Political News

How Texas loosened gun restrictions despite recent mass shootings

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(NEW YORK) -- Gun control advocates are again calling on Texas lawmakers to restrict access to firearms after at least 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

The suspect, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a student at Uvalde High School, is also dead, authorities said. Officials told ABC News that the suspect legally purchased two AR-style rifles on May 17 and May 20, respectively, just days after his 18th birthday.

In Texas, where there are few restrictions on purchasing firearms, individuals who are 18 years or older are legally permitted to purchase long guns, which include shotguns and rifles.

Republican lawmakers, who currently control the State Legislature, have repeatedly loosened gun restrictions even after recent mass shootings in the state.

"You are doing nothing!" Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke said, confronting Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference on Wednesday.

In the wake of the Uvalde shooting, Abbott pointed to a "mental health" problem in the community during Wednesday's press conference and dismissed the suggestion that stricter gun laws could have prevented the shooting.

"I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff, as well as from the mayor of Uvalde," the governor told reporters. "The question was, 'what is the problem here?' And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said, 'we have a problem with mental health illness.'"

Abbott echoed a common stance that many Republican lawmakers on both the state and national levels have repeatedly taken amid a nationwide debate on gun violence, which reaches a boiling point following each mass shooting.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for gun control and studies gun laws across the country, seven of the deadliest mass shootings in the history of the U.S. happened in the country over the past decade. And four of those shootings, including the Uvalde shooting, happened in Texas.

Most recently, 25 people were killed in a mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2017. And in August 2019, 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunmen, like the Uvalde shooting suspect, used semi-automatic rifles in the shootings.

In the wake of these shootings, Abbott signed a series of bills into law last year designed to further ease access to firearms. He argued that each piece of legislation strengthens the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.

"Politicians from the federal level to the local level have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens -- but we will not let that happen in Texas," Abbott said in a statement on June 17, 2021. "Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session."

Among the bills signed by Abbot last year was House Bill 1927, dubbed as "Constitutional Carry" by gun rights advocates. The law made it legal for "law-abiding Texans" to carry handguns without a license or training. The law went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021.

"I'm not here to take anybody's rifles away. I'm not here to take anybody's guns away. But as this next legislative session unfolds in January here in Texas, I will seek to provide restrictions on access to these types of militarized weapons," Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents the district where the Uvalde school shooting took place in Texas, told ABC News Live on Wednesday.

"Again, nobody in this rural community uses that type of weaponry to go hunting," he added.

Amid criticism from gun control advocates, who argued for more restrictions in the wake of the El Paso shooting, Abbott defended the law, arguing that it "safeguards" the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

Abbott also signed into law in 2021 an amendment that loosened restrictions on handguns based on age.

In Texas, you had to be 21 years old to get a license to carry a handgun, but the 2021 amendment made it possible for 18-year-olds to receive a license if they meet other requirements, other than age, and if they are protected under various protective orders, including having been a victim of violence, stalking or sexual abuse.

"We have a governor and a Republican-controlled legislature that has chosen to put more guns on the streets, [and] make it easier for young people to access guns and weapons of war without training, without a license," Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, told ABC News Live on Tuesday.

Escobar criticized the passage of the legislation loosening gun restrictions after it was signed by Abbott in June 2021 and said that in the wake of the El Paso shooting, Abbott has "chosen to betray the victims of gun violence."

Following the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, which left 10 dead, Abbott asked the State Legislature to consider a so-called "red flag" law that would allow court-ordered removal of firearms from an individual who is deemed to be dangerous.

But the Republican governor faced pushback from gun rights advocates in his own party, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

"It seems like there's coalescence around the notion of not supporting what's categorized as a 'red flag' law," Abbott said in July 2018, according to the Texas Tribune. "What is important is ... that we work together as a legislative body towards a solution to make our schools safer and to make our communities safer."

After the Santa Fe shooting, Abbott announced a "school safety" plan and later signed into law bills that would, among other things, strengthen mental health access in schools, heighten police presence, hire more school safety marshals and remove the cap on how many can carry firearms in public schools.

Abbott also signed House Bill 2622 into law last year, making Texas a "Second Amendment Sanctuary State by protecting Texans from new federal gun control regulations."

A 1994 federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004 -- a measure that Democrats and gun control advocates have long fought to restore.

According to the Giffords Center, a study of mass shootings in which four or more people were killed found that more than 85% of these fatalities were caused by assault rifles. Seven states and the District of Columbia prohibit assault weapons. In Texas, assault weapons are legal.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Will Texas school shooting force Congress to finally act on gun control?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Experts examine America's history with guns, the real-life impacts of gun violence and what can be done going forward to mitigate the problem.
As the nation mourns the latest American massacre of 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Texas, the deadliest mass school shooting in nearly a decade, gun control efforts remain stalled in Washington, as they have for almost 30 years.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday night made impassioned remarks expressing outrage at lawmakers who are blocking "common-sense" gun laws and rejected the argument often heard from Republicans that gun violence is a mental health issue.

"These kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?" Biden said with outrage. "Where in God's name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?"

Since the National Rifle Association formed its own political action committee in 1977, the organization has used its deep pockets to lobby lawmakers at the federal and state level to stave off gun control efforts.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the NRA spent $1.6 million in the first half of 2019 alone lobbying members of Congress to vote against a proposal to expand background checks for gun sales.

With Republicans offering sympathy to the loved ones of victims in the Robb Elementary shooting, several critics on social media called out their contributions from the gun lobby, citing $13.6 million to Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and $1.2 million to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, over their careers.

The last meaningful gun reform legislation passed on Capitol Hill was the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 due to a "sunset" clause in the legislation. In the nearly 30 years since, gun control measures have mostly stalled on Capitol Hill, and in the current Democratic-controlled Congress, that's due, in large part, to the Senate filibuster rule.

In the current 50-50 Senate, Democrats need 10 Republicans to join them to reach the 60-vote threshold required by the Senate's filibuster rule in order to end debate on a bill, allowing it to proceed to a final vote. Republicans have warned even a single exception to the Senate's 60-vote threshold to advance legislation would be dangerous to the rights of whichever party is in the minority (although both parties have used the so-called "nuclear option" in the last decade -- requiring 51 votes to confirm all executive branch and judicial nominees, for example).

Republicans Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn headed back to their home state of Texas on Wednesday to visit Uvalde.

Cornyn has supported bipartisan talks to expand background checks in the past. Cruz has not, and has faced backlash, along with Abbott, for being slated to speak at the NRA's annual meeting in Houston this weekend, only a few hundred miles away from the massacre in Uvalde. Because former President Donald Trump is also attending, the NRA said Wednesday that firearms would not be allowed at the event, citing Secret Service protocol.

The last time Congress came close to passing substantial gun reform was in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, when a single gunman killed 20 students and 6 adults. Biden was tasked with the White House response on Capitol Hill while serving as vice president, but that effort ultimately failed to garner enough bipartisan support.

In lieu of congressional action, Biden has taken some executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence but conceded last week while in Buffalo there's "not much" more he can do without congressional support.

Where does gun control stand in Congress?

House Democrats passed two gun control bills last year -- one aimed at expanding background check requirements for gun sales, and the second aimed at extending the review period for background checks from three days to 10 days. But Democrats don't have the votes needed to squash a GOP-led filibuster to pass either bill in the Senate.

Two Senate Democrats -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- have been adamant in their opposition to changing the Senate filibuster rule.

"If we can't get 60 or 70 or more votes, we'll talk then," Manchin said Wednesday, expressing some confidence that senators could find some common ground before ending the rule.

Sinema, asked directly if she could support scrapping the filibuster to pass gun control legislation, told ABC News' Trish Turner, "I don't think that D.C. solutions are realistic here."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved Tuesday evening to put the two House-passed bills on the chamber's calendar, but it's unclear if and when a vote would be held. If Schumer does bring legislation to the floor, it would likely be an effort to put every single senator on the record, as he's done with failed legislation on abortion and voting rights.

When eviscerating Republicans in a floor speech Wednesday, Schumer signaled he was disinclined to put up that vote.

"I accept the fact that most of my Republicans are not willing to do what it takes to present this needless loss of life. The NRA will have a hold on them. That's just the reality, unfortunately, but it is unacceptable to the American people to think that there are not 10 of my Republican colleagues just 10 -- one out of five over here -- would be ready to work to pass something that we reduce this plague of gun violence," Schumer said. "It's unacceptable, that there are not 10 members of the Republican caucus willing to save lives, find a way to do it. And yet, that's where we are."

Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has represented his state since the Sandy Hook massacre also questioned his colleagues on the Senate floor Monday night in a speech that quickly went viral on social media.

"What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons. We have another Sandy Hook on our hands," he said. "There are more mass shootings than days in the year. Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in the classroom because they think they're going to be next. What are we doing?"

Renewed talks but will there be action?

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle often talk about taking action in the wake of deadly mass shootings, there's not widespread bipartisan agreement on what action to take.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pushed for The School Safety Act, which would create a federal clearinghouse database and collect information to establish best practices for school safety nationwide. Rubio will try to force a vote on that legislation Wednesday.Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who has accepted more than $3 million from the NRA in his career, told ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that he does support background checks.

"It's not just about these horrific mass shootings, it's also about this broader issue of gun violence, and then what are the actual solutions -- what's actually going to make a difference," he said. "If we're passing something to make us feel better here, that doesn't have any impact on the actual issue."

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he thinks there could be common ground on red flag laws, noting his bipartisan red flag law bill with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Red-flag laws allow police or family members to petition a court to order the removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

But Graham, asked by Scott on Wednesday if he can assure the American people that -- this time -- something will get done, said, "I can't assure the American people there's any law we can pass that would have stopped this shooting."

With an apparent eye on midterms, Sen. Cory Booker, D-S.C., said he's urging Schumer to put every senator on the record.

"I'm hoping it comes to the floor for a vote. It will fail. Americans should know that,' Booker said. "Right now, there are not seemingly 10 senators that want to do the most moderate of things, which is universal background checks supported by almost 90% of Americans, the majority of gun owners, but I do think at this moment its important we put people on the record."

Americans across party and demographic lines overwhelmingly support expanded background checks (89%) and red flag laws (86%), according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll from 2019.

ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott, Trish Turner and Allie Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Baby formula execs face Congress as second shipment arrives from overseas

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(WASHINGTON) -- A plane carrying some 1 million bottles' worth of specialized infant formula from Europe arrived at an airport outside of Washington on Wednesday, the same day top industry executives and federal regulators faced angry lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In testimony before a House panel, Dr. Bob Califf, head of the Food and Drug Administration, acknowledged his agency acted "too slow" to ward off the shortage.

"Let me say you're right to be concerned and the public should be concerned," Califf told lawmakers. "As I've said already, it was too slow and there were decisions that were suboptimal along the way."

The second shipment from overseas -- greeted by first lady Jill Biden and part of President Joe Biden's "Operation Fly Formula" -- included 100,000 pounds of formula specialized for infants allergic to cow's milk.

It will head mostly to hospitals and offered to families through prescription only. Another 2 million cans of formula made with whole milk from the British manufacturer Kendal Nutricare should arrive on store shelves in the beginning of June, administration officials announced late Tuesday.

The urgently needed shipment comes amid a nationwide shortage that's sent at least a half a dozen children to the hospital so far and has put enormous pressure on Biden to explain why his administration didn't act sooner to prevent the crisis.

The nation's supply crunch became urgent this year following the closure of a manufacturing facility by Abbott Nutrition in Sturgis, Michigan. Four infants had fallen ill after drinking powdered formula from the plant, and two died. Federal inspectors found a deadly bacteria inside the plant, and Abbott agreed to shutter the facility and recall the formula, even as it insisted there was no conclusive evidence that its formula caused the illnesses.

The closure of the plant was a substantial blow to the market. Abbott is the largest formula producer in the U.S. and a top contributor to a federal program that supplies formula to low-income families. The Sturgis plant was particularly crucial too because it produced a highly specialized formula made for infants with metabolic disorders.

The crisis also raised questions about why inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration didn't act sooner to address concerns, including those raised by a whistleblower complaint submitted to the agency last October.

"It shouldn't take the direct intervention of FDA and the president to keep infant formula on the shelves. The manufacturers have to take responsibility," said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The FDA has said Abbott didn't have a contingency plan when the plant closed. It also pushed back on the company's account of events, insisting there was ample evidence of the deadly bacteria inside the plant and "insanitary conditions" that may have contributed to the babies' illnesses.

"We lost confidence that Abbott Nutrition had the appropriate safety and quality culture and commitment to fix these problems quickly," the FDA wrote in prepared testimony.

The agency also noted that FDA leaders didn't immediately receive a whistleblower complaint last fall "due to an isolated failure in FDA's mailroom, likely due to COVID-19 staffing issues."

Chris Calamari, Abbott's senior vice president for U.S. Nutrition, told lawmakers that the company plans to reopen the facility during the first week of June and will have more formula available at the end of June than it did before the recall. He reiterated the company's stance that "there is no conclusive evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses," even as the FDA insisted it can be difficult to detect low contamination levels.

"To all of the families who depend on us for a reliable supply of formula -- we let you down. We are deeply, deeply sorry and are committed to making sure that a shortage like this never happens again," Calamari said.

"I have to tell you Mr. Calamari, I'm actually livid at what happened at Abbott's Sturgis plants," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said. "Quite frankly, it's pretty disgusting what we heard, about the water on the floor, water leaking from the ceiling and conditions that could lead to contamination. So, I'm not surprised that it's gonna take you a while to get your act together and clean the place, clean the place up.

To address the crisis, Biden has ordered the FDA to open up the U.S. market to global suppliers and arranged for two shipments of Nestlé hypoallergenic formula to arrive from overseas. He also has invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure domestic manufacturers are first in line to access raw materials and other supplies.

The first shipment of imported formula arrived in Indiana on Sunday aboard an Air Force transport plane, and included a half a million bottles of Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior -- enough hypoallergenic formula for 9,000 infants and 18,000 toddlers for one week.

In total, the two shipments would stock provide 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the specialty formula.

As of late Tuesday, five out of the six infants admitted to hospitals in South Carolina and Tennessee in connection to the formula shortage had been released.

One infant who remained hospitalized in South Carolina has not been able to tolerate alternative formulas. This child also has other health complications, a hospital spokesperson tells ABC News.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden orders federal policing reform on 2nd anniversary of George Floyd's killing

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(WASHINGTON) -- On the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order on policing reforms for federal law enforcement.

He had made a campaign promise to enact broader reform -- but Democrats in Congress failed to overcome Republican opposition to a measure that would hold local police accountable -- by making federal funding contingent on departments following congressionally-imposed requirements. The order signed Wednesday will apply to roughly 100,000 federal officers total, administration officials said.

Speaking in the East Room surrounded by Floyd’s family members, relatives of Breonna Taylor and civil rights leaders, Biden celebrated the order as a "measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation to address profound fear and trauma exhaustion."

But first, he and Vice President Kamala Harris briefly addressed the shooting that took place Tuesday at a Texas elementary school that left 19 young children and two teachers dead.

"Enough is enough," Harris said. "We must work together to create an America where everyone feels safe in their community, where children feel safe in their schools."

Biden, who confirmed he will be traveling to Texas with first lady Jill Biden in the coming days, called for gun control reform.

"We’re here today for the same purpose," Biden said, "to come together and say enough, to act, we must."

The executive order signed by Biden will create a new national database that contains records of federal officer misconduct, including convictions, terminations, de-certifications, civil judgments, resignations and retirements while under investigation for serious misconduct.

It also requires all federal law enforcement agencies to revise use-of-force policies, banning chokeholds and restricting the use of no-knock warrants -- two tactics that were widely criticized following the deaths of Floyd and Taylor.

Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. Taylor, a Black medical worker, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police using a no-knock warrant in March 2020.

Vice President Harris said Wednesday it was an honor to be joined by the families, stating she’s been moved by their courage.

"Your loved ones should be with us today," she added. "You should not have to mourn, should never have had to mourn in order for our nation to feel your pain and to understand what is wrong and to agree that something must be done."

Harris also criticized Senate Republicans for not supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a package of reforms passed by the House last year, stating the GOP members, "walked away from their moral obligation to address what caused millions of Americans to march in the streets."

On Wednesday, Biden once again called on lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, stating he held off on signing the executive order because he was afraid it would undercut the effort on Capitol Hill to pass reforms. "Today we%u2019re acting," Biden said. "We%u2019re showing that speaking out matters, feeling engaged matters, that the work of our time -- healing the soul of this nation -- is ongoing and unfinished and requires all of us never to give up." Biden invited Floyd's daughter, Gianna, to come and sit at the desk where he signed the order.

"A few years ago ... she pulled me aside and she said, 'My daddy is gonna change the world,'" Biden said at the ceremony.

ABC News' Armando Garcia contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Three key takeaways from Tuesday's primary elections

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(WASHINGTON) -- Historic early turnout meant knockout political races in Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas primary and runoff elections. With the backdrop of another massacre in which at least 19 schoolchildren and two adults were gunned down in a Texas elementary school, voters took to the polls to sign off on the candidates they believe best meet this political moment.

Here are some key takeaways from Tuesday's pivotal races:

Some "big lie" candidates run out of steam

There's never been a bigger test of voters' metabolism for "big lie" candidates than Georgia's GOP primaries.

Gov. Brian Kemp made a vicious split from the former president after he refused to help him overturn 2020 election results in the state that favored President Joe Biden. David Perdue, former senator and Donald Trump endorsee, took up Trump's feud, pillaring the sitting governor for his "lack of action" on so-called election fraud. The attacks were endless but clearly did not resonate with voters, who pushed Kemp to primary victory.

In at least three key counties in Georgia where Trump won in both 2016 and 2022 -- Baker, Dooly, and Quitman -- Kemp won by landslide margins, a testament to how little Trump's endorsement can mean when the rubber meets the road.

He'll square up once again with Democrat Stacey Abrams, one of the most vocal voting rights proponents, who will no doubt be quick to link Kemp and Trump's record, regardless of the inter-GOP love lost. It's important to note, though, that even though Kemp does not carry the "big lie" in Perdue-ian ways, he still signed a restrictive voting law and referenced the 2020 election as a reason for doing so during a debate.

Still, the Georgia Democratic Party quickly painted Kemp as the "most vulnerable incumbent governor in history" after his race was called.

"As Donald Trump's favorite punching bag, Kemp is stuck with a deeply divided party, and Georgians won't forget his dangerous record of making it easier for criminals to carry guns, passing extreme abortion restrictions, and refusing to expand health care for working families," Executive Director Noam Lee said in a statement.

Looking down the ballot, voters had less appetite for "big lie" firebrand Rep. Jody Hice, serving incumbent Brad Raffensperger a win. Raffensperger was a key character in Trump's attempt to overturn the election, and his patent refusal to "find" approximately 11,780 extra votes in Georgia launched him to national acclaim. Hice not only pushed Trump's disproven election conspiracy, he's also gone so far as to suggest he'd "decertify" the 2020 election -- something patently impossible to do.

Another winning Trump candidate raising questions about election integrity is football star Herschel Walker, who faces a challenge from Democrat Rep. Raphael Warnock in November. Without saying the election was outright stolen, Walker has hedged, telling reporters that "everyone knows that something happened in the election."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most conservative members in the House and one of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the general election results, also won her district's primary elections.

Now, it's up to voters in Georgia's general election to see just how large the "big lie" will loom come November.

Political dynasties live and die

As one political dynasty dies, another emerges. The Bush family's political reach may have seen its end Tuesday, with the loss of George P. Bush, the fourth-generation Bush family elected official and eldest son of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, in his runoff bid for attorney general. Bush, the current Texas land commissioner, tried and failed to snag Trump's endorsement, which went to the winner, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton. Regardless of his family's deep ties to Texas politics, Bush was unable to prevail.

But another dynasty lives on in Arkansas, with former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders decidedly winning her primary bid for governor. Her victory underscores a dual legacy. Not only is her father Mike Huckabee, the former governor of the state, he's also had a prominent political career and ran for president in both 2008 and 2016. Her association with Trump means another win on his midterm scorecard (for those keeping track).

Gun violence candidate advances amid horror

Atlanta area Rep. Lucy McBath, who was forced to abandon her home district and run in the neighboring congressional district, decidedly won her race against Carolyn Bordeaux. McBath's race was only one of five incumbent-on-incumbent battles this midterm cycle, making it a must-see for those following the impacts of gerrymandering.

McBath has long championed gun reform, garnering serious monetary support from outside groups on that issue. Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety threw $1 million at her campaign by way of a TV advertisement in the closing weeks of the primary.

Her win came just hours after a gruesome and deadly shooting in Texas killed at least 19 children and two adults who were gunned down at an elementary school and amid a month filled with gunfire. Just last week, a white man killed 10 Black people in a racially motivated slaughter in a Buffalo supermarket.

Addressing supporters Tuesday night, McBath decried the shooting in Texas and spoke plainly on the gut-wrenching impact on families. McBath lost her teenage son to gun violence in 2012.

"We paid for unfettered gun access with phone calls to mothers and fathers who gasped for air when their desperation would not let them breathe. Who have sunk to their knees when their agony would not let them stand," she said.

McBath then spoke about her son Jordan, adding, "And across the country, from Uvalde to Sandy Hook, to Charleston to Buffalo, the violence that took my son is being replayed with casual callousness and despicable frequency."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Primary election updates: Brad Raffensperger wins primary as Trump's picks fall in Georgia

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(WASHINGTON) -- May ends with another round of notable primary elections on Tuesday, this time in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas.

The most-watched races will be in Georgia, with primaries for governor and the Senate.

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

May 25, 12:21 am
Raffensperger projected winner of GOP nomination for Georgia secretary of state

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will win the Republican nomination, ABC News has projected.

Raffensperger has been running for reelection under the cloud of former President Donald Trump, who has spent much of the 2022 midterm election cycle advocating for the takedown of Georgia’s top officials after they rebuffed his requests to change the 2020 election results.

Trump endorsed Rep. Jody Hice in the secretary of state's race. The congressman has amplified Trump’s false claims about election fraud and irregularities -- a message that didn't appear to resonate with voters on Tuesday. ABC News has projected that Gov. Brian Kemp -- another target of the ex-president -- will win the Republican nomination over Trump-backed David Perdue.

May 25, 12:00 am
ABC News projects Katie Britt, Mo Brooks will advance to runoff

In the Alabama Senate Republican primary, ABC News projects that Katie Britt and Rep. Mo Brooks will advance to a runoff.

They are competing to fill the seat left open by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. The contest will take place on June 21.

Brooks flailed in the race after once securing the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Trump rescinded his support earlier this year after Brooks, a champion of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, suggested it was time to move on from the presidential race. But Club for Growth, a popular conservative anti-tax group, is still backing him and has spent more than $4.4 million on his behalf.

Britt, a former Shelby aide, has secured the endorsement of the outgoing senator as well as Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

May 24, 11:35 pm
McBath speaks about gun violence in victory speech: 'We are exhausted'

Addressing supporters at an election watch party on Tuesday night, Rep. Lucy McBath, the projected winner in Georgia's 7th Congressional District, used the moment to discuss gun violence after a mass shooting at an elementary school left at least 19 children and two adults dead in Uvalde, Texas.

"Tonight I came to give one speech but I am now forced to make another," McBath said after briefly thanking voters and volunteers, "because just hours ago, we paid for the weapons of war on our streets again with the blood of little children sitting in our schools."

McBath rose to national prominence in 2018, becoming a leading advocate for gun control after her son, Jordan, was shot and killed at a gas station in Florida. She described on Tuesday night the "all-consuming fear" that parents feel about their children’s safety.

"The violence that took my soon has been replayed with casual callousness and despicable frequency," McBath said, citing the recent shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead, as well as past tragedies in Newton, Connecticut, and Charleston, South Carolina.

"We cannot be the only nation where one party sits on their hands as children are forced to cover their faces in fear," McBath said. "We are exhausted, all of us, the American majority."

May 24, 10:24 pm
ABC News projects Lucy McBath will win Democratic primary in Georgia

Rep. Lucy McBath will win the Democratic nomination in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, ABC News has projected, besting Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux after redistricting pitted the two incumbents against each other.

McBath flipped Georgia’s 6th Congressional District from red to blue in 2018. She is now the presumptive front-runner to win the November general election in the solidly Democratic district, which includes the Atlanta suburbs.

Her primary win comes on the same day as a mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas. McBath has been advocating for gun control following the death of her son, Jordan Davis, from gun violence back in 2012. He was shot and killed at a gas station in Florida by a man who complained that his and his friend's music was too loud.

In a statement, McBath said Tuesday that we as a country our better than this and that it is "imperative we act, and act now."

May 24, 10:22 pm
Trump congratulates Walker for Georgia Senate Republican primary win

Former President Donald Trump called into Herschel Walker's victory party on Tuesday night, congratulating the Republican nominee in brief remarks.

"And, you know, you were the greatest football player, and you'll be an even greater politician and Senator," Trump said. "I knew it right from the beginning when first I spoke to you and I said, this man is gonna do things that are incredible."

Walker then thanked his campaign and supporters and made a vague jab at his opponents.

"If you live in the state of Georgia, you're my family. And these radicals will have to come after me before they get to you. And I won't let that happen," Walker said.

May 24, 9:34 pm
Sarah Huckabee Sanders projected to win Arkansas' Republican primary for governor

ABC News projects that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will win the Republican nomination for governor in Arkansas, beating out her sole competitor, Little Rock radio host Francis "Doc" Washburn.

Sanders, the 39-year-old daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, with her victory upholds a political dynasty in Arkansas. Heading into Election Day, she secured endorsements from former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tom Cotton, among others.

Trump made his last push for Sanders today, sending wide a statement called his endorsee a “warrior” who would do what is right, not what is "political correct."

May 24, 9:20 pm
Ken Paxton projected winner of Texas attorney general runoff

ABC News projects that in the Texas Republican primary runoff, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton will win. As of 9 p.m. Eastern, with 29% of the expected vote in, Paxton leads with 66% of the vote, while George P. Bush follows with 34% of the vote.

This race was both a test of Trump’s endorsement and the power of political dynasties, in this case: the Bushes.

Paxton received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in July 2021 but went into the runoff engulfed in scandals that include indictment for securities fraud, FBI investigations into malfeasance and marital infidelity, among others. He denies all allegations.

His opponent was Bush, who is George H. W. Bush’s grandson and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He is the only member of his famous family still in public office, currently serving as commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.

May 24, 9:04 pm
Marjorie Taylor Greene projected GOP winner in Georgia's 14th district

ABC News projects that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is the winner of the Republican primary in Georgia's 14th Congressional District.

Greene edged out five Republican competitors and overcame a legal challenge to her reelection despite her turbulent tenure in Congress.

As ABC’s Hannah Demissie reported, a group of Georgia voters said that Greene was not eligible to run for reelection due to her alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, citing the 14th Amendment. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger agreed in early May with the court’s recommendation that Greene is allowed to stay on the ballot.

May 24, 9:03 pm


All polls are now closed


The final polls of the night have closed in Arkansas and Montana.

In Arkansas, voters are picking their party's nominees for governor and Senate. In Minnesota, there is a special election to choose a replacement for Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February.

May 24, 8:31 pm
Brian Kemp projected winner of gubernatorial primary

ABC News has projected that sitting Gov. Brian Kemp will win the Republican nomination in Georgia, defeating former President Donald Trump's pick David Perdue.

Trump personally courted Perdue to challenge Kemp after the governor refused to indulge his baseless claims about the 2020 election. Despite the former president’s backing, Perdue consistently lagged in polling and fundraising against Kemp.

Kemp’s presumptive victory sets up a rematch between him and Democrat Stacey Abrams, who ABC News has projected to win the Democratic nomination for Senate. Their bitter 2018 race for the governorship was decided by less than 55,000 votes. Abrams admitted defeat but said she refused to call it a “concession,” citing tactics she said were used to suppress the vote.

May 24, 8:13 pm
Polls close in Alabama, most of Texas

Polls are now closed in Alabama and most of Texas.

In Texas, all eyes are on a runoff election between Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in the state’s 28th Congressional District. Cisneros is backed by the progressive wing of the party, while Cuellar has maintained support from the Democratic establishment despite his anti-abortion stance.

In Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby’s retirement has resulted in a competitive Republican primary between Rep. Mo Brooks, attorney Katie Britt and former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant. Brooks initially won former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the race, but later lost it after suggesting it was time to move on from the 2020 election. Trump has not made another endorsement in the contest.

May 24, 7:19 pm
Stacey Abrams projected to win Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia

In the Georgia gubernatorial Democratic primary, ABC News projects Stacey Abrams will win.

Abrams's victory in the primary means November's general election could be a rematch between her and Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp defeated Abrams in 2018 by a very narrow margin that she claimed was influenced by tactics that suppressed the vote.

Following her election loss, Abrams turned to advocacy and founded a voting rights group in Georgia. She’s credited as a main figure in helping Democrats flip the state from blue to red in the 2020 election cycle.

May 24, 7:07 pm
Polls close in Georgia

Polls have closed in Georgia, where voters are picking their party’s nominees in several highly-watched Senate, House and gubernatorial primary elections. Anyone already in line as of the 7 p.m. close will still be able to cast a ballot.

The Peach State has a fraught history of long lines and voting issues on Election Day, but Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters Tuesday afternoon that “everything so far has been smooth sailing.”

Candidates must receive more than 50% of the vote to win the nomination, or they will face a runoff race on June 21.

May 24, 6:54 pm
Georgia elections are biggest test yet for Trump’s “big lie”

Former President Donald Trump has gone all-in on Georgia, where he’s desperately trying to oust sitting Republican officials who pushed back on his baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election.

His picks include fellow election deniers David Perdue, a former senator running against Gov. Brian Kemp; Rep. Jody Hice, who is challenging Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; celebrity football star Herschel Walker, who's seeking a Senate seat; and John Gordon, a businessman trying to unseat Attorney General Chris Carr.

May 24, 6:05 pm
Texas candidates respond to elementary school mass shooting

Democrats Jessica Cisneros and Henry Cuellar, who are competing in a runoff election for a South Texas congressional seat, issued statements after 14 students and one teacher were [killed in a shooting] () at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“This is a devastating tragedy,” Cisneros wrote on Twitter. “How many more mass shootings do children have to experience before we say enough? Sending my condolences to the children and families in Uvalde who are experiencing this unthinkable tragedy.”

Cuellar said he was “heartbroken” and urged the public to come together to support the community.

May 24, 5:05 pm
Stacey Abrams speaks after David Perdue's 'go back' attack

Stacey Abrams, a Black Democrat running for Georgia governor, declined on Tuesday to directly comment on Republican David Perdue saying she should "go back to where she came from."

"No, not at all," Abrams, said at a news conference in Atlanta, when asked by ABC News whether she wanted to respond to what was widely labeled as racist remarks from Perdue on Monday night while giving a campaign speech in which he also charged she was "demeaning her own race."

"I will say this," Abrams told ABC News at Tuesday's press conference. "I have listened to Republicans for the last six months attack me. But they've done nothing to attack the challenges facing Georgia. They've done nothing to articulate their plans for the future of Georgia. Their response to a comment on their record is to deflect and to pretend that they've done good for the people of Georgia."

Perdue, running to get the GOP nomination for Georgia governor, seized on Abram's comments last week that Georgia was "worst state in the country to live," citing residents' disparities in mental health and maternal mortality, among other issues.

"She ain't from here. Let her go back to where she came from," Perdue, a former senator challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for their party's nomination, said at a campaign event in the Atlanta suburbs on Monday night. "She doesn't like it here."

May 24, 5:03 pm
Early voting surges in Georgia as state navigates new election rules

A historic number of people have voted early in Georgia’s primary elections. According to the secretary of state’s office, approximately 857,401 people voted in-person or through an absentee ballot as of Friday -- roughly three times as many as at the same point in the 2018 midterm election cycle.

Republicans are touting increased voter turnout as proof a controversial election law signed last year wasn’t as restrictive as its opponents described, while Democrats say the numbers are indicative of public pushback to the legislation.

“I think it tells us that Georgia voters got the message and the message was, ‘We gotta go vote, and we've got to go vote early, and we've got to go vote in person,’” Bee Nguyen, the leading Democratic candidate for secretary of state, told ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks.

May 24, 4:25 pm
Here’s what time polls close in each state

Here’s what time polls close in each state on Tuesday. All times Eastern.

  • Georgia: 7 p.m.
  • Alabama: 8 p.m.
  • Texas: 8 p.m. in most of the state, 9 p.m. in the western tip
  • Arkansas: 8:30 p.m.
  • Minnesota: 9 p.m

May 24, 5:07 pm
What races Republicans, Democrats will be watching closely in Tuesday's primaries

Tuesday’s primary elections, stretching across four Southern states, will continue to test Republican voters’ appetite for former President Donald Trump and his push of the “big lie.”

Nowhere is that more apparent than in Georgia as Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger -- two Republicans who balked at Trump’s requests to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race -- face challenges from enthusiastic proponents of Trump’s baseless election claims. Kemp is hoping to fight off former Sen. David Perdue, while Raffensperger is looking to rebuff Rep. Jody Hice.

Another high-profile contest in the Peach State will be the Senate primary, where football star Herschel Walker is running for the Republican nomination to likely challenge Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. Trump-endorsed Walker has been leading the pack despite several controversies, including prior accusations of domestic violence. (Walker has denied some of the allegations and said he doesn't remember others.)

For Democrats, the most-watched race of the night will be a runoff in Texas’ 28th Congressional District as 29-year-old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros tries for a third time to unseat nine-term incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar. The heated primary is the first clear test of how abortion rights may motivate voters this election cycle, given Cuellar’s position as the sole anti-abortion Democrat in the House.

And in Georgia, two Democratic incumbents -- Rep. Lucy McBath and Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux -- are running against each other because of redistricting.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden addresses nation on 'horrific' Texas school shooting

Joseph Sohm; Visions of America/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- With the U.S. still reeling from the mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, not even two weeks ago, President Joe Biden addressed Americans in the terrible wake of Tuesday's shooting at a Texas elementary school that left at least 18 young children dead.

A clearly emotional Biden spoke to the nation from the White House Roosevelt Room about an hour after arriving back from a five-day trip to Asia and about two hours after ordering, from Air Force One, that the flag flying above the White House be lowered to half-staff.

"I’d hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this again. Another massacre. Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful, second, third, fourth graders," he said.

"As a nation we have to ask when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby," he said raising his voice.

"I am sick and tired of it -- we have to act,' he said.

Two adults, including a teacher at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, were also killed by the 18-year-old suspect -- said to be a student at Uvalde High School -- who also died, according to Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, whom Biden spoke with on his way back to Washington.

Less than two weeks ago, just before Biden traveled overseas he was in Buffalo, condemning a suspected white supremacist accused of killing 10 Black people going about their daily lives at a local supermarket.

There, he called on Congress to "keep weapons of war off our streets."

A short time before Biden was scheduled to speak, Vice President Kamala Harris, fighting back tears, commented on the shooting as she began her pre-scheduled remarks at a Washington gala.

"Tonight is a rough night, we planned for a great celebration, but I'm sure most of you have heard the tragic news about what happened in Texas," she said.

"Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break. And our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families -- and yet it keeps happening. So, I think we all know and have said many times with each other: Enough is enough. Enough is enough," she said.

"As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what makes for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again," she said.

In February, on the fourth anniversary of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a single gunman killed 17 students and staff, Biden, again, pushed lawmakers to pass legislation requiring universal background checks and banning assault weapons, among other measures to reduce gun violence.

And last December, on the ninth anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a single gunman killed 20 first-graders and six teachers, Biden spoke to victims' families in a speech from the White House, demanding that lawmakers "owe them action."

"Because of your leadership, we forged a broad coalition and enacted more than 20 executive orders," Biden said. "We came close to legislation, but we came up short. It was so darn frustrating."

While serving as then-President Barack Obama's vice president, Biden was tasked in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting to lead the administration's effort to enact tougher gun control laws -- but in the nearly decade since the nation mourned for Newtown, no action on gun control has passed at a federal level.

Biden, like some of his predecessors, has repeatedly pushed for reforms to address gun violence but has faced a reluctance from Congress to engage on the issue.

Bills aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks have passed through the House's Democratic majority but have failed to garner enough Republican support to pass the Senate filibuster's 60-vote threshold.

As president, Biden has used some executive powers instead, like when he announced new regulations on so-called "ghost guns" last month.

But asked about what more he might do to address gun violence when leaving Buffalo last week, Biden conceded there was "not much" he could do through executive action.

"I've got to convince the Congress that we should go back to what I passed years ago," Biden said, referring to the 1994 passage of an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

Since Sandy Hook in 2012, the U.S. has endured more than 3,500 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kellyanne Conway says she 'never' lied to Trump about outcome of 2020 election

Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager to Donald Trump, sat down with “The View” co-hosts on Tuesday to discuss her new memoir, her husband’s attacks on then-President Trump and a moment with the former president that she says left her heartbroken.

When Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Conway, who served as Trump’s campaign manager and would become one of his longest-serving aides, became the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign in America.

While she helped lead Trump to victory in 2016, Conway didn't take on his 2020 campaign. She left her White House role in August 2020 to spend more time with her family, she announced at the time.

When Trump lost the presidential election in November 2020, he began offering his theory, the so-called "big lie," of a stolen presidential election. It is a theory Conway does not subscribe to.

Conway, in her new memoir “Here’s the Deal,” writes that losing the presidential election in 2020 was more shocking to Trump than winning it in 2016. When asked if she agrees that Trump lost both the popular vote, the electoral vote and had a free and fair election with President Biden, Conway said, "It's pretty obvious that Joe Biden is the president. I can’t believe we’re still talking about this, respectfully."

Conway told "The View" that she "never" lied to former President Trump about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. "I'm the closest person to Donald Trump to tell him the earliest that he came up short. It broke my heart, I wanted him to get reelected," she said.

"I only wish that the people who were in charge of his 2020 campaign, with the $1.4 billion that they wasted, had won outright and overwhelmingly," she continued. "He should have won huge, he had all these accomplishments."

On "The View," Conway said that "President Trump was told again and again by people in his campaign, 'You’re going to win in a landslide.'"

With rumors swirling that Trump is looking to run for president again, Conway told "The View" that Trump "would like to run in 2024" because he believes he has "unfinished business" and sees that "Biden is not doing a great job."

Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was the White House director of strategic communications and assistant to the president in the Trump administration in 2020, was a guest co-host on "The View" Tuesday. She resigned from her position on Dec. 4, 2020, and spoke out after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The two former Trump staffers exchanged strong words at "The View" table.

Griffin asked, "How do you still defend [Trump]? Do you still think he could be a good president after he tried to overturn our democracy?"

"I left three months before you did for my children, I have four of them. And I said, 'Less drama more mama,' and that's exactly what I did," Conway responded. "I think you stayed a whole month after the election that you were having a problem with."

Griffin quickly retorted, "I wanted to help my junior staff get jobs. I stayed for three weeks after."

"I think people should know that," Conway said. "Because I haven’t seen you since you’ve changed."

"Just to be clear, I didn’t change," Griffin said.

"Alyssa, I don’t want to argue," Conway said. "You get to talk here every day, I’m here as a guest."

Alyssa told Conway and the audience, "I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump."

During Conway's time as a counselor to Trump, her husband, George Conway, who supported her taking the job, was an outspoken critic of the president on Twitter. In her tell-all memoir, Kellyanne Conway wrote about her husband of nearly 25 years, "My husband abandoned me for Twitter."

"Night after night, I would come home from a busy day at work," she wrote in her memoir. "While I was minding dishes, dogs, laundry, managing adolescent dramas and traumas, George would be just steps away from me, tucked away in his home office, plotting against my boss and me."

In the afterword of her memoir, Conway wrote, "Democracy will survive. America will survive. George and I might not survive."

On "The View," Conway made it clear that "George does not owe fealty or loyalty to Donald Trump or any political ideology. The vows were to me to love, honor and cherish. And I would not have been able to be Donald Trump's campaign manager to the level I was had George not said, ‘You are taking your shot and I will help more with the kids and around the house ... This guy can actually win with you. Go take your shot.’"

Co-host Joy Behar noted that Conway's husband "turned" on her. Conway said that "the public nature" of her husband's anti-Trump position was "so jarring" because of the values about George she appreciates, but he "became publicly bombastic."

"I felt I couldn't compete with the tweet, and why would I? Why would I compete with Twitter?" She's not even hot, she doesn't even have a personality," Conway said of her husband's many tweets bashing Trump. "I felt like there was another woman in our life."

"George turned on Trump, which would be OK, except it took on this whole folk hero syndrome with the mainstream media," she added.

George wasn't the only Conway who took to social media to criticize Trump. Conway's daughter Claudia, who had also become a critic of Trump, shared frequent posts about her mother and father on social media. Her mother spoke out about how her daughter was treated following her posts.

"Claudia was doing what a lot of teenagers do: pushing back on authority, mom and dad, posting TikToks and getting on Twitter," Conway said of her daughter. "What I don't appreciate and will never forgive or forget are a bunch of adults direct messaging my 15-year-old daughter without even trying to reach easy-to-reach parents."

"It is outrageous. You can’t have a 15-year-old in your audience without a parent. She can’t get her ears pierced, go to an R-rated movie, drive, vote," she continued.

"People just contacting my daughter. I would never contact your children. By the way, are we supposed to feel better if it were a 35-year-old man contacting Claudia at 1:00 a.m. and promising her fame, fortune, attention? But I’m so proud of her and her three siblings. They are resilient, they are hardy, they have more class, dignity, discretion and judgment in their pinkies than a lot of these adults."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

For Trump, the stakes are highest yet in Georgia's GOP primary

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The power of former President Donald Trump's endorsement and lasting influence over Republican midterm voters faces its biggest test yet on Tuesday in Georgia, where Trump and his former vice president are on opposite sides in a significant statewide race and where Trump's "big lie" is effectively on the ballot.

So, for Trump, it's not just politics -- it's personal.

Incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, are defending their offices from challengers -- but also from their most vocal critic, Trump, since both men resisted his pressure in 2020 to overturn President Joe Biden's victory, in a state where three audits confirmed Trump lost by more than 11,000 votes.

Appearing to lay the groundwork for 2024, Trump has endorsed a slate of his loyalists who espouse his "big lie," including former GOP Sen. David Perdue, relentlessly attacking Kemp in the process as a "sellout" and "coward." But Trump appears headed for a showdown of his own, as some of his favored candidates, including Perdue, are behind in the polls.

"We have to win," Trump said in a tele-town hall for Perdue in Georgia Monday night. "We want to win, and we have a governor that's done the worst job of any governor in probably decades on election integrity."

Cementing his break from Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence appeared in Kennesaw, Georgia, at the same time on Monday to rally behind Kemp and tout what he called "the Republican Party is the party of the future," in what could be as an indirect swipe at Trump for continuing to falsely claiming 2020 election fraud.

"I know the polls look good -- real good," Pence said to applause. "But don't let up, don't slow down. Keep chopping."

Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich, turning the heat on Pence, said in a statement to ABC News that the former vice president is "desperate to chase his lost relevance" and "parachuting in to races, hoping someone is paying attention."

With Kemp polling better than 50%, according to data compiled by FiveThirtyEight, Pence's endorsee is expected to not only win renomination but surpass the need for a runoff with Trump's pick. Polling also suggests Perdue would be a weaker candidate in the general election this fall, where Republicans will face Stacey Abrams, running unopposed for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination -- a point Pence hammered.

"I'm here because Brian Kemp is the only candidate in tomorrow's primary who has already defeated Stacey Abrams, whether she knows it or not," Pence said Monday, praising Kemp without once mentioning Trump.

Perdue lost a Senate runoff last year to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff. Georgia's other senator, Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock, will likely defend his seat in the emerging battleground against Herschel Walker, the Georgia college football legend Trump endorsed who is holding steady as the frontrunner in the GOP Senate primary, despite allegations of violent behavior, which Walker has denied.

Secretary of state race

In a closer, but arguably more consequential race, Trump has directed his ire at Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who famously refused in a January 2021 phone call to "find" the former president more votes, and endorsed challenger Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

The winner of the secretary of state race will play a key role in the next presidential election if Georgia again comes down to the wire.

Hice is one of at least 23 election deniers were running for secretary of state in 18 states, according to the States United Action, a nonpartisan advocacy group tracking the uptick in election deniers running for office. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican critic of Trump and co-chair of the group, warned that if Trump were to get his loyalists in place for 2024, it would presumably be much easier to ensure a loss wouldn't happen again.

"People tend to focus just on the federal races and federal elections but forget that they're run by the states. And that's why these elections are so important," Whitman told ABC News, describing the thinking behind their strategy: "We change the laws, so we can change the referee, so we can change the outcomes."

So far, more than 850,000 votes have already been cast in Georgia – surpassing the early vote in the 2018 and 2020 elections, despite new election rules inspired by unproven claims of fraud surrounding the 2020 election which Democrats argue have restricted the vote.

“We know that increased turnout has nothing to do with suppression," Abrams said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. "We know voters want their right to vote to be made real and be held sacrosanct. And so they are showing up."

Raffensperger, providing reporters with an update on voting in Georgia on Tuesday, declined to answer a question about his race from the state capital, saying "Since we're in this building, I really have my secretary of state hat on right now."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

After Perdue tells Abrams to 'go back where she came from,' she says Republicans just 'deflect'

Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(ATLANTA) -- Stacy Abrams, a Black Democrat running for Georgia governor, declined on Tuesday to directly comment on Republican David Perdue saying she should "go back to where she came from."

"No, not at all," Abrams, said at a news conference in Atlanta, when asked by ABC News whether she wanted to respond to what was widely labeled as racist remarks from Perdue on Monday night while giving a campaign speech in which he also charged she was "demeaning her own race."

"I will say this," Abrams told ABC News at Tuesday's press conference. "I have listened to Republicans for the last six months attack me. But they've done nothing to attack the challenges facing Georgia. They've done nothing to articulate their plans for the future of Georgia. Their response to a comment on their record is to deflect and to pretend that they've done good for the people of Georgia."

Perdue, running to get the GOP nomination for Georgia governor, seized on Abram's comments last week that Georgia was "worst state in the country to live," citing residents' disparities in mental health and maternal mortality, among other issues.

"She ain't from here. Let her go back to where she came from," Perdue, a former senator challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for their party's nomination, said at a campaign event in the Atlanta suburbs on Monday night. "She doesn't like it here."

Abrams grew up in Mississippi but has deep ties to Georgia, a state she moved to during high school and where she previously served as the House minority leader. She said last week that "when you're No. 48 for mental health, when you're No. 1 for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that's on the rise and wages that are on the decline, then you are not the No. 1 place to live."

Perdue's dismissal that she "go back" somewhere else echoes comments by his party's standard-bearer, former President Donald Trump, who notoriously told four progressive, non-white lawmakers in 2019 to "go back" to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came." The lawmakers Trump targeted are all U.S. citizens and his tweet sparked a firestorm of criticism. (Perdue's campaign did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News on Tuesday about the fallout of his attack on Abrams.)

While Abrams did not address Perdue directly at Tuesday morning's press conference, she conceded that what she said last week about Georgia's problems was "inelegant." Still, she reiterated her larger point about what she called the many health and social challenges Georgians, especially voters, face.

"I had an inelegant delivery of the statement that I was making, and that is that Brian Kemp is a failed governor and doesn't care about the people of Georgia," she said. "Look at his record. Look at the results under his four years of leadership." Kemp, for his part, has continued to assail Abrams as an out-of-step leftist while touting how he addressed COVID-19 and more.

Perdue on Monday also criticized comments Abrams made during her 2018 campaign for governor when she said she wanted to diversify the state's economy beyond agriculture and hospitality.

But Perdue responded to her comments by claiming Abrams had "told Black farmers, 'You don't need to be on the farm,' and she told Black workers in hospitality and all this, 'You don't need to be.'"

"She is demeaning her own race when it comes to that. I am really over this," Perdue said. "She should never be considered material for governor of any state, much less our state where she hates to live."

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Abrams actually said in 2018: "I want to create a lot of different jobs. Because people shouldn't have to go into agriculture or hospitality in Georgia to make a living in Georgia. Why not create renewable energy jobs? Because, I'm going to tell y'all a secret: Climate change is real." (Even then, she was dinged by the GOP as "brash and condescending," with her aides at the time calling the criticism "absurdly misleading.")

Perdue, who has been endorsed by Trump, is hoping to overtake what polls show is a significant deficit behind Kemp in order to win the Republican nomination and face Abrams in November.

Abrams, the only major Democrat running for her party's nomination, is preparing for a rematch with Kemp, whom she ran against in 2018 -- losing by a very narrow margin that she claimed was influenced by tactics that suppressed the vote. The GOP has repeatedly highlighted Abrams' criticism of the election she lost, saying it is hypocritical given how Democrats have renounced Trump's election lies.

"In 2018, voters across the state were denied access to the right to vote," Abrams said Tuesday. "They were denied the ability to register and stay on the rolls. They were denied the ability to cast the ballot and the ability to have that ballot counted In 2018."

Even in the face of high voter turnout, she said, "We know that ... has nothing to do with suppression. Suppression is about whether or not you make it difficult for voters to access the ballot."

ABC News' Miles Cohen, MaryAlice Parks, Brittany Shepherd and Briana Stewart contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

A string of Southern primaries will see the GOP battle itself

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(NEW YORK) -- National attention turns next to the South as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas voters head to the polls on Tuesday, rounding out a consequential string of May contests.

Months-long, sometimes contentious battles to be governor, attorney general, secretary of state and for U.S. Senate and House seats will come to a head. The results should give more insight into the strength of former President Donald Trump's endorsement with the Republican base as well as conservative voters' appetite for election lies.

The most-watched races will be in Georgia, an emerging battleground state, with primaries for governor and the Senate that will preview closely fought races come November's midterms.

At the top of the ticket -- where he hopes to stay -- sits incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, an establishment Republican who shot to national prominence after the 2020 election when he refused to promulgate Trump's debunked theory of a stolen election. Happy to take up that drumbeat, though, is Kemp's challenger David Perdue, a former senator who lost to Jon Ossoff but who has embraced a MAGA-edge in his campaigning to return to office.

Perdue has spent most of his time on the trail pushing for sweeping electoral change, parroting Trump's debunked talking points about voter fraud and a somehow-stole election. Despite Trump's endorsement, though, Perdue's message hasn't seemed to stick with primary voters, at least not according to recent polling that shows Kemp with a major lead.

Trump-backed "big lie" believers continue down-ballot with Republican secretary of state candidate Rep. Jody Hice, who has said he would look to decertify the last presidential election -- an extraordinarily undemocratic move that further highlights the possible ramifications of such candidates taking control of election administration.

Polling puts Hice in a neck-and-neck battle with incumbent Ben Raffensperger, who like Kemp was a popular establishment Republican-turned-enemy of the former president for refusing to act on the 2020 election conspiracy.

Not only are these races a test of Trump's endorsement, they will also indicate how enthusiastically Georgia GOP voters will embrace the election mistrust that has become central to Trump's pitch.

Another high-profile race is the GOP Senate primary, with the Trump-approved Herschel Walker leading the pack. Walker -- a businessman and college football legend in Georgia -- has been press shy, in part perhaps due to his headline-making past, including allegations of violent behavior and his diagnosis with dissociative identity disorder, or D.I.D., a complex mental health condition characterized by some severe and potentially debilitating symptoms.

Walker has denied some of the past allegations of domestic violence, physical threats and stalking; others he claimed not to remember. His campaign referred ABC News to his 2008 memoir, which detailed his D.I.D. diagnosis, and a 2008 interview he did with ABC News in which he discussed its effects on his marriage.

Democrats have two candidates who are likely to sail to victory Tuesday, with Stacey Abrams again up for governor -- eyeing a possible rematch with Kemp in November -- and Sen. Raphael Warnock up for re-election.

Across state lines in Alabama will see similar primary matchups for governor and an open Senate seat.

The three-way contest for the Senate slot evolved significantly over the campaign cycle: Rep. Mo Brooks earned Trump's endorsement early in the race, only to have Trump withdraw it two months ago following disagreements over 2020 election claims.

Trump's rescinded backing could prove consequential as Brooks now trails in the polls behind Katie Britt -- a former chief of staff for retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby. Businessman Mike Durant was polling ahead of both candidates at certain points during the race but is now behind Britt and Brooks after Brooks saw a final-hour surge in recent voter surveys.

Brooks may still be campaigning off of Trump's name, however. Campaign mailers obtained by the Alabama Political Reporter feature quotes from Trump during the time he supported Brooks.

Earlier this month, Brooks said he wouldn't cooperate with the House's Jan. 6 committee and was subpoenaed shortly thereafter. (He had spoken at the rally earlier on Jan. 6, 2021, before deadly rioting broke out at the U.S. Capitol; he has continued to try to delegitimize the 2020 election results.)

"I wouldn't help Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney cross the street -- I'm definitely not going to help them and their partisan Witch Hunt Committee," Brooks previously told ABC News. "At this moment in time, right before an Alabama U.S. Senate election, if they want to talk, they're gonna have to send me a subpoena, which I will fight."

Brooks' soon-to-be vacant House seat is a contest between former Trump Assistant Army Secretary Casey Wardynski, endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus, and Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong. Strong has been outraising Wardynski.

Another matchup in Alabama will be between incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and several primary challengers. That race -- previously expected to be won handily by Ivey -- has grown more combative after a term where Ivey bent away from some GOP messaging surrounding COVID-19 and gas taxes.

Lindy Blanchard, a former Trump-appointed ambassador running in the primary, called Ivey a "tax-hiking Fauci-loving" liberal in a recent ad. Ivey is also being challenged by the son of former Gov. Fob James -- businessman Tim James -- as well as former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy Lee George, pastor Dean Odle and others.

In Arkansas, races are shaping up to be somewhat less competitive. Former Trump White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the clear front-runner in a race where she's eclipsing her competitors in fundraising and also received Trump's endorsement. She's up against Doc Washburn, the former host of a radio show in Little Rock.

Trump-backed Sen. John Boozman is on track to be reelected against several primary challenges, including from Army veteran and former NFL player Jake Bequette.

And in Texas, voters will decide more of the their 2022 nominees on Tuesday, determining the results of the runoff elections from the March 1 primaries.

The GOP race for attorney general is between incumbent Ken Paxton and Land Commissioner George W. Bush, a member of the state's most prominent political family.

Paxton's vulnerability from scandals -- including indictment for securities fraud, FBI investigations into malfeasance and marital infidelity, among others, even as he has denied all allegations -- will be tested against the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush in a party that is more and more anathema to the Bushes' brand of conservatism.

Tuesday's sole competitive Democratic race will be in Texas. Progressive Jessica Cisneros, endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will face nine-term Congressman Henry Cuellar in the run-off election in the 28th district.

Sanders traveled to Texas to stump for Cisneros on Friday in a last-ditch effort to defeat Cuellar, the sole pro-life Democrat in Congress.

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Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman tests positive for COVID-19

Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, she announced Monday.

"I'm experiencing mild symptoms and will be working remotely from home per CDC guidance," she tweeted. "I am thankful to the @StateDept MED team for taking excellent care of me and all our colleagues around the world during this pandemic."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sherman were together for a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of defense in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

Blinken, who recently recovered after testing positive for the virus earlier this month, is currently abroad with President Joe Biden in Asia.

It was initially unclear how frequently Sherman is testing, or if she is considered a close contact by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards to anyone currently in the delegation overseas.

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Trump-backed election deniers could soon be overseeing elections -- as experts warn of 'emergency'

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(WASHINGTON) -- With the last batches of ballots still being tallied in Pennsylvania's Republican Senate primary, Donald Trump weighed in last week to insist his chosen candidate go ahead and "declare victory" even though the counting wasn't complete.

The former president has a long history of insisting elections are fraudulent when he's expecting he won't get the outcome he wants. But historically, election officials around the country from both parties have complied with the law to count up and certify the vote regardless of their politics.

That could change come November: Trump is backing a slate of candidates in battleground states (including Pennsylvania) who have said they support his mistrust in elections, despite any evidence of widespread fraud. If voted into office, these officials would have the power to run elections -- or even try to reject or reverse the results -- as Trump has repeatedly urged them to do.

"We have to be a lot sharper next time when it comes to counting the vote," Trump said in a video message earlier this year. "There's a famous statement: Sometimes the vote counter is more important than the candidate. And we can't let that ever, ever happen again," Trump said, referring to a quote from Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin.

The next big test of Trump's influence is Tuesday in Georgia, where he's backed election-denier candidates down the ballot to challenge incumbents who wouldn't do as he demanded in 2020 and overturn President Joe Biden's victory. Democrats, and many Republicans, predict based on the candidates' past statements that if they are chosen to represent the GOP and go on to win in the general election, they would interfere with future contests, especially under Trump's pressure in 2024.

"Just a few years ago, this would have been considered a fringe and extreme view," Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, said of the rising tide of candidates questioning elections. "Now it's been mainstreamed and very much normalized, and that's a big, big problem."

"It's a potential emergency," Simon added, "particularly going into a presidential election."

The secretary of state is usually tasked with overseeing and certifying their local elections. They establish Election Day procedures and play a large role in validating the results, so any refusal to do so -- while likely to face legal hurdles -- could be a vital step in trying to overturn the ballots.

This year, the office is up for grabs in 28 states, including Minnesota, where Simon is facing a Republican who continues to cast doubt on the 2020 results. Simon said that voters in Minnesota and across the country should be able to trust their elected officials -- unless there's evidence of wrongdoing -- to certify the vote of the people, no matter if the outcome is on their side.

"That's what secretaries of state of both parties, to be fair, have done by and large over the last few years," Simon told ABC News. "But this new crop of candidates is really alarming because they seem not to have those same values. They seem to be driven by an outcome."

Some of these candidates have suggested they'll cease absentee and mail-in balloting and continue audits of the 2020 election, among other actions at the position's disposal that risk eroding voters' confidence. Trump and his allies have not provided any proof of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and more than 40 legal challenges across the country failed.

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican critic of Trump and co-chair of States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan advocacy group tracking the uptick in election deniers running for office, warned that if Trump were to get his loyalists in place for 2024, it would presumably be much easier to ensure a loss wouldn't happen again.

"People tend to focus just on the federal races and federal elections but forget that they're run by the states. And that's why these elections are so important," Whitman told ABC News, describing the thinking behind their strategy: "We change the laws, so we can change the referee, so we can change the outcomes."

Of the 111 candidates Trump endorsed in the 2022 midterms, more than 70% say they believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, according to FiveThirtyEight research. And as of this month, at least 23 election deniers were running for secretary of state in 18 states, according to the States United Action.

Trump has officially endorsed three secretaries of state candidates in GOP primary races. Each of those contenders argues it's more important to continue pursuing the possible truth of his debunked claims about 2020, despite the damage to democratic norms and erosion of voter confidence that experts say is well underway.

Here's a brief look at election-denying candidates in six key states where Trump disputed the results in 2020.


State Sen. Doug Mastriano, whom Whitman called a "prime election denier," earned Trump's endorsement and handily won the GOP gubernatorial primary. The Pennsylvania governor's office has powerful influence on future elections.

Mastriano chartered buses to the rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, where Trump spoke; was seen at the U.S. Capitol that day (but said he didn't go inside); and he had been involved in a White House meeting with Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers in December 2020, as Trump worked to overturn the results in the state and in other presidential battlegrounds.

While Mastriano is not running for secretary of state, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states, like Florida and Texas, where the governor appoints the office who serves as the chief elections officer. Democrats fear that Mastriano -- who has been critical of mail-in ballots and called for an investigation of how Pennsylvania conducted the 2020 election, insisting he wanted to "restore faith in the integrity of our system" -- could appoint a secretary of state beholden to Trump. Mastriano has avoided specifying how he would carry out that duty as governor.

Even Republicans are concerned with Mastriano's win, as indicated by GOP candidates dropping out in the final stretch of the primary race to consolidate votes around the Republican candidate who ultimately fell second to Mastriano.


The former president backed a slate of candidates ahead of Tuesday's primary, all promoting forms of election denialism in their platforms.

If Herschel Walker and Rep. Jody Hice were to win a Senate seat and the secretary of state's office, respectively, they could theoretically try to overturn future election results -- by refusing to certify the vote and send it to Washington -- as Trump had pushed Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, to do in 2020.

In an infamous January 2021 phone call, Trump asked Raffensperger to "find" nearly 12,000 votes to overtake Biden.

Hice, who is challenging Raffensperger, objected to Georgia's electoral votes being counted for Biden and has said he'd decertify Biden's 2020 win -- a move that election experts say is not possible.

While Georgia has already undergone three separate audits which all confirmed Biden's victory, Hice has said he would appoint a special counsel to investigate.


In Arizona, Trump endorsed Mark Finchem, a far-right lawmaker in the state's House of Representatives who attended the rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

Like Mastriano, the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack has issued Finchem a subpoena for "information about efforts to send false slates of electors to Washington and change the outcome of the 2020 election." (Also like Mastriano, Finchem was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but said he wasn't inside.)

Trump praised Finchem for an "incredibly powerful stance" on election integrity, well in advance of the GOP primary on Aug. 2. Finchem is sponsoring a bill that would treat Arizonians' ballots as public records and make them searchable online, which experts warn could be exploited.

"These folks are supported by Trump, if only for the sole reason that they have said that they would seek ways -- or have demonstrated already to seek ways — to undermine the election or actually return the election results," Semedrian Smith, deputy director at the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told ABC News. "It's absolutely terrifying to imagine that folks who already claim now that they are willing to overturn the election results, it's hard to imagine that they're not absolutely going to do that down the road."


Jim Marchant, a former member of the Nevada Assembly running in the Republican primary for secretary of state on June 14, has said he would not have certified Biden's victory had he been in the office in 2020.

Like Mastriano and Finchem, he was involved with a fraudulent election document attempting to award Nevada's six electoral votes to Trump instead of Biden, which was submitted to Congress and the National Archives. Marchant doesn't have Trump's endorsement but has said Trump allies encouraged him to run.

Marchant's website states that his "number one priority will be to overhaul the fraudulent election system." He has said he supports changes to state law to allow the legislature to override the secretary of state's certification of an election.


Wisconsin is one of nine states with a board or commission in charge of election oversight instead of just the secretary of state, but conservative leaders there are pushing to dismantle the bipartisan election commission.

State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, the Republican front-runner for secretary of state, said she supports taking power away from the panel, which she has blasted as "broken," and handing it over to the office she is seeking.

Nearly a dozen other states, meanwhile, have also attempted to diminish secretaries of states' authority over elections or shifted aspects of administration to highly partisan bodies in the wake of the 2020 election.

In a sign of the fractured times, Wisconsin's state GOP on Saturday opted not to endorse any candidates for statewide office ahead of the primary on Aug. 9.


Trump, in Michigan, has backed Kristina Karamo, a community college professor who won her party's nomination at a convention last month. She gained prominence after claiming, without evidence, that she'd witnessed irregularities in processing mail-in ballots while working as an election observer in Detroit in 2020.

Karamo will face Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat and former law school dean seeking her second term, whom Trump has attacked as "rogue."

Benson faced an onslaught of criticism in the wake of the 2020 election and told NBC News last week, for the first time publicly, that Trump said in a White House meeting she should be arrested for treason and executed. A Trump spokesperson said Benson was lying, but Benson said the experience showed her "there was no bottom to how far he [Trump] and his supporters were willing to stoop to overturn or discredit a legitimate election."

Simon, a neighboring Democratic secretary of state, told ABC News that all voters, including Trump supporters, should be concerned with the election-denier trend.

"No matter what issue you care about the most, you're not going to get very far unless you have free and fair elections," Simon said. "You want people running them who are going to be fair."

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Dr. Jha urges Congress to fund 'new generation' of COVID vaccines for possible fall surge

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The Biden administration is planning for a likely wave of COVID-19 infections this fall and winter by ensuring both a "new generation" of vaccines and access to treatment and testing, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said on Sunday -- but he stressed that plan depended on congressional funding.

"We have the resources," Jha told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "One of the reasons I've been talking a lot about the need for Congress to step up and fund this effort is if they don't, Martha, we will go into the fall and winter without that next generation of vaccines, without treatments and diagnostics. That's going to make it much, much harder for us to take care of and protect Americans."

Jha has been urging lawmakers to approve President Joe Biden's request for an additional $22.5 billion in COVID funding, warning that the nation has spent much of the money dedicated to pandemic testing and treatments, including what was in the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law last year. That request, however, remains stalled in Congress amid GOP opposition.

Meanwhile the U.S. is experiencing another COVID wave, with cases rising in nearly every state. Official infection numbers are up to more than 100,000 per day and COVID-related seven-day average hospitalizations rose by around 24% from the prior week, according to the latest CDC data. Experts say this surge is due in part to the virus' continued variants and subvariants, some of which are increasingly contagious. Vaccination, the White House says, remains a key strategy at preventing severe illness death and lessening the spread.

"What we know is that this virus is evolving very quickly and every iteration of it has more and more immune escape [which] makes it harder for this virus to be contained unless we continue vaccinating people and keeping people up-to-date," Jha said on "This Week."

With the recent spikes in COVID cases and hospitalization numbers, Jha said vaccination or boosters were crucial and that he felt "very strongly" Americans should wear masks indoors again.

"When you're in an indoor space, you should be wearing a mask," he said. "First and foremost, my advice is if you have not gotten vaccinated in the last five months, if you have not gotten boosted, you need to go out to do that now."

Raddatz pressed Jha on whether the administration had considered a new public health strategy considering their consistent advice had not broken through to all quarters of the public.

But, Raddatz asked, had the administration been considering another public health strategy considering their consistent advice (vaccines, masking) had not broken through to all quarters of the public?

"You said month after month after month, put your masks on, get a vaccine, get a booster, but the numbers aren't really moving. So what kind of discussions do you have about another plan?" Raddatz said.

"We want to help people understand that we are in a different moment than we were two years ago, right? We are at a point where lots of people are vaccinated and boosted, where we do have widespread therapies available," Jha said.

"And so the key discussion now is: How do we help Americans through this moment? And, this is really important, Martha, how do we prepare for future variants, how do we prepare for the evolution of this virus, and how do we make sure we have the resources to do it so we can protect Americans as this virus continues to evolve?"

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week backing booster eligibility for children 5 to 11 at least five months after their initial shots, Raddatz pressed Jha on when kids not yet eligible may be able to get their first shots.

"But what about 5 and under? How soon might we see that?" Raddatz asked.

"What I know is that Moderna has completed its application, those data are being looked at very closely right now by FDA [Food and Drug Administration] experts. And my expectation is that as soon as that analysis is done, probably within the next few weeks, we're going to get that expert outside committee," Jha said, referring to an FDA advisory committee. "And then after that, FDA's going to make a decision."

"My hope is that it's going to be coming in the next few weeks," he said.

Jha also talked about another infection that has gained increasing attention: monkeypox. Biden recently said it was "something that everybody should be concerned about."

Jha, however, cautioned that there were significant differences between the COVID pandemic and the latest monkeypox cases, which have two confirmed infections so far in the U.S.-- in Massachusetts and New York.

The U.S. is equipped with vaccines against it, Jha noted. And monkeypox has long been studied around the world.

"I would not be surprised, Martha, if we see a few more cases in the upcoming days. And I think the president's right: Anytime we have an infectious disease outbreak like this we should all be paying attention," he said. "But I feel like this is a virus we understand. We have vaccines against it, we have treatments against it, and it spreads very differently than SARS-CoV-2. It's not as contagious as COVID."

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Access to Baby Formula Act explained as nationwide shortage leaves parents scrambling

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden signed legislation Saturday aimed at protecting low-income families as the United States grapples with a nationwide baby formula shortage.

The Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022 ensures families can use benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children -- also known as WIC -- to buy formula products outside what is normally designated for the program during times of crisis.

The program purchases about half of all infant formula supply in the U.S., with some 1.2 million infants receiving formula through WIC.

Typically, each state relies on a contract with a single manufacturer to supply products for WIC participants. But a recall from Abbott, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers, highlighted flaws within the federal nutrition program.

"When we became aware of all of this we came together very quickly to do what we could," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in remarks from the floor after the legislation passed, though she said she wished it would’ve never gotten to this point for families.

"The reality is that half of the baby formula in this country goes to moms and babies that are on a very important program that is called the Women, Infants, and Children's program," Stabenow continued. "We know that we've got to do anything humanly possible to take away any barrier available for them to get this important food for children."

Now, the United States Department of Agriculture will have authority to amend WIC program rules during a shortage, recall or other emergencies and allow families to buy whatever products are available in the store.

The law also requires formula manufacturers that provide products for WIC participants to have a contingency plan for responding to shortages or recalls in the future.

Biden signed the baby formula bill into law during his five-day trip to Asia, according to the White House. He also signed a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine as Russia’s invasion stretches into its fourth month.

The Access to Baby Formula Act of 2022 had overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, passing the House in a 414-to-9 vote and the Senate via unanimous consent.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., celebrated the bipartisan moment in the chamber.

"It’s rare that we have unanimity in the Senate on important measures, and I wish we had more, but this is one of these important issues and I’m glad we’re acting with one voice," said Schumer, calling the shortage "stuff of nightmares" for parents.

For the week ending May 15, nearly 45% of products in the U.S. were unavailable, according to the data tracking firm Datasembly, up slightly from the 43% out-of-stock rate reported the week ending May 8.

The House also tried to give $28 million in emergency assistance to the Food and Drug Administration to enhance safety inspections and prevent fraudulent products from getting into stores. But the bill failed to move forward in the Senate, as Republicans on Capitol Hill remain opposed to giving the agency more funds.

FDA chief Robert Califf was grilled by lawmakers this week on the agency’s response to the formula shortage. He said it will the situation is "gradually" getting better, but that it “will be a few weeks before we're back to normal."

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

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