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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Top congressional leaders met with senior intelligence and law enforcement officials Thursday in a series of White House-brokered meetings to review highly-classified information about the Russia investigation, including possible details about a reported FBI informant in touch with several Trump campaign advisers during the 2016 presidential campaign.

And in a surprise development, the president's new lawyer handling the Russia investigation, Emmet Flood, attended and participated in at least part of the briefings as did White House chief of staff John Kelly, sources confirmed to ABC News.

Democrats have raised questions about the appropriateness of any White House involvement, concerned that it would further politicize what is supposed to be an independent probe.

President Donald Trump has said the briefings could provide proof of his unsubstantiated claim the FBI was likely spying on his campaign.

Responding to questions about why Flood and Kelly were there, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying "Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law."

"They also conveyed the President’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government. After making their brief comments they departed before the meetings officially started," her statement continued.

At noon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, met at the Justice Department with FBI Director Chris Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Ed O'Callaghan, a Justice Department official and deputy to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Nunes and Gowdy left about an hour later without speaking to reporters.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, joined Gowdy and Nunes in the initial briefing at noon, at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s request after Democrats were initially excluded by the White House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., attended the noon briefing as well because he was scheduled to travel to Texas for a fundraiser for House Republicans, according to an aide. Other congressional leaders were scheduled to get their DOJ briefing Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill.

Ryan later put out a statement referring to the House Intelligence Committee Nunes chairs, saying "Inherent in the committee’s work is the responsibility to ask tough questions of the executive branch. That is why we have insisted and will continue to insist on Congress’s constitutional right to information necessary for the conduct of oversight."

Kelly had helped arrange what was originally planned as just a DOJ briefing for Nunes and Godwy as Republicans continue to spar with the Justice Department on requests for documents and information related to a myriad of GOP investigations into the department.

The meeting comes as President Trump continues to stoke unsubstantiated claims that the FBI planted a spy inside his presidential campaign.

“A lot of bad things have happened. We now call it ‘Spygate,’” Trump said as he departed the White House Wednesday. Countering Trump, Schiff has said the controversy should be called "Lie-gate."

After the second briefing concluded, Schiff read a statement on behalf of himself, Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner - Democratic members of the so-called "Gang of 8" – congressional leaders who get high-level intelligence briefings.

"Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols,” Schiff said.

Following protests from top Democrats and Republicans, the White House arranged a second briefing for members of the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of top lawmakers in both chambers who have access to the most sensitive intelligence.

As of Thursday morning, some details remained in flux.

The meetings are the result of a subpoena Nunes issued earlier this month demanding classified documents related to the source, a request the Justice Department denied over national security concerns.

The Washington Post
and New York Times first reported that the FBI sent an informant to talk to several campaign aides during the 2016 election as evidence that a second special counsel is needed.

After Nunes threatened to move to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress over the refusal, the Justice Department invited Nunes and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy to DOJ for a briefing on the documents.

On Sunday, Trump entered the fray, calling for the DOJ to investigate whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign, and whether it was ordered by Obama administration officials – allegations he has not backed up with evidence.

The Justice Department subsequently directed the DOJ inspector general, the agency's watchdog, to expand its ongoing investigation of surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the presidential election to include the president's concerns.

Nunes has said the request relates to classified information relevant to his ongoing investigation into allegations of political bias at the Justice Department related to the Russia investigation, but it was unclear to both Republicans and Democrats Thursday what information the group will learn about the alleged informant.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the meeting “unacceptable and very inappropriate” and accused Republicans of setting up the session to learn information to aid Trump’s defense in the Russia investigation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday that the meeting “should be called off,” and called Nunes a “known partisan whose only intent is to undermine the Mueller investigation.”

Pelosi and Schiff have also expressed concern that Kelly, the White House chief of staff, could potentially participate in a meeting related to the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. The Justice Department said Kelly would participate in both meetings, but Schiff said he had been informed by the head of one intelligence agency that Kelly would not take part in the sessions.

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Bettmann / Contributor(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump signed a full posthumous pardon for former heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson in a surprise Oval Office ceremony alongside actor Sylvester Stallone, former heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis, and others.

"It's my honor to do it. It's about time," Trump said during the ceremony in the Oval Office.

Just 30 minutes before reporters were called to the event, Stallone posted a picture of himself on Instagram.

“He was treated very rough, very tough,” Trump said of Johnson on Thursday as he signed the pardon.

In 1913, Johnson, a noted boxing legend, was convicted by an all-white jury with violating the Mann Act after transporting a white woman he was dating across state lines for “immoral purposes.”

He served one year in prison.

Others have taken up the cause for Johnson to receive a rare posthumous pardon including Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, Harry Reid, R-Nevada, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Earlier this year, McCain, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., reintroduced legislation urging a posthumous pardon.

Last month, Trump tweeted that "Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson," the president tweeted Saturday. "His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Trump's other recent pardons include Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of President Donald Trump's cancellation of a planned nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, members of Congress were quick to play the blame game.

Some members of Congress lauded Trump, saying he made the right decision to call off the summit if North Korea did not intend on getting rid of its nuclear weapons, while others blamed Trump for his "amateur" antics and lack of preparation.

"My understanding is it's been difficult to communicate with them over the last short period of time; maybe Kim Jong Un is having some second thoughts," said Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday morning. "There's been some feelings recently that maybe they were not sure -- maybe not quite ready, if you will -- on the North Korean side to have this kind of meeting. We need to make sure if we're going to have this meeting, it's going to be productive."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement that the administration should continue to apply diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

“Our goal is to peacefully end North Korea’s nuclear threats. The administration should continue to look for opportunities while applying maximum diplomatic and financial pressure against Kim Jong Un. Our allies -- including South Korea and Japan -- need to stand with the United States. There can be no daylight between us,” Royce said in a statement.

Some Democrats criticized the president, saying the decision showed that he was not prepared to deal with the tactics of Kim Jong Un.

Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that Trump had failed at the art of diplomacy.

"The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal," Menendez said.

"Look, I have said all along that it is a lack of a strategy, and deep preparation that is needed before you agree to entering such a high-profile summit. So Kim Jong Un already received some of what he wanted in recognition that he could be seen as reasonable. And it’s amazing to me that this administration is somehow shocked that the North Koreans are acting as North Korea acts," he said.

Sen. Rand Paul blamed the canceled summit on the "bombastic rhetoric" coming from both Trump and Kim Jong Un. The Kentucky Republican said that if we "dialed the rhetoric down and try to have normal diplomatic language between the countries, we might have a better chance of having a summit."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump in a letter directly to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday announced that he is canceling the much anticipated nuclear summit, calling it a "truly sad moment in history."

"Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place."

 The president's letter comes after North Korea issued a statement calling Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" for comments he made suggesting that the so-called Libya model could be applied to North Korea if Kim doesn't make a deal with President Trump and threatening to pull out of the summit.

At the U.S.'s urging, under the leadership of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya, nixed its early-stage nuclear program. Years, later he was ousted and killed with help from NATO-backed troops.

"Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States," the North Korean statement read.

The White House

In an apparent response to the North Korean threat, the president issued a threat of his own in his letter — warning about the United States' "massive" nuclear capabilities.

 "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used," Trump writes.

In the letter, the president leaves open the possibility of meeting at a future date, telling Kim to reach out to him directly by phone or letter if he decides he would like to meet.

"Someday, I look very much forward to meeting you," Trump writes. "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is one step closer to achieving a bipartisan legislative victory with the passage of a prison reform bill that has been championed by the president’s son-and-law and adviser Jared Kushner in the House of Representatives.

“The First Step Act” passed the House Tuesday by a sweeping bipartisan 360-59 margin but is expected to face stronger political headwinds in the Senate, where the leading Republican on the key House Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley has expressed his opposition to a narrow prison reform bill that does not also tackle broader sentencing reforms.

"You have a president that needs a big bipartisan victory and if we just did what the House did, it would be a spit in the ocean compared to the problem we face," Grassley told ABC News.

The House bill aims to reduce recidivism, and among other provisions, would expand education for federal prisoners and require them to be placed in facilities closer to home.

The legislation has been criticized by some Democrats and civil rights groups who argue that it does not go far enough in reforming the justice system and in reducing the size of the prison population.

But a source familiar to the process says the bill's passage in the House with 70 percent of Democrats voting in favor of the measure puts pressure on Senate Democrats to support the legislation.

"That says there is massive momentum," the source said. "That means that whatever has been said in an ivory tower doesn't matter. That means Democrats are going to be forced to vote in favor of this bill."

And on the Republican side, the source predicted, the fact that the bill has the backing of the president, the source said, will force Republicans to get in line.

"The president needs a victory and this would give him a bipartisan one," the source said. "Kushner is on board, Trump is on board, that will steamroll any Republican opposition. I have no doubt that Trump will sign this bill into law."

Kushner has led a more than year-long effort within the Trump administration on the issue, working behind the scenes within the White House to carve out a middle ground for seeking reforms to the criminal justice system that could be accepted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has rejected efforts to seek broader sentencing reforms.

The White House heralded the bill’s passage Tuesday, with press secretary Sarah Sanders saying in a statement that the “strong bipartisan vote paves a path for action by the Senate."

The House bill’s bipartisan co-sponsors Reps. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., celebrated their legislative accomplishment Tuesday, with Jeffries making clear that he sees the bill as just the first step in a series of reforms he believes are still needed to the nation’s justice system.

“The FIRST STEP Act is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. It's simply the end of the beginning on a journey undertaken to eradicate our mass incarceration epidemic in America,” Jeffries said.

Collins said the ball is now in the Senate’s court as to whether they will seize upon the current political moment to improve the lives of the nation’s incarcerated population.

“Today’s vote answers a question in the House and asks one of the Senate: Given the chance to accomplish good in this moment, will you act today or regret your inaction tomorrow?” Collins asked rhetorically in a statement.

Companion legislation to the House bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan duo: Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI.

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@SenJohnMcCain(WASHINGTON) -- Former Sen. Joe Lieberman says he was unaware Sen. John McCain regretted not selecting him as his 2008 running mate until the Arizona senator shared that sentiment in his new book and in an upcoming documentary.

“I must say, I kind of wondered, but we never talked about it. It was a classic, as close as we are,” Lieberman laughed as he spoke to ABC News. “What he said in the book meant a lot to me really because he had never said that before, and it was sort of just an expression of our friendship at a difficult time."

In his new book, "The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations," McCain described his regret over not adding Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-Independent, to his ticket at the urging of his advisors.

"They were giving me their best counsel. It was sound advice that I could reason for myself," McCain wrote. "But my gut told me to ignore it, and I wished I had."

Lieberman, a former Connecticut senator who served alongside McCain for 24 years, has visited his friend several times since he was diagnosed with glioblastoma last summer and calls him by phone about once a week. Lieberman said he plans to travel to Arizona this weekend to visit McCain.

Asked if there might be another reunion of the "Three Amigos," the nickname given to McCain, Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. in the coming months, Lieberman said, “I hope we get to go out together because it’s the three of us. It’s just an extraordinary friendship really and I consider it to be one of the blessings of my life truthfully.”

The trio reunited in Arizona last August shortly after McCain's first chemotherapy treatment following his brain cancer diagnosis.

Lieberman also weighed in on the controversy involving the White House staffer who made disparaging remarks about McCain, saying she needs to apologize publicly.

“I just think they should have apologized right away and I guess there has been a personal apology to Meghan McCain," he said. “John of all people knows, he’ll always say 'I’m far from a saint,' but so we all make mistakes and the best thing to do when you do is to acknowledge it and move on but I’m surprised that they haven’t.”

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK CITY) -- New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon did not receive enough votes today at the New York Democratic Party Convention to guarantee her a spot on the primary ballot.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won more than 95 percent of the votes from the state Democrats, giving him the party’s nomination for his re-election campaign. Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” actress-turned-politician, said that she will work to get the 15,000 petition signatures she needs from across the state to get onto the ballot.

Nixon showed up to the party’s convention but was not offered a speaking slot. She told reporters that she knew wouldn’t get the 25 percent of the vote, so why did she attend the convention?

Because “it’s my party too. I’m a lifelong Democrat,” she told ABC New York station WABC.

Earlier in the day, she said she was attending the convention because “I think it’s important that at the Democratic convention there be at least one actual Democrat running for governor present today because Andrew Cuomo as Andrew Cuomo has said about himself, he has governed this state in a way that any Republican would be proud of.”

Nixon left the convention before the voting finished and Cuomo was not there during voting, but he did make a surprise appearance after Hillary Clinton’s keynote speech. Regarding the vote, Cuomo said, “For me, it’s an affirmation of everything we have done. I work very, very hard, as you know.”

Cuomo will address the convention on Thursday. The state’s primary election is on Sept. 13.

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U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will award a former member of the Navy's SEAL Team Six with the Medal of Honor Thursday for an attempted rescue of his teammate on a mountainside in Afghanistan in March 2002.

Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski will receive the military’s highest honor for his "daring assault" amidst ongoing enemy fire, according to the White House.

Sixteen years ago, during the early morning of March 4, Slabinski was leading a reconnaissance team to the top of a 10,000 foot snow-covered mountain when unexpected heavy fire knocked Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts out of their Chinook helicopter and onto the mountaintop, according to the Navy and ABC reporting at the time.

The damaged helicopter was forced to land in the valley below and Slabinski rallied the remainder of his team on a rescue back up to the mountaintop, the White House said.

During the rescue, then-Senior Chief Slabinski’s team was successfully inserted on top of the mountain, Takur Ghar.

He and a teammate assaulted and cleared one enemy bunker at close range, but then faced a hail of machine gun fire from 20 meters away, according to the Navy.

As they faced mounting casualties and ran low on ammunition, Slabinski maneuvered his team over the mountainside.

Slabinski carried a “seriously wounded teammate through waist-deep snow, and led an arduous trek” – eventually moving down the sheer side of the mountain, said the Navy.

After 14 hours on the mountaintop - stabilizing casualties and fighting against enemy fire - the team was extracted. Seven Americans were dead and six wounded.

As it turned out, Roberts had been captured and killed after falling out of the helicopter.

The battle, which became known as Roberts Ridge, was a part of Operation Anaconda – a 16-day mission to destroy al Qaeda and Taliban forces fortified in mountainous positions in eastern Afghanistan. At the time, it was the deadliest ground offensive of the war in Afghanistan.

Slabinski’s honor comes amid years of controversy over the events on the deadly day.

Earlier this month, Newsweek reported that its reporter had reviewed footage appearing to show that Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman was left behind alive by Slabinski and the rest of the SEAL team during the rescue for Roberts.

The footage supported Air Force claims that Chapman “fought on for an hour, badly wounded and alone, before Al-Qaeda militants killed him as he provided cover for an approaching helicopter,” reported Newsweek.

In 2016, The New York Times reported that although Slabinski believed Chapman was dead, the team retreated, leaving the Air Force sergeant to fight alone for more than an hour.

Chapman will also be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor later this year, according to Task and Purpose.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Dave Eastburn said, “we are well aware of the passionate arguments that have surrounded this nomination, but no one should think that these issues were not given due consideration in our exhaustive evaluation process."

"The secretary fairly and thoroughly evaluated the Medal of Honor nomination for SOCM Britt Slabinski against the long-standing Medal of Honor award criteria. Based on SOCM Slabinski's heroic actions at the Battle of Roberts Ridge, the secretary recommended that the president approve the Navy's request to award SOCM Slabinski the Medal of Honor,” he added in a statement.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the controversy, except to provide its official statement on Slabinski’s honor.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI rolled out a new public service announcement on Wednesday called “Think Before You Post" in the hope that people stop making hoax threats in the wake of tragedies such as the recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas or the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

They offer a stark warning: if you make a hoax threat, you will be prosecuted.

“The Bureau and its law enforcement partners take each threat seriously. We investigate and fully analyze each threat to determine its credibility,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich in a news release. “Hoax threats disrupt school, waste limited law enforcement resources, and put first responders in unnecessary danger. We also don’t want to see a young person start out adulthood with a felony record over an impulsive social media post. It’s not a joke; always think before you post.”

The PSA highlights that it might take a few seconds to write or post the threat - but it can cause years or even a "lifetime of consequences."

The FBI highlighted the potential consequences, citing the case of a 22-year-old Texas man just released from three years in prison for using fake email accounts, Twitter accounts and internet-based phone accounts to make hoax threats in Minnesota, including threatening to kill a police officer and her family. He also threatened to blow up and shoot up a school and engaged in swatting -- calling in fake reports that violent crimes were in progress.

Officials also pointed to a North Carolina man known as "Tyrone" on the internet who, at 18, earned himself two years in prison after recording himself staging bomb threats to colleges and FBI offices around the country in 2008 and 2009.

More recently, officials said, the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico filed charges against two men for allegedly making bomb and school shooting threats on social media. The two men are not connected, however, but represent a pattern after a tragedy, officials said.

“The Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute school shooting threats on social media platforms, which have recently spread like wildfire in the District of New Mexico in the wake of the Parkland shootings and other tragedies, causing fear and concern in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney John Anderson in a news release.

The FBI offers tips such as alerting law enforcement the moment a threat is seen and not to repost or share the threat broadly unless law enforcement is alerted. They also counsel that parents or family members should talk to children about the "proper outlet for their stress or other emotions," as well as explaining how to responsibly use social media.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending all new school buses be equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts, after the agency released findings from a special investigation report prompted by two deadly 2016 crashes.

"I feel like we've always tiptoed around this issue of seat belt usage and lap [and] shoulder belts in school buses," said NTSB Board Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. "The last recommendation we made on this was in 2013 coming out of a crash in Chesterfield, New Jersey, that occurred in February of 2012. And it was a recommendation which is sort of weak in my opinion."

The NTSB recommended that 42 states that don't require for lap and shoulder belts on large school buses add such a requirement. It also recommended four other states upgrade their requirements from lap-only belts to lap and shoulder belts.

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NTSB recommended that it requires "all new school buses to be equipped with collision avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking technologies" as well.

The school bus industry has long debated mandatory seat belts on school buses for reasons including uncertainty of its actual benefit in increasing safety and evacuation concerns.

NHTSA's stance on seat belts has been that they are not absolutely necessary in large school buses, although they are required for small school buses due to the size and the weight of the vehicle.

"There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles," NHTSA website states. "But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well."

Since the release of the new NTSB recommendation, NHTSA said it is "currently planning research on the use and implications of seat belts on school buses, which will help inform future agency actions and activities."

The Tuesday board meeting drew attention to the two school bus crashes in Baltimore City, Maryland, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, both in November of 2016. The board identified lack of driver oversight as the similarity in the fatal accidents and key issue, among other factors.

"In both crashes, we saw poor driver oversight both by the school district and by the contracted motor carriers that provided student transportation services," said Sumwalt.

The two crashes collectively killed 12 and injured 37, prompting the NTSB special investigation.

"In both cases, school bus drivers continued to operate school buses unsafely, with no remedial action taken, even when driver safety issues were known. In addition to lack of oversight, the Baltimore report focused on medically unfit school bus drivers, and commercial driver license fraud," the board said in a statement.

The statement also noted that the cause of the Baltimore City crash on Nov. 1, 2016, included "the loss of vehicle control due to incapacitation of the bus driver because of a seizure stemming from a long-standing seizure disorder," and the cause of the Chattanooga crash on Nov. 21, 2016 included "the school bus driver’s excessive speed and cellphone use, which led to the loss of vehicle control.

"In concrete terms, neither of these drivers should have been behind the wheel," said Sumwalt, making clear that both crashes could have been prevented.

The full report will be available on the NTSB website in a few weeks.

There were 1,282 deaths of all ages and 281 deaths of school-age children from school transportation-related crashes from 2007 to 2016, according to a NHTSA report. The report also showed that more occupants of other vehicles died compared to the number of occupants of school transportation vehicles.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump traveled to Long Island for the second time in less than a year to hold a roundtable on the brutal MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha gang whose members Trump recently referred to as "animals."

"We're here today to discuss the menace of MS-13, a ruthless gang that has violated our borders and transformed our once peaceful neighborhoods into blood-stained fields," Trump said.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the goal of the roundtable was to address "immigration loopholes that enable MS-13 to infiltrate our communities."

Trump said he plans to cut foreign aid to countries that allow gang members to enter the United States.

“We are working on a plan to deduct a lot of the aid. We are going to deduct a rather large amount of money from what we give them. They don’t want the people we are getting in their country,” Trump said. "Despite all of the reports I hear I don't believe they're helping us one bit."

Trump acknowledged the parents of two teenage girls, Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, who were brutally killed in September 2016 by MS-13.

The parents, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas and Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens, were also the guests of first lady Melania Trump at Trump's State of the Union Address.

MS-13 has been on Long Island, where Trump spoke, for decades but now it is the largest gang on the island with an estimated 2,000 members. Between 2016 and 2018, police suspect MS-13 played a role in at least 25 killings on Long Island.

Trump often conflates the gruesome and heinous crimes of MS-13 with border control and immigration policies, claiming lax immigration laws allow gang members to cross into the United States.

And while MS-13 currently has its roots in Central America, the gang actually began in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Currently, it is estimated to have around 30,000 members in the world, and, according to the FBI, more than 10,000 in the United States, a number that has remained constant since 2006.

Many MS-13 members living in the U.S. have immigrated from El Salvador and Central American countries, but most are legal U.S. citizens.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said seven of the 13 gang members who murdered Mickens and Cuevas were unaccompanied alien children who came into the country.

According to June 2017 congressional testimony from the then-acting Customs and Border Patrol chief Kevin McAleenan, between 2012 and 2016, "of the approximately 5,000 individuals apprehended by USBP with confirmed or suspected gang affiliations since FY 2012, 159 were (UACs) unaccompanied alien children. Of those 159, approximately 56 UACs were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13."

On average the U.S. saw about 41,000 children crossing alone per year during that time period. Many are targeted for gang recruitment once living in the U.S.

Trump recently came under fire for calling people in the MS-13 gangs "animals." In response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said "calling people animals is not a good thing."

“I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebuke," Trump said. "They're not people, these are animals, and we have to be very, very tough."

Thomas Homan, Acting ICE Director, defended Trump's comment and said was being "kind" by calling MS-13 members animals. "Animals kill for survival and MS-13 kills for sport," Homan said.

Trump was also joined by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who has recently been targeted by Trump. Rosenstein and Trump shook hands before the program began.

"I feel totally confident that this problem will be eradicated," Trump said. Later Wednesday, Trump travels to New York City for a fundraiser.

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United States Government(NEW YORK) -- Coming off a night of Democratic victories in congressional primaries, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., describes the winning candidates as “a new generation.”

“Democrats can’t just be opposed to Trump," he told Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts Jon Karl and Rick Klein. "We have to have an agenda and a vision of our own. And that’s why I’m fighting for a new generation of leadership in the [Democratic] Party.”

Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran, does not like the effort by liberal Democratic activist Tom Steyer to make impeachment of the president the unifying message of the Democratic party.

"I talked about why we need to lead on national security because we have a president who is being utterly reckless,"

But in Moulton's view, it's a mistake to rally Democratic troops around a theme of a hypothetical impeachment.

“We’re not going to just complain about the president or complain about the Republicans, even though there are a lot of things that are very legitimate to complain about. We’re going to put forward a positive agenda that shows how everybody in America can have a role in the economy that shows what it means to have a smart and secure national defense.”

Moulton is building and raising money to support a network of fellow veterans to try and flip the House in midterm elections to Democratic control.

One of his picks, Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot with three kids, won her primary in the 6th Congressional District in Kentucky.

Moulton argues that Democrats can win in red states by standing up to Washington, moving more to the middle on political issues, and making the economy a top priority.

Even though one of his recruits won her primary, Moulton tips his hat to the GOP. “The Republicans have actually done a better job. The Republicans have gotten out and recruited new people to run. If you look at their leadership in the House, it’s much younger and more dynamic than ours.”

So, if the House turns blue, are Minority House leader Nancy Pelosi’s days numbered?

Moulton declined to comment on a potential power struggle over who lead a Democratic House majority. Minority Leader Pelosi has made it clear she plans on running for House speaker again. But Moulton did volunteer one observation: “There’s a change afoot.” He even offered up a viable candidate – a fellow member of the Massachusetts delegation, Rep. Joe Kennedy.

"I've yet to see whether or not he actually wants to pursue it. He's a modest guy, but he is exactly the kind of new generation of leaders that I think we need."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House confirmed Wednesday it is planning for a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, known as the "Gang of 8," to receive a highly-classified intelligence briefing on the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling, reversing plans to exclude Democrats altogether.

ABC News first reported the plans to hold a separate briefing for Democrats, citing multiple administration and congressional sources.

While details of the bipartisan meeting are still being worked out, a Republican-only briefing will go on as scheduled Thursday.

“Tomorrow’s meeting will proceed as previously scheduled. A separate meeting of the bipartisan Gang of 8 with DOJ, law enforcement and intelligence officials is being planned following the Memorial Day recess,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.

The briefing for the GOP lawmakers will be conducted by officials from the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence, according to the White House.

The bipartisan "Gang of 8" includes the Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate as well as the respective party leaders from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The briefing comes as after the president issued a 'demand' that the Justice Department investigate unproven allegations the FBI spied on his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump and his congressional allies, led by House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif., believe secret FBI documents will shed light on those allegations.

The FBI has, until now, resisted turning over the documents for fears of revealing confidential sources and methods.

Trump's demands for an investigation followed media reports that said the FBI used an informant to make contact with members of his campaign, only after the agency obtained information that members of the Trump team had suspicious contacts with Russians during the 2016 election.

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate's top Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer, formally requested the Justice Department include the "Gang of 8" or reconsider holding the meeting altogether.

“Tomorrow’s meeting will proceed as previously scheduled. A separate meeting of the bipartisan Gang of 8 with DOJ, law enforcement and intelligence officials is being planned following the Memorial Day recess.” – Raj Shah WH Principal Deputy Press Secretary

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Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, spent nearly seven hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team earlier this year for a second interview, a source familiar with the meeting confirmed Wednesday to ABC News.

The source added that, in the two times Kushner has met with investigators, it was in the role of witness – not as a target. The first interview, which happened in late 2017, largely dealt with Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn., according to the source.

The second, which occurred in April of this year, focused on the campaign, the transition and other topics, including the circumstances of the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the source said, adding that there were no questions about Kushner’s financial dealings or his family business.

The news of the Mueller interview comes as ABC News has learned Kushner has been granted a permanent security clearance on Wednesday after a lengthy review by the White House and FBI, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Kushner's attorney, Abbe Lowell, confirmed the change in Kushner's security status. This caps a nearly 18- month review of his security application, which was held up after Kushner failed to disclose contacts he had with foreign officials – including Russians – as required by law.

“With respect to the news about his clearances, as we stated before, his application was properly submitted, reviewed by numerous career officials and underwent the normal process,” Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement.

“Having completed all of these processes, he’s looking forward to continuing to do the work the president has asked him to do.”

In February, Kushner was stripped of his temporary, high-level security clearance after White House chief of staff John Kelly imposed new rules designed to crack down on West Wing staff with long-pending background investigations, sources told ABC News at the time.

Another attorney for Kushner, Jamie Gorelick, said that Kushner's security clearance form, known as an SF-86, was "prematurely submitted" and that "among other errors, [it] did not list any contacts with foreign government officials."

Kushner later updated the questionnaire multiple times to account for all relevant meetings, including "over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries," Gorelick told ABC News.

It was not immediately clear whether Kushner had access to some classified material in the months since his clearance was downgraded. At the time, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News that Kushner's downgraded clearance may still allow him access to sensitive information, but details were never clarified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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