GOP candidates bring conspiracy theories to trail in Trump's defense: The Note

Republican lawmakers have a whole lot of theories.

August 11, 2022, 6:05 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

For all the legal scrutiny facing former President Donald Trump -- and for not knowing really anything about what the Justice Department was looking for or found on Monday -- Republican lawmakers have a whole lot of theories.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson -- an easy winner in his GOP primary this week -- told radio program The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show that the FBI is "trampling on people's rights." He said, "They are above the law. They are the law."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News' Sean Hannity that the search was a "ruse" approved by an "Obama-donor judge." He said, "Their argument is, 'Alright, we were here looking for documents, we didn't find those, but look, what we did find?'"

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy -- the likeliest next House speaker -- told reporters at a campaign stop in North Carolina that the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago proves that "justice in America is not equal."

They and other Republicans are promising investigations if they take back the majority. Those closer to the fringes of the party are going further. "We must destroy the FBI," tweeted Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. "If we accept it, America is dead," said Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor in Arizona.

Given the multiplying avenues of legal scrutiny targeting Trump -- investigations about the handling of classified documents, the New York Attorney General's investigation that deposed Trump himself on Wednesday, Jan. 6 inquiries in Congress and the Justice Department, the investigation in Georgia -- the full-scale defenses of Trump might fall into the category of premature.

It all fuels a tense moment of mistrust and anger based on what Trump himself is saying, and what's being said this campaign season in the service of political messaging.

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 10, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 10, 2022.
Julia Nikhinson/AP

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker is taking a leading role in Democrats' goal of rallying voters around the issue of abortion access ahead of this fall.

A campaign spokesperson for Pritzker -- whose state is the closest place where abortion access is available for many women across a broad swath of the country -- confirmed the governor's plans to spend money in states where the election of a Democratic governor would help block potential new abortion restrictions. The development was first reported by Politico.

"There's a human cry because rights that everyone thought were well-established for 50 years are going away in some places," Pritzker said. "For me, I'm just doubling down my support for pro-choice candidates, particularly governors who will have an enormous impact on the future of women's reproductive rights, until we can pass a federal law guaranteeing those rights."

Although the Illinois governor did not disclose exactly how much he is planning to spend on this strategy, he has a straightforward game plan -- focusing on Democrats who are running in states where Republicans control the legislatures, but not places where a legislative supermajority can override a governor's veto.

Pritzker's top target is Florida and its Republican firebrand Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Pritzker calls "a terrible anti-choice governor." Amid his reelection campaign, DeSantis recently suspended an elected prosecutor for vowing not to enforce the state's new restrictions that put a ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Like Pritzker, the Florida governor is also raising his national profile with a series of campaign events across political battlegrounds to boost fellow Republicans.

PHOTO: Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference at the Family Health Center on the South Side, Chicago, Aug. 4, 2022.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference at the Family Health Center on the South Side, Chicago, Aug. 4, 2022.
Ashlee Rezin/AP

The TIP with Libby Cathey

President Joe Biden has started his summer vacation with family in South Carolina, but his Cabinet members are fanning out across battlegrounds with a competitive midterm cycle closing in, like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is appearing in Tucson on Thursday with Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.

Buttigieg and Kelly are expected to speak Thursday about Arizona investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year.

This week marked the junior senator's first visit home since MAGA-aligned candidates dominated GOP primary races in Arizona. At the border wall in Yuma on Wednesday, Kelly called the Inflation Reduction Act passed Sunday a "big deal" for Arizona, saying it delivered on a campaign promise of his to lower the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, capping their out-of-pocket expenses at $2,000.

Kelly's opponent, Blake Masters, a 36-year-old venture capitalist who tapped into Trump's base, along with millions in funding from billionaire Peter Thiel, has attacked the Democrat's voting record and his border trip as a "rare photo-op" as Republicans seek to flip Kelly's seat.

Last week, Kelly announced that the Department of Homeland Security authorized Customs and Border Patrol to move forward with finishing sections in the Trump-era border wall, which Kelly pitched as his victory, saying Wednesday that once the gaps are filled, "possibly by the end of next month," that illegal immigration will go down in the sector and "make the agents' jobs easier."

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Kelly speak with members of the media outside the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 2, 2022.
Sen. Mark Kelly speak with members of the media outside the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 2, 2022.
Mariam Zuhaib/AP

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

215. That's the number of Democratic-leaning seats that could have resulted from the redistricting process if -- and that's a big if -- Democrats had enacted the best proposal for them in every state. Remember, in reality, only 187 Democratic-leaning seats came out of the redistricting process this time around. But FiveThirtyEight's Ryan Best and Nathaniel Rakich aren't concerned with reality in their latest story; they're interested in exploring the what-ifs. Explore what would have happened had Republicans passed their best maps. Or nonpartisan commissions. There's a lot you can learn from the redistricting process by seeing what could have been.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis on new figures that suggest inflation may be at a turning point. Then, ABC News' Aaron Katersky explains what it means now that former President Donald Trump has invoked the Fifth Amendment in a New York deposition. And, ABC News' Col. Stephen Ganyard details an alleged assassination plot of former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.


  • The Iowa State Fair begins and will run through Aug. 21.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to San Francisco to hold a roundtable discussion with California legislators and advocates to discuss reproductive health care.

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