The Note: 'Trivial fights' carry big consequences for Trump

Will Trump march in the new direction he lays out?

— -- The TAKE with Rick Klein

The last time he spoke before Congress and the nation like this, President Donald Trump made a bold plea for Americans to end “small thinking” and unite after a long campaign.

“The time for trivial fights is behind us,” the president declared last February, to a joint session of Congress.

Days later, Trump tweeted his infamous – and unfounded – accusation that President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’” before the election.

Trump has proven that his words do not necessarily match his deeds – or the very many other words he might speak or tweet. That’s essential context for the optimism he’s promising at tonight’s State of the Union address, where the official White House position is that the state of our union is “incredible.”

Even this moment is consumed by intrigue over secret memos, “deep state” conspiracies, political interference in investigations, and a Russia probe that gets to the foundations of democracy.

The president is set to deliver a new set of rallying cries, and he’ll get his applause.

But it’s not clear that even he will be marching in the direction he lays out.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

If the concern is political interference at the Justice Department – what message does it send that the deputy director at the FBI is leaving amidst questions over tensions with the White House?

Citizens want and should demand law enforcement agents be balanced, apolitical and trustworthy. If an agent is not - if an agent is suspected of harboring political motivations - there should probably be agreed upon methods for review, discipline or removal.

Right now, the muddled mess of finger-pointing and crying wolf in Washington does not feel helpful in addressing the potential underlying issues at the department, whether they stem from widespread bias or a trust deficit with the public.

When both sides call the other corrupt, who is leading?

These days, when Republicans say that even law enforcement cannot be trusted, they seem to suggest that only they can be.

The TIP with Emily Goodin

When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address, the faces of the Democratic resistance will be watching him from the House chamber visitors’ gallery.

Every member of Congress gets one guest ticket to distribute (party leadership usually get more). Democrats have invited a diverse slate of guests that reflects some of the most controversial subjects of the day – DACA, sexual assault, gun violence, and fallout from the hurricane in Puerto Rico.

Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand is bringing Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I hope Mayor Cruz's presence at #SOTU will remind the president and my colleagues in Congress of our urgent responsibility to help Puerto Rico fully recover and rebuild. Our fellow citizens must not be forgotten or left behind,” the New York senator tweeted Monday. New York is home to a large Puerto Rican population.

Rep. Joe Kennedy, who is giving the Democratic response, invited Staff Sergeant Patricia King, a transgender infantry soldier and native of Massachusetts.

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas is bringing Stephen Willeford, a member of the Sutherland Springs community, who witnessed the First Baptist Church shooting in November, as his guest.

California Rep. Jackie Speier, a leader in reforming how Congress deals with sexual harassment issues, is bringing Travis Moore, a former Capitol Hill staffer who “organized over 1,500 former congressional staff in demanding the House & Senate reform the broken complaint process,” the lawmaker tweeted.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., is bringing Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born immigrant who discovered CTE in football players and, yes, he was played by Will Smith in the film “Concussion.”

And at least 24 House Democrats will bring a Dreamer as their guest as will senators Dick Durbin and Cory Booker.


  • WATCH TODAY: Former two-term Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., makes his debut as an ABC News contributor on “Good Morning America” and will appear in ABC News’ live coverage of the president’s State of the Union address. Gov. Christie was a key player during the Trump campaign and was the first to lead the Trump transition team. More recently, he chaired the White House’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission.
  • The livestream coverage of the State of the Union starts at 8:15 pm ET, anchored from the Hawk ‘n’ Dove restaurant and bar on Capitol Hill, with broadcast coverage starting at 9 p.m. ET, anchored by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. You can watch the full State of the Union Address followed by the Democratic response on, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the ABC News app.
  • At 10:30 a.m. Sen. Dianne Feinstein will hold a news conference with survivors of sexual abuse by Dr. Larry Nasser about her bill that would require amateur athletics groups to immediately report allegations of sex abuse to law enforcement. The bill passed the House last night and will now go back to the Senate for another vote.
  • At 10 a.m. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will testify in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
  • Also at 10 a.m., Treasury Sec. Steven Mnunchin will testify on the country’s financial stability before the Senate Banking Committee.

    “Today, this committee voted to put the president's personal interest, perhaps their own political interest above the public interest.” - Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on the House Intelligence Committee vote to release a classified Republican memo detailing alleged wrongdoing by the FBI in the Russia investigation.


    Classified GOP memo alleging FBI wrongdoing sent to President Trump to decide whether to declassify, allow release. The memo is now at the White House where President Trump has five days to decide whether to declassify it and the sensitive intelligence information it’s said to contain. (ABC News)

    FBI's deputy director stepping down amid repeated criticism from Trump. Two government officials. familiar with the matter confirm to ABC News that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down immediately. (Mike Levine)

    At least 8 Democrats boycotting State of the Union over 'racist,' 'divisive' remarks. At least eight House Democrats now have said they will boycott President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, citing his divisive rhetoric and, in some cases, his reported use of a slur to describe African countries during a White House meeting on immigration.(Ali Rogin)

    5 things to watch for in President Trump's State of the Union Address. The White House offered five agenda items the president will address: jobs and the economy, infrastructure, immigration, trade, and national security. But ABC News is looking at five other possibilities that might garner a mention or may be a silent presence in the room. (Emily Goodin)

    After Nassar, Congress moves to prevent sex abuse of athletes. The House passed a bill that would require amateur athletics organizations to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to law enforcement and strengthen oversight of gymnasiums, amateur sports organizations and coaches. (Jeffrey Cook and Stephanie Ebbs)

    Senate rejects bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks. The Senate failed to advance a bill Monday that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would threaten providers who performed the procedure with up to five years in prison. (Mariam Khan and Stephanie Ebbs)

    Republican silence on Steve Wynn is 'deafening': Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand blasted Republicans for failing to speak out enough against Steve Wynn, who resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after publication of sexual misconduct allegations against him. (Cheyenne Haslett)

    Trump administration unclear on continuation of opioid 'emergency.' President Donald Trump’s order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October was set to expire last Tuesday but when asked if the emergency will be renewed when it expires every 90 days, HHS did not answer. (Kendall Karson)

    Will Trump mention #metoo at State of the Union? The reverberations of the #metoo movement have echoed around the country and inspired a record number of women to run for public office. (Emily Goodin)

    There have been more Congressional resignations from this session than any session in at least 117 years, according to FiveThirtyEight.

    First Lady Melania Trump racked up a travel bill of more than $675,000 before she even moved to Washington, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    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.