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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The fate of House Republicans' health care plan remains up in the air as it heads for a vote in the House later Thursday, the timing of which has yet to be announced.

Despite Wednesday’s late-night negotiations and personal pitches from President Trump, the list of "no" votes against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is growing.

At least 30 Republicans have said they will oppose the bill in its current form, according to ABC News’ latest whip count, meaning Republicans could fall at least nine votes short. The GOP needs 216 votes for a simple majority to pass the bill in the House.

House Republicans planned to hold a full conference meeting sometime Thursday as a final huddle before Thursday night's crucial vote. And Trump will make his last-minute sales pitch to conservative House Freedom Caucus members at the White House.

As the clock ticks, the House still awaits the Congressional Budget Office's new score for the bill, evaluating its budgetary effect, which is expected at some point before the House vote.

A series of meetings on Capitol Hill about the plan went late into the evening, but no deal was reached. The House Freedom Caucus met to discuss potential alterations to the bill’s text and also reached no agreement.

But as House Freedom Caucus members inch closer to achieving changes that could sway them to support the bill, the House risks losing moderates’ votes.

Nearly two dozen moderate lawmakers burned the midnight oil, gathering in House Speaker Paul Ryan's office to hash out the plan. After nearly two hours, most of those lawmakers sneaked out of his office, avoiding the media.

One prominent moderate, Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., the leader of the moderate Tuesday Group, released a statement announcing his opposition to the bill after attending that meeting. Earlier Wednesday, a handful of moderates had already said they would not support the measure.

In a sign of the chaos on Capitol Hill Thursday, Republican leaders abruptly canceled a 9 a.m. conference meeting, catching some members by surprise.

"My party intends to bring forth an agreed-to bill that we will be able to show to the American people, and we will own it," House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said on the House floor Thursday morning as the chamber debated the procedural rule to bring a bill to the floor later Thursday.

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US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., apologized to the full House Intelligence Committee Thursday for failing to inform the committee's Democratic ranking member of his findings -- that the intelligence community "incidentally collected" surveillance of Trump's transition team and possibly the president himself -- before he briefed the White House and held a press conference Wednesday.

"I am not confident that he can run this committee," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who informed reporters that Nunes had apologized in a closed door meeting. A second Democratic member Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, corroborated the story.

Nunes has refused to share the source of his information with the committee. Speier said she believes Nunes obtained it "either from the White House or possibly by someone associated with the White House."

Earlier Thursday, Nunes told reporters that his decision not to alert ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., before talking to the media was his "judgment call."

"I mean, there was a lot going on yesterday and it was a judgment call on my part ... at the end of the day, sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the wrong one, but you've got to stick by the decisions you make," Nunes said.

Nunes' decision to brief the White House comes during the House intelligence committee's investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and any alleged connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The committee is also investigating potential leaks by the intelligence community.

During his press conference Wednesday, Nunes stressed that the communications "incidentally collected" had nothing to do with Russia. He also said the surveillance was legally collected under a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant.

Schiff said Thursday he was "blindsided but mostly just mystified" by Nunes' actions Wednesday.

"He's having difficulty separating his role as a surrogate for the administration, with his role as a committee chairman that has to do a very important -- arguably pivotally important investigation," Schiff said in an interview on ABC's The View Thursday. "He can't do both roles. It compromises the work we're doing."

Schiff declined to answer whether Nunes apologized to him and the other committee members, only adding that "we shared our concerns with the chair and the majority about what happened yesterday and how the investigation is being conducted."

Schiff said he and his members still have not seen the report Nunes has read.

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Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate’s top Democrat dealt a critical blow to the confirmation process of President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, by vowing to invoke a filibuster that would force Republicans to earn 60 votes to end debate in the Senate before Gorsuch can be confirmed.

“After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday. “His nomination will have a cloture vote, he will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation.”

Democrats have threatened to force any of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees to clear procedural hurdles since last year. But Republicans have vowed that Gorsuch would be confirmed no matter what, even if it meant controversial changes to Senate rules.

Throughout his confirmation hearing, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee repeatedly hit Gorsuch for his refusal to comment on his personal philosophies behind controversial rulings he had delivered as a federal judge on the Tenth Circuit.

“Judge Gorsuch was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check on a president who has shown almost no restraint from executive overreach,” Schumer said. “Second, he was unable to convince me that he would be a mainstream justice who could rule free from the biases of politics and ideology.”

“My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Schumer added.

But Republicans have the option of going “nuclear,” a colloquial term used to describe changing the longstanding precedent surrounding confirmation of presidential nominees and reducing the required number of votes from 60 to a simple majority of 51.

Under Senate rules, three-fifths of senators are required to vote in favor of ending debate, or for cloture. But in 2013, Senate Democrats employed a series of procedural maneuvers to change that requirement to a simple majority, or 51 votes, for all Cabinet-level and judicial nominations -- except for those to the Supreme Court.

The elimination of the three-fifths threshold became known as the nuclear option.

Facing a confirmation fight over a judge for whom Democrats have pledged to require 60 votes -- votes Republicans might not have -- GOP senators are considering changing the threshold for approving Supreme Court justice nominees to 51 votes.

“To my Republican friends who think that if Judge Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes we ought to change the rules I say: If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes, a bar met by each of President [Barack] Obama’s nominees, and President [George W.] Bush’s last two nominees, the answer isn’t to change the rules -- it’s to change the nominee,” Schumer said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The head of the union representing U.S. Border Patrol agents said Wednesday that a wall along the southern border was only necessary in "strategic locations."

During a Senate hearing on staffing needs for Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd said, "We don't need a great wall of the United States. We do not need 2,000 miles of border wall. I will tell you, however, that a wall in strategic locations is absolutely necessary."

Judd said the current fencing "can be defeated," explaining to the senators that he has spent time finding holes in the fence.

"If we do a wall and we do it properly on the border, we can in fact effectuate a better arrest rate and we can in fact secure the border,” he said. "Before we do that we have to address the current issues that we have."

President Trump made immigration enforcement and securing the southwest border a priority in his campaign and has followed up with executive action since he took office, directing CBP to hire 5,000 additional agents and ICE to hire 10,000 additional agents.

This will be a major undertaking for the agencies.

Newly sworn-in Border Patrol chief Ron Vitiello told ABC News in an exclusive interview last week that the agents on the ground are the most important part of the equation when it comes to border security.

"Somebody has to arrest the people who are going to continue to attempt to enter even if there is a border wall," he said.

Judd told senators that Border Patrol loses over 1,000 agents per year. He said the biggest issue facing Border Patrol hiring is pay parity with other agencies, adding that the agency has to bring back parity, otherwise there will be a "mass exodus to ICE when ICE starts hiring."

However, he called on the Congress not to restrict Border Patrol agents from getting hired by ICE, saying that preventing mobility would cause an even greater drop in morale.

Amid concerns that people are increasingly making illegal crossings into Canada, Judd said he doesn't want to create a situation where the only focus in on the southern border.

"What I am scared of is we are going to throw all of our resources to the southern border and leave the northern border wide open," said Judd.

The union president called on Border Patrol to station "at least" 1,500 of the yet-to-be hired 5,000 agents on the northern border.

Both ICE and Border Patrol unions endorsed Trump during the presidential campaign. Both said that morale has been up among the rank-and-file since the election.

Only union representatives spoke at the hearing. There were no government witnesses to discuss hiring and morale issues.

Aside from increased pay for Border Patrol agents, Judd said that boosting morale and changing the way the polygraph is administered are his top priorities to help fix the hiring needs of the agency.

National President of the National Treasury Employees Union, Anthony Reardon, who was representing CBP field operation employees said that the CBP officer shortage is "staggering."

"There is no greater roadblock to legitimate trade and travel efficiency and stopping illicit trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons and money than the lack of sufficient staff at the ports," he said.

There is an existing vacancy rate of nearly 1,400 already-budgeted CBP officers at ports and, an additional 2,100 CBP officers need to be funded and hired in order to meet 2017 staffing needs — a total staffing shortage of 3,500 today, according to Reardon.

Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, said ICE is suffering from a "toxic and failed management culture."

"Screw up and move up" is a term used by ICE employees to describe supervision all the way from low-level managers to the director of the agency, he said.

He said that ICE is made up of a "good ole' boy" network, in which supervisors cover for supervisors, and only rank and file employees are held accountable.

Employees refuse to report misconduct committed by supervisors because employees don't trust the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency or internal affairs offices to effectively carry out investigations against supervisors, according to Crane.

In terms of fixing staffing issues, he told the Senate committee that ICE needs to find ways to innovate, specifically in the best ways to allow agents to spend more time in the field and less time in the office doing paperwork.

He also said that hiring standards must be maintained and in some cases elevated.

"We need the "time to do this right," he said regarding the additional agents that ICE is planning to hire.

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DenKuvaiev/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Members of the House Freedom Caucus, after years of frustrating GOP leaders' plans with a Democrat in the White House, are prepared to do the same under President Donald Trump.

Meeting twice on Wednesday after a trip to the White House, some conservatives declared they remained opposed to the GOP health care plan heading to the House floor on Thursday, threatening to hand Trump a stinging defeat on his first major legislative push.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who joined the afternoon huddle over pizza and Coca-Cola, called on leadership to delay the vote.

"They don't have the votes," he said as he left the meeting.

At least 25 members of the caucus, which doesn't publicize its membership, are prepared to vote against the American Health Care Act, according to a spokeswoman.

Republicans can only afford to lose 21 Republicans and still pass the bill. In addition to members of the Freedom Caucus, a number of moderates have announced opposition to the proposal.

The White House has made a number of tweaks to the original legislation in an effort to corral votes, including changes to Medicaid funding, an optional work requirement for Medicaid and instructions for the Senate to construct a $75 billion fund that would provide additional tax credits to help people buy insurance.

But the moves aren't enough for some conservatives, who are pushing for additional repeal items, such as the elimination of essential health benefits, they believe would help lower premiums.

"We think there are ways to improve it that would get enough votes, but so far we don't have any language," said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

The White House and Republican leaders are wary of violating Senate budgetary procedures, which could hold up the legislation in the upper chamber after a vote in the House.

On Tuesday, President Trump traveled to Capitol Hill to sell Republicans on the deal in person, telling the conference they'd be "fools" to oppose the legislation and that doing so could cost Republicans their House majority in 2018.

But some conservatives dismissed the warning from Trump, who is known to keep track of his detractors and opponents.

"The only people I answer to are the people back in my district," said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who says he plans to vote against the bill.

Trump -- dubbed "The Closer" by House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., at the White House Wednesday — has successfully pushed some Republicans to support the bill.

Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, both came out for the bill after meeting with the president at the White House today, according to a House GOP leadership aide. Others, such as Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Lou Barletta, R-Pa., have also backed the bill after individual meetings with Trump in the Oval Office.

"I knew if I held out long enough ... they'd send in the big guy to close the deal," Barletta told ABC News' Mary Bruce in an interview today.

But others haven't been as easily persuaded, including Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a member of the House Freedom Caucus who recently traveled on Air Force One with Trump.

"We still haven’t seen the movement we want to make the premiums affordable for everyone," he said Wednesday. "We’re still negotiating."

Republican leaders are still planning to bring the bill to the floor Thursday, according to House GOP leadership aides.

"I don't think they'll pull the bill. I think we have a vote tomorrow, and it will either be voted up or down," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the Freedom Caucus chair following the afternoon session.

Meadows, who stepped out of the caucus's second meeting Wednesday evening to take a call from Trump, argued that the group is focused on keeping Trump's campaign promises.

"He's got a board in the White House that talks about every single one of his campaign promises, and he's going down and checking those off," he said. "And it's incumbent upon us to work in a real good faith manner to make sure he gets this one checked off."

As of late Wednesday night, a spokesperson tweeted that the "Freedom Caucus continues to have serious concerns with current AHCA text," while noting that the process was ongoing.

Earlier in the day, as Meadows spoke to reporters, he was interrupted by McHenry and Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who joked with him about announcing his support for the bill.

"We're still negotiating, we're all trying to get to 'Yes,'" said Meadows.
 
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SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A public opinion poll released by Quinnipiac University Wednesday reported decreasing levels of approval for President Donald Trump in the midst of his battle over the new health
care bill, continued insistence he was surveilled and a probe into Russian interference during the presidential election.

Trump's approval rating fell slightly to 37 percent in the poll, compared to 41 percent just over two weeks ago when Quinnipiac released its March 7 results. Respondents disapprove of the president
at a 56 percent rate in the Quinnipiac numbers, up slightly from 52 percent on March 7. The poll's margin of error is /- 3 percent among registered voters.

Members of Trump's own political party voiced increasing levels of displeasure with his performance. Among Republicans, Trump's approval rating dropped 10 points from 91 to 81 percent and levels of
disapproval almost tripled from 5 percent to 14 percent. Democratic disapproval of Trump's performance sits at 90 percent, with just 6 percent of party members reporting approval.

Perception of Trump's honesty and leadership skills were among the personal qualities gauged by the poll. Of those answering, 35 percent said Trump was honest, down slightly from 39 percent earlier
in the month and a high of 42 percent on February 7.

Those who responded that the president is a good leader is down to 40 percent -- the same amount who said he "cares about average Americans -- from 47 percent two weeks ago and a high of 56 percent
just after the election on November 22.

One of Trump's lowest numbers came in the number of poll respondents who said he was "level-headed:" 30 percent.

The president performed better with questions about strength (66 percent of those polled said he was a strong person) and intelligence (59 percent said that he possessed the quality.)

As for one of the White House's most controversial stances, 19 percent of those polled believe that "President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election," compared to 70
percent who do not believe the claim. Republicans are virtually even by a 41-39 margin.

Congress' approval rating sits lower than Trump's with House Republicans at 29 percent and House Democrats at 30 percent.

Respondents were split on Trump's battle with the media -- each received support at a 34 percent level when those polled were asked, separately, if each can be trusted "to do what is right almost
all of the time or most of the time.”

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Win McNamee/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats struck back at the revelation Wednesday that information about Trump campaign officials was "incidentally collected" during surveillance, with the party's top intelligence
committee member alluding to growing evidence of a connection between the president's associates and Russia.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif. was direct in telling MSNBC's "MTP Daily" that the evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia was "more" than
circumstantial.

“I don't to want go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial, and it is very much worthy of investigation," said Schiff. "So, that is what we ought to do.”

The comments came shortly after Schiff reprimanded his Republican counterpart at a Capitol Hill press conference, saying that Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. needs to separate
his duties with the committee from any allegiance to President Trump.

"[Chairman Nunes] will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the
Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House because he cannot do both," said Schiff.

Earlier in the day, Nunes told reporters that details about Americans involved in the presidential transition were among the cache collected by the intelligence community, and said that the
information had "little or no apparent foreign intelligence value." He later traveled to the White House to brief Trump on the situation.

Nunes himself was a member of the Trump transition executive committee.

President Trump -- who first tweeted that he was "wiretapped" by order of former President Barack Obama over two weeks ago -- said he felt "somewhat" vindicated by the revelation and that he "very
much appreciated the fact that they found what they found."

Schiff pushed back on Trump's comments and categorized the day's news as an "effort by the president and the White House to ... create some uncertainty." He told CNN's "The Situation Room" that
Nunes should be prepared to "produce" the information he alluded to and that the intelligence previously presented refuted the president's accusations.

"I don't think anything is vindicated here except the president's commitment to now quadruple down on a baseless accusation against his predecessor," said Schiff.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. joined Schiff in the criticism of Nunes' actions Wednesday, calling his statements "unprecedented" and "an act of diversion and desperation," and
questioning his neutrality. She additionally called for the creation of a select committee to look the collusion allegations.

"The Chairman’s highly irregular conduct with the White House raises serious questions about his impartiality, especially given his history as part of the Trump transition team," said Pelosi in a
statement. "Congress must create a comprehensive, independent, bipartisan commission to expose the full truth of the Trump-Russia connection.”

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Jim Watson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Members of the Congressional Black Caucus went to the White House on Wednesday for their first official meeting with President Donald Trump.

The meeting, which comes five weeks after Trump asked a reporter at a press conference to help set up a discussion with the group, was organized primarily to discuss Trump’s new budget proposal,
which Chairman Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, said at a press conference this afternoon would be “devastating” for the African-American community.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, said that the group raised “several areas of concern” but added that it was a “positive first start.”

According to Bass, among the concerns raised were Trump’s campaign rhetoric depicting African-American communities as “completely lawless,” his proposed budget cuts, mass incarceration and the
"rolling back" of the Voting Rights Act.

Richmond said Trump seemed “willing to have further engagement on a consistent basis,” and that when the group and the president discussed their goals, there were more similarities than
differences.

Richmond added that the caucus members aligned with Trump on the need for infrastructure improvements and for inner-city neighborhoods to be “as safe as possible,” as well as that Historically
Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are an important priority for funding.

However, Richmond also said they differed on their opinions of how to achieve their shared goals.

“His path as described was more on the lines of law and order; we offered one more of opportunity and summer jobs,” Richmond said.

Richmond noted that the president was receptive to their suggestions, “many of which I think he had not heard before.”

“I don’t think it was terse at any time,” Richmond said. “I think that both sides are very passionate about how to get to the goals but we were very firm in terms of our experiences and how we see
the result.”

Richmond said that two points of disagreement raised by Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, were the importance of community policing and of Muslim Americans who “serve as our eyes and our ears and speak up.”

“That was not an area of agreement coming in but it was something that had to be said from our standpoint because those are the things that we believe in,” Richmond said.

Trump has, at times, been criticized for his attitude toward the African-American community, including for his long-running claim that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya as well as for
his more recent clash with civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia.

When asked about allegations that Trump has expressed racist viewpoints, Richmond said, “You’ll have to ask the people that made those allegations” but added that the caucus discussed with the
president his “divisive rhetoric” and how it might be harmful to African-American communities.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin, said they made a point to tell the president that “a lot of the policies he’s proposing will not only have an impact on African-Americans but a greater impact for
those that voted for him,” particularly those that are suffering from economic insecurity.

Richmond emphasized that they’ll keep the lines of communication open: “We’re not called 'the conscience of the Congress' for nothing. ... It’s because we have the will to fight and follow our
conscience.”

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump  said he felt "somewhat" vindicated on Wednesday after being briefed by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif. -- who said he had been
given credible intelligence suggesting that the personal communications of members of Trump's transition team and possibly even the president himself had been caught up in foreign intelligence
surveillance after the election.

“I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details about U.S. persons
associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting," Nunes, who worked on
Trump's transition team executive committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill today.

"Third I have confirmed additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked."

Nunes, who briefed the president after talking to the press, stressed that the communications picked up had "nothing to do with Russia" and were shared with him "legally." He also said that he
believed that the surveillance was conducted legally using a FISA warrant and that the information gathered had foreign intelligence value, meaning that the agencies would have been justified in
collecting it.

"Bluntly put, everything I was able to view did not involve Russia or any discussions with Russia," Nunes said. He would not say which country or countries were involved and has asked the National
Security Agency for more information.

Nunes' announcement was blasted by the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who said he was not made aware of the information.

"If the chairman is going to continue to go to the White House rather than his own committee, there's no way we can conduct this investigation," Schiff said. "All of us are in the dark and that
makes what the chairman did today all the more extraordinary."

Congressman Schiff also said that Trump should not feel vindicated and that Trump’s claim in those tweets that he was being wiretapped by his predecessor remain false. “There is still no evidence
that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor,” Schiff said.

President Trump's claims that he was remain as baseless today as they were yesterday and the day before when the directors of the FBI and NSA testified that they were made without any basis in
fact.”

Asked if he felt "vindicated by Chairman Nunes" Trump said: “I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. But I somewhat do.”

FBI Director James Comey said Monday that no individual could order direct surveillance and that his agency had no information that supported Trump's allegations against Obama. It was not clear
exactly what Trump was referring to.

The announcement came amid swirling questions about Russia meddling in the 2016 election and in the wake of the FBI announcing it was investigating potential links between Trump associates and
Russian officials, allegations the president has called "fake news."

Republican lawmakers, as well as the administration, have placed a premium on finding out whether U.S. nationals were "unmasked," or had their identities revealed to officials during the
intelligence gathering process. They also have been pushing to find out who was responsible for leaking classified information to the press.

Democrats have focused on whether there was potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russians.

Nunes also said the intelligence came specifically from November, December and January during the transition phrase, but that it was possible communications were gathered before the election or
after.

Asked point-blank if he thought the president-elect had been "spied on," he would not directly answer.

“I guess it all depends on one’s definitions of spying, Nunes said. “I mean clearly it bothers me enough, I'm not comfortable with it, and i want to make sure the White House understands it.”

In the wake of a firestorm generated by the president tweeting that former President Barack Obama had his "wires tapped" at Trump Tower, Nunes maintained that while a physical tap of the building
had been ruled out, Trump's team may have been surveilled in other ways, a position also proffered by the White House.

"The House Intelligence Committee will thoroughly investigate surveillance, and its subsequent dissemination to determine a few things here: who was aware of it; why it was not disclosed to
Congress; who requested and authorized the additional unmasking; whether anyone directed the intelligence community to focused on Trump associates and whether any laws, regulations or procedures
were violated," he said.

Nunes said the intelligence he was looking at was so "alarming" to him that he wanted to let the press know.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked numerous questions about the information Nunes shared.

"I literally heard the statement, came out and briefed," Spicer explained.

Despite saying he didn't want to get ahead of Nunes' briefing, Spicer called the findings "a startling revelation" and "raises serious questions."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump has put it all on the line for Thursday’s health care vote.

His position has gone beyond offering support for legislation offered by GOP House leaders. The measure has his stamp of approval, and the full force of his deal-making energy, given the public and
private pressure he appears to be exerting.

It’s a high-risk, high-reward venture for the author of “The Art of the Deal.” The president even turned to threats -- even if in jest -- to get his caucus on board, telling House Republicans not
to be “fools” and suggesting their seats could be at risk in 2018.

At a 40-minute meeting with all House GOP members, he even joked about whether he would have to “come after” Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., if he continues to oppose the
legislation.

President Trump sees the vote tomorrow as a defining moment for the party and his still-young presidency, but its fate is far from certain. Currently, ABC News counts at least 25 House members that
are no votes, more than enough to sink the bill.

At least officially, there is no backup plan.

“There is no Plan B,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday. “There is Plan A and Plan A.”

If the president is successful, he will have done something House Republicans looked like they could not do on their own. They will have a united conference delivering on the biggest promise not
only of the last campaign, but that the GOP has offered over the last seven years.

If he fails, the consequences could be devastating to the Trump agenda. There would be the unfulfilled promise of “repeal and replace” for Obamacare, and diminished chances of legislative
achievements on tax reform and infrastructure investments, just for starters.

A win in the House won’t guarantee anything, either. Next will come Senate Republicans, where a handful of conservatives and moderates seem even more dug in against Trumpcare, or Ryancare, or
whatever name this legislation will be remembered as.

So how does the president get both chambers on board? It will take more than typical political deal-making. Some conservative senators have even been studying up on how to negotiate with the
businessman-turned-president, reading his books so they know exactly how he negotiates.

As with anything surrounding this White House, there are distractions. Recent days have brought FBI Director James Comey’s bombshells, potential Russia connections to his onetime campaign
associates, a Supreme Court confirmation process in the Senate, and now a terror incident in London.

It’s a difficult, if not impossible, position for the White House as the minutes count down until that critical vote. In other words, Trump has Washington right where he wants it – unless it all
falls apart.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Century Bank chairman Alexander Acosta, President Trump's nominee for labor secretary, will face the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for his
confirmation hearing today.

President Donald Trump tapped Acosta to be his pick for labor secretary back in February.

Acosta replaced Trump's first pick for labor secretary, fast food executive Andrew Puzder, who withdrew himself from consideration.

Aside from his work at Century Bank, Acosta has experience serving on the National Labor Relations Board and has an extensive background in law, including teaching employment law.

But he has courted controversy as well, overseeing a plea deal with financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while he served as a U.S. attorney in Florida that was kept secret from Epstein's
alleged victims. Trump, as well as former President Bill Clinton, spoke highly of Epstein before allegations surfaced in 2005.

“I've known Jeff for fifteen years," Trump said in a 2002 New York Magazine story. "Terrific guy.”

Here is everything you need to know about Acosta, Trump’s choice to lead the labor department:

Name: R. Alexander Acosta

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Education: Acosta has his bachelor’s degree and his law degree from Harvard.

What he does: Acosta currently serves as chairman of the board of U.S. Century Bank, the largest domestically owned Hispanic community bank in Florida, a post he took up in 2013. He is also the
dean of the Florida International University (FIU) law school, a post he’s held since 2009.

What he used to do:
Acosta formerly was a member of the National Labor Relations Board.

In 2003, President George W. Bush selected Acosta to serve as assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s civil rights division. Acosta made history as the first Hispanic man to hold the rank of
assistant attorney general. The Miami native went on to serve as the U.S. attorney for Florida’s southern district.

Acosta started off his law career as a clerk for Justice Samuel Alito, when Alito was an appeals judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He then went on to practice law in
Washington D.C. at the Kirkland & Ellis, specializing in employment and labor issues.

He also taught classes at George Mason University on employment law, disability-based discrimination law and civil rights law.

What you might not know about him: If confirmed, Acosta would be the first Hispanic member to serve in Trump's Cabinet.

About his Senate testimony for American Muslim civil rights

As dean of FIU Law, Acosta testified in front of a Senate judiciary subcommittee on March 29, 2011, arguing for the protection of the American Muslims’ civil rights in a post-9/11 America.

Acosta read to the Senate subcommittee members two accounts of American Muslims - the first of his FIU law student that enlisted in the U.S. military after the 9/11 attacks.

The second account was of a young girl who after 9/11 was suspended from school because she would not remove her hijab.

“[School officials] could have taken this opportunity to say that fear is wrong, that respect and tolerance for another’s faith is right, and that these are founding principles of our nation,”
Acosta said at the time. “Instead, the school officials fed the fear, signaling to Nashala’s fellow sixth-graders that the headscarf, and by extension that her faith, should be suppressed.”

Acosta went on to praise the actions of the Justice Department in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and President George W. Bush’s visit to the Islamic Center of Washington D.C. on Sept. 17, 2001.

“These efforts following 9/11 were important. They set a tone. They reminded those who might be tempted to take out their anger on an entire community that such actions were wrong,” Acosta said.

His controversial deal with Jeffrey Epstein

While serving as the U.S. Attorney for Florida’s southern district, Acosta’s office cut a deal with Epstein, a wealthy financier who was being investigated by the FBI for allegations that he had
engaged in sexual misconduct with up to dozens of underage girls.

The 2008 agreement -- called a secretive “sweetheart deal” by the lawyers for two of the alleged underage victims -- effectively immunized Epstein from federal prosecution in exchange for his
guilty plea in state court and a light jail sentence.

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to one count of solicitation of a prostitute and one count of solicitation of a prostitute who is a minor. He spent 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach
county jail and was released in 2009. Epstein is registered as a level three sex offender.

The Epstein deal, which Acosta oversaw and approved, remains the subject of an ongoing victims-rights lawsuit in federal court filed in 2008 against the federal government. Acosta is not named as a
defendant in the lawsuit.

The judge overseeing the case ruled that Acosta’s office had the legal obligation to inform the victims of the agreement with Epstein, but there has been no resolution on the question of whether
the deal should be invalidated, as the victims seek.

In a 2011 letter, Acosta defended the deal and accused Epstein’s defense lawyers of a “a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors.”

Acosta argued that while critics think the prosecution should have been tougher, and "evidence that has come to light since 2007 may encourage that view," if more evidence was available to them at
the time perhaps "the outcome may have been different.”

“Our judgment in this case, based on the evidence known at the time, was that it was better to have a billionaire serve time in jail, register as a sex offender and pay his victims restitution than
risk a trial with a reduced likelihood of success,” Acosta wrote.

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(WASHINGTON) — The right-to-die argument took center stage on the third day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, prompting an emotional response from nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.

In 2006, Gorsuch wrote a book titled The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia about the ethical and legal debate surrounding the issues. In the book, Gorsuch said he opposed assisted suicide and euthanasia, including death with dignity laws, which make the practices legal in five states.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, broached the topic during her line of questioning.

Feinstein endorsed the California assisted suicide bill, which would allow terminally ill people to request life-ending medication from their doctors, in 2015. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the landmark legislation later that year that would allow terminally ill people to request life-ending medication from their doctors.

"I, in my life, have seen people die horrible deaths — family, of cancer — when there was no hope. And my father begging me, 'stop this, Dianne, I’m dying,'" Feinstein said. "My father was a professor of surgery."

"Trying to save him — there are times you can't," she went on. "And the suffering becomes so pronounced, I just went through this with a close friend. This is real and it's very hard. So tell us what your position is in the situation with California's end of life option act, as well as what you have said on assisted suicide."

Gorsuch grew somewhat emotional in his response, describing his position and his own experiences.

"We've all been through it with family. My heart goes out to you, it does, and I've been there with my dad, okay? And others," he said.

"And at some point you want to be left alone — enough with the poking and the prodding. I want to go home and die in my own bed in the arms of my family," he went on.

In his answer to the question of extreme pain at the end of life for the terminally ill, he said he advocated for medical solutions, even if they came with risks.

"The position I took in the book on that was anything necessary to alleviate pain would be appropriate and acceptable, even if it caused death, not intentionally, but knowingly," he said. "I drew a line between intent and knowingly."

"I have been there," he said, pointedly. "I have been there."
 
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump delivered a warning to House Republicans Tuesday: don't be "fools" and kill the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

For roughly 40 minutes, the president huddled with the Republican conference behind closed doors, delivering what his aides described as a final sales pitch ahead of Thursday's expected House floor vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Multiple members in the room told ABC News the president said they will lose seats in the 2018 midterm elections if they don't follow through and pass the AHCA, a sentiment repeated later Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

"I think there's going to be a price to be paid," Spicer said. “It will be with their own voters. They'll have to go back and explain why they made a commitment to them and then didn't follow through."

One source added that the president said if Republicans don't stick together they're "fools." The message, seen by some participants as meant in jest rather than as a threat, did signal that the president supports Speaker Paul Ryan's view that the Thursday vote is a defining moment for the party.

"We had a great meeting and I think we’re going to get a winner vote," Trump told reporters as he left the meeting. "It was a great meeting, we have terrific people and they want a tremendous healthcare plan -- and that’s what we have. And there are going to be adjustments, but I think we’ll get the vote on Thursday."

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that the president was there "to do what he does best and that is to close the deal."

"He is all-in and we are all-in to end this Obamacare nightmare," said Ryan.

Many Republicans emerged from the session and described to ABC News that Trump's visit was pulling at their heartstrings.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said that it is powerful when the president visits Capitol Hill and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the meeting may not have changed minds but it did change hearts.

Grateful to hear from @POTUS this morning on his support for #AHCA. He reiterated that he will fight for every single American family. pic.twitter.com/R6RDsxWNY7

— Ann Wagner (@RepAnnWagner) March 21, 2017

Members said that one target of Trump's attention was Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. Meadows has been among those in most ardent opposition to the Trump and Ryan-backed bill. The president reportedly asked Meadows to stand and joked about whether or not he'd have to "come after him," one member said, if Meadows did not back the bill.

The president reportedly asked other individuals members who had recently been swayed to back the bill to stand and be recognized. Lawmakers leaving the room said the president made wink-and-nod comments about how, where and for whom he may choose to campaign down the road depending on their votes.

The president's confidence in his ability to get the bill passed was in full view even before the meeting, as he arrived on Capitol Hill. Asked by ABC News if he can get the votes, the president paused and said "I think so" and gave a thumbs up when pressed again on the bill's passage.

Later this afternoon, Trump will meet with the "Tuesday Group" of moderate Republicans at the White House.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- At least 22 Republicans in the U.S. House oppose or remain undecided on the American Health Care Act, enough to jeopardize the fate of the sweeping bill when it is slated to come for a vote on Thursday evening, according to an ABC News count.

House GOP leaders need 216 votes to pass the bill, which allows for 21 Republican "no" votes, assuming every Democratic member in the chamber also votes "no." Still, the count remains fluid as the lobbying efforts on both sides continue.

Several conservative members of the Republican caucus say the bill, aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare, doesn't go far enough. GOP leaders made tweaks to the bill today in order to try to bring those members on board.

"No" votes from the 22 Republicans would kill the bill in the House. Regardless, the fate of the bill in the Senate, where only three Republican defections would kill the bill, is uncertain.

The White House says President Trump is enthusiastic about the bill and is all-in in the efforts to get it passed. He has been personally and intensively engaged over the past few weeks, warning Republican lawmakers today in a meeting not to be "fools" and kill the legislation, according to some attendees.

"We had a great meeting and I think we’re going to get a winner vote," Trump told reporters after leaving the meeting. "It was a great meeting, we have terrific people and they want a tremendous healthcare plan -- and that’s what we have. And there are going to be adjustments, but I think we’ll get the vote on Thursday."

Over the next 48 hours, Trump is expected to keep working the phones and meeting face-to-face with lawmakers at the White House. Tomorrow he will host another gathering of members to pitch the bill, following his meeting with the GOP conference today.

There are 430 sitting members in the U.S. House. Five seats are currently vacant.

Nonpartisan Congressional budget officials say the bill will result in 24 million more uninsured people over the next 10 years. It will also save $337 billion from federal deficits in the same time span and lower premiums by 10 percent after a slight increase.

An updated report is expected on Tuesday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) – Judge Neil Gorsuch sought to distance himself from the Trump administration and hit the president over comments made on the campaign trail during testimony before members of Congress on his second day of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Gorsuch hit President Donald Trump over his remarks about federal judges, including a Mexican-American federal judge whom he called a "so-called judge" because of his involvement with a Trump lawsuit.

"When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening. I find that demoralizing because I know the truth," Gorsuch said.

When Gorsuch was asked if "anyone" included Trump himself, Gorsuch responded, "Anyone is anyone."

Gorsuch also refused to say whether he'd support or undermine a travel ban barring citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

"I'm not going to say anything here that would give anybody any idea how I would rule in any case that could come before the Supreme Court or my court of the 10th Circuit," Gorsuch said in reference to the travel ban. "It would be grossly improper of a judge to do that."

But Gorsuch stressed to Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump's authority on national security matters is limited.

"Nobody is above the law in this country and that includes the president of the United States," Gorsuch said, rejecting the idea that he is a surrogate for Trump or a particular interest group.

Gorsuch was quizzed for hours by the 20-member committee about his career as a federal judge, his understanding of precedent in the law as it applies to landmark Supreme Court cases and whether or not he could be impartial to the executive branch.

At one point, Gorsuch was forced to deny that he made any promises to Trump before accepting the nomination to be the next Supreme Court justice in an effort to assure senators that he is not beholden to the president.

“I have offered no promises on how I’d rule on any case to anyone and I don’t think it’d be appropriate for a judge to do so," Gorsuch said.

"You should be reassured, no one in the process from the time I was contacted to the time I was nominated, no one asked me for any commitments in any kind of case," Gorsuch added in response to further questions from committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Gorsuch said he interpreted judicial independence as a no-brainer.

"There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country," he said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, repeatedly asked Gorsuch if he knew who was behind a reported $10 million dark money political ad campaign working in his favor. Dark money refers to funds given to organizations that do not have to be disclosed publicly.

"I know there's a lot of money being spent as I understand it by both sides," Gorsuch quipped.

Whitehouse pressed again, "Do you know who is spending the money?"

“You’d have to ask them,” Gorsuch said.

Whitehouse fired back: “I can’t because I don’t know who they are. It is just a front group.”

Republicans later came to his defense and gave Gorsuch another opportunity to dismiss the idea that organizations with dark money have his support.

“Nobody speaks for me,” Gorsuch said. “Nobody. I speak for me. I am a judge. I don’t have spokesmen. I speak for myself.”

In an exchange with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Gorsuch addressed the controversy surrounding alleged comments he made last year about women abusing maternity leave for benefits.

Gorsuch clarified that he believed asking a prospective hire if she was planning to have a baby would be an "inappropriate question" and that comments he made during a classroom discussion were taken out of context.

"We talk about the pros and the cons in this dialogue that they can think through for themselves how they might answer that very difficult question," Gorsuch said about his conversations with students in his class at the University of Colorado.

He continued, "I ask it of everybody. How many of you have had questions like this asked of you in the employment environment? An inappropriate question about your family planning. I am shocked every year, senator, how many young women raise their hand. It's disturbing to me."

Durbin also asked Gorsuch about a case involving a truck driver who believed he was wrongly fired. The driver had radioed for help after the brakes on his trailer froze and was told to wait for a repair truck to arrive. Hours later, the truck driver, numb and disorientated from sitting in the unheated truck for hours in freezing temperatures, decided to unhook the trailer from the truck so he could seek assistance.

The truck driver was eventually fired for breaking protocol but a judge later concluded that his firing violated whistleblower provisions. As an appeals court judge, Gorsuch was the sole dissenter in the case and sided with the trucker's employer.

"Senator, all I can tell you is my job is to apply the job you write. The law as written said he would be protected if he refused to operate, and I think by any plain understanding, he operated the vehicle. If congress wishes to revise the law, I wrote this -- I wrote -- I said it was an unkind decision. I said it may have been a wrong decision, a bad decision, but my job is not to write the law," Gorsuch said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's ranking member, expressed her concern for women's rights by recalling Trump's campaign promise to overturn Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion.

"It is a precedent in the United States Supreme Court," Gorsuch replied. "It has been reaffirmed many times."

Feinstein asked about wiretapping -- Gorsuch said he believed the president does not have the authority to intercept communications -- and she inquired about previous cases he had ruled on, including on workers' rights.

"How do we have confidence in you that you won't just be for the big corporations, that you will be for the little man?" Feinstein asked.

"The bottom line is that I'd like to convey to you from the bottom of my heart is that I'm a fair judge," Gorsuch responded. "I can't guarantee you more than that, but I can promise you absolutely nothing less."

Democrats have promised to push back on Trump's nominee in light of the Republicans' refusal to grant President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, his own confirmation hearings last year.

"Do you think he was treated fairly by this committee? Yes or no," asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

"As I explained to you before, I can't get involved in politics," Gorsuch replied.

On Monday, after listening to more than three hours of prepared opening statements and remarks by the committee, Gorsuch testified on a message of unity and respect for the rule of law while paying homage to his mentors including the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he could replace on the bench.

Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote. He clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall scholar.

Calling the judgeship a "lonely and hard job," Gorsuch hailed his own ability to remain neutral and independent in the face of an executive branch that could press its own agenda.

"Putting on a robe reminds us that it's time to lose our egos and open our minds," Gorsuch said.

Republicans heaped praise on Gorsuch for his "exceptional" record.

"Fortunately for every American, we have before us today a nominee whose body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles. His grasp on the separation of powers — including judicial independence — enlivens his body of work," Grassley said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), said in his remarks, "Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for listening to a lot of people and coming up with what I think is the best choice available in terms of nominating someone who will keep the conservative philosophy alive and well in the court."

"We're here today under very unusual circumstances," Feinstein said, in reference to Garland.

"I just want to say I'm deeply disappointed that it's under these circumstances that we begin our hearing," she added.

Feinstein and other Democrats addressed issues of relevance to most Democrats in their prepared remarks -- reproductive rights, voting rights, campaign finance, the environment and gun control, while stressing the role of the Supreme Court in upholding landmark decisions and protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans, including women, people of color, other minorities and the poor.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, (D-Hawaii), told Gorsuch that she had "not seen that the rights of minorities are a priority for you. In fact, a pattern jumps out at me. You rarely seem to find in favor of the little guy."

She continued, "The Supreme Court shapes our society ... Will America be a land of exclusivity for the few or the land of opportunity for the many? Will we be a compassionate and tolerant America that embraced my mother, my brothers and me? ... You consistently choose corporations and powerful interests over people."

When it comes to religious liberties and access to contraception, Gorsuch is a defender of the First Amendment's free exercise clause, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

He sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, in which the plaintiffs argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in Obama's signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, citing their religious beliefs.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote, "The ACA's mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong."

When it comes to criminal procedure, he dissented in the United States v. Carlos case, arguing that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home that had a "no trespassing" sign posted.

In a press conference last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York cautioned that Gorsuch has important questions to answer about some of his opinions, most notably "his decisions he wrote that favored the powerful over the powerless."

Schumer last week suggested that he would not support the confirmation of Gorsuch and urged his Senate Democratic colleagues to do the same.

Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society told ABC News he is confident that "Gorsuch will be confirmed."

The hearings are expected to conclude by the end of the week. Grassley announced he will call for a vote on Gorsuch's nomination on April 3.

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