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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Wednesday hailed the start of a "new chapter" as he announced the U.S. and Cuba are opening embassies in their respective capitals later this month, and formally reestablished diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years.

"More than 54 years ago at the height of the cold war, the United States closed its embassy in Havana. Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally reestablish diplomatic relations with the republic of Cuba and re-open embassies in our respective countries," the president said in the Rose Garden Wednesday.

"This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas," he added.

Obama said the historic announcement, which aired live on Cuban television, was "another demonstration that we don't have to be imprisoned by the past."

The president said Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Havana to "proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more."

"A year ago it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana. This is what change looks like," Obama said.

The president announced his intent to move forward with restoring ties between the two countries following the Dec. 17 prisoner exchange and humanitarian release of Alan Gross.

"Nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight but I believe that American engagement through our embassy, our businesses and most of all through our people is the best way to advance our interests in support for democracy and human rights," he said.

In the next seven months, top American and Cuban diplomats have met in a series of meetings in both countries to discuss issues surrounding normalizing relations.

Wednesday morning, the chief of the interest section, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, delivered a letter from Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro to officially re-establish diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, Cuban diplomat José Ramón Cabañas delivered the letter for the Cuban side.
According to the diplomatic notes exchanged Wednesday morning, the official date for normalized relations will be July 20.  A senior State Department official said that date will be the official restart date and falls outside of the 15 days notification Congress needs. Following that date, either side could open their embassies.
The state department also delivered their official notification to Congress Wednesday morning, which notifies them of their intent to change the status of the interest section into an embassy.
There is currently no date for Kerry to travel to cuba but he plans to for the embassy opening.

In May, the U.S. removed Cuba from the list of countries supporting terrorism, where it was listed since 1982. In April, Obama and Castro sat down for an historic meeting in Panama, the first time the two leaders engaged in a substantive conversation in-person.

The major sticking point as of the last round of talks, for Americans, has been the freedom for staff to move throughout the country; for the Cubans, it was courses provided to Cuban journalists by the U.S. government at the interests section in Havana, which they say fall outside normal diplomatic activities.

Opponents of the president’s Cuba strategy were quick to criticize the announcement.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, said prior to the speech.

“A policy of the United States giving and the Castro brothers freely taking is not in our national interest and not a responsible approach when dealing with repressive rulers that deny freedoms to its people,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said. “An already one-sided deal that benefits the Cuban regime is becoming all the more lopsided.”

A senior administration official said the U.S. might not nominate an ambassador to Cuba. Several Congressional opponents of the normalization of relations have threatened to complicate any nominations.

ABC US News | World News

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The Flag pole in front of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C. stands for the first time. It cannot fly a flag, however, until after it is officially declared an Embassy. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- After more than 50 years, the Cuban and American embassies will fly their flags once again.

According to diplomatic notes exchanged on Saturday, formal diplomatic relations between the two countries will be normalized beginning July 20; following that day embassies in both countries will be opened.

ABC News recently got an exclusive tour of the rarely-seen building in Washington, D.C, from the expansive entry hall to the Hemingway bar.

The Cuban Interest Section will soon become the Cuban Embassy after more than 50 years. Earlier this month the Cubans put a flag pole up in preparation for the reopening. They can’t fly a flag on the property, which is technically run by the Swiss, until they are once again an embassy.

“We never had the flagpole in the place where it is now, because it was on the top of the house,” Ambassador Jose Cabanas told ABC News. “And it's the first time ever, we had the flag pole outside, and the meaning is different. ... We're finally recognizing each other as states, as sovereign countries. And for anyone, any citizen in the world, the use of his own flag is very important and meaningful.”

Walking into the Cuba Interest Section, which was built in 1917, a grand marble staircase greets you. Office space lines the open floor, with ornate shields above the doors for the six original provinces of Cuba.

When relations broke off in 1961, Czechoslovakia came in to care and protect the building

Above the stairs is a stained-glassed window.

President Fidel Castro visited the building April 1959. “We have a picture of him, by the side of the stair, and at the time, he visited the National Press Club,” Cabanas said. “He had a couple of presentations in Washington, D.C. He paid respect to President Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial."

The formal sitting room, or the “blue room” as they refer to it, on the second floor is often used for meetings with other diplomats, scholars and business people. “A lot of business men these days,” Cabanas said.

The building was built as a house for the family of the head of the mission at the time, so every room includes a fireplace. Many of them still original.

The Cuban Interest Section already has the flag it will fly once it is declared an embassy.

“It's three meters,” Cabanas said. “We have very tough rules on our use the flag. ... In our case, we raise the flag every day and we take it down every day. ... If it's raining or it's snowing, you have to take it down and take care of it and protect it.”

The grand ballroom is often used for parties and functions; Cuban art adorns the walls. The entire room has been recently refurbished, including the wood floors. Cabanas pointed out the renovations began before any changes or movement in restoring diplomatic relations began.

“More than four years ago, and it was part of our normal renovation of our facilities,” he said. “I mean, we own the place, the house and the land, as we do in all places in the world.”

Inside the Embassy they have a bar called the “Hemingway bar” as a tribute to American writer Earnest Hemingway.

“We believe he's part of our cultural history. Here you have original pictures of the Hemingway tournament, the fishing tournament in Cuba. He met our president, our leader Fidel Castro, back in the '60s. They had a true, a very good friendship, I would say,” Cabanas said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate's top Democrat has joined the ongoing fight between the Burning Man arts festival and the Bureau of Land Management over adding amenities to the famed do-it-yourself celebration.

The agency, which administers government-owned land, has asked organizers to construct a million-dollar compound for officials supervising the event, which is held on federal land.

In a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, slammed the BLM's "outlandishly unnecessary" demands as out of touch with the spirit of Burning Man.

Among other amenities, the facility would include washing machines, flushing toilets and 24-hour access to ice cream, according to documents obtained by ABC News.

"Part of Burning Man's philosophy is self-reliance and living with the elements is part of the experience," Reid said in the letter. "Flush toilets and laundry facilities can be found about ten miles away ... if BLM's employees need such amenities."

The request comes as event organizers and federal officials negotiate the term of the permit for this year's event.

Federal officials maintain that the accommodations are needed to support staff monitoring the growing event in its remote location, a spokesperson said. Festival organizers say the requests are excessive, and not cost-effective.

Nearly 70,000 people flocked to last year's festival, a famously grungy affair in the Nevada desert where attendants camp out, bring their own food and share bathrooms.

Reid isn't the only politician to side with Burning Man over the federal government.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, told the Gazette-Journal that the demands were "over the top," while Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, has also raised his concerns with BLM Director Neil Kornze.

"The BLM ... appears to be asking for the Black Rock Desert version of the Four Seasons hotel as a condition of the permit," he said in a statement to ABC News.

The Bureau of Land Management is now reassessing its original proposal, according to a spokesperson.

The story was first reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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nata_vkusidey/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has officially settled #GuacGate2015, the Internet's intense reaction to a controversial New York Times tweet on Wednesday saying, "Add green peas to your guacamole. Trust us."

The verdict? Obama, like the majority of America, isn't buying the ideas of peas in his guac.

Obama added he respected the Times but that he's sticking to his "classic" recipe of onions, garlic and hot peppers for his guac.

His response was favorited over 8,000 times and retweeted over 7,000 times as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday -- only a little over an hour from when he first started #AskPOTUS, a live Twitter chat intended to answer the nation's questions about health care.

Obama revealed last year that chips and guacamole were his favorite dish at a kids' state dinner meant to promote healthy eating.

"My big thing -- chips and guacamole," Obama said. "Basically, if there is a bowl of good chips and guacamole..."

"He loses it," First Lady Michelle Obama said.

"I lose my mind," Obama said. "I lose my mind."

The rest of the Internet also lost its mind after the New York Times made the contentious suggestion to add peas to your guacamole.

In other news, though Jeb Bush disagreed with Obama's decision to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, he did agree with Obama's stance on peas in guac.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It’s only been two weeks since he entered the presidential race, but billionaire Donald Trump has already seen some of his most prominent business relationships go up in smoke following remarks he made about Mexico on the very first day of his campaign.

“When Mexico sends its people they aren't sending their best,” Trump said at his announcement event last month from Trump Tower. “They are bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they are rapists and some are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we're getting.”

In light of those comments, several of the business partners Trump has cultivated over the years decided they no longer wanted to be in business with the Donald. Here’s a look at who has dumped Trump.


The first domino to fall was the largest network aimed at Hispanics across the globe, Univision.

“We see first-hand the work ethic, love for family, strong religious values and the important role Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans have had and will continue to have in building the future of our country. We will not be airing the Miss USA pageant on July 12th or working on any other projects tied to the Trump Organization,” the company said in a statement.

In an interview with ABC News’ Tom Llamas, Trump said, “I love the Mexican people, I have great respect for Mexico.”

In response to Univision dropping the pageant, Trump filed a $500 million lawsuit this week against the company for damages.


Following Univision, the Mexico-based broadcaster fired Donald Trump for his comments saying in part, “Mr. Trump hasn’t demonstrated understanding or respect toward Mexican migrants and has offended the entire Mexican population.”

Televisa also owns the Mexican equivalent of Trump’s Miss USA pageant and said they would not be sending a representative to compete in Miss Universe.

Farouk Systems

Farouk Systems Inc, which owns hair care brands such as CHI and BioSilk, said they too are done with the Donald.

“Our company is multicultural with people of Latin American descent making up a large percentage of our employees and loyal customers,” company CEO Basim Shami said in the statement. “As a company proudly founded on the concept of coming to the USA in pursuit of the American Dream, Mr. Trump’s comments do not and will never reflect our company’s philosophy or practices.”


The network that has worked with Trump for both Miss Universe and his hit reality television series, The Apprentice, also said goodbye to the Donald this week.

“Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump,” the company said in a statement.

NBC said Celebrity Apprentice is licensed from Mark Burnett’s United Artists Media Group and that relationship will continue. Trump fired back, saying, “If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court.”


The magic of one of America’s biggest retail giants is no longer with Trump. Macy’s pulled its star away from the Donald today, saying in part, “We do not believe the disparaging characterizations portray an accurate picture of the many Mexicans, Mexican Americans and Latinos who have made so many valuable contributions to the success of our nation."

"In light of statements made by Donald Trump, which are inconsistent with Macy’s values, we have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump and will phase-out the Trump menswear collection, which has been sold at Macy’s since 2004,” the retailer added.

Trump responded by saying it was actually his decision to end the relationship with Macy’s: “Clearly, NBC and Macy’s support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country. Both Macy’s and NBC totally caved at the first sight of potential difficulty with special interest groups who are nothing more than professional agitators, who are not looking out for the people they purport to represent, but only for themselves. It is people like this that are actually running our country because our leaders are weak and ineffective.”

Even New York City, where the Trump Organization is based, is beginning to question its relationship with Trump.

“We are reviewing Trump contracts with the City," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "Donald Trump’s remarks were disgusting and offensive, and this hateful language has no place in our city. Trump’s comments do not represent the values of inclusion and openness that define us as New Yorkers. Our Mexican brothers and sisters make up an essential part of this city’s vibrant and diverse community, and we will continue to celebrate and support New Yorkers of every background."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Pictured are the old (R) and new parts (L) of the White House fence. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- Metal spikes were installed atop the White House fence Wednesday, the latest enhancement to fortify the security perimeter at the White House.

Two metal spikes of different lengths were squeezed in between the existing spears lining the fence.

U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service mounted the “removable anti-climb feature” Wednesday afternoon, but the entire installation process will take six weeks. 

Designed by Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, the metal spikes installed Wednesday are only temporary and will be replaced once a long-term solution is implemented. 

The Commission of Fine Arts and National Capital Planning Commission will review and approve a final design in the fall and construction on a permanent security enhancement will begin in 2016. The renovation comes nearly 10 months after Omar Gonzalez scaled the White House fence, sprinted across the North Lawn and entered the White House.

Some semblance of a fence has existed on the White House grounds dating back to Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Around 1801, Jefferson built the first post and rail fence around the White House, according to the White House Historical Association.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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An umbrella closed on President Obama's head as he walked in rainy Tennessee, July 1, 2015. (ABC News)(MADISON, Tenn.) -- Everyone’s had an umbrella close on their head from time to time. But it’s not every day you see it happen to the president of the United States.

As he stepped out of his limo into rainy Nashville weather Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama was handed an umbrella. But seconds later as the president was walking, the umbrella closed on his head.

The mishap occurred when the president picked up Kelly Bryant, a breast cancer survivor who wrote to the president about her experience with the Affordable Care Act.

Bryant accompanied the president to a speech in Madison, Tennessee where he is talking about the success of his signature healthcare plan.

While the president didn’t discuss his umbrella snafu, he did note that Bryant had the “distinction of possibly being the first person ever to be picked up at her house by a presidential motorcade.”

“It was so close to the school we said well we might as well swing by and get her,” he said.

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The first photos are beginning to trickle out on social media of people enjoying the first White House tours free of a photo ban.

In what appears to be the first selfie shared on Twitter from a White House tour, a woman poses with a bust of George Washington and tweets “a quick selfie with George W before the Secret Service get me!”

This is the first time in over 40 years that people have been allowed to take photos during White House tours and the White House is encouraging visitors to share their photos using the hashtag #whitehousetour. Under the new rules, visitors are allowed to snap photos on their phones and small cameras, though selfie sticks and video cameras continue to be on the "Prohibited Items" list.

The first tour group Wednesday morning consisted of bloggers, individuals and organizations with large numbers of followers on social media, a White House official said, so as to make sure that the first photos reached a wide audience.

Upon entering the White House, visitors were greeted by the first family's dogs, Bo and Sunny.

Visitors were also shown a video that first lady Michelle Obama posted earlier Wednesday to Instagram announcing that the ban was lifted and a sign reminding visitors that “Photography is Encouraged. But please remember to turn off your flash and no video recording or streaming.”

“If you’ve been on a White House tour, you may have seen this sign,” the first lady says in the video as she holds a sign that reads “NO PHOTOS OR SOCIAL MEDIA ALLOWED.” She then says, “Not anymore!” and rips through the sign.

ABC US News | World News

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Feng Li/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hillary Clinton’s campaign says it has raised more than $45 million in the first three months of her campaign alone -- with 91 percent of the donations falling at $100 or less.

That total is nearly half of the campaign’s goal to raise $100 million by the end of 2015. It would also break the record for any candidate’s first quarter of running for president, surpassing President Obama’s $41.9 million in 2011, per Clinton’s campaign.

Clinton beat her equivalent 2008 total by about $9 million. Between her Jan. 20, 2007 announcement and the end of March that year, she raised $26 million. (That time she had one fewer week to raise the money because of her announcement date.)

The second fundraising quarter closed Tuesday with a June 30 deadline. We won’t see Federal Election Commission reports until July 15, but campaigns leak their totals before they have to officially report, so we expect to hear from other candidates in the coming days.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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John Paul Filo/CBS(WASHINGTON) — For the first time in five decades, President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. will resume full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, isn’t ready to embrace the news.

A staunch opponent of the normalization of relations with Cuba, the republican senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio issued a statement issued Wednesday in response to the president’s announcement.

“It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President's December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people,” he said.

Rubio said he intends to oppose any confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until the issues he sees as unresolved are addressed.

“It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end,” he said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department has released nearly 2,000 emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton in her first year as Secretary of State, according to officials and the agency's website.

The release Tuesday evening is the first in a federal court-ordered rollout that will make 55,000 pages of Clinton’s emails available on the department’s website by Jan. 29, 2016.

Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. said in May the State Department should “aspire” to release 7 percent of the documents by the end of June, with an increasing percentage of documents released every 30 days.

It was not clear how many pages were included in the 1,925 emails. Click here to read the emails.

In May, the department released 296 emails from Clinton’s private email account related to the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Those emails previously had been released to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which has been investigating the attack for more than a year.

Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has previously said on the campaign trail that she wants the State Department to make all her emails public.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday the correspondence covers from March to December of 2009. The 9 p.m. release time, Kirby said, was not a news dump.

“This is really a function of physics for us,” Kirby told reporters. “There is a lot of e-mails to get through, we have a deadline we have to meet, and we are doing everything we can to reach that 7 percent goal for release as ordered by the courts.”

ABC US News | World News

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ABC/Richard Harbaugh(WASHINGTON) — Nothing brings Congress together like Taylor Swift.

Members are holding at least 19 fundraisers around the pop star's two Washington, D.C. concerts in mid-July, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political fundraising.

While tickets can be found on Swift’s website for about $180, members are asking supporters for as much as $5,000 in political contributions in exchange for concert seats at Nationals Park on July 13 and 14.

"With so much competition for time and money, politicians are always looking for new and creative ways to fund-raise," said Jenn Topper, a spokesperson for the Sunlight Foundation.

Swift has been a major draw for politicians since 2010, Topper said, citing the nonprofit's data. But members traditionally take advantage of any well-known musician in town — from Bruce Springsteen, to the Jonas Brothers.

While both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have plans for Swift's shows, the 25-year-old singer has kept her own political affiliation ambiguous.

Swift voted for the first time in 2008, and told People Magazine she said she "went with her gut instinct" in the voting booth.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Girl Scouts do all sorts of outdoor activities, but only a few will be able to say they rock climbed on the White House lawn, sang campfire songs with the president and First Lady and stargazed with NASA astronauts.

Some 50 lucky fourth graders got those bragging rights after participating in the first-ever White House campout, held as part of Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move! Outside” initiative, whose goal is to get children active and exploring the outdoors.

President Obama himself dropped by the girls’ campsite later in the evening and joked “What are you guys doing in my yard?” as he approached the group, which had gathered around a “campfire” made of LED-lighted lanterns.

The president and First Lady settled down next to two scouts and Girl Scouts tunes including “Make New Friends but Keep the Old” were played.

Having girls camp out at the White House is intended to encourage families to visit some of the country’s 50-plus other national parks.

The first lady participated earlier in the day in a knot-tying demonstration with some of the scouts, although she demurred from some of the more daring activities, like climbing a 28-foot rock wall that had been constructed right in front of the White House.

“I don't know if I can officially earn a badge, but I wanna try,” she said. “I don't know how to tie a knot, I don't know how to pitch a tent. I can sing a little bit - I'm definitely not climbing that wall. That's up to you all, OK?”

The First Lady also urged the girls to recognize the historic nature of the day, given that no other Girl Scout troops –- or anyone, for that matter -– had ever been allowed to sleep over in tents on the south lawn of the White House.

“This is the first time we've ever done a camp-out on the South Lawn on the White House," she said. "You are making history. This is something you can tell your kids and grandkids!”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Jeb Bush released 33 years worth of tax returns on his campaign website on Tuesday, showing that his income skyrocketed after he left office as governor of Florida.

Worth between $20 million and $22 million, according to his campaign, Bush made $28.5 million between 2007, the year he left office, and 2013.

In a show of transparency, the former Florida governor's presidential campaign posted his returns from 1981 through 2013 in PDF files to the campaign website Tuesday evening.

"In the spirit of transparency, this release will show voters how I earned a living over the past three decades and how much of that living I paid in taxes to the federal government. Like most Americans, I know it is time for a flatter, fairer tax code," Bush said in a written statement accompanying the release.

The former governor's income jumped from $260,000 in 2006, his last full year as governor, to $2.2 million the next year. Bush left office in early 2007.

He continued to make at least $1.85 million each year, with his highest total, $7.3 million, coming in 2013.

Much of that income came from paid speeches, as his average income per year for paid speeches was $1.1 million.

Bush's tax returns were one of two campaign-related document dumps late on Tuesday, as the State Department is expected to release a trove of Hillary Clinton's emails from her time as secretary of state at 9 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump filed a $500 million lawsuit against Spanish-language network Univision after the company decided to terminate its contract with Trump's Miss Universe Organization and not broadcast the upcoming Miss USA pageant.

Univision decided that it would not air the pageant after comments Trump made when he announced his campaign for the presidency. Trump said that immigrants coming from Mexico to the U.S. were bringing "crime" and "drugs," were "rapists" and not Mexico's best. He stood by those comments on Monday, when he called NBC -- who said it would not air the Miss USA pageant -- "weak."

"Nothing I stated was different from what I have been saying for many years," Trump said in a statement Tuesday. "I want strong borders, and I do not support or condone illegal immigration."

Trump's statement also explains the lawsuit. "As a consequence of their inappropriate actions," Trump says, "Univision and NBC have abandoned fifty one wonderful young women who have come from all over the United States to pursue their dream of being crowned Miss USA."

Univision released a statwement on the lawsuit, calling it "factually false" and "legally ridiculous."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.





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