ONE TO WATCH — DONALD TRUMP and his legal team are “fighting a secret court battle to block a federal grand jury from gathering information from an expanding circle of close Trump aides about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” CNN’s Evan Perez, Katelyn Polantz and Zachary Cohen scoop. The context: “The high-stakes legal dispute — which included the appearance of three attorneys representing Trump at the Washington, DC, federal courthouse on Thursday afternoon — is the most aggressive step taken by the former President to assert executive and attorney-client privileges in order to prevent some witnesses from sharing information in the criminal investigation events surrounding January 6, 2021.”
PARTY PLANNING — House Republicans traveled to southwestern Pennsylvania today to roll out their big new agenda for the midterms — and what they hope will be their next turn in the majority.
Our colleague Sarah Ferris was there in Monongahela, Pa., where Minority Leader KEVIN McCARTHY was joined by about 20 fellow members to formally unveil what they’re dubbing the “Commitment to America.”
They took the stage to TOBY KEITH’s “Made In America,” a song with a chorus that says: “He’s got the red, white, blue flyin’ high on the farm / Semper Fi tattooed on his left arm / Spend a little more at the store for a tag / In the back that says U-S-A / He won’t buy nothin’ that he can’t fix / With WD-40 and a Craftsman wrench / He ain’t prejudiced, he’s just Made in America.”
Some of the central pillars of the agenda center on inflation, supply chains, crime and immigration.
“What we’re going to roll out today is a ‘Commitment to America’ in Washington — not Washington, D.C., but Washington County, Pennsylvania,” McCarthy said, per AP’s Lisa Mascaro. “Because it’s about you, it’s not about us.”
Sarah notes the issues that received some of the biggest applause lines from the crowd:
- Repealing Democrats’ funding for more IRS agents
- Securing the border
- Supporting police and hiring more officers
- A parents’ bill of rights
And in a preview of how Republicans would wield their majority, Ohio Rep. JIM JORDAN said they would open up a probe into the origins of the coronavirus, while Whip STEVE SCALISE gave a warning to DHS Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS on immigration at the Southern border: “We will give Secretary Mayorkas a reserved parking spot, he will be testifying so much about this.”
HEADS UP — “Career prosecutors have recommended against charging Rep. MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.) in a long-running sex-trafficking investigation — telling Justice Department superiors that a conviction is unlikely in part because of credibility questions with the two central witnesses,” WaPo’s Devlin Barrett reports. “Senior department officials have not made a final decision on whether to charge Gaetz, but it is rare for such advice to be rejected, these people told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. They added that it is always possible additional evidence emerges that could alter prosecutors’ understanding of the case.”
WHAT WE LIKE TO SEE — SPOTTED: Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL reading this morning’s Playbook on an American Airlines flight from DCA to Cincinnati.
Happy Friday afternoon.
BATTLE FOR THE SENATE
BUDD’S BUD — The seemingly forgotten North Carolina Senate race may be heating up as the midterm season enters the home stretch. Trump is set to headline a rally for Rep. TED BUDD as the Republican seeks to best Democrat CHERI BEASLEY by “leaning into support for abortion restrictions and amity” with the former president, AP’s Gary Robertson and Steve Peoples write from Raleigh. What’s vexing Dems: “Trump’s rise has fueled a growing sense among some voters in North Carolina, along with those in many other states, that the national Democratic Party has lost touch with the daily struggles of the working class and similar voting blocs.”
FOR THE RECORDS — Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee MEHMET OZ released his health records today “as he maneuvers to keep questions about Democratic rival JOHN FETTERMAN’s recovery from a stroke front and center in the hotly contested campaign,” AP’s Marc Levy reports from Harrisburg, Pa. “Dr. REBECCA KURTH in New York City wrote in a four-page letter obtained by The Associated Press that she found the 62-year-old heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity to be in ‘excellent health’ in an annual checkup Thursday.”
BATTLE FOR THE STATES
THE LEGEND OF ZELDIN — As GOP Rep. LEE ZELDIN continues his campaign to unseat New York Gov. KATHY HOCHUL, he has unlocked a key pocket of support in Hasidic Brooklyn. “With less than 50 days until Election Day, Mr. Zeldin’s Jewish outreach is at the center of a concerted and overlooked effort to court enclaves like these in boroughs outside Manhattan, where English is often a second language and voters appear to be highly motivated by education issues, congestion pricing and threats to public safety — along with a leftward drift among Democrats they have long supported,” NYT’s Nicholas Fandos and Eliza Shapiro report. “Whether he can move enough votes to destabilize Democrats’ New York City firewall remains to be seen.”
CASH DASH — The States Project, a Democratic group, is “investing nearly $60 million in state legislative races” in five states this fall, NYT’s Nick Corasaniti reports. “The group … said it was focusing on flipping a single seat in the Arizona State Senate that could swing it to Democratic control, and on winning back both chambers of the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures. The group also aims to defend Democratic majorities in Maine and Nevada.”
With help from Steve Shepard
— Nevada: There hasn’t been much Jan. 6 messaging in swing seats, so Democratic Sen. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO’s new ad, which calls Republican ADAM LAXALT “the proud face of ‘the Big Lie’ in Nevada,” is notable. “Now, Laxalt says he’ll try to overturn this year’s election if he doesn’t like the results,” a narrator says.
— Georgia: The NRSC’s latest ad grasps at an evolving GOP message: “Georgia needs some balance in Washington, and that’s not [Democratic Sen.] RAPHAEL WARNOCK,” the narrator says.
— Colorado: A newly formed Democratic super PAC, 53 Peaks, is attacking GOP Senate nomineeJOE O’DEA on abortion. The group, which was created in August, hasn’t yet filed a report with the FEC to disclose its funder(s), but it shares a media buyer with major Democratic groups, including Senate Majority PAC.
ET Q, BRUTE? — WaPo’s Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer document the journey of a Trump soundtrack into a QAnon phenomenon: “The music has been widely described as an anthem for QAnon, an extremist movement that the FBI has designated as a domestic terrorism threat,” they write. “But the real story of the song is even stranger and more complicated — underscoring the increasing difficulty in parsing distinctions between the QAnon following and Trump’s own ‘Make America Great Again’ movement. The bottom line for Trump, according to one adviser, is that he will probably use the song again.”
— Related from Daily Beast’s @willsommer: “Trump is really stepping his QAnon outreach — last night he posted a video filled with overt QAnon memes on TruthSocial.”
IMMIGRATION FILES — WSJ’s Alicia Caldwell, Jimmy Vielkind and Joe Barrett report from Del Rio, Texas, New York and Chicago on the bus programs that Republican governors have been running since the spring to ferry migrants from the border to Democratic-led states like New York and Illinois. “Among those affected, the buses have proven less controversial. Several migrants said they were happy to take advantage of the easily available free rides to quickly start establishing a new life in parts of the country far from the border,” they write. While YORDALIS BERMUDEZ, who came from Venezuela and is now in New York, said the bus ride was uncomfortable, she’s found greener grass: “At the moment, I’m content, and all’s well,” she told WSJ. “I’m happy to have a roof.”
ANNALS OF 20/20 HINDSIGHT — “World Bank president says he will not resign, apologizes for remarks on climate science,” by Kelly Garrity: “When asked, ‘Are you a climate denier?’ I should’ve said no,” DAVID MALPASS told our colleague Ryan Heath
COMING FOR CRYPTO — “Pentagon launches effort to assess crypto’s threat to national security,” by WaPo’s Tory Newmyer
SCOTUS WATCH — Former Supreme Court Justice STEPHEN BREYER sat down for an exclusive interview (his first since stepping down from the bench) with CNN’s Chris Wallace, where he issued a warning for his former colleagues: “You start writing too rigidly and you will see, the world will come around and bite you in the back.” More from CNN’s Devan Cole
Breyer on the end of Roe: “Was I happy about it? Not for an instant. Did I do everything I could to persuade people? Of course, of course. But there we are and now we go on. We try to work together.”
SHOT SHORTAGE — “Moderna Covid-19 Booster Shortage Leads to Fewer Appointments at Pharmacies,” by WSJ’s Peter Loftus
WAR IN UKRAINE
PANEL CONDEMNS RUSSIA — A U.N. panel today concluded that Russia has committed war crimes in its invasion and conflict in Ukraine, NYT’s Nick Cumming-Bruce reports from Geneva. “A three-person Commission of Inquiry set up in April to investigate the conduct of hostilities in four areas of Ukraine laid out the graphic allegations in an unusually hard-hitting, 11-minute statement to the U.N Human Rights Council in Geneva.” Read the statement
HOW IT’S PLAYING — “World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow,” by AP’s Matthew Lee: “The apparent shift in opinion offers some hope to Ukraine and its Western allies that increasing isolation will add pressure on Putin to negotiate a peace. But few are unduly optimistic.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
UNGA PRESSURE — “China faces skeptics with UNGA pitch for global leader status,” by Phelim Kine
AID ABROAD — “Treasury Department helps expand internet access to Iranian people amid violent government crackdown,” by Kelly Hooper
THE GLOBAL VIEW — “War, Inflation Knock World Economy Off Balance,” by WSJ’s Tom Fairless and Jason Douglas
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Italy’s Election Is the First Test of the West’s Anti-Putin Resolve,” by WSJ’s Marcus Walker and Margherita Stancati
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
JONES TRIAL LATEST — ALEX JONES “delayed an expected return to the stand on Friday, a day after his courtroom testimony closed with a political outburst, in a case that will determine how much he must pay families of eight Sandy Hook victims after he spent years defaming them and calling the school shooting a hoax,” NYT’s Elizabeth Williamson reports from the courtroom in Connecticut. Jones’ lawyer said he would return to the stand on Wednesday.
— ICYMI:Williamson recounted Thursday’s testimony from Jones, which ended in “chaos,” she wrote: “Confronted on Thursday with the harm he had done by repeatedly lying on his Infowars radio and online show … Mr. Jones erupted in a rant that drew a contempt threat by Judge BARBARA BELLIS of State Superior Court.” What Jones said: “Is this a struggle session? Are we in China? I’ve already said I’m sorry, and I’m done saying I’m sorry.”
IN MEMORIAM — “Antony Blinken’s father, former diplomat and banker, dies,” AP: “Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s father, Donald, a former U.S. diplomat, investment banker and modern art collector, died on Thursday. He was 96. … Donald Blinken served as the chairman of the State University of New York system from 1978 to 1990 and was U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 1994 to 1997, during the Clinton administration.”
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at a lunch on Thursday at Moon Rabbit on the sidelines of the Atlantic Festival hosted by Zach Todd, Mia Shaw and Nick Thompson: Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Reps. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Syra Madad, Mary Katharine Ham, Ala Stanford, William Spriggs, Ames Grawert, Jean Twenge, Kristen Morrissey Thiede, David Michaels, Lin Wells, Ronald Neumann, Robin Hanson, Mark Leibovich, David Almacy, Douglas Heye, Rye Barcott, Ed Cohen, Nihal Krishan, Jeffrey Goldberg, Adrienne LaFrance, Tim Wu, Terry Lurnish, Alice McKown, Ibram Kendi, Aneesa Folds, Nic Stone and Grover Norquist.
— The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law held its Virtual Annual Awards celebrating 50 years of disability rights advocacy on Thursday evening. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Wade Henderson, Elizabeth McCallum and Jonathan Van Ness were among the awardees for the night. Jonathan Capehart served as the host and Lachi gave a live performance. SPOTTED: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chai Feldblum, Eve Hill, Jill Bazelon, Kenneth Feinberg, Holly O’Donnell, Ira Burnim and Jalyn Radziminski.
MEDIA MOVE — Isabel Dobrin has been promoted to director of homepage and news strategy at POLITICO. She previously was a digital strategy editor.
Corrections: Thursday’s Playbook PM misstated the effect of Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) support for the Electoral Count Act reform bill, based on reporting in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The bill already had 10 GOP co-sponsors.
Due to a data interpretation error, Tuesday’s Playbook PM misstated the level of Democratic voter enthusiasm in the new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. It is 60% of Democrats who say they’re very or extremely enthusiastic about voting this year, not 61%.