The TAKE with MaryAlice Parks
Call it a blacklist, Nixonian or simply an execution of presidential power, either way it is newsy and serious that the president decided to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Chief John Brennan, who has been a major critic of Trump’s since leaving public service, and threatened to do the same with others who have criticized him too.
As this is happening in Washington, around the country dozens of veterans and former intelligence officers have been running for office and winning Democratic congressional primaries. From North Carolina to Kentucky, New Jersey and Virginia, we have talked to several Democratic candidates with military and intelligence backgrounds, who have told us they felt compelled to run, because of the president, his attacks on their agencies and their effect on the nation.
Should most of them win in November, as many of them may, not only will the Democratic caucus contain in its ranks significantly more national security expertise, but the entire House makeup could look and feel really different in this regard. What’s more, should the House flip to Democratic control, some of these former spies, former intelligence officers and former fighter pilots could be in place to be a serious check on the White House. At least that’s what they are hoping.
The RUNDOWN with John Verhovek
President Trump exacting political revenge on a former top intelligence official by revoking his security clearance sent a familiar series of gasps through Washington on Wednesday, but it also serves as another reminder of the frequency with which the president uses the power of his office to distract and obfuscate.
The trial of Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort continues to drag on, a fact he undoubtedly wants the public to forget.
Fallout from former top White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new tell-all book continues, but much of Wednesday’s press briefing was spent scrambling for answers over the breaking news.
The president relishes the constant game of cat and mouse between his administration and the news media, a game that he consistently manipulates and encourages with his taunts of “fake news” and his labeling the press the “enemy of the American people.”
The administration is no doubt keenly aware of the consequential midterm election that is now less than three months away and now, more than ever, will be seeking constant control over a hectic and unpredictable news cycle.
The TIP with Benjamin Siegel
The House Judiciary and Oversight Committees are expected to question senior DOJ official George Toscas Thursday morning on Capitol Hill behind closed doors, according to three congressional aides. Toscas is the latest interview in the GOP majorities’ investigations into allegations of political bias at the Justice Department and review of the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Toscas, according to the DOJ inspector general, was the senior career DOJ official on the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. In addition to his senior role in the investigation, he also participated in the discussions surrounding the discovery of emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop and the reopening of the investigation.
Republicans, who are continuing to investigate political bias at the FBI and Justice Department as President Trump’s legal team wrangles with special counsel Robert Mueller over a presidential interview, are planning to bring in more DOJ officials linked to the Clinton and Russia investigations – including Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official whose wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, the political research firm hired by Democrats to investigate President Trump during the 2016 campaign.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“My principles are worth far more than clearances.” — Former CIA Director John Brennan in a tweet Wednesday responding to the White House’s decision to revoke his security clearance.
ABC News’ daily podcast, “Start Here.” Thursday morning’s episode features ABC News contributor and former acting undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security John Cohen discussing President Trump’s move to revoke former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance. “It’s highly disconcerting,” he says.
NEED TO READ
White House revoking security clearance of John Brennan, mulling others. The White House is revoking the security clearance of John Brennan, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and mulling pulling them for several other former intelligence chiefs and other officials. Reading aloud a statement from President Trump at the top of Wednesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that the president has decided to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, claiming the former Obama CIA chief has displayed “erratic behavior.” (Jordyn Phelps and Meridith McGraw) https://abcn.ws/2vNK76v
White House economic office faces criticism over incorrect African American economic figures. Sanders during Tuesday’s briefing brushed off accusations of racism against President Trump amid his contentious feud with former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman with a familiar pivot, citing economic gains by African-Americans during Trump’s time in office. But that claim was false, by a factor of roughly 15 times the number Sanders provided. (Alexander Mallin) https://abcn.ws/2KWxRFI
Feds deflect accountability for immigrant kids after placement with sponsors, fueling bipartisan frustrations: Report. Despite a backlog of unaccompanied alien children who have crossed the southern border without a parent or legal guardian, several federal agencies have failed to address deficiencies that create “significant risk for trafficking and abuse” for immigrant minors who are placed into homes with sponsors, a new bi-partisan Senate investigation concludes. (John Parkinson) https://abcn.ws/2KY2HgU
With closing arguments wrapped, Manafort case goes to jury. Closing arguments concluded Wednesday in the financial crimes trial of Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump, and the case is now in the hands of 12 jurors who will begin deliberations Thursday morning to decide Manafort’s fate. Manafort is on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where special counsel Robert Mueller has accused Manafort of shielding millions of dollars in off-shore bank accounts from American tax-collectors. During his closing arguments, Andres reminded jurors of the $ 60 million Manafort is accused of hiding in 31 separate bank accounts. (Trish Turner, Allison Pecorin and Katherine Faulders) https://abcn.ws/2KXpfyu
Minnesota and Wisconsin see uptick in voter turnout, signaling an energized electorate. After another installment of primary election drama, one of the most pivotal factors shaping the midterm elections re-emerged as a central theme Tuesday night. Voters in Minnesota and Wisconsin — two key Midwestern targets for Democrats this cycle — turned out in record numbers for the primaries, reaching levels not seen in at least two decades. (Kendall Karson) https://abcn.ws/2MOUTQi
Trump’s tariffs make lumber more expensive as California recovers from wildfires. The National Association of Home Builders says the supply of lumber in the U.S. is not enough to meet demand and that prices have been going up since January 2017, and even more so since the president levied tariffs on lumber from Canada. The group estimates that lumber prices have increased the price of an average single-family home by $ 4,000 based on current lumber prices. (Stephanie Ebbs) https://abcn.ws/2BeXemh
DHS proposes $ 1.8 million grant to provide ‘trauma training’ for students. In the wake of recent school shootings, the Department of Homeland Security has proposed a grant to implement a program aimed at teaching students how to properly “control severe bleeding” in the event of a mass casualty event. (Karolina Rivas) https://abcn.ws/2Mh45B4
Parody account of fired FBI agent Peter Strzok takes off with tweets critical of Trump. After embattled FBI special agent Peter Strzok was fired on Monday, a tweet from an account bearing his name and likeness issued a scathing denunciation of President Trump — and quickly went viral. (Evan McMurry) https://abcn.ws/2KWBMSD
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: ‘We’re not going to make America great again; it was never that great.’ The comment, seemingly meant as a dig at the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, drew laughter and gasps from the crowd on Wednesday and swift backlash on social media. (Adia Robinson) https://abcn.ws/2vJtx80
Trump ushering in era of greater diversity in politics (and he doesn’t mean to!): COLUMN. It might not have been his intention, but President Trump is proving to be the impetus for a rise in inclusiveness, integrity and compassion in US politics, ABC News analyst and special correspondent Matthew Dowd writes in his latest column. “So let us give a moment of thanks to President Trump and others with a megaphone who appear to push or be willingly blind to the politics of hate — you have actually put the rise of diversity and decency in our politics on steroids.” (Matthew Dowd) https://abcn.ws/2vJpR6c
House Democrats are shifting strategies in an effort to take over the chamber come November: let the candidates to tailor their messages to their districts and barely mention national politics, the New York Times reports. “It is a risky strategy, essentially putting off answering one of the most immediate questions facing the Democratic Party after its losses in 2016: What does it stand for?” https://nyti.ms/2MkD6V1
In New York, 27,000 parolees will be soon be eligible to vote on the state’s primaries thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive powers, The Wall Street Journal reports. It’ll be a new group of potential voters there, but “no one seems to know how many new voters there might be.” https://on.wsj.com/2KYcbsR
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.