Playbook: Pence gets in, Trump gets pinned

Playbook: Pence gets in, Trump gets pinned

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

THE FUTURE IS HERE — Gizmodo: “EPA’s Air Quality App Is More Popular Than Facebook Right Now” … POLITICO: “Return of killer smog? Experts warn of potentially deadly NYC haze” … Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: “Is breathing wildfire smoke like smoking cigarettes? In some ways, it’s worse.” … WaPo: “Smoke brings a warning: There’s no escaping climate’s threat to health”

QUOTE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD — MIKE PENCE in Ankeny, Iowa, yesterday, making it official with this grave warning about his former boss, DONALD TRUMP:

“I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States, and anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.”

How much is Pence leaning into the fact that he did the right thing on Jan. 6? The media wifi password for the event was “KeptHisOath!”

Adam Wren, our resident Pence-ologist, breaks down the ex-veep’s chances: “Why Mike Pence thinks he has a prayer in 2024.”

But, but, but: Despite saying Trump should “never be president” again, in a post-speech interview with Fox News, Pence said he would abide by the RNC requirement that all candidates pledge to support the eventual nominee.

There are plenty of reasons to be bearish on Pence’s chances. As former congressman and hardcore #NeverTrump Republican JOE WALSH said about the candidacies of Pence, CHRIS CHRISTIE and TIM SCOTT yesterday, “They all know their only shot is jail time or a heart attack for Trump. And truthfully, they’re all hoping and praying for either one.” Speaking of …

DEAR DONALD — Special counsel JACK SMITH has notified Trump that he is the target of a criminal investigation, commonly one of the last official steps before an indictment is issued.

The news of the so-called “target letter” from Smith — which, as the NYT notes, “typically opens the door to defense lawyers requesting a meeting with prosecutors to offer their side of the story” — helps make sense of some of the recent action in the documents case. On May 23, Trump’s legal team requested a meeting with AG MERRICK GARLAND. On June 5, three of Trump’s lawyers met with Smith and his team at DOJ in Washington and argued against indicting their client.

Alex Isenstadt, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, who broke the story of the target letter for POLITICO, write: “Trump is under investigation for concealing reams of classified documents at his private estate and orchestrating a scheme to prevent federal authorities from finding them. … Prosecutors consider a target a person for whom there is ‘substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.’”

WaPo adds: “Justice Department prosecutors are planning to bring a significant portion of any charges stemming from the possible mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago … at a nearby federal court in South Florida, according to people familiar with the matter. … That approach by prosecutors does not rule out the possibility of some charges, such as perjury or false statements, being filed in Washington.”

WHAT COMES NEXT?: Kyle emails us this readout:

“Will the grand jury stir in Washington D.C., today? Expect a large media throng at Washington D.C.’s E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, where the grand juries impaneled by special counsel Jack Smith have routinely met to hear testimony in more than one probe of potentially criminal conduct by Trump.

“But perhaps the greatest remaining mystery is whether Smith’s first charges against the former president … will emerge from Washington or Florida, where another Smith grand jury has begun meeting. …

“The answer to that question hinges on technical issues of legal ‘venue’ — a requirement that a criminal defendant be charged in the district where the alleged crime occurred — and it’s unclear whether Washington quite makes the cut. But it’s also a reminder of how little we really know about the evidence Smith has amassed, despite a steady drumbeat of new information about the probe, which has accelerated in recent weeks. The documents grand jury has been largely dormant in D.C. for a while, so the first indication that something is afoot is if the panel returns to action after a lull.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean charges will be issued right away, but it would dovetail with indications that the probe is nearing its conclusion. Another mystery: Could anyone else be charged in the documents matter, irrespective of Smith’s decision on Trump?”

TRUMP WORLD REACTS: A source described as “a Trump confidant who recently spoke to the former president” had this to say to The Messenger about an impending Trump indictment:

“He’s ready for it. On one hand, he knows it will cause the base to rally around him. But even though it probably helps him in the primary, no one likes getting indicted, and he won’t stop talking about how he’s a victim.”

Meanwhile, one of Trump’s primary opponents said that a conviction should disqualify him from running — and suggested he ought not let it come to that before abandoning his campaign.

“The @GOP should clarify that there is no pledge to support a nominee if they are found guilty of espionage or a serious felony,” former Arkansas Gov. ASA HUTCHINSON tweeted. “Donald Trump is the target of an ongoing criminal investigation and he should step aside & put the good of the country above his candidacy.”

JUST POSTED — “The Chaos Inside Trump’s Legal Team,” by N.Y. Mag’s Ankush Khardori: “His attorneys describe a dysfunctional operation as they expect more indictments.”

Related read: “Trump ally Bannon subpoenaed in special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 grand jury probe,” by NBC’s Jonathan Dienst, Laura Jarrett and Ryan Reilly

Good Thursday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

NEWS YOU CAN USE — “Wildfire smoke has given New York the world’s worst air quality. Californians have some tips,” by L.A. Times’ Alexandra E. Petri

THE BRITISH INVASION — Our colleagues Anthony Adragna and Ari Hawkins have the table-setter for British PM RISHI SUNAK’s meeting at the White House today, following his visit to Capitol Hill yesterday.

Big picture: “Britain aims to more closely tie itself to the U.S. amid multiple national security crises including the Russian invasion into Ukraine and the rising technological might of China.”

Close-up: London “hopes for a critical minerals agreement, which would allow electric batteries in the U.K. to qualify for certain tax breaks under the Inflation Reduction Act. It also would like a digital trade agreement with the United States.”

Hardball diplomacy: Watch Sunak walk the game ball out to the mound at last night’s Nats-Diamondbacks game (h/t LBC’s Ben Kentish). But it was UK veteran STUART TAYLOR who tossed the first pitch.

WHAT JOE MANCHIN IS READING — New Bloomberg Businessweek cover story by Gabrielle Coppola up this morning: “Can the U.S. Ever Build an EV Battery?”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — The Laborers’ International Union of North America will endorse President JOE BIDEN and VP KAMALA HARRIS for reelection later today — a key vote of support as multiple other prominent organized labor groups have thus far withheld their backing.

“Every decision President Biden has made, every policy he has adopted, and every piece of legislation he has pushed for has been done with consideration for and for the betterment of hard-working union laborers and our brothers and sisters in the trades,” LIUNA President BRENT BOOKER said in a statement.

With nearly a half-million members, LIUNA is the nation’s largest union of construction workers and boasts a strong base of support in the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Playbook is told that the organization will be working to mobilize its membership in 2024 and begin buying digital media.



DON VS. RON —Burgess Everett and Olivia Beavers are up with a look at how the 2024 presidential primary is playing among Republicans on the Hill, as the race is “looking more and more like 2016 — a rerun that plenty of Hill Republicans are watching with heartburn.”

“I’m worried about it,” Sen. JOHN CORNYN (R-Texas) said, regarding the early large field. He said he wants the GOP to “do better” than Trump, and fears the former president “hasn’t figured out how to expand beyond his base.”

WRAY OF SUNSHINE — “House Republicans cancel vote to hold FBI director in contempt,” by Jordain Carney: “The Oversight Committee had been scheduled to meet Thursday on a resolution holding Wray in contempt of Congress after a weeks-long back-and-forth with the bureau. But Chair JAMES COMER (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday night that he was calling off the vote after the FBI offered to let all committee members review a 2020 document at the center of the standoff.”

NOTHING DOING — “GOP conservatives shutter House to protest McCarthy-Biden debt deal, setting up next budget brawl,” by AP’s Lisa Mascaro: “Barely a dozen Republicans, mainly members of the House Freedom Caucus, shuttered House business for a second day Wednesday in protest of [Speaker KEVIN] McCARTHY’S leadership. … Some lawmakers asked if they could simply go home — and eventually they could. By evening, the rest of [the] week’s schedule was called off.”

SWEET HOME ALABAMA? — Sen. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-Ala.) said in a Twitter post yesterday that he and fellow Bama Sen. KATIE BRITT met with U.S. Space Command Commander Gen. JAMES DICKINSON, who “confirmed Huntsville is the preferred location of Space Command headquarters.” But “Space Command had no comment on Tuberville’s statement,” AP’s Tara Copp reports.

2024 WATCH

ABOUT LAST NIGHT — “Top takeaways from Pence’s CNN town hall — and moments he broke with Trump,” by CNN’s Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Jeremy Herb

FLIGHT OR FIGHT — Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS defended his administration’s decision to transport migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to California, “arguing that the state had essentially invited the migrants with its welcoming policies toward immigrants,” AP’s Jonathan Cooper writes from Sierra Vista, Ariz., where DeSantis met with sheriffs yesterday.

The view from California: “Gavin Newsom digs in on Florida migrant flights, maintaining that crimes were committed,” by The Sacramento Bee’s Maggie Angst

The big picture: “With Migrant Flights, DeSantis Shows Stoking Outrage Is the Point,” by NYT’s Shane Goldmacher

BURGUM GETS IN — “Doug Burgum touts ‘small-town common sense’ in speech announcing presidential run,” by Inforum’s Patrick Springer in Fargo, N.D.

NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE — “Marianne Williamson’s new campaign manager was accused of financial misconduct in 2017,” by Brittany Gibson


UNDER THE GUN — “GOP’s booming support for guns is turning off millennial, Gen Z Republicans,” by Juan Perez Jr.: “The generational disconnect suggests broader GOP opposition to gun restrictions will be a steady irritant inside a party already struggling to appeal to young voters. It could also challenge White House hopefuls and members of Congress to eventually refine their message on guns with Republican primary and general election voters, even if the concerns of young people won’t transform GOP politics overnight.”

SPECIAL TREATMENT — Utah will hold a special election to replace retiring Rep. CHRIS STEWART (R-Utah) on Nov. 21, Gov. SPENCER COX announced yesterday. Stewart will formally resign on Sept. 15. More from the Salt Lake Tribune

IT’S UP TO YOU, NEW YORK — “Spoiler alert: NYC mayor could thwart Dem bid to retake the House,” by Joe Anuta

BY THE NUMBERS — The number of LGBTQ+ elected officials in the U.S. jumped nearly 14% from 2022 to 2023, rising from 1,043 to 1,185, according to a new report out today from the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute. (Still, representation proportional to the electorate is a long way off.)

LIV AND LET DIE — “DeSantis-linked PR shop ditches PGA Tour amid LIV Golf merger blowback,” by Hailey Fuchs and Caitlin Oprysko


ON THE INSIDE — Former Labor secretary and DNC Chair TOM PEREZ is joining the White House as a “senior adviser and director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs,” WaPo’s Tyler Pager reports, replacing JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ, who is now running Biden’s 2024 campaign. “In his new role, Perez will serve as the White House’s main liaison to governors, mayors and other elected officials outside of Washington,” and is “expected to advise Biden on issues including labor and immigration.”

MAKING IT OFFICIAL — The president vetoed legislation to cancel his student loan forgiveness plan yesterday, a largely ceremonial move as the plan still faces a challenge before the Supreme Court. More from Michael Stratford


INSIDE SCOTUS — The Supreme Court released financial disclosures for all of the justices except for CLARENCE THOMAS and SAMUEL ALITO yesterday — with the two holdouts receiving extensions — as the high court is under more scrutiny than ever over ethical disclosures, or lack thereof. The filings revealed mostly outside income from teaching and book deals, as well as reimbursements for international travel, but the most fun item among the disclosures came from KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, who reported a “congratulatory floral arrangement” from OPRAH WINFREY, valued at $1,200. Read more from Josh Gerstein and Hailey Fuchs


JUST POSTED — “Blinken announces $150M in aid for Syria, Iraq at Saudi conference on combatting Islamic State group,” AP

SCRAMBLING THE JETS — “After F-16s, Biden under renewed pressure to send long-range weapons to Ukraine,” by Lara Seligman and Joe Gould: “A group of House members led by Rep. JASON CROW (D-Colo.) is turning up the pressure. In a letter to Biden on Thursday, 10 Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged the president to quickly greenlight ATACMS.”

DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — “China’s Share of U.S. Goods Imports Falls to Lowest Since 2006,” by WSJ’s Austen Hufford and Anthony DeBarros


LICHT CLEAN — “David Zaslav Picked Chris Licht to Revamp CNN. Now What?” by NYT’s Benjamin Mullin

Helpful read: “Timeline: CNN’s 18 Months of Tumult,” by NYT’s Gregory Schmidt

Former CNN man Brian Stelter for WaPo: “The recruiters of CNN’s new chief executive should pose this question to every candidate: What should an anchor do when a guest says something untrue?”

TUCK EVERLASTING — “Fox News says Tucker Carlson breached his contract,” by Axios’ Sara Fischer and Mike Allen: “A breach of contract claim sets Fox News up to explore potential legal action against [TUCKER] CARLSON, a move that would intensify the already thorny public battle between the two parties. Carlson’s lawyers told Axios that any legal action by Fox would violate his First Amendment rights.”

AWFUL NEWS — “Los Angeles Times cuts dozens of jobs in a dark year for news,” by WaPo’s Herb Scribner: “The eliminated positions, which include full-time and temporary workers, represent about 13 percent of the newsroom — and about half of the 150 positions that were created after local billionaire PATRICK SOON-SHIONG bought the paper in 2018.”

Jennifer Garner visited Capitol Hill yesterday to speak on child welfare issues.

Mike Pence’s walkout song? Kid Rock’s “Born Free.”

Bill Cassidy is excited for National Seersucker Day today.

Robert Garcia honored RuPaul on the House floor.

Mark Kelly explored a new frontier with some astronauts.

Jay Johnston — whom you may recognize from “Bob’s Burgers,” “Mr. Show,” or “Arrested Development” — was arrested for his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Joe Lombardo is facing a $1.7 million ethics penalty for wearing his badge and uniform during official campaign appearances.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at U.K.-U.S. friendship day at Nationals Park hosted by British Ambassador Karen Pierce yesterday evening: British PM Rishi Sunak, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Charles Roxburgh, Ajay Banga, Mike Donilon, Karine Jean-Pierre, Jane Hartley, David Rouzer, Carlos Del Toro, Ed Roman, Senay Bulbul, Rob Crilly, Fred Kempe, James Roscoe, Andrea Mitchell and Jim Scuitto.

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation hosted its annual AcceptAbility Gala, where Gavin DeGraw performed. SPOTTED: Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Democratic House Whip Katherine Clark, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), Dale Strong (R-Ala.) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Colo.), Kyra Phillips, John Roberts (of Fox News) and Mark Schlereth.

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition hosted its 2023 Global Impact Forum yesterday at the Grand Hyatt in D.C. SPOTTED: U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns (via satellite), Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Jay Shambaugh, Mark Esper, Alice Albright, John Nkengasong, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rush Doshi, Dilawar Sayed, Cindy McCain, Sarah Charles, Kelly Clements, Clarissa Ward, Steve Clemons, Evelyn Farkas, Candi Wolff, Sean Callahan, Karan Bhatia, David Walton and Liz Schrayer.

MEDIA MOVE — Adrian Carrasquillo is now a national political reporter at The Messenger covering the 2024 campaign, swing states and demographics with a focus on Latino voters. He previously was a national political reporter at Newsweek.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Kristen Orthman will be starting as the new White House principal deputy comms director at the end of the month, replacing the outgoing Kate Berner. Orthman most recently was comms director at the DNC and is an Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid and Catherine Cortez Masto alum.

NEW NOMINEES — The White House announced that Biden will nominate Charlie Crist as U.S. representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization and Mike Casey as director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

TRANSITIONS — Former Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) is joining the Agriculture Department as senior adviser for rural engagement, delivery and prosperity at the USDA. … Michael Turner has founded Turner Global Solutions, consulting on China and the Indo-Pacific, and is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He most recently was head of comms and spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy Beijing. … Alex Chizhik is now COO at the Chamber of Digital Commerce. He most recently served as the COO and chief revenue officer of HarrisX and global head of listings and global head of public affairs at Okcoin.

ENGAGED — Joe Tutino, comms director for Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Emily Hall, director of partnerships at the National Apartment Association, got engaged in western North Carolina over Memorial Day weekend. The two first met eight years ago at the 2015 D.C. Beer Fest, which took place at Nats Park. Pic

WEDDING — Elliott Guffin, chief of staff to NRCC Chair Richard Hudson, and Ariel Judah, director of U.S. government affairs at Red Bull and a Larry Hogan alum, got married on Sunday at Kent Island Resort in Stevensville, Md. The couple met at Bluejacket at a mutual friend’s birthday party. PicAnother picSPOTTED: Larry and Yumi Hogan, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Renee Hudson, Hannah Lankford, Olivia Beavers, Juliegrace Brufke, Matthew Hoekstra, Lisa Spies, Rhod Shaw, Alexander and Josh Finestone, Ashley and Triston Foster, Lena and Ryan Lyk, Alex and Tiffany Waddell, Sarah and Kevin Curran and Meggie and Tripp McKemey.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) (7-0) … Kris Coratti Kelly Cory Fritz of FTI Consulting … Matt Whitlock … CNN and HBO Max’s Justin PeligriEric Kuhn … former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) … POLITICO’s Mike Shaw, Emily Keith, Paola Molina and Alex Daugherty Jonathan Collegio of the National Automobile Dealers Association … Lale Morrison of Rep. Jared Moskowitz’s (D-Fla.) office … Kelsey Bolar (Harkness)Roger Hickey of Campaign for America’s Future … Erin Gorman Van AlstenPaul Winfree … Strategic Partners & Media’s Russ Schriefer … WaPo’s Sarah HashemiJennifer Dunn of Hill+Knowlton Strategies … Lindsey Wagner-Oveson of Sen. Peter Welch’s (D-Vt.) office … The Bulwark’s Hannah YoestJoshua Matz of Kaplan Hecker & Fink … NBCUniversal’s Amanda KontorMargaret Reynolds of Rep. Jared Golden’s (D-Maine) office … Matthew Hailemariam Julianna Margulies

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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