The Note: The Trump White House vs. the FBI director

PHOTO: FBI Director Christopher Wray arrives to testify on worldwide threats during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington.PlaySaul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH FBI director contradicts White House timeline for Rob Porter controversy

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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The Trump White House vs. the FBI director is a saga with a few lengthy chapters already – none of which has been particularly favorable to President Donald Trump.

Trump’s handpicked director, Christopher Wray, delivered an understated but impactful rebuke to the White House Tuesday. He made clear the background investigation of Rob Porter had been completed last July and administratively closed by the FBI in January – protecting his own agents’ reputations, and leaving White House aides holding a rather substantial bag, stuffed with the accusations of three women.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders then shifted the blame to “career officials” in the White House Personnel Security Office – as if that’s some obscure entity that isn’t actually under the purview of the executive office of the president.

The latest volleys intensify questions about White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s handling of the Porter matter. The fact that Trump alums – Corey Lewandowsi and Anthony Scaramucci among them – are taking open aim at Kelly is being read in Trump world as a sign that the president agrees with their critiques, or at least agrees enough to not defend him.

It’s not just the presidential silence on Kelly that’s intriguing. Multiple times this week the president has been asked by reporters about domestic violence; he has not responded.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

It was not only on the issue of Rob Porter that intelligence leaders seemed at odds with the White House yesterday.

When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the country was “under attack,” and CIA director Mike Pompeo acknowledged his team had intelligence Russians were posturing to interfere in the 2018 elections, the silence from the president on the issue was deafening.

Normally, when the country feels under attack from a foreign entity, leaders urge people to unite across party and state lines; the “U” in United States gets a little bigger.

But the president’s defiance and disregard of the issue of Russian meddling, at least publicly, has not only made him look as if he’s bucking his cabinet, but has, in a very real way, fostered divisions and skepticism on the issue across the country. A country divided about the seriousness of a threat is, arguably, less likely to respond to it.

The TIP with Lissette Rodriguez

It was a busy day for Florida politics with Democrats taking back a seat in the state legislature by a huge margin. Margaret Good dominated in the special election for Florida House District 72, with a comfortable winning margin of 52 percent compared to 45 percent for her Republican opponent, James Buchanan.

This win matters for a couple of reasons, most notably the midterms, just nine months away.

For Democrats across the country, it means increased momentum after a string of wins in state legislatures across the country since President Trump’s inauguration. Good is now the 36th Democrat to have turned a state legislature seat blue.

As Democrats see a return on their investments, Good’s win in Florida indicates the national party will only ramp up resources that will be poured into states such as Florida come November. Take, for example, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s $20,000 investment in this particular race.

Elsewhere in the party, Florida Democrats say this win vindicates the campaign against Trump.

The defeat of a Republican state legislative candidate, whose father happens to be Rep. Vern Buchanan, is a major wake-up call given all the advantages the party had in this major swing state.

Florida House District 72 has been a reliable Republican district, with President Trump winning it by 4.6 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. The district also has about 12,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

But the competition was fierce. Good had money coming in from all over the country and an endorsement and robocall from former Vice President Joe Biden. Buchanan challenged Good’s endorsement star power by bringing former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to Sarasota this past Sunday.


  • President Trump meets with bipartisan members of Congress on infrastructure at 11:30 a.m.
  • Paul Manafort and former business associate Rick Gates have a status hearing at U.S. District Court this morning.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continues his Middle East tour, meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the afternoon.
  • On today's "Powerhouse Politics" podcast, ABC's Rick Klein and Mary Bruce interview the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, as well as RNC committeeman Ron Kaufman, a longtime political adviser to Mitt Romney.
  • First lady Melania Trump will decorate cookies and deliver Valentines to children at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland this afternoon.
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., host a ceremony honoring the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass at 5:30 p.m.

    “There’s no reason why we should not reach a bipartisan solution this week.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the immigration debate underway, despite a contentious start between Republican and Democratic senators.


    Intel chiefs warn Congress Russia intent on interfering with 2018 midterms. The head of U.S. intelligence told Congress Tuesday that Russia, just as it did in the 2016 presidential election, is determined to meddle in the 2018 midterms in order “to undermine democracy, sew discord and undermine our values.” (Steve Turnham)

    FBI director gives new details that contradict White House timeline of Rob Porter's departure. FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI completed its background investigation of Porter "in late July." (Jordyn Phelps, Meridith McGraw and Justin Fishel)

    Adam Rippon: 'I don't want my Olympic experience being about Mike Pence.' He’s been outspoken about the vice president’s record on LGBT issues, but for Rippon, 28, it's being a role model for youth back home that's important to him – not making his time at the games about a lawmaker he vehemently opposes. (David Caplan)

    When your parents donate to your political opponent. That's exactly what the parents of Wisconsin GOP Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson did, maxing out donations to his Democratic opponent, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, according to Federal Election Commission records. (Soo Rin Kim)

    Sessions' reference to 'Anglo-American' legal heritage concerns some groups. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sparked controversy Monday after making reference to the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement." A DOJ official told ABC News his comments were clearly a reference to the common law legal heritage and in no way related to race. (Adam Kelsey)

    USDA proposes replacing food stamps with delivery service, added work requirements. The Trump administration is proposing a drastic change to how millions of people in the U.S. receive food stamps by replacing cards with an equivalent cash value with a "Blue Apron-type" delivery box of food purchased by the government. (Stephanie Ebbs)

    Twin sisters' future in US uncertain after parents are deported. In November, at a routine immigration meeting, their father was suddenly detained, immediately incarcerated and, within weeks, deported. This month, their mother was deported as well. Liany and Dani Villacis, now 22, remain in the U.S. under DACA protection. (Amna Nawaz)

    The Washington Post reports on President Trump's $100,000 donation to the Department of Transportation to help fund an infrastructure grant program. Trump has given away his $400,000 presidential salary to different federal agencies in quarterly chunks since taking office.

    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.