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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since May 2017, the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been a constant presence in U.S. politics – a complex narrative that has included a rotating cast of characters and myriad plotlines.

Here is a roundup of the various figures who have been connected to the investigation at various points since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

Jeff Sessions

The two conversations that former attorney general Jeff Sessions had with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak – both of which happened during the campaign when Sessions was a very public supporter of Trump – were confirmed by the Department of Justice the day before he recused himself from any existing or future probes related to the presidential campaign. Without that recusal, Sessions would have been the one to oversee any such probes given his role as attorney general.

In a statement on March 2, 2017, Sessions said that over several weeks he met with "relevant senior career department officials" to discuss whether he should recuse himself and, "having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States."

The recusal made Sessions one of Trump’s favorite targets, with the president regularly blasting Sessions for failing to warn him that he might have to recuse himself.

In November, Sessions resigned at the request of President Trump and Sessions' chief of staff, Matthew G. Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, took on the acting attorney general role. In February, William Barr, Trump's nominee and the attorney general under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993 was confirmed and sworn-in as attorney general. Barr now heads the Justice Department during a pivotal time, overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election.

Rod Rosenstein

After then-Attorney General Sessions recused himself from campaign related investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the Russia investigation. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel in May of 2017.

Since that time, Rosenstein has overseen Mueller’s probe, at times publicly defending the investigation from criticisms lodged by Republicans and the president. Rosenstein has appeared before Congress several times since taking the reins of the probe. Once Attorney General William Barr was sworn-in in February, Rosenstein was no longer in charge of overseeing Mueller's investigation.

ABC News reported that Rosenstein plans to leave the Department of Justice in mid-March.

James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey was initially associated with the 2016 election after gaining notoriety for his public updates into the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

His role in the Clinton email investigation was cited in the letter that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued calling for his dismissal in May 2017.

"I remember just thinking, ‘This is a lie.’ The stuff about, you know, being fired because of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, that makes no sense at all," Comey told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in April 2018. "And then, of course, I quickly saw on the news that you know, the White House saying that the FBI was in tatters and the workforce -- it was relieved that I was fired. More and more lies. And so I was worried about the organization, worried about the people."

Right after he was dismissed, the White House publicly denied that Trump was considering the handling of the FBI investigation into his campaign’s possible ties with Russia when he fired Comey.

But then, a couple of days later, Trump himself appeared to contradict that in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News.

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'" Trump told Holt.

Matthew Whitaker

Matthew Whitaker was named as the acting-attorney general on Nov. 8, 2018.

Though Rosenstein had been overseeing the Russia probe during Sessions' tenure because of his recusal, that then shifted to Whitaker when he became the acting attorney general. Whitaker had previously criticized the probe – a point of contention for Democrats when he appeared at a recent hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Whitaker defended his performance saying that he had "not interfered in any way with the special counsel's investigation," but he refused to say whether he had discussed the Michael Cohen case with President Trump.

In March, shortly after Bill Barr was confirmed as attorney general, ABC News reported that Whitaker left the Justice Department.

Bill Barr

Trump named Bill Barr as his new pick for attorney general in December of 2018, exactly one month after the departure of Jeff Sessions. He previously served as the nation’s top law enforcement official during former President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

Barr attempted to make it clear to wary Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing that he will not unnecessarily or inappropriately interfere with the Russia investigation, but he did not commit to a full public release of Mueller's report as Democrats wanted.

At one point during his opening remarks in January, Barr noted how he has known Mueller “for 30 years” and how they “worked closely together” during his earlier time at the Department of Justice.

“When he was named special counsel, I said his selection was ‘good news’ and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. And I still have that confidence today,” Barr said of Mueller during the hearing.

At an earlier hearing, Barr said that he thinks “it is in the best interest of everyone…. that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work.” Barr was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in in February.

Paul Manafort

In the years prior to joining the Trump orbit, Manafort’s political consulting work focused largely abroad, working for Ukraine's since-toppled President Viktor Yanukovych, and his political party, the Party of Regions, starting in 2006 and continuing until at least 2010.

In the United States, Manafort, 69, was known in Republican Party politics for decades – having worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016 as the campaign’s convention manager and then getting promoted to campaign chairman two months later.

Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes as part of the first major prosecution won by the team led by special counsel Robert Mueller's team.

On the eve of a second trial in Washington, DC, in September, Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

But that plea deal was short-lived. The special counsel’s office accused Manafort of lying to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate, which they say amounted to a breach of his agreement. Defense counsel claimed Manafort did not intentionally lie, but the federal judge overseeing his case sided with prosecutors.

He has been behind bars since June after the judge in his D.C. case revoked his bail amid allegations of witness tampering. Sentencing dates in both courts have been set and delayed after the Office of Special Counsel moved to set aside the plea deal based on the allegations that Manafort had lied.

The special counsel's office has since filed a sentencing memo for Manafort in Virginia, in which prosecutors agreed with the findings of an independent pre-sentence report, which calculated that Manafort’s crimes call for a prison sentence of up to 25 years.

Michael Flynn

The first and only Trump White House aide to plead guilty to a crime in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian influence operations targeting the 2016 presidential election was a decorated retired military intelligence officer, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who the president had insisted serve as his White House national security adviser.

In prosecuting Flynn for lying to FBI agents, a felony, about his discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about U.S. sanctions and other subjects, prior to Trump being sworn in as the 45th U.S. president, Mueller not only secured a key witness but he also sent a message to other witnesses in the probe to cooperate fully – though several more Trump campaign aides later admitted to lying to the FBI anyway.

Rick Gates

Gates was a Trump campaign aide who was brought into the then-future-president’s orbit by his longtime boss Manafort. Gates served as the government’s star witness in their trial against Manafort, and Gates admitted that they shielded millions of dollars in offshore accounts to keep it away from tax collectors.

Gates was charged in two separate federal courts in connection to financial crimes, unregistered foreign lobbying and on allegations that he made false statements to federal prosecutors.

Gates pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C., in February 2018 on counts of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal prosecutors. As part of his plea agreement, he avoided prosecution on a slew of financial charges in the Eastern District of Virginia that included assisting in the preparation of false income taxes, bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy and false income taxes.

His charges are intimately tied to those of Manafort. In the Eastern District of Virginia, the two were indicted jointly.

Konstantin Kilimnik

Kilimnik is a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort’s who was responsible for overseeing the Kiev, Ukraine office of Manafort’s lobbying firm.

In August of 2016, shortly after the Republican National Convention, Manafort, his business associate Rick Gates, and Kilimnik met at the Grand Havana Room, a cigar club in New York. In a closed-door hearing in Manafort's case in early February, special counsel prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge that the meeting goes "very much to the heart of what the special counsel's office is investigating."

Earlier Manafort indictments refer to a "Person A" who was identified by sources as Kilimnik. However, he was formally identified in a third superseding indictment against him and Manafort, which accused Kilimnik of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

The charges he faces are linked largely to an attempt to relay messages from Manafort in his alleged attempt to tamper with potential witnesses in the case against him.

Kilmnik has been identified as having ties to Russian intelligence. Though he's been indicted, he has not entered a plea. He remains out of reach of U.S. law enforcement.

Michael Cohen

One of the longest-serving members of the Trump inner circle who has come under scrutiny is Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney and longtime fixer.

Cohen's activity during the campaign came into the national spotlight in reference to payments made to two women who alleged that they had affairs with Trump, affairs Trump has denied.

In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including two related to illegal campaign contributions "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office." The charges were brought by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

He was sentenced to three years in prison for charges including campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress.

According to court documents, Cohen admitted that he made the misstatements about the “Moscow Project” – the Trump Organization’s efforts to “pursue a branded property in Moscow” in an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which were conducting inquiries into alleged collusion and Russian interference.

Ultimately, the proposed plan to build a Trump tower in Moscow was scrapped.

Cohen has cooperated with Mueller and participated in multiple interview sessions with investigators from the office of special counsel Mueller, totaling more than 40 hours, sources told ABC News.

Roger Stone

Given his decades-long role in Republican politics, Stone was one of the better-known members of the extended Trump network of campaign advisers.

His colorful history – from the tattoo of former President Richard Nixon that he has on his back, to being a self-described “dirty trickster in Republican politics for decades” made him one of the most visible politicos in Trump’s orbit.

Stone was arrested in January after Mueller filed a seven-count indictment against him as part of the ongoing probe into Russia interference during the 2016 presidential election.

The special counsel leveled against Stone, 66, five counts of lying to Congress, one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, and one count of witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty and the federal judge overseeing his case has since issued a gag order on all parties involved in the case – including the gregarious Stone.

Carter Page

Page was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign and came under FBI scrutiny during the campaign itself because according to the FISA application, the FBI believed he had been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government, according to an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Page is alleged to have had “established relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers.”

Page told Stephanopoulos in February 2018 that there was "no basis" for the FBI to eavesdrop on him and called their investigation “just complete ridiculousness.”

Felix Sater

The Soviet-born American businessman, who, along with Michael Cohen, held discussions with Russians about a possible Trump tower in Russia used to describe himself as a “senior advisor to Donald Trump. Sater is also a convicted felon and one-time stock scammer who promised to "get all of Putin's team to buy in" on a proposed plan to build "Trump Tower Moscow" in the heat of the presidential campaign.

Donald Trump Jr.

One known contact that several members of the Trump team had with Russians during the campaign came through a meeting arranged through pop music promoter Rob Goldstone with the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and a Russian attorney in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

Accounts of the motive for the meeting, the nature of the meeting and the attendees involved changed after The New York Times first reported about the meeting in July 2017. The initial statement about the meeting – which it was later determined to have been drafted by President Trump – said that the meeting was about adoption policy.

But as emails released by Trump Jr. show, he believed he was meeting the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to obtain damaging information about his father's then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. In addition to Trump Jr., two other key Trump campaign officials attended the meeting -– then-chairman Paul Manafort and campaign adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

In a statement on behalf of Donald Trump Jr., Trump Organization attorney Alan Futerfas previously said, “Donald Trump Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and Congressional investigations. We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump, Jr., and on his behalf.”

Jared Kushner

Kushner, who married into the Trump family when he wed Ivanka Trump, was an ever-present member of the Trump campaign and remains a key senior adviser in the administration.

Because of his intimate role in the campaign, as well as his presence at the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer, questions about his contacts with Russians and knowledge of others’ were inevitable.

In July 2017, Kushner became the first Trump family member questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of the investigations into Russian meddling. He released a statement before the closed-door session denying any collusion with Russia.

"Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses," Kushner said.

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iStock_dkfielding(WASHINGTON) -- A flight attendant detained by immigration authorities for more than a month after traveling to Mexico for work was set for release Friday, her lawyer and husband said.

Selene Saavedra Roman was living in the U.S. under the Obama-era program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is a program that allows young immigrants brought to the country as children to stay and work legally.

Roman, who is 28 years old, came to the U.S. from Peru as a 3-year-old.

When President Donald Trump ended DACA enrollment for new applicants in 2017, he also prevented those currently in the program from leaving the country with the promise of legal reentry.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” Roman’s husband said on a call with reporters. “I could only visit her once a week through two inches of glass.”

The online travel site “The Points Guy” first reported on her detainment Thursday.

Thousands reacted to the news calling for her release including members of the flight attendants’ association as well as immigration activists. It even prompted a response from 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“This is an awful story,” Clinton tweeted Friday. She encouraged her followers to sign an online petition calling for the flight attendant’s release.

“What happened to Selene reminds us that our DACA positions are not stable,” said Damaris Gonzalez, a DACA recipient and immigration activist.

Roman’s lawyer said she had informed her employer of her situation and they assured she would not have an issue returning to the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, which administers DACA, would not comment on the specifics of Roman’s immigration status.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  The governor of Kentucky isn’t the only notable politician to question the necessity of vaccines, but experts warn that such comments are not happening in a vacuum, and could be exacerbating the confusion.

Gov. Matt Bevin said during a recent radio interview that he and his wife decided to take their nine children to so-called 'pox parties' to expose them to the chicken pox rather than having them vaccinated for the disease, and questioned why such vaccines are mandatory.

"Why are we forcing kids to get it?" Bevin said of the chicken pox vaccine in the interview with WKCT, a radio station in Bowling Green.

"If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child. ... And in many instances, those vaccinations make great sense. But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise," he said.

"This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t," Bevin said.

In addition to taking issue with so-called ‘pox parties,’ where parents bring their young children who have not been exposed to chicken pox over to the homes of children who have the disease in order to expose them without having to get the vaccine, Peter Hotez, a vaccine advocate and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said that there are widespread implications for the governor’s comments.

“I think when the governor makes statements like he did, it erodes public confidence in vaccines,” Hotez said.

“Remember this is not happening in isolation. If this was just a one-off statement, it wouldn’t be so damaging,” he said.

Hotez points to the “almost 500 anti-vaccine websites on the internet” as part of the problem as well.

The misinformation in the digital sphere has been cited as problematic before. When 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger testified before a Congressional committee on March 5, discussing his experience getting himself vaccinated in spite of his mother’s anti-vaccination beliefs, he said that the misinformation online played a role in her beliefs.

"My mother would turn to anti-vaccine groups online and on social media, looking for her evidence in defense rather than health officials and through clinical sources," Lindenberger said.

Daniel Salmon, the director of the Institute of Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, told ABC News in January how there are numerous legitimate-looking websites online for anti-vaccination organizations that have names very similar to the acronyms for several valid, official medical associations.

"For me, I know the difference, but the average parent is never going to know the difference. They're pseudo-science," Salmon said, adding, "it’s not a coincidence" that the acronyms for the misinformation campaigns are close to those of valid groups.

“The CDC website has all the information you need but the problem is it’s very difficult for a non-health professional to mine the website,” Hotez said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Social media platforms are taking some steps to reduce anti-vaccination groups’ online footprint. The Daily Beast reported Friday that GoFundMe is banning anyone raising money to spread misinformation about vaccines from using their platform.

That step comes after Facebook and Instagram announced certain steps that they are taking in the same vein, but Hotez thinks that their efforts, as well as similar steps by Amazon, do not go far enough.

“What Facebook and Amazon are doing are taking cosmetic measures to give the appearance that they care and that they're doing something... but the steps they've taken thus far are meaningless,” he said, adding that the most virulent anti-vaccine voices on social media are still “pervasive.”

Hotez – who has published a pro-vaccine book -- cites the number of “phony books and phony doctors” who have their books available for sale on Amazon, many of which are labeled as best sellers.

“The defense of vaccines in the United States is left to a handful of academics like myself,” he said.

Ruth Carrico, an associate professor in the infectious disease division at the University of Louisville, told ABC News that she was “trying to give [Bevin] the benefit of the doubt” after hearing his statements about whether or not vaccines should be mandatory.

“I think certainly it’s great to live in a country where we have free speech… however I think the message that was conveyed was not a message of public health and certainly not one for the 21st century,” Carrico said.

“I think the responsibility of a governor is to lead the people, and in leading the people you listen to the people and that means not only the general public but you also listen to the scientific evidence,” she said.

“I think that it would be hard to find someone that would disagree with the statement that in the 21st century it is unacceptable for a child or adult to suffer or die from a disease that is vaccine preventable,” she said.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Facebook employees discussed Cambridge Analytica harvesting unwitting users' data as early as September 2015, months ahead of any public disclosures about the practice, which later became one of the troubled tech giants largest scandals to date.

The disclosure comes as part of a lawsuit filed by Washington D.C.'s Attorney General Karl Racine, who is suing the social media giant for "ongoing unlawful trade practices.”

Facebook has moved to dismiss the case as well as to keep a key document sealed.

The sealed document, described in a court filing by Racine's office on Monday, contains "an email exchange between Facebook employees discussing how Cambridge Analytica (and others) violated Facebook’s policies,” according to the filing. The filing also states that the data of "nearly half of all D.C. residents were swept up in this illicit sale" of data from Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook confirmed the internal conversations about data scraping and Cambridge Analytica that were detailed in the document but called it "speculation" among the employees in an emailed statement to ABC News.

“These were two different incidents: in September 2015 employees heard speculation whether Cambridge Analytica was scraping data, something that is unfortunately common for any internet service,” a company spokesperson wrote. "In December 2015, we first learned through media reports that Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica, and we took action. Those were two different things."

Kogan refers to Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University psychologist who developed the quiz that collected data from Facebook users, the results of which were then passed on to Cambridge Analytica.

The two sides met in court on Friday afternoon and D.C. Superior Court Judge Fern F. Saddler said she would make a ruling by the end of April for whether to dismiss the case. She did not make a ruling on unsealing the Facebook documents.

The messages between the employees in September 2015 are “candid employee assessments that multiple third-party applications accessed and sold consumer data in violation of Facebook’s policies during the 2016 United States Presidential Election," according to Racine's filing. “It also indicates Facebook knew of Cambridge Analytica’s improper data-gathering practices months before news outlets reported on the issue.”

The timing is important because the Cambridge Analytica scandal first exposed the general public to how tech companies share user data and how that data could have influenced world events, specifically the 2016 U.S. elections and Brexit.

In December 2015, a report by the Guardian revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that has since gone under, had harvested the data of tens of millions of people from Facebook by consulting firm Global Science Research (GSR), a data-focused marketing firm hired by the Ted Cruz campaign.

GSR then transferred that data, without users' knowledge, to Cambridge Analytica’s parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL). At the time, Steve Bannon was the vice president of Cambridge Analytica. He then became Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.

In March 2018, The Guardian published an explosive report detailing how Cambridge Analytica accessed the data of 50 million Facebook users. The number of users whose data was breached later climbed to 87 million. Cambridge Analytica had also been hired to work with the Trump campaign.

At the time of The Guardian scoop the campaign told ABC News that it never used Cambridge Anaytica's data, saying it relied on voter information gathered by the Republican National Committee.

“Any claims that voter data were used from another source to support the victory in 2016 are false,” the Trump campaign spokesperson said.

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ABC/Kevin Mazur(LOS ANGELES) -- Halle Berry and Gabrielle Union are two of the women who have answered the call from Oscar-winner Ruth E. Carter to participate in a fun, empowering challenge for Women's History Month.

It all started when Carter challenged a group of industry peers -- including Berry, Union, Angela Basset, Tasha Smith, Luptia Nyong'o and June Ambrose -- to "show the world when women unite anything is possible" by dancing to their favorite empowering song.

Union was one of the first to accept the fun task, adding an empowering message.

"We have all been through something in this life," she wrote, captioning a video of her lip-syncing to Mary J. Blige's "Not Gon Cry." 

"All women share these common truths and we can ALL rise when we stick together and uplift each other. Let's keep this going and laugh and have fun along the way," she continued, before challenging more of her famous friends, including Chrissy Teigen, Jessica Alba, and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Berry also followed suit and sang to Destiny's Child's "I'm a Survivor."

"Thank you @therealruthecarter for challenging me this #WomensHistoryMonth to dance like I damn well please," she wrote alongside her video. "This one goes out to the incredible female survivors I have encountered in my life, the women who have the tenacity to live on their own terms. The ones who take risks, hustle hard and will stop at nothing to provide the best life for themselves and the people they love."

She then tagged a few of her friends, including Ciara, Kelly Rowland and Reese Witherspoon.

The challenge doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon.

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iStock/Mauro_Repossini(MONTREAL) -- A Catholic priest was stabbed while celebrating Mass in Montreal Friday morning as stunned parishioners looked on, according to officials and video footage.

The horrifying incident, which authorities said was not terror-related, unfolded just before 9 a.m. at the historic St. Joseph's Oratory, leaving Father Claude Grou, 77, with lacerations to his upper body., according to Montreal police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was listed in stable condition, according to the Montreal Diocese.

"There was a man, a young man, who stood up and, quickly, went to the front, into the sanctuary, behind the altar where Abbé Claude Grou was standing," witness Philip Barrett told The Montreal Gazette. "No one was sure what exactly was happening and I saw the priest move a bit, farther away from this person."

The alleged assailant, a 26-year-old, can be seen on video footage running up onto the altar, knocking over a candle and then attacking the priest with a sharp object.

He was then detained by church security until police arrived, Chevrefils said.

The television channel broadcasting the service live told ABC News it cut the feed soon after the stabbing took place. In a statement, the channel, Salt Light, apologized for "the interruption of the live mass... due to a serious incident."

The suspect was taken to a detention center where he will be met by investigators this afternoon, police said.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante called the attack a "horrible and inexcusable gesture that has no place in Montreal."

"What a horrible attack at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal this morning," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. "Father Claude Grou, Canadians are thinking of you and wishing you a swift recovery.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- NCAA college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has a message for the NCAA selection committee: find a way to get more mid-major programs in the tournament.

"It's great to see the David's and the Goliath's," Vitale said in an exclusive conversation with ABC News before the NCAA Men’s Tournament began. The ESPN analyst discussed his advice for the NCAA, predictions, and recommended a recipe for family and friends watching the games.

"I think it would be a lot better if we had more of what I call 'David's' in the tournament. There are a lot of mid-major teams... that had great, great years that are not going to get in the tournament." He points to Hofstra as an example.

Teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference (B1G), Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) are often recognized as Power Five schools. A mid-major team would come from a conference such as the Big Sky or MAAC. Hofstra, for example, is in the Colonial Conference.

Vitale argues with 15th- and 16th-seeded teams in recent years knocking off Power Five programs, such as University of Maryland - Baltimore County defeating Virginia in 2018, it is time to open up the field.

He believes mid-major teams who have better records than schools in Power Five conferences many times have a good of a chance of winning games and make the tournament even more exciting.

Citing Loyola University Chicago's 2018 Final Four appearance, Vitale says, “It makes people want to watch... fans who don't even follow the tournament wanted Loyola Chicago last year.”

Vitale warned against expanding the field beyond 68 teams, however, saying the 36 at-large bids are acceptable for the men’s tournament, but having only a handful of spots being granted to mid-majors is "just not fair."

As for who Vitale thinks will win the tournament, he is betting against the mid-major teams in this year’s March Madness:

"If Duke is healthy, and Zion Williamson is ready and all their players... they are the team to beat."

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