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Senator Harry Reid Won't Seek Re-Election in 2016

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday he will not seek re-election in 2016, ending a Senate career that has spanned three decades.

Known for his feisty and combative style in the Senate, the 75-year-old Nevada Democrat made the announcement in a YouTube video earlier Friday morning.

Earlier this year, Reid suffered a serious eye injury while exercising at home, causing him to reconsider whether he would seek re-election in 2016.

"This accident has caused Landra and me to have a little down time. I have had time to ponder and to think," Reid said. "We've got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than about ourselves. And as a result of that I'm not going to run for re-election."

Reid has led Senate Democrats for the past eight years, first as Senate Majority Leader from 2007 until this year when Republicans took control of the Senate, bumping him to Senate Minority Leader.

Reid's departure will open up a battle for the top Democratic spot in the Senate as well as for his Nevada seat back home.

Prior to joining the Senate in 1987, Reid, a Mormon, served two terms in the House of Representatives and as Nevada's Lieutenant Governor for four years.

Reid gained his first exposure to Capitol Hill as an officer for the Capitol Police while he attended Georgetown University Law School.

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Kids Set to Take over the White House for a Day (Sort of)

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Having a parent who works at the White House is no longer a prerequisite for participating in “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The chance to spend a day “at work” at the White House used to be limited to the sons and daughters of staff who work there. But this year, on April 23, the president and first lady are also opening the White House gates to kids in the D.C. community who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.

“Every year, lots of kids are left out,” President Obama said in a web video, announcing the new twist to the long-held tradition of parents bringing their kids to work for a day. “Maybe they’re foster kids, or homeless, or struggling in school, or their parents don’t have jobs that allow them to bring their kids to work.”

The White House Council on Women and Girls and My Brother’s Keeper Initiative have teamed up with the local chapter of Boys and Girls Club and DC Child and Family Services to select candidates from some of Washington’s poorest and most at-risk communities, including foster kids and youth likely to drop out of high school.

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington Vice President Michael McDonald said the day will be an “incredibly exciting” opportunity for some of the most at-need kids in the nation’s capital to dream big.

“The Boys and Girls Club is in the business of offering hope,” McDonald told ABC News. “What greater hope than to be president? And it’s that connection to these things you see on TV and on the nightly news -- these are real and real people who work there -- and I think that connection is going to be a really eye-opening opportunity for our kids.”

In years past, “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” at the White House have included a question and answer session with first lady Michelle Obama and activities with key White House staff. This year will also feature a question and answer segment with a senior-level official, who has yet to be announced, as well as career panels and lunch with senior staff members.

President Obama is calling on businesses and local governments across the country to join in on the effort to open “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” to a larger community of kids.

“We’re asking employers across the country to reach out to young people in your community who don’t have a workplace to visit,” Obama said. “Invite them to spend the day with you. Show them what you do every day – and tell them that, with hard work and determination, they can do it too.”

Agencies across the federal government, including the Justice and Treasury Departments, as well as some city governments and private businesses, have already signed on to the White House-led initiative this year.

“Companies like Johnson & Johnson already do this, and the mayors of Philadelphia and Sacramento are joining us this year,” Obama said. “See if your employer will join us, too. ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day’ is already a special day for millions of kids across the country. Together, we can help more kids participate -- so they, too, can dream bigger dreams about their futures.”

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Secret Service Officials Reported Agents in White House Incident Did Not Appear Intoxicated, Documents Show

BackyardProduction/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- New documents obtained by ABC News reveal conflicting accounts by top Secret Service officials about whether two senior agents were drunk when they drove into the White House complex.

It all started with an allegation -- via anonymous email -- that Secret Service agents were “extremely intoxicated” as they drove through an active crime scene set up just outside the White House complex on the evening of March 4. But documents obtained by ABC News show that two senior Secret Service officials believed the two agents involved in the now infamous incident were not intoxicated, based on their interactions with the agents that evening. The agents, Marc Connolly and George Ogilvie, had been accused of driving through the crime scene near a White House gate while possibly under the influence of alcohol after attending a retirement party for a colleague.

The accusation of drunkenness was slow to move up the chain of command and word of the anonymous email only reached Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy five days later on March 9. Secret Service officials then gathered information on the allegations of agent misconduct to be passed on to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, in accordance with agency policy. The information was based in part on recollections of some of the supervisors involved in the incident five days earlier.

The documents were part of the material presented to the DHS Inspector General by the Secret Service. One of those documents details some of the recollections of Secret Service Deputy Chief Alfonso Dyson and Captain Michael Braun, both of the Uniformed Division.

“Deputy Chief Dyson advised that based on his conversation with DSAIC Connolly, it did not appear as though DSAIC Connolly [was] impaired,” according to Dyson’s account of his phone conversation with Connolly described in the document. Dyson called Connolly on the evening of March 4, after he was alerted to the incident. Connolly told Dyson that he had made a mistake, which Dyson believed to be referring to driving into the crime scene at that entrance caused by a suspicious package tossed at that location by a woman earlier that evening.

The document goes on to say, “Captain Braun advised that the driver of the [government vehicle] (ATSAIC Ogilvie) did not appear to be intoxicated.” And though Braun advised that Connolly’s eyes appeared glassy, he commented “that he did not believe that DSAIC Connolly or ATSAIC Ogilvie was intoxicated.”

According to documents, Deputy Chief Dyson had been briefed on the incident on the evening of March 4 by Uniformed Division Inspector Keith Williams. Citing an “unknown source,” Williams said he was told Connolly, a passenger in the car, “smelled of alcohol,” the document states.

According to congressional sources, no other evidence other than the anonymous email and the unknown source has been presented to suggest that either agent was drunk. Multiple sources who have reviewed video of the incident tell ABC News that it does not provide any conclusive evidence of impairment.

The documents also show that Connolly told Dyson that he and Ogilvie did not realize that the White House complex was under alert condition yellow due to the suspicious package investigation at that entrance. Only when they noticed that the security post was unoccupied did they check their BlackBerry devices and learn of the alert.

A detailed timeline of events obtained by ABC News shows that Director Clancy was called at 10:48 p.m. on the evening of March 4 to inform him of the suspicious package. The two agents arrived at the White House only 10 minutes later, at 10:58. Yet, records show, no one from the Secret Service bothered to call Clancy back that evening to inform him of alleged misconduct.

Video of the incident released Tuesday shows no drama, no collision and, at most, a low-speed vehicle maneuver which bumped a temporary traffic barrel out of the path of the entrance of the White House complex. The video has a limited view, but does not show indications of a particularly active crime scene.

The video also does not show that the agents flipped on their lights to go around the barrier, as they are accused of doing in the anonymous email. It does show a vehicle moving just behind the agents’ car followed closely by a police car that did have its rooftop light bar flashing.

Rep. Elijah Cummings was troubled by the email, telling Director Clancy at a Tuesday hearing, “It appears that we have an agency at war against itself. The idea that in an organization like this that somebody would create this kind of document to bring this kind of disruption when they are supposed to be guarding the president of the United States of America. We are better than that.”

It is now up to the inspector general to determine whether the allegations of misconduct have merit, why they were not communicated more quickly up the chain of command and what can be done to get the Secret Service can get back on track. That process, sources say, could take several weeks.

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Kerry Travels to Switzerland for Start of Latest Iran Nuclear Negotiations

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(LAUSANNE, Switzerland) -- Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday at the start of the next round of European Union-coordinated nuclear negotiations.


En route to #Switzerland again for meetings with FM @JZarif as part of ongoing P5 1 #IranTalks.

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) March 25, 2015

A senior State Department official told reporters en route to Switzerland that the schedule for Kerry's trip was "extremely fluid" and that meetings were to begin Thursday morning. "We are focused on getting a political framework that addresses all of the major elements of a comprehensive deal done by the end of March," the official said, according to a transcript released by the department.

"I think we would say we made more progress in the last round than we have made in the previous rounds," the official added, saying that "we can see a path forward here to get to an agreement."


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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Signs Controversial Bill on 'Religious Freedom'

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial bill on Thursday that could allow business owners to refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation.

"Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," Pence said in a statement Thursday, "because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith."


I signed SEA 101 today to ensure religious liberty is fully protected under IN law

— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) March 26, 2015


While critics say the bill could allow for discrimination, Pence says it is not about that. "If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it," he said.

Pence clarified that the bill "does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved."

Pence pointed to lawsuits filed by the University of Notre Dame and a private business against provisions within the Affordable Care Act. "The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion," Pence said. "But today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action."

Indiana state Sen. Tim Lanane took to Twitter to voice his disagreement with Pence. "Athough not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation," Lanane wrote.


Although not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of-touch, discriminatory legislation.

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

Not only is this law unnecessary, it already has portrayed IN as intolerant, unfriendly & backwards; things which I believe Hoosiers reject

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

#RFRA can only hurt our state’s economy and our desire to be welcoming to every person.

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

I’m disgusted that they made this a priority over everything else & then were too ashamed to sign this bill anywhere but behind closed doors

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

"No matter how privately Gov. Pence tries to put his stamp of approval on #RFRA, fact remains he owns this unwanted law and its consequences," Lanane continued.



No matter how privately Gov Pence tries to put his stamp of approval on #RFRA, fact remains he owns this unwanted law and its consequences.

— Senator Tim Lanane (@TimLanane) March 26, 2015

With the college basketball's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis next week, NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement Thursday expressing concern over "how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees." Emmert says the NCAA "will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill."

Emmert also said that the NCAA would "closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."


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Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Released from Federal Prison

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. was released from federal prison on Thursday, about six months before his original release date.

Jackson, the former Illinois congressman and son of Reverend Jesse Jackson, pleaded guilty to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds in 2013.

He began his sentence on Nov. 1, 2013. He was scheduled for release on Sept. 20, 2015.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Jackson will serve the remainder of his sentence at a Washington, D.C. halfway house.

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GOP Congressman Sees Paying NCAA Athletes an ‘Inevitability’

Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- With March Madness highlighting the billion-dollar enterprise that is NCAA athletics, pressure is building from prominent former athletes, state lawmakers, and even members of Congress to allow -- or even require -- colleges to pay the student-athletes who bring them so much revenue.

Speaking on the ESPN/ABC podcast Capital Games, Rep. Charlie Dent -- a leading congressional critic of the NCAA -- said the idea of providing student-athletes at least a stipend for their services is “very reasonable.”

“Big-time college football and college basketball are the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA respectively – that’s what it is,” said Dent, R-Pa. “It’s professional athletics.”

You can listen to the full Capital Games podcast HERE on desktop and HERE on mobile devices, or download it for free via smartphone podcast apps.

Payments to student-athletes would be permissible under a broad reform bill Dent is pushing that’s aimed at requiring more concussion tests and preventing schools from cutting off scholarships for reasons that aren’t connected to academics.

“Our legislation does not prohibit stipends, and I think there’s an inevitability to it. A lot of people are getting very rich on the back of these student-athletes,” Dent said. “I suspect that the only people who aren’t getting paid are the players.”

Ralph Sampson, a college basketball hall of famer, said on the podcast that it’s only fair to find a way to compensate athletes, particularly because being a high-level college athlete is now a year-round commitment that doesn’t provide much extra time for part-time jobs.

“I think there’s got to be a creative way to get that done,” said Sampson, a three-time national college player of the year who was later an All-Star in the NBA. “They gotta eat, they gotta sleep. The meal plans at school are OK, but you’re talking about athletes -- they have to perform, and you want them to perform at a very high level.”

“It’s like taking a race car and putting in unleaded gas in it, and it needs octane gas, it needs high-level gas in it or it doesn’t work. So you got to find creative ways to get these kids to perform at a high level but also compensate as well.”

Sampson, who's had two sons play college basketball, is now working with a project called FanAngel, a crowdfunding system that allows fans to pay to keep players in school, with the money due to be disbursed to them after their college eligibility expires.

“It will be a creative way to stop all the under the table, unnecessary stuff that go on in college sports,” Sampson said.

If neither federal intervention nor the private sector wind up providing money to student-athletes, states may wind up taking the lead. South Carolina state Sen. Marlon Kimpson has filed a bill that would require the two biggest public universities in his state to pay some athletes weekly stipends, as well as larger payments that would come after graduation.

“People are starting to get on board,” said Kimpson, a Democrat from Charleston. “We need to make sure that our universities, who are making huge sums of money – again, this is no longer amateur business, we’re talking about major commercial enterprises....We need to make sure that there’s some economic justice on the field, and some of that revenue goes to the people that are largely responsible for generating those returns.”

Capital Games with Andy Katz and Rick Klein is a podcast program that explores the intersection of sports and politics, as part of the ESPN Perspectives audio series.

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Ben Affleck Comes to Capitol Hill to Talk Congo

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actor Ben Affleck came to the Senate Thursday to talk about a philanthropic topic -- his Eastern Congo Initiative -- but he couldn’t escape the fame of his other job: Being "Batman."

Affleck himself kicked off the Batman talk when he gave a shout out to one of his senatorial co-stars in the upcoming film, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

“To Senator Leahy, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my co-star in Batman. The role is marginally smaller than mine but I understand you're quite good,” Affleck said to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on diplomacy and development Thursday morning.

Affleck’s comment essentially confirmed Leahy will make a cameo in the upcoming Batman film. The Vermont senator has appeared in four Batman movies, most famously standing up to Heath Ledger’s The Joker character in The Dark Knight.

Affleck testified alongside Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who Affleck described as the “greatest and most important philanthropist in the history of the world.” Another panelist, Scott Ford, CEO of the Westrock Group LLC, lauded the efforts of "Batman" in Congo.

“We had the United States ask us would you go to Congo and I said not without Batman,” Ford joked. “And when Batman showed up, we went to Eastern Congo.”

At least one senator -- Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. -- was star struck by being in the presence of Batman and snapped a photo of Affleck in the middle of the hearing.

Batman testifying before Appropriations hearing on importance of foreign aid (oh, and @BillGates is here too).

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 26, 2015

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Rand Paul Reverses Stance on Defense Spending

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul reversed his stance on defense spending Thursday, when he introduced an amendment to the budget that would increase defense spending by $190 billion over the next two years.
This increase in defense spending runs counter to the budget Paul introduced in 2011 just months after joining the Senate. That plan, which failed in the Senate, would have slashed defense spending from $553 billion in 2011 to $542 billion in 2016.
Paul’s new amendment failed in the Senate Thursday, with only four senators supporting the measure.

Since his flirtation with a presidential bid first began, Paul has walked a tricky line on military spending, and in recent months, the Kentucky Republican has adopted a more hawkish position. In late 2014, Paul began to say he’d be open to increasing defense spending -- but only if there are cuts to other parts of government.
Paul’s amendment to increase defense spending would have been offset by reductions to other areas including foreign assistance, the Department of Education, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“National defense is the number one priority of the federal government. My amendment increases defense spending but pays for it with spending cuts. It is irresponsible and dangerous to continue to put America further into debt,” Paul said on the Senate floor. “We need a strong national defense but we should be honest with the Americana people and pay for it.”

Paul’s cuts to foreign assistance infuriated one potential presidential contender: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who held a hearing on the topic just hours before the vote on Paul’s amendment.

“There will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate where a member of the Senate has chosen to reduce this account by 50 percent and give that money to the military,” Graham said. “Here's what I would say on behalf of the military: they don't want this money. They want this account to survive and thrive.”

“To those who constantly demagogue foreign aid as being the root of our financial problems -- Please stop because you don't know what the hell you're talking about,” Graham said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced his own amendment increasing defense spending to $697 billion next year -- a $78 billion increase. However, the Rubio-Cotton amendment does not provide for a way to pay for the increase.

The Rubio-Cotton amendment failed in the Senate with a vote of 32 to 68.

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Rep. Aaron Schock Bids Congress Farewell

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Aaron Schock returned to the Capitol on Thursday, casting a final vote in the House before delivering a farewell address to close a nearly two-month drama for the Illinois Republican.

On the final day of legislative business before his March 31 resignation becomes official, Schock cast a vote in favor of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the so-called “Doc-Fix.”

“I leave here with sadness and humility,” Schock said. “For those whom I've let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you.”

“I know that God has a plan for my life,” he added. “I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves. And I know that this is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.”

Schock made headlines this winter when his congressional office was redecorated to mirror the PBS television show, Downton Abbey. Like Schock’s congressional career, the popular British drama is ending after about six years.

After his speech, Schock chatted with colleagues at the back of the House chamber and in the Republican cloak room before rushing out of the Capitol.

The four-term congressman ignored questions about a nascent criminal investigation into his financial dealings.

Asked what’s next, Schock replied, “Easter.”

Pressed about the criminal probe, Schock politely answered “Have a nice day” before ducking into an awaiting vehicle.

During his farewell address, Schock pointed out that Abraham Lincoln held the same congressional seat in central Illinois for a single term before he became president.

“Few faced as many defeats in his personal, business and public life as [Lincoln] did,” Schock said. “His continual perseverance in the face of these trials - never giving up - is something all Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life. I believe that through life's struggles, we learn from our mistakes, and we learn more about ourselves.”

He also recalled taking the oath of office in 2009, when he was sworn in as the youngest member of the 111th Congress.

“I remember feeling so excited about the opportunity that lied ahead,” Schock said. “I remember vividly this chamber and all it meant to me and the country -- the men and women debating the big issues of the day, not always agreeing, but always fighting without apology for what they believed in.”

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Bipartisan Vote Sends Permanent 'Doc Fix' Bill to Senate

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- By an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives pulled together on Thursday to send the Senate what supporters are calling the most-significant entitlement reform of the past 20 years.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came together to strike a deal, repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate and replacing it with a long-term solution to Medicare repayment, as well as extending funding for community health centers for two years.

By a vote of 392-37, the bill, formally known as Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, now heads to the Senate where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid comes under pressure to back the bipartisan deal.

Just four Democrats opposed the House vote, while 180 supported it. Thirty-three Republicans also voted against the measure.

To date, Reid has been somewhat reluctant to endorse the deal, pouring cold water on the idea of bringing the measure up for a vote quickly in the Senate.

“The SGR is still a work in progress, and I personally am going to wait until we see it having pass the House before we start speculating on what we need to do with it, if anything,” Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.

Since 2003, Congress has spent nearly $170 billion in short-term patches to avoid cuts imposed by the SGR.

“This is a bill that will provide better health care for seniors and real savings for taxpayers,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference shortly before the vote. “This'll be the first real entitlement reform that we've seen in nearly two decades, and that's a big win for the American people. It was a true bipartisan agreement.”

Boehner urged the Senate to pass the bill prior to the March 31 deadline.

“I was pleased to hear the president would sign the bill, and I would urge the Senate to pass it expeditiously,” Boehner said.

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DEA ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Drug Cartels, IG Report Says — Senior Drug Enforcement Administration agents working overseas allegedly participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes funded by drug cartels, according to a newly-released Department of Justice Inspector General report on the handling of sexual misconduct allegations by law enforcement agencies.

The conduct occurred over a period of years, according to the report. In addition to soliciting prostitutes, the foreign officers interviewed for the report allege three DEA supervisory special agents were “provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members."

Some DEA agents who participated in the parties denied knowing about cartel involvement, but the IG report says, “information in the case files suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds.”

The sex parties occurred in government leased living quarters where “agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices and other government-issued equipment were present,” posing a security risk and “potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.”

In another instance, two DEA special agents allegedly solicited prostitutes for a farewell party for a senior DEA official.

That official, an acting assistant regional director, allegedly had “sexual relations with prostitutes” and there were “allegations operational funds were used to pay for the party and the prostitutes,” according to the report.

The report also alleges that one prostitute was assaulted by someone associated with DEA supervisors following a payment dispute. The report was critical of DEA’s treatment of allegations of sexual misconduct, often dealing with incidents as local management issues and not reporting information up the chain of command.

The report also looked at allegations of misconduct against the U.S. Marshals Service, ATF and the FBI.

One case of alleged sexual harassment involved an FBI “Supervisory Management and Program Analyst’s repeated unprofessional behavior, including cornering his subordinates in their cubicles and displaying the size of his genitals by tightening his pants,” the report details. Subordinates of that employee endured his conduct for three years before it was reported to headquarters. The analyst was eventually suspended, demoted and reassigned to another office.

The Department of Justice said in a statement that it is working “with the law enforcement components to ensure a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and misconduct is enforced and that incidents are properly reported."

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Lawmakers Told Top DHS Official Played Politics, Appeared to Violate Ethics

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Homeland Security Inspector General told Congress Thursday that the federal agency's second in command violated his own ethics policy at least three times by giving special access -- or the appearance of favorable treatment -- to powerful political insiders seeking help with immigration matters.

Asked directly by lawmakers if Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had violated the ethics policy he had put in place, Inspector General John Roth said yes.

"We believe that policy was not followed," Roth said.

The questions before the House Committee on Homeland Security came two days after the agency's internal watchdog issued a lengthy report about Mayorkas' management at the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of an obscure immigration program that grants visas to foreigners who agree to invest $500,000 in a qualified, U.S. job-creating venture.

The IG report came on the heels of an ABC News investigation that revealed that a number of visa recipients were approved despite objections from career officials, who found instances where foreign applicants accused of fraud, money laundering, even involvement in child pornography, had received permission to move to the U.S. The ABC News investigation also found evidence that spies and even possible terrorists had attempted to exploit the visa program to enter the country.

The IG report focused on alleged political favoritism by Mayorkas and specifically highlighted three cases where Mayorkas intervened after being contacted by powerful Democrats, including a past and current governor and the brother of Hillary Clinton.

"We believe there was an appearance of favoritism," Roth told the committee.

House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he was "extremely troubled" by the findings.

"The alleged exertion of undue influence ... that resulted in benefits for politically connected and powerful individuals is extremely concerning,” he said.

Mayorkas had denied favoring anyone based on political considerations, saying he was seeking to reform a program rife with problems.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said he believed the Inspector General had misunderstood the actions Mayorkas took in cases where powerful Democrats had reached out to him.

Thompson called him "an activist manager" who was shaking up a department with low morale.

"I'm a little concerned you went along way to say he didn't do anything wrong," Thompson said.

Roth said, "He violated an ethical cannon, Congressman."

The three cases studied were developments that sought funding from foreign investors who would receive visas in exchange.

One was an electric car venture headed by Terry McAuliffe, now the Virginia governor, and supported by a business run by Anthony Rodham, Clinton's brother. Both McAuliffe and Rodham made contact with Mayorkas while the car venture was being reviewed, the investigation found. The probe found Mayorkas intervened and reversed staff decisions to assist the project.

Similar findings related to a Las Vegas hotel backed by Sen. Harry Reid and film projects pushed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

“The juxtaposition of Mr. Mayorkas’ communication with external stakeholders on specific matters outside the normal procedures, coupled with favorable action that deviated from the regulatory scheme designed to ensure fairness and evenhandedness in adjudicating benefits, created an appearance of favoritism and special access,” the IG report said.

Earlier this week Mayorkas wrote a robust response to the IG report, saying his efforts were focused on improving a troubled program, and were always vetted by agency attorneys.

On Tuesday, he issued a statement saying, "While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process."

"The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS," he said. "I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes."

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Pope Francis to Visit White House in September

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Pope Francis will visit the White House on Sept. 23, White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced on Thursday.

A day later, as previously reported, Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress, becoming the first pope in history to do so.

During his visit to the White House, President Obama and the pope will pick up the conversation they started last March when the president visited the Vatican.

Their discussion will cover "a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities," Earnest said in a statement.

Francis' trip to Washington, D.C. in September will mark his first visit to the U.S. as pope.

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Would Biden Run Against Lindsey Graham in 2016? VP Says 'Hell Yeah!'

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- When Vice President Joe Biden returns to his old stomping grounds in the Senate, you can always count on a moment of Biden being Biden.

Biden, who was on the Hill Wednesday for an address by Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, bro-ed out with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, an old friend and potential 2016 rival.

“President Graham. Do y’all know President Graham?” Biden hollered over at the reporters speaking to Graham.

“He just guaranteed me I’ll be secretary of state,” Biden joked.

“You can be U.N. ambassador,” Graham said. “You’ve got the skills, you really do.”

When asked by ABC News whether he will run for president against Graham, Biden said, "Hell yeah!"

“He’ll kick my butt,” Graham said.

“We’re going to travel together, debate all over the country,” Biden said before walking off.

"We'll wear out every reporter," Graham said with a laugh.

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