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With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
In terms of both its historic nature and its potential impact on our political system, former President DONALD TRUMP’s possible arrest this week stemming from an investigation into the payment of hush money to porn actress STORMY DANIELS could be the most important news there’s been in a very long time.
The timing of an arrest remains unclear.
- In a social media post yesterday, Trump said he would be arrested on Tuesday.
- But that’s unlikely, per the NYT: “At least one more witness is expected to testify in front of the grand jury … [and] even if the grand jury were to vote to indict the former president on Monday, a Tuesday surrender was unlikely, given the need to arrange timing, travel and other logistics.”
- It’s unclear how Trump landed on Tuesday, the Times reports: “One person with knowledge of the matter said that Mr. Trump’s advisers had guessed that it could happen around then, and that someone might have relayed that to the former president.” (Indeed, a Trump spokesperson hedged that bet slightly in a statement yesterday, noting that “there has been no notification” from the Manhattan D.A. ALVIN BRAGG that an indictment is coming.)
But that’s not slowing the Republican rush to defend the former president — before it’s known whether Trump will be indicted, and what exactly he’ll be indicted for.
- Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY, in a tweet, called the potential indictment “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance,” and ordered the House to “immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
- Former Vice President MIKE PENCE, fresh off slamming Trump at the Gridiron Dinner last week, knocked the possibility as “politically charged prosecution” during an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m taken aback at the idea of indicting a former president of the United States, at a time when there’s a crime wave in New York City,” Pence said. “[H]ere we go again, back into another politically charged prosecution directed at the former president of the United States, and I would just hope for better.”
- Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), speaking at an event in his home state, said that Bragg had “done more to help Donald Trump get elected president than any single person in America today.”
- Gov. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-N.H.), on CNN’s “State of the Union” this morning: “A lot of the Democrats have misplayed this, in terms of building sympathy for the former president. And it does drastically change the paradigm as we go into the ’24 election. … It’s not a nothing, but it’s moving money and how he claimed money being moved between him and his lawyer. You know, there are other issues that really take precedent in terms of where this country needs to go.”
- Rep. PATRICK McHENRY (R-N.C.), on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “I think the viable question for the American people is whether or not you have a progressive prosecutor using the justice system to go after political enemies for political splash.”
- Worth noting: Trump’s MAGA PAC is paying attention to which prospective 2024 GOP candidates have voiced their dismay about the possible indictment, and sent an email last night noting that while he remained silent about Trump’s possible arrest, “Florida Governor RON DeSANTIS’ PAC sent out an email on COVID-19 policies from three years ago to collect emails and phone numbers for fundraising platform WinRed. Governor DeSantis also tweeted Saturday evening about his hurricane response last year.”
Many Republicans have suggested that criminal charges will only help Trump politically. (Even former Michigan Rep. PETER MEIJER, who supported Trump’s impeachment and lost his Republican primary as a result, said that this “indictment is a billion dollar gift-in-kind from Democrats to Trump’s ‘24 campaign.”) And indeed, it’s plausible that charges could lead to a rally-to-the-flag effect among Republican primary voters. (Worth emphasizing: How it plays in a general election is a totally different story.)
- ICYMI: WaPo’s Aaron Blake looked at a recent Economist/YouGov poll and found Republicans overwhelmingly viewed what Trump did as a crime — as long as you don’t use his name.
Meanwhile, Trump’s post calling on his supporters to “protest” his arrest led Bragg to email his staffers at the DA’s office, vowing that “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” according to a message obtained by our Erica Orden.
“‘Our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment,’ Bragg wrote, adding that the office has been coordinating with the New York Police Department and Office of Court Administration, the administrative arm of the court system in New York.” Read the email
To Trump’s critics, there’s an element of deja vu to all this: the call to protest is a reminder of the Jan. 6 attacks by Trump’s supporters, the sense that the other legal shoe is about to drop calls to mind the “Mueller Is Coming” era, and Republican officials rallying to his defense is a rehash of… well, many moments from these last eight years.
But there’s also a creeping sense that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.
Related read: “Inside the Payoff to a Porn Star That Could Lead to Trump’s Indictment,” by NYT’s Michael Rothfeld: “The chain of events flowing from the 2006 encounter that the adult film star, STORMY DANIELS, has said she had with the television personality, Donald J. Trump, has led to the brink of a historic development: the first criminal indictment of a former American president.”
Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
A MUST-READ HISTORY SCOOP — “A Four-Decade Secret: One Man’s Story of Sabotaging Carter’s Re-election,” by NYT’s Peter Baker
20 YEARS NOW, WHERE’D THEY GO? — “In U.S.-Led Iraq War, Iran Was the Big Winner,” by NYT’s Vivian Yee and Alissa Rubin: “In the 20 years since the United States invaded Iraq, Iran has built up loyal militias inside Iraq, gained deep political influence in the country and reaped economic benefits. For Washington, these were unintended consequences.”
Related reads: “Twenty years after the start of the Iraq War, Seth Moulton reflects on a generation shaped by the conflict,” by the Boston Globe’s Tal Kopan … “20 Years After Iraq War, Some Senators Still Think It Was Worth It,” by HuffPost’s Igor Bobic and Paul Blumenthal … “Iraq Veterans, 20 Years Later: ‘I Don’t Know How to Explain the War to Myself,’” by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker for the NYT
SUNDAY BEST …
— Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) on her confidence in Fed Chair JEROME POWELL, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “He has had two jobs. One is to deal with monetary policy. One is to deal with regulation. He has failed at both.”
On what she wants to see next, on ABC’s “This Week”: “I’m calling for an independent investigation of the Fed and the whole regulatory system here. … And then I’m also calling on Congress, as you rightly say, to roll back the ability of the Fed to weaken regulations, and calling for these CEOs to be held accountable so that we have laws in place to get clawbacks of their bonuses, and of their giant salaries. And, when you explode a bank, you ought to be banned from banking forever.”
— Sen. MARK KELLY (D-Ariz.) on the potential Trump arrest, on “State of the Union”: “I think it’s very important for the Manhattan DA to look into this thoroughly. … I would hope that, if they brought charges, that they have a strong case, because this is — as you said, it’s unprecedented. And there are certainly risks involved here. But, again, nobody in our nation is or should be above the law.”
— JOHN KIRBY on whether the White House is preparing for protests if Trump is arrested, on “Fox News Sunday”: “I’m not aware of any indications that we’re preparing for that kind of activity specifically with respect to those comments. But obviously we work hand in glove with local and state authorities all around the country. And we’ll continue to watch this as best we can.”
TOP-EDS: A roundup of the week’s must-read opinion pieces.
- Rich Lowry in POLITICO Magazine: “Republicans Are Delusional If They Think Biden Will Be Easy to Beat”
- Jessica Grose in NYT: “This Isn’t What Millennial Middle Age Was Supposed to Look Like”
- Carlos Lozada in NYT: “Ron DeSantis Has a Secret Theory of Trump”
- Mary Anastasia O’Grady in WSJ: “Another Banking Crisis Was Predictable”
- David Frum in The Atlantic: “Is Ron DeSantis Flaming Out Already?”
- Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg: “AI Is About to Transform Childhood. Are We Ready?”
- Matt Bai in WaPo: “My neighbor found Lincoln’s hair in his basement. I found a mystery.”
- David French in NYT: “What if Kids Are Sad and Stressed Because Their Parents Are?”
BIDEN’S SUNDAY: The president will leave Wilmington, Del., to return to the White House.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY: The VP has nothing on her public schedule.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
9 THINGS FOR YOUR RADAR
1. PENCE’S MEDIA BLITZ CONTINUES: “Mike Pence, unmoored from Donald Trump, finds his old voice,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer and Ashley Parker in Keene, N.H.: “Back in early 2016, he had initially endorsed Sen. TED CRUZ (R-Tex.), resisting Trump’s rising popularity for an ideological compatriot. He kept the note he wrote to himself that day: ‘I’m tired of politics, I just want me back.’ Now was a second chance to be the man he was known to be before. Pence is betting that in 2024, the Trump disruption he once cheered was more of an aberration than a transformation. …
“Pence has now returned to nurturing the deep relationships with conservative activists that he built while serving in Congress, when he straddled a line of opposing some of President GEORGE W. BUSH’s spending priorities as too liberal but still found a way to rise through House leadership.”
2. ABORTION RIGHTS FALLOUT: “Abortion on the ballot? Not if these Republican lawmakers can help it,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein: “Legislatures in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma are debating bills this session that would hike the filing fees, raise the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, restrict who can collect signatures, mandate broader geographic distribution of signatures, and raise the vote threshold to pass an amendment from a majority to a supermajority. While the bills vary in wording, they would have the same impact: limiting voters’ power to override abortion restrictions that Republicans imposed, which took effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.”
3. DeSANTIS DEEP DIVE: “DeSantis’s pivotal service at Guantánamo during a violent year,” by WaPo’s Michael Kranish: “MANSOOR ADAYFI, a Yemeni who was 19 when he arrived at Guantánamo, described the force-feeding process in his memoir, ‘Don’t Forget Us Here,’ writing that ‘a male nurse forced that huge tube into my nose. No numbing spray. No lubricant. Raw rubber and metal sliced the inside of my nose and throat. Pain shot through my sinuses and I thought my head would explode.’
“One day, Adayfi said in an interview with The Post, DeSantis watched from outside a fence as he was tied to a chair and force fed. He recalled that DeSantis stood among several people who were ‘smiling’ at him, which he said made him angry, so he spit out food at them, with some hitting DeSantis. ‘I did it intentionally,’ he said. The Post could not independently verify the claim, and DeSantis’s office did not respond to a question about it.”
4. HOW IT’S PLAYING: “Silicon Valley Bank’s demise animates early days of California’s 2024 U.S. Senate contest,” by L.A. Times’ Benjamin Oreskes: “The second largest bank closure in U.S. history has been a told-you-so moment for [Rep. KATIE] PORTER, whose campaign to succeed Sen. DIANNE FEINSTEIN has so far been infused with themes of economic fairness and how these downturns disproportionately hurt people with low incomes. Still, it’s doubtful that last week’s events will become a defining issue in California’s 2024 U.S. Senate race. Both of her major opponents, Democratic Reps. BARBARA LEE of Oakland and ADAM SCHIFF of Burbank, voted against the 2018 rollbacks.”
Related read: “Warren Buffett in Contact With Biden Team on Banking Crisis,” by Bloomberg’s Saleha Mohsin, Sridhar Natarajan and Josh Wingrove
5. CONSTITUTIONAL TURF WAR: “Biden’s ‘Go It Alone’ Trade Deals Draw Warnings From Congress,” by WSJ’s Yuka Hayashi: “The Biden administration is accelerating its efforts to pursue trade agreements that bypass Congress as it seeks to counter China, but the moves have sparked a fight with lawmakers that threatens to upend the president’s trade strategy at a critical point of rising global competition. Tensions have boiled over in recent days amid the administration’s push to forge a free-trade deal on critical minerals to resolve a dispute with the European Union over electric-vehicle subsidies, the latest in a string of such pacts that skirt congressional approval.”
6. 2024 WATCH: “Nikki Haley, Tim Scott compete for homegrown SC support at N. Charleston presidential forum,” by the Post and Courier’s Caitlin Byrd: “When PAUL GODWIN talks with his friends about the still-growing 2024 Republican presidential field, he says they all say the same thing: ‘We love NIKKI [HALEY].’ But after attending the Vision ’24 National Conservative Forum on March 18, Godwin glanced over his shoulder and turned his body away from the crowd. Gripping an ‘Americans for Prosperity’ flying disc in his right hand, he opened his wallet to reveal a silver card that declared his support for U.S. Sen. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C. … So illustrates the conflicting feelings that tugged at South Carolina GOP primary voters March 18 as they welcomed the first unofficial cattle call of declared and possible contenders in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.”
More from the Palmetto State: “In South Carolina, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott Appeal to the Same Donors, and the Same Voters,” by NYT’s Maya King … “Haley, Ramaswamy among those taking on ‘woke ideology’ in SC,” by AP’s Meg Kinnard
7. CAUGHT UP IN THE CULTURE WARS: “The GOP’s newest culture war target: College diversity programs,” by Bianca Quilantan: “To save free speech on college campuses, Republican lawmakers and governors say it’s time to stop talking about diversity, equity and inclusion. A movement to temper difficult conversations about race in the classroom, promote ‘patriotic’ education and limit how gender is discussed with young kids now includes nixing college DEI initiatives conservatives equate with ‘wokeness’ and Cold War-era ‘loyalty oaths.’”
Related read: “Covid Politics Leave a Florida Public Hospital Shaken,” by NYT’s Patricia Mazzei in Sarasota, Fla.
8. DEEP IN THE HEART: “The Justice Department’s fight against judge shopping in Texas,” by WaPo’s Perry Stein: “The Justice Department has challenged three high-profile lawsuits filed in Texas against Biden administration policies, accusing state politicians of choosing small, conservative federal court divisions that have little relevance to their cases but nearly guarantee them a sympathetic judge. It’s part of the administration’s first concerted effort to fight what some legal experts say is a growing problem of “forum shopping” — a strategy in which plaintiffs are alleged to cherry-pick judges they want to hear their cases, bucking the random assignment of judges that is considered a tenet of the American legal system.”
9. THE SANTOS CLAUSE: “George Santos never filed a key financial disclosure. Enforcement has been lax for years,” by Jessica Piper: “Dozens of candidates who should have filed financial disclosures over the past two election cycles avoided doing so, or filed the forms late without asking for an extension, according to a POLITICO review of House ethics disclosures and Federal Election Commission filings.
“In many cases, candidates did not file the forms until after advancing from competitive primary elections, meaning voters did not have access to information about their finances before casting their ballots. The vast majority of candidates who failed to file the financial disclosures on time have not otherwise been accused of wrongdoing. In many cases, they are first-time candidates who may be inexperienced with the federal system.”
Mike Pence was on hand to watch No. 1-seed Kansas lose to 8-seeded Arkansas in the NCAA tournament yesterday.
OUT AND ABOUT — VP Kamala Harris yesterday co-hosted a brunch with Glamour to celebrate Women’s History Month at the VP’s residence. SPOTTED: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Susan Rice, USTR Katherine Tai, Samantha Barry, Natasha Pearlman, Megan Thee Stallion, Simone Ashley, DeWanda Wise, Kayla Barron, Yin Chang, Sali Christeson, Marley Dias, Jessica Dimmock, Behnaz Ghahramani, Kimberly Godwin, Fatima Goss Graves, Emma Grede, Tiffany Capri Hainesworth, Lori Harvey, Mary Kay Henry, Aurora James, Maria Teresa Kumar, Tembekile Locke, Attica Locke, Joy-Ann Reid, Sandra Morgan, Anifa Mvuemba, Brittany Packnett, Monica Padman, Asahi Pompey, Phoebe Robinson, Elizabeth Shuler, Dasha Smith, Tanya Taylor, Rukmini Timmaraju, Tamika Tremaglio, Nancy Twine, Amirah Vann and Paola Velez.
WEDDING — Ryan Hampton, addiction recovery advocate and author, and Sean O’Donnell, also a recovery advocate, got married yesterday in Mt. Charleston, Nev. The ceremony was officiated by Garrett Hade, Hampton’s best friend and co-founder of the national drug policy & recovery advocacy group that Hampton helped form, Mobilize Recovery. SPOTTED: Tom Coderre, Chris Thrasher, Victoria Seaman, Anne Andrews and Anna David.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Eugene’s mom, Leah Daniels … Ed Rollins (8-0) … RNC’s Zach Parkinson … Axios’ Kayla Cook … Anatole Jenkins … Carla Frank of the White House … Tara Dawson McGuinness … ABC’s Pierre Thomas, Katie Bosland Kastens and Van Scott … Mary Streett … KPMG’s Ian Hainline … John Gossel … UPS’ Annie (Policastro) Lawrence … Kyle Hill … Novavax’s Ali Chartan … Julien Rashid of the Global Health Technologies Coalition … Kate Gordon … NBC’s Emma Gottlieb … WaPo’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey … Yujin Lee … ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller … Drew Marrs of Norfolk Southern … Jake Westlin … Jose Borjon of Akin Gump … Leah Schaefer of Senate Energy and Natural Resources … Jill Abramson … POLITICO’s Betsy Barrows and Blake Loftin … Lynda Bird Johnson Robb … former Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) … Trey Hardin … Liz Plank
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