Review Category : Politics

Sessions, unlike Trump, says DREAMers are ‘subject to being deported’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Striking a different tone than President Trump on DREAMers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said they like “everyone that enters the country unlawfully” are “subject to being deported.”

The Trump administration has let stand former President Obama’s order protecting so-called DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, from deportation. And President Trump said Friday that young people protected under this policy “should rest easy.”

Sessions, in an exclusive interview Sunday on This Week, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, “There’s no doubt the president has sympathy for young people who were brought here at early ages.”

He also said the Department of Homeland Security’s “first and strongest priority — no doubt about it” is to arrest unauthorized immigrants who have committed crimes. “They’re focusing primarily on that,” he said.

“We don’t have the ability to round up everybody and there’s no plans to do that,” Sessions said. “But we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element and we’ve got to get that under control.”

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether DREAMers can “rest easy” as the president said, Sessions said, “Well, we’ll see. I believe that everyone who enters the country illegally is subject to being deported.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, President Trump said, “We aren’t looking to do anything right now” about DREAMers.

When the president was asked if the official policy of his administration is to allow DREAMers to stay in the country, he gave a definitive “yes.”

“That’s our policy,” Trump said. “Long-term we are going to have to fix the problem, the whole immigration problem … Here is what they can hear: The DREAMers should rest easy. OK? I’ll give you that. The DREAMers should rest easy.”

Striking a different tone than President Trump on DREAMers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said “everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported.”

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President Trump at 100 Days: No honeymoon, but no regrets (POLL)

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — There’s no honeymoon for Donald Trump in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, but also no regrets: He approaches his 100th day in office with the lowest approval rating at this point of any president in polls since 1945 –- yet 96 percent of those who supported him in November say they’d do it again today.

His challenges are considerable. Majorities say Trump lacks the judgment and the temperament it takes to serve effectively. Six in 10 doubt his honesty and trustworthiness, see him as out of touch and don’t think he understands the problems of people like them. Fifty-six percent say he hasn’t accomplished much in his first 100 days. And 55 percent say he doesn’t follow a consistent set of principles in setting policy (though fewer see this as a problem, 48 percent).

All told, 42 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s performance as president, while 53 percent disapprove. That compares to an average of 69-19 percent for past presidents at or near 100 days in office -– for example, 69-26 percent for Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Still, the national survey also finds some brighter spots for the president –- chiefly in pushing for jobs and in foreign policy –- as well as deep popularity problems for the opposition party. Sixty-seven percent say the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of most Americans, even more than say the same about Trump, and similar to the Republican Party (62 percent). That’s a steeply negative turn for the Democrats, 19 percentage points more critical than when last asked three years ago, including especially steep losses in their own base.

Trump’s better grades include broad 73 percent approval of his pressuring companies to keep jobs in the United States –- even most Democrats, liberals and nonwhites approve, three groups that are broadly critical of Trump more generally. And more than half, 53 percent, see him as a strong leader, although that compares with 77 percent for Obama at this stage.

On one specific issue, a plurality, 46 percent, says he’s handling the situation with North Korea “about right,” as opposed to being too aggressive (37 percent) or too cautious (just 7 percent). Similarly, a recent ABC/Post poll found 51 percent support for Trump’s missile strikes on Syria; together these results make his foreign policy a comparative bright spot. They’re also a contrast with Obama, seen by 53 percent as too cautious in his foreign policy in fall 2014, as he dealt with Syria and Russian intervention in Ukraine.

As noted, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds no evidence of buyer’s remorse among Trump supporters. Among those who report having voted for him in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it. And if a rerun of the election were held today, the poll indicates even the possibility of a Trump victory in the popular vote among 2016 voters.

In two break-even results, Americans divide, 44-41 percent, on whether Trump is keeping most of his campaign promises, and likewise divide, 35-35 percent, on whether he’s doing a better or worse job than they expected. Views turn negative, as noted, on how much Trump has accomplished in his first three months. Forty-two percent say a great deal or good amount, but 56 percent say not much or nothing.

Again, Obama scored far better on all three of these measures at his 100th day, 60-26 percent on keeping his promises, 54-18 percent on performing better vs. worse than expected and 63-36 percent on his accomplishments.

There are difficulties for Trump in other results, as well. Just 37 percent approve of the major changes in federal spending he’s proposed (50 percent disapprove) and only 34 percent approve of his having given his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, major positions in his administration (61 percent disapprove). (There are only three groups in which more than half approve of these appointments –- Republicans, 69 percent; evangelical white Protestants, 56 percent; and conservatives, 51 percent.) And rejecting Trump’s criticisms, the public by 58-36 percent says the federal courts that have blocked his immigration orders are “acting rightly as a check on the president’s powers” rather than wrongly interfering with them.

The president does better on another item on which he’s been criticized in some quarters –- spending substantial time at commercial properties he owns, chiefly his Mar-a-Lago resort. Forty-three percent see this as a conflict of interest because it promotes those properties, but 54 percent say it’s not a conflict because he has the right to go where he wants.

The 100-day point has been used as a benchmark since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, but, like any such time stamp, it has questionable predictive value. As noted, it usually marks the height of a president’s honeymoon in public opinion. It’s also situational. In available data, the highest rating at or near 100 days was Harry Truman’s 87 percent in a Gallup poll when he took office after the Roosevelt’s death; yet Truman’s career average was 47 percent approval. The lowest at 100 days was Gerald Ford’s 48 percent after he succeeded (and pardoned) Richard Nixon, yet Ford’s career average was about the same as Truman’s. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush had 63 and 71 percent 100-day approval ratings –- yet neither won a second term.

Current politics, moreover, are marked by especially sharp partisanship, a central reason for Trump’s comparatively poor rating. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of his job performance; just 12 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents agree. Obama at 100 days did better in his base, with 93 percent approval from leaned Democrats, but also had 40 percent from leaned Republicans.

As mentioned, Trump’s challenges don’t mean the opposition is in good shape. In March 2014, 48 percent of Americans said the Democratic Party was out of touch with the concerns of most people. Today 67 percent say so. And the biggest change has occurred chiefly among the party’s own typical loyalists, with “out of touch” ratings up 33 points among liberals, 30 points among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 26 points among moderates and nonwhites alike.

Vote again?

Among Americans who say they voted in the 2016 election, 46 percent say they voted for Hillary Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, very close to the 2-point margin in the actual popular vote results. However, while Trump would retain almost all of his support if the election were held again today (96 percent), fewer of Clinton’s supporters say they’d stick with her (85 percent), producing a 40-43 percent Clinton-Trump result in this hypothetical re-do among self-reported 2016 voters.

That’s not because former Clinton supporters would now back Trump; only 2 percent of them say they’d do so, similar to the 1 percent of Trump voters who say they’d switch to Clinton. Instead, they’re more apt to say they’d vote for a third-party candidate or wouldn’t vote.

In a cautionary note to her party, Clinton’s 6-point drop in a hypothetical mulligan election relates to views of whether the Democratic Party is in touch with peoples’ concerns. Although the sample sizes are small, those who say the party is out of touch are less likely to say they’d support Clinton again, compared with those who see it as in touch.

Still, there’s no strong evidence that defectors primarily come from groups that favored Bernie Sanders in the primary. There are no broad differences by age, and liberals are 9 points more likely than moderates and conservatives to stick with Clinton. Similarly, nonwhites are 10 points more likely than whites to say they would not support Clinton again, with more than a third of them heading to the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

Approval groups

Trump’s approval rating among groups differs in familiar patterns from the election. Fifty-four percent of whites approve of his job performance; just 19 percent of nonwhites (including 22 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of blacks) agree. His approval rating is 15 points lower among the youngest adults compared with seniors. It’s 67 percent among conservatives vs. 37 percent among moderates and 9 percent among liberals. And it’s 73 percent among evangelical white Protestants, a GOP mainstay.

Trump’s rating is 10 points higher among whites who lack a college degree than among those who have one. Indeed, again echoing the election, he reaches 65 percent approval among non-college white men, vs. 40 percent among college-educated white women.

The economys another factor; while it doesn’t guarantee presidential approval, a strong or improving economy at least makes it easier to achieve. Today 30 percent say the economy is improving, vs. 18 percent who say it’s getting worse, with a plurality, 49 percent, saying it’s staying the same. Among those who think it’s improving, 83 percent approve of Trump’s job performance, while among those who think it’s staying the same, just 29 percent approve, as do only 10 percent of those who say it’s getting worse.

Of course, the result likely is bi-directional – views of the economy color views of the president, but views of the president also influence views of the economy. Indeed, 62 percent of Republicans think the economy’s improving; just a quarter of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

There are notable differences among groups on other questions as well. One is a large age effect on whether or not Trump is in touch with people’s concerns – 71 percent of under 30s say not, as do 65 percent of those age 30 to 39, declining to 52 percent – still a majority – among those 40+.

Additionally, 62 percent of Democrats say Trump is not keeping his promises, while 77 percent of Republicans say he is keeping them. (Independents split evenly.) As with views of the future economy, that’s an example of motivated reasoning – sharply different assessments of the same object, informed by partisan predispositions. Whatever changes in the Trump administration, this phenomenon – typical of all politics – likely won’t.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone April 17-20, 2017, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-24-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

See the full results here.

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Government funding, health care top agenda as Congress returns before President Trump’s 100th day

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Members of Congress will return to Washington next week to confront a government shutdown deadline and a White House eager to notch some legislative victories, especially on health care.

The most pressing business is government funding: The House and Senate have until midnight Friday to cut a trillion-dollar spending deal to prevent a partial government shutdown on President Trump’s 100th day in office.

While bipartisan negotiations continue on Capitol Hill, Trump is driving a hard bargain, insisting on money to begin construction on a border wall and boost defense spending.

Democrats insist they won’t support a downpayment on the Southwest border wall, and are pushing back against Trump’s threat of stopping key federal subsidy payments to health insurers under Obamacare.

Sources close to negotiations expect Congress to pass a short-term funding measure -– anywhere between one and three weeks — to give appropriators more time to finalize a larger spending deal to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Beyond keeping the government’s lights on, Republicans, encouraged by the White House, are still hoping to revive the GOP health care bill that was pulled from the House floor roughly a month ago.

Moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-New Jersey, has floated a proposed amendment that would give states the ability to request to opt out of certain Obamacare regulations while making essential health benefits –- the requirement that all plans cover things like prescription drugs and mental health services -– the federal standard.

Members are waiting to review legislative text for the proposal, and a vote could come midweek after members return to Washington on Tuesday.

Despite pressure from the White House to put points on the board ahead of Trump’s 100th day in office, it’s not clear that the underlying political dynamics that sank the health care bill initially have changed, and that the amended version could garner 216 votes on the House floor.

In a conference call with members Saturday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said legislative language for the MacArthur amendment is being finalized, according to a GOP source on the call.

He made clear that there will be a vote only when it’s clear the bill has enough support, and that votes will drive the timing, according to the source.

Additionally, Trump has said that starting “next week” he will be unveiling his tax reform package with “massive” tax cuts for all Americans.

“It really formally begins on Wednesday,” he told reporters on Friday.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said in a statement that his committee is “ready to work” with the White House, although it’s not clear what exactly will materialize next week.

The White House and Republicans also have their sights on the Dodd-Frank Act signed by President Obama following the 2008 financial crisis. The House Financial Services Committee is holding a hearing this week on a GOP replacement to the law.

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President Trump awards Purple Heart to wounded service member

Shawn Thew – Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump made his first visit as president to Walter Reed Medical Center on Saturday, awarding the Purple Heart to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos.

“I heard about this and I wanted to do it myself,” the president said before pinning the Purple Heart on Barrientos in a small ceremony at the military hospital facility also known as “The President’s Hospital.”

“Congratulations on behalf of Melania, myself, and the entire nation,” the president told Barrientos, with the first lady and Barrientos’ wife standing nearby. “Tremendous job.”

Barrientos received the medal for wounds he received last month in Afghanistan. The injury resulted in the amputation of part of his right leg.

Following the ceremony, the president and first lady spent time away from cameras privately greeting other wounded warriors recovering at the medical facility.

The president announced his visit to Walter Reed shortly before departing the White House, saying in a tweet that he was “looking forward to seeing our bravest and greatest Americans!”

Getting ready to visit Walter Reed Medical Center with Melania. Looking forward to seeing our bravest and greatest Americans!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2017

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President Trump to hold rally in Pennsylvania on night of White House Correspondents Dinner

wellphoto/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Trump, who previously announced that he would not be attending the White House Correspondents Dinner next Saturday night, said today that he will instead hold a rally for supporters that night in Pennsylvania.

The president announced the rally in a tweet on Saturday.

Next Saturday night I will be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania. Look forward to it!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2017

The rally will take place at 7:30 p.m. the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In addition to the president’s absence at the correspondents dinner, no members of the White House staff are planning to attend either.

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Surgeon General removed from post by Trump administration, replaced by deputy

Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was removed from his post by the Trump administration and has been replaced temporarily by his deputy.

Murthy, an appointee of former President Obama, announced on Friday that he resigned.

A Department of Health and Human Services Spokesperson Alleigh Marré said in a statement to ABC News on Saturday that he was asked to step down.

“Dr. Murthy, the leader of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, was asked to resign from his duties as Surgeon General after assisting in a smooth transition into the new Trump Administration,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Alleigh Marré in the statement.

The statement continued, “Dr. Murthy has been relieved of his duties as Surgeon General and will continue to serve as a member of the Commissioned Corps. Secretary [Tom] Price thanks him for his dedicated service to the nation,”

Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse who served as Murthy’s deputy, will serve as the acting Surgeon General, according to the statement.

Murthy, a physician, began serving in the post in December 2014.

He wrote in a Facebook post announcing his departure, “While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served.”

He continued, “For the grandson of a poor farmer from India to be asked by the president to look out for the health of an entire nation was a humbling and uniquely American story. I will always be grateful to our country for welcoming my immigrant family nearly 40 years ago and giving me this opportunity to serve.”

“As my colleague Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams takes over as acting Surgeon General, know that our nation is in capable and compassionate hands,” Murthy wrote.

As of Friday evening, Trent-Adams’ photo had replaced Murthy’s on the surgeon general’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and her biography on the Surgeon General’s website cited her new title.

In addition to her duties as deputy Surgeon General, Trent-Adams also served as the chief nurse officer of the U.S. Public Health Service from November 2013 through May 2016. In this role, she advised the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention, and career development of Corps nurse professionals.

Prior to joining the Office of the Surgeon General, Trent-Adams was the deputy associate administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration.

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy resigns, replaced by deputy Sylvia Trent-Adams

Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Dr. Vivek Murthy announced on Friday that he has resigned from his post as U.S. Surgeon General.

Deputy Surgeon General Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse, will serve as acting Surgeon General.

“As my colleague Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams takes over as acting Surgeon General, know that our nation is in capable and compassionate hands,” Murthy, a holdover from the Obama administration, wrote in a Facebook post.

As of Friday evening, Trent-Adams’ photo had replaced Murthy’s on the surgeon general’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and her biography on the Surgeon General’s website cited her new title.

In his Facebook post, Murthy wrote, “While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served.”

But, he wrote, “For the grandson of a poor farmer from India to be asked by the President to look out for the health of an entire nation was a humbling and uniquely American story. I will always be grateful to our country for welcoming my immigrant family nearly 40 years ago and giving me this opportunity to serve.”

During her time as Deputy Surgeon General, Trent-Adams “advised regarding operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and communicated the best available scientific information to advance the health of the nation,” reads her biography on the Surgeon General’s website.

Trent-Adams also served as the Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service from November 2013 through May 2016. In this role, she advised the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention, and career development of Corps nurse professionals.

And prior to joining the Office of the Surgeon General, Trent-Adams was the Deputy Associate Administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands by his controversial Hawaii comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his recent comments about Hawaii that have been criticized by many as offensive or, at best, insensitive.

His reference this week to the state as “an island in the Pacific” when discussing the judge who blocked President Trump’s revised travel ban was not meant as criticism of the “judge or the island,” he told CNN Friday.

When asked whether he wished he had phrased his words differently, Sessions said, “Well, I don’t know that I said anything that I would want to phrase differently. Ah, no.”

The controversy started Tuesday when Sessions called into conservative radio host Mark Levin’s show to say, “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president from the United States what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”

Sessions was referring to U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, who in March issued a nationwide restraining order on President Trump’s revised executive order that calls for suspending the entire refugee program for 120 days and halting immigration from six countries in the Middle East and Africa for 90 days.

Sessions’ comments prompted backlash from Hawaii’s senators and one of its representatives who are all Democrats.

“The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in a statement Thursday. “I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”

The other Democratic senator representing Hawaii, Brian Schatz, also tweeted Thursday, “Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge.” As a Republican U.S. senator representing Alabama, Sessions did indeed vote “yea” on Watson’s confirmation. Watson was confirmed 94-0 on April 18, 2013, after been nominated by President Obama.

Referring to the part of Hawaii where Watson issued the order from, Schatz added, “And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect.”

Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect. https://t.co/sW9z3vqBqG

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017

State of Hawaii has many islands, not one island. We have around 1.5 m people. Island of Hawaii has 186,000 people. Please use the google. https://t.co/aoZewx7jzT

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, tweeted that Sessions’ comments are “another reason Sessions should step down.”

Amazed @USAGSessions doesn’t know Hawaii is a State, not just an “#IslandinthePacific.” Another reason Sessions should step down.

— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) April 20, 2017

In responding to the criticism, a spokesman from the Department of Justice said in a statement that “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific – a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born.”

“The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe,” the statement continued.

The attorney general himself responded to the backlash Friday during the interview with CNN.

“We’re going to defend the president’s order,” Sessions said. “We believe it’s constitutional. We believe there is specific statutory authority for everything in that order that he did and he has a right to do and protect this country.”

In an op-ed for CNN, Sen. Hirono wrote that, “In spite of the Justice Department’s attempt to walk back the attorney general’s comments, his words reflect this administration’s discriminatory attitude.”

Sen. Schatz also seemed to be unsatisfied with the Department of Justice’s statement.

“Try: ‘I’m sorry. That was offensive. I disagree with the ruling, but I respect the judiciary and shouldn’t have taken such a cheap shot,'” Schatz tweeted.

Try: “I’m sorry. That was offensive. I disagree with the ruling, but I respect the judiciary and shouldn’t have taken such a cheap shot.” https://t.co/aoZewx7jzT

— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 20, 2017

In his interview on the “Mark Levin Show,” Sessions also said that the “very, very liberal 9th circuit,” which includes Hawaii, -has been “hostile to the order.”

“I think our president – having seen some of these really interpretations of the executive orders that he’s put out – I think he’s more understanding now that we need judges who follow the law, not make law,” Sessions said.

“Judges don’t get to psychoanalyze the president and see if the law, the order he’s issued is lawful. It’s either lawful or it’s not.”

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House intel committee invites Obama admin officials to Russia hearings

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House Intelligence Committee has invited a number of former senior Obama administration officials, including former acting attorney general Sally Yates, to testify before the panel in a public setting, the latest indication that the committee is working to put its Russia investigation back on track after Chairman Devin Nunes stepped away from the probe.

In a pair of letters, ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, (D-Calif.), and Rep. Mike Conaway, (R-Texas), invited FBI Director Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers of the National Security Agency to testify behind closed doors on May 2, and requested former CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Yates to appear in public before the panel at a later date.

Nunes withdrew from the committee’s broad investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as he faced a series of ethics complaints charging that he revealed classified information without authorization.

The California Republican has disputed the allegations, which were made after he announced that Trump campaign associates may have been picked up “incidentally in intelligence surveillance of foreign targets.”

Several White House officials played a role in revealing the documents behind Nunes’s announcement, which he viewed on White House grounds the day before his comments.

The disclosure, and calls for his recusal, had stopped the committee’s work in its tracks several weeks ago.

As they return to Washington next week, Democrats and Republicans on the secretive panel hope to keep their heads down and conduct their investigation without political distractions.

“Let’s just get back to work,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, (D-Ill.), in an interview after his trip to Cyprus to review Russian money laundering as part of the committee’s investigation. “There’s hopeful optimism that we get this back on track.”

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Trump had undisclosed meeting with former Colombian presidents

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Trump had an undisclosed rendezvous with two former Colombian presidents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week, and in the process injected himself into a contentious political battle over Colombia’s peace deal that seeks to end the Western hemisphere’s longest-running war.

The previously undisclosed encounter was confirmed today by the White House, with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ saying that former Presidents Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe “were there with a member from the club and briefly said hello when the president walked past them.”

“There wasn’t anything beyond a quick hello,” Sanders said.

She declined to answer why the meeting was not publicly disclosed. It’s unclear when it occurred.

Asked about the meeting during the daily White House press briefing Wednesday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “I don’t have anything for you at this time.”

The encounter came to light last Friday when Pastrana tweeted, “Thank you to @POTUS @realDonaldTrump for the cordial and very frank conversation about problems and perspectives of Colombia and the region.”

Gracias a @POTUS @realDonaldTrump por la cordial y muy franca conversación sobre problemas y perspectivas de Colombia y la región.

— Andrés Pastrana A (@AndresPastrana_) April 15, 2017

Uribe and Pastrana are strong critics of a historic peace deal recently struck between Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and the Colombian government, a strong U.S. ally in South America.

The two former presidents are also harsh critics of sitting President Juan Manuel Santos — an architect of the peace deal — who is expected to meet with Trump next month.

Santos’ spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump’s encounter with the former presidents when asked by ABC News.

Trump spoke by phone with Santos in February. “Both Presidents discussed U.S. support for Colombia’s effort to create a just and lasting peace in its 52-year conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC),” the White House said at the time.

According to a VOA News article from the time, citing Santos’ aides, Santos asked Trump on the call for support in getting the U.S. congress to approve funding that would help facilitate the peace process.

The Obama Administration strongly supported the Colombian government’s efforts during the peace deal negotiations.

Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his work on the peace deal.

Conflict between the Colombian government and the marxist FARC rebels has dragged on in varying intensity for more than 50 years. Estimates put the death toll at more than 220,000 people.

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