Politics

Trump meets with advisers, policy experts ahead of next week’s debate with Biden

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University, October 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump is getting ready for next week’s highly anticipated debate with President Joe Biden by holding policy meetings with advisers and congressional allies and favoring town hall events over mock debates, according to sources familiar with his preparations.

Ahead of the June 27 standoff in Atlanta, hosted by CNN, Trump is not making conventional preparations — where someone would be assigned to play Biden in a mock debate, people familiar with Trump’s plans tell ABC News.

Also, sources say he won’t plan to memorize a series of debate responses. Instead, the campaign has been setting up sessions with policy experts on individual topics they think could come up at the debate next Thursday, such as the economy, immigration and democracy, according to people familiar the plans.

When the former president was in town last week for a visit with congressional Republicans, he met with Sens. Marco Rubio and Eric Schmitt, for a debate discussion session, along with a group of his advisers, according to sources with knowledge of the meetings.

It’s an example of how Trump has held informal debate-focused sessions with a series of experts, fitting them in between campaign stops and fundraisers.

Many of these sessions have been with people who were part of his previous administration, including his former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and former top adviser Stephen Miller and Tom Homan, who served as acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when Trump was president, according to sources familiar with the meetings.

The debate, being moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, will run for approximately 90 minutes with two commercial breaks. It is the first of two debates scheduled between the candidates — the second of which will be hosted by ABC News on Sept. 10.

In an election year, both candidates are looking to the debate as a way to attract undecided voters in what is expected to be a very tight race.

Trump has also recently spoken with some of the people on his shortlist to become his vice president as he prepares to make a decision about who will be his running mate, sources tell ABC News. His vice presidential pick would go up against Vice President Kamala Harris during a debate this summer.

Trump met with Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. Vance, speculated to be a top contender to be Trump’s vice president pick, discussed the economy with Trump as part of the former president’s debate prep, according to a source.

Vance has been an active surrogate for Trump over the past few months, appearing at campaign events with him and hosting fundraisers to help raise money for Trump’s White House bid.

Vance has maintained his commitment to helping Trump’s campaign. In May, he told Donald Trump Jr. on his podcast “Triggered with Don Jr.” that he wanted to help the former president however he could.

Trump has previously departed from traditional debate preparations, which advisers have said speak to his strengths in giving off-the-cuff remarks.

More recently, the campaign has also held more events where Trump is able to take questions from audience members. Although the questions have mainly been from his staunch supporters, the town hall forums have allowed the former president to be put on the spot ahead of the debate.

“President Trump talks with voters in town halls, speaks to thousands at rallies, and frequently takes questions from the press,” which have prepared him for the upcoming debate, senior adviser Brian Hughes said in a statement to ABC News.

Hughes added that “Biden needs rehearsals with handlers to find some way to explain this mess he’s made of our nation.”

“President Trump is always prepared to present to Americans his record of success and Biden’s weakness and failures,” Hughes said.

As Biden heads off to Camp David for his debate preparations, Trump will spend the weekend campaigning in Philadelphia and attending a series of fundraisers leading up to next week.

The Trump campaign pushed for earlier debates this election cycle, remaining confident Trump could garner more supporters if voters could see the two men debate and compare their presidential records.

Following Trump and Biden’s agreement to participate in debates in June and September, the Trump campaign has put public pressure on the Biden campaign to agree to more debates.

“We propose a debate in June, a debate in July, a debate in August, and a debate in September, in addition to the Vice Presidential debate. Additional dates will allow voters to have maximum exposure to the records and future visions of each candidate,” Trump advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles said in a memo sent out in May.

Debates have been an opportunity for Trump to reach a wider audience. His first debate with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2016 garnered 84 million viewers, making it the most-watched presidential debate in modern American history.

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Politics

Biden heads to Camp David to prepare for first presidential debate with Trump

President Joe Biden prepares to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 25, 2021, en route to Camp David in Thurmont, Maryland. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

(WASHINGTON) — With a week to go until the first presidential debate, President Joe Biden heads to Camp David on Thursday to prepare for his critical matchup with former President Donald Trump.

The famous rustic retreat in the Maryland mountains has hosted many debate boot camps during election years, and Biden hopes to make the most of its secluded setting in the days before heading to the June 27 debate hosted by CNN in Atlanta.

Moderated by CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, the debate will run for approximately 90 minutes with two commercial breaks. It is the first of two scheduled between the candidates — the second of which will be hosted by ABC News on Sept. 10.

In what will be the first real showdown between the two this election cycle, the face-off could potentially shift the narrative for both candidates and each is looking to attract undecided voters in what is expected to be a very tight race.

Unlike in 2020, Biden’s 2024 duties as president will take away some of the time he has for debate prep, meaning much of it will be confined to the days immediately beforehand, officials said.

Biden has just completed a whirlwind couple of weeks that included two foreign trips and hosting two major fundraisers — all while dealing with the emotional fallout from his son, Hunter Biden’s, recent conviction on felony gun charges.

According to a campaign official, Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, is leading the debate preparations. Other senior campaign aides and longtime advisers, including Cedric Richmond, a former White House aide and current campaign co-chair, will also be on hand.

This won’t be Klain’s first time in a leading role. In addition to assisting Biden in his 2020 debate prep, he led Hillary Clinton’s preparation in 2016, Barack Obama’s in 2008 and 2012 and John Kerry’s in 2004.

In 2020, Biden said his debate prep strategy involved “going over what [Trump] has said and multiple lies he’s told,” in an interview with NBC News. This year, Biden’s debate prep could look similar with his facing the same opponent.

Biden will be aiming to hold Trump accountable for not only his administration’s track record, but also comments Trump has made on the campaign trail on topics ranging from reproductive rights to the economy, to perceived threats of political violence, to what Biden campaign officials say are his efforts to undermine the judicial system.

He is also expected to continue the “punchier” — more pointed — remarks he has used to attack the former president as of late, campaign officials said.

Biden has taken to half-jokingly slamming Trump for suggesting that disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus.

“Remember when he was trying to deal with COVID, he said just inject a little bleach in your veins,” Biden said after at North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference in April. “He missed it. It all went to his hair.”

At a recent fundraiser in Los Angeles with former President Obama, after moderator Jimmy Kimmel asked the president if his recent trip to Italy — which included a visit with the pope — was to “restore the soul of America” because it seemed like the country needed an “exorcism,” Biden jokingly replied “Yeah.”

Trump and his campaign have been pushing the narrative that Biden is in the midst of a “cognitive decline.” They’ve seized on a misleading video from his trip to France to mark the the 80th anniversary of D-Day where they falsely claimed the president “froze.”

If elected, Biden would be 86 when he completed his second term, the oldest president ever to serve.

His poll numbers show him neck-and-neck in key battleground states with Trump, according to 538’s polling average — and he must perform well to quell voter doubts.

Separately, in the lead-up to the debate, the Biden campaign has focused on slamming Trump over his 34 felony convictions in his New York hush-money trial. They’ve labeled this November as an election between a “convicted criminal” and a “president who’s fighting for your family” in a new ad that’s a part of a $50 million June paid media campaign.

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Politics

Top Israel officials to meet with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan Thursday

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Senior administration officials tell ABC News that top Netanyahu advisers — Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer — were traveling from Israel to Washington to meet with national security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House on Thursday.

The move comes amid new tensions between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a video he made in which he complains that the U.S is blocking arms shipments amid Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza — a claim the U.S. denies

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will also meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the coming days.

But another high-level meeting focused on Israel’s security, including the threat from Iran, has been canceled by the U.S., according to administration officials. The U.S. is looking to reschedule it. That is a formal meeting with many people led by Sullivan and Hanegbi.

While Biden administration officials are saying that that high-level meeting was never fully finalized on the schedule, other sources inside the White House say there was frustration over Netanyahu’s video and it did affect the decision not to hold the meeting.

Administration officials said that what Netanyahu said in his video is “beyond the pale,” no other country is supporting Israel more than the U.S. and the U.S. only pausing one shipment of 2,000 pound bombs over concerns the imprecise weapons could cause extensive civilian deaths but that everything else is still flowing.

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford contributed to this report.

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Politics

2024 federal budget deficit projection rises to nearly $2 trillion

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(WASHINGTON) — In a new projection from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget deficit – the gap between government revenue vs. spending – will be $1.9 trillion for the 2024 fiscal year.

The deficit forecast is $400 billion higher than the CBO’s last estimate in February, an increase of 27%. The CBO cites a handful of reasons, including recent legislation to provide $95 billion of aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region, which Congress passed in April after months of delay, increasing Medicaid spending and $70 billion attributed to the 2023 bank failures because of a slower-than-expected recovery of payments by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But one of the chief reasons for the projection increase was President Joe Biden’s student loan policies, including cancelling loans, adjusting loan balances and implementing a new repayment plan that offers more subsidies to borrowers. The policies have added $145 billion to the deficit, the CBO said.

Biden has so far cancelled $167 billion in loans for 4.75 million borrowers, with a plan on the way to increase that reach to nearly 30 million borrowers in total. The debt relief has mostly focused on people who were already enrolled in repayment plans that pledged eventual debt forgiveness, like income-driven repayment plans that offer relief after 20-25 years of payment, or the public service loan forgiveness program which offers relief after 10 years. Both programs were poorly coordinated and often left people unable to access their debt relief at the end of their payment plans. About $119 billion of the total debt relief has so far targeted those two programs. The administration has made the case that the debt relief could boost short-term consumer spending and have positive effects on borrowers’ homeownership and entrepreneurship capabilities, but critics have raised concerns about the cost to the federal government.

Other factors have also increased the deficit over the last few months, including higher interest rates – which make it more expensive for the government to pay its debt.

And there’s a looming 2024 election issue at play, too: The continuing impact of the 2017 Trump tax cut legislation, which has added trillions to the deficit. If former president Trump wins office, he says he will extend the legislation, which the CBO predicted could end up costing about $5 trillion over 10 years.

The White House sought to home in on that tax legislation to explain the deficit increase, particularly as the 2025 expiration date for the legislation nears.

“After the prior administration added $8 trillion to the debt, new CBO numbers show that the Trump tax windfalls for billionaires and corporations continue to come at the expense of the American people by driving up deficits,” Andrew Bates, White House spokesperson, said in a statement.

“Republican officials are already plotting to grow the deficit even more in 2025 with tax handouts to the corporations who are keeping prices high even as inflation falls,” Bates said.

Total U.S. national debt is on track to top $56 trillion by 2034, the CBO said.

For deficit hawks, the latest increase is yet another warning that the nation’s debt requires congressional reform.

“With debt growing out of control, we need leadership now more than ever. This should be domestic issue number one in the presidential campaign. It’s time for Presidents Biden and Trump to put forward plans to fix our debt. And it’s long past time for Congress to act,” Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement.

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Local news Politics

Tight Virginia GOP primary between Good, McGuire a test of Trump’s influence

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., meets with supporters at a primary night election party, June 18, 2024, in Lynchburg, Va.. Via ABC News

(RICHMOND, Va.) —  A contentious and closely watched Republican U.S. House primary in Virginia remains too close for any projection, as House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Bob Good attempts to fend off a challenge from state Sen. John McGuire, who received endorsements from former President Donald Trump. The outcome of the race could signal the power of Trump’s endorsement.

Good, who was first elected to the House in 2020, had antagonized the former president by initially endorsing his presidential primary opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump then attacked Good — an effort to take down the candidate he once endorsed, too.

“If he’s reelected, Bob Good will stab Virginia in the back, sort of like he did with me,” Trump said at a rally for McGuire earlier this week.

In an election year, many are looking at the close race to see the power of Trump’s influence and how his endorsement affected the race.

As of Wednesday morning, it’s not yet clear if Trump’s plan to replace Good with McGuire has panned out. McGuire, who was also endorsed by former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, has a slim lead over Good by a margin of about 300 votes, according to unofficial election results.

Good has not conceded. In a post on X late Tuesday night, Good thanked supporters, saying, “The entire DC Swamp was aligned against us with over $10 million in attack ads, but with your help we were able to make this race too close to call.”

Good said the campaign will aim to closely follow the vote count “to ensure all the votes are properly counted in the coming days.”

“No matter the outcome, you’ve shown the DC Swamp that you won’t back down from standing for what’s right. Keep the faith and don’t stop fighting now,” Good wrote.

But McGuire has declared victory in the race, striking a different tone than Good.

“My life is a testament to the fact that America is the greatest country on this planet and I’m so honored to have the chance to serve her again… Folks in the 5th can rest assured that should they elect me in Nov., they will have an effective fighter in Congress who will get the job done for them,” McGuire wrote in a thread on X.

“I look forward to working with Trump to beat Joe Biden in November & pass Trump’s agenda in Congress. Trump & McGuire will Make America Great Again!”

Earlier this week, McGuire implied that he thought Good might cheat to win the election or that there could be issues with the election.

“Let’s make this too big to rig tomorrow, so we can lock arms, and make it too big to rig, so we win Virginia for President Trump in November so we can get him back in there and make America great again,” McGuire said at his rally on Monday.

In a phone interview with ABC News on Tuesday, McGuire said it would be “healthy” to question election results in general when asked about the “too big to rig” comments.

When pressed to share any specific concerns about the primary, McGuire pointed to confusion among voters about who Trump endorsed.

“I was at a Food Lion parking lot the other day, and a woman said, ‘Well, who did Trump endorse…[you] or Bob Good?’ And I said, ‘He’s endorsed me,'” McGuire said, adding that Good is trying to “trick” voters — a reference to messaging on Good’s website that created some confusion about Trump’s endorsement.

Before Trump made his official endorsement of McGuire, Good was touting Trump’s endorsement of him in 2022 on his campaign website. The website was then updated to reflect the caveat that Trump hadn’t endorsed Good in his 2024 race.

On Tuesday night, Good eschewed the trappings of a fancy election night hotel ballroom soiree for a gathering with supporters at an Italian restaurant in a strip-mall filled stretch of Lynchburg, Virginia. Inside La Villa, it was subdued, with the restaurant’s normal activity blending with the watch party.

When he entered the restaurant over half an hour after polls closed, Good spent his time glad-handing supporters, greeting each table. He hugged and kissed his family, before picking up a family member’s baby in a “Babies for Bob” bib to continue the tour.

He spent time sitting, thinking and quietly conferring with his wife. He later left the party without speaking to reporters.

It is possible that the candidate who ends up trailing could request a recount. Virginia does not have automatic recounts. According to Virginia state law, the losing candidate can request a recount if the vote margin is less than 1% of the votes cast. The state pays if the margin is less than 0.5%; the requester pays if it is more than that.

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Politics

Witness tells House Ethics Committee that Matt Gaetz paid her for sex: Sources

Rep. Matt Gaetz looks on during a news conference about unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) transparency on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — In recent weeks, House Ethics Committee investigators have conducted a string of interviews behind closed doors with numerous women who were witnesses in the years-long Justice Department sex trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, multiple sources familiar with the committee’s work tell ABC News.

Investigators have interviewed at least half a dozen women who allegedly attended parties where the Florida Congressman was also present and who were paid by Joel Greenberg, Gaetz’s one-time close friend. Greenberg was sentenced in 2022 to 11 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to multiple charges including sex trafficking a minor and introducing the minor to other “adult men,” sources tell ABC News.

In the interviews, which have previously not been reported, some witnesses have been shown Venmo payments they allegedly received from Gaetz and asked if those payments were for sexual activities, sources said. Some of the witnesses have been subpoenaed by the committee while others have agreed to cooperate, according to the sources.

One woman, who ABC News is not identifying, told the committee that a payment from Gaetz was for sex, while others have said they were paid to attend parties that Gaetz also attended and that featured drugs and sex, multiple sources told ABC News.

Gaetz has long denied all of the allegations, including paying for sex, and previously dismissed them by claiming “someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.” The Justice Department informed Gaetz in 2023 that it was declining to bring charges against him after its years-long investigation.

The House Ethics Committee declined to comment. Florida attorney Joel Leppard of Leppard Law confirmed his client was cooperating with the committee, but declined to comment further.

The Committee subpoenaed the Justice Department earlier this year for records related to its probe into the Florida congressman. Still, the department has resisted turning over the information, sources said.

However, the committee has obtained Gaetz’s Venmo records after issuing the company a subpoena, sources tell ABC News. During the DOJ investigation into Gaetz, public reporting, including by The Daily Beast, largely focused on Venmo records from Greenberg, who according to his plea agreement used his account to “pay for commercial sex acts” with women he also introduced to others. The committee obtaining Gaetz’s records, which ABC News has not seen, could help provide Congressional investigators with a roadmap for payments the Congressman may have made while he was friends with Greenberg.

On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee provided an update on its investigation into Gaetz, detailing in a new statement on Tuesday that after speaking with over a dozen witnesses, issuing 25 subpoenas, and reviewing thousands of documents, the bipartisan panel will continue to review allegations including that the Florida congressman “engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use” and that he “sought to obstruct government investigations of his conduct.”

The committee also detailed that it will no longer pursue allegations that Gaetz “may have shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe or improper gratuity.”

When reached for comment, Gaetz’s communications director pointed ABC News to the Congressman’s social media post on Monday calling the House Ethics Committee “Soviet” and stating that “every investigation into me ends the same way: my exoneration.”

Greenberg is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to multiple federal crimes, including the sex trafficking of a minor whom he admitted to introducing to other “adult men” who also had sex with her when she was underage. Justice Department investigators spent years looking into whether Gaetz was one of the men Greenberg introduced the minor to before declining to pursue charges against Gaetz in 2023.

Greenberg, who offered the Justice Department significant cooperation in its own probe, is cooperating with the House Ethics Committee probe into the Florida congressman, sources familiar with the committee’s work tell ABC News.

At his sentencing in late 2022, Judge Gregory Persnell called Greenberg’s degree of cooperation “more than I’ve seen in 22 years.” Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in late 2022 after pleading guilty to crimes including wire fraud, stalking, and sex trafficking a minor.

Investigators have also asked multiple witnesses about a July 2017 party that ABC News first reported on. The committee obtained a sworn statement from a woman who said she attended the party in Florida that Gaetz also attended, sources said. Multiple witnesses have also told the committee that they saw Gaetz engage in illicit drug use at parties, sources said.

The committee first launched its probe into Gaetz in 2021 before putting it on hold as the Justice Department conducted its own investigation.

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Politics

Biden administration strongly denies Netanyahu’s claim US is blocking arms shipments amid war with Hamas

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks at a press briefing at the White House, on June 18, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public assertion that the Biden administration is broadly withholding military support for Israel amid its ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza prompted confusion and frustration across Washington on Tuesday, as Biden administration officials flatly denied the allegations.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily press briefing. “We just don’t.”

Netanyahu made the accusations in a video posted to X.

Speaking in English, he said he told Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the U.S. diplomat’s recent visit to Israel that it was “inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions.”

“Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies,” he continued.

In the prime minister’s retelling of the conversation, Blinken gave assurances that the Biden administration was working “day and night” to remove “bottlenecks.”

“I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case,” Netanyahu said.

During a news conference Tuesday at the State Department, Blinken was asked for his side of the story.

While the secretary declined to confirm or deny Netanyahu’s characterization of their discussion, he repeatedly underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s defense.

“It’s very important to remember that our security relationship with Israel goes well beyond Gaza. Israel is facing a multiplicity of threats and challenges including in the north, from Hezbollah, from Iran, from the Houthis in the Red Sea,” Blinken said.

He also emphasized President Joe Biden’s promise to ensure Israel has “what it needs to effectively defend itself against these threats,” arguing it was critical to avoiding greater escalation in the Middle East.

“There has been no change in our posture,” Blinken insisted, saying it was “regular order” with the exception of one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs paused over Biden’s publicly expressed concern the imprecise munitions could be used in the southern Gazan city of Rafah and other areas heavily populated by civilians.

Two officials involved in approving arms transfers to Israel backed up the secretary’s comments, telling ABC News the administration is continuing to process both longstanding requests in the pipeline and new orders made after the onset of the conflict.

Although the Biden administration has faced increasing pressure from members of the president’s own party to halt military support for Israel, Blinken invoked emergency authorities twice in December to bypass congressional review and speed up arms shipments to the country.

“Since Hamas’ vicious attack on Oct. 7, we’ve rushed billions of dollars in security assistance to Israel to enable them to defend themselves,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday. “And we are going to continue to provide them the security assistance they need for defense.”

While the administration has promised it will continue to support the Israeli military, a review of U.S. defense transfers ordered by President Biden cast significant doubt on whether Israel was using American arms in compliance with international humanitarian law.

The report, which was released in May, found it was “reasonable to assess” that defense articles provided by the U.S. been used by Israeli security forces in Gaza in ways there were “inconsistent” with the country’s legal obligations or best practices for mitigating civilian harm.

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Politics

All eyes on New York’s congressional races as key House seats at play

adamkaz/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — As Election Day nears, battleground states like Florida, Arizona and Michigan are taking the spotlight in the presidential race. Political experts and analysts, however, say a traditionally blue state could disrupt the balance of power in Congress.

Several House seats in New York state are up for grabs this election with Democrats and Republicans eyeing to flip seats in Long Island, Westchester County and upstate, particularly in districts that went red during the 2022 midterms, according to experts.

During those midterms, Democrats lost four New York House seats, leading Republicans to seize a small majority and split Congress.

“This state is often written off for the presidential elections, but the fact that we lost those four seats … we cannot ignore that there are several conservatives in this state and there are several Democrats who will vote Republican,” Christina Greer, an associate professor of history at Fordham University, told ABC News.

Democrats in New York currently hold 16 congressional seats; Republicans hold 10. Democrats are rethinking their strategies and in some cases making major policy changes to attract more centrist voters in key districts, Greer said.

Midterm wakeup call

The Republican gains in New York in 2022 were a major wakeup call for Democrats and political observers alike, according to Mona Kleinberg, an assistant professor at Queens College.

Although New York Gov. Kathy Hochul won the gubernatorial election with 53% of the total vote, she saw strong opposition from Republican Lee Zeldin, who campaigned hard on crime and public safety concerns.

“You have to remember, the margin for victory for Biden over Trump was way greater than the margin of victory for Hochul over Zeldin,” Kleinberg said.

She said Republican hopefuls also focused their efforts on local issues rather than some of the national topics that were dominating the headlines, such as abortion. That decision led to the GOP wins in Long Island and upstate New York.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s narrow loss to Mike Lawler in 2022 was a major upset for the party, for example.

“Democrats have become a lot less comfortable. This is one of the lessons of 2022,” Kleinberg said.

Sally Friedman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Albany, told ABC News that Democrats and Republicans across the country are keeping a close eye on what happens in New York.

“I think the party balance in Congress is going to be close,” she said.

A shift to the center for both parties

Experts said that elected officials in the state have already been adapting their policies and rhetoric to regain seats this fall.

Friedman noted that some Democrats have scaled back their push for more progressive policies, including bail reform and plans to bring more affordable housing upstate.

She also noted that some Republican hopefuls have strayed away from the far-right rhetoric and views expressed by former President Donald Trump.

“In New York, Republicans and Democrats are campaigning on the hyperlocal issues and focusing on those topics that matter most in their districts,” she said.

The shift appeared to have worked for Democrats who flipped a key seat this winter.

When Democrat Tom Suozzi won the special election for New York’s 3rd congressional district, which was up for grabs after embattled Republican freshman Rep. George Santos was expelled from the House last year, Democrats cited his “offense” on immigration issues as the major factor.

Suburban and rural areas of the state are typically filled with more centrist and independent voters, so zeroing in on local issues can be a winning strategy, Friedman said. There are risks, however, to this strategy, she added.

“It’s interesting because in the primaries, you have to play to your base but at the same time you want to ensure that you’ll win come November,” Friedman said.

Congestion pricing about-face raises concerns

Two weeks ago, Gov. Hochul stunned New Yorkers after she announced that New York City’s congestion pricing program, which would have charged motorists $15 for entering parts of Manhattan during peak hours, was put on hold.

The added revenue was supposed to pay for New York City mass transit projects.

Hochul said she and other leaders had received many concerns from drivers who felt the plan was financially excessive.

Critics, including progressive Democrats in the state, however, called out Hochul for the 11th-hour move and accused her of sacrificing a long-approved measure to attract voters who lived outside of the city.

Kleinberg argued the back and forth on congestion pricing has long predated Hochul’s tenure. Friedman noted that the fallout is indicative of the division going on in the state between progressives and more moderate Democrats.

“It’s similar to what’s been going on in Washington,” she explained.

All eyes on primaries and beyond

That divide is also playing out in key House primaries in the state.

Incumbent Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents the highly contested 16th congressional district that includes Yonkers, is facing a tight race against Democrat George Latimer, who is seen as more moderate.

Bowman has the support of progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders while Latimer picked up key endorsements from established Democrats including former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

“With Trump on the ballot, we need strong, principled Democrats in Congress more than ever,” Clinton posted on X.

Depending on how tight the general congressional races are nationally, there may be a shift in the tone for the candidates, Friedman argued.

“Just like the nationalization of campaigns, generally we will see more national attention on these races,” she said. “Think about Georgia in 2020 and 2022. Everyone was focused on the runoffs because of what was at stake. “

Added Kleinberg: “We’re heading into a presidential election and that always shifts who turns out to vote.”

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Politics

Trump plans to visit Chicago during RNC, denies he won’t be staying in Milwaukee

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump is making plans to visit Chicago during the Republican National Convention — more than an hour’s drive from where the convention will take place in Milwaukee, according to sources familiar with his plans, but he insisted on Tuesday he would be “staying” in Milwaukee and again denied reports he called it a “horrible city.”

Trump is expected to attend a fundraiser in Chicago, though details are still being finalized. A campaign official tells ABC News, the former president will stay in Milwaukee to accept the Republican nomination on Thursday evening.

Earlier Tuesday, at one point, several officials briefed on security plans and logistical arrangements indicated Trump would likely stay overnight at his property in Chicago — Trump International Hotel and Tower — during the duration of the RNC.

Later on Tuesday, the former president denied reporting that he wouldn’t be staying in the host city in an interview with a local Milwaukee TV station.

“I’m staying here. I was always planning on staying here,” Trump told WTMJ-TV as he campaigned in Wisconsin. “Again, I chose Milwaukee for a reason.”

After reporters — including those from ABC News, ABC affiliate WLS-TV in Chicago, and The New York Times — reached out to the campaign to confirm logistics, Trump campaign national press secretary Karoline Leavitt issued a statement saying, “President Trump is staying in Milwaukee.”

Trump held a campaign event in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday — 30 miles south of Milwaukee — where he touched on inflation and immigration.

During his remarks, Trump said “I love Milwaukee” — a reference that the former president allegedly called Milwaukee a “horrible city” during a closed-door meeting with congressional Republicans last Thursday.

“I was the one that picked Milwaukee, I have to tell you, I was the one that picked it [for the RNC],” Trump said during his rally. “These lying people that they say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t like Milwaukee.’ I love Milwaukee.”

The appearance marks Trump’s third visit to the midwestern battleground state as he tries to draw a contrast with President Joe Biden.

His insistence Tuesday that he was “always planning on staying” in Milwaukee comes after his reported comments disparaging the city.

Trump’s campaign disputed the characterization of his comments, and Democrats persistently amplified his reported words — including through a new billboard campaign in the city.

Trump’s campaign spokesperson punched back on the reports, arguing that Trump’s words were taken out of context.

“He was talking about how terrible crime and voter fraud are,” said campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung.

In another statement, the campaign wrote that it was a “total lie” that Trump called Milwaukee a “horrible city.” However, it went on to add, “President Trump was explicitly referring to the problems in Milwaukee, specifically violent crime and voter fraud,” suggesting he did make comments about the city, just not in the way some were interpreting it.

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Politics

Trump planning to spend part of RNC week in Chicago — instead of Milwaukee

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump is making plans to spend part of the week of the Republican National Convention in Chicago — more than an hour’s drive from where the convention itself will be taking place in Milwaukee, according to sources familiar with his plans.

Trump is expected to visit Chicago to attend a fundraiser, though details are still being finalized. A campaign official tells ABC News the former president will stay in Milwaukee to accept the Republican nomination on Thursday evening.

At one point, several officials briefed on security plans and logistical arrangements indicated Trump would likely stay overnight at his property in Chicago — Trump International Hotel and Tower — during the duration of the RNC.

After reporters — including those from ABC News, ABC affiliate WLS in Chicago, and The New York Times — reached out to the campaign to confirm logistics, Trump campaign national press secretary Karoline Leavitt issued a statement saying, “President Trump is staying in Milwaukee.”

Trump held a campaign event in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday — 30 miles south of Milwaukee — where he touched on inflation and immigration.

During his remarks, Trump said “I love Milwaukee” — a reference to that the former president allegedly called Milwaukee a “horrible city” during a closed door meeting with congressional Republicans last Thursday.

“I was the one that picked Milwaukee, I have to tell you, I was the one that picked it [for the RNC],” Trump said during his rally. “These lying people that they say, ‘oh, he doesn’t like Milwaukee.’ I love Milwaukee.”

The appearance marks Trump’s third visit to the midwestern battleground state as he tries to draw contrast with President Joe Biden.

His decision to stay in Chicago, based on personal preference, comes after his reported comments disparaging Milwaukee. Trump’s campaign disputed the characterization of his comments, and Democrats persistently amplified his words — including through a new billboard campaign in the city.

Trump’s campaign spokesperson punched back on the reports, arguing that Trump’s words were taken out of context.

“He was talking about how terrible crime and voter fraud are,” said campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung.

In another statement, the campaign wrote that it was a “total lie” that Trump called Milwaukee a “horrible city.” However, they went on to add, “President Trump was explicitly referring to the problems in Milwaukee, specifically violent crime and voter fraud,” suggesting he did make comments about the city, just not in the way some were interpreting it.

Biden’s campaign and other Democrats are capitalizing off Trump’s comments criticizing the host state.

ABC News’s Lalee Ibssa and Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

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