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iStock(NEW YORK) -- The son of a conservative icon, Eugene Scalia, told a Senate panel on Thursday that it would be "wrong" for employers to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In his first testimony as President Donald Trump’s nominee to become Labor secretary, Scalia also promised to take "a careful look" at a recent Trump administration proposal that would allow federal contractors to factor in a person's religion when hiring.

Critics of the plan say it would enable employers to discriminate against LGBTQ workers and other groups by claiming the employee didn’t share their religious views.

"Do you believe it is wrong for an employer to terminate someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity?" asked Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

"I do believe it’s wrong," Scalia replied. "I think that most of my clients had policies against that. Certainly my firm did. And it's something that would not have been tolerated by me or my firm, or most of my clients."

Scalia also was asked about an article he wrote in 1985 in college titled "Trivializing the issues behind gay rights." In the article, he said he wasn’t sure where he stood on the issue of gay rights but suggested at one point that families with "homosexual lifestyles" are not "equally acceptable or desirable as the traditional family life."

Scalia said "I certainly have changed" on how he views many issues since college.

"I wouldn’t write those words today," Scalia said when asked about the passage by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut. "In part because I now have friends and colleagues to whom that would cost pain, and I would not want to do that."

Scalia has been embraced by conservatives as a person who would follow the law and court precedent. But the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, called him "an elite corporate lawyer with a long history of working for corporations and against workers."

Scalia has spent most of his career at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He spent one year as the Labor Department’s solicitor during the Bush administration. His father, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, died in 2016.

The AFL-CIO, one of the country’s largest unions, is opposing the nomination on the grounds that he represented clients against lower-wage workers, including a casino owner who wanted to force dealers to split their tips with floor supervisors. The union described this as wage "theft" by the casino.

"After spending a lifetime attacking the rights and dignity of working people, Scalia is ready for another chance to ruthlessly advance corporate interests," the AFL-CIO said in a statement. "His specialties include eroding labor rights, unraveling consumer protections, endangering Americans' retirement security and blaming workers for their own deaths."

Scalia defended his time as a private attorney, noting the critical role lawyers play in a democracy by defending clients' legal rights even if the client is not well-liked.

"I am not necessarily my clients," he said. "I will seek to defend them, to vindicate their rights but that doesn't mean that I necessarily think that what they did was proper."

On the proposed Labor Department rule, Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones said: "I'm all about religious freedom. I really am. But I don't want that religious freedom to be used to discriminate against people in the workplace."

Scalia said he was aware of "strong views" on the rule.

"If confirmed, I'm going to take a careful look at that rule-making to see that we get that balance right between our interests in protecting religious liberty on the one hand, and on the other hand not discriminating improperly on other grounds," he told the panel.

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday reacted to a Washington Post story that a "promise" he made to a foreign leader had caused a whistleblower in the intelligence community to make a formal complaint, calling it "Presidential Harassment!"

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump called the Post account "Another Fake News story," saying "Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies."

"Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially "heavily populated" call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!" he tweeted.

As Trump was tweeting, the inspector general for intelligence community was on Capitol Hill being questioned behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee on the matter. He was expected to brief members on the handling of the complaint as opposed the content, Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

Schiff and other Democrats are angry that the Trump administration had blocked the whistleblower complaint from being forwarded promptly to Congress, within the seven days they say the law requires.

The acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, originally was called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday but now has agreed to do so in public session Sept. 26.

Schiff accused his McGuire's office of improperly withholding the intelligence community's whistleblower complaint from Congress.

Schiff issued a subpoena last week for the complaint, described as "of urgent concern" by the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson

"The director has said essentially that he is answering to a higher authority and refusing to turn over the whistleblower complaint. This is deeply troubling," Schiff said on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday. "Ignoring the subpoena, ignoring our request. No DNI -- no director of national intelligence -- has ever refused to turn over a whistleblower complaint."

A spokesperson for the ODNI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

An administration official confirmed to ABC News that the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel advised the ODNI that it did not have to inform Congress of the whistleblower's complaint within seven days, because the complaint did not concern conduct by a member of the intelligence community.

The complaint involves conduct by someone outside the intelligence community, according to a letter to Schiff from Jason Klitenic, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, obtained by ABC News.

According to that letter, obtained by ABC News, Klitenic wrote "The complaint here involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch."

The letter was first obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday.

Klitenic also argued that the complaint doesn't meet the definition of "urgent concern" that would require the DNI to forward the matter to Congress.

In the Sep. 13 letter, Klitenic wrote that DOJ also agreed with the ODNI's assessment "that the complaint did not state an urgent concern," which he said further absolved ODNI of its legal requirement to inform Congress.

A DOJ official would not comment on whether Attorney General William Barr was ever directly involved in the matter.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal demanded the whistleblower material, telling ABC News that the failure to hand over the information amounts to a "cover-up."

"That whistleblower material must be made available to Congress," Blumenthal said Thursday. "The failure to do so amounts to a cover-up and the whistleblower information has to be provided to Congress. Not just to the intelligence committee but to the Congress."

He added: "This information is of the utmost concern because it bears on our security as well the integrity of the intelligence community."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he expects to see the material at some point.

"I'm on the Intelligence Committee and I expect that I'll have a chance to see that, but I'm not going to talk about classified matters in public," Cornyn said.

There are numerous examples of the president's conversations with foreign leaders raising concerns -- in 2017, the president shared intelligence with Russian officials in the Oval Office and in 2018 it was reported that the president ignored a message -- "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" -- from national security advisers -- regarding Trump's call with Russian President Vladimir Putin after his election.

The Washington Post
reports the complaint was filed on "Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks."

The calls Trump made during the previous five weeks include Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and U.K. politician and now prime minister, Boris Johnson.

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took the stage at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert to big applause Tuesday night, waving broadly to the cheering crowd -- before sitting down in the hot seat to face questions about health care, one of the most pressing issues of the 2020 race.

Colbert pressed the candidate famous for her array of plans that she says would make America more equitable, drilling down on how exactly a Warren administration would plan to pay specifically for Medicare for All -- and whether or not the middle-class would see a tax hike were she to make it to the White House.

"You keep being asked in the debates, how are you going to pay for it? Are you going to be raising the middle class taxes?" Colbert asked. "How are you going to pay for it? Are you going to be raising the middle-class taxes?"

"So, here's how we're going to do this,” Warren started. “Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations … and hard-working middle-class families are going to see their costs going down."

"But will their taxes go up?" Colbert asked again.

"But here's the thing--" Warren started.

"But here's the thing," Colbert countered, "I've listened to these answers a few times before."

The “Medicare for All” plan was written by Warren’s progressive opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but Warren supports it. Warren has a history of answering broadly about the plan’s overall cost while artfully sidestepping the question of middle class tax hikes, on more than one occasion appearing to hedge.

At the ABC/Univision debate in Houston, ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked her about taxes directly, adding that her fellow 2020 contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has been candid about the fact that middle-class taxes would have to go up for the plan, which he wrote, to work.

“Will you make that same admission?” Stephanopoulos asked Warren at the podium.

Warren did not, instead emphasizing what American families would pay in total cost.

Pressed several times, she eventually said, “What we're talking about here is what's going to happen in families' pockets, what's going to happen in their budgets,” Warren said. “And the answer is on Medicare for All, costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations, but for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down.”

It’s nearly an identical answer to the one she gave at the second Democratic debate in Detroit, when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked if she was "with Bernie" on not just Medicare, but on his mode of paying for it.

“Costs will go up for billionaires and go up for corporations," Warren said. "For middle-class families, costs, total costs will go down.”

The responses have led reporters to challenge Warren on her stance, following up on a potential tax increase to pay for Medicare for All.

Asked for comment, the Warren campaign pointed to the current costs of the health care system and the bottom-line savings they argue Medicare for All would bring.

In an especially testy back-and-forth with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews following the Detroit debate, Matthews drilled down repeatedly.

"Your pay won't go up. You dodged that tonight. Jake Tapper kept saying how much are your taxes going to go up.”

"How much are your costs going to go down?" Warren said.

"No, no, no, different question. How much will your taxes go up?" Matthews said. “Why don’t you want to answer that question?”

“The question is how much are you going to have to dig in your pocket to pay?” Warren countered.

“I know that’s the answer you’d like to give, but will your taxes go up?”

“There is an answer to the question of your costs,” Warren said. “Because it’s costs that matter to people.”

During several interviews after the ABC/Univision debate, Warren was asked again. One reporter asked when Warren would come out with her own health care plan -- which she said she didn’t feel the need to do because a good plan was already out there -- and if it would raise taxes on the middle class.

Again, Warren said, “Middle-class families are going to pay less.”

But despite Warren’s refusal to answer the question of taxes when it comes to implementing a single-payer health care system, she has been clear on the dozens of plans she has put out.

None of the plans -- and she has developed a reputation for having many -- would raise taxes on the middle class, she said recently.

“Could you do what you want to do with all your plans and not have a tax on the middle class?” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Warren after the ABC/Univision debate.

“Sure!” Warren responded.

“Really?” Cuomo asked, skeptical.

“Yea!” Warren replied.

“...No tax on the middle class?” Cuomo pushed.

“Nope.”

So far, Warren has focused her attention, and her answers, on out-of-pocket cost.

Those costs, Warren specified in the last debate, include “every time an insurance company says, ‘Sorry, you can't see that specialist,’” or “every time they don't get a prescription filled because they can't pay for it.”

And experts like Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, have said they support the view that Americans, and specifically middle-class Americans, pay a lot, including premiums, deductibles, copays, and taxes already in place -- costs which might be reduced on average by Medicare for All.

Levitt has also noted, however, that it would be difficult for a Medicare for All model to leave the middle-class tax bracket unchanged.

“One of the goals of Medicare for All is to make the financing of health care more progressive, with higher-income people paying more. However, a health care system that exempts the middle-class entirely from contributing might be challenging to sustain politically,” Levitt wrote on Twitter recently.

Warren is on record saying that none of her plans would raise the middle-class taxes; however, Medicare for All was developed by Sanders, who has made clear his plan would cause a tax increase, saying it would ultimately balance out.

Warren has continued to demonstrate she supports Sanders’ Medicare for All with unflagging gusto -- but she's also maintained her noncommittal status on what burden the average tax brackets would bear.

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adamkaz/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A former staffer in the George W. Bush White House has urged his “fellow Latinos” to vote President Trump out of office, saying Republicans "have lost control of the monster they helped create."

“I am a Republican,” Abel Guerra wrote in an opinion piece published by The Washington Post on Wednesday. “I worked in the George W. Bush White House. And I say to my fellow Latinos: I’m not asking you to become a Democrat. But I am asking you to vote President Trump out of office.”

“From day one, Trump spewed his white-supremacist views, promising to halt the invasion of immigrants and spurring a rhetoric of resentment and retaliation against the ‘other,’” wrote Guerra, who was the associate director of public liaison during the Bush administration from 2001 to 2004.

The op-ed also invoked the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that claimed the lives of 22 people in August. Authorities have since revealed that the shooter traveled for at least 10 hours to specifically target “Mexicans” at the store, which sits near the southern border.

“Fueled by the president’s vitriol, a killer sought out immigrants to slaughter,” Guerra wrote of the shooting. “The shooting isn’t just a tragedy; it’s a massacre, a direct hit against our community.”

Guerra went on to say that Republicans must either show sincere compassion to the Latin-American community or face dire political consequences.

“Republicans need to dust off their moral compass and remember what they stand for — and what they stand against. If they do not, they will lose Latinos forever and relegate themselves once more to minority status, likely unable to regain control of Congress or the White House again,” he wrote.

At a rally on Monday in New Mexico, Trump made a direct appeal to Latino voters and touted his electoral appeal with that key voting demographic in the 2020 presidential election.

"They understand they do not want criminals coming across the border," Trump said of Hispanic Americans. "They do not want people taking their jobs. They want to have that security. They want the wall. They want the wall."

Trump also said his administration is "working night and day to deliver a future of limitless opportunities for our nation's Hispanic American citizens, including millions and millions of extraordinary Mexican-Americans who enrich our society, and strengthen our country, serve in our military and contribute immensely to other shared American family."

As Guerra notes, by the 2020 election, Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate with 32 million people eligible to vote.

According to exit poll data from the 2016 presidential election, Trump received 28 percent of the Hispanic vote. An ABC News/Washington Post poll this month had Trump's approval rating among Hispanics at 25 percent, far below the 50 parent approval among whites.

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danielfela/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In an interview with ABC News, the nation’s top immigration enforcement official scolded lawmakers for heated political rhetoric that he said put his agents’ safety at risk and declared that “everyone” should “take a deep breath,” an admonition that could apply to President Donald Trump as well as critics of his policies.

“We’re not Nazis,” he said in a wide-ranging interview this week, referencing comparisons from Democrats who've described migrant detention centers as “concentration camps.”

The plea by acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence is likely to solicit pushback. Critics say his agency’s tactics have grown increasingly aggressive, including one incident in which ICE officers smashed the window of a car with a man sitting inside with his young children. He was dragged out and arrested, then deported. Agency officials said the force was justified because the man had previously been deported and had reentered the U.S. – a felony.

But Albence insists that not enough is being done to tell the side of the agents who are responsible for enforcing President Donald Trump's most controversial immigration policies.

The comments drew a contrast with Trump’s approach to the immigration debate. Trump has declared a “war” on illegal migration and in June said ICE would start targeting “millions” of undocumented immigrants.

Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people.......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019

Despite the threats, ICE has not hit the record number of annual removals made during the Obama administration. Those numbers hit a peak in 2011 when the agency removed more than 400,000 people from the country. Under Trump, fewer than 260,000 were removed in the first full budget year of his presidency.

To explain these results, Albence pointed to the changing demographics of more recent border crossers, noting that the Central American families crossing in record numbers over the past year are more difficult to deport than single adult men from Mexico.

He also said a lack of cooperation from state and local law enforcement was to blame.

“Unfortunately the politics of this have gotten so bad that they would rather put these politics over public safety,” Albence said.

When Trump announced earlier this year he would take a “tougher” approach in immigration enforcement, some local police chiefs spoke out against the move. They argued that Trump’s public shows of force to create deterrent effects for border crossers can make immigrant communities fearful, putting obstacles in the way of fighting local crime.

Albence rejected the idea that his agency was responsible for instilling fear in any way.

“No I don’t think I have to address the fear,” Albence told ABC News. “If you are here in this country illegally you are subject to arrest and, if ordered removed by an immigration judge, removal from this country. That hasn't changed.”

Albence also blamed those stagnant laws and congressional inaction for the dilemma his agency faces in attempting to detain more families and children long-term. Currently the agency has a capacity to hold a maximum 3,000 family members with two detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Border Patrol has been forced to release tens of thousands of family members since the migration influx started putting major strains on holding cells back in March.

And while the Trump administration continues to litigate its recent move to lift detention limits on families and children, Albence insisted that indefinite detention is not on the table.

“There is no such thing as indefinite detention,” Albence argued. “When individuals are in our custody just as if they're arrested for a criminal violation. There is a process that they are going through.”

As the administration continues to take aggressive action, the enforcement push has been complicated by a thorough shake-up of Trump’s Homeland Security agency earlier this year. Albence took over the top job at ICE in June. His predecessor, Mark Morgan, had the job less than two months before transitioning to acting chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The heads of all three domestic immigration agencies - ICE, CBP, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - agencies currently work in an “acting” capacity.

Albence, who has made a career in immigration enforcement, said he’s not interested in becoming the agency’s permanent director.

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drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26, after Chairman Adam Schiff accused his office of withholding an intelligence community's whistleblower complaint from Congress.

Schiff, D-Calif., issued a subpoena last week for the complaint, described as "urgent" by the intelligence community's inspector general.

The chairman said Wednesday that Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson would brief the committee behind closed doors on Thursday morning regarding the handling of the complaint, but likely not the content. Next Thursday's hearing with Maguire will be public.

"The director has said essentially that he is answering to a higher authority and refusing to turn over the whistleblower complaint. This is deeply troubling," Schiff said on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday.

"Ignoring the subpoena, ignoring our request. No DNI -- no director of national intelligence -- has ever refused to turn over a whistleblower complaint," he added.

A spokesperson for the DNI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The complaint involves conduct by someone outside the intelligence community, according to a letter to Schiff from Jason Klitenic, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, obtained by ABC News.

According to the letter, "The complaint here involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch."

The letter was first obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday.

Klitenic also argued that the complaint doesn't meet the definition of "urgent concern" that would require the DNI to forward the matter to Congress, according to the Times.

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US Senate(BOSTON) -- Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, will formally announce a 2020 primary challenge to Sen. Ed Markey on Saturday in Boston, according to a source familiar with his plans, before kicking off a statewide tour to promote his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

He informed Markey of his decision Wednesday, according to another source familiar with their conversation.

Kennedy's intentions were first reported by the Boston Globe -- teeing up one of the cycle's marquee intraparty clashes.

Within a couple of hours, Markey's campaign insisted he is the "right choice" in a statement Wednesday.

"In 2013, Ed Markey asked voters to send him to the U.S. Senate to fight for the people of Massachusetts," said John Walsh, Markey's senior campaign adviser. "Since then, he has fought on the front lines to show them they were right. ... Elections are about choices, and Ed looks forward to spending the next 14 months campaigning hard every day to show the people of the Commonwealth why he’s the right choice."

Walsh also made clear Markey is ready for any political fight ahead, asserting, "Now he wants to continue that leadership on the issues that matter most -- climate change, income inequality, gun reform, universal health care, reproductive freedom, and immigrant rights."

The highly anticipated primary will pit the young scion of the Massachusetts political dynasty against a veteran progressive who has spent 43 years in Congress -- and has no plans to give up the Senate seat he waited decades to fill.

Markey, 73, a co-author of the Green New Deal, has spent months preparing for a possible challenge, and has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who taught Kennedy at Harvard Law School, back in February.

In response to the expected announcement, the presidential contender told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday night, "I endorsed Ed Markey last February. I couldn't ask for a better partner in the United States Senate. Joe, I have known Joe since before he got into politics. He was my student, he and his wife Lauren met in my class, and I have nothing but good things to say about him."

When pressed if Kennedy's bid is "ill-advised" by a reporter, Warren responded, "I have no criticism."

Kennedy, 38, has echoed his former professor in recent interviews about his potential candidacy and pitch to Massachusetts primary voters.

"This is about standing up to Donald Trump every single day, but it's also about addressing the failures and fissures and the way that this, our government, our society has been broken long before Trump got in office," he recently told reporters. "That's going to require, I believe, a different approach and new ideas in order to tackle."

Markey also faces several lesser-known Democratic primary challengers who have already declared in the race, including labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan and businessman Steve Pemberton.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General William Barr spent Wednesday shopping a proposal to expand background checks to conservative Republicans in Congress. There's just one problem: President Donald Trump is not on board with any of it.

"That is not a White House document, and any suggestion to contrary is completely false," White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said.

That lack of support had the potential of killing the proposal before it was barely out of the gate. But the attorney general pressed on with a memo, obtained by ABC News, that contained ideas for expanding background checks for "all advertised commercial sales," expanding who could perform the checks and seeking to negate any kind of federal firearms registry -- a primary concern for many gun rights groups.

Obtained by ABC News

"The president has made clear he's interested in any meaningful, workable measures that can provide greater security to the American people. I've been up here gathering perspective, kicking around some ideas, so I'm in a better position to advise the president," Barr told reporters after a meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"The president right now is gathering information, he's studying a number of proposals. I talked to him today, but he himself has not made any firm decision on any particular proposal at this stage," Barr said. "I don't want to get into discussing any particular proposal at this time, but we're having robust discussions and we'll see what happens."

Barr's ideas, which are still a work in progress according to multiple sources, closely track an earlier, failed proposal by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., with some conservatives already calling the Barr proposal "Manchin-Toomey," as if in a derogatory way.

At a senators-only lunch, the conversation was consumed by gun control, according to members. As lawmakers await direction from Trump, each voiced their concerns and preferences with regard to gun control. And while senators appeared concerned by what Barr was pitching, they were hesitant to kill it for fear of what Trump might eventually support.

"It was a great family discussion," Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., with a laugh, noting that the Barr proposal, similar to Manchin-Toomey, is "the furthest out from Republican dogma."

"Expanding background checks has always been viewed by a lot of our constituents -- by my constituents -- as a slippery slope and probably something that is not all that helpful," Cramer added.

But the North Dakota Republican said he felt like his GOP colleagues did not have their minds made up on gun control.

"I'm not sure it's a proposal, so much as an idea, but there are a lot of details to be fleshed out," Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said.

Hawley met with Barr on Tuesday night to discuss the plan and he came away with many questions but said he wants to see actual legislative text before he makes any conclusions.

"The idea of a registry really bothers me," said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., though he said he was open to expanding background checks. "We do have to keep the guns out of the hands of people should not have them, like felons. …The question I have, though, is what happens if another administration comes in and we want to make sure there are safeguards against that, because there's only one step between a registry and confiscation."

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told reporters, "A lot of people don't have the details. …I don't think the White House proposal has completely gelled yet."

"I think this is still a very fluid process. I don't think the White House has decided on a way forward," he added. "I'm willing to read and listen, but to me, the legal and the policy analysis is very clear. The burden is on the proponent when you curtail a constitutional right in the interest of public safety -- you have to demonstrate causal evidence."

But as the attorney general was making the rounds, the National Rifle Association was also making calls to lawmakers, according to a Republican senator who asked not to be named.

"Let's just say, they're not on board with this," the senator told ABC News.

In a statement to ABC News, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Jason Ouimet said, "This missive is a non-starter with the NRA and our 5 million members because it burdens law-abiding gun owners while ignoring what actually matters: fixing the broken mental health system and the prosecution of violent criminals."

That left the proposal in a precarious position, given the sway the gun rights group has with lawmakers despite its own internal political turmoil.

One Democratic source close to the talks was not surprised by the NRA effort.

"The NRA and conservatives have worked against common sense background checks for years. It's no surprise that they are trying to kill a responsible bill at the last minute," the source said.

A source familiar with Barr's effort told ABC News that the attorney general's document is "just one of a number of options" that the Department of Justice has pitched the White House on, but added that Republican lawmakers in the meetings with Barr and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland have, for the most part, not been receptive to the idea of the outline for expanding background checks.

According to the source, part of that hesitation is because Trump -- who is currently traveling in California -- has still not made clear to aides what measures he would throw his support behind.

But not all GOP lawmakers are opposed to expanding background checks to include all commercial sales, as Barr has proposed.

Several Republicans -- including top Trump ally Graham -- do, however, appear open to this idea, but they want additional information and are demanding more details, which are not yet available. And therein lies another problem for supporters of the effort.

The longer this proposal hangs out there without support from the president, the more time opponents have to bury it.

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VallarieE/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration plans to transfer federal land to military control in order to continue construction of the wall along the southern border, officials from the Interior Department announced Wednesday night.

The Department of the Interior, which controls public land around the country, announced that 560 acres of federal land will be transferred to the U.S. Army for the construction of 70 miles of border wall.

The transfer of land includes more than 300 acres of land in Yuma County, Arizona, including along the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, as well as 110 acres of land in the El Paso, Texas, area and 43 acres in San Diego County in California. No areas in national parks or national monuments are affected.

All of the impacted land is part of an area called the "Roosevelt Reservation," which was designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 to make all land 60 feet around the border between the U.S. and Mexico public to serve as a barrier against smuggling.

Interior Department officials said that this is the first time federal land has been transferred for border wall construction.

The transfer will be in effect for three years for border security purposes, according to the Interior Department. Department officials said the affected land will still be in federal control and the change allows the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed on its own timeline for construction of the wall.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the border wall would protect the lands from resource damage from migrants moving through the area. The U.S. Army requested the transfer on Sept. 4, after the Defense Department announced $3.6 billion would be used to fund border projects. Bernhardt visited that week.

"I've personally visited the sites that we are transferring to the Army, and there is no question that we have a crisis at our southern border. Absent this action, national security and natural resource values will be lost. The impacts of this crisis are vast and must be aggressively addressed with extraordinary measures," he said in a statement.

Language in the declaration of a national emergency around border security, signed by Trump in February, directs the secretaries of Defense, Interior and Homeland Security to support operations at the border, "including, if necessary, the transfer and acceptance of jurisdiction over border lands."

Activists and Democrats have raised concerns that allowing construction on public lands could damage the ecosystem in those areas by disrupting wildlife or using resources like water that are scarce in the desert.

House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., strongly criticized Trump for the decision as well.

"The Trump administration has treated our border with Mexico like a testing ground for dangerous, extremist ideas from day one, and now we see public lands being handed over to the military using the same national security excuse they always hide behind," Grijalva said in a statement. "This sends a message to the world that we are a fearful country with no sense of responsibility or proportion."

"The Army doesn’t have the authority to enforce domestic laws, and anyone who believes in protecting our legal system should oppose this move and Trump’s border wall with everything they can muster," he added.

The move will become effective when a notice is published in the federal register, likely next week.

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ajansen/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, on Wednesday implored U.S. lawmakers to "listen to the science" and take "real action" to curb carbon emissions.

"I don't see a reason to not listen to the science," Thunberg told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It's not just a thing we should be taking for granted. We listen to the current best-available, united science. It's just something we should do. This is not political opinion or views, this is science."

Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, has attracted world-wide attention for encouraging global student-led strikes, known as "Fridays for the Future." She's earned a celebrity reputation in the U.S. among young people, appearing on Comedy Central's The Daily Show and sharing a fist bump with former President Barack Obama during a visit on Tuesday.

When asked by lawmakers on Capitol Hill how to get young people involved, she said adults should "tell them the truth."

"Tell them how it is," she said. "Because when I found out I was furious. I wanted to do something about it."

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said the U.S. has made strides in limiting climate emissions and that China was taking the lead in releasing carbon emissions known to contribute to climate change.

"For everyone one ton of carbon emissions we produce in the United States," Graves said during the hearing Wednesday. "China has increased by 4 tons, more than offsetting all the reductions that we have had in the United States."

Thunberg responded that China's emissions levels shouldn't be an excuse for the U.S. to back off its own efforts to limit greenhouse gases.

"I am from Sweden, a small country. And there, it is the same argument. 'Why should we do anything, just look at the U.S.,' they say. So, just so you know, that is being used against you as well," Thunberg said.

Thunberg traveled to the U.S. by sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to reduce her carbon footprint. She is expected to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City later this month.

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LPETTET/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump continued to blame local officials in California for an increase in the number of homeless people living on "our best streets," echoing previous comments about the image hurting the "prestige" of high-profile cities.

“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening. And I’m speaking to tenants – in some cases foreign people, foreign tenants – but they have where they’re tenants in buildings throughout various cities in California, and other places… where they want to leave the country. They can’t believe what’s happening,” Trump told reporters on his way to fundraisers in California. He's made similar comments for months and his political rallies and on Fox News.

Trump said he plans to meet with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about homelessness and has directed his administration to possibly create some kind of task force to tackle the issue.

“We’re looking at it very seriously. I’ve spoken to [HUD] Sec. Carson in terms of the housing element. But we have people living in our… best highways our best streets, our best entrances to buildings and pay tremendous taxes, where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige," he said.

"In many cases they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents. Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave. And the people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up. And we’re looking at it, and we’ll be doing something about it.”

Local officials and advocates have pointed the finger back at Trump, saying he has proposed huge cuts in programs from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies that help people transition out of homelessness and that the federal government could do more to expand affordable housing.

Carson said the administration is looking at ways to support police working in areas with homeless populations and mental health professionals on how to support people dealing with homelessness. In response to criticism about federal funding Carson said, "just throwing money at the problem isn't going to help," saying they need to focus on reducing the cost of housing so developers can build more.

"What we need to do is analyze the reasons that the costs are so high, and it's because of all regulatory barriers and restrictions. In California, it's even solar panels on all the new constructs. That just raises the price ridiculously. In San Francisco, the median home price in the San Francisco bay area is $1.7 million. Who can afford that? So we really need to go to the supply side here. What can we do to create more supply? And if we have adequate supply, that will automatically take care of the pricing. Basic economics," he said on Fox News.

California has the highest rate of homelessness in the country with approximately 130,000 people experiencing homelessness according to government counts -- 24 percent people of people experiencing homelessness in the country. The state also has more people who live on the street or in their cars, as opposed to staying in shelters, in part because of the temperate climate and lack of shelter space.

Housing advocates and local officials say they welcome more federal attention to the issue of homelessness but they aren't convinced the Trump administration is focusing on the right solutions. Most advocates say a lack of rising housing costs is the biggest factor in why homelessness has gone up in California but that it needs to be paired with more investment in programs to help people transition into housing because it will take time to build up the amount of homes needed.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition found a gap of 7 million affordable rental homes in a report this year and said 71 percent of households are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half their income on housing. California has one of the worst shortages with only 22 affordable and available homes for every 100 low income households, according to the report.

A White House report released Monday supported President Trump's claims that homelessness in America has not improved as much as the government previously said.

"In addition to shortcomes at the local government level, decades of misguided federal government policies have largely been ineffective," Acting Chairman of the CEA Tomas Philipson told reporters, citing previous policies to provide permanent housing assistance that he said keeps people in public housing programs.

Philipson said the Trump administration plans to reverse those "failed policies" by addressing the root causes of homelessness, as described in the report from the Council of Economic Advisers.

The report says homelessness varies in different states because of overregulation in like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, where they say rules like building codes, energy efficiency and environmental requirements, and permitting procedures increase the cost of building housing, in turn driving up rents. It also cites local policies in liberal cities, warmer climates, mental health and substance abuse issues, and possibly law enforcement policies as factors in different rates of homelessness around the country.

Experts on the issue like Barbara Poppe, the former head of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness under President Barack Obama, said they're worried Trump is trying to politicize the issue of homelessness and turn it into a culture war.

"My greatest fear is that with this paper they are staking ground that homelessness is a partisan political issue and I think that will do long term harm to the progress we have made," Poppe said. They said they're worried the administration will pursue approaches that criminalize homelessness or move people to shelters en masse, which would not solve the root causes of the problem.

Poppe and other advocates said the report published by the Trump administration yesterday seemed to ignore policies proven to help reduce homelessness, like funding programs to help people transition to permanent housing.

"We know we can do this but the federal partner has to be strongly at the table investing in the rents and investing in the services to help people get connected," she said.

"I think we have advanced so far in these approaches that it's maddening to think that they're espousing these kind of viewpoints, and that's where I think it reads more like a political justification."

Poppe also said the report released by the White House missed the big economic picture of how rising rents and stagnant wages have contributed to housing insecurity.

Amie Fishman, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, said she's concerned about reports the Trump administration could try to use law enforcement to force people experiencing homelessness in California into federal shelters.

"We know the public support is behind these housing first strategies. What we don't need is shelters and cages and prisons, it's absurd to have to say that but we need homes for our vulnerable community members, not to lock people up. And it's exactly the kind of rhetoric Trump has used to divide us," she said.

Fishman said policies supported by the Trump administration like cutting taxes have concentrated resources have directly contributed to the systemic problems with housing inequality that created the homelessness crisis.

"What the federal government's been doing has been cutting and threatening to cut and making life worse for people all around the country," Fishman said.

 She also said deregulating housing, like the White House report suggests, would just let the fox in the henhouse and wouldn't guarantee more affordable housing.

"Trump is suggesting that we need to take action and that's correct but he just got everything else wrong," she said, adding "There are policy changes we need to make in California and in other places, there are ways to ensure we're getting the right outcomes, but calling for deregulation is another recipe for repeating prior disasters."

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he was naming U.S. hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien as his new national security adviser, replacing John Bolton who left abruptly last week after long disagreements with Trump and his other advisers over Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

"I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor," Trump tweeted while traveling in California. "I have worked long and hard with Robert. He will do a great job!"

I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019

At the Los Angeles airport Wednesday afternoon, Trump brought O'Brien over to meet reporters.

"Mister O'Brien is highly respected," the president said. "He did a tremendous job on hostage negotiation. We've had tremendous success in that regard," adding "through hostage negotiations I got to know him very well. We have a very good chemistry together and I think we're going to have a great relationship."

"We've had tremendous foreign policy successes under President Trump's leadership and I expect those to continue," O'Brien said.

After criticizing Bolton as "Mr. Tough Guy" whom he said was wrong on matters on which they disagreed, Trump also praised O'Brien while talking with pool reporters aboard Air Force One Tuesday about his possible choices.

"Robert O'Brien said Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator in history. He happens to be right. We are 38-0. 38-0, ask Robert. In fact, I had never heard the term. Robert O'Brien said Donald Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator of all time. 38-0. At the time he said it we were 29-0. We are 38-0….” Trump said.

Trump recently sent O’Brien – a GOP lawyer – to Sweden to deal with the ASAP Rocky case that Trump took a personal interest in.

O'Brien is Trump's fourth national security adviser.

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MCCAIG/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration is revoking a waiver California has had for decades allowing it to impose tougher vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions standards than the federal government -- in order to cut air pollution in the state.

Traveling in California, Trump, in a series of tweets, claimed that the move would "produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER."

He also claimed "Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!" and warned "Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business."

The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER. This will lead to more production because of this pricing and safety......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019

.... advantage, and also due to the fact that older, highly polluting cars, will be replaced by new, extremely environmentally friendly cars. There will be very little difference in emissions between the California Standard and the new U.S. Standard, but the cars will be....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019

Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told car manufacturers on Tuesday that the administration is moving toward a single "national standard" for vehicle fuel efficiency, an apparent swipe at California’s recent landmark agreement with four major automakers to impose stricter standards.

In a speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association, Wheeler said the administration planned to "bring clarity to the proper and improper scope and use" of a waiver in the Clean Air Act, the federal law intended to curb air pollution.

“One national standard will provide much-needed regulatory certainty to auto makers, dealers and consumers,” Wheeler said.

Trump’s tweets didn’t mention that California last July reached voluntary agreements with four automakers to reduce vehicle emissions, and that other states have embraced the new standards.

California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom called Trump’s move a “political vendetta” against the state, while environmental groups vowed to fight the plan in court.

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” he said.

At least one environmental group has already said it will sue.

In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund called it "unlawful" for the government to block states from choosing higher standards.

The plan "would be a reckless and unlawful attack on a great American success story," the group stated.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- The Saudi government on Wednesday publicly blamed Iran for the attack on its oil facilities over the weekend -- an accusation that will have serious consequences for a region already on edge.

The charge comes days after the U.S. already accused Iran of responsibility. Weighing how to respond, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he ordered "substantially" increased sanctions on Tehran, already struggling under a near total oil embargo and intense U.S. economic pressure.

During a news conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Saudi defense ministry showed what they said was surveillance footage of the missiles traveling south from Iran and displayed remnants of some of the Iranian drones it said were used in the attack.

After the large-scale attack against the two oil facilities, Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded," but waiting for the Saudis to verify Iran's culpability and provide guidance on "under what terms we would proceed!"

The main oil processing facility at Abqaiq was hit by 18 drones, according to the Saudi Defense Ministry, and the oil field at Khurais was hit by four land-based cruise missiles, with three more falling short. There were at total of 25 drones, although it's unclear what happened to the other ones.

The Defense Ministry spokesperson said that the missiles traveled north to south and could not have been launched from Yemen and that teams of investigators were working on recovering data from chips in the missiles.

A team of U.S. military forensics specialists is on the ground helping with that process and other evidence-gathering, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday. The U.S. is compiling "compelling forensic evidence" from the debris of the cruise missiles and drones, a U.S. official told ABC News Tuesday, which will help "provide a compelling case of where they came from."

The Saudis presented the evidence shortly before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Jeddah for a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to "coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region," according to his spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

Among that response will be tighter economic pressure, according to Trump, who tweeted that he was ordering Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to increase sanctions in response to the attack.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" he tweeted while traveling in California.

I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019

Iran is already struggling under intense U.S. sanctions that have targeted its top leaders and key industries, especially oil, metallurgy, and its financial sector. In August, the U.S. placed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, which Iran called "childish."

In June, Trump announced what he called "hard hitting" sanctions on Iran, including on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That came just weeks after Trump authorized new sanctions on Iranian iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, which the White House said comprise 10 percent of Iran's export economy on the one-year anniversary of Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord. Iran also marked the anniversary by beginning its own slow, but steady withdrawal from the deal, first expanding its enriched uranium stockpile, then enriching uranium at higher levels, and most recently, installing advanced centrifuges that could expand their enrichment capacity.

Tensions have risen throughout the Middle East since Trump's withdrawal, with Iran trying to increase the pressure on the U.S. and others in response to the American economic sanctions campaign. After the U.S. ended all waivers for its oil sanctions, forcing countries to stop purchasing Iranian crude, Iranian forces attacked commercial tankers in the Persian Gulf and seized a handful of ships and their crews.

The skirmishes, tensions, and intense rhetoric have raised fears of a clash that leads to a wider war. In June, Iran shot down an American drone, prompting Trump to order a military response before canceling it.

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Rawf8/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Democratic megadonor and political activist Ed Buck was arrested Tuesday and charged with running a drug den out of his California home where prosecutors say he lured in addicted and homeless men.

Buck, 65, was charged with one felony count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. He is accused of injecting a 37-year-old man with methamphetamine who prosecutors said nearly died.

Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment early Wednesday morning.

“I remain deeply concerned for the safety of people whose life circumstances may make them more vulnerable to criminal predators,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Tuesday.

Buck, a former model and actor, became involved in politics in the mid-1980s. Since then, he's made big dollar donations to Democratic politicians and is a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles.

In court documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors described Buck as a "violent, dangerous sexual predator," with "no regard for human life," who "mainly preys on men made vulnerable by addiction and homelessness." Prosecutors alleged he uses narcotics, money and shelter as bait to draw victims into his home.

"From his home, in a position of power, Buck manipulates his victims into participating in his sexual fetishes," prosecutors wrote in court documents. "These fetishes include supplying and personally administering dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims."

Since 2017, two men have been found dead of apparent methamphetamine overdoses inside Buck's West Hollywood apartment. There were narcotics paraphernalia and sex toys at the scene in both incidents, according to court documents. However, prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Prosecutors said Buck was undeterred by the two deaths and continued "his malevolent behavior." On or around Sept. 4, prosecutors alleged Buck "personally and deliberately administered a dangerously large dose of methamphetamine" at his apartment to a 37-year-old man, identified in court documents as Joe Doe. The man left Buck's home to seek medical attention upon becoming concerned he had overdosed.

The man returned to the residence on Sept. 11, and Buck again "personally and intentionally injected" him with "two dangerously large doses of methamphetamine," prosecutors said. As the man again began suffering symptoms of an overdose, prosecutors alleged Buck "refused to render aid" and instead "thwarted" the man's attempts to get help.

The man eventually fled Buck's apartment and called 911 from a nearby gas station. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to court documents.

“With this new evidence," Lacey said, "I authorized the filing of criminal charges against Ed Buck.”

During the investigation into the incident last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department found hundreds of photographs taken in Buck's apartment showing men in compromising positions, according to court documents. The case remains under investigation by the sheriff's department.

"The full scope of his consistent malicious behavior is unknown," prosecutors wrote in court documents. "It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable young men dies of an overdose."

"His deadly behavior has not stopped," they added.

Buck is scheduled to be arraigned in court Wednesday. Prosecutors are recommending his bail be set at $4 million. If convicted as charged, Buck faces up to five years and eight months in California state prison.

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