The TAKE with Rick Klein
Which showdown matters more for the presidential campaign at the moment — President Donald Trump vs. former Vice President Joe Biden or Trump vs. Dr. Anthony Fauci?
Which matters more for the well-being of the nation?
Trump vs. Biden will have its day, but that day is not now. That’s in part because the White House has chosen to position itself against not just Fauci, but also other top scientists and leaders in the federal government’s effort to combat and mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
This White House statement, first provided to The Washington Post, speaks to a political calculation that is being fed by those around the president: “Several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.”
Those concerns would seem to flow in the other direction as well, particularly as the Trump administration insists on school reopenings without being able to guarantee the safety of students or teachers.
Trump insisted last week that the nation will be “in very good shape in a matter of weeks.” Coronavirus testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir has a different take.
“We do expect deaths to go up,” Giroir told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday. “If you have more cases, more hospitalizations, we do expect to see that over the next two or three weeks before this turns around.”
Trump was finally pictured wearing a mask in public over the weekend — an occasion Trump campaign allies marked with tweets such as “Goodnight, @JoeBiden” and “Joe Biden is finished.”
But the president’s current fight is about science more than politics. Trump’s presidency continues to be defined by how people are living through this moment far more than how he outlines the fight.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his first public statement in over a year this weekend, defending his prosecution of Roger Stone after President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend. Now it seems Republicans in the Senate are gearing up to keep Mueller in the headlines and find new avenues for him to testify and further speak about his work.
“The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so,” Mueller wrote in the Washington Post Saturday.
“The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands,” Mueller added.
In his op-ed, Mueller again detailed the facts of his cases and how Stone became a “central figure” in the Department of Justice investigation after investigators learned he was in touch with several Russian intelligence officers while also helping the Trump campaign. In February, Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison after he was found guilty in November of obstructing justice, witness tampering and five counts of lying to Congress.
“I think anyone who cares about the rule of law in this country is nauseated by the fact that the president has commuted the sentence of someone who willfully lied to Congress, covered up for the president, intimidated witnesses, obstructed the investigation,” Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday.
As it turns out, a handful of Republican leaders seemed sickened with the news.
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Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, accused the president of “unprecedented, historic corruption.”
Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called the action “a mistake,” and Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan posited the move will “certainly hurt [Trump] politically.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made clear this weekend he is working with his Democratic counterparts to bring Mueller to testify before them soon. He may be looking for a chance to grill and even try to embarrass Mueller, but the move could keep it all buzzing before Election Day.
The TIP with Meg Cunningham
His name isn’t on the ballot on Tuesday, but the Alabama Senate runoff revolves around President Trump.
Trump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is running for his old seat against former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in what quickly shaped up to be a race entirely about the president. Sessions and Trump ended their White House relationship on shaky terms, and though Sessions says he has no problem with the president, Trump’s wholehearted endorsement of Tuberville seems to be damaging Sessions’ campaign, with Tuberville leading in the polls and in fundraising.
“This race is not about Jeff Sessions versus Tommy Tuberville. It is about Jeff Sessions versus Donald Trump,” Angi Stalnaker, a GOP strategist in the state, told ABC.
While Tuberville is largely absent from the trail, Sessions has a closing pitch to voters: He’s not afraid of the president, he’s not intimidated by Washington, and, as someone who used to represent Alabama in the Senate for decades, he’s familiar with the ins and outs of lawmaking.
ONE MORE THING
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl argues in a Washington Post op-ed that that the White House press secretary’s job differs fundamentally from that of a spokesperson for a candidate or political party. As a public servant whose salary is paid by taxpayers, he writes, the job is to inform the public: to be an intermediary between the president and a press corps the public relies on for information. Denying reality and using the White House podium for purely political purposes is a violation of public trust, he writes.
And Brad Mielke, Kendall Karson, and Alisa Wiersema take a look at the trouble New York state and Georgia have had during this primary season to conclude that Election Day in November could be a “potential nightmare.”
ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News’ Scott Withers, who checks in from Florida as the state smashes the record for daily COVID-19 cases. ABC News’ Katherine Faulders explains why President Trump’s move to commute the sentence of longtime ally Roger Stone is getting blowback on both sides of the aisle. And, Dr. Paul Goepfert from The University of Alabama at Birmingham tells us what we need to know about a new study on coronavirus antibodies. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
President Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 12:30 p.m., and participate in a roundtable in the East Room with people positively impacted by law enforcement at 2 p.m.Former Vice President Joe Biden will attend a virtual finance event.
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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.
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