THE TAKE with ABC News’ Rick Klein

“There were no Russians in our campaign.” That’s President Trump’s latest line in claiming innocence, and it may actually be honest enough to pass any grand jury’s test. For all the president has lost over this wild last fortnight – a chief of staff, a press secretary, a communications director, a health care bill – it’s the impaneling of a grand jury’s scrutiny that figures to prove the biggest development, ensuring an investigative slog where shifting stories and misleading statements may lead to criminal charges. The Justice Department’s new war on leaks will serve as a public and private counter to the Russian investigation – giving Trump backers something else to focus on, and discouraging the kinds of leaks that push Robert Mueller’s investigation in new directions. But, as always, the scrutiny will come back to the president, his family, and his inner circle. Outside institutions have delivered a consistent message to the president: words matter. Trump will try to make it about Democrats, Congress, biased investigators and his many opponents. It’s hard to imagine a grand jury caring about any of that.


And then there were 15. President Trump may have unprecedented, historically low approval ratings, but Democrats have been unable to capitalize on that fact. Last night’s announcement from West Virginia’s governor brought their party to a new low. Democrats now only control 15 governorships across the country. West Virginia has moved increasingly red over the last decade and culturally exemplifies a swath of the country that helped tipped the balance in favor of President Trump last year. Its deep ties to coal continue to pose a challenge for Democrats who are seen as having actively hasten the decline of the industry. It is no coincidence that Democrat’s lone state-wide elected Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, is far to the right of many of his colleagues on environmental regulations. Gov. Justice owns mines and President Trump has singled out the topic. Democrats have to figure out how to talk about coal if they have any hope of winning back parts of Appalachia and the Rust Belt. But winning in this region will not be as simple as taking down a green mantle. The economic hardships in the state reach well beyond the mines. Sen. Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton by 15 points there and while her comments about the end of the coal industry hurt her, Sanders was easily to the left of his opponents on a number of environmental and energy issues, ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks points out.


“We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you…Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?” —President Trump at his rally in West Virginia.


11 am: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ press briefing on leaks of classified information.

TBD: The White House briefing schedule will be updated later this morning.

“THE BRIEFING ROOM.” After every White House press briefing – on camera or not – ABC News’ political team will have full coverage and analysis from Political Director Rick Klein, correspondents Jonathan Karl, Cecilia Vega, Mary Bruce and others. Catch us on “The Briefing Room” at the ABC News Politics Facebook page, the ABC News YouTube page, ABCNews.com/LIVE and the ABC News app.

Sunday: “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, with Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg Businessweek editor Megan Murphy, and American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp.

Aug. 19: Vice President Mike Pence will address Americans for Prosperity’s annual summit.

NEED TO READ with ABC News’ Daksha Sthipam

Key takeaways from Trump’s calls. President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this year, and The Washington Post obtained transcripts of the calls. Here are a few highlights from the two calls, which took place on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28.: ABC News

West Virginia governor announces he’s switching parties at Trump rally. “Today, I tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor,” said West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice at President Trump’s rally in his state on Thursday evening. “So tomorrow, I will be changing my registration to Republican.” ABC News

Fact checking Stephen Miller’s controversial immigration claims. White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller spoke Wednesday about sweeping changes the president hopes to make to dramatically decrease the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country each year. However, the polling on the issue is in fact complicated and shows a wide range of opinions on the topic. ABC News

White House set for renovations as Trump takes first vacation. President Trump and White House staff are set to clear out of the West Wing for several weeks for some much-needed repairs to the building. Work has already begun on White House grounds to replace the 27-year-old heating and cooling system, the second stage of a renovation that started under the Obama administration. ABC News

‘Top Dem wants Congress to investigate Trump transcript leaks.’The Daily Beast

‘Secret Service vacates Trump Tower command post in lease dispute with president’s company.’The Washington Post

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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