ANDREW CABALLERO/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump spent part of his Memorial Day weekend supporting veterans at a motorcycle run through the nation's capital.
At the 29th annual Rolling Thunder rally, which supports Vietnam War veterans, Trump complimented the riders with "the most beautiful bikes I've ever seen in my life" and said Memorial Day was "so important."
"It's our day and we have to be very proud of, and we are very proud of it," he said. "And it's an honor to be with you."
He also railed against the Department of Veteran's Affairs, which has been criticized for having long wait times for veterans at its medical facilities.
"If there's a wait, we're going to give the right for those people to go to a private doctor or even a public doctor, and get themselves taken care of, and we're going to pay the bill," he said. "And that should've happened a long time ago."
ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(VISALIA, Calif.) -- Bernie Sanders mocked the presumptive Republican nominee for his recent comments on the drought in California, calling out Donald Trump over his dismissal of climate change.
"You see, we don't fully appreciate the genius of Donald Trump, who knows more than all the people of California, knows more than all the scientists," Sanders told the crowd of more than 5,000 people who braved 92 degree heat to hear the senator speak.
Sanders mentioned Trump's recent campaign stops in the Golden State ahead of the June 7 primary.
"[Trump] knows there is no drought. Not to mention, and I love this one, that Trump has concluded that climate change itself is a hoax," Sanders said.
Last week, the businessman made headlines when he argued the state was not actually suffering from drought.
"There is no drought. They turn the water out into the ocean," Trump declared during an event in the San Joaquin Valley less than an hour from where Sanders spoke Sunday.
The businessman blamed the state's water crisis on environmental policies, although the state has experienced record drought. Last year, California capped its driest four-year period on record and the state imposed emergency water restrictions after extremely low rainfall and snow in 2015.
Looking past his primary challenger, Hillary Clinton, Sanders continued to focus on Trump. He said that "despite Donald Trump's brilliant conclusions," every scientist he had talked to agreed climate change was real and the people of California were well aware of the problems it was causing.
"Together, despite Mr. Trump and his Republican colleagues, we are going to take on the fossil fuel industry. We are going to tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet," the senator added.
Sanders will continue his marathon rally schedule up the state, heading to Frenso and the Bay Area next.
ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(NEW YORK) -- For those who worry that Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, will stray from the party’s core ideology, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso wants to be clear: he won’t.
Sen. Barrasso, who will chair the Republican Platform Committee at the party's convention in Cleveland this summer, said he believes Trump will "embrace" the GOP platform.
What’s still unclear is what that platform will include, as the GOP struggles between traditional party policy and Trump’s key campaign promises.
Chief among those promises is Trump’s temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
When asked by ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl whether the ban would be part of the platform, Barrasso did not say no.
“It's going to be a conservative platform that's going to be positive, optimistic, looking to the future, focused on things like jobs, the economy, and national security," Barrasso said on "This Week” on Sunday. "And what he was focused on with that ban is national security.”
When pressed, Barrasso deferred to the delegates who will meet in July.
“It's 112 members of the platform committee, and we've asked Donald Trump to allow the process to play out. He has agreed to do that. And I've asked him personally to embrace the platform and I believe he will. National security will be a big part of it,” he said.
On reforming Social Security and Medicare, an issue close to the heart of House Speaker Paul Ryan and other fiscal conservatives, Trump has also stood in contrast to most Republicans, saying he would not touch any entitlement programs.
Barrasso took a harder line against that.
“They need to continue and be reformed and strengthened so they're there for future generations. And I believe that will be part of the Republican platform coming out of the convention,” he said.
But on immigration, the Republican leader said there will be negotiation with Trump, who has campaigned on a strong anti-illegal immigration platform, centered around building a southern border wall and deporting 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
“The platform committee is going to meet on talking about all of these things, and there's going to be agreements with Donald Trump, there's going to be disagreements,” said Barrasso, noting that there may be a “maze” of discussions for the Republican Platform Committee to work through this summer, but the Democrats are going to have to work “through a minefield, which could be explosive.”
“They are deeply divided," he said, but regarding his own party, "I believe we're going to come out of Cleveland united so we can win in November and get the country headed in the right direction.”
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has won the Libertarian nomination for president.
Hoping to emerge as a viable contender against the two major parties' nominees in the general election, Johnson says he aims to tap into voters' broad reluctance to fall in line behind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
But Johnson needed to fend off challengers from more extreme wings of his party, originally falling five votes short of winning the 463 delegates needed for the nomination on the first ballot. Delegates voted a second time, giving Johnson the majority he needed (55.8 percent).
Johnson defeated five hopefuls to secure his place on top of the Libertarian ticket, which will likely be the only third party on the ballot in all 50 states.
Delegates have yet to vote on Johnson's hand-picked vice presidential pick, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Many Libertarians here are wary of Weld, who joined the party less than two weeks ago and endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary earlier this election cycle.
Unlike the primary and caucus system used by the Republican and Democratic parties, Libertarian presidential candidates have spent much of the past week debating and wooing delegates, who were free to vote for whomever they choose at the party's national convention.
The Libertarian Party faces an uphill climb to become viable in the general election. A recent Fox News poll shows Johnson at 10 percent in a race against Trump and Clinton, although polling tends to overstate the support of third party candidates.
Johnson was also the party's nominee in 2012, when he received 1 percent of the popular vote - topping 1 million votes for the first time in the party's history.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As he begins to build his strategy for the general election, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump will not only attack his likely Democrat opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but also her husband and family, according to Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist.
“Trouble follows the Clinton’s everywhere,” Paul Manafort told ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, during an interview Sunday on This Week.
“People are frustrated with all of the drama around the Clinton family and the history of the Clinton family," he said. "And certainly, if they're going to be back in the political milieu, then their history is relevant to what the American people can expect.”
Manafort added that because Hillary Clinton recently suggested her husband could potentially be in charge of fixing the economy in her administration, “the whole family is up for discussion.”
Manafort also responded to the reversal by his boss who earlier this week appeared eager to debate Sen. Bernie Sanders. "I'd love to debate Bernie, actually,” Trump said during a press conference Thursday.
“I mean, the problem with debating Bernie, he's gonna lose,” he added.
Manafort said Trump's change of heart on the matter came when he secured enough delegates on Thursday to clinch the GOP presidential nomination.
"The question should be, why is Hillary Clinton afraid to debate Bernie Sanders?” he said. (Clinton has rejected multiple offers from the Sanders campaign to debate ahead of the California primaries in just over a week.)
“Bernie should have that chance,” Manafort said, adding that Trump would “debate [whomever] it is that emerges from the system” and becomes the Democratic nominee.
Manafort, who was promoted to his current role as head of the campaign two weeks ago, also dismissed recent media reports citing that some Trump staffers claimed their offices in Trump Tower might have been wiretapped.
“There's a lot of good work going on there and we've been able to develop a campaign that is cohesive, that's working together, and in a record time thanks to a great candidate who has got a vision and connected to the American people, put the campaign in a position to win the presidency," Manafort said.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson faced off against his four main rivals on the debate stage on Saturday night, earning some of the night's loudest cheers and boos as he tried to sell his viability in the general election without alienating his party's more hardcore members.
JOHNSON DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS
• When asked whether it was wrong for the United States to intervene in WWI? In WWII? Johnson's entire answer was "I don't know." This response got a lot of traction on Twitter as a major red flag for any Libertarian Party momentum.
• Gary Johnson also received boos for saying he would have signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Libertarians object to Title 2 as a violation of the freedom of association.) This response also got traction on Twitter.
• Johnson was the only candidate who said he would require drivers to have licenses, citing possible dangers -- such as blind drivers. The crowd responded by booing loudly.
• Johnson: "If we legalized all drugs tomorrow, the world would be a much better place."
• "I'm not smart enough to say whether global warming is man-made,” said Johnson.
• On immigration: Johnson believes the U.S. should make it "as easy as possible" for people to get work visas. "We need to embrace immigration," said Johnson, adding immigrants "are the cream of the crop. They are not taking jobs that U.S. citizens want."
OTHER DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS
• Libertarian candidate Austin Petersen, seen widely as Johnson's stiffest competition, said we don't need the government to build roads because "in the future, we’ll have jetpacks."
• Libertarian candidate Marc Feldman says he supports separate bathrooms -- one for people who wash their hands and one for those who don't.
• On global warming: "Whether or not global warming is real not, it’s not the government’s business to fight it,” said Petersen. Only John McAfee acknowledged man-made climate change.
• When asked how they would fund things like healthcare and the military, some of the candidates insisted they would depend on citizens' "voluntary contributions." "The military should be as big as can be on donations and bake sales," said Darryl Perry.
• On immigration: All Libertarian candidates who made the debate agree that the U.S. should have an open-borders policy. "I'd like to build a wall around Donald Trump and make Bernie Sanders pay for it," Petersen said. “If Donald Trump wins the election, we should revolt,” he added.
Delegates at the Libertarian convention in Orlando, Florida, will decide the nominee on Sunday. Most party insiders expect Johnson to win the presidential nod, but stiff competition from extreme wings of the party threatens to drag the voting out for multiple ballots.
Delegates will then vote separately on vice presidential nominations, where leaders here believe the race is more unpredictable. Johnson is pushing for former GOP Gov. Bill Weld, but some delegates are wary, saying he's not a true Libertarian.
ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Bernie Sanders campaign is calling to remove Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank from leadership positions on Democratic committees at the national convention, arguing that their allegiance to Hillary Clinton will compromise their neutrality.
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee, Brad Deutsch, counsel to the Sanders campaign, called Malloy and Frank “aggressive attack surrogates for the Clinton campaign.”
"The appointment of two individuals so outspokenly critical of Senator Sanders, and so closely affiliated with Secretary Clinton's campaign, raises concerns that two of the three Convention Standing Committees are being constituted in an overtly partisan way designed to exclude meaningful input from supporters of Senator Sanders' candidacy," Deutsch wrote in a letter to the co-chairs of the DNC rules and bylaws committee, which the Sanders campaign posted on its website.
Malloy is co-chairman of the platform committee, and Frank is head of the rules committee.
Jim Roosevelt and Lorraine Miller, the co-chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, wrote in a letter to Deutsch that they are "compelled to dismiss" his challenge, because there is no allegation that the selection of Malloy and Frank violated any rules of the Democratic Convention.
DNC responds to Sanders campaign call for convention leadership change, say they are "compelled to dismiss it" pic.twitter.com/e7p1i1Dz47
DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced this week that five Sanders supporters would serve on the platform committee, which is responsible for managing the process of drafting the party's platform. In a release announcing the committee members the DNC said 75 percent of the committee's seats have been allocated to the two presidential campaigns, awarded proportionally according to vote tally, "in an effort to make this the most representative and inclusive process in history."
Concerns about discontent from the Sanders campaign at the convention increased after Nevada's state convention, where Sanders supporters grew rowdy after Clinton received more delegates and maintained the process was usurping democracy.
"People in America have the right to demonstrate. It's kind of what the constitution of the United States is," Sanders said on ABC's "The View" earlier this week when asked about concerns of violence at the convention in Philadelphia.
"It goes without saying that I will condemn any and all forms of violence," he said. "Secretary Clinton and I have different points of view on many of these issues. I don't see anything wrong with a vigorous debate."
ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sen. Bernie Sanders’ fight for the Democratic nomination is "all but over," adding that the nation would be "better off" if he worked to bridge the party’s divides ahead of the general election.
Feinstein, one of the earliest members of Congress to endorse Hillary Clinton, encouraged Sanders to view his campaign from a "real perspective."
"Senator Sanders has the right to run, no question. He ought to be able to read the signposts as well as anybody else, and if he did that he would know that it's all but over," Feinstein told Jonathan Karl in an interview for ABC News' "This Week" that will air Sunday.
"I know the passion of a campaign. I know when you're in it, you just keep go, go, go until the last hour is there. Well, the last hour is close by," Feinstein added.
The California senator, who previously criticized Sanders for delaying Clinton's pivot to a general election showdown with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, suggested Sanders should work to fortify the Democratic Party before November.
"It would be, I think, a very positive gesture for reconciliation if Senator Sanders were to consider putting his campaign in the very real perspective that it's in, and doing those things that can bring the party together," Feinstein said. "I think the nation is better off if that were to happen."
Alex Stone/ABC News(SAN DIEGO, Calif.) -- Police in riot gear were called in to separate Donald Trump protesters and supporters Friday afternoon after they clashed outside a rally for the presumptive Republican nominee in San Diego, California.
According to San Diego Police, 35 people were arrested. There was no property damage and no injuries reported, police added.
**Final Update** 35 arrests were made today during the protest. No property damage was reported. No injuries were reported.
The roughly 1,000 demonstrators were gathered on both sides of the street outside the San Diego Convention Center.
Some protesters holding Mexican flags and flags from other countries yelled, "Dump Donald Trump."
Trump supporters chanted, "You can't vote," and, "Build that wall!"
A helicopter loudspeaker and ground loudspeakers repeatedly made announcements that unlawful assembly was declared, and anyone in the area would be arrested if they stayed.
Police forced protesters out of the area by firing pepper spray balls at the crowd.
Trump took to Twitter to thank the San Diego Police Department, while referring to the anti-Trump protesters as "thugs." He wrote, "Fantastic job on handling the thugs who tried to disrupt our very peaceful and well attended rally. Greatly appreciated!"
.@SanDiegoPD- Fantastic job on handling the thugs who tried to disrupt our very peaceful and well attended rally. Greatly appreciated!
Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day in his weekly address.
He stressed the difference between thanking veterans for their service every day of the year, and the Monday holiday.
"Memorial Day, which we’ll observe Monday, is different," the president said. "It’s the day we remember those who never made it home; those who never had the chance to take off the uniform and be honored as a veteran. It’s the day we stop to reflect with gratitude on the sacrifice of generations who made us more prosperous and free, and to think of the loved ones they left behind."
President Obama called on Americans to remember U.S. servicemen and women "who died in our defense."
"The debt we owe our fallen heroes is one we can never truly repay," he said. "But our responsibility to remember is something we can live up to every day of the year."
Read the president's full address: Hi, everybody. Right now, there are American troops serving in harm’s way and standing sentry around the world. There are veterans who’ve served honorably in times of war and peace, and often came home bearing the invisible and visible wounds of war. They may not speak the loudest about their patriotism – they let their actions do that. And the right time to think of these men and women, and thank them for their service and sacrifice, is every day of the year.
Memorial Day, which we’ll observe Monday, is different. It’s the day we remember those who never made it home; those who never had the chance to take off the uniform and be honored as a veteran. It’s the day we stop to reflect with gratitude on the sacrifice of generations who made us more prosperous and free, and to think of the loved ones they left behind.
Remembering them – searing their stories and their contributions into our collective memory – that’s an awesome responsibility. It’s one that all of us share as citizens.
As Commander-in-Chief, I have no more solemn obligation than leading our men and women in uniform. Making sure they have what they need to succeed. Making sure we only send them into harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary. And if they make the ultimate sacrifice – if they give their very lives – we have to do more than honor their memory.
We have to be there for their families. Over the years, Michelle and I have spent quiet moments with the families of the fallen – husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. They’ve shared their pain – but also their pride in the sacrifices their loved ones made under our proud flag.
It’s up to the rest of us to live our lives in a way that’s worthy of these sacrifices.
The idea to set aside a Memorial Day each year didn’t come from our government – it came from ordinary citizens who acknowledged that while we can’t build monuments to every heroic act of every warrior we lost in battle, we can keep their memories alive by taking one day out of the year to decorate the places where they’re buried.
That’s something that so many of our fellow Americans are doing this weekend. Remembering. Remembering the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who died in our defense. Remembering those who remain missing. Remembering that they were our fellow citizens and churchgoers, classmates and children, and more often than not, the best of us.
So this Memorial weekend, I hope you’ll join me in acts of remembrance. Lay a flower or plant a flag at a fallen hero’s final resting place. Reach out to a Gold Star Family in your community, and listen to the story they have to tell. Send a care package to our troops overseas, volunteer to make a wounded warrior’s day a little easier, or hire a veteran who is ready and willing to serve at home just as they did abroad.
Or just pause, take a moment, and offer a silent word of prayer or a public word of thanks.
The debt we owe our fallen heroes is one we can never truly repay. But our responsibility to remember is something we can live up to every day of the year.
Thanks. May God watch over our fallen heroes and their families, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered this week's Republican address and honored American veterans for Memorial Day.
Ernst, who is the Senate’s first female combat veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said to "push past" a "divided America" this holiday weekend.
“Unfortunately, all too often folks hear in the media talking about a divided America," she said. "But this Memorial Day, I implore you to push past the 30 second sound bites and instead join me in honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation since its founding in 1776."
The senator also mentioned bipartisan legislation introudced with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) that would ensure Women Airforce Service Pilots could have their ashes placed at Arlington National Cemetery.
Read the Republican's full address:
Hi, I’m Joni Ernst and I have the honor of serving the great state of Iowa in the United States Senate.
It’s a long way from Red Oak, Iowa to Washington, D.C., but often I think back to even more distant places I’ve traveled to like Kuwait and Iraq, where I served as a company commander, leading 150 Iowa Army National Guardsmen during Operation Iraqi Freedom 13 years ago. I also often think of the nearly 4,500 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice to our nation during the Iraq War.
I have been so fortunate that my 23 years of service in the military has introduced me to some of the most patriotic and selfless Americans who woke up each day willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom.
Unfortunately, all too often folks hear in the media talking about a divided America. But this Memorial Day, I implore you to push past the 30 second sound bites and instead join me in honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation since its founding in 1776.
While Memorial Day is a day to honor our fallen heroes, I would also like to say a few words about our veterans whose sacrifices must never be forgotten.
From those who responded after the shocking attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, to those sent around the globe after the tragic events of September 11th 2001, we honor them.
This Congress recognizes the service and sacrifice that veterans like the Women Airforce Service Pilots, also known as WASP, made during the 1940s.
You see, during World War II, these bold, revolutionary women flew non-combat service missions for the Army Airforce to free up their male counterparts for combat duty overseas.
The WASP willingly put their lives on the line for this country during a time of war. This work wasn’t easy and in fact, 38 WASP died in service to our great nation, such as Beverly Moses, who was born in Des Moines; and Gleanna Roberts who grew up near Iowa City.
These women served our nation with great honor – and put their lives on the line.
You and I know that their sacrifice and love for this nation deserves to be celebrated, and always remembered. Unfortunately, these pioneers of aviation have long struggled to gain the recognition and honor they earned.
With this in mind, I helped introduce bipartisan legislation along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswomen Martha McSally and Susan Davis to ensure the WASP ashes could be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery. A seemingly simple thing, that means so much.
This Congress passed this legislation honoring these historic women and it is now law.
Now, this Congress is getting to work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation includes measures to make sure our men and women have access to the top equipment and training they need on the battlefield. The NDAA includes many critical provisions to help keep our military members safe so they do return home to their families.
We’ve already gotten to work on the NDAA, and later this summer, the Senate will consider the Defense Appropriations Act. These measures will provide some level of certainty to our brave service members now serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other places around the world.
As Memorial Day approaches, let us pause and remember all of the men and women who have given their lives so we can be free.
Let’s pause and honor the families of the fallen who have also given so much.
On Memorial Day—and every day—let us give thanks for these outstanding heroes. They serve as a testimony to the character of America.
May God always bless you, our servicemen and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, the great state of Iowa, and these wonderful United States of America.
The White House(NEW YORK) -- As a witness to the removal of fallen U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Army Chaplain Christopher John Antal can’t recall a time when that solemn ceremony wasn’t conducted without the presence of drones passing along the horizon.
They were sleek and quiet, making a gentle humming noise as they flew over the flight lines — where aircraft can be parked and serviced — of the Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan, where he was stationed in 2012. Not everyone had access to the flight lines, according to Antal, but he was responsible for participating in dignified transfer ceremonies, also known as ramp ceremonies, which were set there to greet the caskets of fallen service personnel as they were returned to base, en route to the U.S. On these occasions, he would watch the drones drift in and out, loaded with Hellfire missiles.
“It was [a] stark contrast to the solemnity of what I was doing at the ceremonies,” Antal, a Unitarian Universalist minister, told ABC News about watching the drones during the ceremonies. “When I would watch them and think about where they had been and where they were going, it would break my soul.”
On April 12, Antal resigned his commission as an officer in the Army because of his conscientious objection to the United States’ drone policy. In a letter addressed to Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, Antal wrote, “The executive branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.” In doing so, he joined other previous members of the armed forces who have addressed Obama to criticize his drone strike policy, including four former members of the Air Force who penned a letter in November of 2015 warning the president that the strikes “served as a recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay.”
The White House has defended the use of force in certain situations. "Since his first day in office, President Obama has been clear that the United States will use all available tools of national power to protect the American people from the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces," reads a 2013 fact sheet on policies and procedures for counter-terrorism operations outside the U.S. and areas of active hostilities.
Christopher Antal’s Resignation Letter
Earlier this year, the Obama administration agreed to publish a redacted version of the so-called playbook for U.S. drone operations overseas. Antal hopes that with the publication, Americans will open their eyes to what is really happening with armed drones. The administration has not made clear when the documents will be released.
The release of the drone playbook by Obama administration officials could provide the clearest window yet into a military program that has been shrouded in mystery since it began during George W. Bush’s administration in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan.
The numbers of civilians killed by U.S. drone strikes has been a source of controversy for years now, and precise data have been difficult to verify because of government secrecy on the subject and a scarcity of firsthand reports from areas where drone strikes take place.
In April, Obama told the press in reference to drone strikes, “There’s no doubt that civilians were killed that shouldn’t have been” — a change in tone from 2012, when he told an online forum, “Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”
According to documents that a whistleblower provided to The Intercept in 2015, drone strikes frequently kill civilians, and “nearly 90 percent” of the people killed in airstrikes during Operation Haymaker, a five-month military operation in 2012 targeting al-Qaeda operations in eastern Afghanistan, were “not intended targets.” A current U.S. official and a former one who were involved in drone operations told ABC News at the time that the unintended targets were often suspected militants traveling to or at meetings with intended targets.
London’s nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says it pursues “research, investigations, reporting and analysis which is of public benefit,” estimated that from 2004 to 2014, there were 2,379 casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. Of the 704 people killed who have been identified by the bureau, only 295 were reported to be militants, meaning that about 58 percent were believed to be noncombatants.
The organization reported in 2012 that dozens of civilian rescuers and mourners at victims’ funerals were targeted in drone strikes in Pakistan.
In 2011, U.S. officials told ABC News that the bureau’s numbers were “way off the mark” but did not address the subject of civilian casualties killed in drone attacks.
New America, formerly the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., said the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan is much lower. It estimated that in 403 strikes since 2004, 2,284 to 3,625 people were killed and that 7 to 14 percent of them were civilians, 5 to 12 percent were unknown and the remainder were militants.
Strikes in large-scale military operation theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan) are handled by the Pentagon, while the CIA is responsible for strikes elsewhere (for example, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia), according to officials familiar with the drone program. But these officials said there is also some overlap in areas of responsibility.
The CIA referred ABC News to the National Security Council on the matter of civilian casualties due to U.S. drone strikes. The NSC referred ABC News to previous remarks by Obama about drone strikes.
The bulk of U.S. targeted drone strikes take place in Pakistan, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and New America, but also occur in countries like Yemen and Somalia, which do not border any country with which the U.S. is at war but are home to suspected militants. In 2013, Ben Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, supported Pakistan’s position that it did not consent to the U.S. policy of using targeted drone strikes on its soil, issuing a statement that the drone campaign “is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty."
That year, however, The Washington Post reported that top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos demonstrated that top Pakistani officials tacitly supported the strikes.
Congress has not formally authorized military operations in any of those countries, with the exception of Afghanistan in 2001. Drone strikes are also conducted in Iraq in the fight against ISIS. Congress authorized military actions there in March 2003.
A diverse group of commentators, including representatives from the human rights organization Amnesty International and conservatives such as judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, have speculated publicly that these strikes in Pakistan constitute war crimes because of the numbers of noncombatants killed and questions surrounding the legality of the operations.
CIA Director John O. Brennan has invoked the U.N. charter’s self-defense article as a legal justification for conducting airstrikes in countries with which the U.S. has not declared war.
That Obama — who as a candidate promised to run the “most transparent” presidential administration in U.S. history — has been secretive about one of the most central parts of his foreign policy has been a subject of frustration for critics like Antal.
Antal told ABC News that he lacked the expertise to comment on whether the drone strikes under Obama are war crimes but said that his desire as a conscientious objector was to bring targeted drone strikes to “a complete and total halt.”
In 2013 the White House defended the use of drone strikes against U.S citizens suspected of high-level terrorist activity but declined to detail the criteria for ordering such attacks.
“Sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al-Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary at the time.
“We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, to prevent future attacks and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise,” he said.
Americans have been inadvertently killed by drone operations. In 2015 the White House admitted to accidentally killing an American al-Qaeda hostage in Pakistan, Warren Weinstein, along with an Italian hostage named Giovanni Lo Porto, in a drone strike. Adam Gadahn, who was described as the American mouthpiece of al-Qaeda, was killed in a drone strike last year in which he wasn’t the target.
A Growing Sense of Disillusionment
Antal’s resignation concluded nearly eight years of service as an Army chaplain that began on Dec. 3, 2008, less than a month after Obama was first elected president. Inspired by Obama’s optimistic message as a presidential candidate, Antal said, he joined the Army with aspirations of being an agent of change.
Drones were on the periphery of his awareness at that time but loomed larger as he learned of the administration’s reliance on them in the war on terrorism. His concerns about the killings intensified when he arrived in Afghanistan in September 2012, and he publicly voiced them in a Veterans Day sermon Nov. 11, 2012, when he gave a lyrical sermon criticizing drones on his base in Afghanistan and posted it online so other ministers could read it.
“We made war entertainment,” he said in the sermon, “enjoying box seats on the carnival of death.”
Antal said that his superiors disagreed with his tactic and that he was called into the office of a general who told him to take down the sermon.
“He told me that my message did not support the mission,” Antal said.
He told ABC that he was released from active duty in January 2013 and was stationed in Fort Bliss, an Army post on the New Mexico–Texas border. He remained in the Army, holding out hope that Obama would reform his drone policy. When the Stimson Center, a nonprofit nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., released a highly critical report this February titled “Grading Progress on U.S. Drone Policy” — around the same time that the Obama administration announced a $1 trillion revitalization of the U.S. nuclear program — Antal told ABC News that he felt “devastated” and began the process of leaving the Army for good.
The Stimson Center report was a follow-up to recommendations on U.S. drone policy made by the organization in 2014 under the direction of Rachel Stohl, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. U.S. officials did not comment on the seriousness with which they took the center’s recommendations.
Antal said that in 2015, the Army revised a formal document describing the role of chaplains, asking them to “speak with a prophetic voice against issues of moral turpitude,” in his words, as an effort to discourage criticism of military policy. He worried that his views about drones could land him in a military prison if did not leave his post. The Army is still processing his resignation, which he estimates might take several months to complete.
A representative for the Army confirmed Antal’s claim of the policy change and told ABC News it was part of an effort to make the post more inclusive of the diverse religions represented by Army chaplains.
“The reference to a prophetic voice has a Judeo-Christian background and history. The concept of a prophet may not be common to other religions such as Buddhist or Hindu. The function of speaking truth to power by Army chaplains still exists in our regulation,” the representative said.
While discouraged by his experience in the Army, Antal told ABC News that he hopes that the release of the drone playbook can serve as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a secretive and violent military policy and spur a public call for reform.
“I’m a man of hope and optimism,” Antal said about the administration’s promise to release the playbook. “There’s so much we don’t know about our president’s use of armed drones, and I’m hopeful that the American people can wake up to what is really happening with them.”
Missing From the 2016 Race
Antal said that a discussion about U.S. drone policy has not factored significantly in America’s presidential election and that the subject is not discussed enough in the mainstream press.
Donald Trump told “Fox and Friends” in December that he would “take out the families of terrorists.” In April he told Syracuse.com that he would use drones for surveillance on the United States’ borders with Mexico and Canada. According to the article, he said he would not advocate using armed or military drones in the U.S.
Hillary Clinton told the Global Terrorism Forum in Turkey in 2012, “We will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al-Qaeda that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent attack.”
She continued, “In doing so, we will comply with the applicable law, including the laws of war, and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.”
She has not spoken about drones at any length during her presidential campaign, but she is regarded by many political observers as more hawkish than Obama when it comes to foreign policy.
Bernie Sanders told ABC News in August that he would “not end” the U.S. drone program, but he has been more critical of it than Trump and Clinton.
In an interview with The New York Daily News editorial board in April, Sanders said that when “bombing wedding parties of innocent people and killing dozens of them,” the drone program is “not effective” and “enormously counterproductive.”
Antal told ABC News that he believes the lack of public debate about drones in an election year was “partly philosophical and partly psychological,” adding that the unmanned approach of “drone assassinations” enables the U.S. to wage war with fewer American casualties. And without American casualties, he said, the public can “ignore” violence abroad.
He said he “hopes to see greater empathy” among Americans for the victims of the U.S. drone program and is “deeply saddened by the numbing of our culture” to U.S.-led violence abroad.
“It’s becoming very easy for Americans to just go shopping and forget that this violence is happening,” Antal said.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump backed down from much-hyped hypothetical debate he wanted to have with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Trump, who has now secured enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, said that "now that I am the presumptive nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher," he said in a statement released Friday. Both Trump and Sanders said they wanted the debate to happen.
Trump reiterated his claim that "the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged" and said that "Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win," he added, referring to the party chair.
Neither Clinton or Sanders have enough delegates to win at this point.
The prospect of a debate originated from a question Sanders submitted to Jimmy Kimmel ahead of Trump's appearance on the late night talkshow Wednesday. At a press conference in North Dakota on Thursday, Trump was asked about it and said that money from the event should be raised "for maybe women's health issues or something."
Now, Trump is stepping back and taking the more traditional approach of waiting for the Democrats to nominate a candidate.
"I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be," he said in the statement.
Constitution Center(PHILADELPHIA) -- Ken Starr was perceived as one of Bill Clinton's most notable critics during the controversial investigations of the 1990s, but the former president seems to have left a favorable impression.
Starr made somewhat unexpectedly flattering comments about Clinton recently, before news broke that Starr himself was demoted from his role as president of Baylor University to that of chancellor amid concerns about the school's handling of sexual assault allegations.
"President Clinton was, and perhaps still is, the most gifted politician of the baby-boomer generation," Starr said at an event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia earlier this month.
Starr, 69, who investigated members of the Clinton administration as an independent counsel, praised Clinton's "remarkable gifts," specifically highlighting his "genuine empathy."
"I've spent a lot of time in the great state of Arkansas and, leave aside the unpleasantness, his genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear. It is powerful, it is palpable and the folks in Arkansas really understood that," Starr said.
The panel discussion focused on the presidency and the Constitution, with Starr and other participants comparing different aspects of various administrations.
In talking about post-presidential careers, Starr praised Clinton for his charitable work, and talked about how former presidents’ work after leaving the White House can become a "redemptive" process.
"President Carter set a very high standard, which President Clinton clearly continues to follow," Starr said.
The subjects of some of Starr’s investigations -- including former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and the suicide of former deputy White House counsel Vince Foster -- have resurfaced in this year's presidential campaign.
Donald Trump released a campaign video on Instagram that included an audio clip of Lewinsky and he has spoken about unsubstantiated conspiracy theories surrounding Foster's death.
Starr led one of multiple investigations into Foster's death and issued a 114-page report in 1997 confirming the outcome of the earlier findings, which ruled the death a suicide.
Starr's investigation of Monica Lewinsky grew out of his initial probe into the Whitewater real estate controversy.
Greensboro Police Department(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- The Greensboro Police Department in North Carolina has rescinded its offer to send 50 police officers to Cleveland in July to help secure the Republican National Convention, citing a lack of workers' compensation insurance provided by the city for visiting officers, as well as staffing challenges and a failure of logistics and planning for the large-scale event.
Lt. Brian James, Greensboro deputy chief of police, told ABC News that police administrators in other jurisdictions have also expressed a lack of confidence in Cleveland and its preparedness for the upcoming event. He said some departments are declining to send officers while others are still “on the fence.”
“Police work is dangerous by nature. But of course in any situation, we try to plan and prepare as best we can,” James said. “Of course, we will be officers working out of jurisdiction, so we are totally reliant on the Cleveland Police Department for direction. We didn’t have enough information at this time to send our officers there, so we decided we are not going to send them.”
Cleveland's mayor's office released a statement of its own this afternoon, saying they've asked hundreds of agencies to help out, and that none have expressed any concerns.
“Despite rumors, the Division of Police will be prepared and is on track with its planning goals. Plans concerning outside agency support are still being drafted. No outside agencies have expressed preparedness concerns directly to the Division of Police or to the City of Cleveland," the statement reads. It goes on to say that members of the police have received extensive training and instruction on the use of force, crowd management, free speech, freedom of assembly, due process, and reasonable search and seizure. Some officers will also be assigned body cameras.
But Greensboro police might not be the only ones bowing out. Dan Ball, assistant director of media relation's in Cleveland's mayor's office, had confirmed that the Cincinnati Police Department had pulled its officers from the event because of a scheduling conflict. Ball later told ABC News that the police department had not in fact been asked to attend. The Cincinnati Police Department has not returned ABC News' request for comment.
Ball said police departments pull out for various reasons and disputes claims that Cleveland is ill-prepared to host the RNC.
“It’s not true. I don’t understand the motivation. There’s even processes in place to rescind your offer, you call and explain, but you don’t go straight to the media,” Ball said. “I don’t understand the motivation to do that.”
Cleveland's Chief of Police Calvin D. Williams is weighing in, too.
“Cleveland Division of Police is working closely with our law enforcement partners on the federal, state, and local levels to ensure we are prepared for the convention,” Williams said. “We remain on schedule in the planning process, and to reiterate, we will be prepared.”
Cleveland has 1,200 police officers and the Cleveland Police Department is hoping to secure more from other jurisdictions to patrol the city when the convention begins on July 18. Ball says 5,000 officers is a "good estimate" but would not give a final number that they are aiming for because of security concerns. An estimated 50,000 people will attend the convention, according to Cleveland officials.
The RNC has not returned ABC News' request for comment.
James expressed concern over workers' compensation insurance to his boss, arguing that officers would not be compensated for any medical bills if they were injured during patrol in Cleveland.
“In 2012, we assisted the City of Charlotte with the Democratic National Convention and workers' compensation insurance was provided to our officers working this event,” James wrote in a memo. But the lack of insurance this time around for officers in Cleveland “will cause the city of Greensboro to assume responsibility for any reported injuries of our officers serving in their normal capacity but outside of our jurisdiction.”
He was also wary about sending officers because it would leave Greensboro in a “vulnerable” position due to 30 vacancies in its patrol division.
“While we always make a concerted effort to assist our law enforcement partners, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are sending our officers to an event that is well planned and that we do not leave ourselves in a vulnerable situation here at home while we send our officers to assist in another jurisdiction,” he said.
James said his boss, Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott, agreed with his concerns and informed Cleveland police of the decision.
Thousands are expected to converge on Cleveland for the political convention, including high-profile politicians, celebrities and protesters. The presence of likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has already raised security concerns, as his political rallies are often fraught with riots, protests, and sometimes violence.
In December, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that Cleveland would receive a $50 million grant in security funding for the convention.
“Ensuring the safety of convention goers and the Cleveland community is a critical component of the convention planning process,” Portman said during the announcement.
James said police are aware that political conventions can breed civilian unrest -- as was the case in 2012 -- but that this time around, his officers received “no clear direction” in terms of particular patrolling assignments.
“People are exercising their first amendment rights, but at the same time you have to have a plan in place,” James said. “Any political convention is going to be pretty heavily protested from all sides and political views.”
Despite Greensboro's decision to pull out – and potentially other police departments as well – James did not say Cleveland would be unsafe for those attending the convention.