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THE TAKE with ABC News' Rick Klein
Raise your hand if you thought Afghanistan was the only war he was committing to this week. A day after President Trump called on the nation to "heal our divisions within," and where he sent thousands of additional Americans into combat, he spent 80-plus wild minutes picking at the nation's freshest wounds. He outlined an ambitious fall campaign, if that's what it should be called: Pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, shut down the government to get the border wall, end NAFTA, campaign against Republican senators, rage against the "sick people" in the media, and maybe protect Confederate monuments along the way. The fact that he was eager to relitigate his response to Charlottesville – to suggest, falsely, that it was just a matter of the "dishonest media" twisting his words – displays a stunning lack of understanding about the severity of the damage he did last week, to himself, his party, and maybe the nation. In understanding Trump's strategy, tallying the deceptions, half-truths, non-truths, and selective recitation of nonfacts isn't close to enough. Perhaps he can deceive himself, and even get many of what remain of his followers in the same frenzied place as he was in Phoenix Tuesday night. But President Trump is getting smaller even as he gets louder. "Most people think I'm crazy to have done this," Trump said Tuesday night, of his decision to seek the presidency. "And I think they're right."
OLD HABITS DIE HARD
Among the odder parts of Tuesday night's rally was the way President Trump repeatedly seemed to be having internal conversations with his staff out loud. "Please, please Mr. President, don't mention any names," he said. He seemed to briefly weigh how much code and subtlety to use on racially charged, explosive topics, only to land, time and again, without the codes. He said he was told not to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio because a pardon would cause too much of a stir when the country was so raw. But he had to make sure his fans knew where he stood. "I won't do it tonight, because I do not want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? But, Sheriff Joe can feel good." There's the KKK, sure, but he wanted to startle America Tuesday night about the so-called anti-fascists on the other side who have a stated goal of protesting white supremacists and neo-Nazis, sometimes violently. "They show up in the helmets and the black masks and they've got clubs, they've got everything. 'Antifa,' " the president bellowed, seeming to know exactly what he was doing, ABC News' MaryAlice Parks writes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall." -- President Trump
NEED TO READ with ABC News' Daksha Sthipam
Trump defends Charlottesville, Virginia, response, lashes out at critics at combative campaign rally. In the face of swirling controversies and political infighting, President Trump struck a hostile and defiant tone for the bulk of a campaign rally in Arizona Tuesday evening. After pledging to the audience that he was "fully committed to fighting for our agenda" and would "not stop until the job is done," the president utilized much of his time recounting his actions in the wake of Charlottesville. http://abcn.ws/2wlLIC2
Trump hints at pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio during Arizona rally. President Donald Trump did not issue a pardon of controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio during a campaign rally in Phoenix Tuesday evening, but he certainly continued to hint it's possible. http://abcn.ws/2wwmEJa
Tillerson praises North Korea for "restraint," hopes for "pathway" to dialogue. Just weeks after North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is offering praise of leader Kim Jong Un for holding his fire since then, noting that it could be the "beginning" of a pathway to peace talks. The nation's top diplomat seemed to be trying to encourage North Korea to stay on the path, later noting that, "We need to see more on their part." http://abcn.ws/2w1meY2
Attorney: Glenn Simpson did not reveal clients for Trump "dossier" to investigators. The private investigator behind the now-infamous Trump "dossier" spent nearly 10 hours behind closed doors answering questions from Senate investigators Tuesday, but his attorney says he did not reveal who paid his company for the research. http://abcn.ws/2v3u5qO
Forces to arrive in Afghanistan within days or weeks: U.S. general. Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, estimates that additional U.S. troops could arrive in Afghanistan within days or weeks but, according to several U.S. officials, Defense Secretary James Mattis has yet to sign any orders to deploy more forces and is reviewing the Pentagon's earlier force recommendation. http://abcn.ws/2w1T4rK
McConnell, in private, doubts if Trump can save presidency. The New York Times
Judge seats 10 jurors for Menendez trial as senator pleads not guilty - again. Politico
Patriots gave President Trump Super Bowl ring as thank-you for White House visit. USA Today
Rex Tillerson totally undercut Trump's "We will win" rhetoric on Afghanistan. The Washington Post
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