Playbook: Scoop: The mystery woman at Feinstein’s side

Playbook: Scoop: The mystery woman at Feinstein’s side

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

BIDEN IN JAPAN — “4 things to look out for at the G-7 summit,” by Kelly Garrity

THE VIEW FROM THE U.S. — “For Biden, Crisis at Home Complicates Diplomacy Abroad,” news analysis by NYT’s Peter Baker

THE VIEW FROM AUSTRALIA — “Biden’s 11th hour Quad snub a disappointment, a mess and a gift to Beijing,” news analysis by The Sydney Morning Herald’s Matthew Knott

SCOOP: FEINSTEIN’S PELOSI CONNECTION — When Sen. DIANNE FEINSTEIN walked into the Capitol last week, ending a monthslong medical absence, she was accompanied by Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, a small entourage of aides — and a close personal confidant with a storied political pedigree.

NANCY CORINNE PROWDA blended into the swarm around the legendary California Democrat, unnoticed by the reporters observing the spectacle. But Prowda, the eldest child of former House Speaker NANCY PELOSI, has recently assumed a central role in Feinstein’s life, Playbook has learned, as the 89-year-old has dealt with the absence of her deceased husband, the departure of trusted staffers, a nasty case of shingles and spiraling concerns about her fitness for office.

Not only did Prowda escort Feinstein around Capitol Hill last week, she was again at her side yesterday, helping aides surround the senator in a Capitol hallway as a reporter tried to speak to her. Multiple people familiar with the arrangement say it’s only the most visible part of a quiet but critical role the Pelosi family has played in helping to take care of the ailing senator, both in Washington and San Francisco.

By all accounts, the arrangement is rooted in a long and friendly relationship between Feinstein and the Pelosis — twin pillars of San Francisco politics. But among some of those who are aware, it has also raised uncomfortable questions about whether Nancy Pelosi’s political interests are in conflict with Feinstein’s personal interests.

The intrigue surrounds the future of Feinstein’s seat. Pelosi has endorsed Rep. ADAM SCHIFF, her longtime protege and former hand-picked House Intelligence Committee chair, to succeed Feinstein after her sixth and final term ends next year. Schiff is a household name in California and already has a $15 million campaign cash advantage over his nearest competitor.

But if Feinstein were to bow to pressure and retire early, Schiff’s advantage could disappear. Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM has pledged to appoint a Black woman to serve out her term, and one of Schiff’s declared opponents, Rep. BARBARA LEE (D-Calif.), would fit the bill.

“If DiFi resigns right now, there is an enormous probability that Barbara Lee gets appointed — thus, it makes it harder for Schiff,” one Pelosi family confidant told Playbook, adding that the relationship between Pelosi, her daughter and the senator is “being kept under wraps and very, very closely held.”

“It’s very tricky, and political, because they want her to stay” in the Senate, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about a sensitive situation. “The political thinking is that if DiFi stays as long as possible, it helps Schiff as well.”

Pelosi’s office confirmed in a statement to Playbook that her daughter “has been supporting her in her shingles recovery.” Spokesperson AARON BENNETT said Prowda has been friends with Feinstein for “decades,” as has Pelosi herself.

But Bennett rejected suggestions that Pelosi was seeking to influence Feinstein’s decisions about her future. “Anyone who knows Senator Feinstein knows that her service in the Senate is entirely her own decision, and Speaker Emerita Pelosi would never suggest otherwise,” he said.

Yet Pelosi has been among Feinstein’s most vocal defenders as more and more Democrats have raised questions about her ability to serve. Last month, when Feinstein’s extended absence due to shingles prompted some Democrats to call for her immediate retirement, Pelosi moved quickly to shut down those calls.

“I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate,” Pelosi told reporters after Reps. RO KHANNA (D-Calif.) and DEAN PHILLIPS (D-Minn.) spoke out. The resignation push quickly petered out.

Now Feinstein is back in the Senate, but the questions about whether she can serve out her term continue to swirl. Aside from her bout with shingles, concerns about Feinstein’s deteriorating mental state — first aired in an April 2022 San Francisco Chronicle report — have only risen.

Just two days ago, Feinstein appeared to have no memory of the fact that she’d been out of the Senate for several months. “No, I haven’t been gone,” Feinstein told reporters from Slate and the L.A. Times who asked about the reception she’s gotten since her return. “I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working. … I’ve been here. I’ve been voting.”

Feinstein’s office confirmed that Prowda has “been spending time with the senator as she continues to recover from shingles,” but did not address further details. Neither Feinstein’s nor Pelosi’s office responded to questions about whether Prowda is living with the senator, why she was chosen for the job, whether she is getting paid for her duties or whether she’s been encouraging Feinstein to remain in office.

Regardless, the appearance of conflict associated with the caregiving setup could further perturb Democrats who want a more active participant in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the questions about Feinstein’s future are not going away.

Senate Judiciary Chair DICK DURBIN (D-Ill.) told CNN yesterday he’s “monitoring her medical condition almost on a daily basis” due to her pivotal vote on judicial confirmations. Added Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.): “As a friend, you can see she’s hurting.”

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

MARK YOUR CALENDARS — “Ron DeSantis Set to Launch 2024 Presidential Bid Next Week,” by WSJ’s Alex Leary

NEW THIS MORNING — Playbook has obtained a new strategy memo from JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ, the White House aide-turned-campaign manager of President JOE BIDEN’s reelection bid, laying out his camp’s “road to victory” in 2024.

Biden’s effort starts in a “markedly strong position,” Rodriguez writes, citing (1) “the best midterm election for a sitting president since FDR,” (2) an electoral coalition that has stuck together, and (3) “significant opportunities to grow Democratic support … from Republican and independent swing voters.”

If you’ve been paying attention over the last two-plus years, a lot of the memo will sound familiar. Biden world largely believes the way to win in 2024 is to do more of what gave them their biggest wins during Biden’s first term.

A few specifics:

— The key states: “Like we did in 2020, the Biden-Harris campaign will shore up the ‘blue wall’ with early investments in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with states we defended in 2020 like Nevada and New Hampshire. At the same time, we will protect recent Democratic gains in states like Arizona and Georgia, and look to expand the map even further in states like North Carolina and Florida.”

— The key demographics: As they look to “build on the strength of the 2020 and 2022 Biden-Harris coalition,” the campaign is targeting: (1) “small, but critical gains among rural and white working class voters in battleground states,” (2) suburban voters wary of “extreme Republican policies,” (3) “communities of color,” which “will be central to our victory in 2024,” (4) “women voters” — not just in the base, but those who are Republican and independent swing voters. Read full memo here

Related read: “Democrats race to avoid a Biden embarrassment in New Hampshire,” by Holly Otterbein and Lisa Kashinsky in Nashua, N.H.



DIGGING INTO THE DIGITS — “House Democrats’ big fundraising haul comes with a huge caveat,” by Brittany Gibson: “House Democrats bragged about posting blockbuster fundraising hauls in the first quarter of this year. What they glossed over was how they got there. A close read of FEC filings and interviews suggest that one way that Democrats stuffed their coffers was because of increases in membership dues and large transfers, including from House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES’ leadership PAC.”

CATCHING Zs — “That Gen Z midterm boost for Democrats might be real,” by Steve Shepard: “Democrats avoided an electoral wipeout in the 2022 midterms. One way they did so was by reassembling a history-defying coalition of young voters who turned out at rates more commonly seen in presidential elections, according to a new study of voter-file data according to a new study of voter file data.”

THE FLORIDA PROJECT — “Florida Democrats think the unthinkable: We’re in play,” by Gary Fineout in Tallahassee: “Despite the psychological boost from Jacksonville, some Democrats privately cautioned about extracting too much from the win, noting that Republicans still have significant tactical advantages in the state, including having 472,000 more Republicans registered to vote, holding every statewide Cabinet position and supermajorities in the Legislature.”

Related reads: “Let’s Talk About Jacksonville,” by Steve Schale: “Please stop trying to draw national conclusions on this race.” … “Mayoral losses deal blow to GOP in conservative strongholds,” by WaPo’s Amy Wang


TIKTOK ON THE CLOCK — Montana became the first state in the U.S. to enact a complete TikTok ban — though users in the state still have some more time to waste scrolling their “For You” page. “The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, if courts don’t act first, and any app stores offering TikTok to the state’s 1.1 million residents risk facing penalties enforced by the Montana Department of Justice,” Rebecca Kern reports.

FLORIDA’S NEWEST EXPORT — “Ron DeSantis’ ban of school diversity programs is coming to these states next,” by Bianca Quilantan


THE SANTOS CLAUSE — Democrats deliberated behind closed doors yesterday on how to handle the motion to expel embattled Rep. GEORGE SANTOS (R-N.Y.), our colleagues Olivia Beavers and Nicholas Wu report. “The tensions surfaced during a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting, hours before Republicans prevailed in a vote to quash Rep. ROBERT GARCIA’s (D-Calif.) privileged resolution ejecting the indicted Santos from his seat. Some Democrats argued in favor of blocking McCarthy’s push to refer the Garcia plan to the House Ethics panel — which, had it succeeded, would have forced a full House vote on booting the scandal-plagued New York Republican.”

Insult to injury: Santos comms director NAYSA WOOMER has resigned, Scripps’ Kevin Cirilli reports.

DOCU-DRAMA — Former President DONALD TRUMP’s claim that documents he took from his presidency became automatically declassified was undercut by new information released by the institution responsible for their upkeep. “The National Archives has informed former president Donald Trump that it is set to hand over to special counsel JACK SMITH 16 records which show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president,” CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Zachary Cohen, Evan Perez and Paula Reid report.

Related read: “Every administration since the ’80s has mishandled classified documents, says the National Archives,” by NBC’s Kyle Stewart

COUNTING CROW — “Senate Finance chair pushes GOP megadonor for answers about financial ties with Clarence Thomas,” by CNN’s Lauren Fox: “Senate Finance Chairman RON WYDEN is pushing back on assertions from GOP megadonor HARLAN CROW that the panel lacks authority to request personal tax information and travel records from him as part of a probe into whether hospitality he provided to Justice CLARENCE THOMAS could have triggered violations of US tax law.”


THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION — “Trust in Supreme Court fell to lowest point in 50 years after abortion decision, poll shows,” by AP’s Mark Sherman and Emily Swanson: “In the 2022 survey, just 18% of Americans said they have a great deal of confidence in the court, down from 26% in 2021, and 36% said they had hardly any, up from 21%. Another 46% said they have ‘only some’ confidence in the most recent survey.”

RADICAL TRANSPARENCY — The Washington Examiner’s Gabe Kaminsky has an absolutely wild story on Fix the Court, a Supreme Court transparency advocacy nonprofit group that accidentally disclosed its donor info from 2021 and 2022 to the Examiner.

But it’s the on-record quotes that really pop here: “‘As you can see if you’ve reviewed the forms, I’m not a good fundraiser,’ GABE ROTH, executive director of Fix the Court and a former vice president at the Democratic Party consulting firm SKDK, told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. … ‘I have only two foundations that give me money, and if their names become public, they’re never going to talk to me again, and Fix the Court is over. My screwup this morning probably cost me my job.’ The executive director added, ‘I really just don’t know what to do here’ and that he ‘just f***ed up in a minute’ after the group had been operating for almost a decade.”

MIFEPRISTONE MINUTE — “Federal judges grill Biden administration on abortion pill,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Josh Gerstein in New Orleans: “All three judges frequently interrupted both [DOJ attorney SARAH] HARRINGTON and Danco attorney JESSICA ELLSWORTH, challenging their arguments that the pills pose no ‘imminent harm’ to doctors or patients, that the FDA followed its own rules on approving the drugs, and about who should be allowed to challenge decisions made by federal scientists.”

Key moments: “Southern courtesy, the ‘mail business thing,’ and other surreal moments from the abortion pill argument,” by Alice and Josh


LATEST ON THE GROUND — “Russia Targets Kyiv Overnight in 9th Attack This Month,” by NYT’s Andrew Kramer

WHERE WE COULD BE HEADED — “How Ukraine could become the next South Korea,” by Nahal Toosi: “The options discussed within the Biden administration for a long-term ‘freeze’ include where to set potential lines that Ukraine and Russia would agree not to cross, but which would not have to be official borders. The discussions — while provisional — have taken place across various U.S. agencies and in the White House.”

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Pressure campaign on Biden to send F-16s to Ukraine goes into overdrive,” by Paul McLeary, Lara Seligman, Joe Gould and Connor O’Brien


DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — “‘It’s just crazy’: How the U.S.-China energy race imperils the climate fight,” by Sara Schornhardt, Phelim Kine


CNN’S TOWN HALL FALLOUT — At a Columbia University journalism event yesterday, CNN anchor CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR spoke out publicly against her network’s decision to platform Trump in a town hall event last week, and said she personally voiced her displeasure to CNN chief CHRIS LICHT.

From Puck’s Dylan Byers: “Licht acknowledged that ‘the execution was lacking a little,’ Amanpour said, but he maintained that the network ‘did the right thing,’ and that the town hall was ‘a service to the American people.’”

From CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “‘I still respectfully disagree with allowing Donald Trump to appear in that particular format,’ the veteran anchor said, contending that the American people had demonstrated with their votes in the last three elections that they are well aware of his behavior. ‘I would have dropped the mic at “nasty person,” but then that’s me,’ Amanpour candidly added, recounting the moment when Trump lashed out at moderator KAITLAN COLLINS.”

TALKER — The Drudge Report had a big-if-true scoop posted atop its site yesterday, billing the details on Fox News’ new post-TUCKER CARLSON primetime lineup. The report claimed that Fox would slot SEAN HANNITY into the 8 p.m. time, with JESSE WATTERS and GREG GUTFELD also moving into primetime. But Fox News is pushing back on the supposed scoop: “No decision has been made on a new primetime line-up and there are multiple scenarios under consideration,” a Fox News spokesperson told Mediaite’s Alex Griffing.

Anna Wintour will host a high-dollar fundraiser with Kamala Harris in Manhattan later this month.

Mike Pence is a man of the chains.

Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff got a dose of Harry Styles and Lizzo during their workout yesterday.

Jamaal Bowman and Marjorie Taylor Greene got into it outside the Capitol before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez intervened.

Chris Licht previewed the redesigned graphics and chyrons coming soon to CNN.

Greg Kelly was subpoenaed by Smartmatic, Oliver Darcy scooped.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at the Canadian Embassy’s cocktail reception yesterday evening with the crew of the Artemis II lunar mission, the first crewed mission to the Moon since 1972: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Reps. John James (R-Mich.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Jeff Jackson (D-N.C.) and Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), Canadian Ambassador Kirsten Hillman, Lisa Campbell, Luiza Savage and Rebecca Haase.

The Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation held a dinner with policymakers and cannabis industry experts to discuss federal cannabis reform yesterday evening. SPOTTED: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Reps. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Colo.), former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Nathan Daschle, Naveen Parmar, Allison Jaslow, Christopher Arneson, Andrew Freedman, Shanita Penny, Tate Bennett, Libby Greer, Aaron Lopez, Alekhya Tallapaka, Ryan McConaghy, Phil Hoon, John Mason, Amber Littlejohn, Charlie Panfil, James Bolton and Nell Reilly.

The Israel Policy Forum honored Susie Gelman’s completion of her term as board chair at an event last night at Current on Chelsea Piers in NYC, where video greetings and congratulatory remarks were delivered by President Joe Biden, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid. SPOTTED: Charles Bronfman, David Sherman, Michael Gelman, David Halperin, Ron Klein, Jonathan Greenblatt, Karen Adler, Alan Solow, Susie Stern, Amy Cenicola, Rick Jacobs, Halie Soifer, Matt Nosanchuk, Hilary Brandenburg, Michael Koplow, Aaron Weinberg and Shoshana Leviton.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — ABC News is premiering a new documentary tomorrow examining the lives of families and survivors following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. “It Happened here: A Year in Uvalde” will debut at 9 p.m. Friday on ABC and start streaming on Hulu on Saturday. Watch an exclusive preview clip

Andrew Peek is now national security adviser for Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.). He most recently was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and is a Trump NSC and State Department alum.

TRANSITIONS — Elizabeth Cullen is now government relations director at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. She previously was associate director of health policy for the Jewish Federations of North America. … Aaron Larson is now legislative director for Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.). He most recently was policy director of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and is a Dan Newhouse and Erik Paulsen alum. … Adam Joseph is now the press & digital assistant for the House Committee on Small Business under Chair Roger Williams (R-Texas). He recently graduated from Catholic University of America.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Matthew Yglesias … NBC’s Josh Lederman and Leah GrafErnesto Apreza of VP Kamala Harris’ office … Seven Letter’s Erik Smith Tim Chapman … Vox’s Libby Nelson … POLITICO’s Felicia Figueiredo, Maddie Sugg, Chelsea Harvey and Simona Lightfoot … WaPo’s Cristiano LimaAbby Sugrue … Anduril Industries’ Sofia Rose Gross … Democrat Matt GormanGabrielle Shea of the Bipartisan Policy Center … Laura Morgan-Kessler of Carpi & Clay … AP’s Meg KinnardFarah MelendezPete Boogaard of Snap … Eric Trager … Panoramic’s Jonathan Glickman (54) … Ezra Cohen-WatnickRobin (Roberts) WinchellClyde Haberman … former Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) … former Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) … Javier LLano … Strategic Marketing Innovations’ Bryan Bender … House GOP Conference’s Ryan Hofmann Lance West of the American Petroleum Institute … Querry RobinsonAlex Witt

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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