ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) — For Mitt Romney, it appears that the third time is not the charm.
On a conference call with supporters Friday, Romney is expected to take a pass on another White House bid, according to an advance text of his remarks.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney plans to say.
Romney will also say: “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”
Romney has been flirting with another White House run in recent weeks.
State Department photo/ Public Domain(MOSCOW) -- Secretary of State John Kerry has canceled unannounced plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, a U.S. official told ABC News.
The two were expected to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where the United States blames Russia for arming and funding the separatist forces. The U.S. has also accused Russia of sending its troops across the border to bolster the rebels. Russia has denied the accusations.
The decision to cancel the visit came just days after an alleged Russian spy ring was broken up in New York, and after last weekend’s offensive by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. This week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggested the United States could expand sanctions on Russia as the fighting in Ukraine continues.
Kerry is still expected to attend next week’s Munich Security Conference, and the possibility remains he may meet his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, there.
Secretary Kerry would have been the first cabinet-level U.S. official to visit Russia since the Ukraine crisis began last year. Kerry’s last trip to Russia came in May 2013, shortly before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow, harming U.S.-Russia relations.
President Obama visited St. Petersburg, Russia, for the -summit in September 2013, but canceled plans for a summit with Putin in Moscow during the same trip after Snowden received asylum in Russia.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PHILADELPHIA) — Continuing to defy the GOP's wishes for smaller government and less spending, President Obama instead is proposing a seven percent increase in his $1.1 trillion 2016 fiscal budget proposal.
Obama's plan, which he outlined to House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia Thursday, would end sequestration, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts affecting both defense and domestic programs for nearly two years.
Although the sequester has sliced the federal deficit in half from its height of $1 trillion, the president feels that these spending cuts will hurt the military and have a negative impact on the economy, which has been growing steadily after years of stagnation.
Republicans have no intention of passing Obama's budget proposal as is, although a number of them would like to end the sequester and find other ways to reduce spending.
The president told House Democrats that he has no intention of sitting on the sidelines during the last two years of his second term, contending that the party needs to fight for the middle class, millions of whom still haven't benefited from the economic resurgence.
Obama also rattled off his administration's accomplishments and took some digs at Republicans, particularly Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP standard bearer who is thinking about another run at the White House.
Without mentioning Romney by name, the president mused how a “former presidential candidate” is “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- President Obama spoke Thursday night at the House Democrats' annual retreat in Philadelphia, pointing out the progress being made under Democratic leadership.
"As much as we should appreciate the progress that's been made...it shouldn't be a cause for complacency," Obama said, "cause we've got more work to do." Instead, Obama called on Democrats to "stand up and go on offense and not be defensive about what we believe in."
Asked about the possibility of Republican legislation attempting to undo reforms enacted on his watch, specifically the Affordable Care Act, Obama said, "I would happily veto it. If they try to unravel new rules that we put in place to make sure Wall Street recklessness doesn't hurt American families again, I'll be happy to veto it."
"You and I together made some really tough choices," Obama told the congressmen and women attending the retreat. "Sometimes politically unpopular choices. America has come back."
Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate passed legislation on Thursday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
The legislation passed by a vote of 62-36 and will now be sent to the House of Representatives for final passage before being sent to President Obama's desk. Obama has repeatedly threatened to veto the legislation, were it to make it to his desk.
On Thursday, the veto threat was repeated by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who said that Obama "will not sign it, will veto it."
Congress has not yet shown that it has sufficient votes to override a presidential veto.
U.S. Secret Service(WASHINGTON) -- The owner of the drone that crashed onto the White House grounds Monday morning -- prompting a pre-dawn security scare -- says his friend who borrowed the ill-fated aircraft shouldn't be blamed for the “whole fiasco.”
Instead, the drone’s owner told ABC News that both of them are now convinced the company that manufactured the drone deserves much of the blame.
The owner said drones sold by China-based DJI have a “well-documented” problem with so-called “flyaway” – when an operator loses control of a drone already in the air.
“It just goes rogue,” said the owner, speaking to ABC News on the condition of anonymity. “It goes where it wants.”
Indeed, countless messages posted on DJI’s own online forum and several videos posted on YouTube report instances of “flyaway.” One post calls it “an amazing product flaw.”
But at least one message on the DJI forum cites “pilot error” and “environmental interference” from microwave and cell towers as some “primary causes.”
Nevertheless, the owner of the drone that landed just yards from the West Wing early Monday morning said a “fundamental flaw” with his drone played a “decisive part in the whole fiasco.”
“It’s not his fault,” said the drone’s owner, referring to his friend, a “hard-working civil servant” who is now facing potential criminal charges in the matter.
“This never would have happened at all without that DJI flaw,” said the drone’s owner, adding that if a vehicle had a similar flaw, authorities would have issued a nationwide recall.
The owner said he bought his drone in November from Amazon.com for $499. Over the next couple of months, he and his friend repeatedly flew the drone with no problems, often sending it airborne above a high school in suburban Virginia.
About two weeks ago, his friend borrowed the drone. Alone early Monday morning -- having returned hours earlier from a date -- the friend launched the drone above an adjacent building, the drone’s owner said he was told by his friend.
Then, all of a sudden, the drone “shot up so high he couldn’t see it anymore,” with a last glimpse showing it heading east toward the National Mall, according to the drone owner.
In a pre-dawn phone call, the pair guessed it would crash on a rooftop and decided to look for it in the morning, the owner said.
But instead, it crashed inside the White House complex, prompting what the Secret Service called “an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex,” and then a federal investigation.
When the drone owner’s friend realized what was happening, he called his supervisor at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and they notified the Secret Service, which then questioned the federal employee and the drone’s owner.
Now prosecutors in Washington are mulling over whether to file charges against the man who flew the drone early Monday.
Local law prohibits drone flights inside Washington, D.C., and federal regulations prohibit such flights near the White House. In addition, federal law makes it a crime to deliberately interfere with air traffic, but law enforcement officials concluded early on that the drone operator had no malicious intent.
By all accounts, those who have spent time with the man behind the White House scare describe him as a “great guy” who is “clearly very intelligent and passionate about his work.”
An online search shows him to have a long-established interest in aviation.
“I hope that this incident doesn't ruin his impressive career with the U.S. government,” said an acquaintance who has hung out with him many times at social events.
Emails and calls seeking comment from DJI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- They act like terrorists, they regularly kill civilians like terrorists, but the White House does not consider the Afghan Taliban to be a terrorist group.
“They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained Thursday, but “they have a different classification.”
Semantics aside, the Taliban is suspected in multiple attacks over just the last 48 hours that have killed more than 30 people, including a suicide bombing attack on a funeral in Afghanistan Thursday that killed 16 and wounded 39.
Even so, the White House does not call the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization, Earnest explained, because they are “different than an organization like al Qaeda that has a much broader global aspiration to carry out acts of violence and acts of terror against Americans and American interests all around the globe.”
The issue has come up because the White House insisted on Wednesday that a prisoner exchange between Jordan and ISIS would be different than the prisoner exchange the United States made last year with the Taliban to gain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“Our policy is that we don't pay ransom. We don't give concessions to terrorist organizations,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Wednesday. “This is a longstanding policy that predates this administration. And it's also one that we've communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”
Schultz explained that the exchange the United States made with the Taliban -- releasing five Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl -- was consistent with that policy because the Taliban is an “armed insurgency” and not a terrorist organization.
But the Obama administration isn’t entirely consistent on this point.
On one hand, the Afghan Taliban are not on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (the Pakistan Taliban is on that last). On the other hand, the Taliban is on the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a classification that allows their assets to be frozen.
And even as Earnest was explaining why the Taliban are not terrorists, he slipped, calling them...“terrorists.”
“We have not ruled out that there would be some situations in which U.S. service members would still carry out operations in self-defense against the Taliban or other terrorists who are operating in Afghanistan,” Earnest said.
Credit: Allan Baxter/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A Texas state representative on Thursday said she instructed her staff to ask Muslim constituents to “publicly announce allegiance to America.”
“Today is Texas Muslim Capital [sic] Day in Austin,” newly-elected Republican state Rep. Molly White wrote on Facebook. “I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups.”
“We will see how long they stay in my office,” she added.
Texas Muslim Capitol Day, an initiative organized by the Texas Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, serves as “an opportunity for community members to learn about the democratic political process and how to be an advocate for important issues,” according to the CAIR website.
In response to White’s post, CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw sent a letter to Texas Speaker Joe Straus asking if White violated any House ethics rules by “creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities.”
White later commented on Facebook, “I do not apologize for my comments....if you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.”
“Isn’t it amazing when you stand for America, our allies and against terrorism how much vile and angry responses you get? I will never cow to anti Americanism and extremists,” she wrote in another comment.
“I am banning users that are insulting,” she added.
In a post earlier Thursday, the Texas lawmaker insisted that “becoming an American” is “not the intent of most Muslims who move to America.”
"Remember, in the Koran, it is ok to lie for the purpose of advancing Islam," she wrote. “Texas must never allow fringe groups of people to come here so they can advance their own culture instead of becoming an American.”
Neither Rep. White nor Speaker Straus immediately responded to requests by ABC News for comment.
Her message was echoed by a slew of protesters at the Capitol. A few dozen men and women waving signs proclaiming “Go home and take Obama with you,” “Muhammad is dead” and “Radical Islam is the New Nazi” protested against the Muslim community members standing on the Capitol steps.
“Islam and the false prophet Muhammad -- Islam will never dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas,” one protester yelled before she was removed by an officer at the scene.
“Muhammad is dead!” she screamed as she was dragged away. “Muhammad did nothing but made himself a pervert. We love America, we love Jesus Christ!”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office declined to comment.
jrwasserman/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Trade Commission has banned the operator of an alleged "revenge porn" website as part of a settlement after the operator allegedly illegally acquired and posted nude photographs and offered a fake "takedown" service.
The FTC accused Craig Brittain of using deception to obtain and post lewd photographs of women, then referring those women to another website he controlled, "where they were told they could have the pictures removed if they paid hundreds of dollars."
"This behavior is not only illegal, but reprehensible," Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. She added that "the illegally collected images and information will be deleted, and this individual can never return to the so-called 'revenge porn' business."
Brittain allegedly obtained the photographs through different means, including by posing as a woman on Craigslist and offering nude photos in exchange for photos from other women. When women provided him with photos of themselves, Brittain allegedly posted them on his website without their knowledge or permission.
He is also accused of soliciting viewers of his site to submit more nude photos to the site, requiring "sensitive personal information" about the pictured women. Some women claimed they received unwelcome contact from strangers who received their information from the site.
The FTC claims that Brittain featured photographs of more than 1,000 individuals on his site. Under the terms of his settlement, he will permanently delete all images and personal information obtained during the time he operated the site, and he will be prohibited from sharing intimate photos or videos of individuals without their affirmative consent. He is also to be barred from misrepresenting how he will use personal information collected online.
JPLDesigns/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the 2016 presidential race heating up, tracking all the potential candidates can keep your head spinning.
Though the list of possible White House hopefuls is growing by the day, no one has officially declared -- yet.
Here's the cast of characters likely to be a part of the 2016 contest, and a look at what we know about when they plan to make it official:
Announcement expected by: July
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, said last September that -- hypothetically -- if she were to consider running for president again, “I am going to be making a decision probably around the first of the year.”
Although we don’t yet know whether she has made up her mind, it certainly seems like all systems are go.
Politico, citing "top Democrats," reported on Jan. 29 that Clinton could delay any official announcement until June, which would allow her to continue sculpting her campaign in private. According to Politico, Clinton could announce an exploratory committee in April.
Announcement expected by: January or February
Former Sen. Jim Webb was the first potential 2016 candidate to launch an exploratory committee last November. In an appearance at the National Press Club last September, he said discussions about his potential run would continue through January or February.
Announcement expected by: Early February (if Larry King is to be believed)
Despite earlier assertions that he wouldn't run for president in 2016, Mitt Romney, the two-time presidential candidate who won his party's nomination in 2012, is reportedly thinking about mounting a third bid for the White House.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the former governor told a dozen top Republican donors on Jan. 9 that he may run again. And talk show host Larry King, who recently ran into the Romneys at the Salt Lake City airport, said Romney said "he'll decide about a run for president within two weeks."
Announcement expected by: May or June
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also ran in 2012, will announce his intentions in the 2016 presidential race in May or June, he told The New York Times. He held a series of fundraisers last November where he was likely met with potential supporters and Republican operatives, according to Politico.
Announcement expected by: Unknown
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced in a Facebook post in December 2014 that he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President.”
Though he hasn't publicly set a timeline for a formal announcement, Bush met with Mitt Romney earlier this month, fueling speculation that the two potential rivals were discussing their possible campaigns. Bush launched a leadership PAC called “Right to Rise” on Jan. 6.
Announcement expected by: June
Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz, who says he believes that the field of GOP candidates will solidify in June, said on Fox & Friends that he is looking at a campaign very seriously.
Cruz has certainly proceeded as if he is already a candidate for 2016, visiting early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, expanding his staff, and even renouncing his Canadian citizenship.
Announcement expected by: May or June
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make a final decision about 2016 by “the end of the Spring,” according to Time magazine. He launched a political action committee, Leadership Matters for America, on Monday Jan. 26.
Announcement expected by: March to May
A Marco Rubio senior adviser told ABC News that Rubio has told them to “proceed as if he is running for president.” According to two unnamed Republicans, Rubio told about 30 core supporters that he would decide by the spring about whether or not to run for president.
Announcement expected by: March to May
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul confirms he will certainly be on the ballot in 2016 -- but hasn't officially declared whether it will be as a presidential candidate or merely a senator. In September 2014, Paul announced that he will not make a decision about 2016 until the spring. He told the The Washington Times that ultimately, his decision to launch a bid will be depended on GOP’s willingness to endorse a “new kind” of Republican.
Announcement expected by: June
Gov. Scott Walker established a political committee called “Our American Revival” on Tuesday. A Walker aide told ABC News that the governor plans to wait until late spring or summer to decide on 2016. He will most likely make his official announcement around June.
Announcement expected by: May
Dr. Ben Carson said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that he would make a decision about running for president by May 1.
Despite a busy schedule, and the formation of a political action committee, “One Nation”, he says he's not ready to make any commitments to a presidential campaign yet.
"I don't know what my role will be in the future," Carson said, "but I know that I will continue to fight extremely hard for these principles."
Announcement expected by: Unknown
The former senator from Pennsylvania has been busy traveling to important primary states this past year. Although he has declined to identify a timeline for when he would make an official announcement, all signs point to another run for the White House.
Announcement expected by: Unknown
Sen. Lindsey Graham launched an exploratory committee on Thursday to “test the waters” for a potential 2016 run. His supporters include 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, who has publicly supported his candidacy.
“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain joked in a news conference earlier this month. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today."
Ruskpp/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba -– the first legislation to be introduced this year following President Obama’s executive action to start opening diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the sponsors of the bill, said. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”
“It makes no sense to have this prohibition,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., another sponsor of the bill, said.
The legislation, titled “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015,” is sponsored by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The Republican senators include: Flake, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Boozman of Arkansas. They said they expected other farm-state senators to join them in lifting the travel ban. The Democratic sponsors are Leahy, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Even though the bill has Republican support, it’s an open question whether the legislation to lift the travel ban will be called for a vote in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been critical of the administration’s Cuba policy, saying he defers to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is an ardent critic of lifting the travel ban or the embargo.
Earlier this month, the White House eased restrictions on the U.S. travel ban by permitting travel to Cuba for 12 categories of people, including Americans with family in Cuba, employees on official business for the U.S. and foreign governments, along with journalists.
Congress will need to pass legislation lifting the travel ban in order for all Americans to travel to the country located just 90 miles from the United States.
Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain earned some applause inside the Senate Armed Services hearing Thursday morning, after he erupted at protesters of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calling them “low-life scum.”
“I've been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” said McCain, R-Ariz.
Protesters from the group CodePink swarmed behind Kissinger as he arrived alongside two other former secretaries of State -- Madeleine Albright and George Shultz -- for a hearing on U.S. national security strategy.
They held up signs calling Kissinger a criminal and chanted “arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes,” citing some of his more controversial decisions during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
“You know, you're going to have to shut up, or I'm going to have you arrested,” McCain said as Capitol Hill Police tried to remove the protesters. “Get out of here you low-life scum.”
Kissinger didn’t acknowledge the protesters, who again interrupted him later in the hearing prior to his opening statement.
“Dr. Kissinger, I hope on behalf of all of the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle -- in fact, from all of my colleagues, I'd like to apologize for allowing such disgraceful behavior towards a man who served his country with the greatest distinction,” McCain said. “I apologize profusely.”
McCain released a statement later on Thursday saying he had "never witnessed this kind of physical intimidation of a witness at a Congressional hearing."
"No American citizen testifying before the U.S. Congress should be subjected to such treatment," the Arizona senator said, "particularly not a 91-year-old former Secretary of State who has served our nation with great honor and distinction." McCain further apologized to Kissinger "on behalf of the Armed Services Committee and the entire U.S. Senate," adding that he expects "that those responsible will be held fully accountable for their actions."
In a statement emailed to ABC News, U.S. Capitol Police public information officer Lieutenant Kimberly Schneider said the USCP is conducting a "thorough review" of the incident.
"We take very seriously our mission to protect the Congress and its legislative processes, while balancing safety and security, and the First Amendment rights of people to peaceably assemble," the statement reads. "Today, our actions in [the hearing] clearly did not demonstrate that mission, nor did our actions meet the standards expected of the USCP."
US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may be mulling a bid to be the next commander-in-chief in 2016, but he may have already earned the unofficial title of troller-in-chief with his pointed digs at his potential rivals -- Democrats and Republicans alike.
The latest came Wednesday evening, when Paul used “#ThingsToRunFrom” to describe former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Romneys and the Clintons could meet sooner than in 2016. Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston confirms to ABC News that the two couples are expected to attend a New York City lunch together Friday to benefit the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Disorders.
Chelsea Clinton's husband Marc Mezvinsky is on the board of the center.
The Times points out the lunch will now be quite awkward after Romney went on the attack against Clinton Wednesday night in his speech to Mississippi State University.
In his speech, he said, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney said. He also went after Clinton on the economy and he joked about his own wealth by also jabbing Clinton: "I’m not even thinking about the speaking fees I can earn,” Romney said. “As you no doubt heard, I’m already rich.”
US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has officially launched an exploratory committee to “test the waters” for a potential 2016 run, a spokesman for the South Carolina senator confirms.
The exploratory committee is dubbed “Security Through Strength” and is described on its website as a “political committee helping United States Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. ‘test the waters’ for a potential 2016 run for president. The committee will fund the infrastructure and operations allowing Graham to travel the country, listen to Americans, and gauge support for a potential presidential candidacy.”
Graham, who was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and the House of Representatives in 1994, has long said he would consider a White House run and has been urged by his friend and colleague Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, to run in 2016.
“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain said in a news conference earlier this month. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today.”