Political News

Vivek Ramaswamy’s TikTok presence draws young voters' attention -- and GOP rivals' attacks

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(WASHINGTON) -- It started with a short clip of him dancing with social media influencer Jake Paul and what Vivek Ramaswamy called a vision to better engage with younger voters.

It's continued with him documenting his travels on the campaign trail, showing time spent with his two young sons and responding to commenters.

However, the GOP presidential candidate's presence on the popular app TikTok has put a spotlight on his past business dealings and comments, drawing criticism from his rivals about his lack of political experience, as leaders on both sides of the aisle grapple with how or whether to use TikTok because of its links to the Chinese government.

On the GOP debate stage in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday night, Ramaswamy's TikTok presence was the target of aggressive attacks from his primary rivals, including Nikki Haley, who cut off Ramaswamy to shout, "We can't trust you with TikTok," as he tried to explain the importance of reaching the younger generation in order to win the general election.

"TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have," Haley cut in, "... Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say."

It was a full-on attack from Haley who had previously said Ramaswamy's "combination of honesty, intellect, and foresight are exactly what we need to overcome our challenges in the years ahead" in her review of his first book, "Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam."

Continuing to talk over Ramaswamy as he attempted to defend himself, Haley took another shot: "When you were in business with the Chinese ... we can't trust you with TikTok"

Later in the debate, Haley again attacked Ramaswamy when he spoke out against providing military support for Ukraine, saying: "A win for Russia is a win for China. But I forgot you like China."

Haley was referring to Ramaswamy's company, Roivant Sciences, which has subsidiaries in China and has previously partnered with a private-equity arm of a state-owned investment company there. Sen. Tim Scott also took a swipe at Ramaswamy's business dealings in China on the debate stage Wednesday night, comparing it to the scrutiny President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden is under for his alleged business dealings in China.

However, it's not just Haley. Ramaswamy's TikTok debut comes as most GOP candidates have proposed banning the app or enacting similar safety features, citing national security risks at the hands of the Chinese-owned technology company ByteDance that controls the app.

Scott has pushed legislation that would require app stores to list an app's country of origin "so that parents can make better choices," he's said, while former Vice President Mike Pence has been a vocal proponent of banning TikTok altogether. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year banned TikTok on state-owned devices, saying he does not want China accessing state data. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, when asked if he would ban the app as president, said "I think so."

Concern about TikTok's digital footprint is also leading to bipartisan efforts in Congress and by the White House to limit its reach. President Joe Biden's administration, which has prohibited the app from being downloaded on federal employees' work devices, has also threatened a national ban if the Beijing-based corporation doesn't divest.

Ramaswamy has also shared his own criticisms of the app, maintaining that children 16 and under "should not be using addictive social media."

Still, Ramaswamy, who has swarmed early states with campaign events, joined TikTok earlier this month, gaining tens of thousands of followers, but also sparking parody accounts and trolls, and forcing him to defend his flip-flop on the widely popular social media app he's previously called "digital fentanyl."

The comments are part of his hard line proposing "decoupling" from China, a country he believes the U.S. relies on too heavily.

"Because you know what he's thinking, he's looking back at me and he's saying, 'Okay. You don't have it in you because you're addicted to me. You're addicted to the fentanyl that I'm pumping across your southern border. You're addicted to the digital fentanyl that I'm putting in your kid's hands in the form of modern social media,'" Ramaswamy said to voters in August, weeks before posting his first TikTok after a convincing conversation with influencer and boxer Jake Paul.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Government shutdown live updates: Millions in military would go without a paycheck

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(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress failing to agree on spending, the U.S. is barreling toward what could be one of the largest government shutdowns in history.

Lawmakers have until the end of the day Saturday to reach a deal to keep much of the government open.

If they don't, 3.5 million of federal workers are expected to go without a paycheck, millions of women and children could lose nutrition assistance, national parks would likely close and more.

Latest headlines:

  • Millions of military members will go without a paycheck
  • White House says they're pleading with House GOP to 'do the right thing'
  • How did we get here?

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Sep 29, 5:07 PM EDT
Shutdown would 'hurt' service members, drive down recruitment

A partial government shutdown would hurt military recruitment -- as well as its members, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Military recruitment, which is already suffering, would take a hit in a shutdown and send a "horrible message to young people" and deter them from enlisting, Kirby said.

"Young people … graduating high school here, you know, in the spring, they can be forgiven for thinking, 'Maybe that's not where I want to go. Why would I want to sign up and do that dangerous work, when I can't even guarantee that there's going to be a paycheck for it?'" Kirby said.

While Kirby said there is patriotism and a sense of duty in serving in the military, he said a shutdown hurt service members.

"You start missing a couple of paychecks when you're in active-duty service to the nation, and it starts to hurt. You can't buy groceries, or as many, anyway. Bills are tougher to pay, rent and mortgage payments are tough to cover."

If the government shuts down, an estimated 3.5 million federal workers would have to go without pay – about 2 million of which are in the military.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Sep 29, 4:47 PM EDT
Millions of military members will go without a paycheck

Unlike shutdowns past, where lawmakers passed appropriations bills to fund the Department of Defense personnel, the White House estimates that 2 million military members will have to without pay if the government shuts down over the weekend.

President Joe Biden, at a farewell ceremony for Gen. Mark Milley, said if the House fails to keep the government open it will have "failed all of our troops," going as far as calling it a "disgrace."

Austin Carrigg, a military spouse, spoke to ABC News Live about the impact a partial government shutdown will have on her family. Carrigg said she and her husband, Master Sgt. Joshua Carrigg will be in a life-or-death situation if they don't receive a paycheck because they might not be able to afford medication for their 11-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect, metabolic disorder and recently suffered a catastrophic stroke.

"It really feels like a smack in the face that they think so little of us that they're unwilling to pay our troops while they are going through this negotiation," Carrigg explained about her frustrations with lawmakers. "We understand that negotiations have to happen and that everybody takes a stand. But that stance shouldn't be on the backs of our military families and that's what they're doing this time."

Sep 29, 4:36 PM EDT
White House says they're pleading with House GOP to 'do the right thing'

OMB Director Shalanda Young told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang that to avert a shutdown, "we're doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame, House Republicans: do the right thing."

Asked to respond to the concerns of mothers who rely on WIC for their babies' nutrition, Young gave an impassioned response:

"The cavalierness is what gets me. I've heard people say in a Republican House conference, 'Oh, shutdown. It's not that bad. It's not like the debt ceiling.' Well, you go tell people who cannot pay their daycare bill ... You go tell men and women in uniform that they don't get a paycheck when they show up to work every day. You will tell that mother that she cannot … And you're right, it -- it sets an expectation for how people deal with their government throughout their lives."

Sep 29, 4:16 PM EDT
How did we get here?

Earlier this year, amid the threat of a first-ever default on the nation's debt, President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated a spending cap for the 2024 budget year beginning Oct. 1. But spending legislation remains mired in Congress with the hard-liners in the House insisting on curbing spending further and other proposals that couldn't pass the Senate.

A last-ditch effort by McCarthy to pass a short-term funding measure with border security measures to keep the government open until Oct. 31 failed on Friday. More than 20 Republicans voted against it.

The Democrat-led Senate is considering a separate stopgap bill to keep the government open until Nov. 17 as well as additional funding for Ukraine and FEMA, but McCarthy has already said it would be dead on arrival in the House.

Congress remained at a standstill Friday afternoon with the shutdown deadline roughly 32 hours away.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Exclusive: Biden campaign to air ad aimed at Black voters during college football game

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's re-election campaign is kicking off a new TV advertisement in the heat of the college football season, with the ad set to air during the University of Colorado Buffaloes and University of Southern California Trojans game Saturday.

First shared with ABC News, the TV spot zeroes in on the Biden White House's investments into racial and economic equity for Black Americans.

"Getting ahead means getting the same chance to succeed as everyone else. It's why on his first day, President Biden signed an executive order to address racial inequity, working to narrow the racial wealth gap by creating millions of new, good paying jobs and more funding for black businesses," a narrator says.

The narrator continues: "But it's also lowering the cost of living, including health premiums, prescription drugs, and the cost of insulin. Getting ahead with the president, Joe Biden, who is putting in the work for black America."

The 30-second ad, titled "Get Ahead," is part of the campaign's big ticket $25 million investment, which includes the largest and earliest re-election ad-buy any campaign has placed in Hispanic and African American media outlets. A source familiar with planning tells ABC News the Biden campaign intends to pepper those advertisements throughout news, entertainment and sports adjacent programming, including the NFL, NBA and NCAA programming in select markets.

The campaign targeting high-viewership sporting events was first put into practice during the NFL season opener earlier this month. These various ad placements are part of their broader plan to aggressively invest in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

The ad will air in the Atlanta market, one of the largest African American media markets in the country, in efforts to reach Black fans who are tuning into Colorado games at high margins. That spiked viewership comes thanks, in part, to the popularity of University of Colorado's newest football coach Deion Sanders.

The University of Colorado's first three games of the season rated 77% higher among Black viewers, making up 23% of the audience for those games, compared to 15% for non-Colorado games, per ESPN research -- a figure that doesn't go unnoticed by Biden's re-election campaign. The number of African American viewers tuning in from the Atlanta area is helping to drive viewership numbers two-to-three times larger than a typical high profile college football game when Colorado is playing, according to data from the Biden campaign.

"The Coach Prime phenomenon reaches well beyond Boulder, CO and well beyond the traditional college football fanbase. It just so happens that many among the millions of fans tuning in every Saturday to watch Colorado football represent the core coalition of voters who were so integral to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's victory in 2020," Biden for President communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement to ABC News.

"So as millions more tune in Saturday afternoon, we're making sure that we're tapping into moments like these and presenting audiences with President Biden's historic record of accomplishment for Black families," he added.

After the Buffaloes' first win of the season last September, Sanders spoke candidly about the racism he -- and his team -- are up against.

"We're doing things that have never been done, and that makes people uncomfortable," Sanders said. "When you see a confident Black man sitting up here talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75% African Americans in the locker room, that's kind of threatening. 'Oh, they don't like that.' But guess what? We're going to consistently do what we do. Because I'm here and 'ain't going nowhere."

Only 14 black coaches currently head NCAA Division I football teams.

Black voters were critical in Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020, supporting him in overwhelming margins, 87%-12% per ABC News exit polls. Maintaining that coalition will be critical to his re-election efforts, too. A New York Times/Siena Poll conducted in July, still shows that 60% of Black Americans currently approve of Biden's job performance.

ABC News' Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Student loan payments restart Oct. 1. Here's what to know

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(WASHINGTON) -- The government's unprecedented three-year pause on federal student loan payments officially ends this Sunday, Oct. 1, when roughly 28 million borrowers will once again be on the hook for their loans.

The restart to payments comes after eight extensions of the pandemic-era pause, beginning during former President Donald Trump's administration. The end to the pause was finally set in stone after the Biden administration's attempt at broader debt cancellation was thwarted by the Supreme Court in June.

Throughout the twists and turns, many borrowers have been left confused about the status of their loans and how policy changes could impact them.

Here's what borrowers need to know.

Find out how much you owe and when you owe it

Not all borrowers' bills will be due on Oct. 1 -- you can find your specific payment date through your loan servicer, a private company that handles federal government loans. The bill due date could be at any point throughout the month.

The Department of Education encourages borrowers to log into their Federal Student Aid portals and check who their servicer is, then log onto their servicer portals.

Many Americans were moved to a new servicer during the pause and payment amounts could be different than they were three years ago.

Payment amounts could also be different because of loan servicer mistakes, which have been well-documented by debt relief advocacy groups. The groups have also reported long hold times for customer service representatives, or multiple different answers to the same question.

In particular, advocacy groups and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have shared concerns that servicers aren't providing adequate information on the Biden administration's newest repayment plan, called the SAVE Plan, which the administration calls the most affordable plan for the majority of Americans.

What is the SAVE Plan?

Under the new plan, the lowest-income borrowers would see their payments fall by about $0.83 per each dollar they owe, the Department of Education estimates, and people making below minimum wage wouldn't be required to make monthly payments at all.

The changes would also stop unpaid monthly interest from accruing and allow debts to be forgiven sooner, between 10 and 20 years after the loans were taken out.

But not everyone will see clear benefits from the new plan, so it's important to run the numbers before enrolling.

One option to do that: the Office of Federal Student Aid has a loan simulator for comparing different repayment plans.

What if the government shuts down?

In a messy twist of fate, a government shutdown could coincide exactly with the student loan restart. But even if the government doesn't have the money to stay open, borrowers will still need to pay up.

The government shutdown won't delay the student loan payment restart, government officials say.

It could make the process bumpier, though, by halting government coordination with loan servicers that provide them guidance on how to answer borrowers' questions or implement the new policies the Biden administration has rolled out, like the SAVE plan.

The borrower experience would likely get more muddled the longer a shutdown lasts.

"If it is a prolonged shutdown lasting more than a few weeks, it could substantially disrupt the return to repayment effort and long-term servicing support for borrows," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing on Sept. 25.

The government also provides oversight of the student loan servicers, making sure servicers accurately bill borrowers the right amount or pass along the right information about new, lower payment options -- two issues that advocates say borrowers are already running into, even without a shutdown getting in the way.

"I think even less oversight will be very harmful for borrowers as payments come due," said Persis Yu, deputy executive director at the Student Borrower Protection Center, an advocacy group for student debt relief.

What happens if I miss a payment?

For the next year, the Department of Education has created a temporary, yearlong on-ramp period through Sept. 30, 2024, during which borrowers won't be reported for missing payments.

According to the department, that will prevent the "worst consequences" of missed, late or partial payments.

However, interest will still continue to add up during the yearlong on-ramp period, meaning borrowers will see their balances grow whether they make the payments or not.

And the Department cannot ensure that credit scoring companies don't pull information on whether someone is making their payments, which could impact whether people qualify for credit cards or loans tied to their credit scores.

Could my loans still get cancelled?

There's still hope, but the details remain sparse as a rulemaking process plays out for the next few months.

President Joe Biden's initial plan was derailed by the Supreme Court — an attempt to grant between $10,000 and $20,000 of relief to 43 million Americans.

In the wake of that political defeat, Biden announced another attempt at debt relief through the Higher Education Act of 1965.

And on Friday, the Biden administration announced it's putting together a committee to discuss different ways to design the policy — a sign to borrowers that they haven't given up on debt relief, even as bills come due again.

The Department of Education specifically asked the committee to consider how to help people who, for example, are drowning in interest and owe more than they initially took out because of the accrual, or people who have been paying their loans for decades.

Some experts say the relief will need to be narrower than the previous attempt to have a better chance at holding up in the courts, but advocates are still pushing for broad cancellation.

ABC News' Karen Travers contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Democrats, Republicans release dueling abortion ads in high-stakes Virginia elections

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(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats and Republicans in the state are ramping up their attacks ahead of high stakes state-wide elections in Virginia, releasing dueling ads about abortion -- a hot-button issues at the center of nearly every race in both the GOP-led state House and the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Last week, Virginia Republicans ran an ad titled "No Limits" accusing Democrats of fighting to make late-term abortions "the rule and not the exception," while Democrats released a number of ads across the state this week warning Republicans would ban abortion if they take full control of the General Assembly.

Virginia is currently the southernmost state that hasn't banned or restricted abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Political science experts told ABC News that while Republicans in the state refrained from campaigning on the issue of abortion last year and much of this campaign season, they are joining in now to mobilize Republican voters.

"While Dobbs served Republicans well, they lost the messaging enemy in Roe that had been successful for them," Dr. Chapman Rackaway, a professor and Chair of Political Science at Radford University. "The inverse happened for Democrats. Dobbs gave them a threat on which they could message, and they did so aggressively in 2022."

"From the newly-released ads, it looks like Republicans believe that using the extremist tag on Democrats is the messaging on which they can mobilize," Rackaway added.

Activists who oppose abortion told ABC News that Republicans in the state are backing Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's stance on abortion -- a 15-week ban with exceptions.

"In 2022 with the midterm elections, Republicans used the ostrich strategy ... kind of burying your head in the sand and hoping the issue goes away," said Billy Valentine, the vice president of Political Affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. "Looking ahead to Virginia, I think the party has recognized that strategy didn't work. We need to find where we stand and contrast that with the Democrats."

Valentine told ABC News that he believes Democrats in the state are trying to misrepresent Republican candidates' stance on abortion by saying they would ban abortion without exception, pointing to several recent ads from Democratic candidates.

"It's incumbent on our candidates to tell the truth, which is what we are advocating for, is a 15-week limit, not a ban because it has exceptions for life of the mother, rape, and incest," he said.

Republicans in the state say Democrats are putting out "misrepresentations and half truths" about several Republican candidates' stance on abortion.

"This is out of character even for them," said Garren Shipley, director of communications for Republican House Speaker Todd Gilbert. "They're our caucus and our candidates. We're behind the governor on the 15-week limit with common sense exceptions."

Meanwhile, Democrats in the state say their ads are informing voters that the Virginia GOP will ban abortion if they take full control of the General Assembly.

"This is nothing more than the Governor's handlers trying to correct a narrative that their candidates themselves have been pushing," said House Democratic Caucus Leader Don Scott.

"Just this year Republicans introduced life at conception bills, banning all abortions at the moment of fertilization and criminalizing anyone who performs the procedure," Scott said. "No matter how they try to dress it up, if something is legal today, and a law changes making it illegal tomorrow, then that's a ban. There's no lies about that."

Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker echoed Scott's concerns that Republicans will increase restrictions on abortion.

"Anyone who has looked at Republicans' records knows that Youngkin and the MAGA extremists who are running to control the General Assembly want to ban abortion immediately and will increase the restrictions every chance they get," Swecker said in a statement. "They'll overturn our rights and then keep taking more."

In the highly competitive Fredericksburg-area state Senate race, Republicans criticized Democrats for releasing an ad about Republican candidate Tara Durant who is running against Joel Griffin, the Democratic nominee.

The ad published by Griffin's campaign said Durant supports letting Virginia ban abortions without exception.

"Virginia Democrats are reverting to their tired tactics of overt falsehoods and flagrant fear mongering," said Dave Rexrode, Youngkin's political adviser and chairman of his PAC, Spirit of Virginia.

"Joel Griffin's ad is just the latest desperate and despicable attempt to mislead voters. It will not work," Rexrode added in a press release.

Griffin's campaign defended the ad, saying Durant publicly praised the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

"While we watched the legal landscape shift, Durant reaffirmed where she was on abortion rights, sending a mailer stating her 100% pro life stance," a spokesperson for Griffin's campaign told ABC News. "The stakes are clear: If elected, Tara Durant would let Virginia ban abortions with no exceptions."

On Tuesday, Durant responded to Griffin's ad, calling it "misinformation" and doubled down on her support for a 15-week limit on abortion . Control of both chambers of the General Assembly is up for grabs, with several political experts indicating that the results could be viewed as a referendum on Youngkin given his successful push for his preferred candidates to win their primary races earlier this year.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trailblazing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein dies at 90

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(WASHINGTON) -- Dianne Feinstein, who became California's first female senator and went on to serve six terms, the longest of any woman in Senate history -- and whose political career was forever changed by the assassination of two colleagues -- has died, multiple sources confirm to ABC News. She was 90.

Over her three decades in the Senate, Feinstein transformed from a barrier-breaking member of the Democratic Party's liberal vanguard, championing the legalization of same-sex marriage and a ban on assault-style weapons, to one of the Washington's establishment members, esteemed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle but increasingly criticized by outside progressives who argued that she refused to step aside for the next generation.

In her final years, her work on Capitol Hill had also begun to be overshadowed by concern about her mental and physical health even as she insisted she remained a robust public servant, despite her hospitalizations, reports of episodes of confusion and other issues.

In announcing earlier this year that she planned to retire at the end of her latest term, in 2025, Feinstein said: "Each of us was sent here to solve problems. That's what I've done for the last 30 years, and that's what I plan to do for the next two years. My thanks to the people of California for allowing me to serve them."

Journalist Rebecca Traister, who profiled Feinstein at length for New York magazine, told ABC News for this obituary that she believes Feinstein's approach to politics was less tethered to an absolutist ideology than to defending and supporting the importance of rules and order.

Feinstein's political positions changed over time, but what didn't was how she saw her job: "as somebody who was within these institutions to uphold the rules," Traister said.

She said what she found most surprising about Feinstein was that devotion to the institution -- outside of politics.

She cited how, in the early 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, Feinstein determined punishments for abortion providers during her time on a women's sentencing board, where Feinstein later said she saw "not medical people -- these were truly the coat-hanger type of abortions." As a pro-abortion access supporter in college, Feinstein reportedly helped a woman get to Mexico where abortion was legal, Traister said.

"She believed in civic and political control and order, and I would say that is the defining feature of her life in politics," Traister said, adding, "Sometimes that led her to positions that were on the left and sometimes it led her to positions that were on the right."

Feinstein's early life and path to the Senate

Born Dianne Emiel Goldman in 1933 in San Francisco, the first years of Feinstein's life were filled with hardship. Jerry Roberts, author of the Feinstein biography "Never Let Them See You Cry," described Feinstein's mother, Betty, as an alcoholic who frequently beat her and her two sisters, citing in his book moments where she chased Feinstein with a knife and once nearly drowned one of Feinstein's sisters in a bathtub.

"Their mother was both emotionally and physically abusive. She [Feinstein] was very much the matriarchal figure in terms of protecting her younger sisters and taking the brunt of things," Roberts said.

Feinstein's surgeon father, Leon, was just as instrumental in shaping her. A barrier-breaker himself, he was the first Jewish chair of surgery at the University of California at San Francisco's medical school.

"She really identified with her father and his kind of propriety and status," said Traister. "But it's certainly true that as the oldest sibling in that household, she really developed a passion for how to keep things in line and under control that I think you can see working its way through her political life."

After serving six years on California women's sentencing board, Feinstein ran for -- and won -- a race to be on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, beginning the first of three terms in 1970.

Her third term as a supervisor was her last and, as she suggested to reporters on the morning of Nov. 27, 1978, it was intended to be her final chapter in politics. She had lost two mayoral bids, was facing health problems and recently lost her second husband to cancer.

Then tragedy struck.

Later that November day, a colleague on the board, Supervisor Dan White, assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official.

It was Feinstein who found Milk's body, subsequently recalling how her fingers slipped through a bullet hole in his body as she went to take his pulse. With TV cameras rolling, she was the one to tell a shocked city about the slayings. As the president of the Board of Supervisors, she became the city's first female mayor.

"It sounds like it was scripted in a movie. She leans in, tells reporters she's leaving politics -- you can't make up something like that," said Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak, who covered Feinstein going back to her San Francisco days.

She went on to win two terms as mayor.

Barabak said Feinstein "held up the city on her shoulders ... the city was really on edge." She was "thrust in the middle of it" and "really rallied and really helped keep the city together," he said.

As mayor, she enacted a handgun ban and survived a recall attempt over it, foreshadowing a decadeslong fight over the same issue when she served in the Senate.

Her profile grew quickly. She was on Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale's vice presidential short list in 1984. After losing her own race for governor of California in 1990, she successfully ran in a 1992 special election to serve out the remainder of Republican Pete Wilson's term -- becoming the first women elected from the state to serve as a senator.

In Washington

More firsts followed: Feinstein became one of the first two women to join the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the support of then-Chair Joe Biden. She made it her mission to pass a ban on assault-style weapons, telling The Los Angeles Times that Biden was "ultimately supportive but initially skeptical," fearing that the measure might stymie a broader bill focused on crime. But he nonetheless thought it would be a good "lesson" for her if she wanted to give it a shot.

The opposition was fierce. Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was one of the people who challenged her, saying, "The gentlelady from California needs to become a little bit more familiar with firearms and their deadly characteristics."

Feinstein replied, "I am quite familiar with firearms. I became mayor as a product of assassination. I found my assassinated colleague and put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse. I was trained in the shooting of a firearm when I had terrorist attacks, with a bomb in my house, when my husband was dying, when I had windows shot out. Senator, I know something about what firearms can do."

The ban, which included some exemptions and came with a sunset date of 10 years, to bolster its support, became law in 1994. Feinstein continued to push for similar laws in her remaining time in office.

She was also known for championing same-sex marriage and in 1996 was one of 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act -- the law, later overturned, that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage -- nearly two decades before the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

Barbarak said her extensive time in San Francisco likely shaped her ideas on the issue. "The gay community was very large and influential in San Francisco, in a way that really it wasn't in any other city in the country," he said. "And that was just part of the political culture. It was just part of being mayor of San Francisco."

But the accomplishment that she told reporters was the most important work of her career was during her time as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein called for a full investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation program after Sept. 11.

Because of her push for further transparency under both the Bush and Obama administrations, it was alleged that the CIA repeatedly misled the public and mismanaged the program, which was "far more brutal" than the agency previously had conveyed, with torture ranging from waterboarding prisoners often dozens of times to severe sleep deprivation, including a detainee who was chained to the concrete floor and appeared to die from hypothermia, ABC News reported at the time.

The subsequent, Feinstein-backed report from the committee found the methods used on more than 100 detainees were "not effective."

Probing the CIA's tactics was risky for Feinstein, in part because she was challenging her own party. "There was an enormous amount of opposition including from the [Obama] administration to not make this stuff public," Traister said.

But that doggedness was consistent with "how seriously she took the violation of norms that she so believes in," Traister said.

"When she discovered that they had been behaving outside of the expectations ... it was like hellfire. She really went after them hard," Traister said.

Annette Bening went on to play Feinstein in the 2019 drama about the CIA probe, "The Report."

"I just think that's real legacy stuff, which she did there because nobody wanted that report out ... certainly the CIA didn't," said Roberts, her biographer. "That was, I think, a demonstration of her independence and her determination and her ability to fight."

But her independence was often seen in more recent years as too moderate compared to other Democrats, especially as a representative of one of the country's most reliably blue states.

During the contentious Supreme Court confirming hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, liberal groups criticized Feinstein for hugging Republican Sen. Linsey Graham and praising him for running "one of the best hearings I've participated in." Then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer later told reporters they had a "long, serious talk" about it.

And the way she dismissed school children who urged her to support the progressive "Green New Deal" to address climate change went viral after she told them, "I've been doing this for 30 years. I know what I'm doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don't respond to that ... I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality and I know what I'm doing."

The interaction was satirized on Saturday Night Live.

Final years and service amid decline

In the final years of her political career, some voices in Feinstein's own party grew louder in saying that she should retire. Her defenders, too, often spoke up for her. In 2017, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called her a "strong voice and a staunch advocate for the people of California."

During Feinstein's last and final campaign for Senate, the California Democratic Party backed challenger Kevin de León instead. At the time, León said he was offering "a new voice, a new change represented in California of today, not of the past."

Feinstein still won by a landslide -- by roughly a million votes. But the discontent continued.

In April 2022, Feinstein's home paper, The San Francisco Chronicle, published a piece citing multiple anonymous staffers and Senate colleagues who said Feinstein's memory was "rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California."

Feinstein pushed back in an interview with the Chronicle's editorial board. "I meet regularly with leaders. I'm not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours," she said then, echoing what she told The Los Angeles Times in 2020: "I don't feel my cognitive abilities have diminished. ... Do I forget something sometimes? Quite possibly."

In February 2023, Feinstein announced she would not be seeking reelection, telling reporters soon after, "The time has come."

Schumer said during a closed-door lunch meeting when she made her announcement, "She got a standing ovation that lasted minutes and minutes and minutes. One of the longest I've ever seen, which shows the love that our caucus and our country have for this wonderful, wonderful leader and legend."

Feinstein's pending retirement was soon eclipsed by her health struggles. For three months in 2023, she remained at home in California to recuperate from shingles, which also caused her to suffer brain inflammation and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which affects facial nerves.

That absence also temporarily halted Democrats' ability to confirm nominees through the Judiciary Committee on which Feinstein sat.

California congressman Ro Khanna and some others called for her to step down. But she never left her job.

That tenacity, Barabak said, fueled her success as much as the controversy at the end of her career.

"She's very determined. She's very stubborn. She's very dogged," he said, adding, "She's shown, time and again and again and again, [she] is not someone who is going to be pushed around. I think that this is pretty consistent with who she has been her whole career, her whole public life."

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

DeSantis commits to a 15-week national abortion ban for the first time

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(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- In an easily missed moment during Wednesday night’s chaotic GOP presidential primary debate, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would sign a federal 15-week abortion ban.

Wednesday's comment marked the first time since the launch of his presidential campaign that he said he would sign a national abortion ban.

The Daily Signal was the first to report and confirmed the governor's remarks.

The moment occurred during an exchange with Sen. Tim Scott, where he asked the governor if he would support a 15-week abortion ban. DeSantis said yes.

The moment was widely missed due to the moderators talking over the pair while the exchange was happening, trying to regain control of the debate.

Throughout his campaign, DeSantis, who has signed both a 15-week and six-week abortion ban in Florida, has walked a very fine line on abortion access, saying that he would be a “pro-life” president and support “pro-life legislation,” but has stopped short of saying he would support any national abortion ban.

This is a complete flip from the last debate in August, where the governor indicated that he would prefer states to make their own abortion laws.

“I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do different. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president,” DeSantis said during the August debate.

In a statement to ABC News, Scott's campaign communications director, Nathan Brand, said they're glad DeSantis is "on board" with a federal limit.

“Ron had months to advocate for a federal limit, yet discouraged efforts to protect life. If you’re going to back down on an issue, this is the one to do it on. Glad Ron is now on board.”

Just a few weeks ago, Scott criticized DeSantis, along with Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley, at a town hall in Mason City, Iowa, for not “standing” with him on the issue.

DeSantis’ comments in Wednesday's debate elicited a statement from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who applauded DeSantis’ agreement to support a 15-week abortion ban.

“We thank Governor Ron DeSantis for his commitment to support minimum federal protections for babies in the womb when they feel pain by 15 weeks, while keeping states free to be as ambitious as possible for life,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “We thank Senator Tim Scott for raising this vital point in the debate and for advocating these protections for months, as has Vice President Mike Pence.

This past August, Dannenfelser attacked DeSantis for being non-committal to a 15-week abortion ban.

DeSantis now joins the rank and files of other presidential hopefuls who have committed to signing a national abortion ban if elected president, including Sen. Tim Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence.

When asked by ABC News about the governor’s commitment to support a 15-week abortion ban, DeSantis’ communication director said the governor has always supported “pro-life legislation.”

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim contributed to this report.

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Guns, abortion pill and free speech will top Supreme Court docket in new term

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term on Monday staring down a fresh docket of cases and more opportunities to deliver big wins for conservatives that could continue to transform American life and the law.

Second Amendment advocates want the justices to allow Americans under domestic violence restraining orders to possess guns. Business groups are seeking to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and roll back federal agency power. South Carolina Republicans are asking to reinstate an election map that lower courts deemed racist.

The justices will also likely take up the legality of Food and Drug Administration regulations around the abortion pill mifepristone; a federal ban on machine guns applied to bump stocks; and school bans on transgender students using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The big question is how far the high court's six-member conservative-leaning majority will go.

"There was a lot of evidence that the court had become a 6-3 conservative court that was moving very quickly and very far in a rightward direction. This past term, though, looked different," said Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University Law Center.

Decisions handed down in June upholding a key section of the Voting Rights Act, siding with Native American tribes and affirming President Joe Biden's immigration policy surprised many veteran court watchers for their restraint compared to prior rulings like the 5-4 decision to reverse Roe v. Wade's protections of abortion access.

Gornstein said the more recent decisions reflect a "3-3-3 court" -- referring to the alignment of the justices -- with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett in the middle bloc, exerting a relatively moderating influence that could extend into the new term.

"The liberal justices on the court last term were more often in the majority than Justices [Samuel] Alito and [Clarence] Thomas," said David Cole, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This term will give us more evidence as to what type of court this is."

One of the most consequential cases facing the court this fall is U.S. v. Rahimi, the first gun rights dispute to reach the court since its landmark 2022 decision enshrining an individual right to carry a firearm outside the home.

Rahimi involves the constitutionality of a longstanding federal law that prohibits people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing a gun.

"Firearms in the hands of people who have a history of domestic violence are tools of death -- to intimidate partners, children and the broader community," said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, litigation director at the Gifford Law Center, a gun safety group which wants the law upheld. "The Supreme Court must look to these harms."

Challengers say the law is overly broad and curbs legitimate gun rights of Americans who are not dangerous. "The notion that any right is limited to only law-abiding citizens is really odd," said Cole.

Other major cases on the court's docket in the upcoming term involve social media platforms and free speech.

The justices are expected to review laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit social media platforms from removing or de-emphasizing certain content and force them to publish details of their algorithms. They will also hear a pair of cases on whether public officials can block constituents on Facebook and Twitter and censor their comments.

"Trying to figure out how to distinguish between a public official talking to the public [on social media] as part of his job, as opposed to as a private person, including a private person running for reelection, is I think one of the important issues," said Hashim Mooppan, a veteran Supreme Court litigator and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia.

Last month, the court also agreed to wade into an emotionally charged dispute involving liability for the opioid epidemic, which claimed the lives of more than 80,000 Americans from overdoses in 2021 alone, according to government statistics.

The justices will review a major settlement between state and local governments and OxyContin-maker Perdue Pharma over a provision that would shield members of the Sackler family, which owns the company, from lawsuits. The Biden administration sued to block it.

"This is an outrage, according to the government, and the court set the case for argument," said Lisa Blatt, a veteran Supreme Court litigator. "I think the government has a lot of law on its side."

With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, the high court is also likely to be confronted with questions about state voting rules and candidate eligibility.

Experts say the justices may soon have to address efforts to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that candidates aren't eligible for future office if they previously took an oath to support the Constitution but then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or have "given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

"That has been almost entirely ignored by history for 150 years until recently, as people looked at the events of the 2020 election and especially the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as a possible example of an insurrection," said University of Chicago law professor and constitutional scholar William Baude.

"If any state were to try to exclude Trump for the ballot, then it will certainly have to go to the state courts," Baude said. "And if a state court did conclude that lawful, whether in Minnesota or Colorado or somewhere else, the Supreme Court could well review that."

Overshadowing the court's official business are lingering questions about its ethics practices prompted by a recent wave of reports alleging undisclosed financial dealings and misuse of court resources.

"We can increase confidence. We're working on that," Kavanaugh told a gathering of judges last month in Ohio. He added that he hopes there will be "concrete steps soon," but there is no indication from the court that any new action is imminent.

Justice Elena Kagan, a member of the liberal-leaning minority, said last week that there are "legitimate concerns" holding up the adoption of a new ethics code but that she is hopeful "totally good faith disagreements" can be worked out soon.

In April, the justices released a rare, jointly-signed statement attesting to ethical principles and practices, but it did little to quell public concern or congressional Democrats' efforts to advance a mandatory ethics code.

"Public scrutiny is welcome," Barrett said in an August appearance in Wisconsin, projecting optimism the recent firestorm around the court would subside.

One issue certain to draw continued scrutiny this fall: Alito's public refusal to recuse himself from a major tax law case, Moore v. U.S., because of his association with an attorney in the matter.

The lawyer, David Rivkin, has published columns in The Wall Street Journal editorial page based on multiple interviews with Alito. Senate Democrats had written to Roberts demanding that Alito step aside in the case.

Rivkin's "access to Justice Alito and efforts to help Justice Alito air his personal grievances could cast doubt on Justice Alito's ability to fairly discharge his duties in a case in which Mr. Rivkin represents one of the parties," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote in August.

In a four-page statement attached to orders from the court this month, Alito flatly rejected the request, saying Rivkin was acting as a journalist and that there was "no sound reason" to recuse.

Durbin also called on Justice Thomas to recuse himself from a major regulatory case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, after the nonprofit investigative news outlet ProPublica reported that Thomas had attended donor summits hosted by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, who have long championed deregulation.

"The Koch brothers are the architects of one of the largest, most successful political operations in history, aimed at influencing all levels of government and the courts. Justice Thomas hid the extent of his involvement with the Koch political network and never reported gifts associated with these engagements," Durbin said in a statement last week.

Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.

The justices return to action with public opinion of the court holding at a historic low, according to a Gallup poll released Friday: Just 41% of Americans say they approve of how the court is handling its job; 58% disapprove.

Continuing a practice that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, the court said it will offer an audio livestream of oral arguments available to the public throughout the term.

Decisions in cases argued before the court this fall are expected to be released before the end of June 2024.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump drops bid to move Georgia election case to federal court

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(ATLANTA) -- Attorneys for Donald Trump have notified a Fulton County court that the former president will not seek to have his Georgia election interference case removed to federal court.

The move comes three weeks after a judge denied a bid by co-defendant Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, to have his case moved.

Meadows had sought the move to federal court on the basis that his alleged actions were all performed while he was acting "under color" of his role as chief of staff.

Trump, Meadows, and 17 others have pleaded not guilty to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. The former president says his actions were not illegal and that the investigation is politically motivated.

Trump's filing on Thursday said his decision is based on his "well-founded confidence that this Honorable Court intends to fully and completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia."

Trump last month notified the court that he may file to remove, which the new filing says was done "in an abundance of caution."

"President Trump now notifies the Court that he will NOT be seeking to remove his case to federal court," the filing states.

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Biden impeachment inquiry live updates: House Republicans hold first hearing

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans Thursday are holding the first public hearing of their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The House Oversight Committee hearing will kick off at 10 a.m.

Republicans say the inquiry will focus on whether Biden was involved in or benefitted from his family's foreign business dealings, among other issues. So far, House Republicans have yet to release evidence that Biden profited from his son Hunter's business deals or was improperly influenced by them.

The White House has blasted the impeachment inquiry as "extreme politics at its worst."

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 28, 9:29 AM EDT
Committee says it will examine emails, bank records, text messages

Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., will claim in his opening remarks that the committee has "uncovered a mountain of evidence revealing how Joe Biden abused his public office for his family’s financial gain."

But Republicans, to date, have yet to produce any hard direct evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden or that he was involved in or personally profited from his family's foreign business dealings, or that he improperly influenced policy based on them when he served as vice president.

Comer will also say the panel will examine over "two dozen pieces of evidence" including emails, text messages, bank records and testimony of Biden business associates during today's hearing.

Sep 28, 9:20 AM EDT
What to expect at today's hearing

The committee is expected to reexamine the findings of months of GOP-led investigations and offer an explanation as to why an inquiry is warranted.

"This week, the House Oversight Committee will present evidence uncovered to date and hear from legal and financial experts about crimes the Bidens may have committed as they brought in millions at the expense of U.S. interests," chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said in a statement.

The committee will hear from four witnesses, three of whom were called by Republicans to provide testimony.

The panel's 46 members (plus other lawmakers) will be allowed to question the witnesses in a hearing that could stretch on for more than six hours.

Sep 28, 9:07 AM EDT
Who are the witnesses?

Republicans have called three witnesses, one constitutional law scholar and two financial experts.

They are Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant; Eileen O'Connor, a former assistant attorney general, United States Department of Justice Tax Division; and Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University and a Fox News contributor.

Democrats will hear from Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt served as special counsel to the presiding officer of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Sep 28, 8:38 AM EDT
What polls say Americans think about the inquiry

Americans are divided on the GOP-led impeachment inquiry into Biden, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

Overall, 44% of Americans said that based on what they know, Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Biden being removed from office while 47% said it should not.

Partisan views were apparent in the poll, with 74% of Republicans favoring impeachment proceedings and 83% of Democrats opposing them. Independents were split 46-45%.

Americans by 58-32% said the inquiry reflects Biden is being held accountable under the law like any president, rather than being unfairly victimized politically.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden set to give speech on democracy one day after Republican debate

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday will deliver the latest in a string of speeches about democracy, as he seeks to draw a further contrast with his Republican rivals -- and, in particular, those he calls "MAGA" conservatives -- one day after most of them gathered for their second primary debate.

While in Arizona, Biden will deliver what a White House official said is the fourth in a series of speeches focused on democracy, with this one specifically focused on "the importance of America’s institutions in preserving our democracy and the need for constant loyalty to the U.S. Constitution."

The backdrop of Arizona is intended to draw on the legacy of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, who was close with Biden and "whose intolerance for the abuse of power and faith in America sets a powerful example to live by," according to the official.

"Protecting democracy continues to be the central cause of Joe Biden’s presidency," the official said. "President Biden will talk about his conviction that we must not walk away from the sacrifices generations of Americans have made to defend our democracy."

Biden will be joined in Tempe by some of McCain's family, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs and members of the Arizona congressional delegation.

The speech builds on a main theme that Biden has hit on since his campaign launch in 2019, for his first White House term.

At the time, Biden linked then-President Donald Trump to the deadly 2017 mob in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a white nationalist killed a counter-protester. He has since torn into Republicans for not uniformly and vocally refuting Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020 and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection by pro-Trump rioters.

In his speech, Biden plans to explicitly cite McCain's service during the Vietnam War, when he was captured, and his tenure in the Senate, when he advocated for a restoration of civility in Washington.

"The president will honor his friend and war hero," the official said.

The speech is also likely an effort to highlight Biden's own reelection bid -- a campaign that is anticipated to face off again against Trump next year.

It comes a day after most Republican presidential contenders, but not Trump, gathered in California for their second primary debate.

Many of the candidates have said that Biden won the 2020 election, though fewer have been vocal in their denunciations of Trump's allegations of fraud, with the exceptions of former Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Five takeaways from the Republican debate: Haley scoffs at Ramaswamy, DeSantis goes after Trump, more

Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- The major Republican presidential candidates went toe-to-toe in the second primary debate, on Wednesday night in California -- trading barbs in a race still largely defined by former President Donald Trump's polling dominance.

The candidates frequently delved into policy and their differences on the issues, but the most attention-grabbing moments may be remembered as the personal attacks between the contenders.

Here are five takeaways Wednesday's debate.

Haley and Ramaswamy in the spotlight again

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur and commentator Vivek Ramaswamy were near center stage at last month's debate, and they followed that performance up again Wednesday, in light of their relatively high spots in the polls next to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, though all three trail Trump.

DeSantis, who polls in the No. 2 slot, stood in the center with Haley and Ramaswamy on either side of him.

The two were in the thick of several exchanges, both on policy and on personality in a debate filled with seven candidates regularly shouting and sniping over each other, as the Fox News, Fox Business and Univision moderators interjected to restore order.

"TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have. I -- honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say," Haley said at one point, noting Ramaswamy's recent participation on TikTok despite his criticism of the platform. Ramaswamy said it was done to appeal to voters.

"I think we would be better served as a Republican Party if we're not sitting here hurling personal insults and actually have a legitimate debate about policy," he responded.

Haley later followed up by accusing Ramaswamy of being overly cozy with China, with Ramaswamy repeatedly defending himself from attacks by almost every candidate on stage -- including South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, standing to Ramaswamy's left, who Ramaswamy tried to dismiss with a raised finger.

Ultimately he spoke for the longest cumulative time, behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to an ABC News analysis.

Other hopefuls keep trying to break through

The debate also offered an opportunity for lower polling candidates to break through -- and they appeared to know it.

Scott and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum looked to go on the attack or to beef up their own profiles, with their support from GOP voters lagging in the low double digits so far, according to 538.

Scott threw the first unprompted elbow Ramaswamy's way after the latter offered praise for the other candidates on stage.

"I appreciate that because last debate, he said we were all bought and paid for," Scott said before jabbing at Ramaswamy's business ties to China.

At one point later in the debate, Scott, seemingly flippant, asked if the moderators couldn't see him and Burgum repeatedly expressed frustration over not being included in a segment about energy policy despite being an "energy state" governor.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who did not express as much frustration as Scott and Burgum at the debate format, also sought to break through amid middling polls, taking his own opportunities to go after Ramaswamy and Trump by name as well as tout himself as the only authentic conservative on stage.

"This is a time for those of us that have the experience, the tested experience and a commitment to the conservative agenda that Ronald Reagan brought forward in this party," he said.

DeSantis gets in the mix, with some pointed barbs at Trump

Whereas at the first primary debate, last month, DeSantis mostly spoke when asked a question, on Wednesday he inserted himself into more back and forths and used moderator questions to forcefully argue for his record as Florida's top executive.

He also went after Trump by name on a few different occasions, including early in the debate, for choosing to skip out on the debates.

"Donald Trump is missing an action. He should be on this stage tonight. He owes it to you to defend his record where they added $7.8 trillion to the debt. That set the stage for the inflation that we have," DeSantis said. (Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been a vocal Trump critic, similarly criticized Trump for not showing up.)

Trump has said he sees no value in attending, given his lead, and it's unclear if those attacks -- or anyone's overall performance -- will be enough to topple Trump from his front-runner perch.

For much of the night, the candidates focused on Biden's time in office, though they will have to more immediately beat Trump to win the party's nomination.

"Democrats would panic if any of those candidates won the nomination. But nothing about tonight fundamentally changed the trajectory of a Biden vs. Trump rematch," said GOP strategist Alex Conant, who worked on Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential campaign.

Ukraine continues to divide the field

U.S. assistance to Ukraine in defending against Russia's invasion again divided the primary field, raising the stakes the presidential race has for the largest land war in Europe since World War II.

Haley and Pence pushed for continued assistance to Kyiv, while Ramaswamy and DeSantis looked to pump the breaks, with the Florida governor repeating his line that there should be no "blank checks."

The debate mirrors the divide on Capitol Hill, where establishment Republican figures like Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are advocating for further aid to be included in the next government funding bill while hard-liners are pushing for that money to be directed to enhancing security at the southern border.

The debate covered many topics, with little time on abortion

The debate moderators made a point of hitting on various policy topics in detail, from the economy to energy to education to China as well as immigration, the border, child care, crime and unions. In many of those areas, the candidates broadly agreed on approach, with differences over specific tactics and solutions.

About 105 minutes into the 120-minute debate, the moderators brought up abortion rights when they noted that several state referendums to curtail abortion access have failed.

Since Roe v. Wade was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, abortion regulations have been returned to the states -- a move hailed by conservatives. But voters across the country have repeatedly gone to the ballot box to defend abortion access and, in some swing states, they have said it's a key issue and favor Democrats on it.

Republicans have acknowledged, publicly and privately, that the issue motivates their base while potentially posing risks in general elections.

DeSantis, at the debate, touted the six-week abortion ban he implemented in Florida and again hit at Trump for blaming abortion opponents for disappointing midterm losses by Republicans. DeSantis said his success in Florida showed that abortion restrictions can be popular in battleground areas.

He later said in an exchange with Scott that he'd commit to supporting a 15-week abortion ban as president.

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Skipping the Republican debate, Trump talks UAW strike at non-union plant

Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday night opted out of the latest 2024 Republican primary debate and instead spoke in Michigan about the ongoing auto workers' strike.

The event was held as counter-programming to Trump's rivals, who gathered in California on the debate stage as he attacked President Joe Biden, assailed the criminal charges against him and urged union employees to back him next year.

Unions this week drew the attention of both major parties' presidential front-runners.

On Tuesday, Biden joined the picket line in Michigan with members of the United Auto Workers in the UAW's ongoing strike while seeking 46% pay raises and a four-day work week, citing the high profits earned by their employers.

Trump and his campaign called Biden's visit to the UAW picket line, which is unprecedented for a president in modern history, a "PR stunt."

However, Trump's Wednesday event in Clinton Township, Michigan -- which the campaign had called a speech to union workers -- took place at Drake Enterprises, a non-union auto parts plant.

According to ABC News' reporting, many of the attendees at Trump's speech were Drake Enterprises workers and some were UAW workers, but very few said they were on strike.

Unions and workers were dominant themes in Trump's speech, though. He began by immediately "saluting" UAW workers and arguing that Biden doesn't sincerely side with them, even as Biden's aides have cited Biden's long record in backing unions.

The crowd here cheered for nearly every line in Trump's speech.

In his speech, Trump repeated his pitch for economic nationalism, calling himself the only candidate who wants to protect American labor -- which was a key pledge in his previous campaigns.

He also attacked Biden for the federal government's environmental regulation push on tailpipe pollution, which would encourage more electric vehicle manufacturing -- while also raising the concerns of auto workers like those in the UAW. Biden has said he wants to invest in the auto industry to spur more electric vehicle use to address climate change.

Trump took a darker view.

"You're all on picket lines and everything, but it doesn't make a damn bit of difference what you get because in two years -- you're all going to be out of business. You're not getting anything. What they're doing to the auto industry in Michigan and throughout the country is absolutely horrible and ridiculous," he said.

At the picket line on Tuesday, Biden said, in part, "Folks, stick with it because you deserve the significant raise you need and other benefits."

On Wednesday night, Trump went on to criticize the heads of Ford and General Motors for not, as he said, fighting against electric vehicles and instead "giving up" too quickly. Both companies have signaled they see increased value in making more electric vehicles, given larger trends in the industry.

Trump later went after Biden again, saying the president treats American jobs as "disposable."

"Joe Biden claims to be 'the most pro union president' in history. Nonsense," Trump added.

Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, also said he spent most of his life "working alongside Americans just like you."

After being told in an NBC News interview that UAW President Shawn Fain was fiercely critical of him, Trump said he did not want the union's endorsement. On Wednesday, however, he struck a different tone.

"Hopefully your leaders at United Auto Workers will endorse Donald Trump," he said.

Though Fain criticized Trump this week and said there would be "no point" in meeting with him, Trump called Fain a "good man" but said it was time to endorse him. Only then, Trump said, will he "not say a bad thing about them again."

Trump's message to the UAW president: endorse him so "you can take a nice two-month vacation come back and you guys are going to be better than you ever were."

The former president said he wouldn't force people away from electric vehicles but wanted to give people the opportunity to choose.

Of the GOP primary debate also held on Wednesday, Trump attacked some of his challengers, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and suggested it was a job interview for a lesser role in his administration.

He asked his crowd who they thought he should pick as his running mate. They yelled out for former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, who was in attendance.

Trump also briefly talked about the indictments against him. He has pleaded not guilty in all four cases, two of which are related to the push to overturn the 2020 election; a third is related to hush money paid to an adult film actress; and a fourth is over Trump's alleged mishandling of classified documents while out of office.

"Just like you're fighting for your rights in your American dream, I'm fighting for my rights and fighting for my freedom against the coordinated ... very politicized forces of evil. I've never seen anything like it," Trump told the attendees.

He said his second presidency would be about "patriotic protectionism," slamming the amount of money the U.S. has given to Ukraine and claiming he would bring more jobs back home.

Michigan Democrat responds

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan reacted to Trump's speech in an interview with ABC News minutes after he left the stage.

"I'm a car girl and the state of Michigan put the world on wheels," she said, later adding, "Electric vehicles are one of the technologies of the future. We are going to build them here. I'm not ceding our leadership to anybody."

Of Trump's comments about the UAW strike being undercut by the push for electric vehicles, Dingell said: "He says these negotiations don't matter? These negotiations are the most important negotiations I've watched in my lifetime. This is where the rubber hits the road."

"I think it says it all when he says was coming in to meet with union workers and he chose to go to a non-union plant," she said. "I think that just summarizes it right there. If he really did have strong support by union workers and he wanted to tell them how much he cared and how he cared about those benefits that unions fight for, then why didn't he go to a union shop?"

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What to know about Republican allegations, evidence in the Biden impeachment inquiry

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans on Thursday, in their first impeachment inquiry hearing, are set to reexamine information they say they've gathered so far in their investigations into President Joe Biden and his family's business dealings.

"House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden's conduct," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said when ordering the inquiry earlier this month. "These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption."

Among their claims, which have yet to be supported by direct evidence, is that President Biden was involved in or personally profited from his family's foreign business dealings, or that he improperly influenced policy based on them during his time as vice president.

Here's a closer look at some of the specific allegations levied against President Biden that are likely to be discussed during Thursday's hearing, and what Biden himself has said about his son's business dealings and the impeachment inquiry:

Allegation: Biden lied about his family's business dealings

Speaker McCarthy and other top Republicans have claimed Biden lied to the public about his knowledge of his family's business deals.

They highlight specific statements from Biden that he "never discussed" with his son or brother anything involving their businesses, and that his son never made money in China.

Biden's statement in regard to China is not true. Hunter Biden has testified in open court that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chinese business interests.

Whether he "never discussed" business with his son is less clear. Hunter Biden's former business partner Devon Archer testified that Joe Biden attended at least two dinners with Hunter Biden's foreign business associates, and frequently spoke with his son over the phone while his son was in the presence of foreign business associates.

But Archer also testified that business never came up during those interactions. Those discussions were often about the weather and other benign subjects, he said. Archer, notably, testified that he never witnessed Joe Biden engage in any wrongdoing.

Hunter Biden also acknowledged at least one instance in which Joe Biden addressed his appointment to the board of directors of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma: "Dad said, 'I hope you know what you are doing,' and I said, 'I do,'" Hunter Biden told the New Yorker.

Allegation: Biden joined phone calls, meetings about Hunter's business

"Eyewitnesses have testified that the president joined on multiple phone calls and had multiple interactions – dinners, resulted in cars and millions of dollars into his son's and his son's business partners," McCarthy said when launching the impeachment inquiry.

Such statements appear largely based on Archer's testimony.

Archer testified that as many as 20 times, he saw Hunter put his father on speakerphone when Hunter was with business associates. But he said those conversations often stemmed from Hunter speaking to his father "every day" and that he never witnessed Hunter talking with his dad about the substance of Hunter's business.

Archer also testified about two different dinners that Joe Biden attended, but never indicated that Hunter's business was discussed.

The first was "a birthday dinner" with Hunter, Joe Biden and some foreign businesspeople: "I don't remember the conversation. I just remember that [Joe Biden] came to dinner, and we ate and kind of talked about the world, I guess, and the weather, and then everybody left," Archer said.

The second dinner involved Joe Biden, Hunter, one of Hunter's Burisma colleagues, a Greek orthodox priest, and someone from the World Food Programme: "I think we were supposed to talk about the World Food Programme. So, there was some talk about that," Archer testified.

As for a Porsche Archer said Hunter Biden received, it was bought for him by "a prominent businessman in Kazakhstan," according to Archer. Archer testified that he didn't know why the businessman bought the car for Hunter Biden.

Many of these findings are not new. A 2020 Senate report detailed some of these business endeavors and payments. The report, penned by Biden critics, GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, found that Hunter Biden's overseas business ventures were "awkward" and at times "problematic" for U.S. officials but provided no evidence and found no instance of government policy being altered as a result.

Allegation: FBI information alleged million-dollar bribe to Bidens

"A highly credible FBI source alleges that Joe Biden received $5 million in exchange for pressuring for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating the Ukrainian natural gas firm that Hunter Biden was on the board of, Burisma," Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said earlier this month.

Grassley in July released a confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that, years ago, the Biden family "pushed" a Ukrainian oligarch to pay them $10 million. The FD-1023 form cites an unnamed source who recounts a series of interactions in 2015 and 2016 with Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of Burisma. The source recalled Zlochevsky claiming that he was "forced" to pay Joe and Hunter Biden $5 million each, apparently in exchange for firing a Ukrainian prosecutor named Viktor Shokin who was purportedly investigating Burisma at the time.

There is no evidence aside from the unverified FD-1023 that Joe Biden accepted a bribe to influence U.S. policy in Ukraine. Democrats have accused accusing Grassley of selectively highlighting uncorroborated information to hurt a political opponent.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, has said that in 2020, the Trump-appointed Justice Department interviewed the source, investigated the source's claims and then closed the investigation.

Allegation: Joe Biden used pseudonyms on emails

"Joe Biden used at least three pseudonyms on over 5,000 emails. We know one of these, his son was copied on, in a pseudonym, that pertained to Ukraine," Comer said earlier this month.

It is common for high-profile government officials, including presidents, to use pseudonyms for their email. It's been publicly reported that Barack Obama did it. And that Bill Barr did it.

The email Hunter Biden was copied on included Joe Biden's official schedule. The email included the normal list of the vice president's daily workload, but also included a reference to an overnight stay at the "Lake House." A source close to the Biden family said Biden copied his son because it was the weekend of the anniversary of Beau Biden's death, and the vice president wanted Hunter Biden to be there with the family.

Allegation: Biden as vice president coordinated Hunter's role in Burisma

"Biden used his official office to coordinate with Hunter Biden's business partners about Hunter's role in Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company," McCarthy said when ordering the inquiry.

This allegation refers to a December 2015 email exchange between Hunter Biden's office and the White House. In the exchange, according to Comer, Hunter Biden's business partner Eric Schwerin and the vice president's then-communications staffer Kate Bedingfield collaborated on a response to questions from the media about Hunter Biden's appointment to the board of Burisma.

Bedingfield wrote, "VP signed off on this" – and presented Schwerin with a statement she "will give to both reporters in my name shortly." The statement said that Hunter Biden "is a private citizen," and that Joe Biden "does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company."

In a tweet on Sept. 6, White House spokesperson Ian Sams wrote: "More lies by @JamesComer. As Comer tells it, then-VP Biden 'colluded' with this business by ... saying he doesn't endorse it and wasn't involved with it? Total nonsense."

Allegation: DOJ is letting Bidens off the hook

"The president's family has been offered special treatment by Biden's own administration. Treatment that they would not have otherwise received if they were not related to the president," McCarthy has claimed.

This allegation rests heavily on the testimony of two IRS whistleblowers who accused senior Justice Department officials of slow-walking their investigation, stymying investigators' efforts to pursue leads, and failing to prosecute Hunter Biden to the fullest extent of the law.

But Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel David Weiss have both denied the allegations made by those whistleblowers. Other witnesses have shared testimony with Congress that undercuts some of the IRS agents' core claims.

Allegation: Biden family received $20 million through 20 shell companies

"Detailed banking records show that the Biden family and their business associates received $20 million in payments from foreign actors in places like Russia, China, Ukraine, and Romania, including payments during Joe Biden's time as vice president," Rep. Elise Stefanik said earlier this month.

Hunter Biden has acknowledged receiving millions of dollars from overseas business endeavors, often into companies with multiple partners. The structure of those companies and the beneficiaries are opaque -- perhaps deliberately. But it is not uncommon for business entities to use shell companies for strategic and tax-related reasons -- which is legal. And none of the money received by Hunter Biden has been linked to Joe Biden himself.

Allegation: Banks flagged 150+ suspicious activities from Bidens

"The Treasury Department alone has more than 150 transactions involving the Biden family and other business associates that were flagged as suspicious activity by U.S. banks," McCarthy has said.

Suspicious Activities Reports, or SARs, are reports filed by financial institutions to flag questionable banking transactions to the Treasury Department, but do not amount to allegations of crimes. These are essentially notices of unusual activity that investigators can use as tips or leads -- not actual allegations of wrongdoing or criminal activity, and banks are required to file them to help the U.S. government monitor possible money laundering activities.

These are essentially notices of unusual activity that investigators can use as tips or leads -- not actual allegations of wrongdoing or criminal activity.

What Biden has said

When Republican scrutiny into Hunter Biden grew during the 2020 campaign, Biden began to be asked about his son's actions.

"I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings," Biden said during a stop in Iowa in July 2019.

Later, during a Democratic debate in October 2019, Biden said his son had done nothing wrong.

"Look, my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong," he said on stage. "I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that's what we should be focusing on. And what I wanted to make a point about -- and my son's statement speaks for itself. He spoke about it today. My son's statement speaks for itself."

After the federal investigation into Hunter Biden became public last December, President Biden said he is "proud" of his son and "confident" he did nothing wrong.

On the impeachment inquiry, Biden has brushed it off as a distraction.

"Now, best I can tell they want to impeach me because they want shutdown the government," he told a group of donors behind closed doors the day after the inquiry was launched. "Everybody always asked about impeachment. I get up every day not focused on impeachment, I've got job to do. I've got to deal with issues that affect the American people every single solitary day."

"Lots of luck," he later said when asked about the inquiry.

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Government shutdown would be 'devastating' for Bureau of Prisons employees

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(WASHINGTON) -- A potential government shutdown would be "devastating" for Bureau of Prisons employees, according to the head of the union that represents federal staffers at the agency.

A government shutdown appears to be on the horizon with just a few days until funding expires. Lawmakers have until the end of the day Sept. 30 to pass a spending deal to keep the government running.

All Bureau of Prisons officers and employees -- more than 34,500 people -- would still have to go to work if there is a government shutdown, leaving them without a paycheck.

"A shutdown is absolutely devastating for our members," Brandy Moore-White, the president of CPL-33, told ABC News. "Not only do our members put their life on the line every single day to protect America from the individuals incarcerated, but now they're having to go out ... and figure out how they're going to pay their bills and how they're going to feed their families."

She said prison employees put up with a lot on a day-to-day basis, and the shutdown's effects are an added hassle.

"We deal with the worst of the worst every single day and that's a job all in itself," she said. "And then you add the stress of not getting paid on top of it."

Moore-White told ABC News some of the union members live paycheck to paycheck -- many of them are single parents or single-income households. In some cases, both members of the family work for the Bureau of Prisons.

She said a lot of her prison employees came to the government for a "secure" paycheck, and when that stability isn't there, it can be stressful.

Morale among union members is already low because of understaffing at many federal prisons, and having a shutdown in the middle of trying to staff up can be tough, Moore-White said.

"Morale is already down and then the moment that you put this on top of it, it plummets," she said. "Law enforcement's not an extremely popular place to work anymore. And so just recruitment alone with the morale and the way that the world is right now has been really rough. But then when you are trying to recruit, people are like, didn't you not get a paycheck for a while? It is detrimental to recruitment as well."

Due to the location of most federal prisons -- most of which are located in rural communities, getting access to a food bank during a shutdown can be challenging, Moore-White said.

"A lot of the local unions reached out to food banks, but a lot of the local food banks can't support even the small communities that they're in," she said.

The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment for this story.

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