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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A longtime business associate of President Trump’s former personal attorney has agreed to cooperate with the government as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors in New York, a source familiar with the agreement told ABC News.

Evgeny Friedman, 46, a Russian immigrant known as the “Taxi King,” was chief executive of Taxiclub Management Inc. which managed a fleet of more than 800 cabs, including some controlled by Cohen and his wife. He was accused of failing to pay the state $5 million in surcharges on taxi rides and pleaded guilty in Albany County to a single count of tax fraud.

“The Taxi King admitted that he built his empire by stealing from New Yorkers,” New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood said. “Friedman pocketed money that should have provided much-needed investment in our transit system and he’ll now have to pay back every cent.”

His plea deal, announced Tuesday, requires Friedman to assist federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York who have been investigating Cohen’s business practices and hush payments to women, the source said, as well as paying the $5 million owed to the state. Friedman was facing what would have amounted to a life sentence, the source said, but if he satisfies the terms of the agreement, he will receive just five years of probation.

In a statement to ABC News, Friedman expressed regret for his actions and sought to distance Cohen, who he described as a “dear, dear personal friend” from the scandal.

“I plead guilty to a felony, I am humbled and shamed!” Friedman said. “This is me taking responsibility for my actions! … Michael is a dear, dear personal friend and a passive client! That's it! This is a very difficult day for myself and my family! I had been an officer of the court in excess of 20 years and now I am a felon! I hate that I have been grouped in this runaway train that I am not a part of!”

While prosecutors declined to discuss with ABC News how Friedman is prepared to assist them in the criminal investigation of Cohen, they typically know in advance what a potential witness could offer in exchange for a reduced sentence. There is no specific mention of cooperation in a transcript of the plea hearing obtained by ABC News, but prosecutor Ben Clark mentioned “other factors known to the AG” in outlining the terms of the agreement.

“The Attorney General's office agrees that if the defendant fulfills these conditions, and taking into account all other factors known to the AG at the time of sentencing, we would recommend that he would receive a sentence of 5 years’ probation.”

Later in the hearing the judge warned that a violation of the agreement by Friedman would likely lead to a prison sentence of up to 3 to 9 years.

Legal experts agree that the terms of the deal appear to be very favorable for Friedman, suggesting that he agreed to provide something of significant value to prosecutors.

Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said the terms of the deal appear to signify a substantial level of cooperation.

“A no jail time deal like this strongly suggests a level of cooperation significant enough to incriminate other significant subjects,” he said. “And those who are prosecuted under New York State law, cannot be saved by a Presidential pardon.”

Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, described it as a “very good deal” for Friedman that could prove a major headache for both Cohen and Trump.

“This defendant [Friedman] could potentially have a seismic impact on the president’s case because he is a direct threat to Michael Cohen, who is direct threat to the president,” he said.

Michael Volkov, a defense attorney at The Volkov Law Group, sounded a grim note on Cohen’s legal prospects after the deal had been struck.

“The government now has a strong inside witness who can assist in explaining many of Cohen’s business activities and potential fraud schemes, especially when it came to valuing the medallions for loan purposes,” he said. “Cohen secured large loans with the medallions as collateral. As I have been saying, Cohen is a dead man walking and Friedman’s plea puts Friedman in the role of undertaker.”

Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, did not immediately respond to questions about Friedman’s plea, but in a Thursday morning Tweet, Cohen sought to distance himself from Friedman.

“I am one of thousands of medallion owners who entrust management companies to operate my medallions according to the rules of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission,” Cohen wrote. “Gene Freidman and I are not partners and have never been partners in this business or any other.”

Friedman’s attorney, Patrick Egan, declined to discuss whether Friedman’s plea spells trouble for Cohen.

"I cannot comment on any speculation regarding what the entry of the plea indicates regarding any case other than my client's,” he said.

In a text message to a reporter for the New York Daily News, Friedman denied he flipped on his friend in exchange for leniency.

“This is me taking responsibility for my actions and has nothing to do w/mc,” Friedman wrote to the newspaper.

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Twitter(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump can't block people from his Twitter account because they disagree with his political views, saying such action violates the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

"This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, 'block' a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States," the judge wrote in her ruling.

"The answer to both questions is no."

There was no immediate response from the White House on the ruling.

The Knight First Amendment Institute filed the lawsuit in July 2017 on behalf of seven people who had been blocked from the president's @realDonaldTrump Twitter account after they had individually "tweeted messages critical of the President or his policies in reply to tweets from @realDonaldTrump."

The suit also named as defendants Daniel Scavino, the White House director of social media and assistant to the president; White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.

In her ruling, the judge said Sanders and Hicks were no longer defendants in the suit.

Since being blocked, the plaintiffs were unable to see the president's tweets, which include policy proposals and cabinet appointments. The blocked individuals have had to use workarounds or go through third-party accounts to view the president's tweets, according to the lawsuit.

"These limitations are cognizable injuries-in-fact," the lawsuit contended. "The individual plaintiffs' ability to communicate using Twitter has been encumbered by these limitations (regardless of whether they are harms cognizable under the First Amendment)," according to the suit.

In her ruling, Buchwald rejected arguments from the president's lawyers "that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the president's personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs."

Buchwald issued a "declaratory judgment" on behalf of the plaintiff, specifically stating that "the blocking of the individual plaintiffs from the @realdonaldtrump account because of their expressed political views violates the First Amendment" and writing, "no government official -- including the President -- is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared."

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform,” Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, said in a statement. “The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end.”

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has formally denied allegations made by a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who is suing him for defamation.

Trump's legal team submitted its answer to the lawsuit filed in New York by Summer Zervos, who appeared on the reality show in 2005.

The president denied he subjected Zervos to unwanted advances and denied claims that he "debased and denigrated" her by making false statements on the campaign trail.

Zervos alleged he defamed her after she came forward in the waning weeks of the campaign with allegations that Trump had groped and kissed her a decade ago without consent.

Trump has sought, so far unsuccessfully, to freeze the case while he tries to have it dismissed. His attorney, Marc Kasowitz, has signaled his intent to appeal to the state’s highest court but, in the meantime, was obligated to issue a formal response to the allegations.

"We look forward to proving that his denials are baseless,” Mariann Wang, Zervos’ attorney, said in a statement.

The only assertion in the lawsuit Trump admits to: “In July 2016, Mr. Trump was selected as the presidential nominee for the Republican Party.”

Judge Jennifer Schecter is allowing the case to move forward despite Trump’s pursuit of an appeal, raising the prospect that both the president and his campaign will be required to respond to discovery requests and, possibly, depositions.

The Trump campaign is currently facing a deadline of Tuesday to respond to a wide-ranging subpoena from Zervos’ lawyers, seeking documents and records related to Zervos and to all the other women who made allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump prior to the election.

Kasowitz filed a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals earlier this week. Trump’s side has maintained -- despite the setbacks thus far -- that Trump is immune, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, from lawsuits in state court while he is serving as president of the United States.

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Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the June meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward as scheduled, despite growing concerns among White House officials and the president that the North Koreans could scuttle the summit.

Those concerns, according to a senior White House official, began about two weeks ago when a North Korean delegation failed to show up at a planning meeting for the summit with U.S. officials.

Though, according to the official, the U.S. will be sending a delegation back to Singapore later this week for yet another sit-down.

In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday, Secretary Pompeo said the summit is "still scheduled for June 12th," and put the burden on North Korea to show tangible steps towards ridding the country of its nuclear weapons before the U.S. makes any concessions.

"Our eyes are wide open to the lessons of history, but we're optimistic that we can achieve an outcome that will be great for the world," Pompeo said. "Our posture will not change until we see credible steps taken toward the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

Pompeo's remarks came just a day after President Trump seemed to open the door to incremental concessions to North Korea in the event it started taking steps to denuclearize, appearing to back away from a demand that it happen immediately and completely.

"All in one would be nice, I can tell you," Trump said. "I'm not going to go beyond that. It would certainly be better if it were all in one. Does it have to be? I don’t think I want to totally commit myself."

In the same set of remarks, Trump also tempered expectations for the summit happening on its previously announced date, even as the White House said it continues to move forward as if it's on schedule.

"So there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's okay," Trump said alongside South Korean President Moon in the Oval Office Tuesday. "That doesn’t mean it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12th."

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn Wednesday, President Trump said he expects a final decision on if the June 12 date will be locked down by next week, after the U.S. delegation returns from its meetings in Singapore

Trump on Tuesday also laid out some specifics on what the U.S. would be willing to offer in exchange for positive results in the negotiations, including protection from any potential attempts at regime change to overthrow Kim and a surge of economic benefits for the country.

"We will guarantee his safety," Trump said. "And we've talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich."

Despite the various diplomatic carrots floated to encourage the North Koreans, it remains unclear whether there's been a change of posture since senior officials in the country last week publicly scolded South Korea and the U.S. over a pre-planned joint military drill and rhetoric from Trump's national security adviser John Bolton.

"It is ridiculous comedy to see the Trump administration, claiming to take a different road from the previous administration, still clings to the outdated policy on the DPRK," North Korea's first vice minister Kim Kye-gwan said in a statement last week.

At Wednesday's hearing, Pompeo still expressed hope that the North Korean position mirrored the personal assurances he said he received in his two meetings face to face with Kim Jong Un.

"There's places where we still have lots of work to do to find common ground," Pompeo said. "But he has shared candidly that he understands that economic growth for his people depends on a strategic shift and we hope he's prepared to make that. Our demands have been unambiguous."

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CDC(ATLANTA) -- The mysterious death of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist -- whose body was found along the banks of a river weeks after he disappeared -- has been ruled a suicide by drowning, officials said.

Cunningham, 35, a Harvard graduate and commander in the U.S. Public Health Service who responded to public health emergencies including the Ebola and Zika viruses, disappeared Feb. 12 after saying he was sick before leaving his Atlanta office.

All of Cunningham's belongings, including his dog, were left at his home.

Cunningham's concerned family reported him missing, and after weeks of searching, authorities found his body April 2 along the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

Cunningham’s parents told investigators that he had mood swings but had not been diagnosed with depression, documents released by the medical examiner’s office said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has released its version of a landmark measure that would hold lawmakers personally accountable for sexual harassment, including making them pay for claims out of their own pockets and making those payments public.

The Senate bill seeks to expand options for employees seeking to make a complaint and has broad bipartisan support.

“With this agreement, both parties are coming together to update the laws governing how the Congress addresses workplace claims and protecting staff and others from harassment,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement, predicting the measure would pass the Senate quickly.

The Senate bill gives accusers 90 days after filing a claim to request a hearing or filing a civil action in federal district court. It scraps a mandatory 30-day “cooling off period” before such claims can proceed, and it would establish a dedicated advocate who would be available for consultation throughout the process.

It requires members of both chambers to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for awards and settlements arising from harassment they themselves commit – including members who leave office – and requires annual public reporting of those payments.

The House of Representatives passed its own sexual harassment bill in February. It includes a 45-day period for claimants to take action, in federal court, half the time in the Senate bill.

“This legislation will help bring accountability and transparency to a broken process, ensure victims can immediately seek justice, and hold Members of Congress accountable,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee said in a statement released with committee chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had expressed frustration that it took so much time for the Senate to pass its bill after the House’s efforts three months ago. After news broke that Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, was refusing to repay Treasury an $84,000 settlement, she reiterated her calls for the Senate to take up the bill.

Both versions of the bill will have to be reconciled and passed before a final version can be signed into law.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump fired off another allegation that a “Criminal Deep State" within the FBI and Department of Justice is pursuing him, after media reports that an FBI informant was embedded in his 2016 presidential campaign.

The president tweeted Wednesday morning, "Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!"

His tweet appears to reference New York Times and Washington Post reporting that the FBI planted an informant to make contact with members of his campaign, only after the agency obtained information that members of the Trump team had suspicious contacts with Russians during the 2016 election.

The tweet continued his attack on the so-called deep state, the unfounded theory that career public servants are attempting to undermine his administration, which he claims lies within the very law enforcement agencies that he leads. But such efforts to target him and his presidency have backfired, he asserts.

Continuing his early-morning rant, Trump added, "SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!"

Despite his comments, there is no evidence to support any notion that Trump's campaign was improperly infiltrated, as he has alleged, although the Department of Justice inspector general is looking into the matter at the president's request.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LANGLEY, Virginia) -- The Defense Department has decided it will continue allowing the use of cellphones at the Pentagon, but it will strictly enforce existing rules to prevent cell phones from being brought into secure areas at the nation's military headquarters.

The new policy issued Tuesday is far short of early speculation that Defense Secretary James Mattis might ban all cellphones from the Pentagon.

“Today the Department of Defense announces a policy regarding the use of mobile devices within the Pentagon and supported buildings,” said a Pentagon statement. “The policy, which applies to DoD personnel, contractors, and Pentagon visitors, clarifies restrictions for mobile devices anywhere within the Pentagon designated or accredited for the processing, handling or discussion of classified information."

Late last year Defense Secretary Mattis initiated a review of cellphone use at the Pentagon because of what a U.S. official characterized as ways of improving information security concern in the building.

A memo signed by Patrick Shanahan, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, outlined the new policy that enforces existing requirements that cell phones be placed in small storage boxes or lockers outside of sensitive parts of the building.

Mobile devices are defined in the memo as cell phones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, and other devices that are portable, can wirelessly transmit or receive information and have a self-contained power source.

"Mobile devices must be stored in daily-use storage containers that are located outside the secure space," said the memo.

The new rules mean there will likely be many more cellphone lockboxes throughout the building in order to comply with the new policy.

The 23,000 military and civilian employees at the Pentagon will still be allowed to bring their personal or work cellphones into the building - although as a practical matter there is no cellphone reception throughout most of the building.

“Mobile devices may be used in common areas and spaces that are not designated or accredited for the processing, handling, or discussion of classified information,” said the memo.

The Defense Department is still updating a separate comprehensive policy for fitness trackers and other wearable electronics that have GPS capability.

That review was triggered in January after it was discovered that a heat map generated by the Strava exercise fitness tracking app identified exercise routes used by U.S. military personnel worldwide, even at some U.S. facilities that were not public.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says the agency will move to regulate as "hazardous" a type of harmful chemical found in the drinking water of millions of Americans, calling it a "national priority."

The type of chemical is commonly known as PFAS or PFOS and is used in nonstick pans, making furniture and carpets stain resistant, absorbing grease in products like pizza boxes as is contained as well in firefighting foam commonly used at airports.

EPA first published rules about the chemical in 2002 when the 3M company agreed to phase them out. The EPA studied the health effects of exposure for several years and published a health advisory in 2016.

Some state and local advocacy groups in areas contaminated by PFAS chemicals say the EPA has taken too long to act on the risk and has not done enough to provide help or research to clean up the chemicals.

The EPA says the chemical can cause health problems and even cancer if it people are exposed to it in soil or water.

This type of chemical has attracted more attention after a Politico report that officials from EPA, the Pentagon, and the White House sought to delay a report from an agency within the Centers for Disease Control that evaluates whether chemicals are toxic. Emails referenced in that story, and obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists through public records requests, indicated that the study found PFAS chemicals are hazardous at lower levels than currently recommended.

Pruitt said Tuesday that the agency has a four-step plan for labeling the chemicals as hazardous and setting a maximum level for when it needs to be cleaned up. But the announcement was partly overshadowed after the Associated Press and other news outlets said their reporters were not allowed into the event.

Some facilities that used these chemicals in manufacturing have released them into the soil or water in the area, which causes them to accumulate because they are difficult to clean up and remain in the environment for a long time. Research shows that people exposed to the chemicals through drinking water or who eat food grown in contaminated soil can be more likely to get cancer or face health problems like hormone disruption.

"As we've used those chemicals over the course of many decades there are concerns across the country about these chemicals because of the persistence, their durability getting into the environment and impacting communities in an adverse way. That's the reason we're here today," Pruitt said in remarks at a summit on PFAS chemicals at the EPA on Tuesday.

An analysis from the non-partisan advocacy group Environmental Working Group found that some level of the chemicals are present in drinking water for up to 110 million Americans. Drinking water systems for at least 16 million people tested with PFAS levels higher than the limit recommended by the EPA.

Multiple states have found PFAS chemicals in drinking water, including Michigan where the state is still recovering from the lead crisis in Flint. Pruitt said Tuesday that he will travel to Michigan and other states to discuss the issue with local communities.

The EPA has published advisories that PFAS chemicals are dangerous at a level of 70 parts per trillion, but some researchers and advocacy groups have said the level should be much lower. The EPA's recommended level is not an official limit but is often used as the level for when states or companies need to take action to clean up the chemical

When asked about the delayed study on the danger of the chemicals Pruitt recently said in a hearing that he didn't know the study was delayed and that he thinks it should be released, but told at least one member of Congress in a letter that EPA does not have the authority to release the study.

The office within CDC that evaluates toxic chemicals, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said in a statement that they are working with other agencies to finalize the report but do not have a date for when it will be released.

The EPA will be visiting communities impacted by PFAS contamination in the next few months and says on its website a plan will be developed by Fall of this year.

Some groups also posted on social media that members of the public weren't invited to participate in the summit. The EPA live-streamed the opening remarks and posted a docket for public comments but the live stream stopped when the participants broke up into working sessions. Reporters at the event tweeted that they were told to leave after Pruitt and others spoke and the Associated Press reported that its reporter and some from other news outlets were blocked from attending at that they were forced out of the building by a security guard.

The EPA later said that the afternoon sessions of the summit would be open to press.

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Subscribe To This Feed -- President Donald Trump continued to fuel GOP accusations that an informant was embedded in his presidential campaign for political purposes, saying Tuesday that “a lot of people are saying” there were spies.

“A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign,” President Trump said during his wide-ranging comments in the Oval Office during a press spray of a meeting with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.

“If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country,” Trump continued. “It would be very illegal aside from everything else. It would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes so we want to make sure there weren't. I hope there weren't frankly.”

“If they had spies in my campaign, during my campaign for political purposes, that would be unprecedented in the history of our country,” he later added.

The president has seized on reports from the New York Times and Washington Post that the FBI sent an informant to meet with members of his campaign. The Times cited unnamed sources that these contacts were made only after the FBI had gathered information that the source’s targets had made suspicious contacts with Russians during the campaign.

The FBI has not confirmed that it used an informant and so far there is no evidence that was one embedded in the Trump campaign.

The president rebuffed ABC News' question about whether he continues to have confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who on Sunday said the DOJ would look into whether there was any improper activities related to the Trump campaign after the president ordered DOJ probe the issue.

“What is your next question, please,” Trump said, passing over the question. “I have the president of South Korea here. He doesn't want to hear these questions, if you don't mind.”

On Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to issue a "demand" that the DOJ "look into" whether there was any improper surveillance of his campaign "for political purposes."

Later Sunday, Rosenstein issued a statement saying, “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action."

Following the weekend tweet, President Trump met on Monday with Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Despite the timing of the meeting the day after his tweet demand, the president said Tuesday that the meeting was “very routine."

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer is among critics who have called it highly inappropriate.

Speaking of the alleged informant, the president said he’s read in news reports that “some person got paid a lot of money” and “that is not a normal situation, the kind of money you are talking about.”

“I think the Department of Justice wants to get down to it and Congress does so hopefully they will all be able to get together,” Trump said. “General Kelly will be setting up a meeting between Congress and the various representatives and they will be able to open up documents, take a look and find out what happened.”

Democrats have raised objections to that meeting as well – demanding to be included and questioning whether Trump and Kelly would be allowed to review classified information about the Mueller investigation that include the identify of any informant.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Reporters have filled Twitter feeds with jokes and puns about the small sinkhole that formed on the White House North Lawn near the briefing room entrance.

To prevent any incidents, White House groundskeepers covered the sinkhole with a wooden board and sectioned off with traffic cones and police tape.

While some on social media have questioned whether the erosion constitutes a legitimate sinkhole, National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles put the controversy to rest.

"On Sunday, May 20, a small sinkhole was found on the north White House grounds near the entrance to the press briefing room," Anzelmo-Sarles said in a statement to ABC News. "The National Park Service has been monitoring the situation and is bringing in some additional experts to help best determine a remedy. Sinkholes, like this one, are common occurrences in the Washington area following heavy rain like the DC metro area has experienced in the last week. We do not believe it poses any risk to the White House or is representative of a larger problem."

The National Park Service will conduct further assessments of the sinkhole over the next five to ten days.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A group of House Republicans called Tuesday for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate concerns about the Department of Justice and FBI, just days after Trump first called for an investigation into whether his campaign was “infiltrated or surveilled” for by an alleged FBI informant.

At least 19 House Republicans critical of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation signed on to the new 12-page resolution on Tuesday calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate “misconduct at the highest levels” of the DOJ and FBI, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said.

Zeldin said the resolution, which would be introduced later on Tuesday, is necessary because the Justice Department “cannot be expected to investigate itself.”

House GOP leadership had not committed to bringing up their measure for a vote on the House floor, the Republicans said.

While some Republicans have previously pushed for the appointment of a second special counsel earlier this year, Sessions selected the top federal prosecutor in Utah to work with the Justice Department inspector general to investigate concerns raised by congressional Republicans.

Since then, conservatives have seized on new reports from the Washington Post and New York Times reporting that the FBI sent an informant to talk to several campaign aides during the 2016 election as evidence that a second special counsel.

“It’s a drastic step, but quite frankly these are drastic facts that continue to bubble to the surface and its time that we get a response,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said.

The group, some of the president’s most vocal supporters on Capitol Hill, have vented about the Mueller investigation and DOJ for months, accusing the department of not fulfilling requests for documents and information and its senior officials and some investigators of political bias, citing some members' donations to Democrats and Democratic causes.

Mueller and the Trump-appointed Rosenstein are registered Republicans, and the special counsel's team is made up of members affiliated with both parties. Justice Department guidelines do not allow consideration of party affiliation to affect personnel decisions.

“We need a special prosecutor to investigate the special prosecutor, to investigate Rosenstein,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said.

Gohmert, a loud critic of the special counsel, recalled telling Trump in June of 2017 “nobody needs firing more than Robert Mueller.”

“But you can’t be the one to fire him because we’ve got some weak-kneed Republicans out there who will come after you for firing the guy who needed firing,” he recalled while holding a photo of himself whispering in Trump’s ear last summer.

Trump also weighed in on the informant allegations again Tuesday, after meeting with FBI Director Wray and Rosenstein at the White House on Monday.

“If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country, that would be one of the biggest insults that anyone’s ever seen, and it would be very illegal," Trump said at the White House.

The Justice Department said the agency’s inspector general tasked with conducting oversight of the department would look into the questions raised by Trump as part of its ongoing investigation into the government surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page during the presidential campaign.

The White House announced Monday that congressional leaders will also be invited to a meeting organized by chief of staff John Kelly to review the classified information related to the reported intelligence source. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday the meeting would be Thursday.

Meadows said Tuesday that Democrats should be able to view the documents, in addition to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. He also said that Trump did not request a second special counsel.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he and GOP chairman Richard Burr declined the offer of a DOJ briefing on the documents, citing their sensitive nature.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the briefing arranged by the White House “another serious abuse of power.”

"I don’t think any of us have any idea what the White House is doing, except that they want to use any mechanism they can to get their hands on materials they think will be useful for their legal defense team and they’re willing to break down the wall of independence between the White House and the Justice Department to do it," he said.

"Sadly they have allies in Congress who are all too happy to help in destroying these institutions," Schiff said.

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Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen raised eyebrows Tuesday when she told reporters on Capitol Hill that she is "not aware" of a conclusion by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

Nielsen's statement appeared to directly contradict the findings of a 2017 intelligence assessment on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election that concluded Putin was interested in hurting Clinton's chances and later helping those of Donald Trump.

She made the remarks in response to a reporter's question after holding a classified meeting on 2018 election security with members of the House of Representatives.

Asked if she had any reason to doubt Vladimir Putin tried to help President Trump win, Nielsen answered she was "not aware" of the conclusion that Putin's "specific intent was to help President Trump win."

A spokesman for Nielsen later said told ABC News that Nielsen has been consistent in her support of the intelligence community findings on Russian meddling and that she was simply taking issue with the premise of the question.

"The Secretary agrees with that [intelligence] assessment, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a statement to ABC News. "But the question asked by the reporter did not reflect the specific language in the assessment itself, so the Secretary correctly stated she had not seen the conclusion as characterized by the reporter."

A declassified version of the January 2017 report, "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections," found that Russia's goals "were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency." The report also says clearly that, as the influence campaign evolved, "Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."

It does not say, however, that Putin's aim was to help Trump from the outset but instead says at that point, the Russians were intent on hurting Clinton. Therefore, Nielsen may have simply been taking issue with the reporter's question, without saying so directly.

But given a chance to clarify her remark moments later, she would not directly answer whether she believed Putin ever tried to help Donald Trump, which the intelligence assessment clearly says he eventually did.

"I do believe that Russia did and will continue to try to manipulate Americans' perspective on a whole variety of issues," Nielsen said.

President Trump has always expressed disdain for any suggestion that Vladimir Putin helped him get elected. He calls accusations of campaign collusion an "excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election."

Nevertheless, the intelligence assessment was clear on the point that, eventually, Putin's aim was to help Trump. "We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him," the assessment read.

Last week, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said, "the Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton."

However, Republicans on the deeply divided House Intelligence Committee recently broke with the assessment of their counterparts in the Senate as well as the intelligence community, issuing a report late last month that concluded Putin did not favor a particular candidate.

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Education Images/UIG via Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- The hair stylist who claims Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens used partially nude photos of her to blackmail her into keeping quiet about their love affair told a St. Louis TV station, "I'm not lying."

In her first media interview, the woman told NBC affiliate KSDK-TV that she regrets having the brief fling with Greitens and wishes she could apologize to the Republican governor's wife.

"I'm in the middle of the most difficult, crazy fight that I didn't ask to be a part of," she said. "And I feel like I'm this easy punching bag, yet I haven't thrown any punches.

"I didn't want this," said the woman, who was only identified in court filings by her initials as K.S. and declined to show her face on camera. "I wasn't out to get anyone. I really was just trying to live my life."

Greitens, the married father of two young children, has admitted to having a consensual sexual relationship with the woman in 2015, months before he successfully ran for governor on a platform of family values. He has adamantly rejected any criminal wrongdoing, denying his accuser's allegation that he surreptitiously took cellphone photos of her blindfolded and partially nude during a rendezvous in the basement of his home on March 21, 2015.

"There's no blackmail. The mistake I made was I engaged in a consensual relationship with a woman who wasn't my wife. It is a mistake that I'm deeply sorry for. Sorry to Sheena, my boys and everybody who relied on us," Greitens said in a January interview with Fox affiliate KTVI-TV.

Greitens' former mistress said the governor's denials about parts of their relationship prompted her to speak out.

"The second that he denied the things that were the most hurtful, that were the most hurtful for me to now have to relive, I just realized: now I have this decision," the woman told KSDK. "The only ethical thing I felt that I could do was to tell the truth."

While the compromising photos have never surfaced, Greitens had been scheduled to go on trial this month on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from the allegations. The case against Greitens was dropped May 14 by St. Louis prosecutors.

A special prosecutor was appointed this week to determine if the case should be re-filed against Greitens, a former Navy SEAL.

The woman's affair with Greitens was first publicly exposed by her ex-husband, who secretly recorded her admitting to the affair.

Earlier this year, she testified behind closed doors to the Missouri House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight. The committee released excerpts of her testimony this month and said she was a credible witness.

In her testimony, she claimed that Greitens blindfolded her and bound her hands to pull-up rings before he allegedly ripped open her shirt and pulled her pants down. She claimed she then heard what sounded like a picture being taken.

She testified that Greitens later told her, "Don't even mention my name to anybody at all because if you do, I'm going to take these pictures, and I'm going to put them everywhere I can."

In the interview with KSDK, she stood by her story.

“Yes, I do stand by them. They were hard to talk about. Really, really, really hard to talk about, but I absolutely stand by it,” she said. "I have no ill intention, other than not being made to be a liar. I'm not lying. This was hard. It was hard at the time, it's hard to talk about now. I'm not lying. That's it. I want to move on. I want to heal."

She said her one big regret is that she hurt Greitens' wife, Sheena Greitens.

"I would absolutely apologize," she said when asked what she would say if she could speak to the governor's wife. "I shouldn't have been involved with him. I shouldn't have gone into her home. I know that."

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Lucy McBath for Congress(NEW YORK) -- As the nation watched Friday's high school shooting unfold in Texas – the sixth since the attack in Parkland, Fla. – Lucy McBath was on the campaign trail in Georgia.

She knew what the parents were going through.

“I was just as angry and devastated on Friday with Santa Fe as I was for Parkland because Jordan was the same age as all these children that have been gunned down,” she said.

Her son Jordan was 17 when he was shot and killed in 2012 by a stranger at a gas station.

Now, McBath is part of a growing movement: parents who've lost a child to gun violence running for office.

“I never expected this to happen but I know that in light of all my experiences, to not to do anything is a tragedy in itself,” McBath said in an interview with ABC News.

McBath, a former flight attendant and spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, is running for Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

She was originally running for state House but she switched to run for U.S. House in March, after the Parkland shooting.

That deadly shooting inspired others to run as well, including two parents whose teenage daughters were killed at the Florida high school and are now running for seats on their county’s school board.

“I’m sure you'll continue to see more parents like myself who are losing their children standing up. It's just going to happen,” McBath said.

If Georgia’s 6th district sounds familiar, that’s because a special election there last year was widely reported on and viewed as a barometer of public opinion on President Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton nearly turned the district blue in 2016, losing by less than two percentage points to Trump in a district that hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in Congress since 1979.

Democratic hopes were defeated by Republican Rep. Karen Handel, who beat opponent Jon Ossoff and made history by becoming Georgia’s first ever woman to represent the state in Congress. Since that June 2017 special election, however, Democratic enthusiasm has led to pickups in states like Pennsylvania and Alabama.

“We know the eyes and ears of the nation are here, we’re really trying to make sure that democracy works here in our state and make sure that it works for everybody,” McBath said. “At least I am,” the candidate added with a laugh.

McBath will face three other Democratic candidates on Tuesday: former TV news anchor Bobby Kaple, businessman Kevin Abel and management consultant Steve Knight Griffin. Kaple, who had $290,000 in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period, has the endorsement of Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, and numerous prominent Democrats in the state.

McBath finished the pre-primary reporting period with about $69,000 in the bank but recently received a donation a large $540,000 donation from Everytown for Gun Violence for television ads.

Georgia is a red state, which makes it a tough for a candidate running on a platform of stricter gun control.

But Georgia is also a state that faces more firearms deaths than the national average. In 2016, 1,571 people died in Georgia from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — bringing the rate of deaths to 15 per every 100,000 residents. The national average in 2016 was 11.8 per 100,000 population.

But McBath is adamant that she is not an anti-gun candidate. According to her campaign, McBath wants background checks for all gun sales, the defeat of conceal carry reciprocity, a higher minimum age of purchase and laws that ban domestic abusers and criminals from buying guns.

“The thing about it is that I'm not against guns. I’m not against the Second Amendment. I’m not against law-abiding gun owners and hunters owning their guns,” she said.

What she is against, she said, is people who “want to use their guns in a way that is criminal.”

“We have to get a grip on keeping the guns out of hands of people who should not have them,” McBath said.

Throughout her campaign, she’s tried to push back on claims that she’s a one-issue candidate. Knowing what it's like to lose a son, she said, she can understand other issues that hurt families – such as immigration and the fear of losing someone to deportation.

“I know what it's like to tear families apart from gun violence — we shouldn’t be doing that with immigration,” McBath said.

Other parts of her platform are inspired by her experience raising her son and being a single mother. At one point, she was so disappointed in the education system she decided she had to homeschool him.

“I recognized my neighborhood wasn't going to be able to give Jordan the education I wanted him to have,” she said.

“So, yes, guns is a huge part of my platform,” McBath said. “But it's not the only part of my platform because a lot of what I’m talking about I’ve experienced myself. That’s been my reality.”

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