The Note: Bolton backs up Biden’s ‘readiness’ challenge to Trump

"I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle," John Bolton told ABC News.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The messenger may be flawed. The "Hamilton" reference may be trite. The efforts to question his motives -- and threaten legal repercussions -- are well underway.

But the message John Bolton carries in "The Room Where it Happened" is powerful, of course, because he was actually there --taking notes, to the annoyance of his boss.

President Donald Trump's third national security adviser delivers his contribution to the tell-all shelf with a damning description of a president for whom, to Bolton, political interests and the national interest were one and the same.

Bolton confirms the central narrative of Trump's attempts to get damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine -- events that led to impeachment proceedings that Bolton famously chose not to participate in.

Bolton adds in a roughly similar recounting of events involving alleged efforts by Trump to get the Chinese president to help him win reelection, according to his new book obtained by ABC News.

It all still matters now, according to Bolton, in relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders.

"I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle," Bolton told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, in his first interview about the book. "When you're dealing with somebody like Putin, who has made his life understanding Russia's strategic position in the world, against Donald Trump, who doesn't enjoy reading about these issues or learning about them, it's a very difficult position for America to be in."

In part due to events Bolton never could have predicted, the book arrives at a moment that Biden is making an argument about Trump's ability to do the job as president that Bolton's account only serves to reinforce.

"I'm ready on day one. After more than three years in office, why isn't Donald Trump ready?" Biden said at a campaign event Wednesday, talking about the nation's path back from the COVID-19 pandemic. "Mr. President, wake up."

Trump has weathered books by authors spanning from James Comey to "Anonymous" to Omarosa. Bolton's long career in Republican foreign-policy circles and as a Fox News contributor will only be mild inconveniences in efforts to portray Bolton as seeking to cash in on his time in the White House.

Trump has long been awake to the possibility that Bolton's book would be a bombshell. It's another reminder of how even this president can't control the messaging that could impact his reelection.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Emotions were raw and exposed on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Congressman Cedric Richmond, D-La., told his colleagues in the House Judiciary Committee that he was "offended and angry as hell."

"By the time I'm finished, it will be clear we are not good friends," he said, arguing that his white, Republican colleagues could not understand his lived experience as a black man and accusing them of both slowing down and watering-down needed legislation.

"To my colleagues, especially the ones that keep introducing amendments that are a tangent and a distraction from what we are talking about, you all are white men who have never lived in my shoes and you do not know what it is like to be an African American male," he said. "And if you are opposed, let's just have the vote, but please do not come into this committee and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community."

On the opposite side of the aisle and in the other chamber, the lone black Republican Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was hurt too and fired back at one of his white, Democratic colleagues, Sen. Dick Durbin for characterizing Scott's new legislation as "token."

The GOP-proposed bill in the Senate would use monetary incentives to try to urge police reforms on the local level and dedicate federal resources to study some aggressive police tactics. The Democratic bill would outright ban the use of some techniques like chokeholds and the execution of "no-knock" warrants.

"We might be in a different place. But on the other side, they are wanting to race bait on tokenism, while this legislation would provide resources for body cameras, for anti-lynching, for de-escalation training," Scott said, accusing Democrats of being more concerned about political optics ahead of 2020 than finding compromise.

"No, we would rather have a conversation about tearing this country apart, making it a binary choice between law enforcement and communities of color instead of working for the American people, bringing the reforms to the table so that we have a chance to balance this nation and direct her towards due north," Scott added.

Durbin apologized.

The big question now -- will the honesty, vulnerability and anger of members make it harder to get a policing reform bill passed or will their urgency press the case?

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

In hopes of avoiding another election plagued by hours-long lines, poll worker and precinct shortages, voters never getting absentee ballots and reports of both technical issues and confusion stemming from the state's new voting machines, Georgia's top elections official announced several proposals Wednesday as the 2020 battleground must gear up for a general election where significantly more voters are expected to turn out to cast their ballots on Election Day.

In a press conference, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he would work to add more polling places and help county election officials with poll worker shortages. But the two proposals that could potentially have the most significant impact in November relate to the absentee ballot application process and the ability to quickly address problems with the voting equipment.

Raffensperger said he's not planning to send all 6.9 million active registered voters an application to vote absentee for the general election like he did for this primary. While Stacey Abrams' organization Fair Fight Action accused Raffensperger of "willfully making voting lines longer," by doing this, Georgia voters don't need an excuse to vote this way, and going into November, that process will be streamlined.

The state is building an online portal where all voters can apply for absentee ballots, which the secretary said, "will take work off the counties and eliminate errors and allow voters to know that applications have been received and processed." And on Election Day, the plan is to have technicians at every single precinct statewide, because during the primary, "nearly every technical issue was resolved in minutes once a tech arrived," Raffensperger said.


FiveThirtyEight has launched its general election polling averages nationally and for all states with a sufficient number of polls. Recent polls show former Vice President Joe Biden with a solid lead over President Donald Trump nationally, and in most swing states.


In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," Gov. Andrew Cuomo reflects on the first 100 days of New York's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Read this story and more by checking out Bringing America Back, an ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in economic recovery and medical preparedness amid the coronavirus pandemic.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who tells us what we're learning from John Bolton's book ahead of their exclusive interview on Sunday night. Then, ABC News' Trish Turner explains what's in the Republican police reform bill and why some Democrats say it's a non-starter. And, Andre Perry from The Brookings Institution explains how corporate America is handling calls for changes in racial representation.

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. Nearly three weeks after the death of George Floyd, President Donald Trump on Tuesday met with American families who have also had loved ones killed by police officers. In signing his executive order, he made it clear that there is overwhelming support for some policing reforms, such as the banning of chokeholds in most incidences. Leah Wright Rigueur, associate professor of public policy at Harvard University and ABC News contributor, joins ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on the podcast.


  • Dr. Jill Biden participates in a virtual event discussing her husband's plans for the country reopening safely in Richmond, Virginia, at 10:15 a.m. She also delivers remarks at a virtual event in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, at 1 p.m.
  • President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable with governors on the reopening of America’s small businesses at 3 p.m. in the White House.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden will participate in a virtual finance event.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    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.