Democrats spent a second day largely staying out of the fray surrounding the FBI’s search of former President Trump’s estate in Florida.
Some strategists believe that on this issue, less is more from the White House and the Biden administration is taking heed, saying only that it didn’t know about the search ahead of time, via our colleague Alex Gangitano.
“Biden should resist acting as Trump did in politicizing the Department of Justice and FBI and remain above the fray,” Republican strategist Doug Heye told Alex. “And he should make that clear every opportunity he gets.”
Democrats in Congress are following suit. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) declined to answer any questions about the search at a Wednesday press conference. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) declined to comment on Monday when pressed by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and has stayed quiet on the topic since.
The search happened as Democrats celebrated a series of legislative wins — some of them bipartisan — and worked to continue that momentum, creating a long-awaited message they tout on the campaign trail with less than 100 days until midterm elections.
The reaction on the Republican side, where lawmakers ranging from staunch allies of Trump to those with more chilly relationships — not to mention a number of potential 2024 presidential candidates — lined up to defend Trump, attack the FBI and demand answers from the Justice Department. Some have already threatened to investigate Attorney General Merrick Garland if they take back the House in November.
But this isn’t the first time the GOP has sung this tune, as our colleague Emily Brooks notes.
They criticized the FBI in 2016 when it surveilled former Trump campaign aide Carter Paige and still rail against the agency for not charging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for having classified emails on a private server, all messages popular with Trump’s core base.
But is the message popular with establishment and swing voters? It might be why other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have had more tempered reactions.
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Trump still seems to maintain hold on GOP
THREE PRIMARY VICTORIES marked a second successful week electorally for Trump – Tim Michels in Wisconsin, Gerald Malloy in Vermont and Leora Levy in Connecticut – but the defeat of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who conceded her Aug. 2 primary on Tuesday, was perhaps the most striking example of the former president’s sway.
Herrera Butler is the third Republican who voted to impeach Trump to lose their seat. To catch you up to speed on the others: two advanced to a general election, four are retiring and Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) is the last one to find out her fate next week.
But the bigger challenge for Trump will come in November when his endorsed candidates are tasked with winning over swing voters, our colleague Julia Manchester writes.
House Dems to stay unified around climate, tax bill
House Democrats are poised this week to pass their climate, tax and health care bill this week, marking a huge victory, and they expect just about every member of the caucus to get in line.
The House Rules Committee met on the bill today, and the full House is returning to vote on it Friday.
Progressive Democrats may not be thrilled with everything about the bill, but so far they’ve said they would vote “yes.”
- “This would be a really significant victory for the country,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said last month. “I’m excited — I feel good about feeling excited today.”
- “I wish it was bigger overall, but I like it — actually really like it,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said after the Senate passed the measure, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called its passage through the upper chamber “an overwhelmingly positive development.”
Still… the Inflation Reduction Act is very different from the one (…remember Build Back Better?) House Democrats touted last year, which included universal preschool, an extended child tax credit and an expansion of Medicaid.
While the bill still includes sweeping tax, healthcare and climate change legislation, some House Democrats could publicly criticize parts of the party’s scaled-back bill while still voting in favor.
Progressive members like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) already said that they are “disappointed that key elements” of the bill were removed because of opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) but still called it “a massive step forward.”
Instead, members could use their discontent with the bill to make the case for why Democrats need to not only keep but grow their majority in the House and Senate this November.
“We must keep fighting to do more about the climate crisis, healthcare, and tax fairness,” Bowman said.
BUT WILL POLICING DIVIDE THEM?
“DEFUND THE POLICE” has disappeared from progressive Democrats’ platform this election cycle but some House bills threaten to publicly divide the party again over the issue.
Democrats opted to punt the bills beyond August, our colleague Mike Lillis reports, following an intraparty spat in July over the language of some of the bills, which suggests new federal funds are needed to ensure public safety and accountability in policing.
What do some progressive Democrats want? “That wish list includes provisions like an end to no-knock warrants and a check on qualified immunity, the shield that protects police officers from certain lawsuits.”
As our colleagues note, House Democrats in more competitive reelection races want to tout their party’s commitment to law enforcement as Republicans continue to attack them on public safety and rising crime in some major cities.
Democrats don’t want a repeat of 2020. Some Democrats, especially those in swing districts credited their lackluster performance in the 2020 election to the “Defund the Police” slogan, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who called it a “failure.”
The slogan’s absence is notable. In the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, progressives John Fetterman (Pa.) and Mandela Barnes (Wis.) clinched the party’s Senate nominations and look to flip the seats blue, largely backing away from the policing issue.
In recent weeks, President Biden has also stayed on the same message of public safety, requesting over $37 billion in funding for law enforcement and crime prevention to be included in the next fiscal budget.
What we’ll continue watching in the House: “Another delay, if it materializes, is sure to infuriate the front-liners, who want to tout their support for law enforcement heading into tough reelection contests in November — and distance themselves from the liberal ‘defund the police’ campaign that had hurt moderates at the polls in 2020.”
Pelosi, Dems debrief after Taiwan trip
Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s (D-Calif.) recent historic trip to Taiwan prompted an aggressive response from China and sparked renewed military activity, but the California Democrat says she has no regrets.
“We didn’t go there to talk about China,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday during a debriefing on the trip. “We went there to praise Taiwan.”
Pelosi said she doesn’t “remember [the military] ever telling us not to go.”
“We’re very proud of our military, their preparations,” she said. “They took very good care of us.”
She added that she believes the U.S. military helped “minimize” the impact China had on the trip.
President Biden had previously said top military brass believed it was “not a good idea” to make the Asia trek.
Pelosi said she firmly believes China cannot be allowed to “isolate” Taiwan.
“That was our purpose–to salute this thriving democracy,” she said.
About those sanctions… China has announced sanctions against Pelosi and her family over the Taiwan trip. To that, the speaker says: “Who cares?”
“That is incidental to me, of no relevance whatsoever,” she said.
Speaking of family… Pelosi’s son, businessman Paul Pelosi Jr., 53, was an unannounced guest on the Asia trip. Asked about his attendance, Pelosi said he joined as her escort in the way that spouses frequently join CODELs.
“I was very proud that he was there,” she said. “It was very nice for me.”
She denied that her son had any business dealings while overseas with her. “Of course he did not.”
After recovering from COVID-19, President Biden is on the leader’s traditional August vacation.
Noteworthy: Biden, 79, signed legislation before heading out of town but he didn’t hold a formal news conference, as presidents often have to mark the days-long break from the White House.
Destination: The first family is spending the week on Kiawah Island, S.C. — an oceanfront resort near Charleston. The luxury digs were a favored destination for the Bidens when he was vice president but this marks their first known return since he became president.
IT’S DINNER TIME!
If you want to dine at some of the District’s most expensive restaurants on a budget, next week is your time to shine:
The Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week offers $25 brunch menus and $40 and $55 dinner menus at select restaurants. Here’s some of the best deals:
- For an upscale date: 1789 in Georgetown is considered one of the fanciest dining experiences in the city, with some plates ranging upward to $50, but if you’re lucky enough to get a reservation next week, you can get a three-course meal for $55.
- For a classic experience: Filomena’s is another Georgetown spot that tourists and Washingtonians alike go to, where they’re offering some Italian dishes on both a $40 and $55 menu.
- For a theme: If you love “The Great Gatsby” movie or book, head over to the Gatsby restaurant just across from Nationals Park.
The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom has a weekly roundup of where people are moving in the lobbying world (and you can send us your professional updates, too!). Here are some highlights:
- Drew O’Brien joined Seven Letter as a partner, most recently serving as an executive vice president and managing director at Burnson Cohn & Wolfe.
- Illy Jaffer joined the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association as managing director of federal government relations, most recently leading the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s federal lobbying team.
- Jaymi Light joined software firm SAS as a federal government relations strategist, most recently serving as a government relations principal at Cigna.
- Mary Kate Munro joined Growth Energy as a government affairs director, most recently serving as a legislative assistant to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).