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Political News

The external campaign grows for a DeSantis 2024 bid

James A. Jones Jr./The Bradenton Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has not made any significant public movements toward a presidential run, but his supporters are gearing up for one.

While former President Donald Trump is so far the most prominent candidate to have announced a 2024 campaign for the White House, much attention has also been on DeSantis. At the same time, DeSantis has begun to build the foundation to explore a potential presidential run, according to recent reports.

And as DeSantis' profile continues to grow, and even as he has played down the constant questions about his political ambitions, committees and organizations are coming together to urge him to run.

One of the groups already doing that is Ready for Ron, a draft committee created in May of 2022 to encourage DeSantis to run for president.

Gabriel Llanes, the committee's executive director, told ABC News that this year the organization is doing several grassroots events in several states to raise DeSantis' national profile. Recently, the group announced that it plans to spend millions through television, phone, mail and digital promotion.

"We think that our efforts have kind of helped propel him to be that person to generate that chatter across the country," Llanes said.

Llanes attributed DeSantis' popularity among conservatives to his actions as governor of Florida and his "ambitious legislative session" last year, where he signed into law the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill, which critics call "Don't Say Gay," and took on the Walt Disney Corporation by eliminating its special district which allowed it to self-govern.

Ready for Ron has attracted different groups of people energized by the possibility of DeSantis' launching a presidential campaign, including Bob Carey, part of Vets for Ron. The committee approached Carey, a retired Navy officer, to help on the veteran side.

Carey told ABC News that part of the reason he supports DeSantis' is his ability to get things done, which he sees as a reflection of the veteran and military mentality. DeSantis is also a former Navy officer.

"I think that the veteran community finds in Gov. DeSantis a kindred spirit to whom they can relate and to whom they can believe in," Carey said.

Dan Backer, counsel at Ready for Ron, told ABC News that in addition to DeSantis' broad appeal is the importance of winning for the Republican Party.

"It is clear to us I think, and more and more people, that Ron DeSantis has the best chance to beat Joe Biden [in 2024] and turn this country around," Backer said.

The possibility of DeSantis' presidential run has spurred excitement in Republican circles, even having some of Trump's supporters switch over to support the Florida governor, believing he can help the party regain power throughout the country.

Ed Rollins, a prominent Republican adviser, left his position as chairman of the Great American PAC, which supported Trump's candidacy, to be the chief political strategist at Ready for Ron. Following Republicans' surprisingly lackluster results in the 2022 midterm elections -- in many parts of the country except Florida -- Rollins has publicly said that he believes DeSantis is the "complete package" and can win the White House.

This sentiment seems to be shared by other groups supporting the Florida governor, with many believing that the Republican Party can't win a major election cycle if Trump is at the helm. Since the 2018 elections, the GOP has faced tough losses. The party lost the House in 2018, lost the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020 and although they retook the House in 2022, it was by a slim number of seats and the Senate was retained by Democrats.

John Thomas, the chief political strategist at Ron to the Rescue, a federal super PAC, told ABC News that while Trump was heavily involved in the 2022 midterms, it did not "make the winning difference" for the party.

"What struck me was after the midterm elections, when we were promised a red wave, [was] at best we got a red mist and in large part I think what we saw was a lot of the Donald Trump-endorsed candidates failed," Thomas said.

Republicans did see the red wave they were hoping for in Florida, where DeSantis won reelection by nearly 20 points -- changing Florida's status from a longtime swing state to a ruby red one.

"I think there's this thirst for a MAGA agenda that has become so popular in the Republican Party, but they're ready for Donald Trump to move from a party leader to a party elder," Thomas said.

And while Trump remains a hugely popular figure in the Republican Party, it's clear that DeSantis is gaining momentum ahead of 2024. A recent University of New Hampshire poll showed that DeSantis led Trump among likely voters in the state's 2024 Republican presidential primary 42%-30%.

Last week, the New Hampshire GOP held its annual meeting, where Trump served as the keynote speaker, kicking off his presidential campaign events. At the meeting, Ron to the Rescue had a presence there, talking to voters about DeSantis and they were pleased with the conversations they had with attendees at the meeting.

"Everybody was cordial and polite, but throughout the whole day, even self-identified Trump supporters that would come up were all saying essentially the same thing: 'We're supporting President Trump, [but] we really like Ron DeSantis, and we'll see how the primary plays out. Maybe we change our mind,'" Thomas said.

"That's not where you want your base to be if you're former President Trump, so that actually was really great."

Earlier this week, DeSantis seemingly swiped at Trump for criticizing his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking how, unlike the former president, he won reelection.

"You take a crisis situation like COVID -- you know, the good thing about it is when you're an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you got to steer that ship," DeSantis said during a press conference on education. "And the good thing is is that the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they reelect you or not."

"I'm happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sarah Huckabee Sanders to deliver GOP's State of the Union response

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address next Tuesday, Feb. 7, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Thursday via Twitter.

Sanders, 40, became the first woman elected to serve as Arkansas' governor in November and is currently the youngest governor in the country. She is also the first daughter to become a state's governor after her father, Mike Huckabee, held the same position from 1996 to 2007.

"I am grateful for this opportunity to address the nation and contrast the GOP's optimistic vision for the future against the failures of President Biden and the Democrats," Sanders said in a release with Republican congressional leaders. "We are ready to begin a new chapter in the story of America – to be written by a new generation of leaders ready to defend our freedom against the radical left and expand access to quality education, jobs, and opportunity for all."

Sanders is expected to deliver the response from Little Rock, while McCarthy will sit behind the president for the first time.

"She is bringing new ideas for a changing future, while also applying the wisdom of the past, including from the leadership of her father, Mike," McCarthy said in the release. "She is a servant-leader of true determination and conviction. I'm thrilled Sarah will share her extraordinary story and bold vision for a better America on Tuesday. Everyone, including President Biden, should listen carefully."

In her first week of office, Sanders signed executive orders banning critical race theory in schools and the term "Latinx" in government documents.

"While President Biden keeps repeating old mistakes and failing Americans, a rising generation of Republican Governors are fighting for families, advancing new solutions, and winning," echoed Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. "Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the youngest Governor in the nation and a powerful advocate for the popular, commonsense conservative principles that will put our country back on a better course."

Sanders was former President Donald Trump's longest-serving White House press secretary from 2017 to 2019 and has remained a Trump loyalist since leaving his administration. It's rumored Trump could be eyeing Sanders for a vice presidential pick, though she's said she intends to serve as governor of Arkansas for eight years.

Sanders tenure in the White House saw a combative relationship with the press as she frequently spread disinformation to defend the Trump administration. She admitted to federal investigators in the Mueller special counsel investigation that she had made false statements to the public as press secretary, calling it a "'slip of the tongue,'" according to the Mueller report.

When Biden, 80, enters the House next week to address the joint session of Congress, it will be his first time since Republicans took control of the chamber.

McCarthy said Thursday to open his weekly press conference that he was "excited" to have Sanders deliver the response, as well as freshman Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., to deliver the response for the GOP in Spanish.

He called Ciscomani's story, "just a real, true American story, as well."

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House Republicans vote to kick Rep. Ilhan Omar off Foreign Affairs Committee

Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks on the House floor before the vote to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Feb. 2, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. - Pool via ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans on Thursday voted to kick Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

They said it was because of antisemitic comments and statements on Israel she later apologized for in 2019.

The vote on the resolution was 218-211 -- with one Republican -- Rep. David Joyce of Ohio -- voting "present."

Omar defended herself in an impassioned floor speech Thursday immediately ahead of the vote and displayed a photo of her younger self on a poster board beside her.

"I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. And interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?" she said.

"I am an American -- an American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress, a refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war. Someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp, someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life here in the United States, and someone who believes in the American dream," she said.

"There is an idea out there that I am not, that I do not have, objective decision making because of who I am, where I come from and my perspective -- but I would check that we say there is nothing objective about policy. We all inject our perspectives, our points of view, our lived experiences, and the voices of our constituents," she continued. "That's what democracy is about."

"I will continue to speak up because representation matters. I will continue to speak up for little kids who wonder who's speaking up for them. I will continue to speak up for families around the world towards seeking justice, whether they are displaced in refugee camps, or they are hiding under their beds -- somewhere like I was -- waiting for the bullets to stop -- because this child survivor of war would have wanted, that the nine-year-old me, would be disappointed if I didn't talk about the victims of conflict those that are experiencing unjust wars, atrocities, ethnic cleansing occupation or displacement like I did," Omar said.

The Minnesota congresswoman concluded by saying she would not let the vote silence her.

"I came to Congress to be their voice, and my leadership and voice will not be diminished," she said. "If I am not on this committee for one term, my voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been."

Earlier Thursday, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said the vote was "all about political revenge" and called the resolution written to remove Omar "phony, fake and fraudulent."

"This type of poisonous toxic double standard is going to complicate the relationship moving forward between House Democrats and help Republicans," Jeffries told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott at his weekly press conference.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had repeatedly vowed to remove Omar and two other Democrats, California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, once Republicans regained power.

The House Rules Committee voted along party lines on Tuesday night, 9-4, to advance a resolution to effectively block Omar from the panel -- by removing her once she is seated.

On Wednesday, the chamber voted to move forward with a vote on the resolution, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Max Miller of Ohio. It cites some of Omar's previous controversial statements to argue she doesn't have an "objective mindset."

Miller said it wasn't about a "tit-for-tat," given that Democrats and some Republicans had removed two GOP lawmakers -- Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar -- from committees in the last Congress.

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

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Key Senate Democrat wants details on probes overseen by arrested former FBI official

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(WASHINGTON) -- The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee wants more information about investigations overseen by the former head of the FBI New York Field Office Charles McGonigal.

McGonigal, who was the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York Field Office, was arrested last month over his alleged ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who has been sanctioned by the United States and criminally charged last year with violating those sanctions.

"These allegations are extremely disturbing and raise concerns about the potential impact this misconduct may have had on the FBI's counterintelligence matters and criminal investigations," Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, writes to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland. "As a SAC for the New York Field Office, Mr. McGonigal oversaw many sensitive counterintelligence investigations, including investigations involving individuals he has now been accused of working to benefit."

Durbin points out U.S. officials have said Deripaska was a close associate of former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and also on the U.S. sanctions list.

Noting the indictment alleges that McGonigal concealed his receipt of $225,000 cash from a former Albanian intelligence agency employee, Durbin writes, "Both indictments include alleged conduct that occurred while Mr. McGonigal served as the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of FBI's Counterintelligence Division in the New York Field Office from 2016 to 2018 and after his retirement."

Durbin is wanting to know if any investigations were impacted and how many investigations that he oversaw were potentially compromised.

Durbin is asking for a response by Feb 15.

"Mr. McGonigal's alleged misconduct may have impacted these highly sensitive matters, including whether he compromised sensitive sources, methods, and analysis," Durbin writes. "Whether his alleged misconduct materially impacted the outcome of any investigations or further compromised our national security also remains unknown at this time."

Previously, FBI Director Christopher Wray said McGonigal's actions don't represent his agency.

McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, has pleaded not guilty to the four-count indictment unsealed Monday in Manhattan.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Justice Department in talks to search former Vice President Mike Pence's home for classified documents

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice is in contact with former Vice President Mike Pence's lawyers about scheduling a potential search of his home in Indiana, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The discussions come after classified documents were found in Pence's Indiana home and turned over to the FBI for review. A lawyer for Pence conducted the search of Pence's home in Indiana last week and found the documents.

The search was done proactively and in the wake of news that classified documents from before he was president were found in Joe Biden's home and old office at the Penn Biden Center.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Department of Justice and Pence's legal team were in discussions about scheduling a search.

Pence's team believes an additional search by federal investigators won't reveal any additional classified documents but intends to comply fully with the DOJ review of the matter, including any search of his home.

The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Top Trump Organization executive to appear before grand jury

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The Trump Organization's controller is expected to testify Thursday before a grand jury in New York that is investigating whether former President Donald Trump played a role in the hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Jeffrey McConney has worked at the Trump Organization for more than three decades and was a subordinate to its former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is now serving jail time after he pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

McConney appeared more than a half-dozen times before a grand jury about illegal practices at the Trump Organization and he testified at the company's trial late last year that resulted in a conviction on charges it paid certain executives as independent contractors and through under-the-table perks.

McConney is expected to appear before the new grand jury convened to hear evidence by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office about the payment to Daniels meant to keep quiet about her long-denied affair with Trump, the sources said.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office declined to comment. An attorney for McConney also declined to comment.

McConney's anticipated grand jury appearance was first reported by CNN.

The former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, appeared before the grand jury earlier this week, the sources said. Pecker helped broker a $150,000 payment to Daniels, according to federal prosecutors who previously investigated the arrangement and reached a non-prosecution agreement with Pecker's employer, AMI.

Pecker interviewed Daniels about her alleged affair in June 2016 and agreed to acquire the story for the purposes of burying it, a practice known in the tabloid industry as "catch and kill."

Prosecutors believe the payment violated campaign finance laws governing expenditures made for purposes of influencing an election and in coordination with a candidate or his campaign.

Trump has denied knowing about the payment that was arranged through his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records in the way it recorded a reimbursement payment to Cohen, sources familiar with the investigation have told ABC News.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biggs rolls out new articles of impeachment against DHS Secretary Mayorkas

Alex Wong/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs on Wednesday rolled out new impeachment articles against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying the top Biden administration official has "violated his oath of office, wreaking havoc on this country and he must be impeached."

"He must be impeached because he is a public official who has lost public trust and is an imminent threat to the United States of America," Biggs said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Biggs, who previously introduced articles in 2021, said he would be filing the articles while standing alongside fellow conservative GOP members, including Reps. Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Bob Good and others. The presser began as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's first in-person meeting with President Joe Biden since winning the gavel was slated to begin.

"Secretary Mayorkas has failed to faithfully uphold his oath and has instead presided over a reckless abandonment of border security and immigration enforcement, the expense of the Constitution and the security of the United States," the articles read.

Biggs did not provide a hard timeline for when the articles would be moved forward in committee.

When asked if Speaker McCarthy supported the effort to impeach Mayorkas, Biggs didn't answer directly, but said he was hopeful, adding, "We start this hopefully at the Judiciary Committee."

Greene made it clear she intends to target President Biden, once again calling to impeach him as well: "It's also President Biden's responsibility. I've called for his impeachment because of his failure to protect our country as well. And I'll continue to call to impeach President Biden for that reason as well."

The articles also come as Republicans held their first hearing on the border crisis, highlighting the issue at the House Judiciary Committee earlier on Wednesday.

The move follows months of conservative Republicans vowing to impeach Mayorkas and even with Speaker McCarthy holding an event on the border weeks back calling for an investigation into the DHS secretary.

Biggs's announcement also comes weeks after Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, introduced his own impeachment articles against Mayorkas on Jan. 10. Fallon accused Mayorkas of failing to maintain operational control, providing false testimony to Congress and misleading the public. A DHS official said at the time they believed Fallon's impeachment articles had no factual grounds.

Biggs said Wednesday he and Fallon will co-sponsor each other's impeachment resolutions.

Mayorkas said in January, just after Republicans took control of the House, that he was ready for any congressional investigations and that he had no intention of resigning.

"I've got a lot of work to do, and we're going to do it," Mayorkas told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Veteran who claimed George Santos stole money for his dying dog says FBI has reached out to him

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has contacted a Navy veteran, Richard Osthoff, as part of an investigation into embattled Rep. George Santos and a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Osthoff's sick service dog.

Osthoff confirmed the call from the FBI, and sources familiar with the matter confirmed the nature of the investigation -- which adds to the growing list of legal issues and controversies Santos, R-N.Y., is facing.

The freshman lawmaker insists he isn't a "criminal" and has said he will leave office if he isn't reelected. He has acknowledged and apologized for lying about parts of his background while maintaining that he was only embellishing his resume.

According to previous ABC News reporting, a source familiar said Santos, using the name Anthony Devolder, ran a GoFundMe account in 2016 under the auspices of a charity, Friends of Pets United, and raised some $3,000 to ostensibly help Osthoff pay for surgery to remove a tumor from his dog.

MORE: Investigations and complaints facing George Santos could bring serious penalties
Osthoff told ABC News that Santos did not come through with the money and ignored text messages about it. Osthoff says his dog, Sapphire, ultimately died from her condition.

"I don't ever want to see another person, especially another veteran, go through this again," Osthoff said.

Osthoff told ABC News that he was "glad to get the ball rolling with the big-wigs," with the FBI involvement.

"I was worried that what happened to me was too long ago to be prosecuted," he added.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe would not comment on any specifics but said the company will cooperate with any investigations.

Santos' campaign previously described Friends of Pets United as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but IRS records do not list a charity under that name.

Santos told ABC News on Wednesday that he was unaware of the FBI probe and said of Osthoff, "I have no recollection of ever meeting him." Osthoff previously provided a local news outlet with texts that he said were between him and Santos.

When asked if he was worried about being prosecuted, Santos responded, "I have no clue, I don't know what it's about."

He also told ABC News he had not been contacted by anyone regarding the investigation. "I haven't been reached out by them. So I can't comment," he said.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating Santos, including the charity, which is also part of an investigation by the New York attorney general's office, according to sources familiar with both investigations.

Spokespeople for both the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI's New York field office declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

The FBI outreach to Osthoff was first reported by Politico.

In December, as reports emerged about Santos fabricating some of his life story, he told The New York Post that he was sorry for "embellishing" but said: "This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


After high-stakes meeting with Biden, McCarthy says 'common ground' possible

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met in the Oval Office for more than hour Wednesday, and afterward McCarthy called it a "good first meeting," suggesting the two men might find a compromise over spending.

At the same time, he said there were "no agreements" and "no promises" made.

The highly anticipated meeting, the first the two men have held since McCarthy narrowly won the speakership last month, comes amid an ongoing standoff over the national debt limit.

"I think, at the of the day, we can find common ground, I really do," McCarthy told reporters in the White House driveway.

A few minutes later, the White House released its take on the meeting, saying the two men had a "frank and straightforward dialogue" and that the conversation would continue.

"They covered a range of issues and President Biden underscored that he is eager to continue working across the aisle in good faith," the statement said.

The White House said that Biden "made clear" that they cannot allow the U.S. to default and that this obligation is "not negotiable or conditional," adding that Biden "welcomes a separate discussion" on reducing the deficit.

The president had told reporters Monday that his message for McCarthy would be "show me your budget," showing specific cuts he's proposing in exchange for Republican support to lift the debt ceiling -- and avoid a catastrophic default.

Asked Wednesday by ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce when he would share the "big plan" he has promised, McCarthy responded, "I think the president and I have talked about a lot of different ideas and we'll work to see if we can come to an agreement."

Pressed further, McCarthy fired back, "I know you all have a job to do but I don't think we'll come to an agreement if I negotiate with you."

The White House has repeatedly said it would not negotiate with Republicans -- that the stakes for the U.S. economy were too high, and that the limit had been raised 74 times before, including with Republican support under then-President Donald Trump.

But on Tuesday, the president suggested he was open to talking. Asked if he would negotiate with the speaker during Wednesday's meeting, Biden responded simply, "Show me his budget."

The president has long cast himself as a dealmaker, eager to sit down with Republicans to reach bipartisan agreements. At a fundraiser in New York on Tuesday, Biden referred to McCarthy as "a decent man."

But he has also lambasted congressional Republicans as "extreme" and said McCarthy had given in to that faction to take control.

"Look at what he had to do," the president said Tuesday. "He had to make commitments that were just absolutely off the wall for a speaker of the House to make in terms of being able to become a leader."

Responding to Biden's comments at the fundraiser, McCarthy said, "apparently he doesn't understand."

"I'm looking forward to sitting down with the president negotiating for the American public -- the people of America -- on how we can find savings," McCarthy said.

When asked if he planned to make Biden a specific offer, McCarthy said, "I think we're gonna sit down and negotiate."

That public posturing was only the latest salvo launched between the two men.

Earlier Tuesday, McCarthy told reporters that he was "willing to sit down" with Biden "and finally get this done long before the debt limit hits its point that we have to get something done."

"Because why would you put the economics of America in jeopardy?" he said. "Why would you play political games?"

McCarthy has noted he and Biden had "met many times prior to him being president," although "not as often as being president."

He said Tuesday the White House should "say they're willing to negotiate, because the only irresponsible way is to play a political game and say, we're not going to talk about it. It sounds pretty childish to me."

Earlier in the day, top White House officials wrote in a memo that Biden planned to pose two questions to McCarthy during the meeting.

The president is expected to ask McCarthy if he will "commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations" and whether he agrees with "former presidents, including Presidents Trump and Reagan, that it is critical to avoid debt limit brinksmanship," according to the memo, which was first obtained by ABC News.

The authors of the memo -- the president's top economic adviser, Brian Deese, and the director of the White House budget office, Shalanda Young – noted Biden planned to release a budget on March 9. They challenged McCarthy to do the same.

"It is essential," they wrote, "that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit – whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education, and public safety – as well as how much their Budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as in their first bill this year."

In response, McCarthy wrote in a statement Tuesday: "Mr. President: I received your staff's memo. I'm not interested in political games. I'm coming to negotiate for the American people."

Republicans in the House have insisted on deep spending cuts in exchange for their cooperation on raising the debt ceiling.

The Republican Study Committee, which represents the largest group of Republicans in the House, previously called for revisions to Social Security and Medicare, including raising the age for Medicare to 67 and Social Security to the age of 70 for younger workers.

But McCarthy recently said any cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be "off the table."

McCarthy pointed to the "Commitment to America" plan presented by Republicans before the midterms, which he said "strengthens" Medicare and Social Security. The White House has accused McCarthy of being "evasive" on his plan for government spending.

Pressed on what he meant by "strengthen" and whether he would seek to raise the retirement age -- McCarthy said: "No, no, no. What I'm talking about Social Security, Medicare, you keep that to the side."

"I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending," McCarthy said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed support for McCarthy. "We're all behind Kevin," he said Tuesday. "Wishing him well in the negotiations."

Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly said Biden will not negotiate or compromise by tying a debt limit increase to spending cuts, with the administration pointing to the bipartisan history of the ceiling being increased by both parties over the years.

"Attempts to exploit the debt ceiling as leverage will not work," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last month. "There will be no hostage taking."

Earlier this month, McCarthy made it clear he was holding firm.

"For the president to say he wouldn't even negotiate -- that's irresponsible. We're going to be responsible. We're going to be sensible, and we're going to get this done together. So the longer he waits, the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs," McCarthy told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott last month. "We should sit down and get this done and stop playing politics," he added.

The debt limit doesn't allow government spending on new programs -- instead it allows the U.S. to borrow any money it needs to pay for the nation's existing bills.

The federal government hit the current debt ceiling, about $31.4 trillion earlier this month prompting the Treasury Department to step in with "extraordinary measures" which will allow the nation to avert a catastrophic default until June.

"President Biden will ask Speaker McCarthy to publicly assure the American people and the rest of the world that the United States will, as always, honor all of its financial obligations," the memo stated.

ABC News' Lauren Peller and Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden proposes rule to 'slash excessive credit card late fees'

Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed a federal rule to "curb excessive credit card late fees" and plans to go after the Apple and Google app stores for what it says are "barriers to competition."

The rule, proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would reduce typical late fees from roughly $30 to $8, according to projections from the White House.

Regarding the app stores, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, "Consumers largely can't get apps outside of the app store model, controlled by Apple and Google."

The proposals come less than a week before President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday and originated from his Competition Council. The credit card fee proposal, in particular, is part of Biden's push to reduce "junk fees."

"Today's rule proposes to cut those fees from $31 on average to $8," Biden said Wednesday while meeting with the Competition Council. "That change is expected to save tens of millions of dollars for America. Roughly $9 billion a year in total savings."

He said over the next few weeks his team will meet with state and local officials across the U.S. to find ways to "crack down on junk fees" in their jurisdictions, and is calling on Congress to pass a Junk Fee Prevention Act that would regulate a variety of fees, including entertainment ticket fees and certain airline fees.

"These unfair fees add up. It's a basic question of fairness," Biden said. "We're gonna keep building an economy that's fair, economy that's competitive, and an economy that works for everyone."

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted in support of the proposed rule and said, "Congress should follow President Biden's lead and crack down on junk fees on tickets, airfare, internet, hotels, and more."

In addition to the limit on credit card late fees, the proposed rule would end the automatic annual inflation adjustment and cap late fees at 25% of the required minimum payment, according to the White House.

"Over a decade ago, Congress banned excessive credit card late fees, but companies have exploited a regulatory loophole that has allowed them to escape scrutiny for charging an otherwise illegal junk fee," said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. "Today's proposed rule seeks to save families billions of dollars and ensure the credit card market is fair and competitive."

In recent years, late fees have surged to as much as $41 for a missed payment, Chopra said in a statement, with consumers being hit with $12 billion a year in late fees -- in addition to the billions of dollars in interest they are paying.

Chopra said that the rule could go into effect as soon as 2024, the Associated Press reported.

Industry groups, including the American Bankers Association, worry the proposed rule will "harm consumers by reducing competition and increasing the cost of credit," Rob Nichols, ABA president and CEO, said in a statement.

"It will result in more late payments, higher debt and lower credit scores, and is inconsistent with the CARD Act's encouragement of responsible credit management," Nichols said. "If the proposal is enacted, credit card issuers will be forced to adjust to the new risks by reducing credit lines, tightening standards for new accounts and raising APRs for all consumers, including the millions who pay on time."

The Consumer Bankers Association released a similar statement following Wednesday's announcement of the proposed rule.

"It is deeply unfortunate and puzzling that policymakers would take action that could ultimately limit consumers' access to these valued financial products at a time when they are needed most," Lindsey Johnson, the association's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Continuing to conflate fees charged by well-regulated banks with those in other industries is not only disingenuous, it fails to reflect the fact that banks are required by law to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures."

In addition to the administration's push to limit credit card late fees, it also announced a plan to go after large app stores. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a report on Wednesday stating that, "The current mobile app store model is harmful to consumers and developers."

"Apple and Google create hurdles for developers to compete for consumers by imposing technical limits, such as restricting how apps can function or requiring developers to go through slow and opaque review processes," the NTIA said.

An Apple spokesperson told ABC News, "we respectfully disagree with a number of conclusions reached in the report, which ignore the investments we make in innovation, privacy and security - all of which contribute to why users love iPhone and create a level playing field for small developers to compete on a safe and trusted platform.”

A Google spokesperson said the firm also disagrees with the report, namely “how this report characterizes Android, which enables more choice and competition than any other mobile operating system,” The Associated Press reported.

The report, which was developed at the direction of President Biden's 2021 Executive Order on Competition, says new legislation and antitrust enforcement actions are "likely necessary to boost competition in the app ecosystem."

ABC News' Ben Gittelson and Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Raskin dons headwear as he undergoes chemo, receives encouragement from GOP colleague

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(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Jamie Raskin, sporting a cap as he undergoes chemo, received applause from GOP colleagues.
In a moment of bipartisanship, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin received words of encouragement from a Republican colleague as he undergoes cancer treatment.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., told Raskin "we're all rooting for you" as he kicked off the panel's meeting Tuesday to adopt its official rules for this Congress.

"We know that you're gonna win this battle," Comer said. "You're in our thoughts and prayers, and it's good to see you here today."

Raskin, who was elected by his Democratic colleagues to serve as the committee's ranking member, said the words meant a lot to him.

"I’ve been gratified to receive so many kind words of encouragement and sympathy from colleagues on both sides of the aisle," he said. "I hope that these expressions of concern and solidarity will become seeds of friendship over the year."

"I certainly plan on getting through this thing and beating it, and I thank you for your patience and indulgence," he added, prompting a round of applause from committee members on both sides of the aisle.

Raskin announced in late December he'd been diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, which he described as a "serious but curable form of cancer," and said he was about to begin chemo-immunotherapy.

Raskin joked at the time he was advised the regimen will cause hair loss and weight gain, but that he was "still holding out hope for the kind that causes hair gain and weight loss."

The Maryland Democrat wore a black-and-white bandana during Wednesday's oversight meeting, and has been seen wearing other caps as he endures treatment.

House rules have generally long prohibited the wearing of hats on the floor, though Democrats amended the century-old rule in 2019 to allow for religious headwear.

Raskin rose to national prominence as he led two impeachments against former President Donald Trump, and was a leading member of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee tasked with investigating the U.S. Capitol attack.

He's said he expects to continue working as he battles the disease, but was advised by his medical team to "to reduce unnecessary exposure" to COVID-19 or other viruses.

Raskin on Wednesday offered an amendment to allow members of the influential House Oversight Committee to participate remotely for certain situations, including medical circumstances.

"No one should be prevented from performing their duties on behalf of their constituents due to unavoidable and uncontrollable health conditions, whether it's being immunocompromised or having COVID-19 or being injured in some way that prevents him or her from coming to work," Raskin said.

The measure was rejected along party lines as House Republicans make good on their vow to end remote participation and proxy voting measures enacted by the Democrat-controlled chamber during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comer and other Republicans on the panel voted against the amendment, calling it unnecessary as the chairman's already pledged to work to with Raskin.

"I will do everything in my ability to work with you to make sure we can accommodate anything with respect to committee work while you're undergoing treatment. I'm very sympathetic to what you're going through," Comer said.

Democrats on the panel, pushed back and described the amendment as a failsafe for both sides.

"Protecting individuals based on health outcome should be part of our workplace protections," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said during the hearing.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House Republicans kick off fraud investigation into billions in COVID pandemic relief money

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(WASHINGTON) -- Kicking off its investigations into the Biden administration, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on the billions of dollars that were scammed from COVID-19 relief programs.

The hearing came on the heels of a new report released Monday that found about $5.5 billion of pandemic aid that was supposed to reach small businesses suffering from COVID-19 shutdowns may have been eaten up by fraudsters instead.

Nearly 70,000 questionable Social Security numbers were used on applications to get grants from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the report from the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), a government watchdog on pandemic spending. The Social Security numbers didn't match the names of the applicants or their date of births but weren't caught by the application system.

Michael Horowitz, chair of PRAC, was one of the witnesses called to testify before the committee on Wednesday.

Of the $5 trillion total spent on pandemic relief throughout both the Trump and Biden administrations, Horowitz said the amount siphoned off by fraud could be anywhere from tens of billions of dollars to over $100 billion, but that it would be years before the final number was tallied.

The issue, Horowitz said, was that trillion-dollar programs had to get off the ground quickly to prevent potential economic collapse but they lacked key fraud protections, including verification systems and information sharing with other agencies to match up Social Security numbers with peoples' names and birthdates.

"I think the problem at the outset of the pandemic was the lack of preparedness," Horowitz told the committee. "Understanding this was a 100-year event with the pandemic, but we have emergencies all the time, like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters … We don't take the steps after an event like this, or smaller ones, to fix what's needed."

Republicans used that data to argue that the programs were a "prescription for waste, fraud and abuse" and haven't been investigated thoroughly enough by Democrats over the last two years of Biden's administration.

But there was also bipartisan agreement on seeking to find the holes in programs that made them ripe for fraud -- to prevent similar situations in the future.

"We owe it to the American people to get to the bottom of the greatest theft of American taxpayer dollars in history," Republican Chairman James Comer of Kentucky told the committee in his opening remarks.

"We must identify where this money went, how much ended up in the hands of fraudsters or ineligible participants and what should be done to ensure it never happens again," Comer said.

The ranking member of the Oversight Committee, Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, pushed back on the notion that fraud hasn't been properly investigated over the last two years by citing multiple past hearings -- while also acknowledging that more investigation, in a bipartisan fashion, was necessary.

"Democrats have systematically ferreted out fraud, waste and abuse in pandemic-relief programs, although we all certainly can do a more effective job and that's what this hearing should be about," Raskin said.

He noted that the programs were "by no means perfect" and cited "anachronistic government IT systems, many running obsolete software," that were unable to efficiently respond when unemployment insurance claims ballooned by 30-fold over just three weeks in March 2020. (The Government Accountability Office has estimated that fraud in the unemployment insurance system during the pandemic was at least $4.3 billion but could be as high as $60 billion.)

Still, Raskin heralded the programs' benefits, even with their flaws.

"Recall that, while the former president [Donald Trump] denied and trivialized and dismissed the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Congress which acted responsibly and swiftly and in bipartisan fashion to create and supercharge programs that saved countless businesses and families from bankruptcy and ruin throughout the pandemic," Raskin said.

Rep. Greg Casar, a Democrat from Texas, said that the programs were vital during the height of the pandemic and that the true victims of the fraud were often people who desperately needed the relief.

"I want to be clear: No one in the country is more strongly against fraud than my working-class constituents who needed those COVID dollars to make sure their small businesses kept running, to make sure they got [personal preventive equipment] at work, to ensure they got vaccines, to make sure that house wasn't foreclosed on," Casar said.

"Any dollar taken from those programs by fraudsters is $1 taken away from people who needed support," he said.

As for potential ways to improve government programs at risk of fraud, both Horowitz and Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the Government Accountability Office, another witness before the Oversight Committee on Wednesday, said it would require more investment in outdated systems and a better balance between preparedness and urgency.

The goal, Dodaro said, was to be able to step in during times of disaster "in a way that gets the funds to the people who need it and not allow this type of fraudulent activity to plague our national programs."

Investigations are still ongoing, including reports on the total amount of fraud discovered by committees like PRAC, which Horowitz urged the committee to keep funding past its targeted end date of 2025 and instead make a permanent fixture to fight fraud.

The Secret Service has also clawed back more than $1.43 billion in funds that were wrongfully obtained, with 2,300 investigations into unemployment insurance fraud and 2,900 investigations into loans and grants given to businesses, according to David Smith, the assistant director of the Office of Investigations within the U.S. Secret Service and another witness at the hearing.

More than 1,000 people have been charged, forced to return money or convicted for defrauding the programs, Smith said.

The White House, now facing multiple House investigations after Republicans won the chamber in last year's midterms, called Wednesday's hearing partisan and pointed to "strict" measures that President Joe Biden backed to limit waste and wrongdoing, compared to the Trump administration.

"House Republicans are holding political stunts that reveal their own hypocrisy and failed past policies," White House spokesman Ian Sams contended in a statement.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


No documents with classified markings found in FBI search of Biden's beach home

President Joe Biden's residence in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Feb. 1, 2023, during a search by FBI agents. - Pool via ABC News

(REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.) -- The FBI conducted a "planned search" Wednesday morning of President Joe Biden's home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, according to Biden's personal lawyer amid an ongoing probe into the potential mishandling of classified documents.

Afterward, Biden's persoinal attorney Bob Bauer said no documents with classified markings were found, but "DOJ took for further review some materials and handwritten notes that appear to relate to his time as Vice President."

The search took place for three-and-a-half hours, Bauer said -- from 8:30 a.m. to noon ET.

"Today, with the President's full support and cooperation, the DOJ is conducting a planned search of his home in Rehoboth, Delaware," Bauer wrote in a statement released Wednesday morning after pool reporters spotted four vehicles there. "Under DOJ's standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate. The search today is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate. We will have further information at the conclusion of today's search."

Hours later, White House counsel spokesperson Ian Sams came before cameras at the White House to address reporters' questions -- and did not rule out the possibility of additional FBI searches of homes or offices used by Biden throughout his career.

"I'm not going to speak to decision making that the Justice Department is going to make about how to conduct their investigation. That certainly would be more appropriate to be asked of them as opposed to us but, you know, we're being fully cooperative," Sams said when asked whether there are deliberations to conduct more searches.

Asked point-blank whether the FBI has conducted any searches of any other locations associated with Biden, Sams dodged giving a yes or no answer.

"Look, I think we're providing information as this goes on and answering questions about the search activities as they've been happening," he said.

After Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur as special counsel last month to investigate the potential mishandling of classified documents, Hur was expected to formally begin his work this week, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Wednesday marks the second DOJ search the president's lawyers have acknowledged. The first was the nearly 13-hour search of Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home on Jan. 20, disclosed on Jan. 21, which found additional classified documents after Biden's attorneys searched the home themselves in December and found some classified materials, the president's lawyers have said.

Biden's team has not acknowledged the FBI's search of the Penn Biden Center back in mid-November, which ABC reported.

While the contents of the dozens of documents discovered classified markings are still unclear, in a statement in mid-January, Richard Sauber, another lawyer to Biden, said: "We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake."

Biden has maintained he is cooperating fully with Justice Department authorities, but reporters have questioned whether the White House is being fully transparent on the matter.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has struggled at the podium when confronted with reporters' questions as news continues to break around the classified documents drama ahead of the White House informing the public.

Sams defended the White House's handling of the situation earlier Wednesday.

"I think we've been pretty transparent from the very beginning with providing information as it occurs throughout this process," he said. "We have released, probably thousands of words of statements from the president's personal attorney and the White House Counsel's Office about the process that has been undertaken here."

Classified documents were also taken from former President Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago last summer, in a court-authorized FBI search, after what the government has called a months-long effort to get Trump to return all of the classified material he kept after leaving office. Trump denies wrongdoing.

Former Vice President Mike Pence's lawyers recently did their own search of his Indiana home and found some classified records that he retained after leaving office, which he returned to the government, according to his attorneys. Pence said on Friday that it was a "mistake" and he was unaware the documents were there, but he took "full responsibility."

Biden has largely declined to comment on the classified documents found at his home and office but has said he was "surprised" records were located at the Penn Biden Center.

ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House Republicans hold first border hearing of new Congress

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(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans on Wednesday took their first opportunity of the new Congress to illustrate what they call a protracted migration crisis across the southwestern border caused by the overly lax policies of the Biden administration.

"How many illegal aliens will cross the southern border this month?" House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who led the hearing, wrote on Twitter last week.

To answer Jordan's question: The number of illegal border crossings has recently declined, a data point that undermines the GOP narrative. This past week, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the pace of border apprehensions dropped to the lowest rate since February 2021 -- to about 5,000 per day. That's down from levels as high as 8,000 to 9,000 in December, according to DHS, and sources tell ABC News the downward trend continues to hold for now.

Regardless, Republicans continue to deride the administration over its latest efforts to pair a border crackdown with new, narrow pathways for certain migrants to seek relief.

Regional officials invited to the House Judiciary hearing provided a contrasting view of the challenges along the southern border, with familiar characterizations along party lines.

"The rule of law is not being fulfilled," Cochise County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Dannels told lawmakers, pointing at what he called the slow pace of deportations under the Biden administration.

But El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said the migration challenges in his area stem from the need to stop unauthorized crossings while providing support to those exercising lawful asylum rights.

Border authorities responded swiftly to contain a surge of migrants who crossed into El Paso last December. Border Patrol agents were brought in from less impacted sectors and migrants were transported to other processing facilities while many others were immediately turned back.

"We have a strategy that I think people should look at," Samaniego said at the hearing, denying that the Biden administration opened the border in any way.

A group of mostly-GOP led states has sued the administration over its latest parole program expansion, which allows up to 30,000 vetted migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela to apply for temporary parole and a chance to seek more permanent humanitarian relief. Democrats have long supported pathways for asylum-seekers with some saying more can be done to support those fleeing violence.

"We need to establish a safe and orderly way for people to be able to get processed and, and be able to seek asylum," said Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, a member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, which is planning its own border hearing later in February.

Along with the parole programs, Mexico has agreed to accept the return of up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries. For now, the administration is relying on the controversial Trump-era order under Title 42 of the U.S. health code which allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants from the border.

"I believe that expansion of Title 42 is something that is being implemented in order to slow Republican political attacks on immigrants and on the administration," Casar said. "I think that's a mistake."

Whether Title 42 is in fact expanded will depend on migrants continuing to attempt unauthorized border crossings. Given the message sent by an enhanced enforcement posture, combined with the opportunity to seek admission away from the border, the declines seen so far in January are an encouraging sign for the Biden administration.

Wednesday's hearing also featured Judge Dale Lynn Carruthers of Terrell County, Texas, who has likened the historic level of unauthorized migration across the southwest to an "invasion."

Far-right extremists have towed a similar line. Authorities documented anti-immigrant motivations and "invasion" rhetoric in connection with 2019 El Paso Walmart shooter Patrick Crusius, who killed 23 people and wounded dozens more. Crusius said he traveled to El Paso to stop what he called "the Hispanic invasion" of Texas.

Dannels, the sheriff in Arizona who testified at the hearing, has called the Biden administration's approach to immigration policy "open borders by design" regardless of the continued implementation of Title 42.

Despite progress made to reduce illegal crossings, a growing number of migrants have been turning to the seas -- showing up in South Florida. Seasonal weather patterns and storms in the Caribbean can slow migration temporarily and may indicate a false sign of progress.

This week the Biden administration announced the upcoming formal end of the COVID-19 health emergency. After attempting to repeal Title 42 border expulsion order, the Biden administration has been blocked in court by groups of mostly GOP-led states from fully repealing the emergency policy.

The broader end of the government's pandemic emergency declaration could serve as another attempt at rescinding the policy that has received significant criticism from the left. Immigrant advocates have denounced the administration for continuing to implement a program which allows for the sharp curtailment of humanitarian protections for migrants across Central and South America fleeing targeted violence.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ex-colleague of chief justice's wife makes ethics claim

joe daniel price/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- A Boston attorney and former colleague of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts' wife, Jane, has filed a complaint with Congress and the Justice Department alleging her work as a legal recruiter poses a conflict of interest at the Supreme Court.

The confidential complaint, first obtained and reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, suggests Jane Roberts' past position as legal recruiter -- helping high-profile firms hire top talent, some of whom later have business before the court -- may present an ethical concern.

While she quit her job as a law partner when her husband was confirmed as chief justice in 2005, Jane Roberts made millions of dollars in commissions helping recruit for firms regularly involved in court business, according to the former colleague, Kendal Price, as reported by the Times.

"I do believe that litigants in U.S. courts, and especially the Supreme Court, deserve to know if their judges' households are receiving six-figure payments from the law firms," Price wrote, according to the Times.

Neither John nor Jane Roberts immediately responded to ABC News' request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not respond either, though a spokesperson told the Times that the court's members were "attentive to ethical constraints" and cited the federal judges' code of conduct and related advisories, which specifically said a judge didn't have to recuse themselves solely because their spouse had been a recruiter for a firm before the court.

ABC News has reached out to the Department of Justice and didn't immediately receive a response.

The complaint, which the Times reported was sent in December, has not been independently reviewed by ABC News. But in a statement provided by his attorney, Price explained why he is coming forward years later.

"I made the disclosures at this time for two principal reasons. First, any potential influence on what cases are accepted by the Supreme Court is a serious matter that affects the justice system in the U.S., particularly if that influence is not publicly known," Price said.

"Second, the national controversy and debate regarding the integrity of the Supreme Court demanded that I no longer keep silent about the information I possessed, regardless of the impact such disclosures might have upon me professionally and personally," he added.

Jane Roberts is currently the managing partner at a Washington-based legal recruiting firm. She previously worked with Price at a separate firm in Maryland.

Price was fired from the firm in 2013, according to the Times, and later sued Jane Roberts and another executive.

Price is calling on lawmakers and Justice Department attorneys to investigate. However, the Supreme Court is not typically subject to outside ethics oversight and largely polices itself.

"This complaint raises troubling issues that once again demonstrate the need for a mandatory code of conduct for Supreme Court justices," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. "We must work on a bipartisan basis to pass Sen. [Chris] Murphy's bill, the Supreme Court Ethics Act, which would simply require Supreme Court justices to adhere to the same standard of ethics as other federally appointed judges. Passing this requirement is a common sense step that would help begin the process of restoring faith in the Supreme Court."

Price's complaint is the latest in a string of ethics allegations against sitting justices and their spouses, which have stoked longstanding calls for greater transparency and enforceable ethics rules at the Supreme Court.

Justice Clarence Thomas has faced calls to recuse himself on a number of issues and cases over the conservative political activism of his wife, Ginni. Justice Samuel Alito was recently accused by a former anti-abortion activist of leaking the outcome of a major case at a dinner with his wife.

Both justices have denied any wrongdoing.

Separately, independent watchdog group Fix the Court -- which has long lobbied for a Supreme Court ethics code -- argued the Roberts' case shows "there effectively are no rules."

"Judicial spouses should of course have whatever jobs they want, but the public should have more information as to whether those jobs might pose a conflict to their wives' or husbands' judicial work," said Gabe Roth, Fix the Court's executive director.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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