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By EUGENE DANIELS and RYAN LIZZA
With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
Although President Joe Biden notched foreign policy wins in Europe, he’s in for a rude awakening as he returns home to the U.S., where he’ll face surging inflation, gas prices and the fallout from recent rulings by the Supreme Court. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
If you want to get a full sense of why so many Democrats seem to be frustrated with President JOE BIDEN at the moment, here’s one piece you need to read:“Is Biden a Man Out of Time?” by The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein.
Whether the specific issue is abortion rights, court reform, voting rights, the filibuster, or the DOJ’s investigation into DONALD TRUMP’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, “[m]any Democrats share a sense that … Biden and his team have been following, not leading. And that tendency points to an enduring question about Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and was shaped by a clubbier, more cooperative Washington. Can he be the inspirational leader his party needs to counter the aggressive moves by Republicans in Congress and in the states, together with their appointees on the Supreme Court, to reverse long-held civil rights and even threaten democracy itself?”
TRESA UNDEM, a pollster for progressive causes, making it succinct: “Could anyone else have beaten Trump? I don’t think so. … But from the perspective of some Democratic voters [now], he just doesn’t get it. Biden will be presiding over this critical period when so many people are losing rights. Can you imagine being the president when women lost the right to abortion, and election subversion [is advancing], and the whole country is worried about democracy, and you are like, ‘The Supreme Court is just fine’?”
As our own Jonathan Lemire writes, even as Biden notched foreign policy wins in Europe, he’s in for a rude awakening as he returns home to the U.S., where he’ll “confront soaring inflation, surging gas prices, questions about his political future and a rage from his own party about a series of Supreme Court rulings.” Speaking of which …
YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET — “The massive jolt the new conservative Supreme Court supermajority delivered to the political system last week by overturning Roe v. Wade could just be the beginning,” write Josh Gerstein and Alex Ward, with a look at the cases the court is eyeing for its term this fall. “The next targets could include voting rights, state courts’ power over elections, affirmative action and laws banning discrimination against LGBTQ people.”
DEMS’ NEW 2022 STRATEGY — Democrats are readying a new approach to try to save their House majority — one that unites two topics currently riveting Washington: (1) the Jan. 6 insurrection, and (2) the overturning of Roe. “The heart of the approach: calling out GOP candidates’ most hard-line positions on multiple issues,” Sarah Ferris reports. “Take, for example, the Republican hopeful who recently suggested rape victims were less likely to get pregnant. Or the Republican who’s defended the far-right militia, the Oath Keepers, alongside several more who have shared QAnon conspiracy theories with their supporters.”
How DCCC Chair SEAN PATRICK MALONEY sees it, using the term “MAGA” nine times in a roughly nine-minute interview: “We’re going to beat them over the head with that.”
But, but, but: “Privately, few Democrats believe the strategy is enough to hold the House against this year’s brutal headwinds, even with the nation’s focus briefly turned from inflation to abortion, guns and the GOP’s role in the Capitol riot,” Sarah writes. “And using ‘MAGA’ as a label, as President Joe Biden himself has found, runs the risk of emboldening Trump’s base to turn out.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK —N.Y. Mag’s David Freedlander is out with a biting new profile of NYC Mayor ERIC ADAMS’ administration, characterized by hizzoner’s “talent for grabbing attention,” which can “come at the cost of policy coherence.” Now, after six months in office, “there’s a danger that the perception of him as a lightweight is hardening in the eyes of all sorts of political observers,” writes Freedlander.
“Sometimes working here can feel like ‘Jurassic Park,’ and he is the T. rex and is going to keep on testing the fences until he breaks through,” says an administration official. “He needs somebody who can whisper in his ear, ‘Mr. Mayor, I’m sorry, but you are out of your fucking mind right now.’” Read on for more, including … (1) how Adams fumbled the race for speaker of the city council … (2) the time he trumpeted a new system he devised for the police to track homeless encampments (it was a shared Google Doc) … and (3) why the fight over NBA star KYRIE IRVING’s vaccination status showed some observers that the mayor has a “glass jaw.”
Happy Friday. Welcome to July. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
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THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: TIM MILLER & ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN — Why haven’t there been more CASSIDY HUTCHINSONs?
That question is at the heart of much of the House Jan. 6 committee’s work — and of TIM MILLER’s new book, “Why We Did It,” which, coincidencidentally, was released the same day as Hutchinson’s explosive testimony.
Miller’s arc is, by now, somewhat familiar: At the dawn of the Trump era, he was an in-demand Republican strategist and top aide to JEB BUSH. Miller watched in horror as Trumpism swallowed the Republican establishment and his fellow GOP strategists jumped on the MAGA bandwagon. He resisted, left the party, and devoted himself to Never Trumpism.
In his new book, Miller sets out to understand the mindset of those Republicans who remained — friends and former colleagues who weren’t all that different from him, but who enthusiastically worked to elect Trump and later joined his administration.
In one chapter, he traces the journey of ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN. In 2016, she was a 20-something conservative and top Capitol Hill aide who couldn’t bring herself to vote for Trump. By 2020, she was director of strategic comms in the Trump White House — before resigning in disgust that December.
On the outside, Griffin joined Miller in the ranks of the Never Trumpers, and began helping others do the same. Most recently, it was Griffin who helped guide Hutchinson, her good friend, through the fraught process of breaking away from Trumpworld, a journey that culminated in Hutchinson’s devastating account of Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.
On Thursday, Ryan met with Miller and Griffin at the Georgetown Club for lunch — and to talk about Miller’s new book, their respective journeys navigating Trumpism and what Hutchinson’s testimony could mean for the future of Trump’s grip on the Republican Party.
Listen to the convo on this week’s episode of “Playbook Deep Dive”… Subscribe here on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
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— 9:45 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 1 p.m.: Biden will convene a virtual meeting with governors to discuss efforts to protect access to reproductive health care. Per CBS’ Bo Erickson, the Democratic governors participating are: Connecticut’s NED LAMONT, New York’s KATHY HOCHUL, New Mexico’s MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM, Illinois’ J.B. PRITZKER, California’s GAVIN NEWSOM, Oregon’s KATE BROWN and Washington’s JAY INSLEE.
— 2:30 p.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Camp David, where he is scheduled to arrive at 2:50 p.m.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ FRIDAY: The VP is in Los Angeles and has nothing on her public schedule.
THE SENATE and THE HOUSE are out.
STEP INSIDE THE WEST WING: What’s really happening in West Wing offices? Find out who’s up, who’s down, and who really has the president’s ear in our West Wing Playbook newsletter, the insider’s guide to the Biden White House and Cabinet. For buzzy nuggets and details that you won’t find anywhere else, subscribe today.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
More than 100 demonstrators, including Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), were arrested for blocking an intersection outside of the Supreme Court on Thursday as they rallied in support of abortion rights. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in as a Supreme Court justice by Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday.
What do the Supreme Court’s final two decisions of the term mean? Our colleagues have a pair of stories up explaining that, and pointing where they could lead to next:
— “Biden handed big immigration win by Supreme Court but challenges remain,”by Sabrina Rodríguez
— “Why Biden’s climate push might not be doomed,” by Alex Guillén, Zack Colman and Josh Siegel
SCOTUS STEPBACKS — “How the Supreme Court ruled in the major decisions of 2022,”by WaPo’s Ann Marimow, Aadit Tambe and Adrian Blanco, with a helpful chart that breaks down how often each justice was in the majority compared to the previous term.
— “Takeaways from the blockbuster victories conservatives secured at the Supreme Court,”by CNN’s Tierney Sneed
THE EMPIRE STATE RESPONDS — “New York poised to limit concealed carry guns after SCOTUS ruling,” by Katelyn Cordero
MCCONNELL’S WARNING — The past few days have been littered with indications that Senate Democrats are piecing back together a reconciliation package that includes prescription drug pricing reform — with Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) involved in the ongoing discussions.
But on Thursday, Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL threw a bucket of ice water on prospect, warning of legislative consequences for pursuing such a deal…
McConnell’s tweet: “Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill.” (For reference: USICA is the China competition bill that has been kicking around the chamber for months.)
FLORIDA FLUMMOXES DEMS — Much like the rest of America, the White House isn’t sure what to make of the state of Florida — but for Biden, it’s purely political. While “funds from national donor groups have dried up after Florida Democrats suffered stinging losses in recent years,” Matt Dixon writes from Tallahassee, the Sunshine State is “also home to Republican Gov. RON DESANTIS, a likely 2024 hopeful who takes shots at the president whenever the opportunity arises. So despite their dim prospects in the state, Democrats have an enormous incentive to engage there this year — if only to try to blunt the governor’s rise ahead of a presidential bid.”
IN WYOMING — “Cheney defends Trump criticism and January 6 committee work in Wyoming debate,” by CNN’s Eric Bradner and David Wright
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JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was just the tip of the intrigue iceberg for the Jan. 6 committee this week. For all that she revealed, the ensuing days have unearthed a number of new storylines:
— More details are emerging about Trumpworld figures’ attempts to contact witnesses prior to their appearances before the committee. At the tail end of the hearing with Hutchinson, the panel excerpted some of the messages witnesses received.
On those messages: “Both of the two slides that the panel revealed at the end of its live hearing with Hutchinson reflected conversations she described to the committee in her final closed-door deposition,” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney report. “Hutchinson told the committee at the time that, on the eve of her earlier March 7 deposition, an intermediary for former White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS contacted her to say that her former boss valued her loyalty.”
House Select Committee via AP
“The other slide the Capitol riot committee unveiled … quoted an unnamed witness, now known to be the former Trump White House aide herself, describing multiple phone calls she received from allies of the former president.”
House Select Committee via AP
One Trumpworld tactic: NYT’s Luke Broadwater, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni and Alan Feuer report that Trump’s “political organization and his allies have paid for or promised to finance the legal fees of more than a dozen witnesses called in the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, raising legal and ethical questions about whether the former president may be influencing testimony with a direct bearing on him.”
Even so: “Unlike witness tampering, which is a crime, there is nothing illegal about a third party covering legal fees for a witness. … Still, given Mr. Trump’s potential criminal exposure and interest in the inquiry’s outcome, the practice has come under added scrutiny.”
… and another Trumpworld tactic: WaPo’s Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany have a good read into the playbook that Trumpworld uses to butter up witnesses: “Evidence across multiple state, federal and congressional investigations points to a similar pattern: Trump and his close allies privately shower potential witnesses with flattery and attention, extending vague assurances that staying loyal to Trump would be better than crossing him. Meanwhile, Trump publicly blasts those who offer testimony against him in bluntly personal terms, offering a clear example to others of the consequences of stepping out of line.”
— Despite an effort by some former Trump officials and Secret Service agents to dispute and discredit Hutchinson’s testimony, the committee isn’t having it. Instead, the panel is “raising sharp doubts about the credibility” of TONY ORNATO, a former Trump aide who has critiqued Hutchinson’s recountings, Kyle reports. “He has interviewed twice with the select committee — once in January, and once in March, according to two people familiar with his appearances. In his January interview, according to a person who described the exchanges, Ornato recounted various recollections of Jan. 6, including several that drew skepticism from the committee.”
And two committee members called out Ornato, post-Hutchinson:
THE TV TALLY — Tuesday’s hearing with Hutchinson “attracted more than 13 million viewers,” per Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith, making it “the most-watched of the committee’s daytime sessions.”
ON WISCONSIN — Burgess Everett is up this morning with a look at the Democratic primary race in Wisconsin, which he writes “could determine the future of abortion rights.” And the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade has “supercharged competition among the leading Democratic contenders” who are throwing elbows to take on GOP Sen. RON JOHNSON in the fall. “The race has a decidedly Midwest-nice vibe, with the candidates generally staying publicly trained on Johnson rather than each other — though there’s plenty of trash-talking behind the scenes. And since Democrats need to beat Johnson to have any hope of executing their agenda next year, party leaders are trying to keep it that way.”
IN THE STATES — “Florida judge blocks 15-week abortion law, but not before it takes effect,”by the Orlando Sentinel’s Jeffrey Schweers
ON THE INTERNET — “Planned Parenthood suspends marketing trackers on abortion search pages,”by WaPo’s Tatum Hunter
CUTTING BAIT — “‘We don’t have to pretend anymore’: Greens ready to bail on D.C.,”by Zack Colman: “The climate advocates who cheered President Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House last year are preparing to give up on Washington. Instead, environmentalists and many of their Democratic allies are starting to shift their focus to state capitals as the places to press for action on climate change — going back to a strategy that they employed with some success during the Trump era.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
THE NATO DOWNLOAD — Our colleagues across the pond have the wrap-up report from Madrid on this week’s NATO summit, with a focus on tensions with Russia: “It’s riskier than the Cold War. It’s less predictable, with fewer ground rules, a real danger of nuclear escalation, attritional bloodletting deeply scarring Ukraine, and no clear path back to any sort of détente,” David Herszenhorn, Lili Bayer, Hans von der Burchard and Cristina Gallardo write. “NATO leaders on Thursday concluded a summit meeting in Madrid that positioned the alliance on the brink of a confrontation with Russia.”
— “5 lessons from the NATO summit,”by Paul McLeary
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Jacqueline Alemany, Peter Baker and Pete Williams.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
ABC “This Week,” anchored by Martha Raddatz: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Panel: Alex Burns, Molly Ball, Mary Bruce and Brittany Shepherd.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. Panel: Marc Thiessen, Mollie Hemingway, Howard Kurtz and Juan Williams.
CBS “Face the Nation”: DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas … Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) … Henning Tiemeier … German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Jonathan Swan, Jackie Kucinich, Laura Barrón-López, Christopher Cadelago and Camila DeChalus.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) … HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra … Danny Cevallos. Panel: Matthew Continetti, Jeh Johnson, Marianna Sotomayor and Ali Vitali.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Deborah Watts … Kurt Bardella … Judith Browne Dianis.
POLITICO’s exclusive interview with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will take place on Thursday, January 19 at 1:30 PM EST – live from the Davos mountaintop. Register today to join us online.
Rudy Giuliani is boosting MyPillow-branded sandals, complete with his own promo code.
Elon Musk has not tweeted in nine days — “his longest stretch without posting on Twitter in nearly five years,” per the WSJ.
Merrick Garland is scheduled for surgery next week.
Patrick Leahy is recovering from hip-replacement surgery.
Kara Swisher pens her final NYT column: “Resisting the Worst of the Web Is Not Futile”
The Washington Postrolled out its new social media policy.
James Corden released an extended version of the WHCD video showing him wreaking havoc around the White House, serving as Joe Biden’s assistant and subbing in as press secretary.
OUT AND ABOUT — Sirius XM held an event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture to celebrate the opening of the interactive exhibit “Musical Crossroads” and a live recording of the podcast “All Music is Black Music.” SPOTTED: Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jennifer Witz, Joe Madison, Mobley, Dwandalyn Reece, Selema Masekela and Wesley Lowery.
— Vertos Medical, the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience and the National Association of Memoir Writers hosted the “Mobility Matters: Know Your Back Story” lumbar spinal stenosis briefing at the Ritz-Carlton on Thursday morning. SPOTTED: Amy Scott, Daniel Kendall, Kunal Sood, Stanley Golovac, Mark Coleman, Jon Tilton, David White, Michael Isikoff, Amy Dacey, Kimball Stroud and Karen Finney.
TRANSITIONS — Kevin McGuire is now press secretary and digital director for Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.). He most recently was press assistant and scheduler for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas). Nathalie Garcia, a former intern for Barragán, has joined the office permanently as scheduler. … Tyler Gilbert is now director of public affairs and comms at Marathon Strategies. He most recently was associate VP at DDC Public Affairs. …
… Yolanda Malry, Don Schaefer and Jessica Nguyen are joining the Curley Company. Malry will be HR and operations administrator and previously was at the American Gaming Association. Schaefer will be director of digital and paid media and previously was at APCO Worldwide. Nguyen will be an associate account manager.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sally Quinn … Guy Cecil of Priorities USA … Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) … Reps. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.) and Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) … NBC’s Kristen Welker … Brett Zongker of the Library of Congress … Renewable Fuels Association’s Bob Dinneen … Washingtonian’s Susan Farkas … Mike Czin of SKDK … Greta Lundeberg of Boeing … Grace Koh … National Journal’s Kirk Bado … AJ Roshfeld … Neal Patel of the Alpine Group … North American Millers’ Association’s Jane DeMarchi … POLITICO’s Vali Mansouri … E&E News’ Timothy Cama … Michael Berson … Molly Wicker of the Trinity Forum … John Giesser … Martin Indyk … Clark Jennings … Jason Plautz
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Correction: Thursday’s Playbook misstated the price tag of a reported potential Democratic deal on a reconciliation bill. It would be $1 trillion, with $500 billion in tax hikes for deficit reduction and $500 billion in new spending.
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