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  • Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said President Donald Trump doesn’t need to “justify” the policy of separating children from parents who are caught illegally crossing the southern U.S. border because it is part of the administration's “zero-tolerance” approach on illegal immigration.“It’s zero tolerance. I don't think you have to justify it,” Bannon, who was also CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, said to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview on This Week Sunday.“We ran on a policy -- very simply -- stop mass illegal immigration and limit legal immigration, get our sovereignty back to help our workers, and so he went to a zero-tolerance policy," Bannon said. "It's a crime to come across illegally, and children get separated. I mean, I hate to say it, that's the law and he's enforcing the law.”Nearly 2,000 migrant children -- 1,995 -- were separated from 1,940 adults between April 19 and May 31, after being caught illegally crossing the border, a Department of Homeland Security told reporters Friday.The separation policy follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on April 6 of a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that includes criminally prosecuting illegal border-crossers, thus separating them from children who under U.S. law cannot be held in criminal detention centers.“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple," Sessions told a conference of state criminal investigation agencies in Arizona in April. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”Karl asked Bannon on Sunday about the widespread criticism of the family separation policy, including from religious leaders such as top evangelical Franklin Graham, a Trump supporter, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York.Pope Francis posted a tweet last week that some interpreted as referring to the new U.S. practice of placing migrant children in centers separate from their parents.“The pope more than anybody else has driven the migrant crisis in Europe,” Bannon responded, noting that he is himself a Catholic. “The Catholic Church is one of the worst instigators of this open-borders policy.”Trump has repeatedly, falsely asserted that a law passed by Democrats is to blame for the family-separation policy. Just on Friday, an ABC News fact check found that Trump repeated this false claim at least seven times.
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  • Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former member of the Ukrainian parliament who appeared before special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury last week has told ABC News that, based on the questioning, he believes prosecutors probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election are still highly interested in the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.“My personal opinion is that Michael Cohen is the target of this investigation,” Andrii Artemenko said in an interview with ABC News on Thursday. “I can't share with you the details of the questions, but from my understanding, they're keeping going with this investigation.”As a grand jury witness, Artemenko has more insight than most into the topics that interest the Mueller team, but he has no way of knowing for certain the direction the probe will move next.He said he concluded that investigators remain interested in Cohen because they spent so much time asking him about his relationship and meetings with Cohen, both in interviews and during his sworn appearance before the grand jury.“It's my personal opinion because they asked me about it,” Artemenko said.Cohen already is facing pressure from prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. That office oversaw a raid on Cohen’s home and office that was said to focus on the longtime Trump advisor’s business activity. It remained unclear at the time of the raid whether the special counsel had turned over scrutiny of Cohen entirely to the New York-based prosecutors.If Artemenko’s observations are correct, they suggest Mueller could have a separate, parallel probe looking at Cohen’s ties to Russia. Cohen has repeatedly professed his innocence and denounced the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt.In the New York case, Cohen’s attorneys were rushing to meet U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood’s Friday deadline to complete a privilege review of more than 3.7 million documents seized in the April 9 raids of Cohen’s New York properties and law office. ABC News learned from sources on Wednesday that Cohen may cooperate with federal investigators in that New York case, and his lawyers are expected to leave the case.The role Cohen could play in any investigation that explores President Trump’s conduct remains uncertain, but legal experts say he could emerge as a crucial source of insight to prosecutors. Cohen has been involved in Trump's business dealings that cover the broad sweep of the Trump’s global empire, including several projects that have caught the attention of federal investigators.He played an integral role in early discussions about a possible Trump Tower in Moscow -- negotiations that were going on during the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign.Special counsel discussions with Artemenko focused at least in part on a meeting he held with Cohen just days after President Trump's inauguration, Artemenko said. He told ABC News he met with Cohen and Felix Sater, a Soviet-born American businessman and sometime business associate of Donald Trump, about an alleged secret "peace plan" for Ukraine and Russia authored by Artemenko.The New York Times, which first reported on the peace plan discussions in early 2017, said Artemenko’s plan was favored by top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin.Artemenko told ABC News the three men met in a conference room at a hotel on the upper east side of Manhattan to discuss Artemenko's roadmap to achieving peace in Ukraine -- the first and only time he would meet or speak to Cohen, he said. The meeting between the three lasted about 20 minutes.Artemenko told ABC News that Cohen talked with him about his political initiative and offered to bring it to then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
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  • ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge on Friday ordered Paul Manafort to be held in jail pending trial, landing a significant legal blow to the former Trump campaign chairman in his battle with special counsel Robert Mueller.
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  • Andrew Harrer/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly 24 hours after the release of the Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation, President Trump tweeted his reaction, calling the blistering report a “total disaster” for former FBI Director James Comey and his “minions.”“FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton and Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that “we’ll stop” candidate Trump from becoming President,” Trump fired off on Twitter, adding, “Doesn’t get any lower than that!”The nearly 500-page report released Thursday was especially harsh on senior FBI agent Peter Strzok, who exchanged a trove of text messages with an FBI colleague in the months before the presidential election. In one August 2016 text message, Strzok -- as he was leading the Clinton probe and the FBI investigation of Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election -- said he and his team would "stop" Trump from becoming president if necessary.Inspector General Michael Horowitz said such statements from Strzok and others helped create a "cloud" over the FBI, and Horowitz said he could not discount that political bias played a role in at least one of Strzok's missteps during the Clinton case.In response, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the FBI will review the inspector generals’ findings and will take any appropriate action to hold people accountable.While the president remained mum on the report’s findings, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders offered the first reaction.“It reaffirmed the president’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI,” Sanders said in a Thursday press briefing.Trump continued on Twitter, saying on Friday that Comey will “officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI.”“I did a great service to the people in firing him,” the president wrote, justifying his firing of Comey.The report took Comey to task for publicly announcing in July 2016 that Clinton would not face charges, even as he accused her of mishandling classified information. The report also rebuked Comey for disclosing just days before the election that the FBI was reopening the Clinton case to review hundreds of thousands of newly discovered emails -- emails that turned out to be of little consequence.Comey, however, said he acted appropriately in his handling of the Clinton email investigation.“Nothing in the inspector general’s report makes me think we did the wrong thing,” Comey wrote in an op-ed published Friday by The New York Times.He added, “I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Donald J. Trump Foundation “has operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York state charities” for more than a decade by, among other things, paying off legal bills with charitable funds, the New York Attorney General’s Office said in a lawsuit it filed Thursday.The lawsuit accused President Trump -- along with his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka -- of conflating charity with politics, repeated and willful self-dealing, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations.Filed in state Supreme Court by the attorney general's Charities Bureau, the suit seeks to dissolve the private New York-based foundation and prevent the Trumps from serving as directors of any nonprofits in the future.The lawsuit alleges that President Trump used charitable assets to pay off his legal bills, promote Trump hotels and purchase personal items over the past decade.“The Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “This is not how private foundations should function.”The president quickly defended the charity, tweeting, “The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” in reference to the former state attorney general.The most potentially damning allegation involved then-candidate Trump’s fundraiser that he staged instead of participating in a primary debate in Iowa in January 2016. The attorney general’s office said it unearthed an email from then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski dictating the timing, amounts and recipients of grants.The lawsuit said “at least five $100,000 grants were made to groups in Iowa in the days immediately before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.”In a statement, the Trump Foundation said, "This is politics at its very worst. The foundation has donated over $19 million to worthy charitable causes -- more than it even received. The president himself -- or through his companies -- has contributed more than $8 million. The reason the foundation was able to donate more than it took in is because it had little to no expenses. This is unheard of for a charitable foundation. The foundation currently has $1.7 million remaining, which the NYAG has been holding hostage for political gain."Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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