvania Lt. Gov John Fetterman, the leading Democratic candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate race, said he also suffered a stroke, on Friday.

"I had a stroke that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long," Fetterman said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.

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

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John Fetterman, candidate in Pennsylvania Senate race, suffered stroke Friday

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(NEW YORK) -- Pennsylvania's Lt. Gov John Fetterman, the leading Democratic candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate race, said Sunday that he suffered a stroke on Friday.

"I had a stroke that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long," Fetterman said in a statement released Sunday afternoon.

"The good news is I'm feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn't suffer any cognitive damage. I'm well on my way to a full recovery. So I have a lot to be thankful for. They're keeping me here for now for observation, but I should be out of here sometime soon. The doctors have assured me that I'll be able to get back on the trail, but first I need to take a minute, get some rest, and recover," he added.

Fetterman and his wife, who he credited for catching his stroke symptoms, also posted a video from a hospital. Giselle Fetterman poked fun at her husband.

"I made you get checked out, 'cause I was right, as always," she said in the video.

It is unclear when Fetterman will return to the trail ahead of Tuesday's primary election.

Dave McCormick, a businessman who is running for Senate in the Republican primary election, sent well wishes to John Fetterman later on Sunday. "Glad to hear you’re doing well, John. Wishing you a fast recovery," McCormick tweeted.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, a former talk show host who has former President Donald Trump's endorsement in the Republican Senate primary, also tweeted, "I have cared for atrial fibrillation patients and witnessed the miracles of modern medicine in the treatment of strokes, so I am thankful that you received care so quickly. My whole family is praying for your speedy recovery."

Fetterman, who has served as Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor since 2019, has staked out progressive positions during his primary campaign. Among other Democrats, he faces fellow progressive state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and centrist Rep. Conor Lamb in Tuesday's primary.

Lamb, who is trailing Fetterman, sent well wishes via tweet:

"I just found out on live TV that Lieutenant Governor Fetterman suffered a stroke. Hayley and I are keeping John and his family in our prayers and wishing him a full and speedy recovery," Lamb said.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is behind Fetterman and Lamb respectively in recent polling, also weighed in.

"As I said at the first debate, John Fetterman is an incredible family man. My prayers are with him and his family as he recovers from this stroke. I look forward to seeing him back on the campaign trail soon," he said.

Fetterman's revelation comes as the U.S. marks National Stroke Awareness month in May. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., who suffered a stroke in January, told ABC News earlier this month that when he was feeling the symptoms of a stroke, "I never thought it was a stroke. Even as I was going to the hospital, I just thought I wasn't feeling well. And a stroke hitting me, that wasn't on my mind at all."

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Pelosi calls for 'balance' between free speech and safety after Buffalo shooting

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(NEW YORK) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that social media companies have to address and track down extremism on their platforms, after a gunman who reportedly espoused white supremacist ideology opened fire at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket on Saturday, killing at least 10.

Among the 13 victims shot, 11 were African American and two were white, authorities said.

"There has to be vigilance," Pelosi, D-Calif., said on ABC's "This Week." "People have to alert other authorities if they think that someone is on a path to domestic terrorism, to violence of any kind."

Investigators are looking at multiple online postings that may be associated with the shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, that include praise for South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof and the New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant, sources told ABC News.

"Obviously you have to balance the free speech issues," Pelosi said. "Freedom is so important to us but that freedom also carries public safety with it and we have to balance that."

The California Democrat said her party in Congress is "of course trying to do something about gun violence" but noted that efforts to address mass shootings on Capitol Hill have fallen short in the Senate, where Republicans have opposed gun control measures, making it impossible for Democrats to advance legislation over the 60-vote threshold in the chamber.

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Hundreds of pro-abortion rights protests planned Saturday in response to SCOTUS leak

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(WASHINGTON) -- Hundreds of pro-abortion rights protests are planned nationwide Saturday in the wake of a bombshell leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that indicated the court's conservative majority could soon overturn Roe v. Wade.

Women's March and Planned Parenthood are among the organizations behind more than 450 demonstrations nationwide, which are anticipated to draw hundreds of thousands of people.

Washington, D.C., is expected to be the site of the largest turnout, with 17,000 people anticipated to gather on the grounds of the Washington Monument, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service to Women's March.

"Losing the right to abortion has consequences. Women will pay the price," Women's March executive director Rachel O’Leary Carmona said in a statement. "We can stop this tragedy, and the time is now."

The "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally, which kicked off at noon, will be followed by a march to the U.S. Supreme Court at 2 p.m. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be among the rally's speakers, according to the permit. There will also be a performance from musician Toshi Reagon, organizers said.

A counter-protest is also being organized by Students for Life that is scheduled to begin at noon Saturday at the Washington Monument and also march to the Supreme Court.

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin are also expected to have large turnouts for "Bans Off Our Bodies" demonstrations.

A rally organized by the Women’s March Foundation at the Los Angeles City Hall will feature speakers including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and the attorney and women's rights advocate Gloria Allred, according to organizers.

The demonstrations join recent protests by abortion rights activists -- and some anti-abortion protesters -- following the leak of the draft SCOTUS decision on the Mississippi case that challenges Roe, the landmark decision that has guaranteed a woman's right to abortion for nearly 50 years.

Amid the demonstrations, an eight-foot-high fence was erected at the Supreme Court last week.

The high court is expected to rule publicly on the case in question -- Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization -- by the end of June.

A majority of Americans believe Roe should be upheld, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. But if Roe is overturned, at least 26 states would either ban abortion or severely restrict access to it, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.

This week, Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have enshrined abortion rights into federal law. The legislation failed in the Senate 49-51, lacking the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP-led filibuster.

President Joe Biden condemned Senate Republicans for failing to act "at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack -- and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people."

Ahead of the planned protests, House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi gathered Friday to call on the justices to defend abortion access.

"Americans are marching and making their voices heard," Pelosi said. "Public sentiment is everything. We will never stop fighting for patients and their health care."

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Biden defends response to baby formula shortage as complaints grow, probes planned

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Friday defended his administration’s response to an ongoing baby formula shortage that has triggered public outcry from parents, lawmakers and drawn Republican fire.

"There's nothing more urgent we're working on than that right now, and I think we’re going to be making some significant progress very shortly," Biden said from the White House at an event that had been meant to tout public safety funding — reflecting how the lack of formula has quickly overtaken other administration concerns.

Biden dismissed growing criticism that the White House was too slow to respond to the nationwide shortage that had been building for months, telling reporters, "If we had been better mind readers, I guess we could’ve, but we moved as quickly as the problem became apparent to us."

Complaints from families grew increasingly desperate this week as they encountered more empty shelves, with an estimated 43% of formula products out of stock as of Sunday at stores across the U.S., according to tracking firm Datasembly.

Biden on Friday reiterated the efforts already announced by the White House to alleviate supply issues, including expanding access to baby formula for recipients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (also known as WIC) and a new government website to provide information to caregivers.

Biden also he believes more formula could be getting on the shelves "in a matter of weeks or less" as the Food and Drug Administration scrambles to find a way to relax restrictions in order to allow more formula to be imported from abroad.

The FDA is expected to detail their plan for imports next week. It remains unclear how the imports would work given the agency’s requirements on formula packaging and vitamin content, though Commissioner Robert Califf tweeted Friday that the agency will ensure imported products meet "certain safety, quality and labeling standards."

“We have to move with caution as well as speed because we got to make sure what we are getting is in fact first-rate products,” Biden said. “That’s why the FDA has to go through the process.”

The shortage — compounded by broader, coronavirus-related supply chain issues — was worsened by a recall from Abbott, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of baby formula products.

The company pulled three of its popular brands in February and closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, in the wake of bacterial infections linked to two infants who died after consuming Abbott formula and a Food and Drug Administration inspection that documented problems at Abbott's Michigan facility, including the same bacteria.

(Abbott maintains there is no evidence its products were connected to the babies' deaths, though it has acknowledged the infractions the FDA found elsewhere at the plant.)

A complaint against Abbott was first filed in September, but the FDA didn't investigate the plant until approximately four months later.

Republicans haven’t missed a beat in laying the blame on the Biden White House, holding a press conference on Thursday to speak out on the issue.

"This is not a Third World country," Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and a new mother, said at the press event. "This should never happen in the United States."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the shortage in his own floor speech on Thursday, calling it "outrageous and unacceptable."

"It seems that while President Biden's administration and the FDA ... have been asleep at the switch in terms of getting production back online as fast as possible," he argued.

Meanwhile, the Democratic majority on Capitol Hill is launching their own investigations. The House Oversight Committee is demanding records from four major formula manufacturers.

"We have asked for a briefing by the end of the month, and we've asked three basic questions: Do they have the supply to meet the demand? Is there a supply chain problem that can be corrected? And what can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again?" Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., told ABC News.

A group of 32 Senate Democrats on Friday wrote a letter urging the Infant Nutrition Council of America — an association of formula manufacturers — to take "immediate action" to address the shortage, though they didn't offer any specific steps the group can or should implement.

"We are calling on you and your member companies to take immediate action and ensure that infant formula manufacturers are making every effort to mitigate this dangerous shortage and get children the nourishment they need," the lawmakers wrote.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., announced Wednesday her panel would examine the Abbott plant in Michigan, where the bacteria was found, and the "FDA's delayed response to this horrific incident."

DeLauro released a whistleblower complaint last month showing a former employee of Abbot detailed concerns about alleged wrongdoing at the facility.

Abbott said it could restart operations at its Michigan facility within two weeks of getting the green light from the FDA. From there, the company estimates it would take an additional six to eight weeks to get the product into stores.

But the FDA said Friday that Abbott's plant still carried contamination risks as of March.

"The plant remains closed as the company works to correct findings related to the processes, procedures, and conditions that the FDA observed during its inspection of the facility from January 31 – March 18, 2022, which raised concerns that powdered infant formula produced at this facility prior to the FDA's inspection carry a risk of contamination," an FDA official said.

Abbott says they are working to address the FDA's issues so they can resume operations.

"We are confident that we can continue to produce safe, high-quality infant formula at all of our facilities as we have been doing for millions of babies around the world for decades," the company said in a statement on Friday.

ABC News' Anne Flaherty, Mariam Khan, Molly Nagle and Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

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Jen Psaki's emotional farewell as White House press secretary

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Outgoing White House press secretary Jen Psaki delivered an emotional farewell from the briefing room podium Friday afternoon -- expressing thanks to President Joe Biden, her administration colleagues and even the White House press corps.

Looking back at the last 15 months and 244 briefings, Psaki said she was "very nervous" when she first visited the Bidens in Delaware in November 2020, saying the majority of that conversation was about "the importance of returning integrity, respect, and civility to the White House."

After bringing back the daily press briefings that grown heated and then mostly disappeared under the Trump administration, Psaki appeared to relish good-natured sparring with reporters while consistently defending Biden administration policy, making her a favorite target of Fox News hosts and even former President Donald Trump.

"The small sliver of – of my job here in engaging with all of you, that doesn't - not mean that we have let our Irish side show, mine and the president's as well, from time to time. I recognize that. But on my best days, and as I look back, and when I look back, I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us, and do set for all of us every day."

Thanking some of the senior administration officials, as well as her press shop, Psaki said she was "very grateful to them," and countered those she said label Washington as "rotten" and "corrupt."

"People always ask me, and I'm sure you guys get asked this too, about whether Washington is rotten," she said to the reporters. "You know, whether everybody is corrupt here and you know nothing good happens, and we all just argue with each other. And I, having done this job, believe the absolute opposite is true, because I have worked with and engaged with all of these incredible people across the administration and this amazing team, many of whom are here that I get to work with every day."

Psaki is being succeeded by her deputy, Karine Jean-Pierre, who now becomes the first Black and openly gay woman to hold the job.

She has often said she regrets once getting a stern letter of reprimand from a government ethics watchdog for politicking from the podium.

Wrapping up her statement, Psaki turned to the White House reporters she said "challenged" and "pushed me" throughout her time in the high-pressure role.

"You have debated me. And at times we have disagreed. That is democracy in action. That is it working," she said. "Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong. And you all play an incredibly pivotal role, thank you for what you do. Thank you for making me better. And most importantly, thank you for the work every day you do to make this country stronger."

Psaki, who has two young children and came down twice with COVID, has not confirmed reports she will be joining MSNBC.

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GOP-led states, Biden administration argue over lifting Title 42 border policy on May 23

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(WASHINGTON) -- Justice Department lawyers and attorneys representing a coalition of GOP-led states were in court on Friday to again trade jabs about whether the Biden administration can lift pandemic-based restrictions at the southern border known as the Title 42 order.

Judge Robert R. Summerhays, a Trump appointee, said he plans to issue his decision later -- not immediately -- on the legal challenge that would block the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Title 42 order from ending May 23.

Meanwhile, the temporary restraining order issued by the federal judge to prevent any phase-out of Title 42 will remain in place until he issues that decision and Customs and Border Protection can continue to expel immigrants on Title 42 grounds.

The administration argues that Title 42 is a health care policy meant to deal with the spread of COVID-19, not an immigration control measure, and that it has no choice but to follow the agency's guidance that the public health order is no longer necessary as of May 23.

At the same time, even many vulnerable border state Democrats warn the administration is making a major mistake, that is has no plan to deal with an expected influx of immigrants and that it will hurt the party politically before the midterm elections.

At the hearing, the GOP coalition argued that the Biden administration failed to consider the impact ending Title 42 would have on the states, pointing to reports coming out of the Department of Homeland Security that they are preparing for further elevated level of undocumented immigrants in the coming weeks.

That could be as many as 18,000 more per day, according to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The GOP coalition argued their states would be harmed by education and health care costs, new drivers' licenses and even drug trafficking, going as far as to say that lifting Title 42 would "reduce their ability to provide healthcare to legal residents."

The evidence of such effects, though, is unconfirmed and untested.

Judge Summerhays at one point questioned the potential increase in criminal justice costs.

"It seems highly speculative ... I don't see how you can make the connection there," the judge said.

When the federal government's side picked up on the judge's skepticism and attempted to run with it to undermine the plaintiff's case, Summerhays clarified that he was simply "prodding" the state coalition attorneys as he did throughout the hearing.

Undocumented immigrants overall pay roughly $11.74 billion in state and local taxes every year, according to the non-profit, non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. That amounts to about 8% of an average immigrant's income, compared to about 5.4% of those in the top 1%.

Central to the case is whether the government fully considered the potential impact on states and whether the Biden administration acted unlawfully when it did not allow for a months-long notice and comment period prior to the end of Title 42.

The Trump administration initially brought the Title 42 order without such notice and DOJ attorneys argued that required such notice would kneecap the CDC's authority to act quickly in response to changing emergency situations.

The judge's order could come any time between now and May 23.

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