POLITICO Playbook: What's behind the latest Manchin dramaSeptember 23, 2022
With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
ENGAGED! — RYAN LIZZA, co-author of Playbook, and OLIVIA NUZZI, Washington correspondent for New York Magazine. Insta post from Olivia
SCOOP: MAGA, INC. — DONALD TRUMP’s top lieutenants are launching MAGA, Inc., a new super PAC “expected to spend heavily to bolster his endorsed candidates in the midterm election — and [which], some people close to the former president say, could become a campaign apparatus if he runs in 2024,” Alex Isenstadt reports this morning. It will be overseen by TAYLOR BUDOWICH, Trump’s current comms director.
“Trump has spent minimally on behalf of Republican candidates so far this year, but that’s about to change with the new super PAC,” writes Alex. “Save America, the former president’s leadership PAC and one of the best-funded entities in politics, has around a $100 million cash reserve — money that can be transferred to MAGA, Inc.”
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT — “House GOP deploys a 2023 agenda it can use in November,” by Sarah Ferris and Olivia Beavers
MANCHIN IN THE MIDDLE — It’s perhaps the wonkiest, most in-the-weeds debate happening on Capitol Hill: the battle over Sen. JOE MANCHIN’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform bill. It’s also the biggest hold-up in the quest to keep the government from shutting down next week.
The measure (aka the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022) would basically shorten the process to get permits for energy projects. Its inclusion in the must-pass continuing resolution is the result of a deal struck between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, Speaker NANCY PELOSI and President JOE BIDEN that secured the West Virginian’s support for the reconciliation bill.
For Manchin and those Dem leaders, it’s the ultimate compromise: legislation that would benefit new fossil fuel projects (including specifically approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline planned for West Virginia) and speed up the creation of new clean energy projects.
But in the eyes of some on the left, that compromise comes at too heavy a cost: Amid a climate crisis, fast-forwarding the construction of new fossil fuel pipelines is, to them, a bug, not a feature — a “huge giveaway to the fossil fuel industry,” in the words of Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.). On Thursday, he was among a group of Senate liberals who begged leadership to hold the vote as a standalone bill, rather than as part of the CR.
And yet, Manchin world feels completely confident it’s going to pass. And the reasons are pretty simple:
— It is likely at its high-water mark in terms of congressional support. Permitting reform has been a priority of Republicans for years. And right now, the vast majority of Democrats are on board — a prospect that would be hard to imagine if it were put on ice until a possible GOP congressional majority takes control and rewrites the legislation. Combine that reality with the timing (just over a month until the midterms) and legislative strategy (if the CR doesn’t pass, we’re looking at a likely government shutdown), and it’s a moment of maximum pressure to keep Dems in line.
— There’s also a pro-climate case to be made. Evidence abounds that without permitting reform, the greenhouse gas emission goals Democrats hope to reach won’t happen. Dems are lining up to support it — and “it’s not because they want to do something for Joe Manchin,” as one senior Senate Democratic aide told Playbook last night. “It's because the reality is [that] to meet our emissions-reduction goals, all of the modeling we've seen … assumes that we will have done something to speed up the rate at which we're bringing these projects online.” This permitting bill will do just that.
It’s not just Manchin-aligned folks saying this. JESSE JENKINS, a go-to energy wonk at Princeton who advises Senate Democrats, has been beating the same drum for weeks. A recent study from Jenkins’ Princeton-based REPEAT Project found that if transmission lines — which would make it easier to move electricity from renewable energy farms in rural areas — can’t be built faster, more than 80% of the reductions planned by the reconciliation bill won’t happen.
In a nutshell: “You can build all of these wind farms, solar farms, whatever you want. If you can't actually get that power into my apartment building, who … cares?” one Democratic strategist familiar with the negotiations told Playbook last night. “The power just sits out there.”
Happy Friday. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
TALK OF THIS TOWN — Michael Schaffer’s newest Capital City column: “Nina Totenberg Had a Beautiful Friendship With RBG. Her Book About It Is an Embarrassment.”
FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK — “Yoga Moms, Stoners and God: 51 Things the Internet Predicted Would Save the Democratic Party,” by Minho Kim and Ella Creamer
INSIDE TRUMP’S ‘BOTCHED’ IMPEACHMENTS — It’s hard to imagine a political event that was covered more intensively in real time than Trump’s two impeachments. But only now, 18 months after the Senate acquitted Trump a second time, are we learning crucial details about what happened behind the scenes of those proceedings. And only now are we starting to reckon with what those two failed impeachments have wrought for Congress, the presidency and the Constitution — and who was responsible.
That reckoning comes courtesy of Playbook’s own RACHAEL BADE and WaPo national security reporter KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, who on Oct. 18 will publish “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress's Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump” ($35). It’s an unsparing look at the characters, the calculations and, frequently, the cowardice that shaped Congress’ dealings with Trump — and how the results have likely changed impeachment forever.
On this week’s Playbook Deep Dive, Rachael and Karoun talk extensively about their book and its provocative argument with Playbook editor Mike DeBonis. It’s a reunion for the trio, who covered Capitol Hill together at the Post, and watched closely as Congress struggled to hold Trump to account. They discuss why “Unchecked” is an unapologetically “both sides” book, how congressional leaders’ public rhetoric rarely matched private reality, and just how many impeachment articles Biden might be facing if Republicans take the House. Listen here … Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify
For House Republicans, it was a golden pickup opportunity: the chance to oust longtime Democratic Rep. MARCY KAPTUR in a new northern Ohio congressional district that Trump won.
Then came Wednesday’s “stolen valor” report from the AP, revealing that GOP nominee J.R. MAJEWSKI lied about his military service, including falsely claiming that he served in Afghanistan.
Now, the NRCC has cut Majewski loose, dropping a nearly $1 million ad buy it had booked on his behalf and “essentially walking away from what could have been an easy pickup for the party,” our Ally Mutnick reports.
Moving as fast as Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster: Sabato’s Crystal Ball’s Kyle Kondik (@kkondik): “Marcy Kaptur (D, OH-9) Toss-up to Leans D.”
But, but, but: “This doesn’t mean that House Republicans won’t win the majority,” Ally told Eugene on Thursday night. “They need only five seats, and they still have a clear path to reach 218 seats. But it does prove that candidates still matter and that the growing influence of the MAGA wing of the GOP could hamstring the party’s chances in some key swing districts. There are a handful of other battlegrounds where Republican voters have nominated far-right candidates over moderates who might have been better general-election contenders.”
TRACKING TRENDS — “More Democrats Than Ever Support The Palestinian Cause, And That’s Dividing The Party,” by FiveThirtyEight’s Zoha Qamar
GUNS IN AMERICA — There’s a growing political debate over how Americans buy their guns, and a recent move by major credit card companies to identify purchases at gun stores has inflamed Republican lawmakers, who warn that it will lead to widespread corporate surveillance. Now, the GOP is poised to make a campaign issue out of it, Sam Sutton reports.
BATTLE FOR THE SENATE
GEORGIA ON MY MIND — WaPo’s Cleve Wootson Jr. has the latest swing at the tight Georgia Senate race and the challenge that HERSCHEL WALKER presents as the GOP nominee. “The ease of his primary win has been followed by an eruption of misstatements and revelations that are complicating his sprint to a Senate seat,” Wootson writes from Cumming, Ga. “They also have highlighted the GOP’s struggle to recalibrate in a state whose increasingly diverse, urban population — about half of all Georgians are now non-White — threatens its longtime dominance. And it’s prompted some political operatives to question whether the party embraced a deeply flawed candidate in an urgent bid to appeal to voters outside a shrinking base.”
— Meanwhile, Walker’s former food business used to claim that a portion of profits would go to charity — four, specifically. “But there is scant evidence that Mr. Walker’s giving matched those promises,” NYT’s David Fahrenthold and Shane Goldmacher report. “When The New York Times contacted those four charities, one declined to comment and the other three said they had no record or recollection of any gifts from the company in the last decade.”
WHAT A DOLLAR’S WORTH — “In Pennsylvania Senate race, $1 homes are all the rage,” by NBC’s Dasha Burns: “[Republican MEHMET] OZ took a jab at [Democrat JOHN FETTERMAN] for having purchased a home from a family member for $1. Allegheny County records show Fetterman did buy a Braddock property for $1, and that the value of that property is now $238,200. … But it turns out that is possible in Oz’s world too. An NBC News property records search showed that the candidate’s mother-in-law, EMILY LEMOLE, also bought her home in the Bryn Athyn neighborhood [where Oz resides and is registered to vote] for $1 in August of 2000. The appraised value of that home currently stands at $509,820.”
EYES EMOJI — “Arizona Senate Moves from Toss Up to Lean Democrat,” by the Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor
WAKING UP IN VEGAS — Elle’s Isabel González Whitaker profiles Sen. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D-Nev.): “What Happens in Vegas”
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
CALLING FOR BACKUP — The Congressional Black Caucus is lining up behind Rep. AL LAWSON, calling on the DCCC to bolster its support for the three-term Democrat in northern Florida, Matt Dixon reports. “During a DCCC-hosted meeting Wednesday night, CBC members grilled [Chair SEAN PATRICK] MALONEY … over the group’s lack of support for Lawson, according to a person who attended the meeting. The effort was led by some of the CBC’s most prominent members, including House Majority Whip JIM CLYBURN of South Carolina, Rep. MAXINE WATERS of California and SHEILA JACKSON LEE of Texas.”
RETIREMENT REMORSE — “Departures Narrow Democrats’ Path to Hold the House,” by NYT’s Catie Edmondson
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Former VP MIKE PENCE held a fundraiser for congressional candidate RUDY YAKYM, who will represent the Indiana GOP this fall in elections to replace the late Rep. JACKIE WALORSKI in the 2nd Congressional District. The fundraiser, held at the home of GREG HUBLER, netted Yakym over $150,000.
BATTLE FOR THE STATES
THE MD-MAL PIPELINE — Trump will host a fundraiser for Maryland GOP gubernatorial candidate DAN COX at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Oct. 17, The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports. “A photo with Trump and Cox will cost $25,000.”
THE TRUMP-STATE DEM GOV — AP’s Sara Burnett and John Hanna take a look at Kansas Gov. LAURA KELLY’s reelection bid as the only Democrat trying to hold onto a governor’s mansion in a state Trump carried in 2020. “She now faces three-term state Attorney General DEREK SCHMIDT, who has repeatedly tried to tie her to President Joe Biden and criticized her as too liberal for the red state. Schmidt’s campaign has been hurt, however, by a third-party bid from a conservative state lawmaker.” And while Kansas voters rebuked an anti-abortion amendment in August, “Kelly hasn’t emphasized abortion as an issue, though many Democrats think it would help her.”
SOS FOR THE SOS — “Liberal group spends $2 million to boost secretary of state races,” by Adam Wren and Zach Montellaro
— Utah: Republican Sen. MIKE LEE leads independent EVAN McMULLIN, 36% to 34%, in a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll. “Another 16% don’t know who they would vote for, while 13% would mark the ballot, which includes two third-party candidates, for someone else.”
— Nevada: Republican ADAM LAXALT leads Cortez Masto, 47% to 43%, according to the Republican Trafalgar Group. But the Dem-aligned Data for Progress has the race a little closer, with Laxalt up, 47% to 46%. In the gubernatorial race, Republican JOE LOMBARDO is ahead of Dem Gov. STEVE SISOLAK, 48% to 45%, per Trafalgar, while Data for Progress has them tied at 45%.
— Georgia: Democratic Sen. RAPHAEL WARNOCK and Republican HERSCHEL WALKER are tied at 46%, per Data for Progress. And Republican Gov. BRIAN KEMP leads Democrat STACEY ABRAMS, 51% to 44%.
— Florida: Republican Rep. NEAL DUNN leads Lawson in Florida’s 2nd district, 49% to 43%, according to a poll by the Lawson-backed Southern Roots PAC and David Binder Research.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
McCONNELL’S ECA MANEUVER — Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL opposed convicting Trump at his second impeachment trial, but he may yet help clean up Trump’s mess from Jan. 6. “Things are playing out differently in the Senate GOP after only nine House Republicans — all of them retiring from Congress — supported updating a 19th-century law that Trump’s allies sought to manipulate to keep him in power,” Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett report this morning. “Even as House GOP leaders whipped against the post-Jan. 6 legislation this week, McConnell has encouraged his members to seek a deal with Democrats, and is himself leaning toward backing the effort, according to senators in both parties.”
BIG-TIME BLOW-UP — “Youngkin’s meeting with Va. delegation gets heated over trans policy,” by WaPo’s Meagan Flynn: GOP Rep. BOB GOOD “argued that rather than bullying of trans students contributing to suicide, ‘the fact that these kids are killing themselves is because of grooming,’ aides recounted, and the congressman said they were being ‘forced’ to undergo gender-affirming surgeries — comments that the aides said raised the temperature in the room. [Dem Rep. ABIGAIL] SPANBERGER responded forcefully, telling Good, ‘That’s not f---ing true.’”
THAT WAS QUICK — “Tish James fundraising appeal vows she will ‘never be bullied’ as attacks from Trump, Cuomo mount,” by Joseph Spector and Meridith McGraw
OH DEARIE — “Special master calls for help in Trump Mar-a-Lago documents fight,” by Josh Gerstein
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
BEARING WITNESS — ANIKA COLLIER NAVAROLI, a previously unidentified Twitter whistleblower who testified before the Jan. 6 committee in July, comes forward to speak to WaPo about “the terror she felt about coming forward and how eventually that fear was overcome by her worry that extremism and political disinformation on social media pose an ‘imminent threat not just to American democracy, but to the societal fabric of our planet,’” WaPo’s Drew Harwell writes.
THE WHITE HOUSE
SETTING THE AGENDA — “The White House and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Thursday that a Republican-led proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks would endanger the health of women and have severe consequences for physicians,” AP’s Colleen Long reports. “‘If passed and enacted, this bill would create a nationwide health crisis, imperiling the health and lives of women in all 50 states,’ according to a preliminary analysis of the bill by JENNIFER KLEIN, the White House Gender Policy Council chairwoman, that was obtained by The Associated Press.”
— The White House is dispatching Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN to Durham, N.C., next week to trumpet Dems’ accomplishments ahead of the midterms and tout the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, AP’s Fatima Hussein writes.
VEEP FILES — Harris sat down for an exclusive interview with Vice, during which she touched on the topics of abortion, democracy and immigration. Watch the 14-minute interview
COMING ATTRACTIONS — “Biden and Harris to deliver remarks at Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Phoenix Awards,” by TheGrio’s April Ryan
WAR IN UKRAINE
WORDS OF WARNING — “U.S. has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon,” by WaPo’s Paul Sonne and John Hudson
ON THE UNGA SIDELINES — U.S. officials used a U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday to urge allies to push Russia to cease its nuclear saber-rattling, AP’s Jennifer Peltz and Matthew Lee write.
SCOTUS WATCH — @SCOTUSblog: “In 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ALLOWS Alabama to execute ALAN MILLER, whose lethal injection was scheduled for tonight. … [Justice AMY CONEY] BARRETT joins the three liberals in dissent.”
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Jury Rules Against Project Veritas in Lawsuit,” by NYT’s Adam Goldman
EASY COME, EASY GO — In light of the New York AG’s civil suit against Trump, NYT’s Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, Matthew Goldstein and Eric Lipton write that the cascade of investigations and lawsuits swirling around the former president amount to “new and significant” financial troubles. “[W]hen stacked up altogether, the potential costs that the former president faces show that his challenges extend beyond the courtroom and into the maintenance of his wealth even as he continues to signal that he plans another run for the White House.”
TRUMPOLOGY — “Trump’s Superpower Could Be His Undoing,” by Gwenda Blair: “Trump built his brand on yuge exaggerations. Now, that could crumble his empire.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
THE MIGRANT FLIGHTS — “When Gov. RON DeSANTIS’ administration needed a company it could trust to carry out a controversial program to transport migrants to other states, it chose an unusual option. Although Destin-based Vertol Systems Company is in aviation, its primary business is training pilots for the military and providing helicopters across the globe,” the Tampa Bay Times’ Lawrence Mower, Mary Ellen Klas, Romy Ellenbogen and Ana Ceballos report. “But the company was familiar to a key member of the DeSantis administration: LARRY KEEFE, the state’s ‘public safety czar’ responsible for carrying out the governor’s anti-immigration programs.”
— “Immigration groups on high alert as they await DeSantis’ next flight,” by Matt Dixon in Tallahassee
— “New lawsuit accuses DeSantis of flouting state law by flying migrants,” by Gary Fineout
THE LATEST IN PUERTO RICO — “Biden administration to cover Puerto Rico’s Fiona recovery costs for the next month,” by Gloria Gonzalez
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Peter Baker, Nancy Cordes, Claudia Grisales and Vivian Salama.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
ABC “This Week”: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Rachel Scott and Julie Pace.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … retired Gen. Jack Keane. Panel: Katie Pavlich, Howard Kurtz, Jeff Mason and Harold Ford Jr.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Panel: Sara Fagen, Mike Memoli, Amna Nawaz and Jen Psaki.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Jonathan Martin, Molly Ball, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Melanie Zanona.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Michael Cohen … Daniel Goldman … Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) … Cheri Beasley … Reginald Hudlin … Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) … José Andrés … Rob Reiner … Christina Bellatoni.
Jared Kushner, asked on Fox News about the Martha’s Vineyard stunt, said it was “very troubling” to see migrants “being used as political pawns.” “We have to remember these are human beings, they’re people.”
Pete Buttigieg, asked at the Texas Tribune Festival why water infrastructure was a priority in the BIF: “Mostly because you need water to live.”
The CIA launched a podcast.
Richard Burr waded into a Nags Head pizzeria dispute.
Vivek Murthydoes not scream for ice cream, apparently.
Bernie Sandersdropped a playlist that’s (largely) straight out of the Roosevelt administration.
Emmanuel Macronalso wants to know why he’s named among the Mar-a-Lago documents.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — J. Michael Luttig and his wife Elizabeth are donating $2 million to the National Constitution Center to “support the Center's efforts to educate Americans and the world about the U.S. Constitution,” Jeffrey Rosen, the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center is announcing today. It is the second gift from the Luttigs to the NCC in the past year.
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at a party for Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s new book, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021” ($32), held at the home of DougRediker and Heidi Crebo-Rediker and hosted by Alan Cooperman, Martina Vanderberg, Jane Mayer, Bill Hamilton and Nicole Rabner on Thursday night: Robert Costa, John Bolton, John Harris, Sally Quinn, Susan Page, Elisabeth Bumiller, George Conway, Emily Haber, Juleanna Glover, Julia Ioffe, Margaret Talev, Mark Leibovich, Zolan Kannos-Young and Mary Louise Kelly.
— SPOTTED at a goodbye party for White House deputy press secretary Chris Meagher, who is headed to DOD as the assistant to the secretary of Defense for public affairs, on Thursday night at Lost & Found: Jen Psaki, Amanda Finney, Lily Adams, Seung Min Kim, David Turner, Dan Koh, Herbie Ziskend, Emilie Simons, Zeke Miller, Justin Sink, Kate Berner, Rob Flaherty, Brittany Caplin, Mike Gwin, Abdullah Hasan, Hans Nichols, Ken Thomas, Lucas Acosta, Kevin Munoz and Angela de la Cruz Perez.
MEDIA MOVES — Dana Griffin and Marissa Parra are joining NBC as correspondents based in Sacramento and D.C., respectively. Griffin previously was a reporter and fill-in anchor at NBC7 in San Diego. Parra previously was a general assignment reporter at CBS2 in Chicago.
TRANSITION — Hayley Matz Meadvin has returned to Precision Strategies to be an EVP. She most recently was a senior adviser at the Education Department.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) … Kristen Silverberg … British Ambassador Karen Pierce … Elise Jordan … Todd Ricketts … Helen Tolar of Mehlman Castagnetti … Nick Everhart of Content Creative Media … NYT’s Mike Schmidt … Richard Viguerie … POLITICO’s Bernie Becker … Axios’ Sam Sabin … Sean Spicer … Treasury’s Corey Tellez … Kyle Wiley … PwC’s Todd Metcalf … Abbey Watson … Darryl Nirenberg of Steptoe … Ralph Hellmann … CNN’s Greg Wallace … David Harris of the American Jewish Committee … Karen Czarnecki of the Mercatus Center at George Mason … Serenety Hanley of 43 Alumni for America … NBC’s Julia Ainsley and Grace Dubay … former Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) … Siraj Hashmi … Brooke Brogan … CBS’ Anne Hsu … Meta’s Gabriella Schwarz ... Julius Niyonsaba … Loretta Solon Greene ... Katrina Mendiola ... Dale Leibach … Nicole Mata of Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) office … Ana Marie Cox (5-0) … Amanda Cox … Gisele Roget of Overbrook Square Group … Taylor McCarty Hoover of the House Agriculture Dems … Maureen Coleman … Ben Chao of Rep. Mondaire Jones’ (D-N.Y.) office … Kyle Inan
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Correction: Thursday’s Playbook misspelled Susanna Quinn’s name.