The Note: Mueller fallout keeps campaign in limbo

A week that was supposed to bring clarity ends with more confusion.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

A week that was supposed to bring clarity to the presidential race ends with more confusion.

Former Vice President Joe Biden got into the race, eager to see past his primary opponents, and take on President Donald Trump. The president and his allies, in turn, appear ready to help him in that task -- whether or not they think that's a good idea.

But the non-conclusion to the Robert Mueller saga is delaying any tight focus on Democrats running for president. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now on record saying Attorney General William Barr lied to Congress, and 2020ers are mixing calls for his resignation with calls for his -- and Trump's -- impeachment.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released this week found a plurality of 47% of voters saying that they believe the president obstructed justice. Yet 56% believe Congress should not start impeachment proceedings. And that was before the special counsel's concerns about the Attorney General's initial public release of information from the Mueller report were revealed.

Even new information doesn't necessarily change political realities. And having a frontrunner, it turns out, does not guarantee a center of gravity in the race.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

With 21 Democratic presidential primary candidates, someone will not make the first debate stage.

The Democratic National Committee decided they were drawing the line at 20: That's 10 candidates, each night, over two nights. Someone will get bumped, even if all 21 were to meet the DNC's previously disclosed thresholds: polling at least 1% in three national or early-state polls or having received donations from 65,000 unique donors.

If more than 20 candidates qualify for the debate, the party says the plan is to select the top 20 "using a methodology that gives primacy to candidates meeting both thresholds, followed by the highest polling average, followed by the most unique donors."

Take note, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, made a point Thursday of arguing that she has met both the polling requirement and the donor requirement. Expect more of this jockeying to come.

The TIP with John Verhovek

Call it the first full barnstorm weekend of campaigning. Biden's entry into the race seems to have shifted us beyond the initial stages the 2020 Democratic primary and brought the race to its next -- and equally uncertain -- phase.

Biden will swing through the state of South Carolina this weekend, which will be a critical test of his strength with African-American voters, while a whopping seven candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will be crisscrossing Iowa.

Recent polling showed Warren legitimately challenging Sanders for the No. 2 spot among Democrats. But both are likely waiting for Biden's initial boom to wane, as the first debates of the cycle are now less than two months away.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast.Friday morning's episode features ABC News' Katherine Faulders, who explains why White House lawyer Emmett Flood sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr about the Mueller report last month. And ABC News' Luis Martinez tells us about the growing number of sexual assaults in the military.


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