Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newly sworn-in Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday night issued a statement calling the clashes between protesters and police in Baltimore "senseless acts of violence."
"I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore," Lynch said in her statement. "Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents."
Earlier in the day, after being sworn in as the successor to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, Lynch briefed President Obama on the situation in Baltimore.
The Department of Justice is currently investigating Gray's death.
Obama also spoke with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the situation, offering assistance as needed. White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett spoke with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
"As our investigative process continues," Lynch concluded, "I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence."
Lynch also vowed to work with leaders in Baltimore to protect the "security and civil rights of all residence." She also promised to "bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence."
Kentucky same-sex supporters pose, as pastor Rick Grogan from Fort Worth, TX, an opponent, seated, looks on. ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The scene outside the Supreme Court Monday felt a lot like a football game tailgate party -- and for supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage who have spent days camped out to score a seat, Tuesday's oral arguments are the Super Bowl.
The justices will hear arguments on two related questions: one, whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry; and two, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
There were at least sixty groups -- mainly supporters, but also some opponents -- who had been waiting on the corner of First and East Capitol Streets for days, hoping for a coveted chair inside the courtroom.
Frank Colasonti Jr. and his husband James Ryder of Birmingham, Michigan, were among the first in line. They said they had been there since Friday evening, snoozing in sleeping bags and hiding under tarps when it rained. But the partners for 27 years, husbands for the last one, said this argument was too important not to try to attend.
"We really never thought ..." Colasonti said before getting choked up.
"We really never thought we'd see it in our lifetime," Ryder said, finishing his husband’s sentence.
"It really never seemed like an option that it would ever happen," he continued, noting that they had filed their income taxes jointly for the first time this year.
The couple was among some 300 spouses who married on a single day in 2014 when Michigan's gay marriage ban was temporarily lifted. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder later said he would not contest the validity of those marriages, although the ban was reinstated.
Michigan is one of four states arguing in favor of their same-sex marriage bans. The others are Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
Besides the many same-sex couples and their families who flocked from those states, there were many law students who wanted to see a case that future classes will likely study.
"However this is decided it's going to be one of the most iconic and well-read cases in casebooks so this is going to be really exciting to be here," Wyatt Fore, a third-year law student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said. He said he had been in place, lawn chair and law books in tow, since Friday night.
Emotions and opinions on both sides of Tuesday's arguments run high, but at this unique gathering of legal minds, students, same-sex couples and pastors, the tendency is to live and let live -- or in this case, wait and let wait.
Pastor Rick Grogan of Fort Worth, Texas, acknowledged that he was one of the few opponents of same-sex marriage camped out, a buoy in a sea of Human Rights Campaign banners and rainbow flags.
"You've got, what, 20-something states who have banned it in their constitution. Now, nine people are going to tell the whole nation what to do," he said, sprawled on a blanket with an opened Bible in his hand.
But he said the discourse among his neighbors had been respectful. After all, if people toss footballs around during a pregame tailgate, why wouldn't they engage in elevated debate before a Supreme Court argument?
"Even though people disagree, it's been pleasant so far," Grogan said.
As he spoke, a group of same-sex marriage supporters from Kentucky posed for a group picture, just steps away.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after President Obama used his appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner to call for the release of an American journalist held prisoner in Iran, another American held at the same prison was taunted by Iranian prison guards who told him the president did not mention his name, his family said.
The prisoner, Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, called his mother over the weekend from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, terrified that gaining his release is not a priority for the U.S. government, his family said. Now, in an emotional letter to the White House, Amir’s sister is demanding to know why the president has never said her brother’s name in public. He has been imprisoned for nearly four years.
“He has already been mistreated, abused, and tortured,” writes Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister, in a letter to White House counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco. “Now the mental torture continues as he is made to feel that the country he put his life on the line for, the one he defended, and the president he voted for has left him behind and are not actively trying to secure his freedom.”
Of the three Americans known to be imprisoned in Iran, Hekmati has been held the longest. He was arrested in 2011 when, according to his family, he was visiting his ailing grandmother in Iran. He was sentenced to death in January 2012 for “espionage, waging war against God and corrupting the earth.”
President Obama spoke out for the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and earlier this year he spoke out for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Hekmati family said they have repeatedly asked the White House to push for Amir Hekmati’s release.
“Why has President Obama yet to utter the name Amir Hekmati?” his sister wrote. “Why on days significant for Amir -- Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, the anniversary of his death sentence, the anniversary of his imprisonment -- President Obama cannot say the name Amir Hekmati out loud, but he can say it for Jason Rezaian and he can say it for Pastor Abedini? Why when we make a request is it ignored? Why am I forced to write this email to you AGAIN, the same subject AGAIN, the same plea AGAIN?”
ABC News posed her questions to the White House Monday and was told by Press Secretary Josh Earnest that “each case and the efforts that we're undertaking to secure their release is treated independently.”
“Certainly when considering how best to secure the release of these individuals, a calculation is made about the wisdom of the publicity that surrounds the efforts to secure their release,” Earnest said.
The president did mention Hekmati in a March written statement about the U.S. citizens detained or missing in Iran and personally raised Hekmati’s case during a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September 2013, but he has never mentioned his name or his case in any of his public remarks.
“The concern for the well-being of those individuals is shared by everybody here at the White House. We've made clear what those concerns are to the Iranian government. And we're going to continue the effort to try to secure the release and safe return of these individuals,” Earnest said.
Meanwhile, the Hekmati family waits for answers.
“Please spare us this dignity and give us a straightforward answer as to why in nearly 4 years President Obama has [not] raised Amir’s plight individually outside of the context of the others imprisoned. Not even once. Not even when he was sentenced to death. The only question at this point is why,” Sarah Hekmati wrote.
The Hekmati family plans to bring attention to Amir’s plight on Capitol Hill later this week with television personality Montel Williams, who has championed their cause.
The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The state dinner on Tuesday for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be a celebration of "a long-awaited spring" and the long-awaited Obama china.
Guests at the lavish dinner will be treated to toro tartare, Wagyu tenderloin and silken custard cake prepared by famed chef Masaharu Morimoto, all served on the newly unveiled 11-piece Obama state china.
It took three and a half years and countless consultations to design the new service, which is manufactured by Pickard China of Antioch, Illinois, according to White House officials.
"For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services," according to the White House.
The Obama china stands out, in part for the teal blue band of color around each plate, a hue that the White House has dubbed "Kailua Blue," a nod to the president's home state of Hawaii. The service also includes an individual tureen, "a form not found in other White House services."
The purchase of the china was funded by a special donation from the White House Endowment Trust of the White House Historical Association, a private, nonprofit organization.
The china will be showcased at Tuesday's dinner, set on cheery blue tablecloths, surrounding bright pink bouquets of orchids and cherry blossoms, officials said. The spring theme will be further underscored by a curtain of crystals hanging in the State Dining Room to represent the spring rain.
Guests will enjoy a menu that "fuses traditional American cuisine with a Japanese influence," according to the White House, including a classic American Caesar salad with a Japanese twist (literally, the salad is wrapped in a clear acetate and tied with a mizuhiki cord "emulating a gift to be opened").
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After the longest confirmation process in recent U.S. history, Loretta Lynch was sworn in Monday as the 83rd attorney general of the United States.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's about time. It's about time this woman is being sworn in," Vice President Joe Biden, who presided over the swearing-in ceremony, said.
The Senate confirmed Lynch as the next attorney general last Thursday, 166 days after she was first nominated for the post.
"To the staff of the United States Department of Justice, you're the best of the best and with Loretta you again have the best of the best as your leader," Biden said.
Lynch is the first African American woman to hold the position. She said Monday that her story is one of hope.
"If a little girl from North Carolina, who used to tell her grandfather in the fields to lift her up on the back of his mule so she could see way up high granddaddy, can grow up to become the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, we can do anything," Lynch said after being sworn in.
Memorial Service for US journalistr James Foley, executed by ISIS. Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Stung by harsh criticism from relatives of American hostages killed by terrorists in recent months, the Obama White House is moving to create a government office to coordinate incident response, which will likely include a "Family Engagement Team," a senior U.S. official told ABC News Sunday.
The likely White House move is in anticipation of findings and recommendations by a hostage police review team from the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center expected to be delivered to President Obama in the next few weeks.
"In response to what we have heard from family members, we are considering the establishment of a working-level, operationally-focused coordinating Fusion Cell to ensure a whole-of-government response to overseas hostage events," said the senior official familiar with the review. "We are also considering the establishment of a Family Engagement Team as a permanent part of the Fusion Cell, to ensure that families have full-time and direct access to professionals who can provide timely information and other necessary support during and after a hostage crisis."
Justice Department family engagement liaisons played an essential role in the Zacarias Moussaoui 9/11 trial proceedings in 2006. Pentagon outreach teams have helped families of those killed in the terror attacks stay informed and attend hearings since 2008 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for five defendants charged in the al Qaeda plot. What is now being proposed will be a government-wide team of experts.
The top government engagement issue for many hostages' families has been strict U.S. policy forbidding ransom payments. Some foreign governments do not share such a policy and at times bow to hostage-taker demands, a practice that fans controversy over whether such payments encourage even more kidnappings.
On Sunday, ABC News reported that three senior officials said last week that one key recommendation expected to be made to the White House by Army Lt. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, who is leading the NCTC review team, is to ensure that the U.S. government communicates better with families and doesn't interfere with those who attempt to pay ransom to kidnappers. The U.S. will not support such efforts and officially will not negotiate, pay ransoms or give "concessions" to kidnappers, in keeping with federal anti-terrorism laws -- but would in effect look the other way if hostages' families do so on their own, the officials said.
Last summer, a military officer working at the National Security Council and a State Department official repeatedly told several families of ISIS hostages in Syria such as journalist James Foley that they could be prosecuted for supporting terrorism if they paid ransoms to the terror group. Many European hostages had been successfully ransomed a year ago but all four Americans were eventually killed in captivity, along with five other prisoners murdered in high-profile ISIS videos.
"We were told at that point that there was going to be no intervention, there was going to be no negotiation, and that no ransom would be paid -- and, if in fact, we attempted to raise the money and pay it we would be potentially prosecuted. So that was pretty upsetting," James Foley's father John said on ABC News’ World News Tonight Sunday.
James Foley, a freelance war reporter, was brutally beheaded in a video released by ISIS on Aug. 19, 2014, which shocked the world.
ISIS had demanded $130 million and rarely responded to communications overseen by the family's privately-hired team of experienced former law enforcement officials. The Foleys said donors willing to help any of the families raising ransom in the future also should not have to fear being charged with supporting terrorism.
"It’s only a baby step, it’s a tiny step. If the government can’t help, I would hope that families would be free from prosecution of getting their loved ones home," Diane Foley, who was deeply involved in the private effort to find and free her son, told ABC News on Sunday.
She said Lt. Gen. Sacolick had informed her that no family will ever face such threats again from their own government for trying to free a loved one. No one has ever been prosecuted for trying to pay ransom, law enforcement officials have noted. The Foleys also pressed Obama directly in a conversation last week to accept the review team's recommendations.
"No one was accountable for the return of Jim or for helping us to get a strategy in place to bring him home. We talked to so many people at the State Department, FBI, and within the Senate, but none of them could point to any one person whose mission it was to bring Jim home," she said.
"The previous ‘no negotiation’ policy has been interpreted as no communication, no talk, so I think there’s a huge deficit along the way, from doing nothing to being able to talk to captors," John Foley added. "Negotiation doesn’t mean that we would say ‘yes’ to everything, but it does mean that we would be able to have a dialogue with captors, and who knows what might come out of that?"
Besides the Americans killed by ISIS in Syria, one American and a South African were killed during a hostage rescue attempt by Navy SEALs in Yemen in December. American Warren Weinstein and an Italian hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto, were killed accidentally in a CIA drone strike targeting al Qaeda in Pakistan in January. A person familiar with Weinstein's ordeal said the family attempted to pay around $250,000 to the men believed to be holding him, but nothing came of it before he was killed.
Beyond the Obama administration's anticipated efforts following the deaths of James Foley and some of the other Americans, the Foley family created the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to help hostages' families navigate official government waters.
For its part, the White House in letters from counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco invited 82 families and former hostages dating back to 2001 to participate in the NCTC review. Interviews with 40 people have been conducted by the NCTC team so far, the senior official said.
"We understand this is incredibly difficult and painful for the families and we appreciate their feedback. The feedback each family member and former hostage provided has been invaluable and helped us examine ways to improve our processes and communicate with the families most effectively to achieve our shared objective of ensuring the safe return of a loved one," the senior official told ABC News.
Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed in The Des Moines Register Monday, reflecting on the stories and ideas she heard from Iowans during her visit to the Hawkeye State.
"When I came to Iowa, I wanted to do something a little different. No big speeches or rallies. Just talking directly with everyday Iowans," she began her op-ed. "Because this campaign isn't going to be about me, it's going to be about Iowans and people across our country who are ready for a better future."
"It's not enough to just get by, you deserve to get ahead and stay ahead. And everywhere I went, I met Iowans with great ideas for how we can get there," the Democratic presidential candidate added.
Clinton went on to describe four such Iowans she met during her trip and the stories they shared with her. She then laid out some issues she plans to take on during her campaign:
"We can build an economy for tomorrow, not yesterday, where being middle class means something again. We can strengthen families and communities, because when families get ahead, our country gets ahead, too. We can fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment. And we can protect our country from the threats that we see around the world and ones that are still over the horizon."
The former secretary of state said these are "four big fights I'm taking on for you, but I can't do it alone."
"We've got to tackle this together. We need to build on the success, the hard work and the innovation I found in Iowa," Clinton wrote.
She concluded, "I will carry the stories and wisdom of the Iowans I met with me throughout the campaign and hopefully onto the White House. You are the reason I got into this race and I will work my heart out to earn your votes."
Gov. Pence / United States Congress(WASHINGTON) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced that Matt Lloyd will be joining the governor's office as Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Strategy in late May.
Lloyd served as Communications Director on Pence's congressional staff for 10 years, according to a release shared with ABC News. He also served in the top communications role for Gov. Pence during his turns as chairman for both the House Republican Conference and the House Republican Study Committee. He also served as a senior advisor to Pence's gubernatorial campaign.
Lloyd currently serves as Director of Communications for Koch Industries in Washington, D.C.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — The more authorities dig into the hacking of the State Department and the White House, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Russians were hunting for weaknesses.
Sources tell ABC News that some of President Obama's emails were caught up in the Russian cyberattack last October that led to a partial shutdown of some White House computers.
Hackers associated with the Russian government accessed computers that contained archives of unclassified White House communications -- including some involving the president, sources say. None of the president's devices were hacked, but some White House computers contained summaries of email exchanges the president may have had with people outside the administration.
While the attack did not involve top secret information, a number of officials say it shows an intense level of aggression by Russian operatives, who appear to be stepping-up hacks against the United States.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has also described a new attack against the Pentagon earlier this year -- one remarkably similar in nature to the hacking of the State Department and the White House.
"Earlier this year, the sensors that guard DoD's unclassified networks detected Russian hackers accessing one of our networks. They'd discovered an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn't been patched," Carter said Thursday during an address at Stanford University. "The cyber threat against U.S. interests is increasing in severity and sophistication."
Officials are concerned by the Russians' aggression -- and worried the Russians may be hoping that hacking non-classified computer systems could be a gateway into more sensitive systems and information.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) — Former President George W. Bush, who has mostly stayed away from criticizing his successor in the White House, ended that embargo Saturday night by faulting President Obama for making a tentative nuclear deal with Iran.
During a question and answer session at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Bush charged that the agreement if it's finalized by late June is not in the best interests of the U.S. and that the Obama administration was too quick to rush into a deal, claiming that Tehran was nearly ready to give into concessions without Washington and its allies promising to lift sanctions for its cooperation.
Those who attended Bush's appearance, which included many GOP donors, claimed that the former president was very animated in talking about his approach to terrorism, labeling the Islamic State the new version of al Qaeda.
Bush also spoke about his brother, former Governor Jeb Bush, possibly seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, admitting that the chief challenge his sibling faces is that people in America don't like dynasties.
Should his brother decide to run, Bush promised not to campaign for him, suggesting it would be more of a hindrance than a help.
Bush also made mention of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nomination. He said that some of the baggage she carries is her defense and support of certain Obama administration policies unpopular with voters.
zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Families of American hostages who communicate with foreign kidnappers or raise money and pay ransoms will no longer have to fear prosecution for aiding terrorist groups, a White House-ordered advisory group on U.S. hostage policy is expected to recommend, senior officials told ABC News last week.
"There will be absolutely zero chance of any family member of an American held hostage overseas ever facing jail themselves, or even the threat of prosecution, for trying to free their loved ones," said one of three senior officials familiar with the hostage policy team's ongoing review.
The study undertaken by the National Counterterrorism Center on orders from the Obama White House has involved interviewing many of those with tragic experience such as the parents of journalist James Foley, who were among several families alleging they were repeatedly threatened by administration officials with prosecution last summer for moving to raise millions in ransom demanded by ISIS and other groups in Syria.
Neither of the officials who confronted the Foley family, at the National Security Council and at the State Department, were in law enforcement positions. On Aug. 19, 2014 James Foley was beheaded on video by ISIS executioner and spokesman Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen nicknamed "Jihad John" in the West.
Two more Americans, two Britons, two Japanese and one Jordanian hostage were subsequently slaughtered one by one on video by ISIS. American hostage Kayla Mueller, who was given as a gift bride to a senior ISIS leader, officials have said, was killed last February in what the terrorist group claimed was a Jordanian airstrike in Syria -- a claim American officials have disputed.
Diane Foley, James Foley's mother, told ABC News last September her family was "told very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try to ransom our son out and that we had the possibility of being prosecuted."
"We felt compelled. We had to attempt to raise money... What would anyone do? Give me a break," she said in the interview last year. "We don’t want other American families to go through what we have."
Foley said Saturday that with the new policy, which officials discussed with her last week, it seems the government is "trying to make it right in their way."
"There's a lot that needs to be fixed," she told ABC News on Saturday.
The past threats were "the straw that broke the camel's back. It was incredible," Foley added.
She said she intends to press President Obama to accept the recommendations of the NCTC team, which will soon be "on his plate."
After James Foley's death, Obama administration officials publicly denied the Foleys' allegations, which multiple sources throughout the government's hostage recovery programs had confirmed to ABC News. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a stop in Turkey in September that he was "really taken aback" and "surprised" the Foleys were saying publicly that they felt they had been threatened by their own government prior to their son's murder on video in August.
"I know how difficult this is, and all I can say to you is I know of no one who issued such a construction. I have no knowledge of it," Kerry told reporters in his comments last year.
Other officials said that their colleagues had merely explained to the Foleys and other families that U.S. law forbids "supporting" terrorists even with ransom to save a loved one's life and that any other "concessions," such as a prisoner swap are forbidden as well.
"Without getting into the details of our private discussions with families, the law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL [also called ISIS], are prohibited. It is also a matter of long standing policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive," President Obama's National Security Council explained last year in a statement to ABC News.
But after Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Haqqani Network in Pakistan a year ago for five Taliban leaders incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay's military prison, many hostage families later cried foul over no swaps being offered for their loved ones. The White House responded that Bergdahl, who now faces life in prison if convicted of desertion, was considered a prisoner of war and therefore his case was different.
The hostage policy review team is headed by Army Lt. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, a former commander of the elite Delta Force counter-terrorism unit, and his NCTC staff. He told the Daily Beast last week that "we can do better" at informing hostage families about developments in their cases, which has been another criticism by the Foleys who complained they were kept in the dark during their son's captivity.
Experts say that threatening hostages' families with prosecution who already are suffering excruciating pain -- which eventually was subsumed by grief when their loved ones were murdered by ISIS -- was not only reprehensible, but sticking to a cookie-cutter policy of outlawing ransom negotiations or payments also mistakenly restricted options rather than risked encouraging more kidnappings.
"They should be allowed to do whatever they can as a civilian to get their victim or family member out of harm's way," former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who has been involved in hostage negotiations, told ABC News last week.
The Foleys said last year that they had been told by Obama aides that any effort to pay ransom would be viewed as providing material support to terrorists. But, in reality, the payoffs are often pocketed by middlemen and hostage-takers rather than used to buy weapons or support terrorist operations, Cloonan said.
"I think what the President has been forced to articulate now is that we should draw a distinction and make it clear what a private citizen can do versus what the government should do," he said.
Another retired agent, former chief FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, said the alleged strong-arm tactics used by some government officials "was a horrible thing to do to the families" and was "the symptom of an uncoordinated government response."
"No one who was in a position to make prosecutorial decisions was making the threats. So threats were being made by people who didn't understand the policies. I think it was an indicator of lack of functionality in the government," Voss said in an interview.
It also didn't save lives.
Besides the four Americans killed by ISIS in Syria, one American and a South African were killed during a hostage rescue attempt by Navy SEALs in Yemen in December. American Warren Weinstein and an Italian hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto, were killed accidentally in a CIA drone strike targeting Al Qaeda in Pakistan in January. A person familiar with Weinstein's ordeal said the family attempted to pay around $250,000 to the men believed to be holding him, but it came to nothing.
There are at least two more Americans, Caitlan Coleman and her toddler child, publicly known to be Taliban captives in Pakistan.
Voss said he's concerned that a negative affect of looking the other way when ransoms are collected and paid by families is that they won't have FBI input on the mechanics of a process the victims have never engaged in previously.
Two former officials told ABC News that payoffs to hostage-takers in some cases are allowed under the secret National Security Presidential Directive-12 if a ransom is paid as part of a sting operation or to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Another conceivable benefit to paying a ransom is to gain intelligence by tracing the cash and how it is spent.
"The issue is not whether or not ransom is paid, the issue is how it's paid," Voss explained. "The practical matter is money is very traceable. You just have to know what money to trace. It's not hard at all. Put the money in the terrorists' hands, find out who they're buying weapons from because you're going to follow the money. Find out who they're buying medical supplies from."
Will paying extortion fees encourage more kidnappings of Americans overseas? Voss insisted that most who are abducted in the Middle East's warzones are simply targets of opportunity.
"I don't think this is going to lead to more kidnappings at all," he said.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The author of a forthcoming book on Hillary Clinton and foreign donations made to her family's foundation defended the accuracy of his research, saying in an interview on ABC's This Week Sunday that while he found "no direct evidence" she took official action at the State Department to benefit donors to her family's foundation, the "smoking gun is in the pattern of behavior."
Peter Schweizer's book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, highlights instances in which domestic and foreign companies with pending interests before the State Department made large donations to the Clinton's charitable enterprises or, in some cases, helped underwrite the former president's speeches.
The Clinton campaign has adamantly denied these reports, saying Schweizer's book is a distraction and does not produce a "shred of evidence" that she took official action on behalf of donors.
"I think the real question here is … when you ever have an issue with the flow of funds to political candidates, whether that's to campaigns, whether that’s to private foundations, whether that’s to their spouse - is there evidence of a pattern of favorable decisions being made for those individuals?" said Schweizer, an author and conservative think tank fellow. "I think the point that we make in the book is that there is a troubling pattern."
An investigation by ABC News focused on Bill Clinton's speaking fees, which grew substantially when she joined the Obama cabinet and totaled in the tens of millions. It found that several sponsors paid former President Clinton for speeches while they had pending business with the State Department. ABC News also found, however, no proof that Clinton took any direct action to benefit those groups.
A recent report in The New York Times, based on claims made in Clinton Cash, raised questions about donations made to the Clinton Foundation that coincided with the approval of a Russian uranium deal during her tenure at the State Department. The undersecretary who worked on the deal, however, has said that Clinton was not involved in the sale.
Schweizer said he does not have "direct evidence" that Clinton intervened on the uranium deal, but added that "this is part of the broader pattern" that he said should still be investigated.
"The smoking gun is in the pattern of behavior," he said, later adding, "You either have to come to the conclusion that these are all coincidences or something else is afoot."
In response to recent questions about the Clinton Foundation's disclosure of donors and tax filings, Acting CEO Maura Pally said in a statement Sunday that "yes, we made mistakes … but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future."
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Interactions on the social platform Facebook related to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas more than doubled those of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during a period measured earlier this month according to data -- which is approximate -- provided to ABC News by Facebook.
Facebook, which measured the data from April 17 to April 23, reported 2.2 million interactions related to Cruz and about 1 million interactions related to Bush.
Facebook defines "interactions" on the social platform as posts, comments, likes and shares.
Bush is exploring a run for the White House while Cruz has officially declared his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race.
Interactions related to Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul were 1.8 million and 1.3 million for Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
For Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Facebook reported 1.1 million interactions.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama once again brought jokes to the 89th annual White House Correspondents' Dinner.
From cracks about his birth certificate to jabs at his vice president, Obama has always been willing to go the distance to get laughs from the White House press corps and their Hollywood guests.
This was Obama's second to last dinner - or "nerd prom," as it has been dubbed in the capital - and the president wasted no time throwing out the comedic punches at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
"For many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty. I have one friend, just weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and she's now living out of a van in Iowa," joked Obama, referencing presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Using host Cecily Strong to poke fun at CNN, Obama joked, "On Saturday Night Live, Cecily impersonates CNN anchor Brooke Bolden, which is surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists are journalists on CNN."
Taking on Indiana's "Religious Freedom" law Obama brought up his close friendship with Vice President Joe Biden, "We've gotten so close, at some places in Indiana, they won't serve us pizza anymore."
On former Vice President Dick Cheney, Obama said, "He thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime, which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime."
Make sure to check out some of the commander-in-chief's best lines in the video below.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama brought out a surprise guest during his monologue at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night.
Obama had Keegan-Michael Key, of Comedy Central's Key and Peele, come on the stage in character as the president's anger translator Luther. As the president rattled off issues like global warming and campaign finance, Luther interjected, giving the audience a clue as to what Obama was really thinking.
Luther even got to sneak in a Game of Thrones reference tied to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
When Obama mentioned that the Koch brothers would be putting up a billion dollars for their favorite conservative candidate, Luther said no one should worry -- because Hilary Clinton is running.
"She's gonna get all that money -- ooh, Khaleesi is coming to Westeros," he said.