With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
THE WEEK — The Senate is back today, with all eyes on whether 10 Republican votes materialize for a gun legislation deal. … On Tuesday, it’s primary day in California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. … On Wednesday, President JOE BIDEN heads to L.A. to host the Summit of the Americas. … On Thursday, the House Jan. 6 committee holds a hearing on its investigation of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. … On Friday, the next big Consumer Price Index report is released.
JUST POSTED — “Boris Johnson to face confidence vote on Monday” by POLITICO Europe’s Zoya Sheftalovich
WHAT BATES IS TWEETING ABOUT — Jonathan Lemire goes deep inside the Biden White House to bring back this juicy report detailing frustrations at the top and sinking morale throughout the building.
The White House thinks it’s not too late to turn things around. The game plan will sound familiar to most readers: more travel by Biden to highlight his achievements and hammer the GOP. Among the nuggets Lemire turns up:
- Biden “erupted” over “being kept out of the loop about the direness of the baby formula shortage.”
- Biden “has expressed exasperation that his poll numbers have sunk below those of DONALD TRUMP.”
- Biden “angrily rejected” the prospect of meeting with Saudi Crown Prince MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, saying the presidency “should stand for something,” before giving in (though the schedule still isn’t final).
- First lady JILL BIDEN and the president’s sister VALERIE BIDEN OWENS are pushing the “let Biden be Biden” tack, irked that staff have kept him too cloistered and handled him with “kid gloves.”
After publication, White House spokesperson ANDREW BATES said of Lemire’s piece: “This depiction of the White House is simply divorced from reality.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Indiana Rep. JIM BANKS, chair of the Republican Study Committee and one of the leading critics of China’s abuse of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, has a special guest planned for the RSC’s regular Wednesday lunch this week: ENES KANTER FREEDOM, the pro basketball star who has been withering in his criticism of the NBA and other major U.S. companies for not speaking out against the mistreatment of Uyghurs, which the Biden administration has officially called a genocide.
We’re told Freedom will make the case for a new Uyghur labor sanctions bill from Banks. The policy predilections of the RSC, which was founded in the ’70s to push House Republicans to the right, have long been a reliable gauge of where conservatism is headed. Banks has used the weekly lunch, which usually attracts some 60-70 members, to push a more aggressively anti-China foreign policy. Other GOP China hawks who have been guests recently include MIKE POMPEO, NIKKI HALEY and Sens. TOM COTTON (R-Ark.) and MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.).
— Related read:Bloomberg notes that forced labor in Xinjiang is increasingly one of the biggest issues in the U.S.-China relationship. As China tries to rebrand the region and develop its economy, the U.S. sees something more sinister: “[t]he expansion of a state-sponsored forced labor program under the guise of anti-poverty efforts that contributes to genocide.”
JUST POSTED — Two excellent magazine writers are out this morning with major political profiles and we got an early look at both articles yesterday.
The two pieces have one big thing in common: Both writers are personally disdainful of the people they’re profiling, a writer-subject dynamic that often makes for interesting reading. Traister hates Feinstein’s centrism. Senior is not at all fond of Bannon’s attempts to subvert American democracy.
It’s worth reading the two pieces together. Traister tackles Feinstein from a more purely ideological point of view (she wishes Feinstein were more like ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ). Senior treats Bannon with more psychological curiosity (she repeatedly asks him if he’s been to therapy). Traister bristles at Feinstein’s institutionalism, and argues that the current moment requires more radicalism from Democrats. Senior, meanwhile, is aghast at Bannon’s brand of radicalism, his open enthusiasm “to insert a lit bomb into the mouth of American democracy” and “leave a smoldering crater where our institutions once were.”
Highlights from Traister’s 8,000-word cover story on Feinstein:
- “It seems clear that Feinstein is mentally compromised, even if she’s not all gone. ‘It’s definitely happening,’ said one person who works in California politics. ‘And it’s definitely not happening all the time.’”
- “Reached by phone two days after 19 children were murdered in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in late May, Feinstein spoke in halting tones, sometimes trailing off mid-sentence or offering a non sequitur before suddenly alighting upon the right string of words. She would forget a recently posed question, or the date of a certain piece of legislation, but recall with perfect lucidity events from San Francisco in the 1960s. Nothing she said suggested a deterioration beyond what would be normal for a person her age, but neither did it demonstrate any urgent engagement with the various crises facing the nation.”
- “Feinstein is, by multiple accounts, a terrifying boss to work for, famously stealing the old line ‘I don’t get ulcers; I give them.’ … She has all of her aides — around 70 people — compile a two-to-four-page report of everything they did during the week, every week. Over the weekend, Feinstein reads them and then quizzes individuals on their reports in all-staff Monday meetings.”
Highlights from Senior’s 10,000-word Bannon profile:
- “STEPHANIE GRISHAM, who worked both on the Trump campaign and in the Trump White House in various press jobs (including nearly a year as communications director), called [Bannon] a con man when we chatted on the phone.”
- “‘Your subject is a very sick megalomaniac,’ wrote ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI … when I emailed and asked him about Bannon. ‘Study ULLRICH, a great biographer (HITLER). We have seen his sinister form before. We are ready.’”
- “‘Steve may well be mentally unstable, in a frightening, disturbing kind of way. He was certainly a cancer in the Administration,’ wrote yet another former White House colleague, and not a low-ranking one, in an email when I sent a query about Bannon.”
- “‘Steve was in on the joke,’ says SAM NUNBERG, one of the first hires of the 2016 Trump campaign, now a political consultant. ‘He never believed that the election would be overturned. Steve needed a pardon.’”
- “‘This guy stumbled into the MAGA movement as a way to make money and to get fame and fortune,’ says another ex-colleague. ‘He lives off other people’s money — ANDREW BREITBART, BOB MERCER, a Chinese billionaire. How is he any different from a kept woman? He’s a 68-year-old kept woman.’”
- “‘He’s a smart man. He’s a crafty man. He’s a showman. And ultimately, he’s a dangerous man,’ says yet another former colleague. And a vindictive man: ‘He commands a little army of terrifying people who can make life really difficult if you cross him. … And frankly, I think that that foundation has formed the basis of the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, a spike in political violence, and a deep and continuous damage to our democratic institutions.’”
Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
NEW GERSTEIN SCOOP —Josh Gerstein on an upstart free speech group coming for the ACLU:
“An advocacy group that has spent more than two decades fighting for free expression on college campuses is broadening its efforts to fight so-called cancel culture and other perceived threats to free speech across American society.
“The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is renaming itself the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and keeping the ‘FIRE’ acronym as it launches a drive to promote greater acceptance of a diversity of views in the workplace, pop culture and elsewhere. Part of the push may challenge the American Civil Liberties Union’s primacy as a defender of free speech.”
BIDEN’S MONDAY — The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ MONDAY (all times Eastern):
— 5:25 p.m.: The VP will lead a reproductive health care roundtable with faith leaders at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
— 7 p.m.: Harris will tour the Summit of the Americas Civil Society Forum Initiatives Fair and “engage with civic leaders from the Western Hemisphere focused on women’s empowerment, democratic governance, and women in government” at the Sheraton Grand Hotel,
Press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will brief at 2:30 p.m.
THE SENATE will meet at 3 p.m. to take up ALEX WAGNER’s nomination as assistant Air Force secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, with a cloture vote at 5:30 p.m.
THE HOUSE is out.
BIDEN’S WEEK AHEAD:
— Tuesday: The president will sign into law several bills focused on veterans care.
— Wednesday: Biden will travel to Los Angeles, taping an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and opening the Summit of the Americas.
— Thursday: Biden will speak at the summit and welcome heads of state and government and their spouses for a dinner.
— Friday: Biden will speak at the Port of Los Angeles and continue participating in the summit.
— Saturday: Biden will head to Santa Fe, N.M., to meet with officials and focus on wildfires.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
INSIDE THE COMMITTEE — The House Jan. 6 committee is divided over what comes next after the primetime public hearings that start this week, with Rep. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) pushing for advocacy of major electoral and voting rights changes (like abolishing the Electoral College), while others, like Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), worry that “the committee will burn its credibility if it pushes for radical changes,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Hans Nichols report.
THE VIEW FROM MAR-A-LAGO — Trump world has told his congressional allies that the former president expects strong public rebuttals to the Jan. 6 committee hearings, CNN’s Mel Zanona, Zachary Cohen and Ryan Nobles report. Even though some Republicans think it wise not to highlight Jan. 6 for the public, “Trump’s insistence that his allies defend his honor has mobilized Republicans both on and off the Hill into action, with a broad range of plans to protect him.” House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY and House GOP Conference Chair ELISE STEFANIK (N.Y.) are leading the Hill effort, with Banks, Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio), the RNC and MATT SCHLAPP all expected to play big roles overall.
— What to watch for: House Republicans’ own Jan. 6 investigation from Banks, Rep. RODNEY DAVIS (Ill.) and others is expected to conclude with a report in “a matter of weeks,” per Banks. And Trump will host a Stefanik fundraiser Monday before meeting with Freedom Caucus members Tuesday.
THE WHITE HOUSE
CLIMATE FILES — Amid a controversial Commerce Department tariff inquiry that has upended the U.S. solar market, Biden today will announce new executive action and a Defense Production Act invocation intended to help the frozen industry rebound, Reuters’ Jeff Mason scoops. Commerce’s probe is examining potential violations of tariffs on China, but it’s also created a major supply gap for domestic solar manufacturers. The new move “allows Biden to take advantage of the tools available to him without stepping on the tariff inquiry.”
GAS PRICE REALITY CHECK — A Biden trip to Saudi Arabia, ramped-up domestic production, recent White House actions, steps that conservatives want him to make: Hardly any of it could have any significant impact on high oil prices in the short term, given chaos in Ukraine and elsewhere, NYT’s Clifford Krauss reports. Notable quotable, via BILL RICHARDSON: “There are only bad options. And any alternative options are probably worse than asking the Saudis to increase production.”
PRIMARY COLORS — Ahead of Tuesday’s Los Angeles mayoral primary, Lara Korte and Alexander Nieves profile former Republican businessman-turned-Democratic candidate RICK CARUSO, whose focus on crime and homelessness could sweep him into office over Rep. KAREN BASS, despite the city’s liberalism. A victory “would represent a monumental shift in a city that in recent years embraced liberal reformers, and point to challenges progressive candidates face at the polls nationwide.”
— But the latest poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and L.A. Times shows Bass ahead of Caruso 38% to 32%, with both likely headed for a November runoff, reports LAT’s Benjamin Oreskes.
2022 WATCH — “BLAKE MASTERS Blames Gun Violence on ‘Black People, Frankly,’” The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger
INCOMING ON THE HILL — Sens. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R-Wyo.) and KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-N.Y.) are getting ready to unveil a major new cryptocurrency bill Tuesday, Sam Sutton reports. Though the move will just be the beginning, not the end, of Congress’ efforts to structure rules around the industry, the bill will be a landmark step for crypto, with its details the subject of an intense, ongoing lobbying campaign from various corners.
2024 WATCH — Though the former president hasn’t definitely decided to run in 2024, he’s getting stir-crazy at Mar-a-Lago and his aides are split on whether to announce soon or wait, NBC’s Jonathan Allen reports. Advisers like JASON MILLER want him to declare this summer (potentially July Fourth), while others think it would be wiser to wait until the midterms are finished.
THE INVESTIGATIONS — “Trump’s former attorney MICHAEL COHEN has made misleading statements overstating his role in the Manhattan DA’s case against the Trump Organization and its top financial executive, ALLEN WEISSELBERG, prosecutors say,” the N.Y. Daily News’ Molly Crane-Newman reports. “And Cohen’s credibility problem may also have played a role in Manhattan DA ALVIN BRAGG’s highly controversial decision to back off the prosecution of Trump himself.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
HAPPENING THIS WEEK — Despite weeks of pressure from Mexico and other Latin American allies, the U.S. has made the final call not to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Bloomberg’s Eric Martin reports. The key was the countries’ “lack of democracy and respect for human rights,” even though several regional leaders threatened to boycott the summit if anybody was excluded.
Martin also scooped that the region’s leaders will announce a new agreement to try to bring down levels of illegal immigration. It could include “commitments to provide financial support for nations dealing with an influx of migrants, improving cooperation on controlling flows and providing legal jobs.”
BURNS AFTER READING — CIA Director WILLIAM BURNS has taken on an unusual role within the Biden administration as “a sort of special envoy for complex problems,” WSJ’s Warren Strobel reports. Traveling the world to talk with difficult autocrats, Burns’ 16 trips abroad so far in office appear to set a historic clip for a CIA director, and are prompting chatter about whether he could become a future secretary of State.
Sally Buzbee, the WaPo’s executive editor, sent an email to the paper’s staff asking everyone to “treat each other with respect and kindness.” (To catch up on the last few days of Twitter Mortal Kombat taking place among WaPo journos, this Mediaite piece is a good place to start.)
Nina Burleighset out to find the creator of those stickers adorned with Joe Biden’s image and the words “I Did That!” that have been slapped on gas pumps across the country. The answer, apparently: Bobby Naklicki, “president and CEO of the right-wing merch giant Redneck Nation.”
The Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics all donned orange shirts reading “End Gun Violence” ahead of game two of the NBA Finals (which the Warriors won handily).
Pope Francisis the subject of swirling rumors that he could be preparing to step down.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — At a rally in front of the Capitol this afternoon to push for more gun restrictions, advocates with Students Demand Action will don bulletproof vests as a visual statement about gun violence in schools.
— Brittany Caplin is leaving her detail as an assistant White House press secretary and heading to the Commerce Department as director of public affairs. She joined the Biden administration as deputy director and press secretary at Commerce. Meanwhile, Alexandra LaManna, the senior spokesperson at Treasury, is joining the White House as an assistant press secretary. She’ll focus on reproductive rights and portions of the economic portfolio, including technology and crypto regulations.
— Sandra Swirski, co-founder of Urban Swirski & Associates, today launched Integer, a new advocacy firm that will help clients with economic and nonprofit policy issues. She’s joined at the firm by four former Urban Swirski staffers: VP Sara Barba, assistant VP Ali Bedford, senior government relations associate Grant Berkshire and government relations associate Geoff Paul.
STAFFING UP — Kirsten Beronio is now senior adviser on mental health and substance use disorder issues for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at CMS. She previously was director of policy and regulatory affairs for the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare.
TRANSITIONS — Zack Roday is taking a leave of absence from his firms to run Joe O’Dea’s Colorado Senate campaign. He’s a comms/public affairs consultant, and a Paul Ryan and RAGA alum. … Jennifer Donohue will now be director of strategic comms to the chair of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. She previously was senior comms adviser in the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs. … Maggie Amjad is now assistant speechwriter/press assistant for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). She most recently was a digital strategy intern for the Center for American Progress. …
… Emma Waters is now a research associate for the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Life, Religion and Family. She previously was coalitions manager at American Moment. … Brian Toro is now public affairs manager for New Jersey Resources. He previously was a director at Mercury.
WEEKEND WEDDINGS — Ben Voelkel, a recent Wisconsin lieutenant gubernatorial candidate and Ron Johnson alum, and Erin Collins, director of PR at Platform Communications and an NRCC and Troy Balderson alum, got married Saturday at the Montecito Club in Santa Barbara, Calif. They met through mutual friends at brunch in 2017. Pic … Another pic … SPOTTED:Lexi and Ross Branson, Kerry Rom, Richard Sant, Matt Gorman, Chris Martin, Ninio Fetalvo, Roz Leighton, Laura Engquist, Brent Del Monte, Aiken Hackett, Mike Weiss, Dwayne Carson, Maddie Anderson, Rocky Fox, Kelsey Baron, Courtney Ballenger, Hunter Hall and Taylor Armentrout.
— Natalie Cucchiara, VP at Lot Sixteen and an NBC News alum, and Brent Fisk, senior director for federal government affairs and policy at Horizon Therapeutics, got married Saturday at the First Congregational Church in Nantucket, with the reception at the Straight Wharf Restaurant. They met at U.Va.’s Darden School of Business. Pic by Mark Crosby of Zofia and Co. … Another pic … SPOTTED: Chuck Todd and Kristian Denny Todd, Sarah Brooke, Taylor Booth, Allee and Oliver Cox, Madeline Nykaza, Danielle Geanacopoulos and Dan Pollock, Rob Frehse, Meghan Pianta and Jessica Santostefano.
— Anthony Holland, VP of sales at Washington Analysis, and Valerie Berg, director of customer success at ID.me and a POLITICO alum, got married Saturday at the Alexandrian hotel in Alexandria. They met in 2017 at the birthday party of Valerie’s fellow POLITICO alum, Rose Lichtenfels. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: CBS’ Weijia Jiang … Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) … Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) … WaPo’s Felicia Sonmez and Christopher Rowland … Bloomberg’s Justin Sink … ABC’s Katherine Faulders … CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Ariel Edwards-Levy … Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman … NBC’s Natalie Morales … Ward Baker … Michael Goldfarb … Margaret White of No Labels … RNC’s Max Docksey … Heather McGhee … former Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), David Bonior (D-Mich.) and Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) … Regina LaBelle … POLITICO’s Kam Rahman … CQ’s Caroline Simon … Allie Freedman … Leah Abrams … Thomas Pritzker … Vanessa Bajko … Sarah Frostenson … Sarah Gadsden … Kelly Polce … Keith Perine … Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez (5-0)
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Clarification: In reporting on former Rep. DENVER RIGGLEMAN’s comments Sunday, we left out the fact that he spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” with JAKE TAPPER.