The Note: Trump White House MIA in election meddling fight

The TAKE with Rick Klein

American politics is under attack. Who, exactly, is leading the fight back?

Last week brought news that Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office was the subject of a phishing attempt that appears to be linked to Russia. Then came Tuesday’s revelation of 32 “inauthentic” Facebook pages and accounts playing on divisive political issues.

The former attempt was thwarted by Microsoft. The latter was caught and shut down by Facebook itself.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) speaks on a proposed protection plan for people with pre-existing health conditions, during a news conference on Capitol Hill July 19, 2018.

As for the federal government? A bipartisan group of congressional chiefs of staff told reporters Tuesday that there’s not even a White House point person for lawmakers concerned with ongoing election meddling. “We need more leadership from the White House,” one chief of staff said.

Administration officials are claiming to get it, and to be getting serious: “Mark my words: America will not tolerate this meddling,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday, in sentiments echoed by Vice President Mike Pence.

Their words are marked. But federal actions still don’t appear close to meeting the active threats.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

President Trump tried this week to take a victory lap for reuniting families that his administration separated at the border.

At the same time, a top uniformed official testified on Capitol Hill that he warned the administration the policy of separating families would be harmful to children.

Cmdr. Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps said he raised a number of concerns to the administration.

PHOTO: Border Patrol agents take a group of Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images
Border Patrol agents take a group of Central American asylum seekers into custody on June 12, 2018, near McAllen, Texas.

“There is no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child,” White said during the hearing.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, asked two questions of the administration officials testifying Tuesday: “Who thinks zero tolerance has been a success?” and, “Who thinks the family separation policy has been a success?” he said. “Just raise your hand.”

No one did.

Not the representative from the Department of Homeland Security, or from the Department of Justice, or from the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, or from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or from the Border Patrol.

The hearing in Washington came the day after a federal judge also found government officials at a Texas migrant detention facility had been giving psychotropic drugs to children without consent of their parents, in violation of child welfare laws.

The TIP with Mariam Khan

Expect to hear more about Facebook’s concerns about a nefarious political influence campaign when the Senate Intelligence Committee holds an open hearing Wednesday titled, “Foreign Influence on Social Media Platforms: Perspectives from Third-Party Social Media Expert.”

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Warner asks questions during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 25, 2018.J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE
Sen. Mark Warner asks questions during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 25, 2018.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, told reporters Tuesday he has a “pretty high-level of confidence” that Russia is behind the coordinated disinformation campaign Facebook said it discovered on its social networking site.

But the committee’s Republican chairman, Richard Burr, would not go that far.

PHOTO: Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, questions retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire during a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, on July 25, 2018, in Washington, D.C.Al Drago/Getty Images
Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, questions retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire during a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, on July 25, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

“I’ll let Facebook be the ones to really analyze or make attribution to who was behind it, but there’s tremendous similarities with what Facebook uncovered and what we’ve seen in the past,” Burr said.

Facebook, though, is being circumspect as well. Asked about Warner’s assertion that Russia is involved, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, made it clear it’s not accusing any group or country.

“In this situation, we have shared our technical details with law enforcement and we believe law enforcement and the intelligence community will have a lot more data upon which they can draw, and if they want to make an attribution decision that’s up to them,” Gleicher said.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Trump meets with inner city pastors at 1:45 p.m.
  • Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial continues at 9:30 a.m. with the second day of witness testimony.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to Southeast Asia with stops in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta.
  • The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence holds a hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media at 9:30 a.m.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks on efforts to combat violent crime in Little Rock, Ark. at 11:50 a.m.
  • QUOTE OF THE DAY

    “A man in this courtroom believed he was above the law.” — Prosecutor Uzo Asonye in his opening statement Tuesday at Paul Manafort’s criminal trial in Alexandria, Virginia.

    THE PLAYLIST

    ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Wednesday’s episode features ABC News’ Kyra Phillips on Paul Manafort’s trial and what it means for the Mueller investigation, ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis on Facebook removing 32 pages and accounts as part of an ongoing political influence campaign, and ABC News’ Conor Finnegan on why 3D-printed guns have Trump’s attention.

    ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” Podcast. Rick Klein and MaryAlice Parks interview Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp.

    NEED TO READ

    Trump at Florida rally: ‘I’m not like other politicians’. Hitting the campaign trail Tuesday in the Sunshine State, President Donald Trump touted the economy, discussed his attempts at diplomacy with North Korea and patted himself on the back for his decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. (Lissette Rodriguez) https://abcn.ws/2KgtAwm

    President Trump asks John Kelly to stay on as chief of staff through 2020. President Donald Trump has asked John Kelly to stay on as White House chief of staff through his 2020 re-election campaign, several White House officials confirmed to ABC News. (Alexander Mallin and Jordyn Phelps) https://abcn.ws/2mW3DsG

    Trump takes aim at Koch brothers amid clash over tariffs. President Donald Trump launched a searing Twitter attack Tuesday against the billionaire donor Koch brothers amid the group’s renewed public relations push in opposition to the president’s trade war. (Alexander Mallin) https://abcn.ws/2Avt7XE

    Manafort trial opens with fiery charges from both sides. Lawyers in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered opening arguments on Tuesday in the first major trial brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and both sides told jurors there was a liar at the heart of the case. (Trish Turner and Lauren Pearle) https://abcn.ws/2O0PCp0

    Manafort jury pulled from region that voted heavily against Trump. A federal judge approved a jury of six men and six women selected to hear Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the panel that will decide his fate was plucked from a part of Virginia that voted heavily against Trump. (Trish Turner, Lauren Pearle and Soo Rin Kim) https://abcn.ws/2v2Wv2c

    Facebook identifies ongoing political influence campaign, bans 32 pages and accounts. Facebook announced on Tuesday that is has banned 32 pages and accounts it said were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” on the platform, but the company says it does not yet know who is behind the campaign. (John Verhovek) https://abcn.ws/2NVMjPY

    Judge blocks release of plans for 3D-printed guns amid Dem outrage. A federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order late Tuesday to stop the release of downloadable blueprints and instructions on how to build an untraceable and undetectable plastic firearm using a 3D-printer. (Mariam Khan) https://abcn.ws/2n0HppG

    Calif. court unseals complaint by Playboy model against RNC fundraiser. A California court on Tuesday unsealed a redacted complaint filed by former Playboy model Shera Bechard against top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy — alleging that Broidy has breached a contract that required him to pay Bechard $1.6 million to keep quiet about their affair and her pregnancy. (James Hill) https://abcn.ws/2LPYoca

    Senators demand answers from immigration officials on family reunification. Senators from both parties grilled Trump administration immigration officials Tuesday, demanding answers about the separation of immigrant families and reports of sexual harassment. (Karolina Rivas) https://abcn.ws/2LExDrL

    ‘Medicare-for-All’ program could cost $32 trillion but may also save $2 trillion. Sen. Bernie Sanders took aim at a new report released by a conservative Koch-affiliated economic policy think tank, saying its findings “accidentally make the case” for Medicare-for-All. (Meena Venkataramanan) https://abcn.ws/2NVNejo

    DHS secretary warns Russia: Stop meddling in American democracy or ‘you will pay a high price’. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday issued one of her strongest warnings yet to Russia and other adversaries to stop interfering with United States democracy. (Luke Barr and Mike Levine) https://abcn.ws/2v6IH6N

    FiveThirtyEight analyzes why basketball phenomenon Lebron James can say whatever he wants when it comes to politics. https://53eig.ht/2v5md6l

    Special counsel Robert Mueller has referred a collection of cases to New York federal prosecutors concerning whether several high-profile American lobbyists and operatives failed to register their work as foreign agents, CNN reports. https://cnn.it/2LGHqxt

    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.