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Biden signs bipartisan debt ceiling deal


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- President Joe Biden addressed the nation in a prime-time speech Friday after Congress averted an economically disastrous default with just days to spare by passing legislation to raise the nation's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling.

The president, speaking from behind the Resolute Desk in his first Oval Office address, stressed that "unity" had made it possible.

"When I ran for president, I was told the days of bipartisanship were over," he said. "That Democrats, Republicans could no longer work together. I refused to believe that because America can never give into that way of thinking."

Biden signed the bill into law Saturday.

"I just signed into law a bipartisan budget agreement that prevents a first-ever default while reducing the deficit, safeguarding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and fulfilling our scared obligation to our veterans. Now, we continue the work of building the strongest economy in the world," Biden tweeted Saturday.

Biden touted the deal he made with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as a win for American families and proof of his ability to compromise to keep the nation on track -- themes he's using in his 2024 reelection campaign.

"Essential to all the progress we've made in the last few years is keeping the full, faith, and credit of the United States and passing a budget that continues to grow our economy and reflects our values as a nation," he said. "That's why I'm speaking to you tonight. To report on a crisis averted and what we are doing to protect America's future. Passing this budget agreement was critical. The stakes could not have been higher."

In noting how the deal came together, he said no one got everything they wanted but still acted to stave off the worst-case scenario: a default that would have likely triggered a recession and caused millions of jobs to be lost.

"I know bipartisanship is hard, and unity is hard," he said. "But we can never stop trying. Because in the moments like this one, the ones we just faced, where the American economy the world economy is at risk of collapsing, there's no other way, no matter how tough our politics gets, we must see each other not as adversaries but as fellow Americans."

Reiterating one of his key lines from his inaugural address, he urged Americans to "stop shouting, lower the temperature and work together to pursue progress."

The Fiscal Responsibility Act is the result of months of back-and-forth between Biden and McCarthy. It lifts the debt ceiling through Jan. 1, 2025, in exchange for some cuts to federal spending.

Biden's signing of the bill Saturday puts an end to weeks of anxiety that the nation would nose-dive into economic turmoil by not being able to pay all its bills, including Social Security or Medicaid benefits, on time and in full for the first time in history.

In his Oval Office address, Biden notably commended McCarthy and the GOP and White House negotiating teams for being "completely honest and respectful with one another," as well as praising the work of other top congressional leaders.

"They acted responsibly to put the good of the country ahead of politics," Biden said, adding that "both sides kept their word."

Earlier, when asked by ABC News' Elizabeth Schulze why Biden chose the Oval Office for the speech, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said he wanted to meet the "gravity" of the moment.

As Biden worked behind-the-scenes to hammer out the deal, he at times frustrated Democrats -- members of the party's progressive wing, especially -- who worried he was giving in too much to Republican demands.

At one point, several in his party urged him to go it alone and use the 14th Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, an idea Biden ultimately rejected in this situation, but one he said he would study.

"I have been clear that the only path forward is a bipartisan compromise that can earn the support of both parties," he said earlier this week. "This agreement meets that test."

The final product did give both Democrats and Republicans something to celebrate: the White House touted the protection of key priorities and legislative accomplishments while McCarthy sold it to his caucus as much-needed reining in of government spending.

"I wanted to make history," McCarthy said as he took a victory lap after the House passed the bill. "I wanted to do something no other Congress has done, that we would literally turn the ship and for the first time in quite some time, we'd spend less than we spent the year before. Tonight, we all made history."

Moderates from both parties gave the bill its necessary stamp of approval in the House and Senate, but in the end more congressional Democrats voted for the bill than Republicans.

"Democrats are feeling very good tonight," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., triumphantly said after Thursday's vote. "We've saved the country from the scourge of default."

Schumer contended Democrats "beat back the worst of the Republican agenda" including deeper spending cuts that would've dismantled parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, taken people off federal aid and blocked Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.

Biden on Friday also celebrated that the bill leaves Social Security, Medicaid, veterans benefits and other priorities untouched before turning to a list of other priorities he wants to get done next, including more deficit reduction and raising revenues by making wealthy Americans "pay their fair share."

"I'm gonna be coming back and with your help, I'm going to win," he said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump's attorneys unable to locate sensitive military document he discussed in recording

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(NEW YORK) -- Attorneys for former President Donald Trump have been unable to locate the sensitive military document that Trump discussed on tape during a July 2021 meeting at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Federal investigators have the audio recording, on which Trump acknowledges he held onto a sensitive military document after leaving office, sources previously told ABC News.

On the recording, which ABC News has not listened to nor obtained, Trump is heard attacking Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and referencing one document in particular that Trump claimed Milley had compiled, according to sources. Trump, who said on the recording that he still had the document in his possession, said the document was about attacking Iran, sources said.

Trump's lawyers turned over documents in response to a March subpoena seeking all documents and materials related to Milley and Iran, including any materials containing invasion plans or maps, the sources told ABC News.

In their dealings with Trump's lawyers, special counsel Jack Smith's investigators said they specifically wanted the document that Trump referenced on the recording, sources familiar with the matter said. But they were unable to locate it.

It's also not clear whether Trump had the specific document with him during the July 2021 meeting while he was discussing it. Trump indicated during the recording that he knew the document in question was secret, sources said.

The special counsel's office declined to comment to ABC News.

The recording was made during a meeting that Trump held with people who were helping former chief of staff Mark Meadows with his memoir, according to sources.

Contacted earlier this week about the recording, a Trump spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News, "Leaks from radical partisans behind this political persecution are designed to inflame tensions and continue the media's harassment of President Trump and his supporters."

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Trump asks judge in criminal case to step aside due to his daughter's Democratic ties

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump on Friday asked the judge overseeing his criminal prosecution in New York City to step aside, citing the judge's daughter's ties to a Democratic organization.

Judge Juan Merchan is presiding over the case, in which Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection to a hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Merchan himself will decide whether he is impartial.

The defense said he can't be, because his daughter is an executive at Authentic Campaigns, a Democratic consulting firm that worked on President Joe Biden's 2020 campaign.

There is a "need to assure the public that the judge who presides over this historic case is actually impartial," Trump's attorneys said in their motion for recusal. "This role cannot be fulfilled by Your Honor."

"Authentic is a company which has both publicly taken positions against President Trump and has reported raising over $74 million in campaign contributions for clients since 2018 (mostly in 2020 and 2022) to Democrats," the motion said.

Trump attorneys Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles also cited Merchan's oversight of a prior criminal case involving the Trump Organization, which was convicted of tax fraud. They said Merchan encouraged then-chief financial adviser Allen Weisselberg to plead guilty and cooperate against the company.

"At a June 17th meeting in the Court's Chambers, the Court informed Mr. Weisselberg's attorneys that unless Mr. Weisselberg cooperated with the People against Donald Trump and his interests, the Court would only offer Mr. Weisselberg a state prison sentence of at least one to three years imprisonment, even if Mr. Weisselberg pleaded guilty," the defense motion said.

The Manhattan district attorney's office has not formally responded, but was expected to oppose Trump's effort to replace the judge. A spokesperson for the DA's office declined to comment.

The motion for recusal is the second attempt by Trump to move his criminal case out of Merchan's courtroom. He is also seeking to remove the case to federal court, a move that's opposed by the district attorney's office.

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DOJ tells Pence it won't seek criminal charges against him in documents probe

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice has notified former Vice President Mike Pence that no criminal charges will be sought in their investigation into his handling of classified documents after leaving office, according to a letter sent to Pence's attorneys by the DOJ that ABC News has reviewed.

A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter to ABC News, but declined to comment further.

The letter from DOJ's National Security Division comes the week before Pence is expected to announce his candidacy for president in 2024.

Earlier this year, lawyers for Pence informed the Justice Department that a small number of classified documents had been found at his home in Indiana.

The discovery came after representatives for President Joe Biden similarly found classified materials from his time as vice president and dating back to his time as a senator in several locations.

A special counsel is still investigating Biden's potential mishandling of classified materials, and the status of that probe remains unclear.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Senate passes debt ceiling deal, staving off default

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Thursday night passed legislation to lift the nation's debt ceiling and stave off what would've been an economically disastrous default days before Monday's deadline.

The final vote was 63-36.

The bill will now go to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature.

Biden heralded the Senate vote passing the budget agreement as a "big win" for the economy.

Noting the bipartisan nature of the vote, Biden said, "Together, they demonstrated once more that America is a nation that pays its bills and meets its obligations -- and always will be. I want to thank Leader [Chuck] Schumer and Leader [Mitch] McConnell for quickly passing the bill."

"No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: This bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people," the president added.

Biden said he looks forward to signing the bill as soon as possible, and that he will address the American people directly Friday.

Schumer painted the debt limit deal as a broad victory for Democrats late Thursday night during a press conference just after the legislation passed.

"Default was a giant sword hanging over America's head," Schumer said. "But because of the good work of President Biden, as well as Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate, we are not defaulting."

Schumer's comments come after an aggressive effort by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to cast the bill as a GOP victory. But Schumer pointed to the vote margins in the House and Senate, noting that the bill enjoyed more support from Democrats than it did from Republicans in both chambers.

"We got more votes because the bill beat back the worst of the Republican agenda," Schumer said. "This was an exercise in where the American people are at, and they are much closer to where we are than where they are."

The Fiscal Responsibility Act, the product of weeks of contentious negotiation between Biden and McCarthy, will raise the $31.4 trillion debt limit through Jan. 1, 2025, while also implementing some caps on government spending and policy changes.

Republicans are touting its spending cuts while the White House argues it was able to protect major Democratic priorities like Medicare and Social Security, among other Biden-backed initiatives.

The compromise legislation was met with opposition from wings of both parties -- hard-line Republicans and progressive Democrats -- but has now passed both chambers with bipartisan support in the face of the alternative: an unprecedented default on the nation's bills that would've likely cost millions of jobs and triggered a recession.

The House passed the bill on Wednesday in a 314-117 vote, a win for McCarthy in his first major test as speaker.

"I wanted to make history," McCarthy said as he took a victory lap after the bill's passage. "I wanted to do something no other Congress has done, that we would literally turn the ship, that for the first time in quite some time we'd spend less than we spent the year before."

Lawmakers have raced to get the bill across the finish line ahead of Monday, the date Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the U.S. could run out of money to pay all its bills on time and in full.

The Senate avoided a filibuster and the passage of any amendments to get the bill across the finish line before the weekend.

Overall, the Fiscal Responsibility Act will keep non-defense spending flat in fiscal year 2024 and increase spending by 1% in 2025, which ultimately amounts to a cut in light of inflation, while slightly raising military spending.

It imposes new work requirements for older Americans using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, and other federal assistance, a key Republican demand, though the Congressional Budget Office estimated it could increase spending and the number of people who qualify for aid. Medicaid and Medicare programs were left untouched.

The legislation also paves the way for a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia, claws back some funding for the Internal Revenue Service and ends the three-year pause on federal student loan payments.

According to the CBO, the bill will reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

ABC News' Allison Pecorin and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Trump pushes back on his inability to serve 8 more years in White House: 'You need 6 months'

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(URBANDALE, Iowa) -- Former President Donald Trump returned to Iowa on Thursday for a full day of campaign events, taking multiple jabs at 2024 primary rival Ron DeSantis and defending people imprisoned in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

In particular, Trump took issue with a comment the Florida governor has used on the campaign trail in recent days, when DeSantis has said he's gunning for "eight years" in office in order to deliver on a myriad of conservative promises -- an implicit contrast with Trump, who can only serve one more term.

"You don't need eight years, you need six months," Trump said Thursday morning during a breakfast with the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale.

"We can turn this thing around so quickly. If you need eight years -- who the hell wants to wait eight years? You don't need eight years," he said to laughter and a few claps.

"He'll stop saying that -- watch," Trump added during his speech. "Every time I hear, I wince because if it takes eight years to turn around, you don't want him as president," to which someone in the crowd yelled, "You're hired!"

Trump made similar comments earlier Thursday morning as he entered the Machine Shed restaurant for the breakfast, saying, "We only need five months."

As part of his "eight years" argument, DeSantis has pointed to things like the Supreme Court.

Speaking last month in Florida, he said that the next "two terms" could be especially relevant for whoever is in the White House, because the president may be able to further cement the Supreme Court's conservative majority in light of some justices' advancing ages.

"I think if you look over the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito and the issue with that is, you can't really do better than those two," DeSantis said then, adding that there may also be a chance to "make improvements with those others, and if you were able to do that, you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter century."

Such comments come as DeSantis has become sharply critical of Trump, a former ally. The governor officially entered the 2024 race last week and is traveling through three early nominating states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, this week.

"[Trump] used to say how great Florida was. Hell, his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me?" DeSantis told reporters after a campaign kickoff outside Des Moines on Tuesday.

During his own campaign events Thursday, Trump sometimes answered questions from the crowd, including from one girl who said she just graduated from high school.

When a person at one event called for "justice for people that have been in prison since Jan. 6," Trump repeated his rhetoric of defending the rioters and said the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot one of them, Ashli Babbitt, was a "rogue cop" and a "thug."

Authorities have said the officer acted lawfully in shooting Babbitt and a federal investigation found that Babbitt and others were trying to break through barricaded entrances near the Speaker's Lobby that leads to the Chamber of the U.S. House, from which members of Congress were being evacuated.

In Iowa, however, Trump tried to cast the events of Jan. 6 differently, saying those arrested around the riot were being treated worse than in past protests like those related to racial inequality demonstrations.

"You look at what they've done to the Jan. 6 people, they've destroyed them and destroyed their lives," he insisted. "And a lot of them didn't even go into the building. It was a disgrace what's going on."

The Department of Justice reports that more than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the government's Jan. 6 investigation.

More than 300 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees that day, the DOJ has said, and more than 100 defendants have been accused of using deadly weapons.

Trump was impeached by the House and accused of inciting the events of Jan. 6, but he was acquitted by the Senate. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Elsewhere in Iowa on Thursday, Trump pointed to his experience in Washington as a reason he should earn Iowan votes -- a stark pivot from what he's used as a selling point in the past: his background as a political outsider.

"I'm very experienced now, you know, it's not like I'm going in and saying, 'Oh, this nice office, is this the Oval Office?'" he said, adding, "I think within six months you're gonna see a major part of the comeback."

Trump attended three total events ahead of a town hall on Thursday night with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

ABC News' Luke Barr, Chris Boccia, Hannah Demissie and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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More Oath Keeper defendants sentenced for Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy

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(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge sentenced two Oath Keeper defendants Thursday for their roles in disrupting the certification of the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021.

Edward Vallejo was sentenced to three years in prison while Roberto Minuta received a term of four years and six months. Both sentences were a significant departure from the 17 years the government requested for each defendant after the two were convicted earlier this year of sedition and conspiracy to derail Joe Biden's election victory.

Prosecutors argued Minuta was a key leader of the "second wave" of Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol. He was joined by Joshua James, who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy last year.

As part of his guilty plea, James admitted he and fellow members brought weapons, including a rifle, shotgun, semi-automatic handgun and ammunition to the greater Washington, D.C., area. James acknowledged he breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, intending to stop the electoral college certification, with Minuta by his side.

At his sentencing, Minuta flatly denied any knowledge of plans between Oath Keepers, including the stockpile some had amassed at a Virginia hotel.

"I did not know about any guns in Virginia whatsoever," Minuta said.

Minuta continued to insist he went into the Capitol to help police officers in distress. He apologized to the judge for entering the building.

"I shouldn't have and I'm sorry that I did," he said. "I was presented with an opportunity to help police and I blew it."

"I did not want to advance into the building, and I left James in there as soon as I could get out," he added.

Judge Amit Mehta said he found no evidence that Minuta entered the building to help police.

"You and I will have to agree to disagree about that," Mehta said.

Mehta also found no evidence that Minuta himself brought a weapon into the district or served as a critical leader of the group. However, Mehta did apply a terrorism enhancement to the sentence that was ultimately handed down.

Vallejo himself wasn't accused of taking any violent actions on Jan. 6, but prosecutors argued his position as a leader of the "quick reaction force" was even more serious. Oath Keepers amassed a cache of weapons at a Virginia hotel where Vallejo awaited orders from those in Washington, D.C., prosecutors alleged.

Defense attorney Matthew Peed argued that Vallejo was influenced by Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and then-President Donald Trump to think what he was doing was patriotic. As an example of his respect for the democratic process, Peed said Vallejo had been a major supporter of former Rep. Ron Paul, even attending a national political convention on his behalf.

"He just thought that something different (on Jan. 6) was happening because the President had told him," Peed said.

Vallejo was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following his prison term, including time on home confinement.

"He has had an impeccable pre-trial record," Mehta said, before allowing Vallejo to walk out of court and self-surrender.

Last week, Rhodes received the longest sentence of any Jan. 6 defendant to date at 18 years, a decision that was also handed down by Mehta.

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Are US arms sent to Ukraine being tracked so they can't be used to attack Russia?

Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Paramilitary organizations making the largest cross-border attack inside Russia since the war began have maintained they're fighting for Ukraine and reportedly claimed to have conducted another operation Thursday.

But more than a week after verified images appeared to show that the fighters were equipped with U.S.-supplied military vehicles in their initial incursion, the Biden administration has yet to say whether the groups are formally fighting in coordination with Kyiv.

The incidents raise questions about whether they put at risk the main U.S. strategic goal of avoiding escalation with Moscow -- "World War III" as the White House has warned -- and they come just when the conflict appears poised to intensity with Ukraine's long-awaited spring offensive.

And, they raise practical concerns about whether that goal could be undermined given questions about how well the U.S. keeps track of the billions in arms and equipment it has sent to Ukraine.

Any assessment from Washington on whether the groups are operating within the Ukrainian government's chain of command could have significant impact in determining whether any end-use violation or breach of agreement occurred if the fighters were given access to the equipment or pave the way for Kyiv to openly outfit the fighters with donated weaponry, while the persisting lack of clarity raises questions about how effectively these arms are monitored.

Gaps in monitoring, potential for escalation

When pictures surfaced appearing to show U.S.-manufactured Humvees and MRAP armored vehicles used in the Belgorod incursion, the administration initially showed strong skepticism. But after the photographic evidence was vetted by various major media organizations, officials promised to investigate.

"We're looking into those reports that the U.S. equipment and vehicles could have been involved," White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

Asked on Thursday about the status of that investigation, a State Department spokesperson said there were no updates to share.

The Ukrainian government has denied playing any part in the first wave of raids on Belgorod, which were carried out by groups made up of anti-Kremlin Russian nationals known as the Free Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, the latter of which has been linked to neo-Nazi sentiments.

On Thursday, the pro-Ukrainian militants appeared to shell towns in Belgorod, prompting a partial evacuation of civilians from the area. While the groups seemed to be heavily armed with sophisticated weaponry, there were no immediate signs that American arms were used in the attacks.

Although U.S. officials have not publicly characterized Ukraine’s role in the incursions, they have repeatedly said that the U.S. does not support attacks on Russian territory.

"We have been very clear with the Ukrainians privately, we certainly have been clear publicly, that we do not support attacks inside Russia," Kirby said on Wednesday, after announcing the latest drawdown of equipment for Ukraine in the White House briefing room. "We certainly don't want to see attacks inside Russia that are, that are being propagated, that are being conducted, using US-supplied equipment."

Kirby said that stance was rooted in the president's goal to "avoid World War III."

"I think we can all agree that a war that escalates beyond that -- that actually does suck in the West and NATO and the United States is not only not good for our national security interest, it is not good for the Ukrainian people," he said.

Beyond close coordination with the Ukrainian government, U.S. officials have touted close monitoring of military aid shipped to Ukraine. But their flip-flopping on the possibility that some of the armored fighting vehicles used in Belgorod could have been supplied to Ukraine by Washington and their inability to provide any conclusions after a week has opened the Biden administration up to criticism.

Republicans have zeroed in on accountability but have largely centered their focus on avoiding waste rather than preventing escalation.

"I do not conduct this oversight to undermine or question the importance of support for Ukraine, but rather -- to the contrary -- oversight should incentivize the administration and Ukraine to use funds from Congress with the highest degree of efficiency and effectiveness," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said at a hearing in late March.

While the Department of Defense's top watchdog testified during that hearing that he had not seen any illicit diversion of the over $20 billion worth of American weapons and other military equipment provided to Ukraine, previous reports have indicated that only around 10% of high-risk munitions have been inspected by U.S. monitors and only a handful of the weapons are legally subject to enhanced end-use tracking.

Defense officials have also noted that carrying out oversight in an active war zone with a very limited American footprint comes with challenges and potential blind spots. Ukraine's history of past corruption has also stoked some unease across Washington.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked last Thursday whether the time that had elapsed in the investigation into the incident raised red flags for the administration regarding the effectiveness of its tracking measures.

"No, I think it raises the fact that we are looking into it and haven't yet reached a conclusion," he responded.

One way that the U.S. tracks sensitive items to Ukraine is by the placement of barcodes on each item that contain unique identifying information, such as serial numbers, and by providing Ukraine with ways to track the equipment it has been given by the U.S.

Ukraine keeps stock of its Humvees and MRAP armored vehicles, and regularly reports battlefield losses to American officials.

ABC News reached out to Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of Ukraine's parliament seated on a committee charged with monitoring weapons supplied by foreign governments but did not receive a response.

A shortfall in tracking weapons

Despite the administration's apparent hesitancy to draw firm conclusions, experts closely studying the conflict say some key answers are obvious.

"It is a shortfall in tracking of weapons and munitions," Mark Cancian, a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies' International Security Program, said. "War is complicated -- there is no guarantee that weapons will not be used in ways that we don't approve, and this is clearly one of them."

"It would strain credulity to me to think there is not command control here from Kyiv—or at least from Ukrainian military intelligence," said John Hardie, the director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Russia program.

Cancian echoed that conclusion, adding that any disconnects within Ukraine's military could present serious problems.

"It's not impossible that there are fractures within the Ukrainian government. If that's the case, it is quite disturbing -- because that means that the Ukrainians are not in full control of military forces on their territory," he said. "It opens the possibility of what we're seeing in Russia, where you have militias that are acting independently and confronting even in some ways undermining the central government."

Cancian says that repeated incidents of American military gear surfacing in the hands of paramilitary groups would be telling.

"If this happens again, then it's not just happenstance -- it's a pattern. And that would indicate that they have not been able to get control," he said.

Or, Hardie posited, the Biden administration could seek to allow Ukraine to leverage ambiguous attacks on Russia while publicly standing by its policy against such actions.

"Perhaps U.S. officials look the other way," Hardie said.

Beyond Belgorod, apartment buildings in the heart of Russia's capital were the target of a drone strike on Tuesday. Though Ukrainian authorities did not take responsibility, the country's officials have not masked their pleasure.

"If the Russians can make Kyiv a nightmare, why do the people of Moscow rest?" Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said in a televised address following the strike.

While the spike in attacks waged by Ukraine on Russia drastically pales in comparison to those waged on Ukraine by Russia through the course its 15-monthlong invasion, Kyiv has much more to lose in terms of public opinion since its war efforts depend on support from dozens of allies who largely see the country as a besieged victim rather than a tit-for-tat combatant.

Conversely, by bringing the war full circle, strikes into Russia might erode its population's support for the Kremlin -- something some indicators show has already been happening in recent weeks.

So far, the Biden administration appears to be sticking to an increasingly familiar strategy.

"We're still trying to get information here and develop some sort of sense of what happened," Kirby said when asked about the Moscow drone strikes on Wednesday.

ABC's Matthew Seyler and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Drag show at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base canceled by Pentagon

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(LAS VEGAS) -- The Pentagon informed Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base that a previously approved drag show slated to take place on the base on the first day of Pride Month could not take place because it was not in line with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent comments, according to two defense officials.

The drag performance would have been held at the Officer's Club at southern Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base on Thursday, June 1, and had been approved by base commanders, just as it had been over the previous two years.

Base legal officers and commanders had determined that the event was in line with DOD policy and no department funding would be used for the event, according to the official who spoke to ABC News.

The decision on hosting such shows is typically left in the hands of local commanders who follow guidance from military attorneys, but Nellis officials were told earlier his week by the Defense Department that Thursday's event was not consistent with Austin's recent comments to Congress and that it should be canceled or relocated off base, a defense official told ABC News.

"Consistent with Secretary Austin's congressional testimony, the Air Force will not host drag events at its installations or facilities," said Ann Stefanek, a U.S. Air Force spokesperson. "Commanders have been directed to either cancel or relocate these events to an off-base location."

Military services were informed this week of the clarified guidance that only applies to drag shows held on military bases, another defense official confirmed.

Other LGTBQ+ events scheduled to take place at military bases during Pride Month will not be impacted by the new directive.

"Per DoD Joint Ethics Regulation (JER), certain criteria must be met for persons or organizations acting in non-Federal capacity to use DoD facilities and equipment," Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon's deputy press secretary, said in a statement.

"As Secretary Austin has said, the DOD will not host drag events at U.S. military installations or facilities," said Singh. "Hosting these types of events in federally funded facilities is inconsistent with regulations regarding the use of DoD resources."

Singh explained this is not a change in department policy.

"The Secretary has said DoD will not host drag events at U.S. military installations or facilities, consistent with long-standing policy," she said.

"We are proud to serve alongside any and every young American who takes the oath that puts their life on the line in defense of our country," she added. "Service members and their families are often involved in a host of special interest activities related to their personal hobbies, beliefs, and backgrounds."

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, blasted the reversal as "sid[ing] with the politics of fear and discrimination peddled by extreme members of Congress."

"For decades, our community has fought for our right to exist without shame or exception, yet [Austin's] decision to ban an event that has happened in prior years reinforces false tropes about LGBTQ+ culture. At a time when we are under attack, the Pentagon is ceding to extremist forces focused on taking away our rights -- leaders responsible for national defense ought to do better. Our people deserve better, the United States military deserves better, and all Americans deserve better," HRC President Kelley Robinson said.

In late March, both Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed reservations about DOD facilities hosting drag shows when questioned about the matter by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

"Drag shows are not something that the Department of Defense supports or funds," Austin said in response to a question from Gaetz.

Milley said he was unaware of the congressman's reference to drag shows taking place at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Nellis and asked for more information "because I'd like to take a look at those myself actually -- take a look and find out what actually is going on there."

"I'd like to take a look at those because I don't agree with those," he said. "I think those things shouldn't be happening."

Gaetz applauded the cancelation of the planned Nellis drag show.

"HUGE VICTORY: The Department of Defense has CANCELED a scheduled "child-friendly" drag show after I demanded answers from @SecDef Austin and General Milley! Drag shows should not be taking place on military installations with taxpayer dollars PERIOD!" he tweeted Wednesday night.

Austin issued a statement Thursday celebrating the start of Pride Month and the contributions of LGBTQ+ service members.

"As Secretary of Defense, I remain dedicated to making sure that our LGBTQ+ personnel across the Joint Force can continue to serve the country that we all love with dignity and pride—this month and every other one. We thank you for your service—and we thank your spouses and your families, whose support makes your service possible," said Austin.

ABC News' Nate Luna contributed to this report.

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Ron DeSantis' wife joins him on the campaign trail as voters say they want to 'see the man'

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(SALEX, Iowa) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pitches himself as a "fighter" for conservative values. But as he continues his initial presidential campaign swing through three early nominating states, he's working to highlight another side -- as a dad and husband -- as he adjusts to the intimate events often required to persuade primary voters.

At one Wednesday morning event in the western town of Salix, Iowa, DeSantis and his wife, Casey, engaged in a living room-style conversation, swapping anecdotes about their three young kids that sought to give voters a rare glimpse into the home life of Florida's leader, who has generally avoided the mainstream press.

Seated in grey armchairs on a stage inside a vast welding warehouse, where a massive green John Deere served as a backdrop, the couple, each in jeans, told stories that elicited laughs from the audience of roughly 100.

The governor joked that when he and Casey, a former TV reporter, brought two of their children to Japan in April on a trade mission, "We never got on a schedule time wise, so they'd be up at 2 in the morning."

"The one thing I learned is I learned when breakfast room service starts -- because they needed food," he said of his kids.

He then remembered a solo parenting outing, going to visit a new Tallahassee restaurant, and the curveball moment when his 3-year-old daughter needed to use the bathroom.

"So we're literally just in a drive-thru just sitting there. And so she had to go, so I was like, OK I'll take her inside, so we go in and we get in there, and she shakes her head and I'm like, 'What?' And she's like, 'Little potty, little potty.' And I'm like, 'They don't have little potty in Slim Chickens!'" he said.

The chat, designed to emphasize its informality, followed a 30-minute, policy-dense stump speech from the governor bashing bureaucratic Washington and liberal institutions that mimicked his remarks the previous night, at his kickoff event at a large church near Des Moines.

But even in a setting meant to reveal a relatable side of the governor, DeSantis sometimes slipped back into speech mode, touching on his and Casey's efforts to combat the spread of fentanyl and touting his decision to appoint conservative board members to a small Tampa-area college.

The battle over the New College of Florida, with an enrollment of less than 700, reached the pages of certain national news outlets, but it's unclear how much Iowans were aware of the controversy, billed by DeSantis as another of his efforts to fight the "woke."

"So we've got a small liberal arts college in Sarasota called New College. I don't think anyone in this room probably heard of it," said the governor, who admitted to having never known of the institution until being informed of its "ideology."

Dave Christensen, a 58-year-old attendee and a Navy veteran, told ABC News before the event that he was drawn to DeSantis' policy stances and was hoping "to see the man."

"I want to see what's he's like, what his personality is like," Christensen said. "I want to see him talking to me."

As he left the venue, Christensen, who interacted briefly with DeSantis as the governor worked the crowd, seemed satisfied, though he acknowledged he was staying "open-minded" about who to support for the Republican nomination early next year.

"So far, he's answered everything I was kind of after, today anyway. He answered my questions," Christensen told ABC News.

The governor did not replicate the "fireside chat" with Casey at his other three events on Wednesday, opting to spend his time behind a lectern, ceding the stage to his wife for several minutes at each stop to share more about their life as parents.

A spokesperson for the campaign said the Salix event was not the first time the couple has held informal conversations on the trail about their home life, saying they did so before the governor announced his candidacy for president.

The spokesperson did not answer a question about whether the campaign plans to feature similar events in the future. DeSantis campaigning with Casey is not unusual: Candidates include their spouses on the trail in order to show a different side of themselves to the public.

Katie Dodge, 31, a resident of Omaha, Nebraska, who crossed state lines to see the governor speak in Council Bluffs, said she was "all in" on DeSantis, whom she called a "no-nonsense politician" who "just goes in and lets the work that he does show for where he stands and what he's fighting for, and I think that he's fighting for all Americans."

Dodge's mother, Mindy, also a DeSantis supporter, acknowledged there was space for the governor to appear more personable but insisted he offset that quality with his policies and work ethic.

"OK, does he maybe need some more charisma to connect with audiences? Yeah, probably. But you know what he does have? He's a hard worker and he gets things done. And more than anything right now, that's what we need," she said.

Before DeSantis' kickoff rally on Tuesday night in Clive, Alex Greadel, 45, said he had "seen [DeSantis speaking with voters] in some of the video interactions that I've seen online, but that doesn't concern me at all."

Still, the scrutiny continues: In New Hampshire on Thursday, DeSantis was making the round with attendees at one stop when a reporter with the Associated Press asked him why he didn't take questions from voters.

Video shows DeSantis asking the reporter, "What are you talking about?"

"I'm out here [with] people," he said. "Are you blind?"

ABC News' Hannah Demissie contributed to this report.

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Biden falls at US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony

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(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- President Joe Biden took a fall on stage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado on Thursday.

Biden, who delivered the commencement address and proceeded to shake hands with graduates, fell near the podium and was quickly assisted by those around him in returning to his feet.

Biden, 80, walked away unassisted once he was upright. He continued to stand and greet people for the remainder of the ceremony.

Biden appeared to trip on a black sandbag, according to pool reporters traveling with the president, and pointed back at it after he got up.

"He's fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands," Ben LaBolt, the White House communications director, tweeted as videos of the incident circulated online.

Biden didn't take questions as he boarded Air Force One following the hourslong commencement.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said Biden is "totally fine" while she boarded Air Force One, according to the reporters traveling with Biden.

Biden's age and fitness have been a factor in his reelection campaign. At 80, he is the oldest sitting president in history and would be 86 at the end of second term should he win again in 2024.

Asked about his age after he announced he was running again, Biden said it will be up to voters to judge "whether or not I have it or don't have it."

"I respect them taking a hard look at it -- I'd take a hard look at it, as well. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run, and I feel good. I feel excited about the prospects," he told ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce in April.

Former President Donald Trump, who would also be in his 80s if elected, responded to the fall while campaigning in Iowa.

"I hope he's not hurt. The whole thing is crazy ... even if you have to tip-toe down the ramp," he said, poking fun at his own experience at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2020 when his cautious descent down a ramp opened him up to similar criticism about his age.

"At the Air Force Academy? That's not inspiring," Trump added.

When speaking to graduates, Biden celebrated their work so far as he laid out the challenges that lie ahead.

"We have the finest military in the history of the world," he said. "And you've earned it. This day is the day to celebrate. And as your commander in chief, I'm honored to be here as you take on the duties of serving and defending our nation."

"In the years to come, you'll have even more asked of you," he continued. "You'll take on greater responsibilities, and you'll be challenged even beyond everything you've yet experienced."

ABC News' Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

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Investigators have recording of Trump acknowledging he held onto sensitive document: Sources

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(WASHINGTON) -- Federal investigators have in their possession an audio recording of former President Donald Trump from July 2021, on which he acknowledges he held onto a sensitive military document after leaving office, sources confirm to ABC News.

The recording was made during a meeting at Trump's Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, that Trump held with people who were helping former chief of staff Mark Meadows with his memoir, according to sources.

Trump indicated during the recording that he knew the document in question was secret, the sources said.

Meadows was not present for the meeting, the sources said, but other Trump aides, including Margot Martin, were there.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating Trump's handling of classified documents after leaving office, has questioned witnesses about the recording, sources familiar with the matter said.

The special counsel's office declined to comment to ABC News.

A Trump spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News, "Leaks from radical partisans behind this political persecution are designed to inflame tensions and continue the media's harassment of President Trump and his supporters. It's just more proof that when it comes to President Trump, there are absolutely no depths to which they will not sink as they pursue their witch hunts."

"The DOJ's continued interference in the presidential election is shameful and this meritless investigation should cease wasting the American taxpayer's money on Democrat political objectives," the Trump spokesperson said.

News of the recording was first reported by CNN.

On the recording, which ABC News has not listened to nor obtained, Trump is heard attacking Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and referencing one document in particular that Trump claimed Milley had compiled, according to sources. Trump, who said on the recording that he still had the document in his possession, said the document was about attacking Iran, sources said.

The specific nature of the document described in the recording is not known.

The July 2021 conversation took place several months before representatives for Trump handed over to the National Archives 15 boxes of presidential records that included documents with classified markings, and more than a year before Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate was searched by the FBI last August.

During the August search, investigators uncovered more than 100 classified documents after Trump's team failed to comply with a June 2022 subpoena seeking all such records that remained in his possession.

It's unclear whether the document allegedly referenced in the recording was among those documents initially handed over to the Archives or those seized by the FBI in the August 2022 search.

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Debt ceiling deal passes the House as US moves closer to preventing historic default

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House on Wednesday night approved a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling while cutting some government spending over the next two years, in a major victory for both the White House and Republican leaders as the country tip-toes closer to a historic default on its bills.

The final vote was 314-117.

A majority of the GOP conference backed the legislation, with 149 votes, but it was 165 Democrats who helped ensure passage as 71 conservatives ultimately voted no, as did 46 Democrats. Four lawmakers, two Republicans and two Democrats, didn't vote.

The proposal next heads to the Senate, where both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have said they want to move quickly to approve it -- even as soon as Thursday or Friday.

The deal, brokered between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, would raise the country's $31.4 trillion borrowing limit until January 2025 while setting a broad government budget over the next two years and making some policy changes, such as increasing work requirements on federal food assistance.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has estimated that the government will run out of cash to pay all of its bills by Monday -- the so-called "X-date" for default.

But the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which passed the House on Wednesday includes a two-year government budget in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling through Jan. 1, 2025.

The bill would keep non-defense spending flat in fiscal 2024 and increase levels by 1% in fiscal 2025.

Speaking with reporters after the vote, McCarthy touted what he called Republicans' work in getting the White House to compromise and he highlighted the cuts and savings he said his party had exacted in light of the currently divided federal government.

"I knew the debt ceiling was coming. I wanted to make history. I wanted to do something no other Congress has done, that we would literally turn the ship, that for the first time in quite some time we'd spend less than we spent the year before," he said. "Tonight, we all make history."

"Is it everything I wanted? No," McCarthy said, later adding, "I think we did pretty dang good for the American public."

In a statement of his own, Biden applauded the House for taking a "critical step forward" in passing the agreement and specifically thanked McCarthy "and his team for negotiating in good faith."

"This budget agreement is a bipartisan compromise. Neither side got everything it wanted. That’s the responsibility of governing," he said.

The president said that the deal protects key parts of his agenda, as well as government programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Despite Biden and McCarthy's celebratory tones, their deal had drawn bipartisan criticism, too -- a notable minority of the House.

Some Republicans said the speaker had not gone far enough in getting sweeping spending cuts, similar to a House bill that passed along party lines in April.

And Democrats said Biden had given in to what they likened to economic hostage-taking in agreeing to some spending cuts without holding to his demand that Republicans raise the debt ceiling without preconditions.

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Mike Pence announcing 2024 presidential bid next week in Iowa: Source

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Mike Pence will announce next week that he is running for president, giving a kickoff speech in Iowa and releasing a campaign video on June 7 ahead of a town hall with CNN later that day in Des Moines, a source familiar confirms to ABC News.

Pence will be running against his old boss, Donald Trump, in the Republican primary.

His expected announcement will come only weeks after a group of conservative allies launched a political group to support his potential candidacy.

The super PAC, Committed to America, hopes to both "reintroduce" Pence to voters -- who, the group believes, don't have a full sense of the former vice president -- and to catch the attention of voters perhaps stuck on other candidates as the list of Republican hopefuls grows longer.

"People know Mike Pence, they just don't know him well," co-chair Scott Reed told a small group of reporters on Friday. "This campaign is going to reintroduce Mike Pence to the country as his own man, not as vice president, but as a true economic, social and national security conservative -- a Reagan conservative."

The pro-Pence group said it will make significant investments in Iowa, a state critical for Republicans as it holds the first nominating contest next year.

"We're going to organize Iowa, all 99 counties, like we're running him for county sheriff," said Reed, who previously managed Sen. Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign.

In March, during an exclusive interview with ABC News' chief Washington correspondent, Jonathan Karl, Pence said he was giving a run for the 2024 GOP nomination "serious consideration."

At the time and in the ensuing months, Pence has held voter-facing events in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He also published a memoir, "So Help Me God," in November.

"We're getting a lot of encouragement, not only here in Iowa, but all across the country," Pence told Karl in March. "We're giving prayerful consideration to what role we might play."

A key ally for Trump while they were in office, Pence has since had a notable falling out with the former president over Trump's push to overturn their election loss -- climaxing in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, when a mob of Trump supporters breached the complex and sent Pence and Congress into hiding.

"We all face the judgment of history, and I believe in the fullness of time that history will hold Donald Trump accountable for the events of Jan. 6, as it will other people that were involved," Pence told Karl.

He added then: "I also think the American people will also have their say. I mean, the president is now a candidate for office again, he's running for election, but as I go around the country, I'm convinced the American people have learned the lessons of that day."

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Will the debt ceiling deal actually increase SNAP food stamp eligibility, cost?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Work requirements for government safety net programs are back in the spotlight as the House readies for a key vote on the debt ceiling deal brokered by President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In a twist, a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released late Tuesday found tougher rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that Republicans demanded would actually increase the number of people eligible for benefits, sometimes referred to as food stamps.

The nonpartisan agency estimated the provisions relating to SNAP would add $2.1 billion in direct spending and 78,000 people would gain benefits in an average month.

Top Republicans are calling the CBO report flat-out inaccurate, and McCarthy suggested the agency "double counted" some recipients already exempt from work requirements.

"The estimates are wrong. They're just wrong," Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said in a news conference Wednesday alongside his fellow GOP negotiator Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina.

The CBO has not commented on the criticism from Republicans.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, on the other hand, said the CBO development "speaks for itself" as he criticized Republicans for making them one of the focal points in the debt ceiling agreement.

"In terms of the so-called work requirements, which by the way have been in law since 1996, this was a phony, fake talking point injected unnecessarily into this discussion," Jeffries said at his own news conference alongside House Democratic leadership.

Imposing stricter eligibility rules for SNAP and other federal assistance programs was a major sticking point that held up negotiations even as talks stretched closer to the potential default date. At one point, McCarthy described their inclusion in a final deal as a "red line" for Republicans.

At the same time, progressive Democrats warned of pushback if stricter work requirements were included. Progressive Whip Greg Casar told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott he was leaning no on Wednesday's vote to approve the bill for that exact reason.

"Many progressives, including me, lean no because the bill does contain taking some folks like 53 and 54 year olds off of their food stamps," Casar, D-Texas, said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told ABC's Scott that she won't vote yes on the bill because she it's up to Republicans to "own this vote."

"They're the ones trying to come in and cut SNAP," she said. "They're trying to come and cut environmental protections."

Republicans won some changes to SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) but their demand for stricter requirements for recipients of Medicaid and Medicare were taken off the table.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act would increase the age limit for work requirements on able-bodied adults without dependents from 49 to 54 by 2025, though the provision would expire by 2030.

The legislation also includes new exemptions for veterans, people experiencing homelessness and people ages 18 to 24 who are aging out of the foster care system.

Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young said Tuesday the Biden administration was waiting for a USDA analysis on the impact of the SNAP changes, but believed the number of those now exempted would be about the same as those subject to work requirements.

"There's a very real possibility, when we see the numbers, that the number who are phased in, who have new requirements on SNAP, is offset by the number who will now be covered under the new exemptions," she said at the White House press briefing.

McHenry defended the new exemptions in his presser with Graves, calling them "thoughtful public policy" and highlighted the bill would cut down the cap for the population states can exempt from work requirements from 12% to 8%.

But the CBO score only added to the furor to the growing number of House Republicans who are opposed to the debt ceiling deal.

"Don't really want to hear how CBO is wrong on SNAP [because] CBO did this bill a lot of favors, and it's still a bad deal," Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., wrote on Twitter.

"The Biden-McCarthy deal expands welfare," Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., tweeted. "Heckuva negotiation, guys."

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KJC Kennel Club





"Always in our Heart! "