Political News

Biden to propose new rule requiring airlines to disclose extra fees upfront

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Monday is expected to announce a new proposed rule that would allow fliers to see the total cost of an airline ticket, including extra fees, before they click on "purchase."

Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel search websites would have to disclose fees upfront -- the first time the airfare is displayed -- charges associated with baggage, sitting with your child, and changing or cancelling your flight.

The announcement is part of a larger effort from the White House to help lower prices for consumers as record high inflation continues. It also comes with midterm elections approaching.

"Airline passengers deserve to know the full, true cost of their flights before they buy a ticket," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a release. "This new proposed rule would require airlines to be transparent with customers about the fees they charge, which will help travelers make informed decisions and save money."

Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, believes giving clearer disclosure of these fees upfront will be a "major win for travelers" by making it "far easier" to compare the full cost of different flight options.

He explained that some airlines now make more money on fees than fares, partly due to the fact that fees are exempt from the 7.5% federal excise tax on airfare.

Airlines for America (A4A), which represents major U.S. passenger airlines, responded to the rule arguing that airlines already "offer transparency to consumers from first search to touchdown."

"U.S. airlines are committed to providing the highest quality of service, which includes clarity regarding prices, fees and ticket terms," the group said in a statement. "A4A passenger carriers provide details regarding the breakdown of airfares on their websites, providing consumers clarity regarding the total cost of a ticket. This includes transparency regarding taxes and government fees on airline tickets, which account for more than 20 percent of many domestic one-stop, roundtrip tickets."

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal before it can be finalized.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Next Jan. 6 hearing may be 'more sweeping,' Schiff says, as committee weighs criminal referral

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Ahead of what could be their final investigative hearing, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, members of the House Jan. 6 committee on Sunday offered a small preview of what is to come as they rapidly approach the end of their timeline.

“We're not disclosing yet what the focus will be. I can say that, as this may be the last hearing of this nature -- that is, one that is focused on sort of the factual record -- I think it'll be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on CNN’s State of the Union.

"But it too will be in very thematic," he said of the hearing. "It will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election. And the public will certainly learn things it hasn't seen before, but it will also understand information it already has in a different context by seeing how it relates to other elements of this plot."

After the committee's vice-chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, said Saturday that she believes the group will move forward unanimously, Schiff agreed and went a bit further when asked if there was going to be an unanimous criminal referral made about the former president's conduct. (Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong and cast the committee, which includes two Republicans, as partisan.)

“It will be ... my recommendation, my feeling, that we should make referrals," Schiff said. "But we will get to a decision as a committee, and we will all abide by that decision, and I will join our committee members if they feel differently."

Cheney has also said the committee received around 800,000 pages of communications from the Secret Service in response to a subpoena. Members of the committee said Sunday they are still going through that information.

While the provided materials are not a substitute for the Jan. 6-related messages that were deleted, they offer some additional context, according to Schiff.

“We are still investigating how that came about [the deleted messages] and why that came about. And I hope and believe the Justice Department, on that issue, is also looking at whether laws were broken in the destruction of that evidence," Schiff said on CNN. "But we do have a mountain of information that we need to go through. But I think it's fair to say that it won't be a complete substitute for some of the most important evidence, which would have been on those phones."

Asked about former committee adviser Denver Riggleman’s recent suggestion that “the White House switchboard had connected to a rioter's phone” during the attack on the Capitol last year -- and if he viewed such a development as significant to the investigation -- Schiff downplayed the comment.

"I can't comment on the particulars. I can say that each of the issues that Mr. Riggleman raised during the period he was with the committee, which ended quite some time ago, we looked into. And one of the things that has given our committee credibility is we've been very careful about what we say, not to overstate matters,” Schiff said, adding, "Without the advantage of the additional information we've gathered since he left the committee, it poses real risks to be suggesting things. So, we have looked into all of these issues."

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., appeared on NBC's Meet the Press and was asked about the likelihood that the Jan. 6 committee will have testimony from Ginni Thomas and Newt Gingrich before Wednesday’s hearing.

“I doubt that. But I think that there is an agreement in place with Ginni Thomas to come and talk and I know the committee is very interested,” Raskin said, referring to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, a noted conservative activist who was in touch with Trump's team as he pushed to overturn the 2020 results.

Raskin said that those testimonies -- once they are given -- will be included in the committee's final report if the hearings have already concluded.

He was also asked if that report will be finished by the midterm elections.

“I don't know whether it will be done then, but our commitment is to get it done by the end of this Congress [by January]," Raskin said. "The House of Representatives, unlike the Senate, ends every two years. A completely new Congress comes in. So that’s the end of our lease on life and we have to get it out to the people.”

Pressed further on the amount of work still left for them to do, Raskin pledged that the committee will “make sure our materials are made public and available for the future, and we're going to preserve them. We're not going to allow them to be destroyed.”

The committee chair, Bennie Thompson, told reporters last week that the hearings were wrapping up.

"Unless something else develops, this hearing, at this point, is the final hearing. But it's not in stone because things happen," Thompson, D-Miss., said then.

He promised "substantial footage" of the riot and "significant witness testimony" that hadn't previously been released.

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Cheney says she'll campaign against Lake, Mastriano because of their election denials

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., reiterated this weekend that she would campaign against election deniers, singling out Republican gubernatorial nominees in Arizona and Pennsylvania who've floated conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential race.

Cheney, who lost her primary last month to a challenger endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday that she would seek to prevent Arizona Republican Kari Lake and Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano from being elected to their states' governors' mansions.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure Kari Lake is not elected," Cheney said at the closing night of the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin.

"I think we have to do everything we can in '22 to make sure those people don't get elected," she added.

Turning to the governor's race in Pennsylvania, she said, "We have to make sure [Doug] Mastriano doesn't win."

She also criticized Republican leaders like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for, in her words, accommodating election deniers even as she praised Youngkin because he "hasn't bought into the toxin of Donald Trump."

When asked if her efforts to stop Lake, Mastriano and others could include campaigning for Democrats, Cheney simply replied, "Yes."

"In this election, you have to vote for the person who actually believes in democracy," she said. "And that is just crucial, because if we elect election deniers, if we elect people who said that they're not going to certify results or who are going to try to steal elections, then we really are putting the republic at risk."

Cheney's latest comments offer more specificity on a vow she made earlier this year while being interviewed by ABC News: to make faith in the electoral process a litmus test in the midterms.

"I'm going to be very focused on working to ensure that we do everything we can not to elect election deniers. ... We've got election deniers that have been nominated for really important positions all across the country. And I'm going to work against those people, I'm going to work to support their opponents; I think it matters that much," she told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in August.

In taking on Lake and Mastriano, Cheney is challenging two far-right Republicans who are popular with conservative voters and who could have outsized sway in two key presidential battlegrounds.

Lake has been adamant in making unfounded claims that election fraud threw the 2020 White House race and has said she wouldn't have certified Arizona's results from that year.

Mastriano, who has promoted similar groundless allegations, would have the power as governor to appoint Pennsylvania's secretary of state, who oversees elections there.

After Cheney's criticism Saturday, Lake shot back in an interview on Fox News, pointing to Cheney's loss in Wyoming last month.

"That might be the biggest, best gift I've ever received. I mean, the people of Wyoming can't stand her. I'm pretty much sure that the people of Arizona don't like Liz Cheney," Lake said Sunday. (Mastriano’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cheney from ABC News.)

Beyond Lake and Mastriano, Cheney called out Youngkin, who has said President Joe Biden was legitimately elected but who will campaign soon with Lake.

"That's the kind of thing we cannot see in our party. We cannot see an accommodation like that," Cheney said on Saturday.

In response to Cheney's criticism, Youngkin's office referred ABC News to what he said when appeared at the Texas Tribune Festival.

There, when asked about campaigning for Lake given her attacks on elections, he cited Virginia's issues grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic -- relating in particular to school closures and "economic progress" -- and said, "I was elected in 2021 and therefore was able to go to work in a state that had been blue and demonstrate what I believe are conservative commonsense solutions to problems and progress that we've made. I think I'm uniquely positioned to share this perspective."

Cheney's own electoral future is unclear. After her primary loss, she launched a political group that some saw as a potential vehicle for a 2024 presidential bid of her own -- a prospect she has not ruled out.

However, one thing she has ruled out is supporting Trump if he runs in two years, even going so far as to say she could leave a party that was once nearly synonymous with her last name.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure he is not the nominee," she said. "And if he is the nominee, I won't be a Republican."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump can't 'declassify documents by saying so,' GOP Sen. Barrasso acknowledges when pressed

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After Donald Trump suggested last week that as president “you can declassify just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it,” Republican Wyoming Senator John Barrasso disagreed -- but only after George Stephanopoulos pressed him on the issue twice on ABC’s “This Week.”

During an interview on Sunday, Barrasso was asked by Stephanopoulos about Trump's handling of classified material, which is under federal investigation as Trump denies wrongdoing.

Trump claimed to Fox News' Sean Hannity last week that while "different people see different things," his view of this authority was absolute: "If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified. Even by thinking about it."

Stephanopoulos asked if Barrasso agreed. The senator said that he had not heard about such an assertion and pivoted to criticizing the Department of Justice's court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago.

Barrasso said that he had "never seen anything like that before," referring to the FBI "raid" Trump's home, and that it had "become political."

Stephanopoulos pushed back: "You know that a president can't declassify documents by thinking about it. Why can't you say so?"

The senator, who also said that he isn't versed in the rules of presidential declassification and wants to get a briefing from the DOJ on the investigation, then agreed with Stephanopoulos. He said, "I don't think a president can declassify documents by saying so, by thinking about it."

That view lines up with what outside experts have told ABC News: The president must document his declassification process somewhere, whatever his process was.

Barrasso spent much of his "This Week" appearance pushing back on President Joe Biden's foreign policy, including addressing the potential revival of the 2015 nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.

Stephanopoulos opened up the interview by having Barrasso respond to Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser. Sullivan was also interviewed on "This Week" on Sunday and said nuclear negotiations -- so Iran never has a weapon "they can threaten the world with" -- could be effective at the same time the White House was putting public pressure on the country over its treatment of women and protesters.

"Did you find his argument convincing for staying in the Iran nuclear talks?" Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso.

"No deal with Iran, George, is a good deal … They continue to claim 'death to America.' We cannot allow them to have a nuclear weapon," Barrasso said.

Stephanopoulos also sought clarity from Barrasso on the GOP and Ukraine.

Citing criticism of American's continued aid to Ukraine by some Republicans, like Ohio Senate nominee J.D. Vance, Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso if Democrats were right to warn that the GOP may restrict future support if they retake Congress.

"No. There continues to be bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate for weapons to Ukraine," Barrasso said.

He said he wanted the White House to be quicker in providing weapons to Ukraine and said "we ought to be producing more American energy to help our European allies" and American consumers who are dealing with the fallout of the conflict with Russia, a major energy provider.

Stephanopoulos asked Barrasso, just as he asked Sullivan: "Do you believe that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's hold on power is secure?"

"I'm not sure," Barrasso, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. "He is in a deep hole right now and he's dug this hole. And I thought his statement to the country there really was desperate. It didn't show really confidence or strength."

"The Foreign Relations Committee is going to have a hearing this Wednesday on what additional things we can do in terms of sanctions [on Russia]," Barrasso said. "And also we have a secure briefing on Thursday in the Senate to take a look right at what's happening on the ground in Ukraine."

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US sees signs Russia is 'struggling,' has warned of catastrophe if Putin uses nuclear weapon: Sullivan

Tal Axelrod, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. is seeing evidence that Russia is "struggling" in its invasion of Ukraine and has warned Moscow that there would be "catastrophic consequences" if it were to use a nuclear weapon in its war against Kyiv, the White House national security adviser said Sunday.

Jake Sullivan, in an interview with ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, pointed both to the protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin's mobilization of 300,000 reservists and to what Sullivan called "sham" annexation referendums in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

"These are definitely not signs of strength or confidence. Quite the opposite: They're signs that Russia and Putin are struggling badly," Sullivan said while noting Putin's autocratic hold on the country made it hard to make definitive assessments from the outside.

"It will be the Russian people, ultimately, who make the determination about how Russia proceeds and the extent to which that there is resistance and pushback to what Vladimir Putin has tried to do, calling up these hundreds of thousands of young men," Sullivan added.

"Do you want them to rise up and replace Putin?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"At the end of the day, the future of Russian politics is going to be dictated, not by Washington, not by anyone in Europe, but by the people inside Russia," Sullivan responded. "And what you are seeing in the streets right now is a deep unhappiness with what Putin is doing."

His comments come amid escalating rhetoric from Putin as Russian forces have been forced to cede large swaths of northeast Ukraine while retreating from a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month.

Last week, Putin called up reservists and suggested that tactical nuclear weapons could be used to change the course of the war, groundlessly accusing the West of threatening Russia's territorial integrity. Since before attacking Ukraine in February, Putin has cast the invasion as a matter of Russian national security.

"The territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction," Putin said in a speech last week.

"I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries," Putin added.

On "This Week," Sullivan declined to explain precisely what warnings have been communicated between Russia and the U.S. but he said that there would be dire repercussions if such a weapon were used.

"We have communicated directly, privately, to the Russians at very high levels that there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia if they use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. We have been clear with them and emphatic with them that the United States will respond decisively alongside our allies and partners," Sullivan said.

"So that means taking the fight directly to Russia?" Stephanopoulos asked.

Sullivan demurred: "We've been careful in how we talk about this publicly because, from our perspective, we want to lay down the principle that there would be catastrophic consequences but not engage in a game of rhetorical tit-for-tat."

Stephanopoulos also asked Sullivan if protests in Iran over the death of a woman who was not adhering to the country's strict female dress code would be enough to topple the government in Tehran.

"The United States ... hasn't necessarily over many decades had a great track record of perfectly predicting when protests turn into political change, and I can't perfectly predict that sitting here today. What I can say is they do reflect a deep-seated and widespread belief among the population of Iran, the citizens abroad, the women of Iran, that they deserve their dignity and their rights," Sullivan said.

Stephanopoulos pressed, given the Iranian government's actions, if the Biden administration should continue seeking to revive the Obama-era nuclear deal which President Donald Trump scrapped. Conservatives have repeatedly criticized those efforts.

Sullivan said that the White House feels diplomacy and political pressure can go hand-in-hand.

"The fact that we are in nuclear talks is in no way slowing us down from speaking out and acting on behalf of the people of Iran," he said. "We're not going to slow down one inch in our defense and advocacy for the rights of the women and citizens of Iran."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden struggles, as does his party, as most Democrats look elsewhere for 2024: POLL

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With his party struggling in the midterms, his economic stewardship under fire and his overall job approval under 40%, a clear majority of Democrats in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the party should replace Joe Biden as its nominee for president in 2024.

In the November midterm election ahead, registered voters divide 47%-46% between the Republican and the Democratic candidate in their House district, historically not enough to prevent typical first-midterm losses. And one likely voter model has a 51%-46% Republican-Democratic split.

Looking two years off, just 35% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Biden for the 2024 nomination; 56% want the party to pick someone else.

Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, for their part, split 47%-46% on whether Donald Trump should be their 2024 nominee -- a 20-point drop for Trump compared with his 2020 nomination.

The unpopularity of both figures may encourage third-party hopefuls, though they rarely do well.

In a head-to-head rematch, the poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a 48%-46% Biden-Trump contest, essentially tied. Among registered voters, the numbers reverse to 46%-48%. That’s even while 52% of Americans say Trump should be charged with a crime in any of the matters in which he’s under federal investigation, similar to views after the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

On issues, the survey finds broad opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling eliminating a constitutional right to abortion and a big Democratic advantage in trust to handle the issue. But there's no sign it's impacting propensity to vote in comparison with other issues: four rank higher in importance and two of them -- the economy, overall, and inflation, specifically -- work strongly in the GOP's favor.

Biden and the midterms

The president's standing customarily is critical to his party's fortunes in midterms -- and Biden is well under water. Thirty-nine percent of Americans approve of his job performance while 53% disapprove, about where he's been steadily the past year.

Specifically on the economy, with inflation near a 40-year high, his approval rating is 36% while 57% disapprove -- a 21-point deficit.

Each election has its own dynamic but in midterm elections since 1946, when a president has had more than 50% job approval, his party has lost an average of 14 seats. When the president's approval has been less than 50% -- as Biden's is by a considerable margin now -- his party has lost an average of 37 seats.

There's one slightly better result for Biden: 40% say he's accomplished a great deal or a good amount as president, up from 35% last fall. This usually is a tepid measure; it's averaged 43% across four presidents in 11 previous polls since 1993.

There's something else the Democrats can hang on to; their current results are better than last November, when the Republicans led in national House vote preferences by 10 percentage points, 51%-41% -- the largest midterm Republican lead in ABC/Post polls dating back 40 years.

It's true, too, that national House vote polling offers only a rough gauge of ultimate seats won or lost, in what, after all, are local races, influenced by incumbency, gerrymandering, candidate attributes and local as well as national issues.


The Democrats are not without ammunition in midterm campaigning: As noted, Americans broadly reject the U.S. Supreme Court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion -- 29% support it, with 64% opposed. (Indeed, 53% strongly oppose it, compared with 21% strongly in support.)

And the public trusts the Democratic Party over the Republican Party to handle abortion by a wide 20 points. In another measure, while 31% say the Democratic Party is too permissive on abortion, many more, 50%, say the GOP is too restrictive.

But if abortion keeps the Republicans from entirely nationalizing the election around the economy, it doesn't defang the public's economic discontent.

Seventy-four percent say the economy is in bad shape, up from 58% in the spring after Biden took office. The GOP leads the Democrats by 16 points in trust to handle the economy overall and by 19 points in trust to handle inflation. Equally important, 84% call the economy a top issue in their vote for Congress and 76% say the same about inflation. Many fewer, 62%, call abortion a top issue.

Other issues also differentiate the parties. In addition to the economy, the Republicans can be expected to focus on crime in the campaigns' closing weeks; they lead by 14 points in trust to handle it, and it's highly important to 69%.

Democrats, in return, hold a wide 23-point advantage in trust to handle climate change, though it's highly important to far fewer, 50%.

The parties run closely on two other issues -- education and schools, Democrats +6, highly important to 77%; and immigration, essentially an even division, highly important to 61%.

When these are assessed as a combination of importance and party preference, inflation and the economy top the list, followed by abortion, then climate change, crime, education and immigration.

While inflation, the economy and abortion are marquee issues, one stands out for another reason: The Republicans' 14-point advantage in trust to handle crime matches its largest since 1991. Among independents, it's a whopping 34-point GOP lead.

Indeed, on abortion, supporters of the Supreme Court ruling are more apt than its critics to say voting is more important to them in this election than in previous midterms, 73% vs. 64%. Also, 76% of the ruling's supporters say they're certain to vote, as are 70% of its opponents.

Intention to turn out is influenced by other factors. Among all adults, it's considerably higher among whites -- 72% certain to vote -- than among Black people (55%) or Hispanics (46%) -- a result that advantages Republicans, whose support is strongest by far among whites.


Beyond differential turnout, weakness in midterm vote preference among Black and Hispanic voters may compound Democratic concerns.

While Democratic House candidates lead their Republican opponents by 61 points among Black adults who are registered to vote, that compares with at least 79-point margins in exit polls in the past four midterms.

This survey's sample of Hispanics who are registered to vote is too small for reliable analysis, but the contest among them looks much closer than recent Democratic margins -- 40 points in 2018, 27 points in 2014 and 22 points in 2010.

Republican candidates, meanwhile, show some strength among registered voters who don't have a college degree, +11 points in vote preference compared with an even split in the 2018 ABC News exit poll.

A factor: Non-college adults are 8 points more likely than those with four-year degrees to say they're not just concerned but upset about the current inflation rate. Results among other groups don't provide evidence for the hypothesis that the abortion ruling might boost the Democrats, compared with past years, among some women.

Women younger than 40 support the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 points, but did so by 43 points in the 2018 exit poll. Suburban women split about evenly between the parties (44-47% Democratic-Republican), about the same as among suburban men (45-50% Democratic-Republican).

Independent women are +5 GOP in vote preference; independent men, essentially the same, +3. Independents overall -- often a swing voter group -- divide 42-47% between Democratic and Republican candidates. This is a group that voted Democratic by 12 points in 2018 -- but Republican by 14 points in 2014 (when the GOP won 13 House seats) and by 19 points in 2010 (when the GOP won 63 seats).

Lastly, there are some milestones in Biden's approval rating. He's at new lows in approval among liberals (68%), Southerners (33%) and people in the middle- to upper-middle income range (34%). And his strong approval among Black adults -- among the most stalwart Democratic groups -- is at a career-low 31%.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 18-21, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults, including 908 registered voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions in the full sample are 28%-24%-41%, Democrats-Republicans-independents, and 27%-26%-40% among registered voters.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New nuclear threats raise risk from a 'cornered Putin': Experts


(WASHINGTON) -- Even before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, U.S. officials warned global peace would be endangered if Russian President Vladimir Putin were allowed to brazenly seize another sovereign country.

At the same time, analysts have warned that if he faced no option but defeat in that bid, the outcome could prove to be even more dangerous -- a so-called "cornered Putin."

Ukrainian successes on the battlefield have not only pushed Russian troops back but now have pushed Putin further into a corner -- forcing him to take a series of dramatic steps to reinvigorate his brutal campaign: a sweeping military draft, labeled as a "partial mobilization," to surge thousands of soldiers to the fight, and orchestrating what the West has called "sham" referenda in occupied territories in Ukraine -- intended to pave the way for them to be "annexed" -- considered, in Putin's view, to be part of Russia.

Most alarming, in a rare televised address, Putin also issued a new round of thinly-veiled nuclear threats -- warning that Russia will use "all available means" to protect what he now portrays as Russian people and territory.

While some of his rhetoric isn't new, the changed circumstances in the conflict are. ABC News spoke to experts and former U.S. officials about why Putin's latest saber-rattling escalates risks -- for both Putin and the world.

Losing the home crowd

Putin's "partial mobilization" to send Russians who have gone through military training to serve in Ukraine is broadly seen as a tacit acknowledgement that his military is failing to accomplish Moscow's goals in Ukraine.

But Max Bergmann, a former State Department official and the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says it also puts Putin's control over his own country in question.

"What is clearly happening here is that the Russian military position in Ukraine is collapsing," he said. "Forcing people to go and fight in Ukraine is an extremely risky political decision. This is one of the most incredibly disruptive things that can be done to a society."

Although economic penalties for the invasion continue to have a mounting impact, Bergmann says the move will bring the war home to many Russians for the first time. And what's worse, he adds, is that Putin hasn't even officially called his invasion of Ukraine a war -- still describing it as a "special military operation."

"There's a total disconnect between the Russian government messaging that this is just some sort of tactical military effort in Ukraine, versus the need to suddenly rip men that have maybe at one time in their life served in the military for a year away from their families -- many with children -- and from their jobs, off to a battlefield where tens of thousands of people are dying," he said.

Despite the Kremlin's efforts to silence protest, Bergmann says if enough discontent builds, Putin risks losing public support, and with it, his grasp on power.

"He is gambling his entire regime over Ukraine," he said.

A powerful tool in Putin's arsenal is the state propaganda machine, but Bergmann believes Putin still has a steep hill to climb in portraying the war as defending the motherland.

"Putin hopes he can harken back to Russia's past of repelling invaders, whether it's Napoleon's army or Hitler's. But then, Russia was being invaded. It was an existential war. This is a war of imperial ambition," he said. "He's going to have to work incredibly hard to convince the Russian public that it's worth it to lose their husbands, fathers and sons in an oblast in Ukraine."

While the Russian president still appears to wield uncompromising control, Bergmann warns the tide can shift quickly.

"Autocratic regimes look incredibly stable until they're not," he said.

Buying time

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly, warned Moscow was trying to wait his fighters out.

"Russia wants to spend the winter on the occupied territory of Ukraine and prepare forces to attempt a new offensive," he said in a recorded address.

Analysts also say buying time to move newly conscripted troops to the front might be the motivator behind other elements of Putin's strategy.

"Those troops will take a while to get to the battlefield," said John Hardie, deputy director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Russia Program. "It's definitely a game on his part."

Putin's latest efforts towards annexation, coupled with promises to defend its land, are likely aimed at giving Ukraine second thoughts about pursuing its counteroffensive -- and giving the West second thoughts about supporting it, Hardie and Bergmann said. But they say it's unlikely to prove effective.

"Putin's hope is that this causes Ukraine and the West to freak out to give some pause about further advances," Bergmann said. "But I think support for Ukraine will remain strong. And that Ukraine is going to advance militarily as it sees fit."

One senior administration official called the referenda a "crass and desperate" maneuver that would not alter the U.S. outlook on the conflict, and predicted that other powers around the world -- even those more closely aligned with Russia -- would not be significantly swayed.

Still farther to fall

If Putin's attempts to delay Ukraine's military progress fail, the most pressing question becomes whether he will make good on his threats to go nuclear -- and what the U.S. and its allies might do in response.

"It's something that you have to take very seriously. Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal," said Bergmann. "And when the Russian president starts making nuclear threats, it's something everyone has to pay attention to."

While both Hardie and Bergmann agree Putin doesn't appear ready to resort to the nuclear option, they say deterrence must be the priority. American officials have publicly and privately warned Moscow against using nuclear weapons, and Hardie said they should also press countries the Kremlin might be more receptive to listening to -- such as China and India -- to send the same messages.

But the consequences Russia could expect to face are less clear.

"Are we actually ready to do something more than sanctions? I tend to think we are probably not. I think the administration rightly wants to avoid World War III," said Hardie.

Because of this, the Biden administration's "strategic ambiguity" on repercussions is the best available avenue, he argues.

"If offers the benefit of leaving doubt in Putin's mind," Hardie said.

While Putin could ultimately disregard any doubts, Hardie says it will likely require Putin to grow considerably more desperate.

"I think this would be very much a last resort," he said, noting the Kremlin might test the waters first with demonstrations before hitting critical infrastructure or troop concentrations. "But I think we're a long way from that point."

But Hardie said a significant incursion into Crimea -- the peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 -- would likely move the needle much more, and that it's possible Putin will decide to protect any newly annexed territory with the same ferocity.

"We're in uncharted waters," he said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Voters in these states have abortion-related questions on the ballot in November

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Abortion access, legalized marijuana and antiquated laws on slavery are some of the topics that will be addressed in ballot measures in midterm elections.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it ruled there was no right to an abortion granted under the Constitution, leaving it up to states to determine how to regulate the medical procedure.

In an August primary, Kansas became the first state to let voters decide on abortion since the court’s ruling, and residents overwhelmingly rejected a bid to remove abortion protections from its state constitution.

Five more states -- California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont -- have abortion-related questions on the ballot this November, leaving it up to voters whether to protect or restrict abortion rights in their respective states.

Initiatives to protect or expand abortion rights


In California, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from denying or interfering with a person’s “reproductive freedom,” granting Californians a fundamental right to choose to get an abortion or use contraceptives.

The measure aims to amend the constitution to protect reproductive rights already granted and protected by state laws.

In The Golden State, abortion is currently legal until fetal viability, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which generally is until 24 weeks’ to 26 weeks’ gestation.


In Vermont, voters will decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to include a right to “personal reproductive autonomy,” which will include abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group focusing on sexual and reproductive health, abortion is currently legal during any stage of pregnancy in Vermont, but there is no explicit protection granted under the constitution.

In 2019, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a bill stating abortion is a “fundamental right” and protecting rights to family planning, contraception and sterilization.


Michigan voters will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would add protections for reproductive rights this November.

The proposed amendment defines reproductive freedom as "the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care."

After Michigan’s Board of Canvassers failed to reach a decision on whether to add a question to the ballot, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of adding the question.

A state abortion ban on the books since 1931 is also being challenged in court, but is not currently in effect. Last month, a state judge ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, prohibiting prosecutors from bringing charges against physicians who provide abortion services.

Initiatives to eliminate or restrict abortion rights


Voters in Kentucky will decide on an amendment to the state’s constitution that would specify that a right to abortion does not exist nor is the government required to allocate funding for abortion.

Abortion is currently banned in the state after a trigger law went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Under the law, anybody who performs or attempts to perform an abortion will be charged with a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. The only exception is if the mother's health is at risk.

This ban and another ban, which prohibits abortions after six weeks, are currently being challenged in court. The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments on Nov. 15 on whether to issue a temporary injunction on the ban until the legal challenges are resolved.


Montana voters will decide whether to approve of or reject a bill passed by the state legislature which would change the state constitution to define all fetuses “born alive” as legal persons, including those born after an abortion.

The proposal would define “born alive” as the complete expulsion or extraction of a human infant at any stage of development, who after extraction breathes, has a beating heart or has definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut or what the birth method is, according to the bill.

If approved by voters, the bill would grant any infant born alive the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment. A provider who fails to provide the medical attention could face a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

In August, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling to block three abortion bans that were passed in 2021 while the litigation plays out.

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Arizona Democrats warn 'girls will die' after judge upholds near-total abortion ban

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(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Democrats gathered outside the Republican attorney general's office on Saturday to hit their Republican opponents on abortion and warn that women and girls will die in the state after a judge upheld a 121-year-old law on reinstating a near-total ban on the procedure.

"This law is about controlling women by attempting to control our bodies and our lives," said Democratic candidate for attorney general Kris Mayes. "Women and girls will die because of it…and it's a glaring black eye for the state of Arizona nationally."

Mayes said the law violates privacy rights of women in the state and that she would not enforce any abortion bans if elected attorney general.

"Under this ban, it's Arizona women and families who will suffer the most," said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Democratic nominee for governor. "And as a mother, I'm furious that my 20-year-old daughter will have fewer rights than I did 50 years ago. The overwhelming majority of Arizonans support access to safe and legal abortion. This decision is a direct affront to what we the people, the voters, Arizonans, want."

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson on Friday handed down a highly-anticipated decision in favor of a 1901 law prohibiting all abortions other than those necessary to save the life of the mother. The statute, which has language dating back to 1864, also mandates two to five years in prison for anyone who provides an abortion.

Hobbs' and Mayes' Republican opponents -- Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, as well as Senate candidate Blake Masters -- have all said they support the territorial-era abortion ban, but "are currently hiding under a rock somewhere," said Mayes, noting they haven't publicly weighed in since the ruling.

"Their silence speaks volumes," Mayes said. "That's for a reason. They know how absolutely unpopular this 1901 law is. They know how indefensible is it, and they know that when Nov. 8 comes, the people of Arizona are going to resoundingly reject this extreme abortion ban, this attack on the people of Arizona, by voting them down."

ABC News has reached out to the Republican campaigns on the decision. No candidate has offered a public comment.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, said through his spokesperson late Friday that the 15-week ban passed by the GOP-controlled legislature earlier this year would go into effect Saturday and would be the law of the land.

But the new law doesn't repeal the 1901 law, its Republican supporters say, which was in place until a court injunction in 1973 shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade established a constitutional right to abortion.

Hobbs said Saturday Ducey was deliberately being unclear about what exactly the rules are governing abortion access in the state to protect Republican candidates.

"It's clear that he's trying to create confusion about what is in effect," Hobbs said, "and hide from this deeply unpopular position that this 1901 ban is and provide some cover for Republicans. They know this is gonna hurt them at the ballot box."

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has argued that the older law should take precedence and filed the motion in July to have the Pima County court lift the injunction after the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe.

Barrett Marson, a longtime Republican strategist in the state, told ABC News the decision coming down just weeks before early ballots go out in Arizona "has the potential to impact a wide range of races."

"This has gone from theoretical to real life, and this is not an issue Republicans want to talk about. They want to talk about the border, inflation, economy and crime," Marson said. "This is not the issue that Republicans want to run on, and they are going to be forced to answer to it."

But he also noted, that with a Republican majority in the state legislature, "This is now the law of the land, if you will, and there's nothing Katie Hobbs or Kris Mayes can do about it necessarily."

The White House ripped the decision as "dangerous" and potentially "catastrophic" as President Joe Biden leans into criticizing GOP attempts to restrict abortion access ahead of the midterms.

"Make no mistake: this backwards decision exemplifies the disturbing trend across the country of Republican officials at the local and national level dead-set on stripping women of their rights, including through Senator Graham's proposed national abortion ban," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Saturday.

Dr. Baharak Tabarsi, a family medicine doctor who joined the Democratic candidates but identified herself as an Independent voter, said she and her fellow health care providers are devastated by the decision.

"There's confusion, there's chaos and I will use the word moral injury towards clinicians having our hands tied behind our backs."

Abortion rights supporters are expected to gather Saturday outside the Arizona State Capitol at 5 p.m. MT / 8 p.m. ET.

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Republicans hammer crime in key Wisconsin races; Democrats say they want to distract from abortion

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(WASHINGTON) - Republicans are going on the attack in Wisconsin -- drawing a "fact check" in rebuttal from the state's Democratic governor -- as they press what they see as an advantage on the issue of crime and law enforcement support in the final weeks before crucial midterm races there.

A recent spate of ads released by GOP groups attacking the Democratic nominees running for office have pushed them to go on the defense, with incumbent Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday working to debunk, he said, a TV spot from the Republican Governors Association that claimed his policies played a role in the release of hundreds of violent criminals by the state's parole commission.

Democratic operatives say conservatives' focus on crime is a distraction from other key issues on which voters view them less favorably, like abortion access post Roe. Evers' Republican challenger, Tim Michels, opposes abortion in almost all cases.

"I'm principled; my wife and I, we know we have to answer to somebody higher than anybody on the face of this earth. We're pro-life because of our faith," he has said.

But a Marquette University Law School Poll released earlier this month analyzing Wisconsin's Senate and governor race showed that 61% of registered voters were concerned about crime. The issue ranked among the top-five issues for voters in the state.

In response to the RGA ad, which sought to link Evers to the release of "over 800 convicted criminals," "270 murderers and attempted murderers" and "44 child rapists," the Evers campaign said "of the 884 convicted criminals released under Gov. Evers' administration, nearly half were released because their release was required by law."

His campaign stressed that, in Wisconsin, "only the parole chair can decide who gets let out of prison on parole. The governor has no role in these decisions," adding that the parole chair, John Tate, "never received a full confirmation hearing" and that he was unanimously recommended for confirmation by a Republican-controlled Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

And as to the RGA ad's claims that the governor's "liberal policies" have made local communities less safe, Evers' campaign pointed out that the governor signed a bill in April preventing violent criminals and sex offenders from being released early from prison in the future. Evers contrasted that with Michels, who opposes gun law changes including so-called "red flag" legislation, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from people they believe may present a danger to themselves or others.

Michels said in June: "It's not the guns. It's a cultural problem today. And a lot of it is a byproduct of the whole 'defund the police' movement, where cops became bad guys."

The Republican Party and their Wisconsin nominees have also spotlighted two members of the law enforcement community who have publicly announced that they never actually endorsed Democratic Senate nominee Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, despite their names being initially filed under a list by the campaign detailing officers who support him.

Both La Crosse County Sheriff's Captain John Siegel -- who is running for county sheriff -- and Racine County Deputy Malik Frazier's names were listed but have since been removed by the Barnes campaign. The coalition of law enforcement that supports Barnes now includes 15 members, two of whom are active-duty sheriffs from Rock County and Green County.

Wisconsin Right Now first reported on Siegel's removal from the list. Siegel told the outlet that he never endorsed the lieutenant governor and that he did not plan to endorse anyone in the state's Senate race.

When reached by ABC News, Lt. Michael Luell, a spokesman with the Racine County Sheriff's Office, said that Deputy Malik Frazier "expressed some level of surprise" when he saw his name on the list of law enforcement who supported Barnes.

"[Frazier] stated that he may be personally supporting Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, but he did not intend to professionally endorse him, and that professional endorsement was a mistake made by the Barnes' campaign," Luell said. (La Crosse County Sheriff's Captain John Siegel did not respond to a request from ABC News for comment.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned super PAC, has recently published multiple ads targeting Barnes' support to eliminate cash bail, an issue that its supporter say would remove an excessive financial burden on people accused of even minor infractions -- but which the GOP ad contends would set "accused criminals free into the community before trial."

In a statement to ABC News in response to the negative ads, Maddy McDaniel, a Barnes campaign spokeswoman, said: "Ron Johnson defended the criminals whose insurrection injured 140 police officers. He loves to point fingers about crime, but then voted against police funding while Lt. Governor Barnes and Governor Evers actually invested in public safety and law enforcement."

Some outside Democratic strategists cast the Republican ads focusing on crime as "fear mongering" and a distraction from their other weaknesses on the trail.

"There's no question that [Republicans] want people to be scared," said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki, adding, "They're trying to create an alternative environment that they think is better for them politically. But we know that the biggest story in American politics this year is the attack on women's reproductive freedom."

A new Spectrum News/Siena College poll released this week showed Evers with a 5-point lead over Michels in a race that FiveThirtyEight says favors Evers. The Spectrum/Siena poll also asked voters about their take on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade, with 72% of Wisconsinites polled saying they want a new abortion law in the state versus relying on the state's "1849 law" that broadly bans the procedure.

In a Marquette Law School poll released last week, 51% of Wisconsin voters surveyed said Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson "doesn't share their values" versus 41% for Lt. Gov. Barnes.

Zepecki, the strategist, said that he believes "nobody buys" that Evers is "just flinging open the jail cell or ushering people out into the streets. That's insane."

As for the two members of law enforcement who were removed from the list of endorsements for Barnes, Zepecki said he does not foresee that negatively influencing the relatively small share of undecided voters in Wisconsin.

"I think this is much ado about nothing," he argued. "This is the stuff that happens when you got campaigns that are trying to do 7,000 things with not enough staff and not enough time before Election Day, so I have a hard time believing that this has got to change anybody's mind in this election, particularly talking about the truly undecided voters."

Alec Zimmerman, a spokesperson for Johnson's campaign, had another view: "Mandela Barnes can't even tell the truth about who is endorsing his campaign -- voters shouldn't believe a word that comes out of his mouth."

On Wednesday, Johnson's campaign announced a bipartisan coalition of 51 sheriffs who had endorsed him.

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Black voters could push Stacey Abrams to victory in Georgia. Will they?

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Democrat Stacey Abrams knows by exactly how many votes she narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor's race four years ago -- and, to hear her tell it, she knows exactly who can help her win in their rematch this fall.

"One-point-six million new voters are added to the rolls after 2018. The margin in the 2018 election was … 54,723 votes. We've got 1.6 million opportunities to cover a 54,000 vote spread," Abrams told reporters at a campaign stop in Athens on Saturday.

As Abrams -- a former state lawmaker-turned-voting rights advocate who would be the first Black woman governor in the country's history -- works to mobilize Georgians, she is focusing, she has said, on untapped communities: Asian Americans, Latinos and more.

She has also increasingly emphasized outreach to Black voters, particularly Black male voters, whose crucial support has been wavering, according to some polls.

"If Black men turned out in their numbers and support me at the level they are capable of, I can win this election," Abrams said at an event in Atlanta earlier this month alongside popular radio host Charlamagne tha God, rapper 21 Savage and civil rights attorney Francys Johnson.

Before her event with Charlamagne and 21 Savage, Abrams campaigned at a Caribbean restaurant with Atlanta-native rapper Yung Joc.

"If you wanted a group of Black man to mobilize, you would not only want to kind of reach out to him and mobilize him but you want to also reach out to the people around him who are his kind of people," Chryl Laird, an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland at College Park, told ABC News.

In 2018, Abrams won 93% of Black voters, who make up 30% of the Georgia electorate. Black men comprised 14% of voters and chose Abrams over Kemp 88% to 11%, according to exit polling data from ABC News.

Black women made up 16% of Georgia voters and went for Abrams 97% to 2%.

That pattern may not repeat in November -- a shift that, given Abrams' close defeat in 2018, could be decisive.

Kemp led Abrams 50% to 48% according to a poll last week of likely voters conducted by Quinnipiac University. Quinnipiac found that Black men supported Abrams over Kemp 87% to 12%, a 1-point shift, and Black women backed Abrams 94% to 5%, a 3-point drop.

Black conservatives say the reason for the change is clear: They cite Kemp's COVID-19 response and the state's economic performance.

"For the Black Georgians who vote and have watched [Kemp] over his last four years, they understand that he's been a good governor. And if it's not broke, why do you need to fix it?" Camilla Moore, chairman of the Georgia Black Republican Council, told ABC News.

Out on the campaign trail, Kemp emphasizes that history in his appeal to voters of color.

"I told people from day one what I was gonna do when I ran in 2018. A lot of people didn't really know who I was then. I got defined by a candidate that had twice as much money as I did, had the national media in her back pocket and never could really fight through that. And it's a different story now. Because I have a great record that I think resonates with all Georgians," Kemp said at a campaign stop at the University of Georgia on Sep. 10.

Abrams downplayed concerns about the polling while at an event over the weekend, arguing that the disengaged and newly registered voters were key to persuade.

Still, she acknowledged there was space to drive up Black voter turnout -- and she linked their potential apathy to the state's recent decades under GOP leadership.

"We know that there are still thousands and thousands of voters who are not engaged, especially Black voters. And we know that that is in part because of 20 years of Republican rule convincing Black voters that we've gotten everything we're going to get," she said.

'If you show up, things really will change'

In recent weeks, as Abrams works to expand her base of support, she has hosted events with Asian-Americans, Latinos and voters with disabilities, among others.

"I'm not going to leave any community untouched and unconnected with," she told reporters at the event with Charlamagne that was geared toward Black men.

On Sunday, Abrams led a fireside chat focused on gun violence in the Asian community, a group that has become the fastest-growing population of eligible voters in the country.

She was joined alongside families who've lost loved ones to gun violence, with much of the event centered around the Georgia spa mass shootings in March 2021.

"What is dismissed as a cultural conversation but must be understood as an issue of health care, of economics, of morality. We have the responsibility in the state to protect our people, and that protection should not be limited," she said.

Abrams also spoke at Atlanta's yearly celebration of Mexican Independence Day, attended the Asian Student Alliance Conference and has hosted several Latino-owned small business roundtables across Georgia.

Her campaign plans to use these events as an opportunity to earn the votes of communities that they feel have been left out of the political conversation, treating them as persuasion communities which, speaking to the 19th at the Buckhead Theater, Abrams described as people who need to be convinced to show up to the polls -- not who to vote for.

"If you show up, things really will change," Abrams said Monday.

She is right on the reality of Georgia's changing electorate, which has given her campaign an opportunity to court new or infrequent voters.

Though Black voters still make up a significant share of voters, the number of active voters who are Hispanic and Asian grew in recent years to 4% and 3%, respectively, according to a report from Georgia's secretary of state.

In the upcoming weeks, Abrams plans to hold a reproductive rights event focused on AAPI women, a Vietnamese roundtable, and speak at the Georgia Latino Film Festival.

"This is one of the first times that we've really had an opportunity to sit down with someone who was running for a major seat and talk about these issues," Rhea Wunsch, a Georgia college student and gun reform activist told ABC News, during Abrams' event with Asian Americans on Sunday.

While Abrams may downplay the polling, surveys show her push to persuade voters has some limits that Kemp doesn't face: A Monmouth University poll released Thursday found that she has a smaller ceiling to gain swayable voters' support compared to her opponent. Kemp had a lower unfavorable rating, according to Monmouth, and more Georgia voters had definitely ruled out voting for her (46%) over him (37%).

However, that poll showed Abrams has greater support from her party than Kemp does form his: 83% of Democrats said they will definitely vote for Abrams while 73% of Republicans said they will definitely back Kemp.

Abrams also sees a pathway to victory through infrequent voters and has been working for years on the ground to register voters -- efforts that other Democrats have credited, in part, with driving up turnout in the 2020 election cycle that saw both Senate seats flip blue.

"It's not about whether they're voting Republican or Democrat. It's whether they believe voting can work for them. And I want them to know that if they vote for me for governor, things that are going to be different," Abrams said Saturday.

Low-propensity voters are who, some experts say, will make the difference in the gubernatorial election, and it's a bloc that may not be reflected in polls.

"This race is going to come down to a few thousand votes. And so when you look at which candidate is going granular and finding -- literally meeting -- every eligible voter, it is Stacey. And the polls aren't going to represent that granularity," said Hillary Holley, executive director of Care in Action, a nonpartisan group advocating for domestic workers.

But Black voters -- and Black male voters -- remain key

Some advocates emphasize that courting Black voters will also be crucial for Abrams

"I don't want voters of color, Black voters and brown voters, to carry that weight by ourselves like the fate of democracy is just on Black voters here in Georgia," Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told ABC News.

"You could not have seen the 'Georgia miracle' in the last election cycle without the turnout and participation from Black voters," Albright said, referring to the victory of Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

"It's going to take Black voters to have large turnout in order for this state to continue on the Democratic path," he said.

Throughout her campaign, Abrams has sought to energize Black male support through "Stacey and the Fellas" events and by touting policies geared toward them such as expanding Medicaid and establishing a small business investment fund in her "Black Men's Agenda." (The campaign also plans in the coming weeks to release agendas for Georgia's Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.)

At Abrams' event with Charlamagne and others, a crowd of mostly Black men packed a production studio warehouse, filled with food, music and apparel. Community members cheered Abrams as she discussed a host of topics, from free technical college to supporting Georgia's booming entertainment industry.

"What Stacey has done as far as mobilizing people and bringing people together to come out and vote has been incredible," Charlamagne said.

Some voters said they, too, were encouraged.

"She understands the challenges of Black men in America but especially here in Georgia," said Paul Grant, a teacher in Lawrenceville. "And I think of all the candidates running, I don't know of anyone who will have a better understanding of what's needed to help Black men in Georgia. I know it's a priority."

Dontay Palmer, a nursing student at Georgia State University, agreed in lauding Abrams' efforts but noted that it may not translate to more ballots bearing her name.

"I like it. I think it's really cool. It's just getting everybody out," Palmer told ABC News of the outreach.

"We just don't have the information or access," Palmer continued. "So I love it that even if they're not going to vote for her, she's like, 'Hey, get information about the election.'"

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In heated debate, Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem reveals he sat for Jan. 6, DOJ interview

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(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem revealed during Thursday's debate that he has been interviewed by both the Justice Department and Jan. 6 committee about his alleged involvement in the Capitol attack.

This was the first time Finchem has publicly confirmed speaking on the matter with federal officials.

"They asked me, why was I there? I said, 'Well, I think you already know. I was there to deliver an evidence package to Representative Paul Gosar,'" Finchem, who was subpoenaed by the committee earlier this year, told reporters after the debate.

The four-term, far-right Arizona lawmaker, who continues to espouse the "Big Lie" and is running to be the state's chief election officer, revealed the Jan. 6 interview and Justice Department involvement in a back-and-forth on the debate stage with his opponent, Democrat Adrian Fontes.

"I was interviewed by the DOJ and the J-6 commission as a witness," Finchem said. "So for him to assert that I was part of a criminal uprising is absurd. And frankly, it is a lie." Finchem told reporters after the debate that the meeting was "a couple of months ago."

Fontes, the former Maricopa County elections recorder during the 2020 election, prompted the comment by bringing up Finchem's efforts to decertify President Joe Biden's win, Finchem's presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and affiliation with the Oath Keepers militia group.

"Good," Fontes told reporters after the debate regarding the revelation that Finchem sat for investigators. "I hope they investigate, and if he did something wrong, I hope that they prosecute and convict him."

ABC News has asked Finchem's campaign whether he sat for more than one interview with federal investigators and whether he traveled to Washington for the sit-down.

Finchem, leaving the Arizona PBS studio immediately after the debate while reporters chased after him, said he was not asked by investigators about "Stop the Steal" coalition organizer Ali Alexander specifically, and when asked about Alexander's characterization of him as a "close friend," Finchem distanced himself, saying, "That's probably an exaggeration."

But on the debate stage, Fontes repeatedly tied Finchem to the insurrection.

"He's part of an organization that has called for the violent overthrow of our government. He has supporters and he himself has called for a civil war in this country, the stockpiling of ammunition for this very war," Fontes said. "It is an unhinged and violent aspect of Mr. Finchem that he'd rather not discuss."

"Last time I checked, to be at a place when something is happening is not illegal," Finchem countered. "I've been treated as a witness, not a subject."

Finchem claimed he was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the attack to deliver a book of information to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., which he said contained evidence of irregularities in the 2020 election.

"I was there to develop -- or to deliver -- an evidence book to two congressional members of my constitutionally elected congressional caucus, so that they had the information that they needed to have in the well of the Senate, when they went to argue for a question in controversy," he said.

While maintaining that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, Finchem said he has "no idea" if there were irregularities in the August primary, which he won, adding, "It is what it is."

When asked what changed from 2020 to 2022, Finchem said, "The candidates."

"Not the process, not the people running things, not the rules," Fontes replied, calling Finchem's comment "most telling."

On mail-in voting, Finchem said he doesn't support every Arizonan getting a mail-in ballot, like Fontes tried to have enacted in Maricopa County in 2020, and dismissed concerns he would try to restrict mail-in voting. He said, "I don't care for mail-in voting. That's why I go to the poll."

Fontes, who supports early and mail-in voting -- an option the vast majority of Arizonans use to cast ballots -- said, "Mr. Finchem wants to strip Arizonans of their capacity to vote by mail. That's dangerous."

Finchem has also previously said he supports getting rid of electronic voting machines in favor of a full hand-count of ballots.

When asked about the role of the federal government in Arizona's elections, Finchem said, "I think the federal government needs to butt out of states' rights. It is the legislature who names the time, place and manner of election, not the federal government."

Fontes interrupted to say, "I think Article One, Section Four of the Constitution of the United States of America would disagree with Mr. Finchem's assertion about who is charged with the time, place and manner of elections that clearly Congress plays a significant role and that happens to be the federal government, for your information, sir."

Fontes, who lost his reelection as Maricopa County elections recorder to Republican Stephen Richer, has used his 2020 loss to defend Arizona's election process.

"This could be the last election in our lifetime," Fontes told ABC News in a recent interview, expressing concern about the number of candidates on his ballot who deny the validity of the last election. "We can't depend on the legislature. We can't depend on the courts. We have to depend on the American people and Arizona's voters."

Voting starts in Arizona on Oct. 12.

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Elton John set to rock the White House Friday night

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(WASHINGTON) -- British pop legend Elton John is set to rock the White House on Friday night, playing for President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden in a South Lawn performance the White House says "will celebrate the unifying and healing power of music."

Biden has said his songs hold deep meaning for him and John, CNN reported, asked the White House if he could perform.

The event, dubbed "A Night When Hope and History Rhyme," is part of a collaboration with A&E Networks and The History Channel, according to the White House. The title of the event is a quote from Irish poet Seamus Heaney that Biden frequently uses in speeches and remarks, including when he accepted the Democratic nomination in 2020.

The event, before Cabinet secretaries and 2,000 invited guests, is to honor John's life and work, according to the White House, as well as to commemorate "the everyday history-makers in the audience, including teachers, nurses, frontline workers, mental health advocates, students, LGBTQ+ advocates and more."

Biden and his wife will make remarks.

John has a concert scheduled Saturday night at nearby Nationals Park, part of his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour." The 300-plus world tour dates are a farewell to his fans all over the world, according to the "Crocodile Rock" singer, part of a nearly 50-year career in music.

It's not the first time the singer has been at the White House. In 1998, President Bill Clinton invited him to play at a state dinner for then-U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with Stevie Wonder.

Biden has said that John's music has comforted his family at its most painful moments.

In his 2017 memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, Biden recounted visiting his son Beau in the hospital one night shortly before Beau died of brain cancer. John had been at the White House earlier that day, Biden wrote.

When he reached Beau's bedside that night, Biden said, he sang "Crocodile Rock" to Beau -- just as he had to Beau and his other son, Hunter, many years before, after Biden's wife and daughter were killed in a car accident.

"The words came back like it was yesterday, but after the first few lines I started to get emotional and wasn't sure if I could go on," Biden wrote. "Beau didn't open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling. So I gathered myself and kept at it, for as much of the song as I could remember."

In addition to his music, John has also been lauded for his work as an AIDS activist, having testified numerous times on Capitol Hill in support of AIDS funding. To date, according to its website, the Elton John AIDS foundation has raised over $600 million since its inception in 1992.

John also has another presidential fan -- former President Donald Trump who reportedly wanted the Grammy award winner to play at his inauguration, but John declined.

Trump frequently plays John's music at his rallies and infamously reacted to the news of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as "Tiny Dancer" blared in the background.

Trump even dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man" in what appears to be a reference to John's song, "Rocket Man." The singer also performed at Trump's wedding in 2005 to his curreent wife, Melania.

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McCarthy rolls out House GOP 'Commitment to America' ahead of midterms

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday rolled out an agenda that he says the House GOP would follow should it retake control of the chamber after this year's midterms.

The plan, dubbed the "Commitment to America," marks McCarthy's most concrete attempt to outline a policy agenda to try to persuade voters ahead of November's races, in which the GOP is favored -- but not guaranteed -- to flip the House. The proposal seeks to replicate former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," an agenda released in 1994 when Republicans won control of the House for the first time in decades.

McCarthy's blueprint contains four overarching goals: creating "an economy that's strong," "a nation that's safe," "a future that's built on freedom" and "a government that's accountable."

In a video, the minority leader cast the plan as a panacea for the country's struggles, arguing the proposal would fix inflation, lower crime and other issues he lays at the feet of the Democratic majority in Washington.

"Violent crime is at record highs in our streets and neighborhoods. The border has become a national security crisis, with fentanyl killing our fellow citizens. Soaring inflation has shrunk paychecks and sent us into a recession. And our kids have fallen further behind thanks to school closures and lockdowns," McCarthy says in the clip, seemingly filmed in a grocery store.

"The White House and the Democrat majority in Congress control Washington. They're in charge. This is their record," he says. "And yet, they want you to give them two more years in power. But Republicans have a plan for a new direction -- one that'll get our country back on track."

McCarthy will formally roll out the plan at an event in Pennsylvania on Friday with a broad cross-section of House members, including moderates like retiring John Katko, N.Y., who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a prominent bomb-thrower.

The proposals largely lean on issues that Republicans believe are advantageous for them this cycle, including stubbornly high inflation, concerns over crime and increases in southern border crossings.

While intended to detail what an agenda could look like in a GOP House majority, the plan is light on specifics. Included in the "commitment" are platitudes like "support[ing] our troops," "exercis[ing] peace through strength with our allies to counter increasing global threats," "recover[ing] lost learning from school closures" and "uphold[ing] free speech."

The proposal also boasts of "rigorous oversight," though no specific investigatory efforts are laid out.

Among the more specific policy suggestions are "support[ing] 200,000 more police officers through recruiting bonuses" and "repealing proxy voting," which House members of both parties have relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans in Congress praised the plan on Thursday, saying it hits on the right policies.

"This is a guide a map to what we'll do to a majority and I think the future speaker is handling it exactly the way it should be," said Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "We've got the best candidates we've ever had, we've got the right message. It's about cost of living, it's about crime. It's about the border.

When asked if the plan was specific enough, Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon said, "More of this is what we believe in, and this is what we are going to fight for. And I think they are good and I embrace them."

The commitment was notably circumspect on one issue that has roiled the midterms: abortion.

"This election is about kitchen-table issues ... inflation," Emmer maintained. "You've got to have a position [on abortion], but [kitchen-table issues] are going to decide the election," he said.

The release of McCarthy's vision for his caucus comes amid what strategists and lawmakers of both parties have suggested is a turning of the midterm tide away from what was expected to be a red tsunami earlier this year.

The Supreme Court's June decision eliminating constitutional protections for abortion and a Democratic legislative hot streak this summer -- including passage of the Inflation Reduction Act -- have helped level the playing field as generic ballot polling shows Democrats closing the gap with the GOP.

The changed landscape has thrown into question control of the Senate, currently split 50/50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties, though Republicans are still favored by analysts to flip the House.

McCarthy's decision to release a plan runs counter to the strategy of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has said he will unveil an agenda only if the Senate is controlled by Republicans next year.

"If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority ... I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide, in consultation with my members, what to put on the floor," he said earlier this year.

Democrats, for their part, came out swinging Thursday against McCarthy's agenda, arguing that House Republicans are stoking divisions while President Joe Biden's plans are the ones that would actually tackle the nation's issues.

"Republicans are mistaken if they think their political stunt less than 7 weeks before the election will be enough to distract voters from their toxic record. While Democrats deliver critical investments, bring jobs back home from China, and fight to lower costs, Republicans stoke fear for power, obstruct popular legislation that will help everyday families, defend MAGA extremism, and push to ban abortion nationwide," said Chris Taylor, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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Special master sets timeline for review in Trump docs case, says he must explain claims of privilege

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- In a court filing on Thursday, the federal judge tasked with reviewing the FBI-seized materials from Mar-a-Lago directed federal prosecutors to begin producing the approximately 11,000 documents that were recovered last month from former President Donald Trump's Florida home.

The plan and timeline laid out by U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie states that by Monday, the Department of Justice must provide electronic copies of the materials not labeled classified to both Dearie and Trump's team.

For each document, Trump's attorneys must then say whether he is asserting attorney-client privilege or executive privilege or whether the document is a personal or presidential record, according to Dearie's latest directions.

For any document that Trump and his team mark as privileged and/or personal, they need to include a statement explaining the reasoning for the particular declaration.

The government has provided Trump and his lawyers with the documents that DOJ's "filter team" had found could potentially be privileged and Dearie said in Thursday's filing that Trump must then provide a log of his designations for the materials -- as to whether he is asserting privilege over something and whether it is personal or presidential -- to the government by Monday.

Trump's team has to submit a final and complete review of all the documents to the government by Oct. 14, according to the special master.

Both parties must submit a log of any disputed designations to the Dearie by Oct. 21. (Dearie said he needs the help of a retired federal magistrate, James Orenstein, to help with his review.)

Where there's a dispute with the government, the special master will resolve it.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday simplified Dearie's work by removing classified documents from his review and restoring the government's access to them as part of its investigation into how Trump, who denies wrongdoing, handled records after leaving office. Among the materials the FBI says it retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, court documents have shown, were 11 sets of documents of various classifications ranging from confidential to top secret and sensitive compartmented information.

The 11th Circuit's ruling Wednesday was a partial stay of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon's order naming a special master and essentially freezing the government's work pending Dearie's review.

Cannon on Thursday modified her order in light of the appellate decision, striking the parts of her ruling that the special master needs to prioritize the documents marked as classified and submit interim reports and recommendations as appropriate.

Cannon also removed a measure that the classified documents and attached papers must be available for inspection by Trump's attorneys.

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