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Ex Gov. McDonnell Takes Stand, Reveals Bleak Marriage in Corruption Trial


Mark Wilson/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Facing corruption charges, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell characterized his marriage in stunningly bleak terms, taking the witness stand to discuss a marriage that, as he describes it, was filled with yelling, unpleasantness, and distance.

McDonnell is on trial in Virginia over gifts his family received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who has testified that he believes he was granted access and a platform at the governor's mansion to promote a nutritional supplement, in exchange for gifts that included a $20,000 shopping spree for Maureen McDonnell, the governor's wife, and $15,000 for the wedding catering of the McDonnell’s daughter, Cailin. The total amount of lavish gifts, vacations, and cash loans is at least $165,000.

A deterioriated marriage and evidence of emotional distance is a key to McDonnell's defense, which has contended that Bob and Maureen McDonnell were too far separated by marital differences to have collaborated on a quid pro quo for Williams in exchange for his gifts.

Leaving the jury -- and the public -- with only one side of the story, Maureen McDonnell has not testified in her husband's trial and likely will not.

In his testimony, McDonnell spoke of a marriage that had been strained by years of his public-service career, underlined by fits of anger and yelling by his wife, whom advisers suggested should seek emotional help but who was unwilling to pursue that option. Things got so bad, McDonnell said, that he began working late purposefully to avoid his wife.

"It's going to be very, very difficult," McDonnell said at the beginning of the day's testimony, according to The Washington Post. "It's going to be hard for me to talk about."

It was revealed that McDonnell wrote an emotional letter to his wife in September 2011, which went unreturned, where he admitted that, "I am lonely sometimes."

It read, in part:
"I love you. Yesterday was one on (sic) the lowest points in my life. We have had a very hard year emotionally, despite a wonderful anniversary celebration. You are my soulmate. I love being married to you and having a family. We have shared much good life together (sic). I have made plenty of mistakes in my life which I wish I could fix. I am sorry for all the times I have not been there for you and have done things to hurt you. I know I am a sinner and keep trying to do better. But I am completely at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more frequent. You told me again yesterday that you would wreck my things and how bad I am. It hurt me to my core. I have asked and prayed to God so many times to take this anger away from you and heal whatever hurt is causing it..."

The letter has been entered into evidence but is not yet publicly available. The above text was reported by The Washington Post.

Asked by his attorney about the current state of his marriage, McDonnell reportedly said it was "on hold." He does not believe his wife had a physical affair with Williams, McDonnell reportedly said, and he revealed he moved out of his family's home in suburban Richmond before the trial and is living with his parish priest in the St. Patrick's Church rectory.


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Hagel: Secret Mission to Get Hostages in Syria 'Flawless' -- Except for the Rescue


Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A large contingent of American special operations forces was able to sneak into an ISIS camp near the terror group's stronghold in Syria in search of American hostages, but quickly withdrew when it became clear that while 100 or so armed terrorists were there, the hostages weren't, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the then-secret mission.

The official provided ABC News with new, dramatic details of the raid earlier this summer to grab Americans including journalist James Foley, a mission that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on Thursday was "flawless" except that no one was rescued.

"Knowing their lives were clearly in danger, it's the responsibility of our leaders, our government to take action when we believe there is a good possibility or chance of making the operation successful. This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation, but the hostages were not there," Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters Thursday. "We regret that mission did not succeed but I am very proud, very proud of the U.S. forces that participated in it."

The U.S. official familiar with the operation agreed that the mission, at least from a military perspective, was "magic."

When the "unusually large" U.S. special mission unit -- described by senior officials as "several dozen" warfighters -- arrived at the location near Raqqah, Syria where they believed the hostages were being held, they had little time "on station" because of the distance they had to fly from their launch base.

A senior administration official claimed Wednesday that, "while on site it became apparent the hostages were not there." But around 100 ISIS fighters were there, said the U.S. official familiar with the incident, and the American forces engaged in a fierce firefight. An Air Force AC-130 gunship came in overhead and put down fire on other ISIS fighters, keeping the bulk of the extremist force from the fight.

The Americans killed a number of ISIS fighters -- at least 15, according to the U.S. official -- before scrambling back to their helicopters and flying away.

The official said that some in the military and intelligence circles believe they missed the hostages by less than a week.

"It was magic," the official told ABC News Thursday. "Everything went perfectly and [there were] no major injuries… But they saw it was a dry hole and left."

Hagel declined to blame the incident on an intelligence failure.

"Was it a failure of intelligence? No. Intelligence doesn't come wrapped in a package with a bow. It's a mosaic of many pictures, of many factors, and the enemy always has a say," Hagel said. "The underlying objective was to do everything we could to rescue these hostages, knowing that their lives were in danger, clearly in danger."

Phil Balboni, CEO of GlobalPost, the news outlet for which James Foley was working when he was kidnapped in Syria in 2012, told ABC News Foley was "moved fairly often" while in captivity.

At Thursday's press conference Hagel went on to discuss ISIS, the brutal Sunni extremist group that has swept across Iraq in recent months and murdered James Foley, calling the group an "imminent threat" and "beyond anything we've seen."

"ISIL [ISIS] is as sophisticated and well-fund as any group we've seen. They're beyond any terrorist group," Hagel said, adding that ISIS presents a 9/11-level threat. "We must prepare for everything. The way to do that is you take a cold, steely, hard look at it and you get ready."


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Calif. Attorney General Appeals Death Penalty Ruling


iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- California's top prosecutor is fighting back, arguing to keep the state's death penalty in play after it was found to unconstitutional.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she will appeal a federal court ruling that struck down the death penalty.  A federal judge ruled California's death penalty is arbitrary and unfair.

Since the current system was adopted 35 years ago, 900 people have been sentenced to death, but only 13 have been executed.  

Harris calls the court's ruling flawed and says it requires appellate review.  

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New Bill Pushes for Breastfeeding Rooms in California Airports


iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A new bill in California would force airports to have lactation rooms for nursing moms.

At most airports in California, moms who don't want to nurse in public often have to opt for a dirty bathroom stall.

Under a bill now approved by the California Senate, airports would be forced to offer rooms with a chair and an electrical outlet for a breast pump. New terminals would also have to have sinks in the rooms.

Now, San Francisco has the only airport in California with breastfeeding rooms.

The bill will now head back to the California Assembly. If it passes, it would go into effect in 2016.

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Sen. McCaskill to Hold Hearing on Militarization of Police


Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will hold a hearing in September on the militarization of local police, a spokesperson for McCaskill confirms.

The date has not been set yet, but the Senate is in session next month from Sept. 8-Sept. 23.

McCaskill chairs the financial and contracting oversight subcommittee for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.

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US Diplomats Can't Participate in Ice Bucket Challenge


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the exception of the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand who didn't realize the rules, you won't see U.S. diplomats taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at Thursday's briefing that taking part in the challenge violates the restrictions placed on high level U.S. government employees.

"Federal government ethics rules prevent us from using our public offices such as, high public officers such as ambassadors for private gain no matter how worthy the cause is and this is of course a worthy cause," Harf said.

"For that reason high ranking state department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge," she noted.

Hard added that the State Department wishes the ALS Foundation success.

"Obviously it's a very important cause," she said.

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DEA to Unveil New Restrictions on Popular Painkillers


Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will officially publish rules on Friday to tighten restrictions on the most common form of painkillers.

The stricter rules are for drugs containing hydrocodone, which is in many of the most widely-used painkillers, including Vicodin and Lortab.

Now with the goal of cutting down on abuse, the drugs are being put into a tougher, more restrictive category. Patients will be limited to one 90-day supply and then will have to see a medical professional to get a refill.

Additionally, in many states, prescribing authority will be limited to doctors only and not nurses or physicians assistants any longer.

The new rules will take effect in about about a month and a half.

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Perry on Indictment: 'I Am Very Confident in My Case'


Stewart F. House/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just two days after smiling for a mugshot, Texas Gov. Rick Perry took his message to conservatives in Washington, D.C., saying he was certain he would be cleared of the felony charges filed against him.

“I am very confident in my case and I can assure you I will fight this attack on our system of government,” Perry said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, on Thursday. “I aim to defend our constitution and stand up for the rule of law in the state of Texas.”

Perry’s speech at the Heritage Foundation was scheduled long before a Texas grand jury issued an indictment against the Texas governor last week. Speaking before a crowd of conservatives, Perry talked about the need to secure the border and fight terror groups like ISIS.

The Texas governor said the recent events in Syria and Iraq should put the country on alert for a potential terrorist attack and argued that the U.S. must respond in a decisive manner to root out ISIS.

“They should have us thinking about a possibility of another terrorist attack in this country,” Perry said.

“We have come to one of those moments where American action will be decisive and inaction will be consequential,” he said.

Perry called for more forceful action in Iraq to fight ISIS, including additional airstrikes, an increase in special forces and offering intelligence assistance. Asked whether the U.S should send combat troops into Iraq, Perry said it would be irresponsible to reveal any strategy to the enemy.

“I think all your options have to be open,” he said.

The Texas governor, who has been one of President Obama’s toughest critics on the border crisis, warned that the porous border may have already allowed members of ISIS and other terror groups to infiltrate the United States.

“I think it’s a very real possibility they may have already used that,” Perry said, referring to the border. “We have a serious issue facing this country and the security of our citizens. We need to be very vigilant. We have to be using every authority that we have.”

Perry rallied conservatives to work to elect Republicans this cycle, saying the midterm election will be the last opportunity to “pass judgment on the Obama presidency.”

“And something tells me he’s not going to like it,” he added.

The Texas governor’s trip to D.C. comes less than a week after he was indicted on two felony counts of abuse of power for threatening to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a DWI conviction in 2013. The governor’s office said Perry’s campaign fund will pay for further legal bills relating to the indictment.

“This is an assault on the Constitution,” Lucy Nashed, a spokesperson for Perry, said. “We don't want it to be an assault on the taxpayers as well.”

Perry pled not guilty to the charges on Wednesday and waived his arraignment, which will take place on Friday. Instead, Perry will head to New Hampshire for the weekend where he is set to do a half dozen events, including several with the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Next week, Perry will head to South Carolina for the Texas A&M game against the University of South Carolina, where he will headline a tailgate to benefit the Republican Party of South Carolina.

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EMILY’s List Drops Big Money in Georgia Senate Race


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(ATLANTA) -- There’s a new big spender in Georgia.

EMILY’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-abortion-rights Democratic female candidates, has bought $1 million of air time in Atlanta’s media market to run a TV ad attacking the business record of Republican Senate candidate and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, the group told ABC.

The $1 million ad buy will be the largest single outside expenditure in the race to date, topping a $920,000 U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad buy in April.

Michelle Nunn, the Democrats’ nominee to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is one of the party’s brighter stars in this election cycle, but she faces an uphill climb to defeat Perdue in a state that hasn’t voted statewide for a Democrat since 2000. The last major survey of the race, a CBS/New York Times/YouGov poll conducted from July 5 to 25, showed Perdue leading Nunn by 6 percentage points.

The ad, which has not yet been made public, will focus on a gender pay discrimination suit brought by female store managers claiming Dollar General had underpaid them during Perdue’s tenure. Dollar General settled the suit in 2011 after Perdue had left as CEO, a role he held from 2003 to 2007.

A court allowed a class-action suit in 2007 for women who had worked as Dollar General store managers from 2004 to 2007, and 2,100 opted into it, according to an SEC report. Dollar General agreed to pay $19 million as part of a settlement in 2011, Law360 reported.

More than 140 Georgia women joined the suit, EMILY’s List points out.

“David Perdue owes Georgians answers about his shady business dealings that put his own profits ahead working women,” EMILY’s List spokeswoman Marcy Stech said. “And he certainly needs to be straightforward with the women of Georgia who deserve to know if he still believes it’s OK to pay women less than men for the same job.”

Perdue has faced attacks on his business record before. In his primary runoff, Kingston aired ads that highlighted lost jobs at a company Perdue led and a government bailout for another on whose board Perdue sat. Nunn’s campaign went up with a negative ad this week featuring workers who lost their jobs at textile firm Pillowtex under the leadership of Perdue, who ran the company after it emerged from bankruptcy.

With the new ad from EMILY’s List, Nunn will have her most significant outside help so far and, compared to her GOP rival, she may need it.

While Thursday’s individual buy is the biggest to date, EMILY’s List is by no means the race’s aggregate money leader when it comes to outside groups.

Republican groups have swarmed Georgia, spending millions there already, much of it on the competitive (and overwhelmingly negative) seven-way GOP primary and Perdue’s runoff against Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. The Chamber, for instance, spent $2.9 million backing Kingston.

A GOP super PAC called the Ending Spending Action Fund has spent $3.1 million, some of it on the GOP primary, and some of it attacking Nunn. The American Chemistry Council has spent $1.4 million backing Perdue, and a pro-Perdue super PAC called Citizens for a Working America has spent over $2 million.

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More US Troops May Be Headed to Iraq


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. troop levels in Iraq could top 1,000 if the Pentagon follows through on a plan to add more soldiers in an effort to better secure State Department facilities in Baghdad from possible attack by Islamic State militants.

A formal request to add 300 troops must come from the White House before the Pentagon can deploy more personnel to Iraq.

It's likely the Obama administration will act soon, given the growing threat to Americans by ISIS, particularly after the execution of U.S. journalist James Foley.

There are currently 700 American forces in Iraq, many of whom are protecting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other offices where State Department officials reside.

Some troops are also stationed in the Kurdish city of Erbil, a possible target of ISIS, although U.S. airstrikes have driven back the militants.


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Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell Takes Stand at Corruption Trial


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell took the stand on Wednesday to testify at his public corruption trial.

McDonnell and his wife stand accused of accepting over $165,000 in cash, goods and trips as part of a 14-count indictment. He spoke on the stand about the difficulty of running a state-wide campaign and how taxing it can be on a marriage. The morning after his victory in the gubernatorial election, his wife began to yell at him, because of his focus on making and receiving phone calls.

In the end, McDonnell said that he did take money and gifts, but denied giving any favorable treatment in exchange for those gifts.

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US Military Launched Secret Rescue Operation for James Foley, Other Americans


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. special operations forces early this summer launched a secret, major rescue operation in Syria to save James Foley and a number of Americans held by the extremist group ISIS, but the mission failed because the hostages weren’t there, senior administration officials told ABC News Wednesday.

President Obama authorized the “substantial and complex” rescue operation after the officials said a “broad collection of intelligence” led the U.S. to believe the hostages were being held in a specific location in the embattled Middle Eastern nation.

When “several dozen” U.S. special operation members landed in Syria, however, they were met with gunfire and “while on site, it became apparent the hostages were not there,” one of the officials said.

The special operators engaged in a firefight in which ISIS suffered “a good number” of casualties, the official said, while the American forces suffered only a single minor injury. The American forces were able to get back on helicopters and escape.

“Intelligence is not a perfect science,” the senior official said. As to how the intelligence failed and why the hostages were not there, the official said, “The truth is, we don’t know. And that’s the truth. When we got there, they weren’t there. We don’t know why that is.”

Much about the daring mission itself remains a secret -- officials said they did not want to reveal too much about the rescue attempt for fear of spoiling future efforts.

“It was conducted, but was not ultimately successful,” a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The operation was what senior government officials described as a major undertaking -- involving special operations forces from multiple branches of the military, helicopters, fixed-wing airplanes, and surveillance aircraft.

A statement from Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco on Wednesday noted that the details of the operation will not be made public, but that President Obama, "could not be prouder of the U.S. forces" who carried it out.

National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin hayden said that the operation was never intended to be disclosed, and that, "an overriding concern for the safety of the hostages and for operational security" required, "as much secrecy as possible."

A video showing the brutal murder of James Foley apparently at the hands of an ISIS fighter appeared online Tuesday.

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‘Savages’ Who Executed Foley Will Be Nabbed, FBI Chief Vows


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- FBI director James Comey said Wednesday that the “full force” of the U.S. government will come to bear on the “savages” responsible for the kidnapping and gruesome murder of journalist James Foley.

“I’m very, very, sorry to say that these savages have turned it into a homicide investigation,” Comey said, speaking to reporters in Denver.

“So we’ll stay on it. We’ll work with our law enforcement, our intelligence and our military partners to try to bring justice to the Foley family and bring the full force of the United States to bear on these savages,” he said.

Foley was on assignment in Syria for the GlobalPost news outlet when he was kidnapped in November 2012.

Comey said he is concerned that the masked executioner seen in a video clip carrying out Foley’s murder speaks with a British accent, one of “thousands” of westerners Comey says have joined terror groups like ISIS.

“These people may have western passports. That’s a concern to Europe,” Comey said, adding, “it’s just a hop across The Pond to the United States.”

Comey said he has met with Foley’s family and says he is confident his killers will eventually face justice.

“We are very, very patient and dogged people,” said Comey. “We will never forget.”

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Obama to Lead UN Security Council Summit Next Month


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will lead a United Nations Security Council Summit regarding foreign terrorism next month.  

The topic of the meeting is expected to be, "the acute threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters." Following the killing of American journalist James Foley by a self-proclaimed member of ISIS, video of which was posted online Tuesday, that topic is particularly timely.

The meeting, scheduled for the week of Sept. 22, will be a Head of Government-level meeting, the first since 2009. Obama hosted that meeting as well, focusing largely on the topic of non-proliferation.

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Attorney General Eric Holder in Ferguson Recalls Being 'Angry' After Police Encounters


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Attorney General Eric Holder went to the strife torn town of Ferguson on Wednesday where he met with the family of slain teenager Michael Brown and talked about his own run-ins with police that left him "angry and upset."

The nation’s top law enforcement official, who is the first African-American named to the post, said he hoped his presence and interest in the case would have a, “calming influence on the area.”

Ferguson has been roiled by angry protests, rock and bottle throwing and some looting since Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown was African-American and Wilson is white.

Holder told people in Ferguson that he understood their mistrust of police.

“I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said. “I've confronted this myself.”

The AG recalled being stopped by police on the way to a movie in Georgetown, a well-to-do suburb of Washington, DC.

“Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, 'Where you going? Hold it,’” Holder told residents. “Now my cousin started mouthing off. I'm like, 'This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.'”

“At the time that [the police officer] stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn't a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice,” he said. Holder said the encounter left him “angry and upset.”

The attorney general also described having his car searched during routine traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike.

“I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was,” he said.

Holder, who also met with local FBI agents and justice department personnel, promised a “thorough” federal investigation.

“My hope is that will give people some degree of confidence,” he said.

The AG congratulated Missouri Highway Police Capt. Ron Johnson, who was called in to take charge of policing in Ferguson.

“My man, you are the man,” Holder told Johnson. “You’re making a real difference.”

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