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The TAKE with Rick Klein
If there are storms a-coming, as Stormy Daniels herself warned President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” it’s still sunny out there for the president inside his own party.
As primary season starts in earnest with four states voting tomorrow, there are few policy fault lines inside Republican primaries, but plenty of novel ways to argue over the true “MAGA” mantle.
In West Virginia’s Senate race, former coal baron Don Blankenship was pointedly anti-endorsed by Donald Trump Jr., yet responded by informing him that “your dad will have no better supporter” in Washington. His two major rivals would beg to differ.
In Indiana, one of the three major candidates, Rep. Todd Rokita, has campaigned with a cardboard cutout of Trump and was forced to take down yard signs that falsely suggested he was endorsed by the president. The other two candidates are aboard the Trump train, too.
Even in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich’s lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, is running to replace him, Taylor has disavowed the onetime (and maybe future) Trump rival she’s served under while cozying up to the president’s agenda.
So yes, on one level, Republicans are again fighting with each other, in divisive primaries that may hurt them in November. But it’s worth noting that the fights are almost exclusively now about how much they love Trump, and how faithful they pledge to be to his agenda.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
Calling the now infamous $130,000 payment to a porn star, weeks before the 2016 election, a “nuisance payment” might have been one of the more memorable characterizations Giuliani offered ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, but it was hardly the only eye-popping shrug he attempted.
Giuliani tried to paint the payment as ordinary, while dismissing basic questions about who knew what and when.
Asked when the president knew that his other lawyer, Michael Cohen, made that payment and when the president paid Cohen back, Giuliani responded that he didn’t know and it “doesn’t matter.”
While potentially lying to cameras may not matter in a court of law — the president said he did not know about the payment at all, though Giuliani said the president reimbursed Cohen for the amount — dishonesty of that magnitude, if that’s in fact the case, would matter for the future of this administration and President Trump’s credibility.
Congressional investigations have been started over less.
Legal scholar and sympathizer with the administration’s arguments, Alan Dershowitz, said over the weekend that Giuliani’s meandering statements and pontificating may have played right into the prosecutors hands.
The TIP with Meridith McGraw
Republicans are becoming increasingly concerned that controversial candidate and former coal executive Don Blankenship may doing better than expected — and that has one of the three frontrunners in the race, Patrick Morrisey, going on the offensive just days before the West Virginia Senate primary.
On Sunday, Morrisey held a press conference where he slammed Blankenship and raised questions about his alleged failure to file a personal financial disclosure form as required by law.
Morrisey said that his campaign notified Blankenship’s probation officer in Nevada, where Blankenship had been in prison, about his failure to comply with federal law. Morrisey wants to know if it violates the terms of his supervised release. Blankenship’s parole ends Tuesday, the same night as the primary.
“West Virginians don’t need a candidate who may not even be able to campaign in the state against Joe Manchin,” said Morrisey.
Blankenship, meanwhile, in a new radio ad continues to defend his use of the term “China people,” which made national headlines for being viewed as offensive and racist. Blankenship tries to justify his use of the phrase, saying the “fake news” forgets that “China is a country.”
The ad ends, “send me to the Senate and I will represent West Virginia people not China people. I am an America person and I will put America first.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
QUOTE OF THE DAY
STEPHANOPOULOS: You stated it as fact.
GIULIANI: Well, maybe I did. But I — right now, I’m at the point where I’m learning, and I can only — I can’t prove that. I can just say it’s rumor. I can prove it’s rumor, but I can’t prove it’s fact. Yet. Maybe we will.
— Exchange on “This Week” between ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos and the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about his telling Buzzfeed Donald Trump knew after the campaign that his lawyer Michael Cohen had made a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.
NEED TO READ
Don Blankenship at center of party-backed super PAC primary fight in West Virginia. Former coal mogul Don Blankenship is at the center of a party-backed, super PAC, Senate primary fight in West Virginia as groups with obscure names and undisclosed donors spend millions. (Soo Rin Kim) https://abcn.ws/2IiZ0oQ
Trump’s coming war on Mueller: ANALYSIS. With the shakeup of the president’s legal team, he is now all-in on a new strategy to deal with special counsel Robert Mueller: fight, delay, vilify. (Jonathan Karl) https://abcn.ws/2Idv65B
Sarah Sanders says Democrats who support women, don’t vote for new CIA director are ‘hypocrites.’ White House press secretary Sarah Sanders added some additional controversy to the confirmation hearings for CIA director nominee Gina Haspel on Saturday with a tweet calling out Democrats who may not support Haspel, but do support “women’s empowerment.” (Mark Osborne) https://abcn.ws/2IiYOpC
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani doesn’t rule out possibility there were payments to other women. Rudy Giuliani, the personal attorney for President Donald Trump, did not rule out the possibility that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen might have made payments to other women beyond porn star Stormy Daniels. (Quinn Scanlan) https://abcn.ws/2KEDdpS
Trump could take the 5th Amendment or not comply with subpoena to testify: Rudy Giuliani. In an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday, Giuliani said to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, “How could I be confident” that the president won’t take the Fifth Amendment. (Justin Fishel) https://abcn.ws/2KGvlob
Four questions that lawyers for Stormy Daniels and Trump are fighting over. Lawyers for President Donald Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels appeared in separate interviews on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, but at times they appeared to be directly throwing verbal punches at each other. (Quinn Scanlan and Andres del Aguila) https://abcn.ws/2wrbXZh
Sen. John McCain showing ‘maverick’ spirit even as he battles brain cancer. He’s said to be enjoying visits with old friends, holds daily conference calls with his staff, has a new book coming out and documentary in the works, and is even dictating plans for his funeral. U.S. Sen. John McCain is apparently still showing signs that garnered him the moniker “The Maverick.” (Bill Hutchinson) https://abcn.ws/2FQ7w9P
FiveThirtyEight looks at the three GOP Senate contenders in what has been a highly contentious primary campaign in West Virginia, each of whom is vying to be the one to face off with Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin in November. https://53eig.ht/2rrp4DN
The Associated Press reports on the phenomenon of rival GOP primary candidates attempting to appear more conservative than one another. https://bit.ly/2FPeNXf
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead.