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Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone testifies before federal grand jury

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(WASHINGTON) -- Two top Trump White House lawyers testified Friday before a federal grand jury investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin were spotted at D.C. District Court on Friday.

Their appearances come as a result of a secret court battle between former President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice, sources said. Trump's lawyers had argued that testimony by his former top White House aides was protected by privilege but the judge ruled against Trump's team and ordered the two men to appear.

Both Cipollone and Philbin appeared before the grand jury in September but declined to answer some questions until the privilege matter was resolved, sources told ABC News at the time.

A representative for Cipollone and Philbin did not respond to a request for comment.

The move to originally subpoena the two men had signaled a dramatic escalation in the Justice Department's investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. The recent appearances also show that newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith has not slowed any investigative efforts into both the events surrounding Jan. 6 and Trump's handling of government documents, some of which were marked as classified.

ABC News has previously reported that Cipollone and Philbin have also sat for interviews with the FBI related to the documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

This week, three aides to Trump including his former social media director Dan Scavino, former deputy director of presidential advance William Russell and Beau Harrison appeared before a grand jury investigating Trump's handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate, according to sources familiar with their appearances.

A lawyer representing them declined to comment.

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Biden signs bill aimed at averting rail strike, says nation avoided 'catastrophe'

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Friday signed legislation aimed at averting a nationwide rail strike while acknowledging that workers didn't get everything they wanted.

Biden, speaking from the Roosevelt Room, said the bill "ends a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what coming out of that would have been an economic catastrophe in a very bad time in the calendar."

The legislation, passed under pressure of a looming Dec. 9 deadline by the House and Senate this week, forces workers to accept a tentative agreement Biden himself helped broker between unions and rail companies back in September that offered union members a raise and increased health care benefits.

That agreement was later rejected by some worker unions because it didn't include days of paid sick leave.

But on Thursday, the Senate voted 80-to-15 to impose the agreement while subsequently voting down a bill passed by the House that would have provided workers with seven days of paid sick leave.

Six Republicans voted to add sick leave but the measure ultimately fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass. Some of those lawmakers joined five Democratic caucus members, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in voting against the bill forcing workers to accept the agreement.

"Look, I know this bill doesn't have paid sick leave these rail workers, and frankly every worker in America, deserves," Biden, criticized for not doing more for workers despite calling himself a pro-union president, said Friday. "But that fight isn't over. I didn't commit we were going to stop this because we couldn't get in this bill that we were going to stop fighting for it. I supported paid sick leave for a long time. I'm going to continue that fight to we succeed."

Sanders, who led the effort to get sick leave passed, slammed railroad companies for not giving their workers these days despite bringing in massive profits. Unions asked for 15 sick days but the railroads settled on one personal day.

"At a time of record-breaking profits for the rail industry, it is disgraceful that railroad workers do not have a single day of paid sick leave," he said in a statement after Thursday's vote.

Rail companies celebrated the legislation's passage, with Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies saying the Senate "acted with leadership and urgency with today's vote to avert an economically devastating rail work stoppage."

A strike would've cost $2 billion a day in lost economic output, according to the Association of American Railroads. Such a loss would've likely forced Americans to pay more out of pocket for goods, experts previously told ABC News.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also praised the "swift bipartisan action in Congress to prevent a devastating rail shutdown."

"This deal will see well-deserved and long-overdue pay increases for rail workers," Buttigieg said. "Meanwhile, we will continue to push for paid leave for all American workers."

Biden was the one to ask Congress to step in to avoid the strike. He said he was hesitant to override workers but that larger economic concerns required the deal to be adopted.

"This was tough for me but it was the right thing to do at the moment to save jobs," Biden said.

But workers weren't pleased with the congressional action, with some accusing Biden of going against his pro-union statements.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, after Biden's call for Congress to act, said the president was ignoring workers' concerns.

SMART-TD, the second-largest rail union representing about 28,000 conductors, said in a statement after the Senate vote that it was "extremely disappointing" that so many voted against sick leave.

"The ask for sick leave was not out of preference, but rather out of necessity. No American worker should ever have to face the decision of going to work sick, fatigued or mentally unwell versus getting disciplined or being fired by their employer, yet that is exactly what is happening every single day on this nation's largest freight railroads," the union said.

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E. Jean Carroll says Trump acted outside scope of presidency in allegedly defaming her

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(NEW YORK) -- Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll asked the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals Thursday evening to find that former President Donald Trump "acted outside the scope of his federal employment" when he allegedly defamed her in 2019.

Trump has sought to have the United States substitute as the defendant in Carroll's defamation lawsuit, but for that to happen, the D.C. Court of Appeals, which retains jurisdiction over the conduct of federal employees, must determine Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he allegedly implied Carroll was too ugly to rape and had invented her story to sell a book.

"Trump and the Department of Justice, for their part, have responded to that development by asking this Court to announce a categorical rule that elected officials always and automatically act within their employment whenever they address the public. This Court should reject that position and hold that Trump acted outside the scope of his federal employment when he repeatedly defamed Carroll in June 2019," Carroll's latest filing said.

Carroll's lawsuit is set for trial in April 2023. The substitution of the United States for Trump would, however, end the case, since the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.

"Trump's defamatory statements targeting Carroll after she revealed that he had raped her were outside the scope of his employment as President: he acted with private motives, and not in furtherance of any official federal purpose or function, in seeking to punish and humiliate Carroll for revealing his decades-old crime," the filing said.

Carroll last week filed a new lawsuit alleging Trump defamed her more recently in a series of posts on his social medial platform Truth Social.

Carroll previously sued Trump for defamation over statements he made in 2019 when he denied her claim that he raped her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. Her new lawsuit alleged a second claim of defamation over statements Trump made last month. It also alleged battery as she seeks to hold him accountable for the sexual assault that he has long denied.

In the new lawsuit, she alleges defamation and battery under a new law in New York that allows adult sex assault victims to file claims that would otherwise be barred by the passage of time.

New York's Adult Survivors Act, which took effect on Thanksgiving, opens a one-year window for adult victims to file claims.

Carroll's first lawsuit is pending the outcome of a January proceeding in the D.C. Court of Appeals.

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Biden plans to meet Prince William, Kate in Boston

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden plans to meet Prince William and Kate on Friday during their first visit to the U.S. in eight years.

"The president intends to greet the Prince and Princess of Wales when he is in Boston," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday.

The Prince of Wales' media team also confirmed that a meeting would take place, which Biden's schedule later said would be at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

Jean-Pierre said the administration was "still finalizing and working through the details" and declined to share any more specifics on what the greeting would entail. The White House previously announced that Biden would be in Boston on Friday for a Democratic fundraiser.

The British royals are stateside for the Earthshot Prize Ceremony, which awards $1 million prizes to winners of projects focused on resolving climate issues by 2030.

"Like President Kennedy, Catherine and I firmly believe that we all have it in ourselves to achieve great things and that human beings have the ability to lead, innovate and problem solve," Prince William said during their first stop outside Boston City Hall.

The trip also included a Celtics basketball game on Wednesday, where the royal couple was seated next to Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. On Friday, William will tour the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library with Caroline Kennedy, the late president's daughter.

It's the royal duo's first overseas visit since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September, and the first since taking on the royal titles of Prince and Princess of Wales.

An agent in charge of the Diplomatic Security Service's Boston field office, the agency that makes up the royals' protective detail, told ABC News preparations started in September, and have involved 11 law enforcement agencies.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to London for Queen Elizabeth's funeral. They commemorated Queen Elizabeth's "history-making reign" after her death, stating she was a "stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock Alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States."

The Bidens paid tribute to the queen as her coffin lay in Westminster Hall, and attended King Charles III's reception at Buckingham Palace.

Prior to that, Jill Biden and Kate met during the Group of Seven, or G-7, summit in Cornwall, England. The two women visited a school that works with students who have experienced trauma in their lives.

"Early childhood education is so important to lay the foundation for all of our students," Jill Biden said during the visit, and thanked Kate for inviting her. The princess said it was a "huge honor" to have the U.S. first lady in the United Kingdom.

ABC News' Justin Gomez and Janice McDonald contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court will review legality of Biden's student loan forgiveness plan

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday said it will review the legality of President Joe Biden's federal student loan debt relief plan, putting borrowers on track to get clarity on the fate of the program by next summer.

The program, which would grant up to either $10,000 or $20,000 in federal debt relief to student borrowers who make under a certain income, depending on the kind of loan they used, has been blocked by lower courts since November. The administration initially planned to start rolling out cancellations by the end of this month.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in February, allowing the case an expedited schedule, and is expected to make a decision by the end of June, when the term ends. February's arguments are also likely to give insight into how the justices view the program.

But the program will remain on hold until the final decision comes down, despite requests from the Biden administration to allow it to proceed while the case plays out in court.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement later Thursday that "we welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case." The program is "legal, supported by careful analysis from administration lawyers," she said.

Twenty-six million people applied before the program was paused, according to the Department of Education, and 16 million peoples' applications were reviewed and authorized for relief -- though no loan cancellations were dispatched before court orders blocked the program.

The current legal limbo poses a major threat to Biden's pledge to cancel student loan debt for up to 43 million Americans. He first made such a promise during his 2020 presidential campaign and reiterated it during the 2022 midterm elections, when he repeatedly told crowds of supporters he believed he was on solid legal ground and would win out over Republican attacks on the plan.

Conservatives and other critics said loan debt forgiveness was beyond the power of a president and that it would unfairly penalize people who either didn't take out loans or who had paid them off.

"As soon as I announced my administration’s plan on student debt, they started attacking it, saying all kinds of things. Their outrage is wrong and it’s hypocritical," Biden said in late October at a rally at Delaware State University. "We’re not letting them get away with it."

"I'm completely confident my plan is legal," Biden reiterated in a video on Twitter in late November.

But while early court cases against the program were thrown out for lack of standing -- that is, for lack of someone or some entity showing they were harmed by it -- subsequent challenges were more successful. An appeals court in Missouri and a district court in Texas, in two separate cases, ruled that the program was unlawful and an overreach of the Biden administration's powers.

Those decisions left the program in a precarious position just as student loan payments were set to restart for the first time in nearly two years, after a lengthy COVID-19 pandemic pause -- eventually leading Biden to once again extend a moratorium on loan payments that began under President Donald Trump.

Payments will not begin again until the fate of the program is decided, Biden announced in November, instead of Jan. 1, as originally planned.

Student loan payments will resume either 60 days after the Supreme Court issues a decision on the relief program, the administration said, or 60 days after June 30 -- whichever comes first.

“Callous efforts to block student debt relief in the courts have caused tremendous financial uncertainty for millions of borrowers who cannot set their family budgets or even plan for the holidays without a clear picture of their student debt obligations, and it’s just plain wrong,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a November statement announcing the extension on the moratorium.

“We’re extending the payment pause because it would be deeply unfair to ask borrowers to pay a debt that they wouldn’t have to pay, were it not for the baseless lawsuits brought by Republican officials and special interests," he said then.

Conservative groups have brought lawsuits arguing that Biden's plan exceeds his administration's authority, that the program unfairly excludes Americans who won't receive debt relief and that certain loan servicers will lose revenue.

The most significant suit, the one coming before the Supreme Court, was brought by six conservative states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina.

But the Biden administration argued that the debt cancellation was squarely within the authority of the Education Department, which oversees federal loans, because the department is supposed to look out for borrowers during national emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Indeed, the entire purpose of the HEROES Act is to authorize the Secretary to grant student-loan-related relief to at-risk borrowers because of a national emergency -- precisely what the Secretary did here," Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a Supreme Court filing.

It is the secretary's job "to ensure that borrowers affected by a national emergency are not worse off in relation to their student loans," Prelogar argued, and if the Department of Education didn't act to cancel debts, there could be a "spike" in loan defaults when the pause on student loan payments lifts.

Overall, the program is expected to cost around $400 billion, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

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Obama stumps for Warnock with five days left to go in Georgia runoff

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(ATLANTA) -- Visiting Georgia on Thursday to campaign for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, former President Barack Obama urged the crowd to turn out at the polls, laying out why the state's Tuesday runoff is significant despite a decided Senate majority, touting Democratic accomplishments and taking multiple jabs at Republican Herschel Walker, who has lobbed his own criticisms at Warnock.

"Some folks are asking, 'Well, if Democrats already have control of the Senate, why does this matter? What is the difference between 50 and 51?' The answer is a lot. Let me break it down for you: An extra senator gives Democrats more breathing room on important bills. It prevents one person from holding up everything," Obama said at a rally in Atlanta.

"The biggest reason 51 is better than 50 because it means Rev. Warnock will keep representing you in Washington," Obama said to cheers.

"As your senator, Rev. Warnock hasn't been off chasing wacky conspiracy theories, he hasn't been drumming up fear and division. They talk about some folks being show horses and some folks being workhorses -- and you've got a workhorse here. He's been working," Obama said, pointing to Warnock.

After Walker recently went viral for his campaign speech comments about vampires and werewolves, Obama joked that he also had those debates ... when he was 7 years old.

"When you spend more time thinking about horror movie fantasies than you do thinking about the people you want to represent, that says something about your priorities," Obama said.

"Mr. Walker decided he wanted to be a werewolf, which is great as far as I'm concerned. He can be anything he wants to be ... except United States Senator," the former president said.

Obama also echoed Warnock's closing campaign pitch, which has largely revolved around what Warnock called a contrast in character -- rather than just politics -- between him and Walker. (Walker, in turn, has said Warnock has controversies of his own and said Warnock doesn't believe in "redemption.")

"You deserve a senator you can be proud of. Somebody who will talk straight to you. Somebody who will fight for you. Somebody who has garnered respect in Washington. Somebody like Rev. Warnock, who has been doing it," Obama said.

Giving a midterm report card, Obama celebrated that many election deniers had lost.

"You may be feeling pretty good, because a few weeks ago people turned out to vote. And as a result, Democrats still have control of the Senate. And because of some of other concerted efforts, in a lot of important states, many of the most egregious, potentially dangerous and -- let's face it -- somewhat crazy folks, election deniers, got beat. That's the good news," he said. "It turns out that most Americans prefer leaders who want to bring people together, to solve real problems as opposed to conspiracy theorists and fear mongers. That makes me somewhat optimistic. It's good to know that folks would prefer normal to lunatics."

When Warnock took the stage ahead of Obama on Thursday, he emphasized a common throughline in his campaign: "This is about character and competence."

"We have political differences, that's part of what makes this country a great country. But let me tell you: In my race, this is not about Republican and Democrat. This is not about right and left. This is about the difference between right and wrong," he said.

"I believe in my soul that Georgia knows that Georgia is better than Herschel Walker," he said.

"I don't mind giving credit where credit is due: Herschel Walker was an amazing athlete," he said of the University of Georgia football legend. Warnock added, "He was an amazing running back, and come next Tuesday we're gonna send him running back to Texas."

Talking about how he fought for Saturday voting, Warnock told the crowd that the record-breaking turnout in the runoff so far had "inspired" him but for supporters not to become complacent.

"I don't want us to be lulled to sleep," he said.

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Trump special master overturned by appeals court in Mar-a-Lago documents investigation

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(WASHINGTON) -- A panel of judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday to overturn the appointment of a special master tasked with reviewing thousands of documents seized by the FBI from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate this summer.

The ruling by the three-judge panel, including two Trump appointees, goes into effect in seven days, absent intervention by the full circuit court or the Supreme Court.

"The law is clear," the judges found. "We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so."

The order effectively eliminates what federal authorities had described as a major obstacle in their ongoing criminal investigation into whether Trump illegally retained highly classified records after leaving the presidency and obstructed efforts by the government to recover them. He denies wrongdoing.

The appellate judges had signaled in a hearing last week that they were likely to order an end to the special master's review. They repeatedly expressed concern that the appointment of third-party judge Raymond Dearie by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida lacked any clear precedent.

The panel was also skeptical of assertions from Trump's lawyer Jim Trusty, who described the search of Trump's home as "an extraordinary case" that warranted intervention from an outside arbiter to review all the materials seized in August.

Cannon had empowered Dearie, as special master, to evaluate the approximately 13,000 materials taken from Trump's club, including roughly 100 documents with classification markings.

Dearie was supposed to analyze if any of the documents that were taken raised privilege concerns, either executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.

Thursday's opinion makes clear the appellate judges' belief that Cannon stepped widely outside of her jurisdiction in appointing the special master.

The judges wrote that Trump had made no argument and presented no proof that the government exercised a "callous disregard" for his rights in carrying out the search, which would be the necessary standard for such an extraordinary intervention by the courts into the executive branch's law enforcement functions.

They also dismissed as a "sideshow" Trump's legal team's argument that the Presidential Records Act gives him some right of personal possession over the documents, noting that even if he was correct -- the items would still likely be subject to seizure under the search warrant.

"The status of a document as personal or presidential does not alter the authority of the government to seize it under a warrant supported by probable cause; search warrants authorize the seizure of personal records as a matter of course," they wrote.

The judges also addressed whether Trump's status as a former president would create some kind of exemption or carve-out to justify judicial intervention in the search.

"It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president—but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation," they wrote. "To create a special exception here would defy our Nation’s foundational principle that our law applies “to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.”

The Department of Justice had accused Trump's legal team of using the special master proceedings as a "shell game" to try and delay the progress of their investigation and called Cannon's appointment of a special master an "extraordinary judicial intrusion into a core executive branch function."

The 11th Circuit previously granted a request from the DOJ to stay portions of a ruling by Cannon that blocked the government from using the roughly 100 documents with classification markings recovered from Mar-a-Lago in its investigation and demanded they be handed over to special master Dearie.

Trump's attorneys then appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which declined to take up the matter.

Following that ruling, federal officials quickly moved for an expedited appeal to have the 11th Circuit end Dearie's review in its entirety -- arguing that the government's inability to access the roughly 13,000 remaining non-classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago was also hampering their investigation.

Authorities will now be able to use the documents as evidence as they question witnesses and further examine the circumstances behind Trump's decision to remove thousands of government records -- including some with markings that refer to the nation's most protected secrets -- from the White House and store them at his private resort.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee the Mar-a-Lago investigation as well as a separate probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Last week, Trump's lawyers separately asked Cannon to order the Justice Department to hand over the full, unredacted affidavit that was used to justify the search warrant on Trump's residence. Cannon has yet to respond to their motion, but the Justice Department has expressed concern that disclosure of the details in the affidavit could jeopardize their investigation and potentially endanger cooperating witnesses.

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Senate votes to avert national rail strike by forcing agreement between unions, employers

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Thursday voted to avert a looming strike of the nation's railway workers by forcing a labor agreement.

A bipartisan majority of senators approved a House bill that will codify a tentative agreement between the rail companies and rail unions, which was brokered in September and subsequently rejected by some of the workers.

The Senate separately voted down two additional provisions to address the labor dispute: whether to institute a 60-day extension of the so-called cooling off period between both sides and whether to grant workers seven days of paid sick leave.

The first vote, on the cooling off period, failed 69-26.

The second vote, to add seven paid sick days for workers, needed 60 votes to pass and fell short with a 52-43 total. Six Republicans -- Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Michael Braun and John Kennedy -- voted to add sick leave while one Democrat, Joe Manchin, voted no.

The third vote, to uphold the agreement negotiated by the White House between freight employees and their bosses in September, passed 80-15.

Some of the same Republicans who voted for the sick leave provision joined five members of the Democratic caucus -- Bernie Sanders, an independent, as well as John Hickenlooper, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey -- in voting no. Those lawmakers were Sens. Susan Collins, Tim Cotton, Cruz, Bill Hagerty, Hawley, Rubio, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Dan Sullivan and Pat Toomey.

President Joe Biden vowed in a statement on Thursday to sign the rail agreement bill "as soon as it comes to my desk,"

"I know that many in Congress shared my reluctance to override the union ratification procedures," he said. "But in this case, the consequences of a shutdown were just too great for working families all across the country. And, the agreement will raise workers’ wages by 24%, increase health care benefits, and preserve two person crews."

Biden said he'd work to further support paid sick leave.

"I have long been a supporter of paid sick leave for workers in all industries – not just the rail industry – and my fight for that critical benefit continues," he said.

Congress' move to end the labor fight came as the White House emphasized that they thought lawmakers must send legislation "by this weekend" to avert a work stoppage or the nation could see potentially “devastating effects," given how much of the economy relies on rail to move goods.

The workers' unions reacted with open dismay, they said, at the government's intervention and Biden has described himself as a "proud pro-labor" president who made a difficult decision for the good of the larger economy.

"This shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue, this should be an American issue," Peter Kennedy, director of strategic coordination and research at Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, said in an interview with ABC News. "This should be about putting hardworking Americans first. This should be about putting our economy first. And you do that by fighting, by providing basic protections for workers."

At Biden's urging, the House on Wednesday passed a law enforcing the September tentative agreement plus separate legislation to add sick days for workers, which had become a major sticking point in the unsuccessful negotiations.

Kennedy said he "disagreed" with Biden's call on Congress to pass legislation to try and avert a strike, saying it takes away their ability to go on strike.

"I still believe that President Biden is the most pro-union president that there is, based on my experience in life. Now, with that being said, I disagree with his call on Congress. And because it takes away our ability to strike more or less, and we don't want to lose that ability because the only way we can get paid sick days and we believe is by withholding our labor," Kennedy said.

The House voted 290-137 to adopt the deal between the rail companies and employees that was negotiated by the White House and 221-207 for the sick leave -- a key provision in addressing progressive Democrats' concerns to further protect workers.

Sanders had been urging his colleagues to consider boosting paid leave provisions for the rail workers and spoke on the floor between votes on Thursday.

“Workers who do difficult and dangerous work have zero paid sick days. Zero. You get sick, you’ve got a mark against you. Couple of marks, you get fired. This cannot and must not happen in America in 2022,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the commencement of votes after a luncheon meeting with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh concluded.

“I’m very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown which would be devastating for the American people, the American economy and so many workers across the country,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Biden said on Thursday that Congress would get a deal done to avert a railroad shutdown and that paid sick leave for those union workers would not be “within this agreement.”

An ABC analysis of the report of what had been negotiated between the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) and the unions and freight railroad carriers found that the railroad workers essentially didn't have sick days under their current contracts. They have "personal leave days" that they can schedule, which is what prompted their ask for guaranteed sick days --15 of them-- that they could use at any point.

Their bosses and the president’s board both rejected that push, fearing what they called serious operational problems. The PEB decided to give workers "one additional day of personal leave time."

The House-passed but Senate-failed bill would have given workers "7 days of paid sick leave annually."

Biden warned on Thursday that if the nation’s rails were to close over the labor dispute, “It’s going to immediately cost 750,000 jobs and cause a recession.”

“We're going to avoid the rail strike, keep the rails running, keep things moving, and I'm going to go back and we're going to get paid leave, not just for rail workers but for all workers," he insisted.

The Transportation Trades Department, a department of the AFL-CIO union, on Thursday said they "unequivocally and wholeheartedly" did not support a cooling off period extension past the current deadline of Dec. 9.

"Freight railroads have made it clear that they are not interested in further negotiations with rail unions. Thus, any proposal to further extend the cooling off period would yield zero progress. Rather, an extension would simply allow the railroads to maintain their status quo operations while prolonging the workforce’s suffering," Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, president and secretary-treasurer of TTD, said in a joint statement.

The legislative votes on the labor dispute drew a number of unusual dividing lines between Republicans and Democrats: For example, Hawley, R-Mo., joined Sanders as an early proponent of the sick leave provision.

Rubio, R-Fla., publicly tweeted his support against union leaders.

“The railways & workers should go back & negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses, will accept,” he wrote in a tweet on Monday. “But if Congress is forced to do it, I will not vote to impose a deal that doesn’t have the support of the rail workers.”

“Union bosses & Biden sold out the workers to make a deal,” Rubio then wrote in a Wednesday tweet.

Cruz, R-Texas,, said earlier on Thursday that Republicans were “the party of railroad union workers.”

After he voted yes on the amendment for paid sick leave, he walked over to Sanders on the floor and gave him a fist bump.

ABC News' Justin Gomez, Sarah Kolinovsky, Amanda Maile and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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BOP finalizes moving inmates from private prisons

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(WASHINGTON) -- All federal inmates housed in private prisons have been moved to Bureau of Prisons facilities and the agency has ended all contracts with private facilities, officials said.

Last year, in one of his first actions in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing BOP to move all inmates to federal facilities, rather than have them housed in private facilities.

"We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives," Biden said just before signing the actions in January 2021. "And it's time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do. Because if we do, we'll all be better off."

"This is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off of incarcerated -- incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning, in my view, to my administration's plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system," Biden said.

Advocates, including the ACLU, have said that private prisons reap lucrative financial rewards while taking advantage of people who are behind bars.

On Nov. 30, the McRae Correctional Facility in McRae, Georgia, was closed, making it the final facility to shutter its doors.

Biden signed an order directing the attorney general to not renew contracts the Department of Justice has with privately-operated criminal detention facilities.

As expected it took about a year to complete the transition.

"BOP and privately managed facilities remained positive, while maintaining transparency and accountability," a release from BOP said. "BOP inmates housed in these private prisons have been transferred to BOP facilities. In the mid-1980s, the BOP began designating low security inmates with specialized needs, such as sentenced criminal aliens, to privately managed facilities to better manage the increasing population. Over time, the BOP maintained contracts for 15 facilities, housing approximately 29,164 inmates. The overall BOP population peaked in 2013, with over 219,000 inmates."

The head of the Bureau of Prisons union told ABC News that the prison population has declined to a point where private prisons aren't needed, and has said previously the agency supports the president's decision to shutter private prisons.

"The fact remains that our population has declined to the point where we can safely return offenders who were temporarily housed in private prisons to vacant BOP facilities," Shane Fausey, president of the Council of Prison told ABC News through a text message."The reality is additional beds are no longer needed and the most cost effective measure is not to renew or further private prison contracts at this time."

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Biden 'prepared' to talk with Putin if serious about ending war in Ukraine

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden said Thursday he's open to talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about bringing an end to the war in Ukraine but only if the Russian leader is serious about peace negotiations.

"The fact of the matter is I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin," Biden told reporters as he stood alongside French President Emmanuel Macron at a joint news conference.

"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war," Biden said. "He hasn't done that yet. If that's the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I'll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants, has in mind. He hasn't done that yet."

Biden and Macron pledged to work together to hold Russia accountable and mitigate the war's impact on the rest of the world.

"We'll continue the strong support for the people of Ukraine as they defend their homes and families and their sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression, which has been incredibly brutal," Biden said. "I knew Russia was, but didn't anticipate it to be as brutal as it was."

Macron told reporters the U.S. and France "clearly condemn" Russia's "war crimes."

Speaking to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Macron said he believes negotiation is still "possible" with Putin to end Russia's invasion and that he was going to speak to Putin "in the coming days." Macron previously held a call with Putin in March, but said there was nothing reassuring about the conversation.

"A good peace is not a peace which will be imposed to the Ukrainians by others, No. 1," Macron told Stephanopoulos, adding, "A good peace is not a peace which will not be accepted on the mid-to-long run by one of the two parties."

Macron's state visit this week is the first of the Biden administration, and will culminate with a dinner on the South Lawn Thursday night in a candlelit pavilion.

"The design of this dinner was inspired by the shared colors of our flags -- red, white and blue -- and our common values: liberty and democracy, equality and fellowship," Jill Biden said Wednesday as she previewed the event. "These form the bedrock upon which our enduring friendship was built."

Ahead of the state dinner, the two families dined in Washington on Wednesday night before a formal meeting at the White House on Thursday morning.

The diplomatic tradition, put on hold for the past several years due to COVID-19, highlights the crucial partnership between the U.S. and France, officials said.

Along with Ukraine, Biden and Macron discussed the challenges posed by China, how to strengthen African economies and continuing support for the people of Iran and calling for accountability for those committing human rights abuses.

They also "outlined a shared vision to strengthen security and increase prosperity worldwide, combat climate change, build greater resilience to its effects, and advance democratic values," according to a joint statement following their closed-door meeting in the Oval Office.

"My administration's built our foreign policy around the strength of our alliances, and France is the very heart of that commitment," Biden said at the joint press conference.

Still, the bilateral relationship has also been fraught at times, including last year when Australia canceled a massive, multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France in exchange for a partnership with the U.S and the U.K.

More recently, French officials and other European leaders have raised concerns about climate and energy provisions included in the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act, specifically the tax subsidies for American-made technologies related to renewable energy, like components for electric vehicles. European Union leaders have said the subsidies may break the rules of the World Trade Organization and will have negative side effects for their economies.

Pressed by a reporter on the issue, Biden said Thursday he makes "no apologies" for the Inflation Reduction Act but acknowledged there are changes they can make to ensure European companies can participate.

"I never intended to exclude folks who were cooperating with us," Biden said. "That was not the intention."

Macron said the U.S. and France "need to resynchronize" on the issue of trade but both countries intend to create a clean energy future.

"We want to succeed together, not one against the other," Macron said.

Macron, France's president since 2017, was also the first foreign leader that then-President Donald Trump invited for a state visit. The two at first had a cordial relationship that turned sour over policy differences on issues like the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.

Macron began his U.S. visit on Tuesday by joining Vice President Harris at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they vowed to cooperate on space and in other realms.

On Friday, Macron will travel to New Orleans to meet with state leaders and the Francophone community, participate in a cultural event, meet with local companies involved in the transition to renewable energy and promote French language instruction in under-served communities in Louisiana, French officials said.

ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.

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Garland celebrates 'significant' Jan. 6 convictions, talks Trump special counsel

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(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland took something of a victory lap on Wednesday, a day after the Department of Justice secured convictions in one of the Jan. 6 investigation's highest profile prosecutions.

Stewart Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate-turned-militiaman, was found guilty Tuesday of his most serious charge, seditious conspiracy, following a sprawling two-month trial in federal court in Washington and three days of jury deliberations.

An associate, Kelly Meggs, was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy in the first such convictions by a jury since 1995.

They could both face a maximum of 20 years in prison for that charge alone. Rhodes' attorney said they will appeal.

"Our work yesterday marked significant successes," Garland said on Wednesday.

Meggs and Rhodes, along with three others connected to the Oath Keepers, who were all tried together, were each convicted on some but notably not all of their charges -- indicating jurors rejected some of the prosecutions' arguments.

Three of the five were acquitted of seditious conspiracy.

"These convictions were the result of tireless work by Justice Department agents, attorneys, analysts and support staff beginning in January 2021 with a methodical collection of evidence and continuing through the presentation of that evidence during the seven-week trial that began in October of 2022," Garland told reporters at the Justice Department.

"Their skill and dedication are in the very best tradition of the Justice Department. And we are all extremely grateful to them," he said.

The seditious conspiracy convictions, Garland said, made clear that DOJ will hold accountable anyone responsible for the Jan. 6 attack.

Garland has named longtime federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the major Jan. 6 cases as well as the investigation into sensitive documents with classified markings that were taken from the White House by Donald Trump after his presidency ended.

The attorney general said Wednesday that he met with Smith in choosing him as special counsel and said the investigation is not being slowed down by the change in prosecutors overseeing the cases.

He also said the Justice Department would like transcripts from interviews conducted by the House Jan. 6 committee but did not say whether or not he was satisfied with how long the process was taking.

ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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House committee receives access to Trump's tax returns after yearslong fight

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House Ways and Means Committee has received access to former President Donald Trump's tax returns after the Supreme Court last week rejected his final objection on the issue.

"Treasury has complied with last week's court decision," said a spokesperson for the department that includes the Internal Revenue Service in possession of Trump's confidential tax returns, which he has long resisted disclosing, unlike past presidents.

The chairman of the House committee, Richard Neal, declined to comment earlier Wednesday when asked if the panel had officially received the documents. But he said the committee intended to see the investigation through, despite the ticking clock before the new Congress begins in early January.

Neal, D-Mass., will surrender chairmanship of his committee to a Republican in January after the GOP won majority control of the House in the midterm elections.

He said the next step would be to have a meeting of the Democratic caucus. He wouldn't say whether the committee planned to release the tax documents publicly.

The committee had requested six years' worth of Trump's returns as part of an investigation into IRS audit practices of presidents and vice presidents.

In his petition to the Supreme Court, Trump accused the committee of seeking his taxes under false pretenses.

Court cleared the way for Trump to turn over taxes

The Supreme Court on Nov. 22 denied Trump's request to block an appeals court order that he surrender his tax returns and other financial records to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The court offered no explanation for its decision and there was no noted dissent or vote breakdown. It marked the fourth time Trump has lost a high court appeal related to requests for his taxes.

The move was the end of the road for Trump in the yearslong saga of congressional subpoenas for his tax records in the stated interest of drafting oversight legislation.

The Democratic-controlled committee argued that -- by the Supreme Court's own guidelines laid out in a 2020 ruling in the same ongoing dispute -- judges must defer to the legitimate legislative purpose behind a request for information. They said that standard was plainly met in this case.

"We knew the strength of our case, we stayed the course, followed the advice of counsel, and finally, our case has been affirmed by the highest court in the land," Neal said last week. "Since the Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different. This rises above politics, and the Committee will now conduct the oversight that we've sought for the last three and a half years."

While Trump has claimed the subpoena is a politically motivated fishing expedition, the committee said the documents were critical for drafting "legislation on equitable tax administration, including legislation on the President's tax compliance."

On Nov. 1, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts granted a temporary administrative stay of a lower court order regarding Trump's tax returns and other financial records. On Nov. 22, Roberts officially lifted that stay.

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Pa. county officials vote to certify midterm results after Republican-led delay

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Luzerne County Board of Elections in Pennsylvania on Wednesday voted to certify the county's results from the 2022 midterm election -- two days after an unusual delay caused by two Republicans and one Democrat on the board.

All three Democrats on the board voted to certify the result while the board’s two Republicans, Alyssa Fusaro and James Mangan, again voted against certifying.

Speaking at a special public meeting convened in order to hold a second certification vote, Daniel Schramm, the Democratic board member who initially abstained, said that there were no concrete numbers on how many people may have had difficulties voting in the midterm elections and did not try to come back.

“If you can't make the effort, you must come back and extend your right that you want. It can't be just -- snap your fingers saying, 'Well, I couldn't do it, so therefore we have to do it all over.' No, there isn't [sic] do-overs,” Schramm said.

“It costs too much money, way too much money. So that is one of the justifications why I've changed my mind because I can find no reason why it should not be certified … there was no close calls on the race. People won by hundreds of votes, not two or three," he said.

Before the vote at Wednesday's meeting, area residents were able to give comment in person, by phone or via videoconference.

Many spoke out against certifying the results, citing issues with paper ballot shortages in Luzerne County on Election Night -- a a judge had issued an order extending in-person voting hours at the polls -- as well as other alleged incidents where voters faced difficulties.

“This last election was a repeat of previous elections where the people's trust has been crushed,” Greg Griffin told the board during the comment period.

Others spoke in favor of certifying the results, arguing that while there may have been issues that should be investigated, it would be costlier and worse for voters to not certify or to try to do over the election.

“I would like to see our elections run as smoothly as possible without a hitch,” Claudia Glennan said. “I think people, though, are confusing their upset in how the elections are run with what is to take place during the certification process.”

While the proceedings remained mostly civil, one commenter was asked to leave when he would not share his municipality and claimed to be under the “jurisdiction of the press.” Another commenter claimed to be serving the board with affidavits.

According to ABC affiliate WNEP, the two Republican members of the board voted at a Monday meeting against certifying the results while two Democrats voted to certify and Schramm abstained, leading to the delay.

Local paper The Times Leader reported that the board members who voted not to certify cited paper ballot issues on Election Day, and many who attended the initial public meeting spoke against certifying the results.

On Election Day in Luzerne County, numerous polling places ran out of ballot paper. In-person voting hours were extended by the court.

"We went over everything meticulously as far as the reconciliations, that's any anomalies were pretty much explained. And it was due to the confusion at the polls because of the paper shortage," Democratic member Audrey Serniak said at Monday's meeting.

Schramm initially told WNEP that "I wanted more information so I could make a sure decision on that it's right to certify it."

WNEP later reported that Schramm said Monday, after the vote to delay, that his concerns about the election had been addressed and he was ready to vote to certify.

According to The Times Leader, County Assistant Solicitor Paula Radick said at the Monday meeting that the state or candidates could take legal action against the county for not certifying the results.

The Pennsylvania Department of State told ABC News in a statement on Monday that it had contacted Luzerne County officials "to inquire about the board's decision and their intended next steps."

In Pennsylvania's key statewide races, Republican candidate Mehmet Oz received more votes in Luzerne County in the Senate race, while Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro received more votes by a slimmer margin in Luzerne County in the gubernatorial race.

Shapiro went on to win statewide, defeating Republican Doug Mastriano; Oz lost to Democrat John Fetterman.

The delay in certifying the election results in Luzerne County comes at the same time that a county in Arizona, Cochise County, has also delayed certifying its results, prompting a lawsuit from the Arizona secretary of state.

In Cochise, two Republicans voted on Monday to delay certification over the objections over the board's lone Democrat, who said in a statement that "the other board members accept[ed] unsubstantiated ideas and unverified claims as facts instead of relying on the Arizona State Elections Office."

ABC News' Tal Axelrod and Brittany Shepherd contributed to this report.

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Democrats may soon shake up primary calendar: Why it matters and who could replace Iowa

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(WASHINGTON) -- The 2024 presidential race is still two years away but a major change to Democrats' primary process -- affecting which candidates run and which states get first crack at voting on their chances -- could come any day now.

Some party members are just waiting for their current leader, Joe Biden, to weigh in himself.

For months, members of the Democratic National Committee's group focused on rules and bylaws have been meeting in an effort to refresh the order of states in the party's presidential nominating contest. Many Democrats believe the current starting schedule of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and then South Carolina does not accurately represent the makeup of the party's voters and, as such, shuts out candidates who might ultimately do better nationwide.

These critics cite Biden's own, deceptively rough nominating experience in 2020 -- when poor showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada led many observers to predict that voters were rejecting him.

Instead, Biden went on to easily win the Democratic nomination once more states voted. He was then elected to the White House.

"It really does matter which state goes first in the calendar. The state that goes first really shapes the start of the primary: It dictates how candidates spend their resources in the off-year, it can create momentum, it can set the tone," said Nevada Democratic strategist Rebecca Lambe.

Earlier this year, national Democrats began a formal push to shake up the calendar, putting in jeopardy the first-in-the-nation status for the caucuses in Iowa, which is older and whiter and trending more conservative than many other parts of the country, including states that have been electing Democrats. (The second state on the calendar, New Hampshire, guarantees its spot through a law that could set off a scheduling scramble if any primary is moved before it -- more on that below.)

The DNC, made up of state party chairs, politicians and the like, shelved plans to decide on a restructured presidential nominating calendar from July until after the midterms, setting a new deadline for early December.

Biden has not publicly offered his preferences on the calendar and his press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, on Monday referred reporters' questions to the DNC.

Some committee members say they have found that vexing as they approach making significant changes to the process that will impact what is likely to be the president's own reelection bid in 2024 -- and potentially the campaign cycles beyond.

DNC members said that a lack of input from the White House might be holding up information disseminated to them by the committee about a meeting on Thursday to start settling on the primary calendar, with December's deadline looming.

"The DNC has gone completely silent, and it's understood that it is because the White House hasn't made a decision on what it wants," said one member of the committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

Another DNC member familiar with decision-making, who likewise requested anonymity, told ABC News that they do not expect Biden to "weigh in heavily" on the calendar but they do expect his staff to make "winks and nods" privately before the group convenes Thursday -- which this member would view as a generally encouraging sign that the White House approves of the party's decision to pursue a different nominating calendar.

This member conceded that many of their colleagues have been "frustrated" by the silence, however.

"We all want guidance. We want to know what the thinking is," the member said. "We kind of know in this business that if the White House is not weighing super strongly about something, it's because it's kind of a wink and a nod that they're agreeing with the direction that this is going in, at least, the broad strokes. And Democrats, we all agree that this needs to change."

The White House declined to comment for this story.

Carol Fowler, a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) from South Carolina, said she thinks Biden's decision in this process "absolutely" will impact the way the nominating calendar will be finalized.

"I have always assumed that at some point in this process, we will hear from the White House and know what President Biden's preference is. There is nobody on that committee -- I don't think -- who would want to oppose the president in this," she said.

It may all seem bureaucratic and confusing to the casual observer, but the stakes of the decision are high, with many Democrats saying the traditional order of their primaries is in desperate need of a change to encourage the kinds of candidates who can ultimately appeal to voters nationwide -- the true purpose of the process.

"I would 100% call it an imperative for the national party to figure this out ahead of a competitive primary going forward," said Rebecca Pearsey, a Democratic strategist who worked on Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 2020 campaign.

Party experts said two key questions hang over the deliberations, which are expected to begin at the meeting on Thursday and stretch into the weekend:

If the DNC swaps Iowa out as the first state, how can Democrats continue to ensure an early focus on the larger Midwest, which is home to multiple battleground states? And what order will that final grouping of early states be in?

Below is a breakdown of the current early states and two potential additions.

Will another Midwest state replace Iowa?

Michigan and Minnesota have been cited by committee members as the Midwestern front-runners jockeying for Iowa's top spot. Both states applied earlier this year to be the first state on the nominating calendar and both are run by Democratic governments, making it easier to shift primary dates.

Minnesota Democrats, in a June pitch, argued that their high turnout -- especially among diverse racial communities -- along with strong union membership and robust LGBTQ communities should be a draw. While Michigan is racially more diverse than Minnesota, Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's chairman, Ken Martin, told ABC News that his state wins out as far as voter turnout among those same groups.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, who has long championed Michigan's inclusion in the early primary window, believes her home state is "very much in the mix" and balked at the insinuation from some other Democrats that the state is simply too large and too expensive for candidates that early in the cycle.

"Our state reflects the diversity of this country. And that's what you need," Dingell said. "You need to test these candidates so they are being screened for the question: Can they win in November? And Michigan meets that criteria to a T."

But some in the party said that one of the biggest limitations for Michigan holding an earlier primary is its size. For example, committee members noted that the state's large media markets could cost initially lesser-known candidates -- like, in 2008, Barack Obama -- a real shot at emerging from a crowded field.

Another factor, some members said, would be that Michigan would award so many more delegates than the other traditional early states (like New Hampshire and South Carolina) that it would create an imbalance. Candidates would essentially focus only on one part of the country and that state's voters would gain outsized influence, repeating the current problem.

The odds are increasingly stacked against Iowa to keep its top spot on Democrats' nominating calendar Still, Scott Brennan, Iowa's committee member on the national RBC, told ABC News that he feels confident his state will be competitive in keeping its spot after they restructured their infamously complicated caucus process to "satisfy all the concerns that were ever raised."

Brennan said it would be a "tremendous win" if the state were to stay in the early window.

In South Carolina -- the first Southern state on the calendar and the first state with a sizable bloc of Black voters, who are a crucial Democratic constituency -- state Democrats said the optimistic they'll keep a spot as one of the initial nominating states.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire did not suffer from the crippling logistical issues that hamstrung Democrats' 2020 Iowa caucuses. But the state, which is about 90% white, still faces criticism that it lacks sufficient diversity to represent the party base as it fights to keep its No. 2 slot.

However, the state Democratic Party insists on its record of holding successful primaries that force candidates to wear out their shoe leather to prove their skill at face-to-face campaigning.

"New Hampshire voters are extremely active. They're very involved in the process," said New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesperson Monica Venzke. "Candidates who come to New Hampshire leave stronger candidates."

State law also mandates that New Hampshire must hold its primary seven days before any other in the country. Neither Democrats or Republicans in state government seem eager to change that rule, which would pose a hurdle to other states looking to leapfrog it on the calendar. If the DNC chooses to have another state primary go first, that could trigger a kind of calendar arms race in which New Hampshire simply moves its primary up as well to abide by its law.

Currently, Iowa can go ahead of it because Iowa holds caucuses, not primaries. The caucus system, which is different than a standard election, is used by fewer and fewer states and territories each cycle. Nevada abandoned it after 2020.


Nevada is one of the states making the biggest push to go first in the primary calendar, which ticks many of the DNC's self-described boxes.

Nevada boasts significant racial diversity and is not expensive or vast enough -- in terms of the necessary campaign team -- to price out some candidates. It also remains a perennial swing state, so a candidate who wins enough Democratic voters there could make the argument that they are more electable in a tight race.

"Nevada is a state where you can find out who can go the distance," said Lambe, the strategist.

As for how Nevada could be squeezed ahead of New Hampshire's state law, though, some in the party said it would be a thorny matter best solved by the national committee.

"It's really going to be an issue for the DNC to work through on how to enforce the new calendar," a strategist said, "but it can be dealt with with tough rules and sanctions."

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Biden announces 'long overdue' investments in Indian Country

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced "long overdue" commitments to Native American nations.

"On my watch, we're ushering in a new era and advancing a way for the federal government to work with tribal nations," Biden said as he spoke at the first in-person White House Tribal Nations Summit in six years, knocking his predecessor for not hosting any such forum.

Biden announced $135 million to help tribal communities impacted by climate change. Eleven "severely impacted tribes" will receive funds, according to the Interior Department, and three are planning on relocating entirely to new areas: the Newtok Village in Alaska, the Native Village of Napakiak in Alaska, and the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington.

"There are tribal communities at risk of being washed away, washed away by superstorms, rising sea levels and wildfires raging," Biden said Wednesday, calling the damage "devastating."

Biden also touted the billions of dollars made available to tribal nations through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Those investments, Biden said, helped Indian Country vaccinate residents, rebuild roads, provide clean drinking water and more.

"Together, my entire administration is advancing the economic agenda and making historic investments in Indian country and, I might add, that are long overdue," Biden said.

Over 300 tribal representatives are expected to attend the two-day summit held at the Interior Department. Biden began his remarks by thanking Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for her leadership, noting she's the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.

Haaland, introducing Biden to the podium, said the investments made by the Biden administration are "already improving the lives of so many."

"You and I know firsthand that native people have not always had friends in the White House," she said.

Among the new investments and changes announced by the White House to strengthen tribal nations are a presidential memo standardizing how federal agencies consult with tribes, requiring federal agencies to recognize "Indigenous Knowledge" in research and decision-making, and a draft of a 10-year plan to revitalize native languages. Federal agencies will also buy more electricity and energy products from tribes, and announce a new initiative to build electric vehicle charges on tribal lands.

On Wednesday, Biden also pledged to protect Nevada's Spirit Mountain and the surrounding wilderness area.

"I'm committed to protecting this sacred place that is central to the creation story of so many tribes that are here today," Biden said, adding there's "so much more that we're going to do to protect the treasured tribal lands.

"Everyone's entitled to be treated with respect and dignity, the dignity that comes from just being who you are," Biden said as he closed his remarks. "This is especially true for tribal nations. The United States owes a solemn trust and treaty obligations that we haven't always lived up to."

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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