The Note: Stepping Toward Showdown

By John R. Parkinson ( jparkABC)


  • WHITE HOUSE PREPS LEGAL CASE FOR IMMIGRATION STEPS, the AP's JOSH LEDERMAN notes: "With impeachment threats and potential lawsuits looming, President Barack Obama knows whatever executive actions he takes on immigration will face intense opposition. So as a self-imposed, end-of-summer deadline to act approaches, Obama's lawyers are carefully crafting a legal rationale they believe will withstand scrutiny and survive any court challenges, administration officials say."
  • IMMIGRATION JUDGE CALLS COURTS 'ALTERNATE LEGAL UNIVERSE.' It's an "alternate legal universe." No bailiffs, no court reporters, no Miranda rights, no witnesses - and it's happening everyday on American soil. Immigration courts so full there are more than 375,000 cases pending on the dockets of only 227 judges, ABC's SERENA MARSHALL reports. "We look like the guy behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz," said Dana Marks, a federal judge and the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It's been two months since President Obama stood in the Rose Garden and pledged to act on immigration reform by the end of the summer, declaring: "If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours." His forceful words were applauded by immigration reform advocates. But that promise to act - through a series of executive actions - has raised expectations far beyond what Obama was ever likely to announce. The headlines have been filled with optimistic suggestions that the White House could defer the deportations of millions of people living in the country illegally. It has actually fanned the flames of conservative outrage and created a new wave of worry among Red State Democrats already fighting an uphill battle toward re-election. So as the summer quickly draws to a close, the administration now says any announcement won't come until mid-September. The delay has given the besieged West Wing more time to make a decision. But as the midterm elections get closer, the voices against immigration reform are getting louder, just in time to fire up the GOP's base.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's easy to issue August predictions about game-changers - that action or lack thereof on any particular issue will scramble midterm politics. But in the case of immigration, it sure doesn't seem like an exaggeration. Consider the circumstances: President Obama is set to act unilaterally on immigration in September. A growing number of Republicans is pre-acting by threatening funding mechanisms - and maybe, ultimately, another government shutdown - depending on how far he goes. And a growing number of endangered Democrats are pleading with the White House to pursue legislative, as opposed to executive, actions, as reported by Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa in The Washington Post. The issue brings long-term demographic forces into collision with short-term political urgencies, with countless pressure points along the way. That assures noise, and probably far more.

ABC'S SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: After five weeks of testimony, the trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen is nearing its end. The defense rested yesterday and closing arguments could come today or tomorrow. Jurors have heard weeks of testimony of the couple's intimate marital issues, critical to the defense's case that the two were hardly speaking and no way in cahoots over a quid pro quo scheme with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. They have also heard jaw dropping details of the lavish vacations, pricey gifts, luxury goods, and loans from Williams to the McDonnells, as well as their children, reaching about $177,000. So were the gifts illegally traded for help promoting Williams' nutritional supplement or merely inappropriate, but legal? That is essentially what the jury must decide. McDonnell has expressed regret, but innocence throughout the trial often blaming his wife and saying he didn't know about many of the items. It will be up to the jury to decide if they believe that argument. We may know soon.

ABC's PIERRE THOMAS: JPMorgan Chase - one of the nation's biggest banks - has apparently been hacked. Today the FBI and Secret Service say they are trying to determine how deep the cyber attack penetrated and whether sensitive customer account information was part of a potential major breach of JPMorgan Chase computers and those of at least one other financial institution. One official told ABC News that when a bank the size of JPMorgan Chase is targeted, it is not just considered a financial crime, but it also potentially is a national security matter. Investigators will look at whether organized crime rings were involved and whether the attack originated in Russia. A spokesman says for the bank says it experiences cyber attacks "nearly every day" but that there are multiple layers of defense to combat such threats. JPMorgan Chase also says is it working closely with law enforcement on this active investigation and taking additional steps to safeguard confidential information. As the bank learns more it will contact anyone who might have been affected. Customers should contact bank if they suspect they've been the victim of fraud. The bank says it has seen no unusual levels of fraud activity. Still, many customers today may be uneasy over exactly what the hackers tapped into.


ABC's DIANE SAWYER SIGNS OFF: The trailblazing anchor of ABC News' flagship broadcast signed off Wednesday evening for the last time from the anchor chair of World News.

POWER PLAYERS: WHY IOWA? ABC's RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE sit with down with Filmmaker AJ Shnack to discuss his new documentary "Caucus." As the first state in the nation to vote in the presidential nominating process, the Iowa is where rubber meets the road for candidates looking to make their White House dreams a reality, converging on the state to make their sale directly to voters in the months before the caucuses.

THE BUZZ with ABC's ERIN DOOLEY ( @erindooley1)

RUSSIAN INCURSION IN UKRAINE 'LIKELY UNDERWAY,' US SAYS. The United States is concerned that a Russian-directed counteroffensive is "likely underway" in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday, citing Russian troops and equipment pushing into Ukraine, shelling in residential towns near the border and heavy fighting near the airport in Donetsk, according to ABC's ALI WEINBERG. "These incursion - incursions - indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk. Clearly, that is of deep concern to us," she said.

NEW FLORIDA REP, 23, GOES FROM PARENTS' HOUSE TO STATE HOUSE. Boomerang kids, take heart: One of your own is making a splash in Florida politics. Jennifer Sullivan still lives at home with her parents and is just about halfway through college. But the 23-year-old, who admits she still quibbles with her siblings about who's stuck with dish duty, will soon represent more than 150,000 constituents in the Florida statehouse, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY reports. Elected to the Sunshine State's House of Representatives by a 6-point margin Tuesday, Sullivan, a Republican, concedes her age made some voters nervous.

EBOLA OUTBREAK BECOMES ISSUE IN ARKANSAS SENATE RACE. An unexpected issue popped up in the Arkansas Senate race this week - Ebola, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., released an ad titled "Emergency Response," highlighting the recent Ebola outbreak, saying his opponent Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., voted against funding for medical disaster aid.


WILLIAM KENNEDY SMITH MOUNTS FIRST CAMPAIGN (FOR DC NEIGHBORHOOD BOARD) by the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis: "William Kennedy Smith, who counts among his uncles two senators and a president, is going into the family business - in the political equivalent of the mailroom."


DNC RELEASES NEW RICK PERRY INDICTMENT VIDEO As Texas Gov. Rick Perry campaigns in South Carolina today, the Democratic National Committee posts a new video in the form of a satirical advertisement on YouTube. "Unfortunately for Perry, it seems the only thing the Governor really has going for him is that he's the first of the scandal laden GOP governors to actually be indicted by a grand jury of his peers - with a mug shot to boot!" the DNC notes.


@abbydphillip Ebola could infect 20,000 people before the outbreak is over. Death toll will exceed all previous outbreaks combined:

@HotlineJosh Dispatch from Minnesota, where Sen. Al Franken is working overtime to avoid attention. Will GOP get the last laugh? …

@etchaStech seems like GOP would rather talk about/throw $$ at their problems w/women, rather than fix 'em …

@ABCWorldNews . @DianeSawyer gives a behind the scenes look at how the #ABCWorldNews team makes the magic happen every night:

@NancyPelosi Best wishes to a real trailblazer, @DianeSawyer! Good luck as you depart @ABCWorldNews for new adventures at @ABCNetwork!

@SpeakerBoehner All the best to @DianeSawyer as she anchors her last @ABCWorldNews.