— -- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
THE TAKE with ABC News' Rick Klein
This nothing burger has some meat in it. As details of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-tied lawyer emerge, a link that was missing comes into view; a link that explains the shifting White House and Donald Trump Jr. stories, and just maybe explains what has the special counsel digging in for months of additional work. The official line has long been that there were no meetings between campaign officials and Russian interests. That's clearly wrong now. The story was forced to adjust: "There is no evidence of collusion," Kellyanne Conway said Monday on "Good Morning America." Well, the meeting in question – Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and the lawyer at least one of them knew was backed by Russia and was promising damaging campaign information – starts to get you in the neighborhood. (Look for scrutiny next on Kushner, the only one in the meeting who now holds a government job, and who did not disclose the encounter on government forms.) The White House responses have continued to evolve, with officials arguing now that President Trump wasn't aware of the Trump Tower meeting until a few days ago. There's also this very careful sentence, from spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders: "Don Jr. didn't collude with anybody to influence the election." The White House has used the "no evidence" argument almost to taunt political enemies and investigators. That makes it extra ugly when evidence does make itself known.
HEALTH CARE STATE-OF-PLAY
Republican leaders' worst enemy right now is time. The plan on health care had been to move any bill fast with little public debate and no formal public hearings. The first year of a new administration is traditionally the best shot at passing big legislation and they wanted to pass a lot. But the health care bills in both chambers have sat too long. Significant public debate has occurred, just in the streets and back in statehouses. Governors and experts are now demanding even more time to talk it over. Old talking points about how Democrats moved the Affordable Care Act in the dark too now just seem silly. According to the New York Times, there were 16 Senate hearings on the ACA, compared with just one on this new Republican plan. Seven days of markups, compared to two and over 200 witnesses heard. But slowing down now for any meaningful conversation could derail any already slim chances of cobbling together 51 votes. The National Governors Association is supposed to meet in just a week and if that turns into a venting session about the possible pitfalls of the bill, it is hard to see how the legislation recovers. Moving something this unpopular quickly via backdoor negotiations may be more politically risky than it is worth, ABC News' MaryAlice Parks writes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I would certainly say Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election." -- White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
NEED TO READ with ABC News' Daksha Sthipam
Trump learned of son's meeting with Russian attorney in "last couple of days." Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the president wasn't concerned about the meeting and insisted Donald Trump Jr., alongside Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, didn't collude with anybody to influence the election. http://abcn.ws/2sIEnHT
"Kill the bill, don't kill me:" Health care protesters descend on Capitol Hill. Over 100 protesters from across the United States gathered outside high-profile Republican senators' offices on Monday to voice their opposition to the GOP's Senate bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The demonstrators -- some of whom are doctors, nurses and patients with chronic health conditions -- crowded around the offices and 80 were arrested. http://abcn.ws/2tBUYjo
James Comey associate denies leaked memos contained classified information. "No [Comey] memos given to me had any classified markings," Professor Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who is now a professor at Columbia Law School, told ABC News. http://abcn.ws/2ub3PtC
Long road ahead for Mosul's residents, despite military victory over ISIS. The nine-month campaign to retake what was once Iraq's second largest city is a major success for Iraqi Security Forces and the U.S.-led coalition supporting them. But Mosul's residents, nearly 700,000 who are still displaced, face a long road back to normalcy. http://abcn.ws/2u3AxwB
@NatashaBertrand: Trump's tweeted about James Comey, the health bill, and Ivanka so far. No defense of Trump Jr. yet.
@BuzzFeedBen: "Don Jr is the base," a senior admin official tells @buzzfeednews http://bzfd.it/2u8z2gc
@MonmouthPoll: NEW NJ POLL: Christie rating at all-time low 15% approve-80% disapprove http://bit.ly/2uaOvxp
@RobertBryan4: I listened to Chris Christie host Mike Francesa's WFAN show so you don't have to. This was the highlight: http://read.bi/2sIgRKR
@peterbakernyt: Trump in statement hails liberation of Mosul, sees progress "more in the past 6 months than in the years since ISIS became a major threat."
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.