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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump touched a nerve with former White House officials after saying on Monday that previous presidents did not make phone calls to the families of fallen service members.

Trump was responding to a question about why he has not yet made remarks about the four special operations servicemen killed in Niger almost two weeks ago. Trump, speaking from the Rose Garden in a surprise press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans on contacting the families soon.

“If you look at President [Barack] Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I am able to do it,” said Trump. “They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call. I'm going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I'm going to be calling them.”

Trump later walked back the comments accusing his predecessors of not calling families of people killed in combat. “I don't know if he did. No, no, no,” said Trump. “I was -- I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't. They write letters.”

But former White House administration officials were riled by the accusation.

"President Trump’s claim is unequivocally wrong," a former Obama official said in a statement to ABC News. "President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to Section 60 at Arlington, visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star Families at the White House and across the country."

“President Bush wrote all the families of the fallen, and called and/or met privately with hundreds if not thousands,” a spokesperson to former President George W. Bush told ABC News.

An aide to President Bill Clinton also called the claim false. "He did call the families of fallen soldiers while in office," the official told ABC News.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, former White House deputy chief of staff and a longtime scheduler for Obama, told ABC News, “It is unconscionable that a president would dare to ever portray another as unpatriotic, which is essentially what he was doing.”

Other Obama officials took to Twitter to respond, including former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes:

"This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family," Rhodes wrote, referring to Trump’s feud with the Khans, the parents of deceased U.S. Army officer Capt. Humayun Khan.

 

This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family. https://t.co/JgzTUIzWIa

— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) October 16, 2017

 

Meanwhile, Democratic National Committee deputy press secretary Brian Gabriel said in a statement on Monday, “The commander-in-chief told a totally irresponsible and disgusting lie in the Rose Garden today, claiming past presidents did not call the families of fallen service members. Trump’s jaw-dropping, disrespectful lie is not based anywhere in reality and is another symptom of a deep-seated obsession with tearing down President Obama.”

ABC News reached out for comment from the spokespeople for former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders later said in a statement, "The president wasn't criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact."

"When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, presidents pay their respects," she said. "Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This president, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken."

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Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., slammed "half-baked, spurious nationalism" in an impassioned speech while accepting the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Monday evening.

McCain, who was presented with the medal by former Vice President Joe Biden, began by saying he was humbled by the award before eventually lashing out at the nationalism that has swept the U.S. and warning against leaving the nation's place of prominence in the international community.

"To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history," McCain said, to applause.

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," he continued. "... We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did."

He added: "We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to."

In introducing McCain, Biden praised his "courage and loyalty."

"I can think of no better description for the man we’re honoring tonight," Biden said.

McCain revealed in July that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He has clashed with President Donald Trump over Republicans' repeated attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, including most recently when he said he could not "in good conscience" vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill. In response, Trump called McCain's opposition to the bill "terrible, honestly terrible."

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a wide-ranging, impromptu press conference from the White House Rose Garden Monday, President Donald Trump -- joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- addressed a number of his administration's current goals as well as ongoing controversies.

For over 30 minutes, Trump touched on the rumors of his rocky relationship with fellow Republicans, his action to halt Obamacare subsidy payments, the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the nation's opioid epidemic, his former rival Hillary Clinton, the NFL national anthem protests and the ambush on U.S. soldiers in Niger, among other issues.

Trump and McConnell ate lunch together with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House earlier in the day, but the press conference was not listed on his daily schedule.

Here are some of the key moments from the appearance:

Trump-McConnell relationship

Trump claimed that his relationship with McConnell is "outstanding," a refutation of reports ranging back to the summer that documented growing frustrations between the two powerful Republicans.

After first discussing his administration's current efforts at tax reform, the president suddenly pivoted to describe his rapport with the senator.

"My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding [and] has been outstanding." Trump said.

McConnell later echoed Trump's sentiment and directly pushed back on the rumors of discord.

"I think what the president and I would both like to say to you today, contrary to what some of you may have reported, we are together totally on this agenda to move America forward," he said.

Opioid national emergency, investigation into Rep. Marino

Trump said that next week, his administration plans on declaring a national emergency to combat the opioid epidemic.

“We're going to be doing that next week,” Trump said. “It's a very important step, and to get to that step a lot of work has to be done and it's time consuming work.”

Trump said he watched a special investigation by “60 Minutes” and the Washington Post that examined Congress’ role in the exacerbating the opioid crisis. The investigation pointed a finger at Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., as spearheadeding efforts to pass a bill that makes it harder for the Drug Enforcement Agency to halt suspicious shipments of drugs. Marino is currently the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy. After viewing the report, Trump says he will be reconsidering his nomination.

“He was a very early supporter of mine from the great state of Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “He's a great guy. I'll look at the report and take it very seriously because we will have a major announcement probably next week on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem and I want to get that absolutely right.”

“This country, and frankly the world, has a drug problem,” Trump added. “The world has a drug problem and we have it and we'll do something about it and I'll have a major announcement on the drug problem next week. We'll be looking into Tom.”

Russia investigation

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his nearly five-month-long investigation into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election, Trump shared his impatience with the inquiry and continued to downplay the notion of interference.

"I'd like to see it end," Trump said of the investigation. "The whole Russian thing was an excuse for the Democrats losing the election."

In January, a report by the U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to undermine the U.S. election. Trump has, at times, alternated between accepting that conclusion, suggesting that other parties could have taken part in the interference, and calling the situation a "hoax." He strongly denied Monday that his campaign was in any way connected to the situation.

"There has been absolutely no collusion," Trump said. "It's been stated that they have no collusion. They ought to get to the end of it, because I think the American public is sick of it."

Niger ambush response

Almost two weeks after four Green Berets were killed in an attack in Niger, the Trump administration has faced criticism over its response. On Monday, Trump said he plans to call the families of the fallen soldiers to offer his condolences. But he also falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama and other presidents did not make personal calls to bereaved military families.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. Lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call,” Trump said.

Trump said he plans to call and send letters out to the families “either today or tomorrow.”

When challenged by a reporter, Trump walked back his response.

“I was told that he didn't often. Lot of presidents don't,” Trump said. “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes. Maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call. They'd write letters. Some presidents didn't do anything. But I like the combination.”

Former Obama advisers were quick to offer backlash.

This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family. https://t.co/JgzTUIzWIa

— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) October 16, 2017

Hillary Clinton and NFL protests

After tweeting Monday morning that he was recently asked if he thought Hillary Clinton would run for president again in 2020 and that he "hope[s] so," Trump repeated the position when his former Democratic rival was invoked in relation to the NFL national anthem protests.

"I hope Hillary runs. Hillary, please run again," the president urged after her name was mentioned in the Rose Garden.

Clinton has taken the position that professional football players have the right to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice, and that the action is not necessarily one that demeans the flag or the U.S. military. Trump has repeatedly called attention to the protests and has said that the NFL should institute a rule forcing players to stand.

"I think she's wrong," Trump said, adding, "It's that thinking -- that is the reason she lost the election. When you go down and take a knee, or any other way, you're sitting, essentially, for our great national anthem. You're disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our country."

"If Hillary Clinton actually made the statement that... sitting down during the playing of our great national anthem is not disrespectful, then I fully understand why she didn't win," he continued. "There are a lot of reasons she didn't win, including the fact that she was not good at what she did."

Taking on health care and the pharmaceutical industry

Last week, Trump made two major announcements about the Affordable Care Act -- his plans not to continue funding cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which help insurance companies pay for subsidies that benefit the poor, and his executive order that would pave the way for association health plans and expand short term limited duration plans.

“Obamacare is a wreck. It's a mess and destroying lives,” Trump said. “I want to get health care that's much more affordable and much better healthcare and that's what we're doing.”

Still, Trump said he and McConnell are working on a complete repeal and replace.

“We will come up in the early to mid-part of next year and we will have a vote. We feel confident we have the votes and we know what the plan is. I believe Republicans and Democrats are working together very hard right now to do an intermediate short-term plan because Obamacare is a disaster,” said Trump.

Trump said he next plans to take on the pharmaceutical industry.

“We're going to get the costs way down,” Trump said. “We are going to get drug prices and prescription drug crisis way down because the world is taking advantage of us. The world is taking advantage of us when this happens so that will be very important.”


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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As a candidate for president, Donald Trump was open about his displeasure of then-President Obama's deal to retrieve Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan after his 2009 disappearance and capture by the Taliban.

Beyond condemning the deal itself, Trump also verbally attacked Bergdahl repeatedly, calling him a traitor and a deserter.

U.S. officials reached a deal in 2014 to release several Taliban prisons in exchange for Bergdahl, but then charged him with desertion with intention to shirk duty and misbehavior before the enemy. That was in 2015, just months before Trump announced his candidacy for president.

Before that, Trump wrote in a tweet on June 1, 2014, "President Obama created a VERY BAD precedent by handing over five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Another U.S. loss!"

Despite Trump's repeated claims that several soldiers died in connection to the search for Bergdahl, who ultimately remained in captivity for nearly five years, the U.S. military has never publicly acknowledged such fatalities, though at least three soldiers were seriously injured, according to a prosecution document.

The focus on the deal itself, which Trump clearly viewed as a mistake, carried through the campaign.

The deal granted Bergdahl's freedom for that of five Taliban prisoners who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Trump regularly included condemnation of the deal in his campaign speeches and likened it to the Iran nuclear deal, which he also thought was a mistake.

"We get Bergdahl, who was a traitor, and they get five of the greatest killers that they've wanted for eight years. We get Bergdahl -- I call it the five for one trade," Trump said in August 2016.

Trump has also called for Bergdahl’s execution, saying he "should have been executed" and that "30 years ago he would have been shot."

"You probably can't do it, but if I win I may just have him flown back in the middle of that place and dropped, right in the middle. Let them have him, let him have them. That's cheaper than a bullet," Trump said at an October 2015 campaign rally.

At another point, Trump said a firing squad should be used to execute Bergdahl and, on Nov. 9, 2015, he said "in the old days when we were strong and wise, we shoot a guy like that."

Bergdahl, who Monday entered a guilty plea to the two charges he faced, has taken notice of Trump's rhetoric and told a British filmmaker that it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial now that Trump is commander in chief.

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me; you’re never going to convince those people.”

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said he understands Steve Bannon's frustrations and added that the Republican Party is "not getting the job done" when it comes to their legislative agenda.

Bannon, who served the administration until August as White House chief strategist, said Saturday that he wanted to go to "war" with Republican senators who were slow to come to the president's defense during a recent feud with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. Bannon previously clashed with the party's Senate leadership by endorsing Alabama's Roy Moore in his successful primary challenge of Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala.

Asked Monday by ABC News' Jonathan Karl for his opinion on Bannon's "war" with the establishment and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Trump described his understanding of the position.

"I have great relationships with, actually, many senators, but, in particular, with most Republican senators, but we're not getting the job done," said Trump. "And I'm not going to blame myself, to be honest. They are not getting the job done."

When Karl asked later whether the president thought Bannon could continue to campaign against incumbent Republicans seeking re-election, Trump only commented on his former chief strategist's perceived frustration.

"I know how he feels," said Trump.

The president noted growing frustration over failing to follow through on the party's 2016 election platform, including the thus-far stymied effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

"I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from," he said, adding, "I can understand where a lot of people are coming from, because I'm not happy about it.

Trump portrayed his recent action to cut the Affordable Care Act's government subsidies to insurance companies as a move that was spurring action. He underscored that health care and tax reform are two agenda items that need more action.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley dismissed rumors of friction between her and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during an appearance on This Week Sunday.

Haley was asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos about a Politico report that tensions between Haley and Tillerson are reaching "World War III" proportions.

"That's so dramatic," Haley said. "That's so ridiculous."

She added, "Sometimes Secretary Tillerson and I have different opinions, but when we come to the [National Security Council], everybody has different opinions."

"At the end of the day, we present the president with all of the facts, we let him make decisions, and we all as a team go out and support that decision,” the U.N. ambassador said. “My relationship with Secretary Tillerson or [Defense Secretary] Mattis or anyone else, it's all a great relationship because we are all looking out for the best interests of America."

Haley also brushed off a charge by Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that President Trump is undermining Tillerson's authority on the world stage.

“I have seen the president and Secretary Tillerson work together," Haley said. "They work very well together. They talk through things and then they manage it properly. If there's an issue, I haven't heard about it."

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Eric Thayer/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León announced on Sunday his bid to challenge longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who at 84 is the oldest member of the Senate, in the 2018 primary election. He is the first candidate to announce a challenge to Feinstein.

"I'm running for U.S Senate to expand the California Dream (and) unite this country along progressive values," California Senate President pro Tempore de León, 50, wrote in a tweet about his decision, first announced in an email to supporters.

In a video accompanying both his tweet and email, de León discussed how growing up as "the youngest child of a single immigrant mother," and seeing his mother work "her fingers to the bone" every day cleaning houses, led him to this point in his life.

"I think that it's incumbent on policymakers, on leaders, to provide real opportunity so everyone can succeed," he said in the video. "That's what the country really wants. They want a job. They want a sense of security, so they can provide for themselves and their family."

De León already won the immediate endorsement of Democracy for America, which has previously endorsed more liberal members of Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Nearly a third of the organization's members live in California.

DFA's Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said in a statement, "When Trump became President, de León didn't ask people to sit back and wait, hoping maybe Trump would someday turn out OK. He immediately began working to pass policies that would help the people most immediately affected by Trump's bigoted, greedy policies. The simple fact is this: We won't defeat Trump and his Republican Party with corporate Democrats pushing Republican-lite policies and weak leadership."

"Earning the early support of Democracy for America's grassroots members isn't just an honor, it's a reflection of my commitment to running a people-powered campaign for the U.S. Senate," de León said about the endorsement, according to an email from DFA.

According to his website, De León was elected to the California Senate in 2010 after serving three years in the state's General Assembly. He was elected to lead the 40-member body in 2014, becoming the first Latino in 100 years to hold the position.

On Monday, Feinstein announced she would seek a fifth full term, writing on Twitter, "I am running for reelection to the Senate. Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to healthcare. I'm all in!" Feinstein joined the Senate in November 1992 when she won a special election to replace then-Sen. Pete Wilson, a Republican who had been elected governor.

"Sen. Feinstein is getting ready to run a very big race, well financed and organized campaign, and she comes to the campaign with a strong record of success in California elections," Bill Carrick, longtime political consultant for Feinstein, told ABC News.

Carrick noted that Feinstein already has endorsements from Democrats Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Adam Schiff, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla among other California officials. He also said that Feinstein has "strong support" among women, Latino, African American and Asian-American voters.

"We think she's in good shape," Carrick said. "Kevin de León has never run statewide for anything. It remains to be seen what kind of candidate he will be or campaign he would run."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes said Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s recent searing criticism of President Donald Trump is a “come-to-Jesus” moment for the Republican Party.

“What Bob Corker said is what a lot of Republicans are thinking but not willing to say in public,” the former radio host told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on a roundtable for ABC News’ This Week Sunday.

It's time for Republicans to "stop enabling" the president's behavior, Sykes said.

Tennessee's Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an erstwhile Trump supporter, has been in an escalating war of words with the president. Last week he warned that Trump’s foreign policy could put the U.S. “on the path to World War III."

“What Bob Corker said was really a warning flare reflecting what’s going on, that these are major stakes,” Sykes said. “We're not talking about Twitter wars anymore. [Corker] actually invoked World War III.”

Republicans have “allied themselves with a mad king,” Sykes said, adding that “conservatives who are in denial about this should give him some tough love rather than enabling ... all of this.”

Sykes also noted Trump’s failure so far to accomplish major legislation such as on health care.

“We're finding out that the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal is terrible at this,” Sykes said of Trump’s attempts to pressure Democrats into a health care deal. “He's a terrible negotiator. He doesn't understand policy. He doesn't understand the legislative process.”

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A key moderate Republican senator said she is "very disappointed" in President Donald Trump's decision to end health care subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans under Obamacare.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. "The debate in Washington has been whether or not to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the future. What the president is doing is affecting people's access and the cost of health care right now."

Collins said Congress needs to "step in" to reform health care in a more comprehensive way.

"I don't agree with his decisions on the subsidies that help low-income people afford their deductibles and copays, and I don't agree with his executive order," Collins said, referring to an executive order Thursday that would allow cheaper policies that offer fewer benefits.

Stephanopoulos also asked the Maine congresswoman about former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's speech at the conservative Values Voter Summit on Saturday, where he declared "war" on the "GOP establishment."

Collins said Bannon's comments are "not helpful or appropriate."

"Mr. Bannon has the right to support whomever he wants to support. But I think his rhetoric is exactly what the American people are tired of," Collins said. "They don't want this hyperpartisanship. They want us to work together. And they want us to get things done."

“They want us to work across the aisle. They want us to work with the president. And Mr. Bannon's over-the-top rhetoric is not helpful,” she added.

Collins announced Friday that she has decided not to run for governor of her state because she believes she can do more for her state by staying in Washington.

“My voice and vote really matter in Washington right now. The Senate is closely divided, and I am able to make a difference," she said on Friday.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic leader of the House of Representatives said President Donald Trump "went rogue" with his decisions on ending Obamacare subsidies, changing birth control coverage mandates and decertifying the Iran nuclear deal.

“President Trump went rogue," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on This Week Sunday. "He went rogue on women's health in particular, the Affordable Care Act, the Iran decision that he made. And ... he continues his war on the middle class with his unfair tax plan.”

On Thursday, Trump announced he is ending subsidy payments to health care insurers that help low- and middle-income Americans afford premium costs and other expenses under Obamacare.

The next day, Friday, Trump “decertified” the Iran nuclear agreement but left it up to Congress to decide whether to go further by renewing sanctions on Iran that ended when the deal took effect in 2015.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos about what can be done about these decisions, Pelosi said, “I've tried to suggest to him that while we understand our differences, we can find our common ground if we have evidence-based decisions.”

Pelosi referenced two Republican governors, John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, as being against Trump’s latest health care executive order because it would destabilize the market even more.

“Either the president doesn't know or he doesn't care,” said Pelosi.

Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi about fellow California House Democrat Linda Sanchez saying "it's time for change" and “a new generation of leaders” for the Democratic Party.

Pelosi said she thinks there’s “a great array of talent” in the party that she has “promoted all along the way,” but also noted “it’s up to the caucus to elect its next leadership.”

The Democratic House Leader stressed that she’s not ready to leave government while Obama’s health care system is under attack by the Republican Party.

“The Affordable Care Act, as you know, is very important to me... When the president became the president and I saw the threat to it, I said, ‘I've gotta stay to take care of the Affordable Care Act.' That's my fight. That's my mission,” she said.

“What [Trump is] doing is hurting the American people. This isn't about policy or politics. It's about the American people.”

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Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hit the links together Saturday, marking the second time they did so in a week.

The commander in chief and Graham were spotted arriving Saturday morning at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, located about 30 miles from the White House. They went golfing there on Monday, as well.

Golf clubs were spotted being loaded into one of the motorcade vehicles Saturday morning, according to one of the White House pool reports.

In a rare move, deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters confirmed to the pool earlier Saturday, "The President will be golfing with Senator Graham today."

When asked about the pair's second round of golf, a spokesman for Graham said, "Why not? Senator Graham loves golf. South Carolina is home to some of the best courses in the world."

Following Graham's Monday outing with the president, the senator tweeted about the experience.

Really enjoyed a round of golf with President @realDonaldTrump today.

President Trump shot a 73 in windy and wet conditions!

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 9, 2017

In an interview with Golf.com published Wednesday, Graham described Trump as an ideal host.

"I ran out of golf balls," he said. "He started giving me golf balls. He's a gracious host. They didn't have the presidential seal. You know, they make TaylorMade golf balls in South Carolina. I'm going to have some made for him. They make them 10 miles from where I live."

On Saturday evening, according to a pool report, the president and first lady Melania Trump dined at Trump International Hotel near the White House.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump slammed Iran Friday, called the country a "menace" and announced new sanctions against the regime -- but didn't do anything that would alter the Obama-era deal that he has denounced since his presidential campaign.

The deal, Trump said, is no longer in the national security interest of the United States. This decision, which has been referred as “decertification,” is a shift in official position.

It is a significant declaration that leaves the nuclear agreement in place, but puts Congress in charge of whether or not to follow up with action -- triggering a 60-day window for lawmakers to re-impose sanctions against Iran that were suspended in 2015 as part of the agreement.

Trump outlined three steps as part of America's path forward: to counter "destabilizing activity" in the Middle East, impose new sanctions on non-nuclear aspects of the regime and address the country's nuclear ambitions.

"Our policy is based on clear assessment of Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world," Trump said.

While the president portrayed the decision as having originated with his administration, he acknowledged that Congress holds the key to the deal's future.

"I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal's many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons," he said.

Tehran and world powers in July 2015 crafted a deal that eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for stepped-up international monitoring of its nuclear development activities. The agreement reduced the amount of nuclear fuel Iran can keep and extended the "breakout time" needed for Iran to create a single bomb. Some of Iran's facilities are now also subject to constant monitoring, with others subject to inspections after a waiting period.

The president accused Iran of "not living up to the spirit of the deal," while the U.S. abides by its promises, despite top officials on his national security team, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying Iran has technically complied with its restrictions.
"By its own terms, the Iran deal was supposed to contribute to regional and international peace and security," Trump said. "And yet while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended his country's participation in the deal Friday after Trump's speech and attacked the decision, saying that the U.S. was "completely alone" in its policy toward Iran. He added that Iran would not hesitate to respond if the deal's other parties "do not stay loyal."

Rouhani further characterized Iran’s missile program as purely defensive in nature and necessary in the face of U.S. aggression.

“We always tried to produce weapons ourselves,” he said. “And from now on we will redouble that effort... to defend ourselves.”

Trump also announced sanctions Friday on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, whom he accused of providing assistance to terrorist groups. He encouraged U.S. allies to take action to counter the group's efforts "including thorough sanctions outside the Iran deal that target the regime's ballistic missile program in support for terrorism and all of its destructive activities, of which there are many."

Though Trump did not go so far as to end the nuclear deal, he told reporters on the White House South Lawn after his speech that his prior threat to "rip it up" was still a possibility.

"I may do that. I may do that," Trump said. "The deal is terrible. So what we've done is, through the certification process, we'll have Congress take a look at it and I may very well do that. But I like a two-step process much better."

Republicans critical of the initial deal have urged the administration to enforce it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement Friday that he agrees with Trump that the deal doesn't benefit U.S. interests, but that he is interested in approving, rather than ending, it.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on additional legislation to increase sanctions and other pressure to hold Iran accountable for its broader destructive behavior in the region," McCain said in the statement. "I am also eager to collaborate with our partners and allies to revisit the most problematic provisions of the nuclear deal, and support a unified, forceful international front in the event that Iran materially breaches the terms of the agreement."

On Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif. said in a hearing that while he felt the deal was "flawed," he believed the U.S. "must now enforce the hell out of it."

“Let’s work with allies to make certain that international inspectors have better access to possible nuclear sites, and we should address the fundamental sunset shortcoming, as our allies have recognized," said Royce.

Even Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., one of the most vocal critics of the Iran deal and supporters of decertification, has recommended holding off on “snapping back,” or restoring immediately, the nuclear sanctions lifted as part of the deal. He called the move a “backward-looking step” and said Congress should instead impose new ballistic sanctions and lift some of the Iran agreement’s sunset provisions which allow some regulatory measures to expire after certain periods.

The goal with such actions, according to Cotton, would be to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to strengthen the original deal.

But some Obama-era officials who worked on the agreement said that hope was unrealistic.

“I would love to see Iran come back to the table, apologizes for everything and agree to all of our demands,” Philip Gordon, White House coordinator for the Middle East during the Iran negotiations, told ABC News. But he called such a notion a “fantasy.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who led the charge against the bill and wrote a law forcing congressional oversight of the Iran agreement, has also expressed skepticism that decertifying the deal is the right decision.

“You can only tear these things up one time. It might feel good for a second, but one of the things that's important for us is to keep our allies with us,” he said, referring to the other signatories of the Iran deal which include China and Russia as well as the European Union.

The White House has been in touch with Capitol Hill for the past two weeks over its Iran decision. White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster was on Capitol Hill Wednesday evening briefing top Republican lawmakers on the administration’s forthcoming announcement.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also been briefing key lawmakers on the administration’s plans for the agreement, and met with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Wednesday at the State Department.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who was among a group of Senate Democrats who met with McMaster last week, said the White House was open to negotiating the Corker-authored bill that requires the president to certify the deal every 90 days in the first place.

Coons told reporters in a conference call earlier this week that he believes Trump should just continue to affirm that Iran is complying with the deal but said he’d be open to amending the requirement “if that’s what’s required to get the president to continue to embrace” the Iran deal.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump's controversial former chief strategist Steve Bannon said he plans to go to "war" against the GOP senators who didn't rush to Trump's defense during his public feud with Sen. Bob Corker.

"Nobody can run and hide on this one. These folks are coming for you," Bannon said Saturday to the crowd at the Value Voters Summit of social conservatives.

Bannon, who called for Corker to resign last week after the Tennessee senator said Trump's rhetoric put the United States at risk of "World War III," told the conservative gathering that such comments undermine U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.

"Bob Corker has trashed the commander in chief of our armed forces while we have young men and women in harm's way," Bannon said.

Bannon departed the White House in mid-August and immediately rejoined conservative media outlet Breitbart News as executive chairman, promising to be an outside bomb-thrower against those in opposition to Trump and targeting, in particular, GOP lawmakers who have opposed the president or spoken out against him.
    
The former Trump strategist also responded to a write-up in Vanity Fair earlier this week that said Bannon has told associates he believes the president has a “30 percent chance” of making it through his first term.

In contrast, Bannon told the crowd that he believes Trump is “going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020.” Winning the presidency requires getting 270 of the total 538 electoral votes.

Bannon also pointed with pride to the victory of a GOP firebrand -- former judge Roy Moore -- in the primary for Alabama senator over the establishment candidate endorsed by Trump.

He said he believes Trump’s recent actions, such as decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and other moves that Bannon said “blow up” the Obamacare insurance exchanges, are a direct result of Moore’s victory putting pressure on the president to follow through on campaign promises.

“Those are not random events, folks. That is 'victory begets victory.' We owe that to Judge Moore,” Bannon said. “Every day is like Christmas Day now.”

Bannon predicted Trump will soon name the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.



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Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Obama Foundation is getting ready to rock.

The nonprofit foundation -- whose mission is "to inspire and empower people to change their world" -- announced on Friday a trio of musical acts for the closing event for its inaugural summit, slated for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in Chicago: Chance the Rapper, Gloria Estefan and the indie rock band The National. Additional artists will be announced at a later date.

The event will be livestreamed at Obama.org on Nov. 1 at 8:30 p.m. CT.

Chance the Rapper posted a video to his Instagram account about his involvement with the summit.

And The National lead singer Matt Berninger posted a video to Instagram announcing the band's involvement with the summit.

David Simas, Chief Executive Officer of the Obama Foundation, said in a statement, "The Obama Foundation’s goal is to encourage and empower young people to create positive change in their communities. With the Obama Foundation Summit, we’re bringing together young leaders from across Chicago, the country and the world to share ideas. We look forward to joining these leaders, Chance, Gloria Estefan, and The National in an event that inspires individuals to see themselves as change agents and celebrates civic engagement."

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is pointing to a fall in health insurance stocks as a sign of the success of his order immediately ending payments to insurers that help cover out-of-pocket costs for low- and middle-income Americans.

In tweets Saturday morning, the president also suggested that insurance companies had received a "windfall" from Democrats under Obamacare.

Health Insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the ObamaCare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2017

Very proud of my Executive Order which will allow greatly expanded access and far lower costs for HealthCare. Millions of people benefit!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2017

The president's self-congratulatory tweets come after the White House announcement Thursday night that the administration will immediately end subsidy payments estimated at about $7 billion per year to insurers for helping to reduce costs to modest-income people for premiums and similar health expenses.

The elimination of the monthly subsidies is expected to roil the insurance markets, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted it will raise premium costs for millions of Americans and increase the federal deficit.

Health insurance stocks fell after the White House announcement.

The administration has cited an ongoing lawsuit that Republicans in Congress brought during the Obama administration claiming that the subsidy payments to insurers are illegal because there was no official authorization for them.

Trump has also largely framed his decision as an attempt to bring Democrats to the negotiating table on health insurance. But Senate Democrats said they will insist on the payments being restored in the upcoming government funding bill, which must pass by Dec. 9 to keep the federal government running.

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