Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images(HELSINKI, Finland) -- Publicly, President Trump has said that he's been preparing for this summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin his whole life, while admitting at NATO that he expects "just a loose meeting."
But privately, a State Department official and a source familiar with preparations says summit planning was so rushed that the No. 2s at the major departments -- like State, Defense and Treasury -- did not convene specifically on this summit through the National Security Council.
By comparison, there were multiple deputy NSC meetings to prepare for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.
The State Department official compared the lack of preparation to the G-7 summit last month, when the U.S. was unable to agree on a communique with allies.
Unlike Singapore, where Trump met Kim, there is no expectation that a document will be produced from this summit.
Russian Ambassador Jon Huntsman said recently that the meeting itself is a deliverable.
This meeting is so informal that it's being described as a "getting to know you."
The White House is telling reporters to stop calling it a summit. Instead, officials describe it as a meeting, even though the White House originally used the term summit.
President Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki Monday in the long-anticipated summit. The meeting comes against the backdrop of Trump feuding with European allies, 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted stemming from the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election, and Democrats back home calling for Trump to cancel the meeting.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the news media and Democrats won't be satisfied with any outcome of the summit.
"Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all the sins and evils committed by Russia...over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough - that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" the president tweeted. "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems...know how to do is resist and obstruct."
Meanwhile, administration officials have told European allies not to expect any "major surprises."
Still, with the unpredictability of both leaders, unexpected developments are still possible.
A National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that since President Donald Trump has "believed" President Vladimir Putin's denials that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, it "belies common sense" that Trump "is going to sit down across from Putin and press him hard on the issue of Russian meddling."
"He has already said that he has asked Putin about meddling," Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said of Trump on Sunday in an interview on This Week. "Putin told him he didn't do it, and he believed him. And so it just belies common sense that the president of the United States, this president, is going to sit down across from Putin and press him hard on the issue of Russian meddling."
Murphy was responding to an earlier interview with John Bolton, in which the national security adviser told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that the latest special counsel indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for meddling in the 2016 election actually "strengthens" the president's hand ahead of his Monday summit with Putin in Helsinki.
"I'd like to know the name of the president that John Bolton thinks he works for, because he's not describing President Trump -- President Trump went on TV after the indictment was issued and called the investigation once again a hoax," Murphy said. "He knows that he benefited from it, he asked them to do it, and he knows that he still stands to benefit."
Murphy added that U.S. intelligence services have said that Russia is still trying to interfere in U.S. elections.
"What I believe is that President Trump knows ultimately knows that could accrue to his benefit and to his party's benefit. He is simply not going to raise this issue as strongly as he should, if at all, with Putin, which is why many of us think that this summit should stand down," he told Karl on This Week.
The summit comes just days after special counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment charging 12 Russian intelligence officers for conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The indictment alleges that named defendants worked in the GRU, Russia's intelligence body, and specifically took part in a sustained effort to hack into the networks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Murphy said that Trump needs to approach Congress and "ask for more funds to stand up electoral defenses."
"He's done none of that," Murphy told Karl. "We have had to essentially bludgeon the president into issuing sanctions, and the Congress has had to appropriate money to try to shore up our electoral defenses."
Murphy also was critical of Trump's recent NATO visit. The president has been critical of the amount members of the alliance are have been spending. An agreement in 2014 stated that the member nations would move toward each committing 2 percent GDP to defense spending by 2024.
"It is an important issue, but let's remember the percentage of your budget dedicated defense is not the sum total of your participation in the alliance," Murphy said.
"But our allies can pull more of their weight here, can’t they?" asked Karl.
"They certainly can, but so can we," responded Murphy, adding that the U.S. is "not picking up our share of the burden" with the refugee crisis in the Middle East.
"But let's be clear, NATO today is arguably functionally obsolete," Murphy said. "Do you really believe that if the Europeans were attacked in the Baltic States, for instance by Russia, that President Trump would leap to their defense?"
Under Article 5, the NATO treaty states that if one member nation is attacked, it's an attack on all member nations, and that nations will defend each other. It's a commitment to solidarity within the alliance. Article 5 was invoked after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
"It's always going to be a political decision as to whether you actually enforce Article 5, and I think that there is a very important question today as to whether President Trump would actually stand up for Article 5," Murphy said. "I think NATO is just trying to survive the next two-and-a-half years by saying these nice things about the state of the alliance so that it's still there when Trump's gone."
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The former chair of the Democratic National Committee responded to the latest special counsel indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking into the DNC's server during the 2016 presidential campaign by calling on President Donald Trump to "confront" Vladimir Putin about the allegations at their summit Monday.
"First of all, it is finally acknowledged that the hacking was a crime," Donna Brazile said of the indictment on the This Week roundtable. "At the time of the hacking, no one believed us. We didn't have anyone to come to our defense."
"When the country was under attack, the DNC was under attack, the DCCC and the Clinton campaign," said Brazile, who took over as interim chair of the DNC in the summer of 2016 after the first hacking and leak of DNC emails forced the resignation of former DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "So here's what I'd like to say to the president: Confront Mr. Putin. Give him this document. Let him know that the United States will not tolerate another hacking of our elections."
"The most important thing now is that we know there are several witches, not some 400-pound guy sitting on the bed," Brazile added. "The president needs to acknowledge this and realize that he needs to protect and defend our democracy. The Russians took our emails, took our data and they could still use that information to try to sow discord and to try to damage our democratic institutions."
The special counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment Friday charging 12 Russian intelligence officers with conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The indictment alleges that the dozen Russians worked in the GRU, Russia's intelligence body. The named defendants are specifically alleged to have taken part in a sustained effort to hack into the networks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
In an excerpt from an interview with Trump with CBS News' Jeff Glor, the president said the DNC was to blame for the hacking.
"I heard that they were trying or people were trying to hack into the RNC too, the Republican National Committee, but we had much better defenses. I've been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses so they couldn't," said Trump, who later conceded he "may be wrong" about Republican servers having better defense mechanisms in place.
"I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked," Trump added. "They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked."
"President Trump this morning said that the Democratic party should be ashamed of itself," Brazile responded on "This Week." "Well, my response to the president is that there was no way we could go to Staples or Best Buy or Office Depot or OfficeMax to buy anti-GRU military intelligence software to protect and defend ourselves."
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Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Vladimir Putin prepares to meet President Donald Trump Monday in Finland, in Moscow the first summit between the two men is widely seen as tilted in the Russian president's favor -- an opportunity for him to rebalance relations with the U.S. and break out somewhat from the isolation imposed on his nation since invading Ukraine in 2014.
The summit has sparked unusual predictions, in part because of an agenda that in some ways focuses on everything and nothing. No major, concrete outcomes are expected, but many in the U.S. and Europe have been nonetheless attributing epochal significance to the meeting, arguing it could mark the beginning of the end of the Western security order and the eventual unraveling of NATO.
Now added to that, the 12 new indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller against Russian intelligence agents for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have ignited a political storm at home as Trump meets with the man accused of ordering the operation.
The result is that the summit itself has been described as a win for Putin, with the risks disproportionately on the American side. In Moscow, many experts agree that the summit is a win-win for Putin, with things to gain and very little to lose, but they also said warnings and predictions emanating from Europe and the U.S. are overblown.
"Unlike what many assume in the West -- that Putin is sitting and laughing and expecting NATO to collapse -- it's not the case," said Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, who sometimes advises the government.
Trump='s rancorous NATO summit in Brussels this week, where reports surfaced that he'd warned the U.S. could "go it alone" if allies didn't contribute more, sparked dire warnings that the alliance's foundations were weakening.
But Russian observers see the drama around NATO more as political theater and an internal squabble than as something profoundly affecting Russia -- not least because ultimately Trump is pushing for a better-funded NATO.
"I think the perception here, widespread among both politicians and experts, is that the West will survive, NATO will survive," Lukyanov said. "There might be a lot of internal quarreling. "But, in general, no one expects this community to disappear."
Instead, experts said, the most realistic win for the Kremlin is restoring more-normal relations with the U.S., portraying Russia as turning a corner following its 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. The priority for the Russian side will be restore regular communication channels with the U.S. government that were effectively cut off by the Obama administration. For the past four years, those have been mostly frozen except for occasional talks between top-level officials and communications between the two countries' militaries to prevent clashes over Syria.
In Moscow, some believe there is a desire to break out of that.
"Helsinki will mark the first détente in the four-year-old Hybrid War between Russia and the United States," Dmitry Trenin, the influential director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote this week.
Trenin, like many experts and officials in Moscow and Washington, believes Russia and the U.S. have effectively been in conflict for four years, but in a conflict fought with unconventional means -— cyber-attacks, propaganda, espionage and economic sanctions, as well as through a proxy war in Syria.
The conflict has been compared to the Cold War, but some observers warn it currently lacks the diplomatic guardrails and understandings that managed that confrontation. Some experts therefore see Helsinki as set to play the role it did during the Cold War, as a place where U.S. and Russian leaders can bring down tensions in a longterm confrontation that's threatened to get out of control, producing a 21st-century detente for this 21st-century conflict.
"Make no mistake: U.S.-Russian relations will not be miraculously transformed as a result," Trenin wrote. "The Hybrid War will continue. But some rules will be laid down, and a measure of dialogue will be taking place."
Russian officials have been candid about re-establishing communication as a priority for the summit. On Saturday, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said, "Ideally, we would like to agree on the restoration of communication channels on all the difficult questions where our positions diverge."
"Success would be if we start to communicate normally," he said.
John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, has justified the summit on similar grounds, saying the two powers ought to be talking to one another.
The Kremlin is not aiming at friendly relations, experts said, but at a more realistic lowering of tensions, where they play less of a role in the relationship with Washington.
"There will be no major breakthrough. President Putin regards a meeting with the U.S. president not as a reward but as a resumption of normal business," Trenin wrote.
Officials and foreign policy experts in Europe and the U.S., however, believe that restoring normal ties though would reward the Kremlin when it has not changed its behavior -— more of a capitulation rather than a de-escalation.
But even among those advocating for Russia's continued isolation, many say more communication is desirable, particularly around nuclear arms control.
The Kremlin has also signalled it hopes the summit can help start building stronger economic ties to the U.S., with an aide to Putin telling reporters this week the Russian president will put some specific economic proposals to Trump. Syria also has been suggested as an area for renewed agreement despite Russian-backed offensives there that have violated the de-escalation zones previously agreed on by the U.S. and Russia.
Putin may well also coax Trump on his hints that he considers Crimea should be viewed as Russian, although it will be aware that Trump's ability to formally recognize Russia's annexation is limited given Congress has legislated never to do so.
Therefore the menu of potential benefits for Putin from the summit is broad even if expectations in Moscow remain restrained. The risks are largely on the U.S. side, Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council that has links with Russia's foreign ministry.
"There is a risk that Trump will promise something not quite so, or do something not quite so. Naturally, Trump needed to invest more political capital in this meeting," Kortunov said.
Potentially throwing a wrench into any detente, however, are new special counsel indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence hackers that lay out how they allegedly meddled in the 2016 election. The indictments have reignited a blaze under an issue that Trump already was under pressure to raise.
Russia, again, has already denied any involvement. Its foreign ministry denounced the indictments in typically florid tones, with Lavrov saying the investigation provides "no facts." Putin appears certain to repeat the same when he meets Trump.
Sticking with its blanket denial, the Kremlin sees election meddling as a distraction from its goals at the summit, even as it has become a political priority in the U.S.
U.S. officials have suggested Trump will push for a guarantee that Russia will leave the November midterms alone. Trenin suggested that with little real reason to target the vote, it could be a concession Putin is happy to make.
But the uproar in the U.S. around the indictments underlines why some observers in Moscow are skeptical over how long-lasting any possible détente from the summit can be.
"Remember what happened a year ago after their first negotiation," Lukyankov said. "The situation deteriorated abruptly and dramatically."
Their first full summit may bring down tensions briefly, he said, “but the temperature will be up again after, I don't know, two weeks' time."
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Sean Gallup/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's top national security adviser said he finds it "hard to believe" Vladimir Putin didn't know about top Russian military intelligence officials' extensive efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- efforts the Russian president has repeatedly denied were state sponsored.
In an interview for This Week on Sunday, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, "Do you have any doubt that Putin himself knew what was going on, at the very least?"
Bolton said that when he met with Putin in Moscow at the end of June to prepare for the Trump-Putin summit, the Russian president "made it plain that he said the Russian state was not involved," adding, "he was very clear with his translator that that's the word that he wanted."
"Now," Bolton added, "we'll have to see given that these are allegations concerning GRU agents obviously part of the Russian state, what he says about it now."
Trump is set to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday. The summit was first announced June 27 after Bolton met with Putin and other senior Russian officials in Moscow.
The summit is scheduled for just days after special counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment Friday charging 12 Russian intelligence officers for conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The indictment alleges that the dozen Russians worked in the GRU, Russia's intelligence body. The named defendants are specifically alleged to have taken part in a sustained effort to hack into the networks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen the investigation since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, announced the charges in a press conference on Friday, saying that while there were Americans who corresponded with these officers, none of them appear to have known they were corresponding with members of the Russian government. Rosenstein said he had briefed the president "earlier this week" on the charges.
"Is there any way," Karl pressed Bolton on This Week, "that we could have 12 officials, some of them quite senior in Russian military intelligence, carry out an operation to undermine a U.S. presidential election and Putin himself would not know? Do you find that in any way credible?"
"I find it hard to believe," Bolton responded. "But that's what one of the purposes of this meeting is, so the president can see eye to eye with President Putin and ask him about it."
Karl asked Bolton if Trump felt "blindsided or undermined by the timing of that indictment," and Bolton replied that it actually "strengthened" Trump's hand.
"The president was briefed on the indictment coming," Bolton said. "I spoke with him about it. He was perfectly prepared to have it come before the meeting with Putin. I would say, in fact, it strengthens his hand ... I think the president can put this on the table and say, 'This is a serious matter that we need to talk about.'"
"If Putin is unwilling to acknowledge the Russian state's effort to interfere in our elections," Karl asked, "can you really trust him on anything else?"
"I think the president will handle this as he chooses," Bolton said. "I think he'll put it to President Putin. He said he's going to do that. He'll listen to President Putin's response, and we'll go from there."
Karl pressed: "Well, let me ask you as the national security adviser to the president: Do you think that President Trump should trust Vladimir Putin?"
"Look," Bolton replied, "I've said this before, I'll say it again: I'm the national security adviser, not the national security decision maker. It's a privilege to give my advice to the president. I don't discuss it publicly. He's going to make the decision how to handle this."
Karl asked Bolton how concerned he was that Russia would again try to undermine a U.S. election.
"Well, I think we're quite concerned about it," Bolton said. "There's a lot of -- a lot of things going on -- that we can't talk about because they're classified, and obviously you're not going to alert your adversaries or those trying to corrupt the election process to what we're doing.
"But I think it's very clear that the president's determined we're not going to have any outsider interfere with the integrity of our electoral process."
Asked if Trump would present Putin "with the evidence that it was ... Russian government interference with our election," Bolton said the Russians were "well aware" of the Mueller indictments.
"We're not looking for concrete deliverables here," Bolton said. "It's very important that the president have a direct, one-on-one conversation with President Putin. That's how this is going to start off."
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy immediately set off a rush of political jockeying ahead of what promises to be a lengthy and contentious confirmation battle.
The most immediate target for Republicans included a familiar list of names, including North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. This week the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) labeled Heitkamp as "hiding Heidi," saying the senator "is either going to have to vote to support" President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, or "kiss her Senate seat goodbye."
Heitkamp, who in 2017 along with three other moderate Democrats voted to confirm Neil Gorusch, Trump's first nominee for the Supreme Court, has struck a cautious tone in the wake of Kennedy's retirement, saying she is preparing to "thoroughly review" Kavanaugh's record.
The rhetorical battle is familiar, and Republicans are quick to pin similar labels on a particular set of Democrats that are at the center of the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.
They are the group of 10 Democratic senators running for re-election in states that Donald Trump won in the 2016 presidential election over Hillary Clinton, and while the states they hail from are all colored by various cultural, economic and political differences, they are nonetheless tied inextricably together as they seek political survival in the coming November midterm election.
The list of 10 includes: Heitkamp, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jon Tester of Montana. Those six men and four women span a unique swath of Democratic politics, are hyper-aware of their political brand and connection with voters in their home state and have navigated the treacherous and chaotic nature of the Trump presidency in distinct ways.
The Supreme Court battle is indicative of the larger dilemma facing these "Red State Democrats." Will personal branding and a focus on bread and butter issues like health care and trade be enough to give them the political room to maneuver around the negative assumptions some voters in their state, many of whom voted for Donald Trump, to win re-election in 2018.
When it comes to the Supreme Court, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's comments that Senate Democrats "understand it's an historic decision," and "about more than the next election," comments starkly underscore the conundrum these Democrats face.
"Even Sen. Dick Durbin said he was fine with his 2018 colleagues losing re-election just to obstruct President Trump," said Katie Martin, the Communications Director of the NRSC, "The dysfunction within the Democratic Party is on full display with this vote."
Part of the answer to how Democrats are straddling that difficult line lies in how these senators have voted on various pieces of legislation in the Trump era.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Baldwin votes in line with a Trump position just 21.9 percent of the time, the lowest number of the group, while Manchin votes in line with Trump 60.8 percent of the time, the highest. Within that range exist this group of ten Democrats on which the control of the U.S. Senate rests.
At a time when the Democratic Party is grappling with a battle between its progressive and establishment wings, these ten Democrats represent a key cross-section of the Democratic Party.
Most speak of a desire to work with President Trump when it benefits their state and vociferously oppose him when they believe he acts against their constituents interests. ABC News reached out to each of the ten campaigns to ask how they believe the fact that President Trump won their state affects how they're approaching 2018.
Not all campaigns directly responses to ABC News' request, but a thorough look at each individual reveals important similarities and differences across this pivotal group.
The firm liberals
It should come as no surprise that of the ten Democrats that align more traditionally with the party's left flank, all represent states where Trump's margin of victory was especially tight in 2016. The Rust Belt was key to Trump's victory in 2016, and an average of the margins of victory for Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin comes to just 0.8 percent. Ohio, where Trump scored an over 8-point win in 2016, is a slight exception to that rule, even if he was barely able to crack 50 percent of the total vote in the state.
Sens. Baldwin, Brown, Casey and Stabenow have all maintained solidly liberal voting records during the first years of the Trump presidency, opposing most major cabinet and judicial nominees that Trump has put forward, and speaking out strongly against the GOP tax plan and healthcare overhaul.
But that is not to say these senators don't also attempt to seek out common ground with Trump to court certain voter groups they know they will need to form a winning coalition in November.
Brown, the gravelly voiced longtime staple in Ohio politics, is quick to point out that he and President Trump strike a similar tune on trade. Brown voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, and opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership championed by President Barack Obama, two votes his campaign provides as evidence that he is willing to break with his own party on certain issues.
"Sherrod has led the fight against unfair trade deals that have hurt Ohio’s economy and eliminated good-paying American jobs," Brown's campaign Press Secretary Rachel Petri told ABC News, "He's been consistent that he'll work with anyone when it's right for Ohio, but he'll stand up to either party when their policies hurt workers and families."
Brown's rhetoric on tariffs and China's "cheating" is often not that far off from the frustration often vented by Trump on social media.
It is indeed in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan where a winning coalition of energized Clinton-voters and disillusioned Trump voters could save these incumbents from defeat in 2018.
"In Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or even Ohio, you probably have to win some Trump voters but you don’t necessarily have to win Trump approvers -- a subtle but important difference," said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
"Between Trump’s relatively mediocre approval in a lot of these states, and the fact that you do have some legitimate Trump Democrats who are probably going to come home, at least for 2018, plus all the Clinton voters in the state, that provides a pretty decent base for a number of these senators," Kondik added, with the caveat that Manchin, Heitkamp and Tester do not face the same type of political environment in their races.
In the Badger State, Baldwin's hopes largely rest on a unique set of 13 counties that voted for Trump for president in 2016, Scott Walker for governor in 2014 but broke for both Baldwin and Barack Obama in 2012. Peppered across the state, these mostly rural counties are where Baldwin hopes to focus her "Buy American" message and tap into the same strain of economic populism that enabled Donald Trump to become the first Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Casey, the son of a former governor, is known as a more pro-life member of the Democratic caucus but votes the Trump line just 29.7 percent of the time. But running against the ardently pro-Trump Congressman Lou Barletta this cycle has afforded Casey a degree of room to maneuver politically in a way he likely would not have in a midterm cycle with a relatively unpopular Republican that narrowly won his home state occupying the White House.
Earlier this week, Casey came out against Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court before it was announced that Kavanaugh was the pick. In a statement Casey struck a populist tone, decrying "corporate America," and "Washington special interests" he says were behind the process.
"I was elected to represent all Pennsylvanians. I was not elected to genuflect to the hard Right, who are funded by corporate America," Casey said.
Occupying a relative middle ground within the Democratic caucus are three Senators with varying odds for re-election and some progressive bona fides: Nelson, McCaskill and Tester.
While all three are a bit less locked into the Democratic line, they vote with Democrats most of the time. Nelson, McCaskill and Tester all held firm with Democrats on immigration, taxes and the Affordable Care Act.
The three Senators voted to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act, a key liberal financial reform, and have voted to confirm some of Trump’s cabinet nominees, including Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Nelson was one of six Democratic Senators to vote in favor of confirming Gina Haspel as CIA Director, despite Democratic objections to her involvement in CIA “black sites.”
Nevertheless, all three are not afraid of taking more progressive stands on issues and running on their liberal records.
In her race in Missouri, McCaskill has vocally defended the Affordable Care Act and its provision that protects insurers from rejecting coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Her opponent, Josh Hawley, is participating in a pending lawsuit challenging the provision in his capacity as the state’s Attorney General.
McCaskill has been emphasizing her ability to work hard for Missouri in the Senate in her campaign, putting out a campaign ad that highlighted the fifty town hall meetings she held with constituents last year. The Senator has also been driving across the state on an RV tour to engage with constituents. McCaskill came under fire for the tour, however, as she ultimately admitted that she had used a private plane during part of her tour.
In Montana, Tester sells his lifelong ties to Montana to contrast with his opponent Matt Rosendale, who grew up in Maryland. Tester has also shown a willingness to incorporate progressive rhetoric into his campaign, aligning himself strongly with local unions and defending a woman’s right to choose on abortion.
Despite his progressive credentials, Tester has packaged his policies in a way that appeals in a Republican-leaning state like Montana. On reproductive health issues, Tester has framed his support for abortion rights as a small-government issue.
Nelson has been relatively quiet so far in his re-election bid against Republican Governor Rick Scott. Nelson, a former NASA astronaut and fifth-generation Floridian, is vying for his fourth term but has kept a low profile. Nevertheless, Nelson is accumulating campaign money as he is currently sitting on over $10 million in funds. Scott is putting pressure on Nelson, however, accumulating record-breaking fundraising hauls. Nelson will likely step up his campaign efforts as the election draws nearer.
In the campaigning Nelson has already done, he has relied on his astronaut background as a representation of how he looks beyond political decisions in his role as a Senator, incorporating it into an ad he released in May.
"When I looked back at our planet," Nelson says as dramatic music plays over shots of the space shuttle, "I didn't see political divisions. I saw how we're all in this together, bound by timeless values we all share."
These three senators are relatively unlikely to join Republicans in confirming Kavanaugh, as all three voted against Gorsuch’s confirmation last year. Nelson has already said publicly before the announcement of Kavanaugh that he expects to vote against a Supreme Court nominee Trump puts out.
The true moderates
In this group are three particularly moderate and particularly vulnerable Democrats: Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly. These three Democrats are among the most conservative in their caucus, voting with Trump over 50 percent of the time.
All three voted to confirm most of Trump’s cabinet nominees and even voted for some conservative measures. Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly all voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch last year and for the Republican “sanctuary cities” immigration bill, while the latter two joined Senate Republicans in favor of a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks.
Despite these votes straying from the Democratic line, all three held firm in opposing the tax bill Republicans passed last year as well as the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
For these three Democrats, the message to voters is that they are independent voices willing to work with anyone who will help put their state first. All three have taken a range of stances that would cater to local voters, with Manchin backing efforts to revive West Virginia’s struggling coal industry, and both Heitkamp and Donnelly touting their support for the Farm Bill and opposition to Trump’s tariffs in their farm-heavy states.
When running as Democrats in states where the national Democratic brand turns off voters, these Senators emphasize their local ties and try to project a personality that voters are attracted to.
In North Dakota, Heitkamp’s campaign messaging has played to her background as a born-and-bred North Dakotan and a member of a prominent in-state family, something that plays well in an environment where voters look for a candidate who both looks out for local interests and play up their local roots, according to Mark Jendrysik, a political science professor at the University of North Dakota.
“Senator Heitkamp is an interesting phenomenon. She is in many ways a unique individual in state politics. She sold herself as an independent, not beholden to party orthodoxy,” Jendrysik said. “North Dakotans are aggressively humble. She really has worked that angle-- not dour, but definitely serious, focused, attached to the soil, grown up here.”
The face-to-face, retail politicking aspect of the race is something that Manchin is also leaning into in his race in West Virginia. Manchin has positioned himself as a both a proud independent and a proud West Virginian in his campaign.
“People here have been screwed by both political parties,” Manchin proclaimed in an ad launched in April. Turning to his local roots, Manchin added, ”Yes, Washington sucks, but West Virginians don’t give up.”
Patrick Hickey, a political science professor at the University of West Virginia, sees Manchin’s branding as a double-edged sword.
“People are looking for an authentic personality who is not a politician. It both helps and hurts Manchin in this race. Manchin has built a brand as an independent person. People like him as a person and like this independent brand, but he’s a career politician-- but so is his opponent,” he said.
In an effort to leverage Trump’s relatively high approval ratings Republican candidates in these states have sought to counter all three by turning social issues, particularly abortion and its ties to the upcoming confirmation vote of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, into parts of their campaign.
Manchin's opponent, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, encouraged his supporters this week to sign a petition urging Manchin to back Kavanaugh's nomination, referencing President Trump's 2016 margin of victory in his pitch to supporters.
"West Virginia voters were clear in 2016 when they overwhelmingly elected President Trump by more than 40 points," Morrisey said Wednesday, "They have an opportunity to remind Sen. Manchin to stand with our President and a highly-qualified Supreme Court nominee."
Mike Braun, challenging Donnelly in Indiana, criticized Donnelly for not immediately announcing his support for Kavanaugh’s nomination.
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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez lavished praise on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently calling her “the future of our party.”
After the 28-year-old progressive candidate unseated House Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Joseph Crowley in an upset in New York’s 14th Congressional District, candidates across the country are looking to her for inspiration.
ABC News spoke with a few of them about their visions for the upcoming primary elections and the nation.
Running to be Michigan’s next governor, Abdul El-Sayed, 33, is a medical doctor and Rhodes Scholar who’s been endorsed by Justice Democrats, a progressive advocacy group, Our Revolution, a group borne out of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign that supports “a new generation of progressive leaders”, and Ocasio-Cortez.
“I believe a politics of working hard for economic, social, and racial justice can succeed anywhere in America. Michigan is blessed to have Abdul El-Sayed as a candidate for Governor, and I am proud to support him,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
El-Sayed said he is “deeply thankful” for the leadership and support of Ocasio-Cortez.
“@Ocasio2018 is showing us all how to do it. Thankful for her leadership, grateful for her support, and looking forward to building a more just, equitable, and sustainable America together,” he tweeted Monday after receiving Ocasio-Cortez’s official endorsement.
El-Sayed’s platform includes abolishing ICE, implementing single-payer healthcare, and free college for families making under $150,000 a year.
Running for Congress in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, Billy Kovacs is a 31-year-old small business owner who’s lived in Southern Arizona for 15 years. His platform includes abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement – a position he’s advocated “since May” – as well as implementing “common sense" gun reform measures and Medicare-for-all.
While Kovacs hasn’t directly spoken with Ocasio-Cortez, he’s been following her race along with the campaigns of fellow progressives.
“Amazing campaign and win for @Ocasio2018 tonight,” Kovacs tweeted on June 26.
Kovacs, a first-time congressional candidate, founded a Tucson-area group of restaurants and describes himself as an “on-the-ground, community organizer.”
As a self-described “6-foot-5, white male talking about a path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, Kovacs hopes to focus on appealing to millennial, Latino, and rural voters heading into the primaries.
“I put 10,000 miles on my car to drive through all of rural Cochise County and meet as many people as I possibly could,” he said. “I’m not rich. I’m grinding, and working my ass off for the vote.”
Running against 15-term Rep. Richard Neal in Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, 44, is an African-American, Muslim attorney who says her hijab makes her “easily visible as a Muslim.”
Having grown up in inner cities, Amatul-Wadud seeks to be a “voice for the voiceless and marginalized.” She’s running on a platform of promoting universal healthcare and boosting infrastructure, including “high-speed internet access for all,” which she says her district’s rural areas lack.
When asked if she supports abolishing ICE, Amatul-Wadud said she’s “in favor of adopting policies that dismantle ICE as we know it.”
“It’s easy to say ‘abolish ICE.’ But my plan is more achievable. ICE is not broken: it’s doing exactly what its mission is to do, which is to terrorize families,” she said. “We need to stop ICE from operating in public school districts and state courts.”
While she hasn’t received an endorsement from Justice Democrats or Our Revolution, Amatul-Wadud said she’s received the support of Indivisible’s national chapter and the Progressive Democrats of America, although she hasn’t had direct contact with Ocasio-Cortez.
“I’m planning to send [Ocasio-Cortez] a congratulatory letter and ask for her help in coalition-building,” she said. “My most important value is to answer the call for unity throughout my district.”
Amatul-Wadud said her district is “so diverse” and she hopes to unite constituents and “secure prosperity” for all.
The first woman of color ever elected to the Boston City Council, Pressley, 44, is being tipped as another potential Democratic primary upset.
Like Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley is taking on a 10-term incumbent in a heavily Democratic majority-minority district as she challenges incumbent Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District.
In an interview with ABC News, Pressley explained that she hopes to not only vote in line with Democrats as her opponent has, but also become a voice of advocacy, something she feels has been missing from Capuano’s tenure.
“I think this is about the party returning to its roots and who we say we are,” Pressley said. “We don’t have to trade our heart for our soul. This is not about working class white voters and everybody else. We are a big tent party. There’s an intersectionality in all of these issues and we need to act like it.”
Ocasio-Cortez gave Pressley a ringing endorsement on Twitter last week, saying, “Vote her in next, Massachusetts.”
Running against Rep. Lacy Clay in Missouri's 1st Congressional District, Bush, 41, is an African-American registered nurse, an ordained pastor, single mother, and community organizer who’s received the endorsement of Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats.
Bush told ABC News she was inspired to run for office after the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer, which sparked months-long riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
“I never wanted to be in politics. But after the murder of Michael Brown, I went out there as a medic, and organized protests and marches,” Bush said. “I didn’t see our elected officials out there when we were being beaten and shot at with tear gas and bullets.”
Bush is running on a platform of abolishing ICE, ensuring “quality affordable education,” and promoting Medicare-for-all.
After Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement, Bush said her social media platforms “went nuts” while her campaign donations “skyrocketed.”
“We didn’t have $2000 for two weeks, but the next day, we had $2000. There were so many more people noticing and believing in our race,” she said.
Bush said her support within the district “crosses all lines.”
“Everybody wants to be a part of our movement. People are excited and ignited,” she said.
Running to succeed Rep. Keith Ellison in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, Omar made history as the first Somali-American Muslim legislator elected to office in the United States. Omar, a former refugee, has run on an ardently progressive platform, joining in calls to abolish ICE, supporting a $15 minimum wage and proposing sweeping criminal justice reform.
Omar’s district has a sizable Somali-American community, with many former refugees. It’s something that Omar believes helps informs her politics.
“I have always had a very social justice bent approach to everything that I do in my life,” Omar said in an interview with ABC News. “I am a former refugee who grew up in war and understand the kind of trauma that is associated with it.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered support for Omar earlier this month, prior to Ocasio Cortez’s primary victory and Omar securing the support of the Democratic convention in her district.
Chardo Richardson, an Air Force veteran and the former president of the Central Florida Chapter of the ACLU, is running to unseat Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
Richardson said he entered the race because he was unhappy with the state of politics today.
In addition to supporting Medicare for all and the end of mass incarceration, Richardson supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, has joined calls to abolish ICE, and wants to get money out of politics. He has been endorsed by Brand New Congress, which also endorsed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I’m standing up for what I believe our country needs,” he added. “While this district is split a lot of ways...it’s gonna come down to who turns out the voters. I believe that we can turn out the voters.
Kerri Evelyn Harris
Kerri Evelyn Harris is a biracial, lesbian candidate running to unseat U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del). If elected, she would be the first openly LBGTQ woman of color in Congress.
But more than the diversity of identity that she brings to the race, Harris, a veteran who used to be an auto-mechanic, said adding “we need diversity in experience so that when legislation is written people are not left at the margins.”
Harris told ABC News she believes “part of being a legislator is inspiring your constituents to advocate for themselves.” She's joined calls to abolish ICE and was recently arrested at a protest in the Hart Senate Office Building over the issue.
In addition to calling for Medicare for all, Harris supports universal pre-K, environmental justice, and an end to mass incarceration.
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Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump will finally have his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a one-on-one that the president has been calling for since his campaign, but which many analysts worry could lead to the U.S. horse-trading with a bad actor.
The White House says the two leaders will discuss important issues in U.S.-Russian relations, and Trump till try to improve the relationship that is currently at its lowest point since the Cold War.
Indictments of Russian agents for alleged hacking and election interference. Sanctions. Diplomatic expulsions. The last few years, going back to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, have brought high tension between the U.S. and Russia.
Putin and Trump are also expected to also address global issues that have put the two countries at odds, including Ukraine, Syria, arms control, and North Korea.
"I’m not going in with high expectations, but we may come out with some surprising things," Trump said at a press conference Friday with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in England.
Here's a look at the top issues.
"Hopefully, we will have a very good relationship with Russia," Trump said at Friday's press conference as he stood beside May, whose country is still reeling after a chemical weapons attack by Russian agents in March and a possible second one this month.
This is a common refrain from Trump, who has called for better relations with Russia since he was a candidate. "We're competitors, not a question of friend or enemy. He's not my enemy. And hopefully, someday, maybe he'll be a friend," he said of Putin at NATO headquarters a week ago.
Despite his attempts to forge that friendship, U.S.-Russian relations are acrimonious. Russia forced the U.S. to draw down its diplomatic presence in the country last summer -- a delayed response to President Obama's ordering expulsions of Russian diplomats in retaliation for Moscow's interference in the 2016 election. The U.S. responded by closing the Russian consulate in San Francisco and expelling more Russians.
Congress also passed sweeping new sanctions on Russia last summer that Trump begrudgingly signed because Republicans and Democrats say the administration has not done enough to punish Russia for its election interference and deter them from acting again in the 2018 midterms.
Trump has said he will raise the issue of election interference: "I will absolutely bring up 'meddling'," he said Friday. But in the past, he has cast doubt on whether Russia, in fact, did meddle in the U.S. election, seeming to give credence to Putin's denials. Trump told reporters last November he believed Putin, only to have the White House walk that statement back afterward.
As Trump's own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, told Congress in February, Russia has not been deterred: "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations."
After the chemical attack in the U.K., the U.S. expelled more Russian diplomats and closed the Seattle consulate, with the Russians responding in kind.
While there was a working-level group between Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to address these issues, it has not met in months; Shannon has since left the State Department, with no plans for someone else to take on this role.
At the very least, Trump may come out of this summit waving a flag of truce, trying to halt the tit-for-tat downward spiral of relations and possibly improving them. But the U.S. actions have come over specific violations of international norms, including American elections, so any sanctions relief or restoration of diplomatic ties would be seen as a concession to Russia and a tacit green light for their aggression.
Nowhere is Russia's aggression more apparent than in Ukraine. Trump's State Department has spent months blasting Russia for backing, arming, and leading separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, and the administration maintains that it will never recognize Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia invaded in 2014, leading to U.S. and European sanctions. Fighting in eastern Ukraine continues after over four years, with more than 10,000 people dead.
While Trump's administration has been tough on Russia over Ukraine -- sending lethal arms to the Ukrainian government, expanding sanctions on Russians for their involvement, and supporting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the war -- Trump has expressed doubts.
He has reportedly told European leaders that Crimea should be Russia's because many of its inhabitants speak Russian, and when asked whether he would recognize Russia's annexation last Thursday, he pointed to Russia's opening a bridge to Crimea, a submarine port, "substantially added billions of dollars... What will happen with Crimea from this point on? That I can't tell you."
Even leaving the door open to Russia's land grab has unnerved allies in Europe, especially eastern Europeans who could face the same threat from Russia, as it has also invaded Georgia and Moldova.
Trump's possible recognition of Crimea could be part of a larger deal that ties into Syria. After over seven years of a horrific civil war, large swaths of Syria are starting to appear more firmly under the command of President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Russian air power and Iranian and Iranian-backed militias, although U.S.-backed groups, including the Kurds, maintain control in parts of the country.
Despite Assad's brutal tactics, including the use of chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and torture, and repeated calls by the U.S. and others for him to step down, the Trump administration, influenced by allies like Israel and the Arab states, now sees Iran as the biggest threat in Syria. Seeking an end to Iran's military presence there, which threatens those allies and regional stability, the U.S. may pursue a deal with Russia, analysts say. In exchange for Russia's kicking Iran out of Syria, Trump could recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea or draw down U.S. sanctions.
But it's not clear Russia has the capability or the interest to get Iran out, and because of sanctions imposed by Congress, Trump can no longer unilaterally end sanctions on Russia either.
Either way, the two leaders are also likely to discuss the ceasefire zone both sides agreed to in southwestern Syria last year. Negotiated with Jordan, it was heralded by the U.S. as a path forward to quell the violence in Syria and move toward peace. But in the last few weeks, the Assad regime, backed by Russian air power, has pushed into that area in open violation of the agreement. While the Trump administration has voiced concern, it has done nothing to stop the advance, shattering the agreement it held up as a success.
Arms control may be the lowest-hanging fruit on which the two leaders can reach some sort of agreement. But even that won't be easy. Trump told reporters Thursday in Brussels that he would bring up Russia's violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, and said he would like to extend New START, an agreement that limits the number of deployed nuclear weapons and creates a new inspections regime but which expires in 2021.
Trump has previously blasted that agreement as a bad deal negotiated by his predecessor. It's unclear what changed that he now wants to extend it.
The best that could be hoped for here is that out of their summit, Putin and Trump announce new talks to negotiate a follow-up agreement. The two sides last sat down in September, but a second meeting in March was canceled.
Still, the idea of nuclear talks seems to appeal to both Trump, who is looking for a win from the summit, and Putin, who wants Russia to appear as an equal to the U.S. and a nuclear superpower on the world stage.
There's no shortage of irony, however, in making an arms control agreement with Russia after it has deployed chemical weapons in the U.K. and blessed their use in Syria.
While China is North Korea's most important trading partner, Russia also has strong historic and economic ties to Pyongyang -- something the U.S. has called out over the last couple years as it has tried to tighten the noose on North Korea and demand it dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
But with the Trump administration now pushing for a diplomatic solution to North Korea's nuclear program, Russia has found itself on the outside looking in, and it wants nothing more than to be in on the game and considered an important player. That's why Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid Kim Jong Un a visit just days before his and Trump's Singapore summit.
Putin may offer to help the U.S. negotiate with North Korea, as Russia did during the Six-Party Talks under the George W. Bush administration. It's unclear how much influence Russia has with Kim, but the backing of another regional power could help push North Korea along on the road to denuclearization.
Still, what the U.S. must really be vigilant for is a push by Russia to ease sanctions on North Korea so that it can reignite economic activity. This past week, the top North Korean diplomat in Russia's far east province of Primorsky met with the region's governor, and they advocated for building a bridge across the border, expanding trade, and increasing the number of North Korean guest workers in Russia -- which would violate United Nations Security Council sanctions.
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iStock/Thinkstock(BEAVERCREEK, Ohio) -- Growing up in Beavercreek, Ohio, Aftab Pureval said he didn't have many Indian American politicians to look up to and was often discouraged by others from running for office.
“They’d tell me a brown guy named Aftab couldn’t get elected unless I changed my name to Al or Adam,” Pureval told ABC News.
Years later, Pureval, 35, won both the Democratic primary in Ohio's 1st Congressional District and the endorsement of a new political action committee, the Indian American Impact Fund, which supports Indian American political candidates.
"I started the Indian American Impact Fund to provide the infrastructure and mentorship I didn't have when I ran for office. I had to learn it all from scratch," Raj Goyle, the group's co-founder, told ABC News.
This year, nearly 100 Indian American candidates entered races for federal, state and local offices -- over twice the number who ran in 2017, according to the PAC.
Their efforts come as research shows that Asian Americans are among the nation's fastest-growing racial or ethnic groups. FiveThirtyEight, an ABC News partner, noted that a 2016 survey shows that two in five Asian-Americans did not identify as Democrats or Republicans, making them somewhat of a political enigma.
“Last year, there were at least 45 candidates who ran, and 25 won their races,” Gautam Raghavan, the group’s executive director, told ABC News, adding that the vast majority are running as Democrats this year.
Last month, the group hosted a summit for over 200 Indian American “candidates, elected officials, donors, and community leaders” in Washington, D.C., which included keynote speakers Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., whose mother is of Indian ancestry.
“It was a very inspiring gathering. Thousands of Indian Americans are politically engaged, and they were eager to meet like-minded others at the summit,” Raghavan said, adding that some of Indian American candidates may be the first to win in their states, so it’s easy for them to “feel alone” out on the campaign trail.
The group endorsed Democrats Pureval, Sri Kulkarni in Texas' 22nd Congressional District and Hiral Tipirneni in Arizona's 8th Congressional District. Pureval and Kulkarni have won their party’s nominations, while Tipirneni will compete in Arizona’s August 28 primaries.
The June summit also included remarks by Republicans and Democrats alike, including all four incumbent Indian American House members – Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
The attendees were people like Tipirneni.
“Some people jumped to a judgment and told me because I’m brown and a woman, there are two strikes against me,” Tipirneni told ABC News. “But once we got past that and started talking about the issues, we found common ground.”
A first-generation immigrant who moved to the United States from India when she was three years old, Tipirneni said her family came to the country to give her a “better life” and a “great education.”
“I’ve been able to realize my American Dream, and I’m running to help others realize theirs,” she said, adding that she was “touched” when a young Indian American girl came up to her and gave her a big hug at a campaign event in the Phoenix area.
“She was so excited and told me she wants to run for office, too,” Tipirneni said.
Tipirneni hopes that her campaign and those of fellow Indian American candidates will inspire the community to become more invested in politics.
“There are so many successful Indian Americans in the medical and science fields. But it’s short-sighted for them to think politics doesn’t matter. They need to become more involved and invested,” she said.
Pureval, whose Cincinnati-area race is being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s ‘Red to Blue’ list, said he also hopes to court younger voters.
“We have over 60 high-school and college-aged students – many of them Indian American – working on our campaign,” he said. “Some of them are taking next semester off from school to work, which their Indian American parents aren’t happy about. But the reality is that students feel compelled to work in this election cycle.”
Meanwhile, Kulkarni, who is running for a seat in Houston's suburbs, hopes to target Asian American voters who have historically not turned out in midterm elections.
“71% of Asian Americans never get messaged by either political party,” he told ABC News. “So we reached out to them in their own languages."
Kulkarni said his efforts to recruit Asian-American voters led to an 11-percent increase in the group’s primary election turnout since 2014, with an even higher turnout in the May runoff.
“There are 104 languages spoken in my district. My team speaks 13, and I speak 6. We purposely went out into mandirs and masjids to target voters,” he said, adding that he attributes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s historic Democratic primary upset in New York's 14th Congressional District to her courting of voters “who don’t usually vote.”
The Indian American Impact Fund hopes to “get [its] endorsed candidates across the finish line” this election cycle. But beyond the midterms, it aspires to help the Indian American community in myriad ways in the coming years.
“I’m looking forward to working on our poll to gauge where the Indian American community is on different issues,” Raghavan said. “And beyond that, I’m excited to help train candidates to run in 2020.”
Those efforts mean a lot to Pureval, who said he represents "an American story."
"My parents immigrated from Delhi to Beavercreek, Ohio, where I grew up,” Pureval told ABC News. “I’ve always felt a connection to my Indian ancestry and culture.”
Pureval believes it’s “extremely valuable” to have a robust “Indian American infrastructure” in place, in addition to incumbent congressional role models “from Bera to Krishnamoorthi.”
“I’m definitely standing on their shoulders,” he said.
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NPCA(ATLANTA) -- At the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site in Atlanta, water leaks are causing walls to crack and floors to warp. The damage is so bad that it forced the closing of the civil rights figure's birthplace for several months in 2016 because of the damage.
The repairs could cost as much as $14 million, according to the National Park Service.
At Yellowstone National Park, pipes carrying water and waste burst, leaking wastewater into nearby streams in some cases. The park's water systems, buildings and roads are in need of repairs that the Park Service said could cost as much as $515 million.
In Grand Canyon National Park, the only water pipeline to a village of almost 20,000 people breaks several times a year, according to the Interior Department. Trails, campgrounds and scenic overlooks also need to be updated to keep up with high attendance at the park. Repairs could cost as much as $329 million.
Hundreds of national parks around the country have roads, bridges and historic buildings desperately in need of repair.
But budget shortfalls have led the Park Service to put off or defer much of that work, creating an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog for parks across the nation, according to the Interior Department.
One national park with the greatest amount of deferred maintenance is the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Park Service estimates it needs more than $657 million to maintain memorials, sidewalks, gardens and seawalls separating the Mall from the Potomac River.
"I think the National Mall and national parks often are the first impression for international visitors that come to our country," Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., chairman of a national parks subcommittee, said at a Wednesday hearing. "The first place they go is our national parks. It's their first impression of America, and they'll see our crumbling infrastructure."
Multiple bills to provide more money for national park maintenance are working their way through Congress, with support from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has said such funding is a priority.
One of those bills in the Senate, nicknamed the Restore Our Parks Act, would direct a portion of money from energy production on federal lands to the park service specifically for addressing the backlog of maintenance.
The bill's new maintenance fund would not cover all of the backlog, but could provide 50 percent of energy revenues, up to $1.3 billion a year. The proposal also includes the option for private companies or members of the public to donate money or services to help with maintenance at national parks.
Infrastructure has been listed as a priority for the Trump administration, and Zinke worked with members of Congress to introduce a legislative fix for national parks funding. The Park Service for its part proposed significant fee increases to help pay for park maintenance, but later backed off after public feedback was mostly negative.
"Park infrastructure is about access for all Americans," Zinke said in a statement. "In order for families, children, elderly grandparents or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue; this is an American issue. And I think that the bipartisan body of lawmakers who put this bill forward is proof."
The Senate bill still needs to be voted out of committee and, if it passes, scheduled for a floor vote.
Senators were optimistic at hearing that the Restore Our Parks Act has bipartisan support, with one senator saying, "It would be great if this bill had about 98 co-sponsors."
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said that although the Senate has a busy and even partisan time ahead of it this summer, with enough bipartisan co-sponsors, the bill's supporters could convince Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it up for a vote.
A similar bill is awaiting a vote in a House committee, but that bill would put energy revenues into a deferred parks-maintenance fund only if the revenues exceed a certain target for that fiscal year. For example, under that bill, revenue from energy activities on federal land in the 2018 fiscal year would go into the national parks fund only after revenues exceeded $7.8 billion.
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Michael Schwartz/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The mercurial veteran GOP political operative, Roger Stone, has acknowledged that he is the unnamed Trump campaign regular who corresponded with Russian hackers, as described in a new indictment against a dozen Russians returned Friday by a federal grand jury.
The indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller targets 12 Russian intelligence officers for engaging in a sustained effort to hackDemocrats and aides to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. All 12 defendants are members of Russia's intelligence service, according to the court filing.
The reference to a “U.S. person” who “was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump” describes emails exchanged with alleged conspirators, who were posing as the mysterious hacker Guccifer 2.0. In the brief exchange, the hacker told the Trump ally: “Thank u for writing back…do u find anyt[h]ing in the docs i posted?’”
“Please tell me if i can help u anyhow…it would be a great pleasure to me,’” the message said. “What do u think about the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.’ The unnamed American responded, ‘pretty standard.’”
Stone said he believes the reference to that "U.S. person" in the indictment referred to him.
“As I testified before the House Intelligence Committee under oath, my 24 word exchange with someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign based on its content, context and timing,” Stone said when reached by ABC News late Friday. This exchange is entirely public and provides no evidence of collaboration or collusion with Guccifer 2.0 or anyone else in the alleged hacking of the DNC emails, as well as taking place many weeks after the events described in today’s indictment.”
The dates and content of the messages described in the indictment between the U.S. person in regular contact with senior members of Trump’s presidential campaign and Guccifer 2.0 match verbatim two screenshots Stone published on his website in March of 2017 of the direct message exchange he had with Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter in 2016.
At least seven people associated with longtime Trump friend Roger Stone have been contacted by Mueller, ABC News has determined through interviews with witnesses and others who confirmed they have been contacted.
Interest in Stone by federal investigators stems in part from his communications with Guccifer 2.0, a name used as a cover for a number of the Russians who are alleged to have hacked into DNC computers and then shared documents with the goal of hurting the Clinton campaign, sources told ABC News. Stone made statements in August of 2016 which political opponents have argued indicated he knew that Wikileaks was going to leak damaging information on Clinton before it was released.
The Mueller’s team appeared increasingly focused on whether any associates of Trump knew that the Russian government had hacked emails from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and provided them to Wikileaks during the last presidential election, according to those sources.
In announcing the indictment Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that although Americans corresponded with the indicted Russians, in this case, no Americans are accused of having knowingly conspired with Russian intelligence officers.
A self-described “dirty trickster” in American politics, Stone has taken credit for persuading President Trump to get into politics. He initially served as an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign but left amid controversy in 2015. While Trump told the Washington Post at the time that he “terminated Roger Stone...because he no longer serves a useful function for my campaign," Stone told a different story, explaining on Twitter their falling out was about political messaging.
Stone for his part has rejected any notion he was part of some grand conspiracy of collusion. When asked by ABC News in June whether he believed that Guccifer 2.0 was an operative of the Russian military intelligence, Stone denied it.
“I've written a 5,000 word piece you can see it stone cold truth that argues against that,” Stone told ABC News in an interview last month. “But even if he was, my communication with him is ex post facto it happens weeks after the WikiLeaks have already published the Democratic National Committee emails and therefore collusion would have to be, would have to be chronological.”
“Leaking after the fact,” Stone added, “impossible.”
“I think it is bad news for Roger Stone that his interaction with Guccifer 2.0 was recited in the indictment even though he was not named in the indictment,” Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor who is now at the law firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich, told ABC News on Friday.
Just because Stone wasn’t named, does not mean it would signal one way or another if he is being looked at by investigators, Epner said.
“It is standard operating procedure that the DOJ does not name people in indictments unless they are being indicted,” he said.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats are calling on President Trump to cancel his planned meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin after the Justice Department announced Friday that 12 Russian nationals had been indicted for allegedly trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
“These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Friday.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that if Trump is to proceed with the meeting, he's afraid he'd be taken advantage of by Putin.
"In going forward, there should be no one-on-one meeting between this president and Mr. Putin," Warner told reporters at the Capitol Friday. "There needs to be other Americans in the room.”
“Secondly, the president and his team are not willing to make the facts of this indictment a top priority of the meeting in Helsinki. Then, the summit should be canceled," he said.
The top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, called on Trump to demand that Putin hand over all of the alleged Russian spies indicted by the U.S., and urged the Treasury Department to immediately impose sanctions Congress has mandated on the Russian intelligence officers indicted.
“In light of today’s indictment, and if the President is going to persist in attending a summit with Vladimir Putin, he must take the forceful but necessary steps to stand up for the United States and defend our national security against the Kremlin’s campaign to undermine democracy at home and abroad," Menendez said in a statement.
So far, Republicans have not called on Trump to cancel the meeting.
But Arizona Sen. John McCain – a frequent critic of both Trump and Putin – said in a statement Friday: "If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward."
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, another frequent Trump critic, took a veiled shot at the president for his forgiving attitude towards the Russian dictator.
"The U.S. intelligence community knows that the Russian government attacked the U.S. This is not a Republican or a Democrat view – it is simply the reality. All patriotic Americans should understand that Putin is not America's friend, and he is not the President's buddy. We should stand united against Putin's past and planned future attacks against us," Sasse said in a statement.
In recent days, most Republicans have had a cautious attitude toward the highly-anticipated meeting.
“I think by and large [Putin] views the world as a zero-sum game, but he most certainly views the relationship with the United States and Russia as a zero-sum game,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Meaning that in any sort of interaction we're having with Vladimir Putin, there is no scenario in which he envisions that we both do well.”
“I would not diminish the threat that Russia continues to pose to our electoral system, our society, and our politics,” he went on. “We do have to talk to them, but we have to do so very clear-eyed and that is it is a complicated but important relationship.”
On Thursday, GOP Sen. John Cornyn told reporters on the upcoming meeting: “When you're talking it’s much better than fighting.”
But, he conceded, “I hope he goes into this clear-eyed about who he's talking to and what their intentions are, which are not to help the United States and not to help our allies.”
During a press conference with reporters on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan agreed with other Republicans that engaging with Putin is “constructive and good” but, he added: “I think we should be really clear about who we're dealing with.”
Last week, a group of Republican senators traveled to Moscow and met with Russian officials where they say they firmly warned the Russians to stop meddling in U.S. elections.
Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, a member of the delegation, told CNN Monday that he exchanged tough words with Russian officials and told them to “stop screwing with our election.”
Kennedy said he warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Congress will “double down on sanctions…if you screw with the elections this fall.”
Last year, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved tough new sanctions that targeted Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors over its interference in the 2016 election.
Trump begrudgingly signed the bipartisan bill and claimed multiple aspects of the legislation violated the Constitution.
All eyes now turn to Trump and the tone he plans to strike with the Russian dictator next week.
"We'll be talking about meddling, and I will absolutely bring this up," Trump told reporters during a press conference on Friday in England. "I will absolutely firmly ask the question."
"And hopefully we will have a very good relationship with Russia,” Trump continued.
The Helsinki meeting comes after he blasted close U.S. allies in Brussels during the NATO summit.
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Trump said in a searing critique of Germany’s gas pipeline deal with the country NATO calls its greatest threat to their alliance.
“I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where -- we're supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia," Trump said.
McCain, who remains in Arizona while he battles brain cancer, called the president’s performance “disappointing, yet ultimately unsurprising.”
Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters: “Sometimes it feels like we punch our friends in the nose and hold our hand out to people who are working strongly against us, like Russia and Putin.”
On Trump’s meeting, McCain – who has previously admonished Trump for speaking highly of Putin – said Trump should exhibit loyalty to the country he calls home, rather than to the Russians.
“The president’s task is to reverse his disturbing tendency to show America’s adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies,” McCain said. “He must show that he can be strong and tough with Vladimir Putin—not for its own sake, but to demonstrate his willingness to defend America, its allies, our shared interests, and our common values against those who threaten them.”
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price improperly used federal funds for government travel, costing taxpayers at least $341,000, according to a report released Friday morning by the HHS inspector general.
The watchdog report found that 20 of Price’s 21 official trips on private planes while in office did not adhere to federal and agency guidelines.
"Our rigorous review of former HHS Secretary Price’s use of chartered, military, and commercial aircraft found that 20 out of 21 trips did not comply with applicable Federal regulations and HHS policies and procedures, resulting in waste of at least $341,000 in Federal funds," the IG’s office spokeswoman Tesia Williams said in a statement. "We recommend the Office of the Secretary review the lack of compliance with Federal requirements and determine appropriate actions to recoup the travel costs."
Of the 21 trips reviewed, the 58-page report highlights how only one met government standards.
The other 20, including all 12 in which Price traveled on chartered aircraft, failed to meet requirements for how government officials book travel. The inquiry found that Price’s office failed to compare the costs of chartered planes with low-priced, commercial flights even when traveling between cities as close as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
According to the report, the HHS secretary’s office did not book the cheapest option among available charter flights. In one instance the office spent almost $46,000 more than a lower quoted price.
Price’s travel on commercial planes, chartered and military aircraft, and the Presidential fleet totaled about $1.2 million. Price repaid approximately $60,000 for his travel expenses in 2017 but it is still unclear as to how the remaining costs will be recovered.
The HHS IG’s office began its review of Price’s travel while he was still Secretary. During his time in office, Price faced backlash for his repeated use of expensive private planes.
On September 27, 2017, President Trump told reporters that "he didn’t like the optics" of the travel scandal surrounding Price at the time, who he referred to as a “fine man.”
Later that day, Price ended his seventh-month tenure with a resignation letter, stating that he regretted "that the recent events have created a distraction" from the Trump administration’s achievements and goals.
Price was the first cabinet secretary to leave President Trump’s cabinet, which has since lost other members due to ethical reasons.
Just last week, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt resigned after numerous reports questioning whether he abused his office or misspent agency funds, including the purchase of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for his office. Pruitt faced months of controversy and several federal investigations for his conduct.
Before being appointed HHS Secretary by President Trump, Price represented the suburbs of Atlanta as a Georgia congressman for over 10 years. He made his mark in the House by calling for fiscal discipline and responsible government spending.
HHS did not immediately respond to ABC News request for comment.
In its response to the report's recommendations the agency agreed that there was unnecessary spending related to Price's travel and that it has put new procedures and training in place so excess spending does not happen again. HHS also said that "significant" changes have taken place in how the agency handles travel, including a requirement by the Office of Management and Budget that all noncommercial travel be approved by the White House.
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Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images(WINDSOR, England) -- President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were welcomed to Windsor Castle for a special private tea with the Queen Elizabeth of England Friday afternoon.
The 92-year-old Queen, wearing a royal blue jacket and hat, stood waiting at the dais of the castle to greet the Trumps as they arrived in a Range Rover on Windsor’s historic grounds.
The president -– who often runs late -– was precisely on time for the occasion, right down to the exact minute they were scheduled to arrive.
The British Guard of Honor, wearing formal military attire of red coats with fluffy bearskin hats, saluted the Trumps and played the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the Trumps flanked the Queen.
The president walked alongside the Queen as they inspected the front rank of the Royal Guard.
The first lady –- who Trump said is a “big fan” of the Queen in an interview with the Sun -- wore a pale pink skirt suit with a thin black belt for the special occasion.
Tea with the Queen is the kind of special occasion that would make even the most famous person in the world nervous. Trump told the Sun he really “[looked] forward to meeting her.”
“If you’re a guest of hers, she will put you at her ease,” Alastair Bruce, a royal expert and ABC News consultant said. “She makes the tea herself, and she will pour him his cup of tea and they can have a jolly good gossip.”
Trump has long held a fascination with British history, traditions and royalty. He admires Sir Winston Churchill and is a casual royal watcher, sometimes commenting on tabloid royal news on Twitter.
In his book “The Art of the Comeback” Trump even said he wished that he was able to “court” Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997.
“I only have one regret in the women department -– that I never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer. I met her on a number of occasions.” Trump wrote. “I couldn’t help but notice how she moved people. She lit up the room with her charm, her presence. She was a genuine princess—a dream lady. She’ll truly be missed.”
Ahead of the tea, Trump complimented the Queen in the Sun, “I think she represents her country so well."
"If you think of it, for so many years she has represented her country, she has really never made a mistake. You don’t see, like, anything embarrassing. She is just an incredible woman.”
Trump appeared to avoid any gaffes in his introduction to the Queen this afternoon. Royal protocol calls for avoiding unitiatied physical contact with the Queen.
Trump, who loves a strong handshake or to touch the back of a person he stands next to was notably hands off.
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Kristoffer Tripplaar/For The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The 2016 presidential election is back at the top of political news today as Hillary Clinton's former campaign chairman, John Podesta, said new indictments over alleged Russian hacking of Democrats show that "crimes were "committed against the American democracy."
Podesta was responding to an announcement by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking into computer systems of the Democratic National Committee during the election.
"I think at the heart of all this has always been the fact that crimes were committed against individual Americans, including myself, but also crimes committed against the American democracy," Podesta told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Podesta's own emails were among those hacked and released publicly during the campaign.
"Donald Trump likes to describe this as a witch hunt," Podesta said, referring to Trump's attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. "Well, we just found some witches and they were indicted."
"I think this is something that people knew had happened all along, that underlying this, crimes were committed and that's why the Mueller investigation has been so important and needs to be continued in an unfettered matter," he said.
The latest indictments target 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly engaging in a sustained effort to hack networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. All 12 are members of the GRU, Russia's intelligence service.
Podesta said that the new indictments and the individuals' ties to the Russian government should prompt a stern discussion between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin when the pair meet on Monday in Helsinki.
"President Trump [is] meeting with President Putin in the next couple of days and one would hope that he would push back on the Russian president in that regard," Podesta said.
"Quite frankly I don't hold out much hope that he will take this much [more] seriously than he has during his presidency," he added.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez also reacted to the indictments, saying they make "clear just how vast this operation was." He noted that the indictments add new details, such as the Russian intelligence officers' alleged attempts to break into the computer files of state election boards
"This is not a witch hunt and it is certainly not a joke, as Donald Trump has desperately and incorrectly argued in the past," Perez said in a statement. "It’s long past time for him and his allies in the Republican Party to stop ignoring this urgent threat to our national security."
"Donald Trump and his Republican enablers’ efforts to discredit these established facts only embolden Putin's Russia and invite further attacks on our country," Perez said.
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