Playbook: Asa goes all-in as Trump world spins

Playbook: Asa goes all-in as Trump world spins

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With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

Asa Hutchinson speaks during an interview.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is the latest entry into the 2024 GOP presidential primary. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo


We remain in an indictment news holding pattern as we wait for Tuesday, when former President DONALD TRUMP is arraigned and the indictment is actually released.

In the meantime, the Trump campaign has been busy raising money, showing off support from Republicans, claiming that their internal polls show a bump for him, and generally trying to use his impending surrender to Manhattan DA ALVIN BRAGG to consolidate his grip on the Republican Party.

There’s a lot of reporting about Trump’s mood.

NYT’s Maggie Haberman reports, “While Trump is not said to be throwing things, he is extremely angry and his family is, not surprisingly, rattled.”

WaPo’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey add a lot of other adjectives: “Yet in the immediate aftermath of the grand jury’s decision related to hush money paid to an adult-film star, Trump was not happy, said one person with direct knowledge of his reaction. Others described Trump as ‘upset,’ ‘irritated,’ ‘deflated’ and ‘shocked’ though some noted that he also remained ‘very calm’ and ‘rather stoic, actually.’”

Very few Republicans are impressed with the merits of the Bragg indictment. Even former Florida Gov. JEB BUSH is skeptical. Then again, nobody has seen the case laid out with all the details and evidence.

However, one Republican is betting against the conventional wisdom that the indictment strengthens Trump’s path to the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Former Arkansas Gov. ASA HUTCHINSON told ABC’s Jonathan Karl today that he’s running for president. He’ll make a formal announcement later this month in his home state.

Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but this is the first significant piece of news that suggests members of the pre-Trump GOP see the Bragg indictment as a sign of Trump’s political demise. This is not a bet on that happening in the short-term, as the party rallies to Trump’s defense.

But what will things look like by Iowa Caucus day early next year if the budding criminal cases in Manhattan and Georgia and Washington have blossomed?

There’s a non-zero chance that Trump will be so politically toxic as a general election candidate that most primary voters search for an alternative. If you’re Hutchinson, a successful two-term governor who could make an electability case about winning back anti-Trump suburban Republicans, why not give it a whirl?

Trump’s lawyers continue to spread out on the airwaves and fight this as a political battle:

— Trump lawyer JOE TACOPINA on ABC’s “This Week”: “[Trump is] gearing up for a battle. You know, this is something that, obviously, we believe is a political persecution, and I think people on both sides of the aisle believe that. It’s a complete abuse of power. He’s a tough guy … and he’s someone who’s going to be ready for this fight. We’re ready for this fight. And I look forward to moving this thing along as quickly as possible to exonerate him.”

— Trump lawyer JAMES TRUSTY on Trump’s Truth Social posts attacking Judge JUAN MERCHAN, on “Fox News Sunday”: “Well the president’s a big believer in free speech — as you know, he’s got strong opinions. I think he’s very frustrated with some of his very loyal employees being caught up in the machinery for persecution. And so he feels strongly about it.”

Former Manhattan DA CY VANCE was on Meet the Press, and while he didn’t shed much light on his successor’s case, he did offer this warning about the public attacks from Trump and Trump’s lawyers:

“I was disturbed to hear the former president speak in the way he spoke about the District Attorney Bragg, and even the trial court in the past week. And I think if I were his lawyer — and believe me, no one has called up to ask for my advice — I would be mindful of not committing some other criminal offense, like obstruction of governmental administration, which is interfering by threat or otherwise, the operation of government. And I think that could take what perhaps, we think, is not the strongest case, when you add a count like that, put it in front of a jury, it can change the jury’s mind about the severity of the case that they’re looking at.”

The Trump team tells us that the former president will speak at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday from Mar-a-Lago, after returning to Florida following his arrest, so we’ll know soon if he takes Vance’s advice.

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Two other pieces of 2024 news that are worth the click:

1. AP’s Zeke Miller and Will Weissert try to answer some of the big questions about JOE BIDEN’s 2024 campaign:

On when he will announce: “[A]n announcement isn’t imminent even now, aides insist, and probably won’t come until at least after Biden returns from an expected trip to Ireland in mid-April.”

On where the campaign will be headquartered: “The choice of Biden’s campaign headquarters has been narrowed to Philadelphia, the 2020 location, and Wilmington, Delaware, where his home is and where the president spends many weekends away from the White House. While Biden tends to prefer Delaware on all matters, some top Democrats worry that recruiting top campaign talent to Wilmington will be difficult.”

And on who might run the campaign:JEN O’MALLEY DILLON, Biden’s 2020 campaign manager, is now a deputy White House chief of staff and plans to remain in her job. Many potential candidates have expressed interest in the campaign manager position, but among those on the short list are JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and a deputy campaign manager of Biden’s 2020 campaign, and SAM CORNALE, executive director of the Democratic National Committee. QUENTIN FULKS, campaign manager for Georgia Sen. RALPHAEL WARNOCK’s reelection victory last fall, has been mentioned.”

2. WaPo’s Michael Scherer explains why the No Labels third party effort is freaking out Democrats.

Third Way’s MATT BENNETT read the piece and had this reaction: “After we noted @NoLabelsOrg had a map targeting mostly blue states in their 3d party bid, they gave a new one to @michaelscherer. Now, in their fantasy world, they’ll win 286 EV. President Biden will win two (2!) states. Heavy ‘Joementum’ energy.”

If you’re in Washington, get outside, enjoy the nice weather and rest up. This week is going to be lit.

Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line with your plans for arraignment day: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.


Inside Trump world: “Donald Trump’s Time-Tested Legal Strategy: Attack and Delay,” by NYT’s William Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage and Jonah Bromwich

How it’s playing: “Post-indictment poll: Trump surges to largest-ever lead over DeSantis,” by Yahoo’s Andrew Romano: “In the previous Yahoo News/YouGov survey, which was conducted less than two weeks ago, Trump (47%) led [Florida Gov. RON] DeSANTIS (39%) by eight percentage points in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters who are Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. As recently as February, it was DeSantis who was narrowly ahead of Trump, 45% to 41%.

“But the new, post-indictment poll suddenly finds Trump lapping DeSantis by 26 percentage points — 57% to 31% — in a one-on-one contest. The former president even attracts majority support (52%, up from 44% previously) when pitted against a wider, 10-candidate field of declared and potential GOP challengers, while DeSantis plummets to 21% (down from 28%).”

The world view: “For Leaders Abroad, the Prospect of a Trump Revival Is Ever-Present,” by NYT’s Mark Landler in London

Asking for access: “News organizations ask judge to immediately unseal Trump indictment, allow cameras in court,” by NBC’s Jillian Gaier

The ripple effect: “SPAC Tied to Trump Media Rushes to Complete Deal,” by NYT’s Matthew Goldstein

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— Sen. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-Pa.) on battling his depression, in an extensive interview with CBS’ Jane Pauley on “CBS Sunday Morning”: “It’s like, you just won the biggest, you know, race in the country. And the whole thing about depression is that, objectively, you may have won. But depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost. And that’s exactly what happened. And that was the start of a downward spiral.”

On how his depression affected him: “I never had any self-harm, but I was indifferent though. If the doctor had said, ‘Gee, you have 18 months to live,’ I’d be like, ‘Yeah. OK, well, that’s how things go.’” Watch the full interview

— Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) on the Trump indictment, on “Fox News Sunday”: “It’s just a very sad day for America. … No one is above the law, but no one should be targeted by the law, so let’s wait and see what comes out next week.”

On when he’ll make a decision on a presidential run, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “My filing date is Jan. 15 in 2024. And I will make my decision maybe a little bit before that, but not until the end of the year, I can assure you.”

On whether he’ll change his party affiliation: “The party identification is not going to change me — Democrat, Republican. I mean, having a D and R should not change you as a person. I’m going to still fight for the things I do. Can’t I be a moderate centrist, with whatever identification, or no identification?”

— Former AG BILL BARR on why Trump shouldn’t take the stand in any case against him, on “Fox News Sunday”: “If the president was your client, would you put him on the stand? Because I’ve got to imagine [in] any of these cases, if it gets to trial, he’s going to want to defend himself. Generally, I think it’s a bad idea to go on the stand, and I think it’s a particularly bad idea for Trump, because he lacks self-control, and it’d be very difficult to prepare him and keep him testifying in a prudent fashion.”

— Sen. BILL CASSIDY (R-La.) on the Trump indictment, on “Fox News Sunday”: “No one should be above the law, but no one should be a target of the law. … What I think is the particular problem is it’s going to lead to all kinds of political theater. Theater that is going to distract from addressing the issues that are incredibly important to our country right now, that are not about just one person or about somebody running for reelection as a DA in New York, but rather about the future of our country.”

TOP-EDS: A roundup of the week’s must-read opinion pieces.

  • Danielle Allen in WaPo: “Just how big should the House be? Let’s do the math.”
  • Ross Douthat in NYT: “What the Trump Indictment Means for Ron DeSantis and the G.O.P.”
  • Ankush Khardori in POLITICO Magazine: “Trump Seems to Be the Victim of a Witch Hunt. So What?”
  • Virginia Heffernan in The Atlantic: “The Twitter I Love Doesn’t Exist Anymore”
  • Catherine Rampell in WaPo: “Why Americans are so pessimistic about their finances”
  • Peter Harrell in Foreign Affairs: “The Limits of Economic Warfare”
  • Jonathan Chait in NY Mag: “What Ron DeSantis Can’t Fake”
  • Jim Geraghty in National Review: “Why the Legal Case against Fox News Might Fail”
  • Gisele Fetterman in Elle: “The Tired Trope of the ‘Power Hungry’ Woman”
  • William Kleinknecht in Time: “No One Is Talking About What Ron DeSantis Has Actually Done to Florida”
  • Kyle Tharp in FWIW: “America is unprepared for the 2024 political internet”
  • John T. Bennett in Roll Call: “Biden lets us all know he’s playing global power chess as he chides the checkers-playing set”
  • Zachary Karabell in POLITICO Magazine: “The Extraordinarily Misguided Attack on TikTok”
  • John Herrman in NY Mag: “Is AI Coming for Coders First?”
  • Michelle Goldberg in NYT: “This Election Could Be the Beginning of the End of Scott Walker’s Legacy in Wisconsin”

BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF arrived back in the U.S. this morning.

GO INSIDE THE 2023 MILKEN INSTITUTE GLOBAL CONFERENCE: POLITICO is proud to partner with the Milken Institute to produce a special edition “Global Insider” newsletter featuring exclusive coverage, insider nuggets and unparalleled insights from the 2023 Global Conference, which will convene leaders in health, finance, politics, philanthropy and entertainment from April 30-May 3. This year’s theme, Advancing a Thriving World, will challenge and inspire attendees to lean into building an optimistic coalition capable of tackling the issues and inequities we collectively face. Don’t miss a thing — subscribe today for a front row seat.


Supporters wave flags as a motorcade carrying former President Donald Trump returns to his Mar-a-Lago estate from the Trump International Golf Club, Saturday, April 1, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)Pin

Supporters wave flags as a motorcade carrying former President Donald Trump returns to his Mar-a-Lago estate from the Trump International Golf Club on Saturday, April 1. | AP



1. GERSHKOVICH LATEST: “Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN spoke Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister SERGEY LAVROV and called for the ‘immediate release’ of detained Americans EVAN GERSHKOVICH and PAUL WHELAN, according to the US State Department,” CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Betsy Klein write.

The readout: “‘Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States’ grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist,’ a readout from the department said. ‘Secretary Blinken further urged the Kremlin to immediately release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan,’ the readout continued, adding that the secretary and Lavrov ‘also discussed the importance of creating an environment that permits diplomatic missions to carry out their work.’”

Related read: “Brittney Griner, concerned for American journalist held in Russia, urges Biden to bring him home,” by NBC’s Leila Sackur

2. 2024 WATCH: “Tim Scott’s Capitol Hill fans question his chances in 2024,” by Marianne LeVine: “The uncertainty over whether [South Carolina Sen. TIM] SCOTT can sell what [Sen. MITT] ROMNEY called ‘his own vision’ sums up his unique place in the potential 2024 field: embodying optimism in a party more prone to elevating partisan fighters and grievance politics. Scott is the unquestionable primary frontrunner among fellow GOP senators who see him harkening back to the RONALD REAGAN years — but the party’s base last responded to that tone in significant numbers when Reagan himself was on the ballot. Still, Scott’s advisers bet that his hopeful authenticity will be his ticket to the Oval Office.”

Related read: “Republican Mayor Suarez of Miami headed to New Hampshire after stop in Iowa,” by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser

3. INSIDE THE ATF: “Want to see the hurdles Biden really faces in making progress on guns? Come to W.Va.,” by Myah Ward in Martinsburg, W.Va.: “If there’s one place in America that reflects the hurdles the Biden administration faces as it tries to get a handle on the country’s gun violence epidemic, it’s the National Tracing Center tucked in the mountains of West Virginia. Sitting off a quiet, one-way road in an unremarkable, brick government building, it is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives’ only gun tracing center. …

“The center receives roughly 1,800 gun trace requests a day from local law enforcement agencies across the country. Their job is critical: take the identifying information they’re given and piece together a weapon’s path, from manufacturer to retailer to buyer. But because of an arcane tracing system and serial understaffing and underfunding, it takes an average of eight days to fulfill a routine trace request. Under the quickest scenarios, it can take about 48 hours, but only if the center surges resources.”

4. ALL-IN ON ABORTION: “Democrats Run on Abortion, Even for Offices With Little Say on the Issue,” by NYT’s Reid Epstein in Green Bay, Wis.: “Democrats used a muscular defense of abortion rights to great success in the midterm elections last fall, and, if that strategy works again, they are likely to copy it next year in races at all levels of government, including in President Biden’s campaign if he seeks re-election.

“The focus on abortion rights in down-ballot races, however, reflects Democrats’ increased nationalization of local politics. For decades, local Republican candidates ran on issues like abortion, immigration and national security, putting them in simple terms: ‘A noun, a verb and 9/11,’ Mr. Biden once said in describing the phenomenon. Now Democrats are doing the same on abortion in left-leaning cities, hoping to win over independent voters and some moderate Republicans.”

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5. DEEP DIVE: “How the climate movement learned to win in Washington,” by Eli Stokols: “After a staggering defeat, environmentalists needed a plan they could sell. Thus began a decade-long climb propelled by mass protests, heavy campaign spending and intense lobbying. Then came a final assist from Mother Nature herself.”

6. X MARKS THE FRAUGHT: “How ‘Latinx’ united — and divided — a community seeking to redefine itself,” by WaPo’s Paulina Villegas: “‘Latinx’ is taking criticism not just in conservative circles but also from some of the 62 million people in the United States it is supposed to represent. The term, inclusive to many but bothersome to others, illuminates the diversity of the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States — at a time when Latino influence in politics, culture and arts is reaching new heights.”

7. CHECK, PLEASE: The New York Times’ official Twitter account appears to be the first major news organization to lose its verification. After stating that it would not pay for official verification status on the platform for its main accounts and reporters, Twitter owner/CEO ELON MUSK tweeted a missive directed at the publication: “The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn’t even interesting. … Also, their feed is the Twitter equivalent of diarrhea. It’s unreadable. They would have far more real followers if they only posted their top articles. Same applies to all publications.”

8. AMERICA AND THE WORLD: “Fight Over Corruption and Congo’s Mining Riches Takes a Turn in Washington,” by NYT’s Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey: “Five years ago, the United States accused a wealthy Israeli diamond dealer of more than $1 billion worth of corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying they undermined economic growth and “the rule of law” in the impoverished African nation. Now, that businessman, DAN GERTLER, has found a surprising ally in his quest to have his name removed from a U.S. sanctions list: President FELIX TSHISEKEDI of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

9. FOR YOUR RADAR: “At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake U.S. Midwest, South,” by AP’s Adrian Sainz and Andrew DeMillo: “Confirmed or suspected tornadoes in at least eight states destroyed homes and businesses, splintered trees and laid waste to neighborhoods across a broad swath of the country.”

Related read: “The U.S. leads the world in weather catastrophes. Here’s why,” by AP’s Seth Borenstein

JOIN POLITICO ON 4/5 FOR THE 2023 RECAST POWER LIST: America’s demographics and power dynamics are changing — and POLITICO is recasting how it covers the intersection of race, identity, politics and policy. Join us for a conversation on the themes of the 2023 Recast Power List that will examine America’s decision-making tables, who gets to sit at them, and the challenges that still need to be addressed. REGISTER HERE.


OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at Cafe Milano at a dinner and fundraiser on Friday night honoring Dionne Warwick, who Bowie State University recently named its performing arts theater after: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Anthony Fauci, Bob Johnson, Aminta Breaux, Doug E. Fresh, BeBe Winans, Abby Phillip, Wolf Blitzer, Dan Meyers, Brandon Neal, Paxton Baxter, Sela Collins, Phillip Wallace, Laquita Honeysucker and Barbara Harrison.

WEDDING — Kate Arey, digital director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Jonathan Roberts, congressional liaison for the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission and a Ben Sasse alum, got married on March 11 in Austin, Texas. The couple met two years ago on a blind date. PicAnother picSPOTTED: Caroline Tucker, Katherine Robbins, Amanda Thompson, Elizabeth Mount and Robert McIntosh.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Melissa Braid, Republican comms director for the Senate Commerce Committee and a Trump DHS and Interior Department alum, and James Braid, legislative director for Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and a Trump OMB alum, on March 26 welcomed Derek Peterson Braid, who came in at 9 lbs 3 oz and 21.5 inches long. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) … NSC’s Brian JanovitzEvan McMullin … POLITICO’s Danielle Muoio Dunn and Nico Portuondo Tim Pataki of CGCN Group … Chad Banghart of the Committee to Defeat the President … Caitlyn Morrison of Arnold Ventures … Dentons’ Sander LurieNaji Filali of Percipient Strategies … David ShwiffJulia Roig of the Horizons Project … DOT’s Lynda Tran Kelsey Kilgore of Jeffrey J. Kimbell & Associates … Laura Henry of the National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association … Daschle Group’s Joe Hack … Commerce’s Patrick Zimet … NBC’s Liz Brown-Kaiser Alex RosenwaldJennifer Morrow … Andreessen Horowitz’s Colin Rom Robby ZirkelbachDan Sallick of Subject Matter … Edelman’s Ryan KuntzDan ReillyRachel Pankuch … former acting AG Jeff Rosen … NYT’s Emily Steel … former Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) … Tony Lake

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Correction: Yesterday’s Playbook misstated the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

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