The Note: Town hall shows Trump banking on 'hope' on COVID-19, race

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

ABC News’ Tuesday night town hall with President Donald Trump showed a few different sides of the president.

He engaged with voters’ questions, was challenged on key claims and — oddly — is now claiming to have “up-played” the severity of the COVID-19 threat, while maintaining that he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

The forum also showed Trump engaging in his own version of a politics of hope. Those hopes extend from his optimism about a COVID-19 vaccine, his pleas with voters to consider the pre-COVID economy and his answer to a critical question about whether America has been great to many voters of color.

“I hope there’s not a race problem,” Trump said. “There was going to be unity.”

It may seem to be an odd note for any president, and especially this president, to be hitting at the moment. It becomes odder still considering that the president wants to take credit for acting early to confront the pandemic even while flouting some of his own administration’s recommendations about how best to handle it now.

It represents a tacit admission that Trump needs certain realities to set in. Notably, he owned his frequent and much-criticized assertion that COVID-19 would go away on its own.

“It is going to disappear. It’s going to disappear — I still say it,” the president told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Of course, saying it won’t necessarily make it so. The difference between leading and cheerleading could be stark — especially when uncommitted voters are part of the conversation.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Trump Tuesday night said he “rebuilt our military.” After denying that he ever said service members were “suckers,” as reported earlier this month, Trump pivoted to talk about his administration’s military spending. “I have done so much for our vets and for our military,” he said during ABC News’ town hall.

Wednesday, though, a bipartisan group of lawmakers will say much more than increased funding is needed to actually create a military that is safe and strong for all members.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., and others plan to introduce the “I Am Vanessa Guillén Act” to address the high rates of sexual assault and violence in the military ranks.

Their argument is that real reform is needed. A Pentagon survey released last year showed the estimated number of sexual assaults in the military increased in 2018 to 20,500. While Pentagon officials reviewed and made some changes to sexual assault prevention efforts, they also reported that in 2019 formal sexual harassment complaints increased another 10% from the previous year.

The tragic and heartbreaking death of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen last spring, again put a spotlight on the high rate of assault and disappearances in the military. Hundreds have identified with her story and pushed for justice.

According to the sponsors of the new legislation, the bill will, make sexual harassment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice and move “prosecution decisions of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases out of the chain of command.”

The calls for reforms could put pressure on both presidential candidates to address tough issues in the ranks. And with so many headlines lately about the president’s relationship with men and women in uniform, pointing to dollars spent might not be enough to win back trust.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

The story of the suburbs in Wisconsin and Minnesota is a very different one, according to new ABC News/Washington Post battleground state polling.

In Minnesota, where voters there haven’t opted for a Republican for president since 1972, Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads by 16 points in the suburbs among likely voters, 57% to Trump’s 41%.

Wisconsin’s suburbs, one of which was home to the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police in the Milwaukee area, leans toward Trump. Of likely voters, 54% in the suburbs of the crucial 2020 battleground — where Democrats had once planned to hold their nominating convention — would choose Trump if the election were held today, while 45% opt for Biden.

The latest numbers prove that Minnesota isn’t as competitive as Trump’s re-election forces thought it once may be — he only lost the state just shy of 45,000 votes in 2016. They are another strong show that the Wisconsin suburbs are more than fair game, especially considering that suburban voters in the Badger State are 14 points more likely than those in Minnesota to be conservative, according to Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates, who conducted the poll.


ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Wednesday morning’s episode features ABC News Senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, who tells us about President Donald Trump’s exclusive town hall event with ABC News Tuesday night. ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz examines the agreements signed by a number of Middle Eastern countries Tuesday at the White House. And ABC News’ Stephanie Wash explains why protesters feel the settlement reached between the city of Louisville and the family of Breonna Taylor falls short of true justice.


  • The Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies holds a hearing at 10 a.m. to review coronavirus response efforts with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield and Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, appearing.
  • The House Committee on Foreign Affairs holds a hearing on the firing of the State Department Inspector General at 10 a.m. Senior department officials are scheduled to appear.
  • President Donald Trump participates in a High Holy Days call with Jewish leaders at 12:30 p.m., has lunch with the vice president at 1:30 p.m. and later travels to the Capitol Hill Club to deliver remarks at National Republican Congressional Committee Battleground Dinner at 7 p.m.
  • Former second lady Jill Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff travel to Bedford, New Hampshire, where they will host a listening session at 12:30 p.m. to hear from residents living with pre-existing conditions who rely on the Affordable Care Act. Then, they will travel to Manchester, to distribute Biden for President yard signs at 2 p.m. Afterwards, they will head to Dover to meet with veterans and military families at 3:30 p.m.
  • Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will receive a briefing from public health experts in Wilmington, Delaware, on a COVID-19 vaccine and then he will deliver remarks at 2:30 p.m.
  • Vice President Mike Pence travels to Ohio to host a campaign event at 5:30 p.m. in Zanesville.
  • Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

    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.