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By RYAN LIZZA and EUGENE DANIELS
With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
SIREN — Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) on the Jan. 6 committee’s efforts to talk with VIRGINIA THOMAS, on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “The committee is engaged with her counsel. We certainly hope that she will agree to come in voluntarily, but the committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena if she does not. I hope it doesn’t get to that.”
JUST POSTED —“Elon Musk’s Friendship With Sergey Brin Ruptured by Alleged Affair,” by WSJ’s Kirsten Grind and Emily Glazer: “At a party earlier this year, Mr. Musk dropped to one knee in front of Mr. Brin and apologized profusely for the transgression, begging for forgiveness, according to people with knowledge of the incident.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Taiwan is turning into a major confrontation between the United States and China. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
THE THREE BIG STORYLINES TODAY:
1. SHOULD SHE STAY OR SHOULD SHE GO? — Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s planned trip to Taiwan is turning into a major confrontation between the U.S. and China.
FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo and Kathrin Hille report that China’s private threats to the U.S. over the matter are “significantly stronger” than over past kerfuffles, and even included the suggestion of “a possible military response”:
“China has issued stark private warnings to the Biden administration about the upcoming trip to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, triggering alarm bells among White House officials who oppose her visit.
“Six people familiar with the Chinese warnings said they were significantly stronger than the threats that Beijing has made in the past when it was unhappy with US actions or policy on Taiwan.
“China has publicly threatened ‘strong measures’ if Pelosi proceeds with the planned visit in August. But one person said China had expressed ‘stronger opposition’ to the US in private than before. Several other people familiar with the situation said the private rhetoric went even further by suggesting a possible military response.”
WSJ’s Charles Hutzler and Nancy Youssef report that the trip is stoking fears of confrontation.
WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima and Cate Cadell channel the alarm spreading with the Biden administration, which, they report, “is increasingly concerned that a planned trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan next month could spark a major crisis across the Taiwan Strait.”
Henry Olsen makes the case for going in WaPo: “Nations such as Japan would surely view Pelosi canceling her visit as a sign that the United States is unwilling to test China’s resolve. That sends a message of weakness, which [President JOE] BIDEN will not want to try to counteract.”
Nahal Toosi, Alexander Ward and Maggie Miller have more on Taiwan in their wrapup of the Aspen Security Forum, “Fear and loathing in Aspen.”
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2. PEACH STATE RICO CASE COMING? —NYT’s Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim have a deep dive on the effort by DONALD TRUMP and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. They think all signs point to local D.A. FANI WILLIS going forward with a major case:
“For legal experts, that sprawl is a sign that Ms. Willis is doing what she has indicated all along: building the framework for a broad case that could target multiple defendants with charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud, or racketeering-related charges for engaging in a coordinated scheme to undermine the election. …
“Given Ms. Willis’s history, [NORM] EISEN said, ‘she’s clearly going to charge this as a RICO case.’ If she does, he added, it ‘is very likely to be one of the most important criminal RICO cases ever brought in United States history.’”
3. TRUMP’S DECLINE: REAL TREND OR WISHFUL THINKING? — The Georgia case is one more piece of data for those who believe that the Jan. 6 committee, Trump’s spotty primary record and the rise of Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS mean that GOP voters are beginning to put Trump in the rearview mirror.
In a piece headlined “The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6,” the RUPERT MURDOCH-owned WSJ editorializes:
“Mr. Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he had a duty as Commander in Chief to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it in his name. He refused. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call [MIKE] PENCE to check on the safety of his loyal VP. Instead he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out.
“In the 18 months since, Mr. Trump has shown not an iota of regret … Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial. Mr. Trump utterly failed his.”
Ross Douthat in the NYTexplains why he believes “Trump is weakening”:
“[T]o the extent that Trump is stuck litigating his own disgraceful conduct before and during the riot, a rival like DeSantis doesn’t need the lukewarm Trump supporter to believe everything the Jan. 6 committee reports. He just needs that supporter to regard Jan. 6 as an embarrassment and Trump’s behavior as feckless — while presenting himself as the candidate who can own the libs but also turn the page.”
Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line and tell us if you think Pelosi should go forward with her trip to Taiwan or not: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
SUNDAY BEST …
— AL GORE on changing public opinion on climate not translating into political action, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “Public sentiment is changing, but our democracy is broken. And in order to solve the climate crisis, we’re going to have to pay attention to the democracy crisis.”
— ASHISH JHA on what the White House would do if Biden had long Covid, on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “If he has persistent symptoms, obviously, if any of them interfere with his ability to carry out his duties, we will disclose that early and often with the American people. But I suspect this is going to be a course of Covid that we’ve seen in many Americans who have been fully vaccinated, double boosted, getting treated with those tools in hand.”
— Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG on Sen. MARCO RUBIO’s (R-Fla.) comment that the bill to codify a right to same-sex marriage is a “waste of time,” on “State of the Union”: “If he’s got time to fight against Disney, I don’t know why he wouldn’t have time to help safeguard marriages like mine.”
— Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN on the prospect of a recession, on “Meet the Press”: “I would be amazed if the NBER would declare this period to be a recession, even if it happens to have two quarters of negative growth. We’ve got a very strong labor market. When you’re creating almost 400,000 jobs a month, that is not a recession.”
Jan. 6 …
The economy …
BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.
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
Donald Trump headlines the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on Saturday in Tampa, where he and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were the biggest draws. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
9 THINGS FOR YOUR RADAR
1. MONKEYPOX EMERGENCY: World Health Organization Director-General TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS overruled a divided advisory committee Saturday to declare monkeypox a public health emergency worldwide. The move “gives Tedros certain powers, such as the ability to recommend how countries should respond. It could also rally global coordination for a more unified response.”
2. PRESIDENTIAL HEALTH UPDATE: In his latest memo today, Biden doctor KEVIN O’CONNOR said the president is getting “significantly” better three days into his Paxlovid treatment for Covid-19, with a sore throat his main symptom now. O’Connor said Saturday that sequencing indicates Biden has the BA.5 subvariant now sweeping the nation. The full memo
3. REDISTRICTING FALLOUT: In his redrawn district, House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY is facing growing pressure from the right, the L.A. Times’ Jasper Goodman reports from Clovis, Calif., this morning. Some new constituents and some old supporters see McCarthy as too swampy or insufficiently conservative — one of the perils of ascending the ranks of the GOP establishment. Their concerns are often rooted in misinformation about voting and other issues, Goodman finds. But McCarthy doesn’t have to worry too much: He’s up against a Democrat in November, so “McCarthy can count on support from most of those who are distrustful of him — if only because they have nowhere else to go.”
4. DEPT. OF UPHILL BATTLES: There are several new stories out about high-profile but longshot statewide campaigns:
— WSJ’s Natalie Andrews on EVAN MCMULLIN’s independent Senate bid in Utah: “Utah Republicans said Mr. McMullin hasn’t spent significant time working political and donor circles. But some political watchers said the race could shape up to be a true contest for [Sen. MIKE] LEE, even as he remains a strong favorite.”
— NBC’s Henry Gomez on BETO O’ROURKE’s Texas gubernatorial campaign: “O’Rourke acknowledged Biden’s declining popularity, but he said it hasn’t been a drag on him. No one at his first three tour stops asked him about the president or his stalled agenda. O’Rourke is even running to [Gov. GREG] ABBOTT’s right on inflation — an issue that has bedeviled Biden — by equating rising property taxes over the governor’s two terms to rising costs.”
— Bloomberg’s Emma Kinery and Mark Niquette on Rep. TIM RYAN’s Ohio Senate bid: “By running as a populist in what is no longer the quintessential swing state, Ryan hopes to claw back blue-collar voters.”
On the flip side: J.D. VANCE’s rival campaign in Ohio is ringing some alarm bells among Republicans, who worry it’s been a lackluster effort so far, report The Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey and Roger Sollenberger: “Vance is allegedly missing from many of the county fairs, party meetings, and campaign stops where candidates in this state are expected to be.” Ryan is dominating the airwaves, and Vance has been somewhat disengaged with donors.
RON VERB, a talk radio host in Youngstown: “It’s a code red … I think he’s running the worst campaign that you could possibly run.”
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5. SECTARIANISM SIREN: Republican rhetoric on the campaign trail and the airwaves this cycle is warning of Democrats’ threat to the country in stark, existential terms, WaPo’s Dave Weigel reports. Some candidates see “a country that was not merely in trouble, but being destroyed by leaders who despise most Americans — effectively part of a civil war. In both swing states and safe seats, many Republicans say that liberals hate them personally and may turn rioters or a police state on people who disobey them.”
6. THE JAN. 6 HEARINGS: “In Jan. 6 Hearings, Gender Divide Has Been Strong Undercurrent,” by NYT’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman: “[T]he House select committee has relied on the accounts of several women who came forward to publicly tell their stories. Their statements, and the attacks that ensued, laid bare how women often still pay a higher price than men for speaking up.”
7. MIDTERMS BELLWETHER: The Aug. 23 special election in a New York swing seat between MARC MOLINARO and PAT RYAN could provide a crucial window into how well inflation and abortion are driving turnout and changing minds in this year’s elections, Bill Mahoney reports this morning from Howes Cave. One of the men will fill former Rep. ANTONIO DELGADO’s seat for just a few months before they compete in different districts under new lines in November. But the race offers an opportunity for both parties to test-drive their messaging. Notably, “Democratic enthusiasm has cooled less in recent years in this district than anywhere else in New York.”
8. POLITICAL VIOLENCE WATCH: DAVID JAKUBONIS was arrested and charged Saturday on a federal assault count after allegedly trying to attack Rep. LEE ZELDIN (R-N.Y.) on the campaign trail. The charge could yield up to a decade behind bars. More from CBS New York
9. WAR IN UKRAINE: “Ukraine wants more ‘game-changer’ HIMARS. The U.S. says it’s complicated,” by WaPo’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, Karen DeYoung, Alex Horton and Karoun Demirjian: “[T]he Biden administration has parceled out the rocket systems slowly, watching how the Ukrainians handle them — and how the Russians respond. To fighters on the ground, that makes little sense at a crucial moment in the war.”
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Tim Kaine and his family went to a Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
Lachlan Cartwright says the NYPD improperly arrested him because they didn’t like his reporting.
IN MEMORIAM — “Diane Ronnau, veteran CBS News producer, passes away,” CBS: “For the last 20 years, she was a producer for the ‘CBS Evening News,’ covering stories that spanned the legal and political worlds, as well as breakthroughs in medical and scientific innovation.”
SPOTTED last week around the margins of the Aspen Security Forum: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and his PAC holding a fundraiser for Joe O’Dea’s Colorado Senate campaign Friday. … The Lauders holding fundraisers for Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Saturday. … National security adviser Jake Sullivan having a private meeting with Israeli Deputy PM Benny Gantz on Friday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.) … Joel Benenson of Benenson Strategy Group … The Washington Free Beacon’s Brent Scher … Robert Hoopes of Vox Global … CNBC’s Eamon Javers … Hillary Parkinson of Rep. Bob Gibbs’ (R-Ohio) office … WSJ’s Kim Strassel … former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) … Margo Martin … Ryan Sims … John Brabender of BrabenderCox … Juergen Baetz … Megan Ruane of Rep. Madeleine Dean’s (D-Pa.) office … Allie Bedell of Canvass America … Ann Berry … CNN’s Veronica Bautista … Patrick McAllister of J.D. Vance’s Ohio Senate campaign … Chris Bond of Plus Communications … former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) … CBS’ Michelle Kessel … Greg Hittelman of The Sentry … Matt Joseloff of “Morning Joe” … Carmen MacDougall … David Fuscus of Xenophon Strategies … Agustina Pardal of Bipartisan Policy Center … Marc Racicot, former RNC chair and Montana governor … Pat Oliphant … Christianné Allen … FT’s Molly Eisner … Rae DeBrabander of Rokk Solutions … Adriane Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials
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