Feb 14, 2018, 5:51 AM ET

The Note: The Trump White House vs. the FBI director

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

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The Trump White House vs. the FBI director is a saga with a few lengthy chapters already – none of which has been particularly favorable to President Donald Trump.

Trump’s handpicked director, Christopher Wray, delivered an understated but impactful rebuke to the White House Tuesday. He made clear the background investigation of Rob Porter had been completed last July and administratively closed by the FBI in January – protecting his own agents’ reputations, and leaving White House aides holding a rather substantial bag, stuffed with the accusations of three women.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders then shifted the blame to “career officials” in the White House Personnel Security Office – as if that’s some obscure entity that isn’t actually under the purview of the executive office of the president.

The latest volleys intensify questions about White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s handling of the Porter matter. The fact that Trump alums – Corey Lewandowsi and Anthony Scaramucci among them – are taking open aim at Kelly is being read in Trump world as a sign that the president agrees with their critiques, or at least agrees enough to not defend him.

It’s not just the presidential silence on Kelly that’s intriguing. Multiple times this week the president has been asked by reporters about domestic violence; he has not responded.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

It was not only on the issue of Rob Porter that intelligence leaders seemed at odds with the White House yesterday.

When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the country was “under attack,” and CIA director Mike Pompeo acknowledged his team had intelligence Russians were posturing to interfere in the 2018 elections, the silence from the president on the issue was deafening.

Normally, when the country feels under attack from a foreign entity, leaders urge people to unite across party and state lines; the “U” in United States gets a little bigger.

But the president’s defiance and disregard of the issue of Russian meddling, at least publicly, has not only made him look as if he’s bucking his cabinet, but has, in a very real way, fostered divisions and skepticism on the issue across the country. A country divided about the seriousness of a threat is, arguably, less likely to respond to it.

The TIP with Lissette Rodriguez

It was a busy day for Florida politics with Democrats taking back a seat in the state legislature by a huge margin. Margaret Good dominated in the special election for Florida House District 72, with a comfortable winning margin of 52 percent compared to 45 percent for her Republican opponent, James Buchanan.

This win matters for a couple of reasons, most notably the midterms, just nine months away.

For Democrats across the country, it means increased momentum after a string of wins in state legislatures across the country since President Trump’s inauguration. Good is now the 36th Democrat to have turned a state legislature seat blue.

As Democrats see a return on their investments, Good’s win in Florida indicates the national party will only ramp up resources that will be poured into states such as Florida come November. Take, for example, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s $20,000 investment in this particular race.

Elsewhere in the party, Florida Democrats say this win vindicates the campaign against Trump.

The defeat of a Republican state legislative candidate, whose father happens to be Rep. Vern Buchanan, is a major wake-up call given all the advantages the party had in this major swing state.

Florida House District 72 has been a reliable Republican district, with President Trump winning it by 4.6 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. The district also has about 12,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

But the competition was fierce. Good had money coming in from all over the country and an endorsement and robocall from former Vice President Joe Biden. Buchanan challenged Good’s endorsement star power by bringing former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to Sarasota this past Sunday.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump meets with bipartisan members of Congress on infrastructure at 11:30 a.m.
  • Paul Manafort and former business associate Rick Gates have a status hearing at U.S. District Court this morning.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continues his Middle East tour, meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the afternoon.
  • On today's "Powerhouse Politics" podcast, ABC's Rick Klein and Mary Bruce interview the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, as well as RNC committeeman Ron Kaufman, a longtime political adviser to Mitt Romney.
  • First lady Melania Trump will decorate cookies and deliver Valentines to children at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland this afternoon.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., host a ceremony honoring the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass at 5:30 p.m.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY

    “There’s no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the immigration debate underway, despite a contentious start between Republican and Democratic senators.

    NEED TO READ

    Intel chiefs warn Congress Russia intent on interfering with 2018 midterms. The head of U.S. intelligence told Congress Tuesday that Russia, just as it did in the 2016 presidential election, is determined to meddle in the 2018 midterms in order “to undermine democracy, sew discord and undermine our values.” (Steve Turnham) http://abcn.ws/2HdvTA2

    FBI director gives new details that contradict White House timeline of Rob Porter's departure. FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI completed its background investigation of Porter "in late July." (Jordyn Phelps, Meridith McGraw and Justin Fishel) http://abcn.ws/2nWO5G0

    Adam Rippon: 'I don't want my Olympic experience being about Mike Pence.' He’s been outspoken about the vice president’s record on LGBT issues, but for Rippon, 28, it's being a role model for youth back home that's important to him – not making his time at the games about a lawmaker he vehemently opposes. (David Caplan) http://abcn.ws/2Gexl3T

    When your parents donate to your political opponent. That's exactly what the parents of Wisconsin GOP Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson did, maxing out donations to his Democratic opponent, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, according to Federal Election Commission records. (Soo Rin Kim) http://abcn.ws/2nY84UD

    Sessions' reference to 'Anglo-American' legal heritage concerns some groups. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sparked controversy Monday after making reference to the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement." A DOJ official told ABC News his comments were clearly a reference to the common law legal heritage and in no way related to race. (Adam Kelsey) http://abcn.ws/2EsVy9W

    USDA proposes replacing food stamps with delivery service, added work requirements. The Trump administration is proposing a drastic change to how millions of people in the U.S. receive food stamps by replacing cards with an equivalent cash value with a "Blue Apron-type" delivery box of food purchased by the government. (Stephanie Ebbs) http://abcn.ws/2o5gJ7d

    Twin sisters' future in US uncertain after parents are deported. In November, at a routine immigration meeting, their father was suddenly detained, immediately incarcerated and, within weeks, deported. This month, their mother was deported as well. Liany and Dani Villacis, now 22, remain in the U.S. under DACA protection. (Amna Nawaz) http://abcn.ws/2BV3e3a

    The Washington Post reports on President Trump's $100,000 donation to the Department of Transportation to help fund an infrastructure grant program. Trump has given away his $400,000 presidential salary to different federal agencies in quarterly chunks since taking office. http://wapo.st/2H9Y96y

    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.

    News - The Note: The Trump White House vs. the FBI director

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    • Bud Simpson

      Does it surprise anyone that Comrade Trump is unresponsive to Russian interference with the USA's security?

    • IndependentforFreedom

      Republican's Eyes and Ears Remain Closed on this ignorant unstable dangerous lying fool and lunatic who gets crazier by the hour and lies now 90% of the time. The GOP wants this empty vessel out there floating and tweeting in his sea of ignorance and ego to release upon America their continuing corrupted agenda - moar wars, more wealth for the wealthy, push their GOP doctrine PNAC (ongoing Mid-East wars for oil profits (enacted by the Far Right Republicans like the Bush Family, Rubio, Kristol, Gingrich, other GOPers and Generals), promising to bring back non-existent coal mining jobs (Lies), Lifting the dangerous lethal lead and cancer causing chemical killing smart Obama restrictions/regulations from products to please their self-serving despicable donor's greed (to hell with our health) & it keeps Big Parma/Insurance Lecher CEOs obscenely rich (they want us sick to buy their drugs), so they got their rotten way and will gladly give us ALL cancer and contaminate our air, our water, the atmosphere, our lives, our oceans, and worse coal miner's lives too, just for their coffers and overseas tax havens and shelters - and Trump's ongoing Money Laundering Russian/Israeli/Chinese/Turkish/Saudi Operations. American's rights and freedoms are being slowly abolished except for the GOP's self-serving donor deep tax cuts and healthcare Kill Bill still waiting to be dropped in our laps, (more savings for the donor rich), wealthy tax loopholes paid off Ryan and McConnell to remain and left in place for the rich; just take away life-saving Middle Class deductions and raise their taxes in 2027 (suckers), hey, take it from the tax and business cheat himself who bragged how smart he was NOT to pay taxes, crooked Trump ON TAPE. His cesspool of his cabinet brims with dirty money and alt-right New World bigoted swamp dwellers - we have five Wall Street/Goldman Sachs billionaires appointed by Trump sitting in his cabinet looking to "cash in" with corruption spiraling out of control under the Trump Crime Syndicate; with toadies and lapdogs in the likes of Sessions, Pruit, Mnuchen, Price, Cohn, Perry, Carson, Devious Devos, Porter, Kushner, Bannon, Haley, Kiersten?, War mongering Putin medal wearers (Tillerson) Generals in Mattis and McMasters and many unknowns in the war fields , traitors and spies Manafort, Flynn, Papalopolous, Roger Stone, Bannon, L00ny Nunes Carter Page, Sater, Gates, Gorka, Putin, the Sergey 400lb spies, Mobsters and Russian RT bots and trolls, (all proven Russian Agents working against our Democracy), then we have to withstand his snarling, sarcastic snarky, bald-faced shameless liars, Machine Gun Liar Kelly Conway, and the religious hypocrite Sara Uckabee, and now this implanted "brown" guy Raj Something - HA, not funny! Each of them spewing Trump lies 24-7 without any shame nor recourse. Then we have Non-secured wife abusers reading top secret documents to the dummy-in-charge who can't get beyond page 2 or Channel 2 on FOX!! And then we have Lyin Paul Ryan on the other end of the corruption scale trying to steal our already stolen social security benefits – yes our entitlements Ryan as you don’t see it that way. Mid-terms and 2020 without marrying Russian interference are looking more dire by the minute. PEACE.

    • ruelph

      The Trump White House vs. the FBI Director; there's no contest, Trump is a pathological liar.

    • Erwin Schrodinger

      “career officials” in the White House Personnel Security Office

      That is code for "it's Obama's fault!"

    • duckkdownn

      Sarah is going to be legendary today.

    • JBUGGY

      I don't think Porter actually abused anyone. I think he was set up.

    • JBUGGY

      I don't see the security problem with Rob Porter.

    • duckkdownn

      Stephanie Clifford, Peggy Peterson, Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen walk into a bar...

    • knowledge n understanding

      For all who got suckered into voting the wrong way. let this mock government be a lesson to you. We have known what it is like to have a government under GOP control. This is not the first. But in the US. We have voters who are fool me 1,2,3,4,5, times and I'll still be dumb enough to vote republican.

    • duckkdownn

      Trump has called over a dozen women "liars" because of their allegations of sexual misconduct against him. But Team Trump cuts Stormy Daniels a check for $130,000 on the "rumor" of an affair?

      This reeks to high heaven!

    • Barbara

      The arrogance and stupidity of Sanders to come out and bold-facedly lie the day before the FBI Director was set to testify tells you everything you need to know about this white house. They make up their own reality and stick to it.

    • Dr. Gurnicus Blanstonius

      God all the lying is sooo tiring. I've never seen anything like it... so many untruths, distortions,... this HAS to be the worst group ever to be in the WH... every last one of them should hope like heck there IS no God, no Karma and no equity in the universe..
      Well done, America...well done.

    • duckkdownn

      Why did Michael Cohen have to set up a Delaware LLC, complete with phony names, simply to give Stormy $130,000 of his own money?

    • duckkdownn

      Suckabee lies like a cheap carpet. But the irrefutable proof of her lies, punctuated by the multidirectional spin during yesterday's presser was a lot of fun to watch. Squirming like a bug caught in a web, Sarah. It's a good look for you.

    • Evan German

      Trump needs to speak out AGAINST Russian meddling OR release his tax returns so America understands his reluctance OR BOTH, which would seem to be the LOGICAL choice.

    • ruelph

      Lies, lies and more lies. The lies keep getting bigger with Trump, now his long time lawyer, Michael Cohen is saying he paid the porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 ( to keep quite during the campaign) out of his own pocket and never told Trump and was never reimbursed for money. Really, the American people are supposed to believe this outrageous lie that doesn’t even begin to past the smell test.

    • Alex Ross

      Trump's lawyer paid the actress, they lied about the firing dates, his backward admin loses two more abusive "fine" people, and he wants to choose how people eat. All in a weeks work. SAD.