The Note: In debate over keeping Americans safe, it’s now Trump vs. Trump

If Trump wanted a debate about keeping Americans safe, he’s got it now.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

That debate, though, is with himself -- what he said about COVID-19 back when it might have been contained early this year, as well as what he's doing about it now when it actually still isn't.

Bob Woodward's conversations with Trump -- and there are plenty more recordings not yet released -- are damaging to the credibility of a president who had already been in danger of being tuned out by a large swath of voters.

But recreating the timeline of contradictory and downright false presidential statements doesn't even tell the complete story now. The crisis that is defining his presidency is still unfolding -- taking lives and impacting livelihoods in tangible, non-spinnable ways.

Six months into the pandemic, the president is still acting as if the main threat of COVID-19 is over. He is railing against states that aren't reopening, pressing a politically advantageous timeline for a vaccine and continuing to hold campaign events that look and feel as if his own administration's guidelines don't matter.

Trump's explanations about why he was saying one thing privately and another publicly center on his view of himself as cheerleader-in-chief.

"Leadership is all about confidence," he said Wednesday, when asked about the Woodward book.

He didn't mention truthfulness. In their own way, though, his conversations with Woodward and explanations now reveal a startling degree of honesty about his motivations and mindset -- in ways that continue to be relevant.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

In the final stretch of the campaign it is increasingly clear Trump is eager to use the powers of the presidency to help him win reelection.

Wielding some of that authority for his advantage is expected and usual, of course. Presidents have always used policy, planes and people for politics.

But this isn't any other president and his use of the privileges and persuasions of the high office are far from usual.

Tuesday night news broke that Department of Justice lawyers would intervene to defend the president and the presidency from a defamation lawsuit filed against Trump that stemmed from old sexual assault allegations against the president from before he was in office.

The case went from a personal matter to one involving the state on the taxpayer dime overnight.

Piling on, the former chief of intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security this week filed a whistleblower complaint describing repeated instances in which he claims the Trump administration sought to "censor or manipulate" intelligence for political purposes.

The complaint alleges a pattern of behavior ranging from "attempted abuse of authority" to possible violations of federal law perpetrated by some of the administration's senior-most figures in law enforcement and intelligence. The goal? To change or influence the narrative on issues and public perception on issues such as Russia's interference in U.S. elections, the threat posed by domestic white supremacy groups and statistics about terrorist entries along the southern border.

The president's national security adviser denies the claims.

The country has already seen the White House break ethics norms using the actual White House as a political stage -- the question now: what's next?

The TIP with Benjamin Siegel

Capitol Hill is usually a hive of activity in September of an election year -- with scenes of last-minute legislative action playing out before lawmakers return to the campaign trail until November.

But even with the election around the corner, Congress remains gridlocked, with Democrats and Republicans playing chicken over a second round of coronavirus relief after a summer of inaction.

Senate Republicans will bring their targeted $500 billion proposal to the floor after weeks of intraparty negotiations. The relief measure -- which includes funding for small businesses, the Postal Service, a boost to federal unemployment assistance and liability protections for businesses -- is not expected to advance over objections from Democrats, who have dismissed the latest proposal as insufficient to meet the needs of Americans during the pandemic and recession.

While optimists on Capitol Hill hope the vote launches a new round of talks that end with a coronavirus agreement providing some measure of relief to Americans, others hope Congress can, at bare minimum, find a way to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who breaks down the reaction to Bob Woodward's new book, in which President Donald Trump admits he "played down" the coronavirus. ABC News' Kaylee Hartung reports from the fire line as wildlfires continue to pose risk to communities in Oregon and California. And, ABC News Chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas tells us about a new ABC analysis of the racial disparities in traffic stops across America.

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. President Donald Trump is using his presidential platform to bully news outlets and promote "propaganda on the air," CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl Wednesday. Stelter's new book, "Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth," was released in late August.


  • Former second lady Jill Biden appears with Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin in a virtual Michigan listening session with educators and parents from Oakland County, Michigan, at noon. Later, she participates in a virtual conversation with members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), students and teachers from the Crestwood School District in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, at 2 p.m. And she virtually tours the homes of Arizona parents whose children are participating in online learning and discusses the campaign's vision for safely reopening schools at 3:30 p.m. MT.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., travels to Florida and hosts a community conversation with African American leaders in Miami at 3 p.m.
  • Doug Emhoff holds a community conversation with rabbis from South Florida in Aventura, Florida, at 3 p.m.
  • President Donald Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the White House at 3:30 p.m. Later, he travels to Michigan to hold a campaign rally at MBS International Airport in Freeland at 7 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden will attend virtual finance events.
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