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InterestingLight/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A State Department employee with Top Secret clearance allegedly made unreported contacts with Chinese intelligence officials and accepted thousands of dollars in "gifts and benefits," the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, was arrested Tuesday and charged with "obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements in connection with her alleged concealment and failure to report her improper connections to foreign contacts along with the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits they provided," according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, of the District of Columbia.

“Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division," said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord in a statement.

"When a public servant is suspected of potential misconduct or federal crimes that violate the public trust, we vigorously investigate such claims," acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told ABC News. "The Department of State is firmly committed to investigating and working with the Department of Justice and our other law enforcement partners to investigate any allegations of criminal activity and bring those who commit crimes to justice."

Claiborne, who has been working for the agency since 1999, was arrested on March 28. She pleaded not guilty at a court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

Another court hearing was set for April 18. Claiborne could face up to 25 years in prison if she is convicted of the charges of making false statements and obstructing an official proceeding.

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Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, announced today that she will take an official position in her father's administration, according to a statement.

This comes as her unofficial role has grown in recent weeks, and she was granted security clearance and a West Wing office, drawing scrutiny from some.

Ivanka Trump will be a special assistant to the president but will not take a salary, she said in a statement first reported by The New York Times.

How first daughter Ivanka Trump's role at the White House has grown

"I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees," she said in a statement today.

"Throughout this process, I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role."

She is not the only family member in her household to have a title -- Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president.

The White House released its own statement about the title bump, saying that it is "pleased" by the move.

"Ivanka’s service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency, and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously," the White House statement reads.

When her increased security clearance and West Wing office were announced, Ivanka Trump acknowledged that "there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president."

The official title makes her existing role more formalized, though she has been no stranger to the White House. She has been present for family events -- like the various inauguration celebrations -- as well as closed-door meetings and sit-downs with foreign leaders.

In February, she met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, where they were part of a roundtable discussion on female entrepreneurs, and she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House earlier this month, Ivanka Trump was seated right beside her.

Ivanka Trump’s involvement in business roundtable discussions could be attributed to her business background at her namesake fashion label and her father’s real estate empire, but she has also had a say in other causes that she is passionate about. When Donald Trump held a listening session about domestic and international human trafficking on Feb. 23, he started his remarks by thanking Ivanka Trump and then–senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell “for working so hard to set this up.”

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Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by President Donald Trump back in January after a career spanning more than 27 years with the Justice Department.

Now it appears that she’s come back to haunt the Trump administration.

Yates was expected to testify on March 28 at a House Intelligence Committee open hearing as part of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Last week, committee Chair Devin Nunes, R-California, postponed the opening hearing, the same day Yates’ attorney advised the Trump administration that she would testify about internal discussions had about communications between Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Since then, reports have emerged that the Trump administration sought to block Yates' testimony. The White House has pushed back against those reports, maintaining that it took no such action.

Here’s a look at Yates:

Name: Sally Quillian Yates (née Sally Caroline Quillian)

Family: She and her husband, Comer Yates, have a daughter, Kelley, and a son, James “Quill.” Comer Yates is the executive director of Atlanta Speech School, a school for children with hearing and learning disabilities, and is a lawyer by training. Comer Yates also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1994 and 1996.

Sally Yates comes from a family of lawyers. Her father, Kelley Quillian, was a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and his father and brother were also lawyers. Her grandmother was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia, but because of the times, she did not become a lawyer.

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Age: 56 (Born Aug. 20, 1960)

Education: Sally Yates graduated from the University of Georgia in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She went on to get her law degree at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Her legal career: Sally Yates passed the State Bar of Georgia in 1986 and went to work for three years at the Atlanta office of King & Spalding, as a commercial litigation associate.

She joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta in 1989. She started as assistant U.S. attorney, working her way up to chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section from 1994 to 2002 and then first assistant U.S. attorney from 2002 to 2010.

She was the lead prosecutor in the 1996 trial of Eric Rudolph, the man convicted of the bombing at the Centennial Park during the ‘96 Olympics.

“The Rudolph case was one of the most interesting cases I’ve ever done,” she said in a 2013 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Of all the cases I’ve done, that’s the greatest example of the power of a team.”

Sally Yates became the first woman U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia when she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and held the position for almost five years.

On Jan. 8, 2015, Obama nominated Sally Yates as deputy attorney general and she was confirmed to the position on May 13, 2015.

Her high-profile firing in January

When Loretta Lynch, who become U.S. attorney general when Sally Yates became deputy, left the DOJ on Inauguration Day, Sally Yates stepped in as acting attorney general until then-Sen. Jeff Sessions would be confirmed to lead the DOJ.

Under Trump, Sally Yates’ stint as acting attorney general lasted a total of 10 days.

Sally Yates was fired on Jan. 30 after she instructed the DOJ not to defend Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The order was later blocked in court.

The White House said in a statement that Sally Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement read.

In a letter to top DOJ lawyers handling the cases related to Trump’s executive order on immigration, Yates directed them to hold off from defending it.

"At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Sally Yates wrote.

She continued, "Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so."

Dana Boente took over for Sally Yates after she was fired, and Sessions was confirmed on Feb. 8 as attorney general.

When she warned the White House about Flynn

When she was still acting attorney general, Sally Yates had informed White House Counsel Don McGahn on Jan. 26 that they were misled by Flynn about the nature of his calls with Kislyak before Trump took office.

Sally Yates also conveyed concerns that Russia might try to blackmail Flynn.

Flynn resigned from his position on Feb. 13.

Her exchange with then-Sen. Sessions

During her Senate confirmation hearing on March 24, 2015, Sally Yates had an interesting exchange with then-Sen. Sessions, who is now attorney general.

"Do you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper?" Sessions asked Sally Yates.

She replied, "Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes faces growing calls to step aside from the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie admitted he didn't agree with Nunes' actions but said recusal is a "personal decision."

The calls for Nunes to recuse himself began after it was revealed that he had visited the White House grounds last week to meet an unnamed source the day before publicly sharing details about surveillance that "incidentally collected" information on associates of President Donald Trump. Nunes' prior role in Trump's transition team has added to concerns that he can't conduct an impartial investigation.

"Wouldn’t have been the way I would’ve done things, but I don't know whether that means he has to recuse himself," Christie said on Good Morning America Wednesday. "That's a personal decision the congressman has to make on his own."

Top Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi as well as the House Intelligence Committee's ranking member, Adam Schiff, all called for Nunes' removal from the House investigation on Monday. Even some Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, questioned Nunes' actions.

"That’s a very, very personal decision about what congressman Nunes thinks is best to do for him, his constituents and the good of the investigation," Christie told GMA.

"I think we’re over blowing how much personal recusal matters," he added. "Congressman Nunes will make his own judgment in his own time."

Nunes said on Tuesday he has "no idea" why Democrats would call for him to step aside from the investigation.

Nunes raised eyebrows when he held an unexpected press conference on March 22 and then briefed the president -- before making members of his committee aware -- that information about Trump's transition team, and possibly the president himself, had been "incidentally collected" after the election in November. Alhough Nunes maintained that the intelligence gathering was conducted legally, it prompted Trump -- who claimed his predecessor, President Barack Obama, "had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower" -- to say he felt "somewhat" vindicated.

Nunes defended himself in an interview on CNN's The Situation Room on Monday, arguing that his visit to the White House grounds on March 21 was commonplace and part of an investigation into the unmasking of Americans in intelligence reports that began before Trump's wiretapping claims.

"I had been working this for a long time with many different sources and needed a place that I could actually finally go because I knew what I was looking for and I could actually get access to what I needed to see," said Nunes, adding, "It wasn't at night ... nobody was sneaking around, all it was was just a place where I had to go to be able to review this information."

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting separate investigations on any possible collusion between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign, while FBI Director James Comey said his agency is leading its own inquiry into the matter.

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes confirmed that he traveled to the White House last week in order to meet a source and view information related to surveillance that "incidentally collected" information about associates of President Donald Trump.

Nunes' visit to the White House last Tuesday, his move to personally brief President Trump on the matter on Wednesday -- before sharing the information with members of his committee -- and his prior position as a member of Trump's transition team have led to calls for his recusal from his post leading the House investigation into Russian interference into the presidential election.

The top Democrats on Capitol Hill: Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, as well as the House Intelligence Committee's Ranking Member, Adam Schiff, all called for Nunes' removal from the probe Monday. Even some Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain questioned Nunes' actions.

Both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Nunes himself said there would be no recusal, with Nunes saying Tuesday he has "no idea" why Democrats would call for his removal from the investigation.

Nunes has not provided the answers to a few outstanding questions about his activities:

What is in the documents Nunes viewed?


Nunes has provided limited details about the information he obtained over the course of his investigation, but said there are "dozens of reports" showing that "incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition" was gathered during the course of "normal foreign surveillance."

Last week, it was revealed that Nunes was unsure whether associates of Trump participated in the intercepted communications or whether those persons were simply mentioned or referred to by others.

The information seen by Nunes has not yet been shared with others, though the congressman said Tuesday that he hopes to share it with other members of the intelligence committee.

Who cleared Nunes into the White House?


All visitors to the White House, even members of Congress, must be cleared into the complex by someone with access to the area, such as a White House staffer. This process includes submitting personal information to Secret Service to ensure there is no security threat and to keep a record of visitors.

Nunes insisted that a secure location at the White House complex was used because the information he went to view was already available to the executive branch and not to Congress. However, this would not preclude Nunes from using a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in another location to prevent his conversations or classified information from being breached by those without access.

Who is his source?


Nunes has declined to name the person he met with at the White House complex, but told Bloomberg that it was a member of the intelligence community, not a White House staffer. This information further raises the question of why the meeting was held on the White House grounds. SCIFs are located in the offices of each intelligence agency.

Unless Nunes' source works out of the White House complex, they too would require to be cleared to enter the grounds. However, Nunes later briefed Trump on the information provided by the source, a move that press secretary Sean Spicer said wouldn't make sense if the information originated from the White House -- seemingly indicating that the source works elsewhere.

Given that the source was not someone employed by the White House, it is possible that an additional person was involved in securing Nunes' access to the grounds and to a SCIF. Nunes told CNN Monday that "nobody was sneaking around" and that he wasn't hiding his presence at the White House. Spicer pushed back against suggestions at Monday's press briefing that the administration cooperated with the representative's actions.

What does the White House know?


On Friday, before it was publicly known that Nunes visited the grounds earlier in the week, Spicer was asked if the chairman received the documents showing "incidental collection" from the White House.

"I don't know where he got them from," said Spicer, who didn't mention Nunes' visit.

Asked again about the source of Nunes' information on Monday, Spicer said he was unaware, adding, "I know in his public statements he’s talked about having multiple sources. And so I don't know how he derived the conclusion that he did."

Pressed on whether the details could have come from the White House, Spicer said "anything is possible" despite his earlier claim that the circulation of information from a White House staffer to Nunes and back to Trump wouldn't be logical.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump's staff is following the commander in chief's lead and will skip next month's White House Correspondents' Dinner, the organization announced Tuesday.

"The White House informed the White House Correspondents' Association this evening that White House staff will not be attending this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner out of 'solidarity' with President Trump, who has previously announced that he would skip the event," WHCA president Jeff Mason wrote in a letter to members.

Mason wrote that the "WHCA board regrets this decision very much. We have worked hard to build a constructive relationship with the Trump White House and believe strongly that this goal is possible even with the natural tension between the press and administrations that is a hallmark of a healthy republic."

WHCA statement on White House participation in this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner #WHCD pic.twitter.com/IPUOGFJFqR

— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) March 28, 2017

The president announced in February his intentions not to attend the annual event, tweeting, "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!"

I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017

The following day, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged on ABC's This Week that the president's decision should not come as surprise to the media, given the tenuous relationship between the Oval Office and many media outlets.

"I think it's ... kind of naive of us to think that we can all walk into a room for a couple of hours and pretend that some of that tension isn't there," Sanders told This Week host George Stephanopoulos.

She added, "You know, one of the things we say in the South [is] 'If a Girl Scout egged your house, would you buy cookies from her?' I think that this is a pretty similar scenario. There's no reason for him to go in and sit and pretend like this is going to be just another Saturday night."

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — Hillary Clinton condemned former rival Donald Trump Tuesday during a speech in California for the dearth of diversity in his administration and for his staff and supporters' treatment of women.

Giving the keynote address at the Professional Business Women of California Conference in San Francisco, Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, addressed gender inequality, including a moment earlier in the day in which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer twice chastised journalist April Ryan for shaking her head as they engaged in a back-and-forth.

"Just look at all that's happened in the last two days to women who were simply doing their jobs. April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question," said Clinton.

After Ryan asked a question about how the administration can "revamp its image," Spicer accused her of having an "agenda."

"I'm sorry that that disgusts you. You're shaking your head," said Spicer, who added moments later, "Please stop shaking your head again." Ryan later expressed her frustration on Twitter and told MSNBC she was felt like "road kill."

Clinton portrayed the moment as an "indignity" that "too many women -- especially women of color -- have had a lifetime of practice taking… in stride."

"But why should we have to?" asked Clinton. "And any woman who thinks this couldn't be directed at her is living in a dream world."

Clinton further admonished the administration for having the lowest number of female members "in a generation." Two women sit on Trump's cabinet -- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao -- plus another two occupy cabinet level positions -- Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Administrator of the Small Business Association Linda McMahon -- out of 24 total posts at that level. During the campaign Clinton promised to fill half the seats with women.

The former first lady and secretary of state also brought up a moment from Fox News' Fox & Friends Tuesday in which conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly attempted to make a joke about Rep. Maxine Waters', D-Calif. appearance. Clinton called the comments a "taunt" and described the joke as "racist."

Clinton's speech turned optimistic when she addressed women's efforts to defeat the Republican-backed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, the American Health Care Act, last week, calling it a sign that efforts to organize could build off the momentum of January's Women's March on Washington.

"There were plenty of people, as you might expect, who wondered whether that level of energy and enthusiasm would be sustained and whether it would make any difference," said Clinton. "Well I'm here to tell you -- last week we saw the first indication that the answer to both of those questions is yes."

"When Congress and the administration tried to jam through a bill that would have kicked 23 million people off their health insurance, defunded Planned Parenthood, jeopardized access to affordable birth control, deprived people with disabilities and the elderly… they were met with a wave of resistance," she added.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — After he spent weeks supporting and lobbying for a Republican-backed health care plan that ultimately collapsed last Friday, President Donald Trump told a gathering of U.S. senators Tuesday night that they were "going to make a deal on health care."

Trump repeatedly promised an immediate "repeal and replace" of the Affordable Care Act throughout his presidential campaign. When the American Health Care Act was pulled last week from a scheduled vote and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the ACA would remain the "law of the land," the president then claimed that he preferred for the law known as "Obamacare" to "implode" and "explode" on its own anyway.

When Trump broached the topic Tuesday at a White House reception for senators and their spouses, calling a "deal on health care" "such an easy one" and saying he has "no doubt that that's going to happen very quickly," some in the room laughed before the president continued.

"I think it will actually, I think it's going to happen, because we've all been promising -- Democrat, Republican -- we've all been promising that to the American people," said Trump. "So I think a lot of good things will happen there."

After the AHCA was pulled from a vote on Friday, Trump blamed Democrats for not giving the plan "a single vote" and called Senate and House Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi "losers." He did say at the time that he thought "a real health care bill" could be developed after Obamacare fails, which the president guessed would be "at some point in the near future."

Ryan told a group of donors Monday that the GOP was not going to "abandon" health care reform in the wake of the AHCA's failure and that they would continue to work on a new policy while they "move on with the rest of [their] agenda."

Trump also addressed a desire to work on a bipartisan infrastructure plan at the reception Tuesday and expressed support for the work the military is doing in Iraq after saying he had "a long call" with Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

"We're doing very well in Iraq," said Trump. "Our soldiers are fighting and fighting like never before and the results are very good.”

On Monday, defense officials told ABC News that two additional companies were being sent to Iraq to help Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul from ISIS.

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Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee postponed a hearing featuring former acting Attorney General Sally Yates after her lawyer advised the Trump administration that she was planning to testify about internal discussions about Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, and his communications with a Russian diplomat, ABC News has learned.

Any claim that those internal discussions are still confidential "has been waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials," David O'Neil, an attorney for Yates, wrote in a letter to the White House on Friday — the same day that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced that his committee, which has been investigating Russian meddling in last year's presidential election, would no longer hear planned testimony this week from Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The White House has denied taking any action to prevent that testimony.

"I hope she testifies. I look forward to it," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. "We had no objection to her going forward ... To suggest in any way, shape or form that we stood in the way of that is 100 percent false."

Flynn resigned from the Trump administration last month after acknowledging that he gave "incomplete information" to Vice President Mike Pence and others about multiple calls with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in the days before Trump took office.

Pence repeated the false information when asked about the situation in January, prompting Yates to inform the White House that Flynn may have misled Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Kislyak.

In her testimony slated for Tuesday, Yates was expected to offer a firsthand account of her discussions with the White House in January.

On Thursday, O'Neil met with attorneys at the Justice Department to discuss — among other things — whether Yates was barred from testifying about certain details of those discussions. But the next morning, the Justice Department sent a letter to O'Neil, telling him any final determination rests with the White House.

"Such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The president owns those privileges. Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence], she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department," a Justice Department official wrote to O'Neil on Friday.

O'Neil then wrote his letter to the White House, insisting any claim of executive privilege had been waived "as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications. Nevertheless, I am advising the White House of Ms. Yates' intention to provide information."

The White House never responded to his letter — which he wrote would be taken as a green light for Yates to move forward.

"We didn't respond. We encouraged them to go ahead," Spicer said, adding that the White House never considered invoking executive privilege to block her testimony.

Spicer also insisted that Nunes' decision to call off Tuesday's hearing had nothing to do with any pressure from the White House. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, similarly denied any coordination between the committee and White House over Yates' testimony.

"Neither Chairman Nunes nor any Intelligence Committee staff members had any communication with the White House whatsoever about Sally Yates' testifying to the committee," Langer said in a statement. "The only person the committee has spoken to about her appearing before the committee has been her lawyer. The committee asked her to testify on our own accord, and we still intend to have her speak to us."

The Washington Post first reported on the letters between O'Neil and the Trump administration.

Yates, an Obama administration appointee, was fired by Trump on Jan. 30 after she instructed the Justice Department not to defend his controversial executive order limiting travel and immigration from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Nunes and the congressional inquiry he's leading into alleged Russian interference have come under increasing criticism in recent days, after he first claimed he had discovered "concerning" evidence that the Trump campaign was monitored after the election.

Last week, Nunes announced he obtained "dozens of reports" showing the U.S. intelligence community — through its "normal foreign surveillance" — "incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition."

But Nunes cannot say whether Trump or any of the president's associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted, meaning it's possible that the information he's citing merely refers to foreign officials talking about Trump transition team members.

Nunes has yet to share the information with other members of the House Intelligence Committee or further explain what it shows. He said Tuesday that he will "never" reveal sources or methods to fellow committee members but that he still hopes to share the documents.

On Monday, without identifying his source, Nunes acknowledged he obtained the information while on White House grounds, an admission Democrats said should force him to at least recuse himself from the committee probe tied to Russia.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House GOP leaders expressed confidence Tuesday morning that the party would be able to repeal and replace Obamacare after a conference meeting with members -- a total reversal just four days after pulling the plug on their first effort -- while their Senate counterparts seemed eager to abandon the issue entirely.

"After this morning, the resolve of our conference to repeal Obamacare and replace it has never been stronger," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, said.

"I think we're closer today to repealing Obamacare than we've ever been before, and surely even closer than we were Friday," he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said members who were reluctant to support the American Health Care Act last week now "expressed a willingness to work on getting to yes" in Tuesday's meeting, which lasted roughly two hours.

Republicans suffered an embarrassing setback on Friday when they were forced to pull their bill to repeal Obamacare from the House floor after it became clear the measure did not have adequate GOP support to pass. A critical mass of Republicans expressed concerns about the measure and resisted White House efforts to earn their support.

Ryan refused to commit to a timeline for action "because we want to get it right."

On Monday, the Wisconsin Republican told top GOP donors that House Republicans "are going to keep getting at this thing" on health care, according to an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post.

“We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health care problem," he said.

A spokesman for Ryan confirmed the accuracy of the speaker's comments.

But Senate Republicans have all but dropped health care from their agenda, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear Tuesday.

"It is pretty obvious we were not able in the House to pass a replacement. Our Democratic friends ought to be pretty happy about that because we have the existing law in place and I think we're just gonna have to see how that works out," the Kentucky Republican told reporters.

Despite the latest display of political will to repeal Obamacare among House Republicans, it's not clear if GOP moderates and hard-liners can agree on how to go about replacing former President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a rambunctious group of hard-liners that held out against the American Health Care Act last week, told reporters the group is working to set up a meeting with the moderate "Tuesday Group" caucus on a path forward, as unlikely as it seems.

"We think there's a win-win in there," Brat said. "Once a few subgroups come together with a potential yes, boy I think it's gonna be happening."

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina and chair of the House Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday, "I think we're continuing to work in a way with some of our more moderate members and trying to find some solutions."

Others are forging ahead with their own plans. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, filed a discharge petition to force a vote on a "clean" repeal of Obamacare, a highly unusual parliamentary measure for a member of the majority party to undertake against leadership. Even if all 193 Democrats join Brooks’ longshot effort, another 22 Republicans would have to join Democrats to force a vote -- which is highly unlikely given their perception of repeal as a poison pill.

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John Roca/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A top government watchdog plans to review security procedures at President Trump's exclusive Mar-a-Lago club and whether the U.S. Treasury has received payments from profits at Trump's hotels, according to a letter released by congressional Democrats.

In a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency tasked with examining how the government spends taxpayer dollars, announced plans to investigate how classified information is protected when Trump is off White House grounds, and whether a secure space has been established at Mar-a-Lago for reviewing classified materials.

Warren and other Democrats, including Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, requested a GAO investigation last month after reports suggested that Trump discussed national security in front of the club’s dinner guests following a North Korean ballistic missile test.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer pushed back on the reports, telling reporters Trump was reviewing “logistics” for his upcoming press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who Trump hosted at the club on Saturday, Feb. 11. Other dinner guests posted pictures of the group reviewing documents to social media.

In the letter to members of Congress, the GAO also said it would review security screening measures for guests at Mar-a-Lago, how much it costs the Secret Service and Department of Defense to protect Trump in Palm Beach, and whether the president is sending any profits associated with his hotels to the U.S. Treasury.

Trump had promised to donate hotel profits to the Treasury before taking office.

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NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Over the last week, California Rep. Devin Nunes has been in the national spotlight for his actions as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

It was revealed Monday that Nunes was on White House grounds March 21 reviewing information pertaining to what he said was the legal, “incidental” collection of surveillance on President Donald Trump’s associates, and possibly Trump himself, one day before he held an impromptu news conference announcing his findings and then briefed the president.

Now, Democrats -- including the ranking member on the intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California -- are calling for Nunes’ recusal from the committee’s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Nunes said Tuesday he won't step aside.

Here a look at the man leading the House Intelligence Committee:

Age: 43 (Born Oct. 1, 1973)

Family: Nunes and his wife, Elizabeth, have three daughters -- Margaret, Evelyn and Julia. He and his family live in Tulare, California.

Education: Nunes holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and a master’s degree in agriculture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Life before Congress: Born and raised in California, Nunes worked on his family’s farm and raised cattle as a teen.

Before running for Congress, Nunes was appointed the California state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section by President George W. Bush in 2001.

What he does now:

Nunes currently represents California’s 22nd congressional district, which includes part of Tulare and Fresno counties.

First elected in 2002, Nunes has been serving in the House of Representatives for over 14 years.

Besides chairing the House Intelligence Committee, he also sits on the Committee on Ways and Means.

He also made headlines two years for taking on the Department of Defense regarding the building of an intelligence base in Azores, Portugal. He accused the department of misleading Congress members about the cost of building the intelligence center on the island, and the department fired back, accusing Nunes of being motivated by his ties to the Azores, a group of islands that are part of Portugal, and the Portuguese government. Nunes' family is from the Azores, according to his biography on his website.

Chairing the House Intelligence Committee:

Nunes joined the House Intelligence Committee in 2011 and was appointed chairman by then-House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

As one of the “Gang of Eight,” Nunes is privy to top secret intelligence reports and classified information.

The committee announced on Jan. 25 that it would launch a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s cyberattacks against the U.S., any intelligence regarding links between the Russian government and campaign individuals, and any possible leaks of classified information.

His relationship with Trump:

During the 2016 primaries, Nunes withheld his endorsement of any particular candidate because he said as House Intelligence Committee chair, he wanted to remain neutral and brief all the candidates.

After Trump clinched the GOP nomination, Nunes came out in support of Trump and organized a fundraiser for the Republican nominee in August 2016.

Nunes was named to the executive committee of Trump’s transition team on Nov. 11, 2016. During the transition phase, he advised Trump on his Cabinet nominees and other top positions within the incoming administration. According to McClatchy, Nunes suggested Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary.

Nunes has been largely supportive of Trump.

However, on Dec. 9, 2015, then-candidate Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of all Muslim entry into the U.S., and the day after, Nunes told reporters that he wasn't going to involve himself in the presidential race, but added, “I don’t think that ISIS has any trouble recruiting, but the comments clearly are not helpful.”

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump made a trip to the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday to sign an executive order that initiates a review of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan and unravels a handful of other energy orders and memorandums instituted by his predecessor.

Flanked by coal miners, Vice President Mike Pence and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Trump signed the "Energy Independence Executive Order," declaring the effort is "all about bringing back our jobs."

The Clean Power Plan caps the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted from power plants. The White House argues that the regulation, and others sanctioned by former President Barack Obama, are burdensome to the American economy.

"The president’s been very clear, he’s not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the American economy at risk," said a senior Trump administration official Monday evening. Asked whether climate change poses its own long-term threat to the economy, the official said he was not familiar with research drawing such a conclusion.

A widely-cited 2006 study on the economics of climate change by Nicholas Brown, the former Chief Economist at the World Bank, surmises that inaction on the issue and its effect on "access to water, food production, health, and the environment" could result in the "equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever." Brown notes that "estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more."

The White House official made the case that the previous administration "devalued American workers" with its energy policies and that the Trump administration seeks to put the interests of American worker front and center.

"[The president] believes that we can serve the twin goals of protecting the environment -- providing clean air, clean water, getting EPA back to its core mission, while at the same time ... [protecting] energy production in the U.S.," the official said.

Upon the Clean Power Plan's signing in 2015, President Obama called it "the biggest, most important step we have ever taken to combat climate change," but the law isn't currently enforced. In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the law pending judicial review.

Attorneys general from 28 states -- led by EPA Administrator Pruitt, then Oklahoma's attorney general -- claimed in a joint complaint that the plan presents too broad an interpretation of the 1963 Clean Air Act, originally designed to restrain air pollution across the country.

One group in particular that stands to benefit from the relaxing of power plant emissions limits: coal miners.

"We love our coal miners, great people," the president said at the signing of the executive order Tuesday. "I made them this promise: we will put our miners back to work."

"Today, I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal," Trump said.

Trump added, "We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal."

The new order specifically rescinds an Obama-era coal moratorium and orders a review of regulations affecting methane.

But some in the coal industry are uncertain that scrapping the Clean Power Plan will have any positive effect on coal industry jobs, which have steadily declined over the last three decades -- cut in half from more than 186,000 to more than 98,000 between 1985 and 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"I think to err on the side of caution is always very worthy and for [President Trump] not to over promise," Bill Raney, president of West Virginia Friends of Coal told ABC News. Raney was encouraged by Trump's embrace of the coal industry but cautioned, "No one has a feel for what the numbers are going to be."

Tuesday's executive order does not address the Paris Agreement, a 2015 United Nations plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set to go into effect in 2020, which the U.S. signed.

The official who commented upon the order said the administration's stance on the Paris Agreement is still under discussion.

Exactly how the Clean Power Plan will affect the Paris Climate Agreement is "unknowable," Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard University told ABC News.

"As a formal matter, we cannot really withdraw from Paris for about two years," said Lazarus.

He said that rolling back the Clean Power Plan "affects our standing in the world as a leader in climate change issues and we’ll have to see what the other countries do," adding that China might welcome the United States’ withdrawal since it would provide them an opportunity to lead the global issue and take the charge on clean technology innovations.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Less than three weeks after resuming, the State Department has once again stopped holding press briefings while the agency searches for a new spokesperson.

For at least two weeks, officials at the State Department will not hold a public briefing, according to officials with the department. After that, it is unclear if briefings will resume immediately and what form they will take. In the meantime, the State Department have been briefing reporters on background only, which means officials cannot be quoted by name in any news stories.

The briefings, traditionally televised daily, have been a fixture since the Eisenhower administration, and are watched closely in Washington, D.C., and around the world for guidance on the United States' foreign policy and reaction to world events.

The State Department did not hold briefings for its first six and a half weeks after Trump took office. Once it did, the department eschewed tradition and held only four each week, two on camera and two over the phone.

Mark Toner, a career foreign service officer who often briefed reporters under the Obama administration, stayed on as acting spokesperson when Trump took office. But now, Toner is transitioning to a new assignment, with no announced replacement.

Fox News anchor Heather Nauert was in talks to come on board and was being vetted, a source told ABC News earlier this month. A State Department official would only confirm this week that a new spokesperson is in the process of being vetted and approved.

Whoever is behind the podium will be speaking on behalf of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has avoided the press and expressed his desire to stay out of the spotlight, drawing a barrage of criticism citing the importance of public diplomacy and advocating for transparency and press access.

Since he was sworn in on Feb. 1, Tillerson has so far only granted one interview, with a reporter from the conservative site Independent Journal Review who was also the only journalist allowed to travel with the secretary on his trip to Asia earlier this month.

On other past trips, the State Department has limited the number of reporters on the secretary’s plane to just a pool reporter -- a journalist there on behalf of all news organizations who shares their reporting.

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US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday reiterated his solidarity with Rep. Devin Nunes, saying the House Intelligence Committee chairman should not recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

When asked Tuesday whether he thought Nunes, R-Calif., should recuse himself and whether he knows the source of Nunes' information on alleged incidental collection of information from the Trump presidential campaign, Ryan said simply, "No and no."

Nunes, asked by reporters Tuesday whether he plans to step down, responded incredulously.

"I'd like to know, first, what the purpose of [a recusal] would be; why that would be," he said. "Because someone asks? I mean that's not how ... decisions are made."

Asked whether the investigation will continue with him as chairman, Nunes replied, "Why would it not?"

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