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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is moving to ban Haitian immigrants from applying for seasonal and farm work visas in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday night, just days after the president reportedly used a vulgar slur to describe the country last week.

The department said it will remove Haiti, as well as Belize and Samoa, from its list of countries whose citizens can receive H-2A and H-2B visas, which are typically granted to seasonal workers in agriculture and other industries.

“The Secretary of Homeland Security has determined, however, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, that the following countries should no longer be designated as eligible countries because they are not meeting the standards set out in the regulation: Belize, Haiti, and Samoa,” the department said in a regulatory filing.

In the filing, which was posted online, the DHS said Haitian nationals “have historically demonstrated high levels of fraud and abuse and a high rate of overstaying the terms” of their U.S. admissions.

Belize was removed from the list due to risks connected to human trafficking, while Samoa was removed for not accepting back citizens who’d been ordered to leave the U.S., according to the filing.

The announcement comes as the administration battles allegations the president asked lawmakers why they would want people from Haiti, Africa and other "s---hole countries" coming into the United States, according to multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion.

Trump has repeatedly denied making the comment and he praised the people of Haiti in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

“I love the people. There’s a tremendous warmth,” Trump said. “And they’re very hard-working people.”

He tweeted on Jan. 12, in the wake of the reports about his language that he has "a wonderful relationship with Haitians."

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Russian Presidential Press and Information Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, approval of United States leadership declined around the globe between 2016 and 2017, according to a survey released Thursday.

The global poll from Gallup found that on average only 30 percent of the world approves of U.S. leadership during President Donald Trump's first year in office, down from 48 percent in the last year of President Barack Obama's administration in 2016. The United States' leadership approval rating is now only slightly better than Russia's, 27 percent, and is on-par with China's rating of 31 percent. With a rating of 41 percent, Germany replaced the United States as the highest-rated global power.

There were 137 countries surveyed for the 2017 poll.

The poll suggests Trump's "America First" policies and attitudes are weakening approval of U.S. leadership around the world, but also close to home.

As the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) hangs in the balance, approval of U.S leadership plummeted with American neighbors Mexico and Canada. In Canada, approval dropped 40 points from 60 percent in 2016 to 20 percent in 2017, while in Mexico, approval dropped 28 points from 44 percent approval in 2016 to 16 percent approval in 2017.

Some of the other most significant declines in approval came from longtime American allies like France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.

Trump's strong relationship with Israel, however, may have boosted the United States' leadership ratings by 14 percent. Overall, 67 percent of Israelis approve of U.S. leadership. Large gains were also seen in Belarus, Macedonia and Liberia.

Approval was lowest in Iceland and Russia with 8 percent approval.

"While advancing American influence -- one of the four pillars of the administration’s new national security strategy -- may begin with building up wealth and power at home, as Trump has stated, it can’t be achieved without a strong commitment to and close cooperation with partners and allies abroad," the report says.

"It is too early in Trump’s presidency to deem his 'America First' foreign policy a success or failure. However, it is clear that based on the trajectory of what the world thinks of the U.S., many of the U.S. alliances and partnerships that the Trump administration considers a 'great strength' are potentially at risk."

Gallup began the survey, called Rating World Leaders, in 2007. The results are gathered by face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in all 137 countries. The survey claims with 95 percent confidence a sampling error of plus or minus 2 to 5 percentage points.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on immigration -- and according to lawmakers and sources both in the room and briefed on the meeting -- told the group that President Donald Trump's campaign promises on immigration were not fully informed and that the U.S. would not construct a wall on the border with Mexico "from sea to shining sea."

“He said the promises of the campaign and governance are two different things, you guys are all elected officials, you know that,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. recalled Kelly telling the group.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement, "I can confirm that Chief of Staff Kelly said today that the president’s campaign was not fully informed about the wall he was promising to voters."

Gutierrez and other sources familiar with the meeting said Kelly took credit for "educating the president" on a border wall and for some of Trump's shifting positions on Dreamers -- undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Asked about the meeting in a Fox News interview, Kelly said Trump has changed the way he looks at issues since becoming president. "He has evolved in the way he's looked at things. Campaigns and governing are two different things," Kelly said.

Kelly said he told the lawmakers people say things "during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed."

"There are places where geographically, a wall would not be realistic. There are other parts of the southwest border that are so wild and untamed that there is no traffic that goes through them, " he said on Fox. "There are other places we think about 800 miles additional wall to include the 600 that's already in place-- the fencing-- that would suffice."

Speaking to ABC News's Mary Bruce, Kelly said, "There are many places on the border that the professionals in Customs and Border Protection-- men and women who work the border every day – can tell you exactly where they need more fencing or more barrier, and that’s what the president is seeking to do."

"That, combined with closing some of the loopholes, the draw if you will -- because the average person that is coming to the U.S. illegally, whether they come by visa and overstay, or sneak through the southwest, they understand that our really, really ineffective immigration laws, essentially allow them to stay indefinitely," Kelly told ABC News.

Some lawmakers left the meeting with Kelly unsure of what President Trump wants to see in a deal to find a permanent legislative fix to DACA -- the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program begun as an executive action under President Obama but which President Trump has ordered ended.

One lawmaker questioned whether they can trust the White House to negotiate in good faith.

"Trump's a wild card," Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat, said. "There's no track record to be able to trust the White House on immigration."

Republicans who spoke with Kelly Wednesday were more optimistic.

"What I was looking for was that firm commitment to make sure that all of the DACA population at least is taken care of,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., told reporters after meeting with Kelly and White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen.

“The administration considers this one of its goals and I was very encouraged,” Curbelo said.

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Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former first lady Michelle Obama turned 54 Wednesday, celebrating her first birthday in Washington, D.C., since leaving the White House.

She started the day with flowers and a card, addressed “Miche,” from her husband, former President Barack Obama.

“Thank you @BarackObama for the beautiful flowers waiting for me in the office this morning. You’re my best friend, biggest fan, and getting notes and flowers from you will never get old,” she posted on Instagram.

She also thanked the people from “around the country” who had wished her well on her birthday.

“You have no idea how much we love hearing from you. I know birthdays can sometimes be bittersweet (54!), but your messages of hope, generosity, and warmth have always reminded me how lucky and blessed we are,” she wrote.

In years past, the Obamas have been seen at D.C. restaurants to celebrate Michelle Obama’s birthday, but plans for the former first lady’s 54th were not announced.

The former president, 56, has never disguised his affection for his wife, the mother of their two daughters and his partner since their days on the South Side of Chicago.

“You're not only my wife and the mother of my children, you're my best friend. I love your strength, your grace, and your determination. And I love you more each day. Happy Birthday, @MichelleObama,” he wrote beneath a photo of the two on a couch, dressed in matching hues.

Another birthday gift came from the Philadelphia Eagles’ Chris Long, who released a video to promote Michelle Obama’s efforts to get students to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Student Aid, a college aid form. Long also donated his entire season’s salary to fund educational opportunities in the three cities where he’s played for the NFL: Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis.

Since leaving office, the Obamas have laid low politically. Public endeavors have largely been for the Obama Foundation, speeches or travel -- though the former president joined two then-candidates and now-governors, Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., and Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., on the campaign trail in the fall.

Michelle and Barack Obama both welcomed leaders from Chicago, the U.S. and around the world for the Obama Foundation Summit at the end of October, and recently, Michelle Obama and Prince Harry made a surprise visit to students at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, according to photos from both the Kensington Palace and former first lady’s account.

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic Senator Dick Durbin appeared on ABC's The View Wednesday to defend his account that President Trump called African nations "s---hole countries" at a White House meeting last week on immigration.

“I stand by my words,” Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told the co-hosts. He said the language Trump used was “explicit” and reflects the president’s view that “we would favor some countries like Norway and the Europeans at the expense of Africans and people from Haiti.”

“It was clear to me what the president was saying,” he added.

The controversy over Trump's language continued after Durbin and other senators questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen -- who was also at the meeting -- as she testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nielsen, under oath, said she "did not hear" the word "s---hole," during an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Answering a question from Durbin, Nielsen replied, “I don't specifically remember a category — categorization of countries in Africa. There was a lot of rough talk by a lot of people in the room.”

Durbin, responded he didn’t “know how you could miss those words spoken by the president.”

“A lot of my colleagues who were in that room, two senators and now the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, can't remember what the president said. I can't forget what the president said,” Durbin added.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, another senator in the White House meeting-- who now claims Trump never said the words in question -- said Nielsen backed his version.

“I saw what Sen. Durbin said -- that he stood by every word that he said. So let me be clear. I stand by every word that I said,” Cotton said Tuesday. “The difference is, I’m right. As far as I know there’s only one person who’s spoken about this meeting under oath and she confirmed my account.”

Cotton initially said, in statement shortly after the meeting, that he “did not recall” Trump making any offensive comments.

On The View, Durbin refused to label his colleagues as “liars” when asked by co-host Joy Behar about the different accounts.

Guest co-host Alicia Menendez pressed Durbin on why he didn’t scold the president in the moment.

Durbin responded by saying he deferred to his Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to say the president “was wrong.” Durbin said Graham used the president’s own explicit words to criticize Trump,

Graham has not disputed Durbin's account.

Co-host Meghan McCain asked Durbin if publicly disclosing what Trump said hurt any progress being made on a deal on the fate of nearly 800,000 Dreamers -- immigrants brought into the U.S. as children.

“You're going to see before the end of the day more Republicans stepping forward and saying they don't agree with President Trump's views on immigration,” he replied. “I don't believe those views represent America.”



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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(NEW YORK) -- Democrats are celebrating another state legislative victory, with Patty Schachtner’s win Tuesday in a Wisconsin State Senate race becoming the 34th Democratic gain since President Trump was inaugurated last January.

In the same time frame, Republicans have flipped just four state legislative districts from Democratic to Republican control.

A medical examiner from St. Croix County, Wisconsin, Schachtner defeated Republican Adam Jarchow, a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, in a district that's been under Republican control for close to two decades.

President Trump won District 10, which runs along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, by 17 points in the 2016 presidential election, and Schachter’s victory is generating anxiety among Republicans as the 2018 midterm elections grow closer.

Democrats have flipped state legislative districts in nine different states since Trump’s inauguration, some in deep red states, including Oklahoma and Georgia, but their biggest gains came last November in Virginia, where they flipped 15 seats and nearly took control of the state House of Delegates.

Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, took notice of Tuesday night’s result, urging his party to view it as a “wake up call” that they are not communicating their policies effectively to voters.

Another powerful Wisconsin Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, told reporters Wednesday that the party should learn from the loss.

“Typically we've held this seat, and we lost this seat last night. So yeah I think we should pay attention to it,” Ryan said.

The warnings from Ryan and Walker come as Democrats are mounting attempts to take back both the House and Senate in Washington in November, a goal they're unlikely to meet if they can't make gains in state districts similar to the one Schachtner was able to win Tuesday night.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who has seen Democratic hopes bolstered in recent months by victories in Virginia, Alabama, and state legislative districts in Oklahoma and Washington state, tied the Republican loss to President Trump.

“These results continue the trend we saw in 2017: Democrats are winning across the country. Voters are flat-out rejecting the Trump-GOP agenda that gives another giant tax cut to the top 1% and wealthy corporations, and they know that the Democratic Party is fighting for working families like theirs,” Perez said in a statement Wednesday.

Despite the victories, Republicans focused on state legislatures are urging caution, and point to the massive gains the party has made in the past ten years nationwide as evidence that what Democrats are touting as a “trend” is not as widespread as they make it seem.

“Right now Republicans are playing deep on Democrat's turf after picking up 1,000 seats during the previous decade. And so you're naturally going to have in the first-term election with a new president, you're going to have a regression to the mean from those all-time historic highs,” said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

“The question then becomes how much of that is going to be executed in a way that has an impact on the overall environment. Is that going to lead to flipping chambers, is that going to lead to a change in the overall environment?” Walter added.

As 2018 nears, and President Trump’s role in helping Republicans win at the state and federal levels remains unclear, there is an acknowledgement that--- while he has proven he can turn out Republicans-- Trump’s appeal could be a dangerous double-edged sword.

“I think that Trump's impact on the overall environment is that he is one of the greatest motivators in the history of American politics,” Walter said, “But obviously the people that don't agree with his policy proposals or don't agree with him personally or just happen not to like him, they’re obviously highly motivated on the other side as well.”

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Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Democratic operative Jim Messina, who headed up former President Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign, says he has met with representatives of 16 potential Democratic candidates who want to run against President Donald Trump. But he told ABC News' Powerhouse Politics co-host Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, even more people want to throw their hat in the ring.

“The good news for Democrats is there are 24 people thinking they could run for president. That’s a historic bench.”

And he’s excited about the Oprah Winfrey buzz.

“There’s a whole bunch of people trying to encourage her to run.”

Messina was coy with the co-host, ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein, about specific candidates, but not about the questions he asks.

“I ask them two questions. Number one, do you want to put your family through hell? And number two, what is your vision for the future?”

Messina runs a strategic consulting group that advises political candidates and businesses here in the U.S. and all over the world.

Messina admits he is obsessed with voters that voted for Obama and then Trump. His group just finished a long-term study analyzing those voters in battleground states. And he’s found a similar theme to the mantra Bill Clinton’s adviser James Carville coined in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

“The economy is the driver of almost every one of those votes. They [Obama and Trump voters] care about that more than anything else. And their biggest worry is the president’s tweets. And his ongoing back and forth. They think it distracts him from the kind of economic focus they want. Voters want an economic focus.”

And Messina would get some late-night phone calls when he was running Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

“I got a call every 2-3 weeks in the middle of the night from this incredibly brilliant political operative named Bill Clinton. And President Clinton would say to me in his creative voice, ‘Jim, the only thing that matters is winning the economic argument about the future.’ And that is really true with these voters.”

But with the strong economy and the stock market at an all-time high, wouldn’t that bode well for President Trump and spell trouble for Democrats?

“I think Trump is a different case because he’s so divisive. Because he’s shown the inability to stick to his own message and talk about what he’s doing.”

And Democrats need to win over independent voters. Despite a favorable map for Republicans, Messina thinks the large number of over 30 House Republicans not running for re-election means a chance for Democrats when there’s no incumbent.

“These retirements really, really matter.”

And keep your eye on the state governor races. Messina points to the Democratic victory in Virginia of Ralph Northam and feels good about Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida. But he cautions, “We’re Democrats, so we usually find a way to blow it. Certainly that was true in the last presidential election.”

But he does give Trump credit for his latest move of cancelling his trip to the United Kingdom, where he would have met with historic protests, according to Messina who is consulting Britain’s Conservative Party.

“President Trump has become the most divisive figure in the world.”

“His domination in the media coverage here is true around the world as well. The week before the general election in the U.K. last year, President Trump was discussed on social media more than the two major candidates the week before their national election.”

And Messina says there’s only one other place where Trump is more unpopular than London.

“President Trump is about as popular in Mexico as charging more for beer," he said.

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to blame President Trump Wednesday for the delay in reaching a bipartisan deal to protect those who benefit from DACA.

"I'm looking for something President Trump supports," McConnell told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "He's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign."

"As soon as he figures out what he is for," McConnell added, "then I will be convinced we're not just spinning our wheels but actually dealing with a bill that can become law."

McConnell said that as far as a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded goes, "I'm certainly going to take up what the House sends us," insisting that he believes that a House-approved CR would have a good chance of passing the Senate.

McConnell's comments come as President Trump and other Republicans have said that if the government is shutdown over the dispute, blame will fall on Democrats.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, on Wednesday, admonished Democrats for withholding their votes on a continuing resolution, calling it "baffling to me that Democrats would be willing to block funding for our military over unrelated issues."

On the same subject, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer there remains strong Democratic support to oppose a continuing resolution. Republicans are in charge, Schumer said, and blame for a government shutdown would fall on them.

"We hope to avoid it," Schumer said Wednesday. "We're going to do everything we can to avoid it, we hope we will. But if we don't, it's going to fall on their backs."

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged her colleagues to vote against the GOP spending bill.

Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., continue to push their bipartisan deal on DACA. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, however, said Wednesday that deal "fell short of what [President Trump] was looking for."

Despite the president previously tweeting that a government shutdown might be a good thing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that such an outcome has "never been a preference of this administration."

"If that does happen, the blame, the fault, will all lie at one place, because we would like to see a budget deal happen," Sanders said.

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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Trump's son, Eric, is dismissing accusations from some lawmakers and others of racism based on comments he reportedly made about African nations as "s---hole countries" during an immigration meeting with lawmakers last week.

"My father sees one color, green," Trump said in an interview Wednesday on Fox and Friends."That is all he cares about, he cares about the economy. He does not see race."

"He is least racist person I ever met in my entire life," Trump added.

Trump cited gains in the economy for African Americans as evidence his father is not racist and accused the media of covering the figures up.

"They will never report that African-American unemployment is the lowest it ever been," Trump said. "And they’ll go out and will call him racist. It’s very sad, it’s a race to the bottom. They stoop very, very low."

The White House has similarly spent a week pushing back on claims the president is a bigot, after participants in a Thursday immigration meeting said Trump uttered a vulgar phrase about African nations and expressed preference for accepting immigrants from countries such as Norway.

"Frankly I think if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?" press secretary Sarah Sanders asked reporters on Tuesday. "Why did Chuck Schumer and all of his colleagues come and beg Donald Trump for money?"

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a searing speech on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, Sen. Jeff Flake denounced President Donald Trump for his sustained attacks against the news media, going so far as to compare his rhetoric to that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In Flake's remarks Wednesday, he pointed to Stalin, the Soviet Union's 30-year dictator as a seeming inspiration for Trump's attacks against the press, singling out a phrase that each used to refer to their interpreted opposition.

"It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies," Flake said. "It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase 'enemy of the people,' that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of 'annihilating such individuals' who disagreed with the supreme leader."

Flake, long an outspoken critic of the president, said his speech coincides with the planned date of Trump's "Fake News Awards," which he announced in a Twitter post at the beginning of the month. Already delayed once, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called such a ceremony a "potential event" Tuesday and did not provide details about it when asked at the day's press briefing.

“2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth – more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government, said Flake, R-Ariz., adding, "2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it."

Last February, Trump drew widespread condemnation when he tweeted that the "FAKE NEWS media" was not his enemy, but rather "the enemy of the American people," a charge his critics felt took his disdain for coverage of his administration beyond his usual attacks.

Flake characterized the president's attacks as "shameful" and "repulsive" Wednesday and accused him of inspiring autocratic leaders throughout the world — citing denials of news reports by heads-of-state in Syria, the Philippines, Venezuela, Myanmar and Singapore.

"This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President," said Flake, addressing Trump. "Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible."

The speech was the senator's second such address targeting Trump from the Senate floor in the last three months.

In October, Flake passionately decried what he called the "regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals" under the president as he announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018. An emotional Flake said at the time: "We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country," including "the flagrant disregard for truth and decency."

The senator concluded his speech Wednesday by calling on his Senate colleagues -- whom he acknowledged have all likely faced news coverage they "felt was jaded or unfair" — to "stop excusing, ignoring — or worse, endorsing — these attacks on the truth."

"For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost," he said.


Responding to Flake's speech later on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the senator's criticisms are a result of "terrible poll numbers" and that Flake is "looking for attention."

"He's not criticizing the president because he's against oppression," Sanders told reporters. "I think it's unfortunate and our position here at the White House is that we welcome access to the media every day."

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain has used the press to take aim at President Donald Trump's attacks on the media.

The Republican senator from Arizona penned an op-ed for The Washington Post, condemning what he views as Trump's attempts to discredit the free press.

The piece, which was published Tuesday night, was timed to coincide with the president's previously disclosed plans to hold his "Fake News Awards" on Wednesday, though it is unclear if those alleged awards will take place Wednesday or ever.

McCain specifically mentioned Trump's use of the term "fake news" and the mock awards he has touted.

"Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy," McCain wrote.

McCain cited statistics about violence against journalists and the 262 cases of reporters being imprisoned worldwide, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"While administration officials often condemn violence against reporters abroad, Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets. This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit," he wrote.

McCain also noted that by using and legitimizing the term "fake news," it allows repressive governments in other countries to do the same, making the work for activists in those countries more difficult.

"Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression," McCain wrote.

He argued that journalists must be able to do their jobs freely. "Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom," he said.

On Jan. 7, Trump tweeted that "The Fake News Awards" would be "presented to the losers" Wednesday.

When asked about the timing of the alleged awards during the daily press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she would keep the media "posted on any details around that potential event and what that would look like."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court justices will consider Wednesday if a defendant’s attorney can admit a client’s guilt to a jury – as a concession defense - against the client’s expressed objection.

Robert McCoy, in 2011, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the 2008, shooting and killing of his estranged wife’s mother, step-father, and son.

McCoy was initially assigned a public defender but asked the court to dismiss his lawyer saying his relationship with his attorney had broken down.

McCoy's family hired, Larry English, to represent their son Robert. English, after reviewing the case, told McCoy the case was not winnable and a plea deal would be best but McCoy, “adamantly refused to take a plea” according to court documents.

McCoy maintained his innocence and claimed to have an alibi, but English felt he had to do what was best for his client.

In a sworn affidivde, English explains his reasoning “As time passed I became convinced that the evidence against Robert McCoy was overwhelming. I negotiated with the Distinct Attomey's Office to open up the possibility of a plea of guilty in return for a sentence of life imprisonment”

English told McCoy he, “intended to concede to the jury” that McCoy was the killer. English admits, in sworn documents, that “Robert told me not to make that concession but I told him that I was going to do so. I explained that I felt I had an ethical duty to save his life, regardless of what he wanted to do.”

English told ABC News in an interview that "In every trial a lawyer has options presented to him under the law and you use every tool to advance your clients cause."

He added, “ this was the best lawyering I did in my life”.

McCoy's representation will argue before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated.

ABC News asked Steven Schwinn, a constitutional expert and law professor at the John Marshall Law School to discuss the case.

How did the case get to the Supreme Court?

McCoy was sentenced to death (three times) in the trial court. After he retained new counsel, he moved for a new trial; this was denied. He then appealed, but the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. He petitioned the Supreme Court for review, and the Court agreed to hear the case.

What question(s) are the Justices being asked to decide?

Does a criminal defense attorney have to consult with the defendant and get the defendant’s permission before conceding guilt at trial? In death cases, a criminal defense attorney might use this strategy in order to avoid a death sentence. The reasoning goes like this: If we fess up to the crime at trial, the judge or jury might be more sympathetic at sentencing. This is called a “concession defense.” So the real question in the case is this: Can a criminal defense attorney use a concession defense against the expressed wishes of the criminal defendant in a death case?

What does the Sixth Amendment say?


As relevant to this case, it only says that a criminal defendant has the right to “the assistance of counsel for his defence [sic].” The parties wrangle over whether this requires a defense attorney to get the defendant’s permission before employing a concession defense in a death case. Parsing the language, the government focuses on “the assistance of counsel” (emphasizing that defense attorneys have a great deal of latitude in setting legal strategy), while McCoy focuses on “his defence [sic]” (emphasizing that ultimately the defense attorney is simply “assisting” the defendant in presenting the defendant’s defense).

What is the national impact of this case?


The ruling will likely be quite narrow, addressing an attorney’s use of a concession defense against his or her client’s wishes in a death case. (That’s because the Court will want to avoid writing Sixth Amendment law for factual situations that aren’t before it.) I don’t know how many cases fall into this category, so it’s hard to say how broadly the ruling will apply.

In addition to the impact on cases, there is a split in the lower courts, meaning that some state high courts and federal courts have disagreed on the answer to the core question. This case will resolve that split.

How might the Justices rule?

It’s hard to say. The Court doesn’t always split along conventional ideological lines in criminal procedure cases, so the usual math doesn’t necessarily apply. On one hand, on the core question—whether the attorney had to get McCoy’s approval before employing the concession defense—the facts of the case are quite compelling in favor of McCoy. But on the other hand, on the underlying criminal culpability, the facts may not be so favorable to McCoy. In short, the facts of this case matter quite a bit: Justices concerned about procedure (irrespective of result) might lean toward McCoy, while Justices concerned about result (and less about procedure) may lean toward the government.

 

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Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former congressman, senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole was one of the few prominent GOP names to support President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Trump will repay that support on Wednesday as he appears at an award ceremony granting Dole the Congressional Gold Medal.

Dole served as a congressman and then senator from 1961 to 1996 in his home state of Kansas. He spent the first eight years in Washington as a member of the House of Representatives before graduating to the Senate in 1969 and serving through 1996.

Dole's involvement in presidential politics is as lengthy as anyone to never hold the office. He ran for president once, vice president once and twice came up short for the GOP nomination for president.

Dole was the only former presidential candidate to support Trump in the 2016 election, though.

Sen. John McCain, Mitt Romney and former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all all either said they were not going to vote for him or said after the election that they didn’t vote for him. Dole was the only one to show up to support Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, as well.

The 94-year-old politician ran for vice president in 1976 along with Gerald Ford in a losing effort to Jimmy Carter. Dole ran for the Republican nomination for president four years later, but lost to eventual President Ronald Reagan. Eight years later, he again ran for the top of the ticket and again lost -- this time to George H.W. Bush.

Dole finally had his chance atop the GOP ticket in 1996, but he lost in a landslide to incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton.

The loss, and his exit from Congress, essentially put an end to Dole's career in politics.

Dole was previously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom a full 21 years ago by Clinton, just months after losing the presidential election to him.

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@colbertlateshow/Twitter(NEW YORK) -- Comedians took aim at President Donald Trump’s doctor on Tuesday after he said the president’s "overall health is excellent," according to his recent physical assessment.

Dr. Ronny Jackson shared the outcome of Trump's exam at a White House press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, including his 6-foot-3 height and 239-pound weight, which puts him right on the brink of obesity.

“That’s awfully convenient,” Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, said Thursday in his opening monologue, before going on to insinuate that Trump may have bribed the doctor with cash.

"Listen, Doc, I don’t want to be obese, but I feel like this wad of cash is about one pound. Why don't you take this off my hands and weigh me again, OK," Colbert said in his best Trump impersonation.

Jimmy Kimmel also opened Live with a few jokes on the president’s weight.

“Despite the fact that he is borderline obese, Trump is in excellent health. How could he be in excellent health? When he sneezes gravy comes out. Look at him,” Kimmel joked.

“The doctor said the is examination went exceptionally well, which means he stopped eating chicken long enough to get a reading,” Kimmel added, referring to Trump’s reported love of junk food.

Over on The Daily Show, host Trevor Noah said he still had a few questions about the health report.

“So it turns out, according to the official White House doctor, Trump is completely sane, which makes me more worried because that means he's doing all of this s--t on purpose,” Noah said. “You covfefe in your normal mind?

“No heart problems, no dementia, no dentures? But did you test for racism,” he asked sarcastically.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has reached an agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to come in for an interview with the special counsel’s team office after he was subpoenaed by Mueller to appear before a grand jury, according to a sources familiar with the matter.

The interview has not yet been scheduled, according to one source.

Bannon spent roughly ten hours behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday. The panel also subpoenaed Bannon for testimony as part of its Russia investigation after he refused Tuesday to answer questions about his time working for Trump during the transition and in the White House.

Bannon, according to one source close to him, welcomes the subpoenas and hopes it sends a signal to the president that he is not seeking to spill information. Bannon parted ways with the president this month in wake of Michael Wolff's bombshell book, “The Fire and the Fury: Inside the Trump White House”, which paints a portrait of dysfunction in the White House, told in many parts from Bannon's viewpoint.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday confirmed that Bannon’s attorney was in touch with the White House yesterday during his interview with the House Intelligence Committee, as he determined whether or not to answer members’ and staff questions.

“That's the same process that is typically followed,” Sanders said. “Sometimes they actually have a White House attorney present in the room, this time it was something that was relayed via phone and, again, was following standard procedure for an instance like this and something that will likely happen again on any other number of occasions not just within this administration but future administrations,” Sanders said.

A source familiar with Bannon’s appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday said the White House had instructed Bannon not to answer questions about his time during the transition and the White House unless and until the committee and the White House can reach agreement on the proper scope of questioning in light of executive privilege concerns.

In a statement to ABC News, Bannon attorney William Burck said, "Executive privilege belongs to the President of the United States. It’s not Mr. Bannon’s right to waive it.”

On Wednesday the panel interviewed outgoing White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Bannon is expected back before the House Intelligence Committee to resolve questions about his testimony and claims of privilege as early as Thursday, sources tell ABC News.

Another source familiar with the investigation told ABC News that it was anticipated that congressional investigators and the special counsel would want to speak with Bannon after Wolff wrote in Fire and Fury that Bannon allegedly called Donald Trump Jr's meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians "treasonous," "unpatriotic."

In the book, Bannon reportedly said "The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero."

Bannon also allegedly told Wolff that Trump Jr. would suffer from a money laundering investigation and would "crack ... like an egg on national TV." And Wolff claims Bannon openly suggested that Jared Kushner, the president's son in law, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort might have been involved in financial crimes.

Investigators might be interested in what Bannon knows about the White House’s slow response to then-Acting Attorney General Yates’ concerns about former national security adviser Michael Flynn (and, also his misleading of the vice president about conversations with the Russian ambassador and his subsequent firing), former FBI director James Comey’s firing, White House and campaign discussions about the Trump tower meeting with Russians, and White House involvement regarding the misleading statement by Trump Jr. about meeting with Russians, among other topics.


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