THE TAKE with ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks
Mark Zuckerberg just changed the conversation about Russian interference in US elections and made it much harder for folks at the White House to skirt the issue. President Trump, so far, has bristled at any insinuation that his win was tainted by Russian influence. And before Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook had sold over $100,000 in ads to Russian companies and fake Russian accounts, it had mostly been lawmakers talking about the issue — lawmakers and government officials speaking with few specifics about hacking attempts that may or may not have mattered. Both were easy to brush aside in some way, but Facebook is different. Americans know and acknowledge that Facebook is an intimate part of their lives. They can picture a Facebook ad. They know campaigns buy them. The president’s own campaign relied almost exclusively on social media ads, and obviously thought they were worth something. The president likes social media because it is unfiltered and offers direct access to real people. The Russians seem to agree. The fact that Zuckerberg now says he has seen enough evidence to cooperate with investigators (or faced enough social pressure to do) means the company will stay a part of the conversation for the foreseeable future. It is much harder to argue Facebook ads do not matter in a campaign or that nothing needs to be addressed going forward.
TRUMP HEADS TO BATTLE IN ‘BAMA
The increasingly animated, high-stakes primary campaign in Alabama is about one man: President Trump. Tonight he will travel to the state to campaign for the sitting senator, Luther Strange. Despite the near-constant praise heaped on Trump by both candidates last night in the one and only debate, the president’s visit to the state tonight will be the first true test of his political muscle. The race that has become a proxy war between the GOP establishment (Mitch McConnell) and the “outsider” wing of the party (Steve Bannon and Breitbart). It is new territory for the president to be standing this time with McConnell. Roy Moore was bolstered after the debate by the likes of Sarah Palin and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, but there’s no denying that the arrival of Air Force One this evening will bring a boost to Strange. The president often embraces his unfiltered, free-wheeling style when speaking at these rallies, and you’d be hard pressed to find a friendlier crowd than the one Trump will encounter in the Heart of Dixie….