The Note: Trump’s 'Spygate' claim is evidence-free

The battle against the “deep state” is looking fairly shallow at the moment.

May 24, 2018, 5:58 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The battle against the "deep state" is looking fairly shallow at the moment.

Thursday's meeting, arranged by the White House, where Department of Justice officials are prepared to share classified information with two Republican (and only Republican) members of Congress, represents an unprecedented effort by President Donald Trump and his backers to elevate conspiracy theories into political discourse.

(Late Wednesday, the White House and DOJ gave in to Democrats’ demands that they not be excluded and scheduled a separate, second briefing two hours later for Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, known as the "Gang of 8.")

Trump is calling it "Spygate." Really, though, it’s an evidence-free suggestion that the Obama Justice Department had an undercover operative informing on Trump’s campaign.

PHOTO: The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building is seen in Washington.
The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building is seen in Washington.
Getty Images

"I hope it's not true. But it looks like it is," the president said Wednesday.

Actually, based on publicly available information and what former officials have said, it looks to be not true. By talking it up, Trump is really hoping that people will believe it might be.

It highlights an odd twist surrounding Robert Mueller’s probe, as it extends deeper into its second year.

The investigation could wind up being quite bad for Trump, of course. But talking it up – where it may have come from, where it may be going – looks good for the president at the moment.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

A federal judge decided yesterday that the president cannot selectively block some Americans from receiving his public statements (aka his tweets).

In other words, the President of the United States cannot actively deliver (or receive) public statements only to the citizens he likes.

PHOTO: Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 18, 2016.
Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 18, 2016.
Matt Rourke/AP Photo

The president's Twitter account was controversial well before he was a candidate for office, and has been a question for law enforcement, judicial proceedings, and foreign diplomats since he was elected and sworn into office.

After his staff largely conceded they could not control the account or the president’s use of it, they have tried to close their eyes to the material and distance themselves as much as they can. But perhaps this court ruling is a reminder that that is a weird precedent and slippery-slope.

Sure, social media allows politicians to speak directly to voters, but voters and the press have outlets for asking other politicians follow-up questions. When it comes to the president, he can, and has often (this week is a great example) delivered evidence-free, bombshell, confusing statements through his Twitter account without any avenue for voters or the press to followup.

If the court says again that these tweets are official presidential statements, then the White House staff, members of the administration, members of Congress and Republicans writ large should expect questions (and have answers) to explain and defend them.

The TIP with Lissette Rodriguez

In Florida, suddenly everyone wants to be the next Stacey Abrams.

The day after Abrams made history in Georgia’s primary by becoming the first progressive black female nominated for a major party’s race for governor, two candidates in the neighboring Sunshine State governor’s race are seeing parallels in their candidacies.

Shortly after Abrams’ win, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham congratulated her fellow pro-choice EMILY’s List-endorsed candidate with a statement celebrating her "progressive solutions" and looking forward to the day the two of them would become the first female governors of their respective states.

PHOTO: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum attends TOMS, Rock The Vote And Bad Robot Host "VOTE2016" Conversation Regarding 2016 Election at Bad Robot on March 10, 2016 in Santa Monica.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum attends TOMS, Rock The Vote And Bad Robot Host "VOTE2016" Conversation Regarding 2016 Election at Bad Robot on March 10, 2016 in Santa Monica.
Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum is running with two other commonalities: Abrams’ progressive ideology and her African-American roots. Shortly after her win, Gillum tweeted about the historic nature of Abrams’ win for people like his own children.

"Tomorrow, all across American, little girls who look like mine will wake up to a country where they can be anything, including a Governor," Gillum wrote.

By Wednesday, Gillum’s campaign had sent out a fundraising email about his "friend" Abrams’ win and how it is a timely example of what can be accomplished in Florida.

Abrams’ "helped show the world that we need to toss out political playbooks that tell us what we can do and can’t do, or who should and shouldn’t run," read Gillum’s statement. "We’re running an unapologetically progressive campaign."


  • President Trump awards the Medal of Honor at 2:30 p.m.
  • The president meets with the Chief of Naval Operations and the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy at 3:15 p.m.
  • House Judiciary Committee Democrats hold a press conference on the special counsel at 9:45 a.m.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the 2019 budget at 10 a.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden keynotes the second day of the 2018 New York State Democratic Convention at Hofstra University at 11:15 a.m.
  • Arlington National Cemetery's annual 'Flags-In' ceremony honors the nation’s fallen military heroes at 1 p.m.

    "It's what I would call my informed opinion, that given the massive effort that the Russians made and the number of citizens that they touched and the variety in the multi-dimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion and affect the election. And given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states. To me it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn't affect the election. And it's my belief they actually turned it." – Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on PBS’ "NewsHour," speaking about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.


    White House planning to invite Democrats to DOJ briefing on classified documents. The White House confirmed on Wednesday it's planning for a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, known as the "Gang of 8," to receive a highly classified intelligence briefing on the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling, reversing plans to exclude Democrats altogether. (Jonathan Karl, Cecilia Vega and Justin Fishel)

    Trump to award Medal of Honor to former Navy SEAL for 'daring assault' in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump will award a former member of the Navy's SEAL Team Six with the Medal of Honor Thursday for an attempted rescue of his teammate on a mountainside in Afghanistan in March 2002. (Geneva Sands)

    Mueller moves to prepare Papadopoulos for sentencing. In a court filing entered Wednesday, prosecutors representing the special counsel Robert Mueller asked the Court to take the first steps in the sentencing process for former Donald Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. (James Hill and Lucien Bruggeman)

    Kushner spent 7 hours with Mueller investigators last month. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, spent nearly seven hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team earlier this year for a second interview, a source familiar with the meeting confirmed Wednesday to ABC News. (Lucien Bruggeman and Pierre Thomas)

    White House one step closer to a bipartisan victory with prison reform bill advancement. The White House is one step closer to achieving a bipartisan legislative victory with the passage of a prison reform bill that has been championed by the president’s son-and-law and adviser Jared Kushner in the House of Representatives. (Jordyn Phelps)

    Dem candidates can't be just anti-Trump: Moulton on Powerhouse Politics. Coming off a night of Democratic victories in congressional primaries, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., describes the winning candidates as "a new generation." "Democrats can’t just be opposed to Trump," he told Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts Jon Karl and Rick Klein.

    Stacey Abrams' resounding win in Georgia vaults her into national spotlight. Addressing her supporters Tuesday night, after making history as the first African-American and the first woman to be a major party's nominee for governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams paused for a moment to reflect on her life's journey. (John Verhovek)

    Michael Cohen's longtime business associate strikes deal to cooperate with investigators: Source. A longtime business associate of President Trump’s former personal attorney has agreed to cooperate with the government as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors in New York, a source familiar with the agreement told ABC News. (Aaron Katersky and Lauren Pearle)

    Congress approves bill expanding access to experimental treatment for terminally ill patients. A bill that would give some patients access to experimental treatment, with passionate voices arguing for and against it, has cleared its final congressional hurdle and is now awaiting President Donald Trump's signature. (Ali Rogin)

    No concessions to North Korea ahead of summit with Trump: Pompeo. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the June meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is moving forward as scheduled, despite growing concerns. (Cecilia Vega, Conor Finnegan and Alexander Mallin)

    The Atlantic reports on the divide among Democrats over a Trump-backed prison reform bill.

    Business Insider analyzes House Speaker Paul Ryan's tenure and how it could end sooner than he expected.

    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.

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