THAT ANSWERS THAT — President JOE BIDEN suggested Thursday that he was “ready to go” to Ukraine. But he’s not actually going. “He’s ready for anything — the man likes fast cars and aviators,” press secretary JEN PSAKI said Thursday night at a live taping of “Pod Save America” at the Anthem. “He’s ready to go to Ukraine. We are not sending the president to Ukraine.”
— Another bit of news from Psaki’s appearance came on the topic of the student loan moratorium: “Between now and August 31, it’s either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision, as RON [KLAIN] referenced, about canceling student debt,” she said.
IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE MEANING OF THE WORD ‘WE’ IS — “We will not take it anymore,” DONALD TRUMP said in his speech on Jan. 6, 2021. “We will stop the steal.” But who was “we”? Does the word suggest a call to action? Those questions were front and center when the Jan. 6 committee interviewed former Trump aide STEPHEN MILLER on Thursday, report NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman.
BUCKEYE ENDORSEMENT BATTLE — With Ohio’s May 3 Senate GOP primary barely two weeks away and no clear frontrunner, J.D. VANCE’s rivals are mounting an all-out effort to head off a Trump endorsement of the “Hillbilly Elegy” author, per our colleagues Natalie Allison, Meridith McGraw, Alex Isenstadt and Daniel Lippman. Trump seems intent on picking a horse in all the big GOP primaries. But several candidates are bunched together in polling in Ohio, making this one a real roll of the dice.
THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: JOHN ANZALONE — On the latest Deep Dive podcast, we sat down with JOHN ANZALONE, Biden’s campaign pollster. We caught up with Anzalone in Las Vegas, where he was attending a campaign retreat for one of his 2022 clients, Nevada Gov. STEVE SISOLAK. We talked politics for two hours over breakfast on the Strip. You can listen to the show here. These are some of our favorite parts:
— On the 2022 environment for Democrats: “I think what we’re missing right now is that voters are very much in, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ [mode]. … And they don’t feel Democrats can get their shit together and get things done. And so, you know, if we’re able to do something — a skinny [Build Back Better] or whatever on health insurance costs, prescription drug costs, elderly care, child care — that’s a big deal, because it will give Democrats … a competitive advantage on what they’re doing for working families. And it’ll cut through the inflation narrative, the Ukraine narrative, the Afghan narrative, the border narrative, etc. And right now, we don’t see that and we don’t have that. …
“No one’s going to sit there as a Democratic consultant and try to bullshit you that this is anything but a really sour environment for Democrats. So we better look at the strategic ways that we can compete, right?”
— On the “myth” that needs to be broken about Latino voters: “I think that a lot of time, there’s this narrative in D.C. among Democrats that you only talk to Latinos about immigration. Like, immigration is the 12th issue that they’re concerned about. Guess what? They’re concerned about the same things everyone else is concerned about. It’s always about the economy or inflation or health care or schools.”
— On what he thinks Republicans do better than Democrats: “Republicans do a much better job of branding Democrats [than] Democrats do Republicans … We don’t do a good job of branding. But, goddamn, man, you know, critical race theory, which literally just one day popped up in the American lexicon and — it’s not taught in any public school in America — now it becomes an issue. They’re really good at branding.”
— On why Democrats should crank up the volume on an economic populist message: “We’re scared of our own shadow on taxes, and it fucking makes no sense … People do not begrudge people making a lot of money and getting wealthy; people have a problem and [are] pissed off about them not paying any fucking taxes. And why, as a party, we don’t elevate that in our messaging is beyond me.”
— On whether Biden will run again: “I have no idea. No indication that he won’t run. And I think that … a lot of us feel that if Trump runs, there’s no one else that could beat Trump [other] than Joe Biden … You go head-to-head and Joe Biden’s always ahead of him. Not by a lot — one or two points. … Even at his lowest approval rating, he still beats Donald Trump.”
— On his prediction for 2022: “It’s the worst political environment that I’ve lived through in 30 years of being a political consultant. … There’s a big difference between losing 7 and 10 seats in the House and getting your ass kicked and losing 35, 40. … I think we really have the ability to keep the Senate.”
— On one potential silver lining for Biden if Democrats lose the midterms: “Can I just say one thing, because I think this is important: REAGAN went through this. CLINTON went through this. OBAMA went through this. And they all got reelected.”
Happy Friday. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
BIG FRIDAY READ — The second installment of POLITICO’s Next Great Migration — a series of stories from The Recast exploring the immense shift in Black population out of American cities, and how that’s changing politics and power — is up today, and this time The District is under the microscope.
Washington, D.C., was once a mecca for the Black middle class and a national icon of local Black political power. By the mid-20th century, the city was nearly half-Black, and more than 71 percent by 1970.
But as D.C. has skyrocketed in population over the past 20 years, it has seen a sharp outflow of Black residents. As a result, between the 2000 and 2020 U.S. Census, the city’s Black population dropped from 59 percent to 41 percent.
Today, D.C. has one of the highest rates of displacement of Black residents in the country. Our colleagues Steven Overly, Delece Smith-Barrow, Katy O’Donnell and Ming Li dive deep on the nation’s capital city: “A Black Mayor Gambled on Wooing Wealthy Residents to D.C. Now The ‘Chocolate City’ is Lost”
More: “How One Washington D.C. Neighborhood has changed–and how it hasn’t,” photo essay by Eric Easter … “D.C.’s Black Churches are Organizing Homeowners to Fight Gentrification,” video essay by JC Whittington and Monica Akhtar … “Behind the Numbers: How a Black Urban Exodus is Reshaping Politics,” by Ming Li and Sean McMinn.
WHY IS TONIGHT DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER NIGHTS? — VP KAMALA HARRIS and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF are set to mark another first later today when they “will become the first known second family to host a Passover Seder at the vice president’s residence, a White House official says, a continuation of their efforts to celebrate Emhoff’s Jewish faith,” CNN’s Jasmine Wright writes.
— Sam Stein has a great read on the unique role Emhoff has found as “America’s Jewish dad,” which Sam talked to the second gentleman about while making matzo. “The public perception of Doug Emhoff is that he’s just enjoying the hell out of life,” Sam writes. “But beneath that image of a happy-go-lucky political transplant is a more intense Doug Emhoff. He’s deeply invested in his role and cares a great deal about how he’s doing it. … When I noted how entertaining his life seems to be … he bristled ever so slightly.”
— BTW, it sounds like Emhoff makes a lousy matzo: “‘It’s awesome,’ [Emhoff] exclaimed after taking a bite. ‘It’s really good.’ It was not. The end product shared the essence of wet cardboard thrown into the toaster oven placed on high. I know, because he let me try it.”
FIRST SISTER — Tonight, our colleagues at West Wing Playbook will have an interview with VALERIE BIDEN OWENS, POTUS’ sister, to talk about her new memoir, “Growing Up Biden.” Sign up for the free newsletter here
HARRIS’ FRIDAY — The VP will hold a bilateral meeting with Tanzanian President SAMIA SULUHU HASSAN at 10:40 a.m., with a pool spray at the top.
THE HOUSE and THE SENATE are out.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
MCCARTHY’S ‘HELP WANTED’ SIGN — Rep. FRED UPTON’s (R-Mich.) recent retirement announcement has underscored a troubling reality facing House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY as he tries to become speaker: He’s losing a huge chunk of the so-called responsible wing of his governing coalition, as Sarah Ferris and Olivia Beavers detail.
— The key question: “What will the exodus of his centrists, as well as other senior Republicans who don’t see negotiation as a dirty word, mean for him next year? Republicans say McCarthy, the minority leader and undisputed frontrunner for speaker if the House flips, has begun conversations with his leadership team and other lawmakers about how to wrangle the conference on a smattering of issues after the chamber flips.”
THE UNDERCARD BECOMES THE MAIN EVENT — With Jackson’s confirmation out of the way, there is not likely to be any further action on Supreme Court appointments for several years. That fact pushes “the struggle over the direction of the courts down to fights over filling open appellate and district court seats,” NYT’s Carl Hulse writes. “That is where the real trench warfare has been waged for the past two decades and where it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”
CASH DASH — Sinema isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but is already cranking up fundraising efforts. Axios’ Alayna Treene reports that the Arizona Democrat “raised $1.6 million during the first quarter of 2022, and nearly 75% of her contributions totaled less than $100.” The context: Rep. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-Ariz.) is rumored to be mulling a primary challenge against her. Gallego reported a personal-best fundraising figure in Q1, per Insider’s Kayla Epstein — though his total of $512,740 pales in comparison to Sinema’s haul.
— Sen. RON JOHNSON (R-Wis.) raked in $7.1 million in Q1, Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser scoops. That’s roughly 10x more than Johnson raised in Q4 of 2021.
— A 2024 preview?: Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS has raised $102 million so far for his 2022 reelection bid, much of it from “former President Donald Trump’s megadonor network,” writes the Orlando Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher. It’s boatloads more than any of his would-be Democratic opponents — more than any other 2022 gubernatorial candidate in the country, in fact. The only other 2022 candidate who comes close is another name mentioned in the 2024 GOP conversation: Texas Gov. GREG ABBOTT, who has raised $93 million so far in his battle against BETO O’ROURKE.
— Speaking of prolific fundraisers: “Ed Buck, once a prominent Democratic donor, sentenced to 30 years in prison,” by CNN’s Steve Almasy and Elizabeth Joseph
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — As MEHMET OZ and DAVID MCCORMICK duke it out for the Pennsylvania GOP’s Senate nomination, the race remains primarily about one credential: who has stronger MAGA bona fides. And that broader war has given way to a battle between the two over which one is more serious about fighting China — with Oz in particular launching an arrayof attack adshammering McCormick for his business ties to the People’s Republic.
But in addition to a publicly reported multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with a company whose largest market is China, Oz has other business ties to China that haven’t received much attention. Daniel Lippman scoops that according to a new personal financial disclosure, Oz made between $1 million and $5 million last year from a deal with Utah-based Malouf Companies that used his name and identity on numerous sleep products that were made in China. In 2020, he signed a deal with the company for a sleep and bedding brand called “Dr. Oz Good Life.” (The labels of one of their mattress toppers and a pillow are clear about their origin: “DrOzSleep.com Made in China.”) A person close to the Oz campaign said that only small portions of the sleep products that couldn’t be manufactured in the U.S. or elsewhere were made in China.
Asked for comment, Oz spokesperson BRITTANY YANICK said in a statement: “David McCormick is Beijing’s favorite candidate, having raised billions in China to support the CCP and celebrated shipping PA jobs overseas. Dr. Oz knows firsthand the need to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. and reverse China’s stranglehold on global supply chains, all sent abroad thanks to Wall Street insiders like McCormick.”
WAR IN UKRAINE
— CIA Director WILLIAM BURNS said Thursday that Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN’s “‘potential desperation’ to extract the semblance of a victory in Ukraine might tempt him to order the use of a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon,” NYT’s David Sanger writes.
— U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director DAVID BEASLEY told the AP that “people are being ‘starved to death’ in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.”
— The U.S. is ramping up its aid to Ukraine, WSJ’s Courtney McBride reports, as “the line between offensive and defensive assistance has blurred in recent weeks.”
— That comes as Russia warns that the U.S. is crossing its own red lines, reports WaPo’s Karen DeYoung.
— An update on the Russian ship Ukraine struck Thursday: “The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, a guided-missile cruiser that became a potent target of Ukrainian defiance in the opening days of the war, sank Thursday after it was heavily damaged in the latest setback for Moscow’s invasion,” per AP’s Adam Schreck.
THE WHITE HOUSE
IN OR OUT? — On Thursday, Reuters’ Jarrett Renshaw and Jeff Mason scooped that GINA MCCARTHY, Biden’s top climate adviser, is planning to leave the White House in the near future. That reporting was followed by reports in WaPo and NBC, among other outlets.
But late Thursday night on Twitter, McCarthy said those stories were incorrect: “Reports that I have resigned from my position as President Biden’s National Climate Advisor are simply inaccurate. We’ve made great progress these past 14 months, but we have much more work to do — and I remain excited about the opportunities ahead.”
OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL — Biden will nominate “MICHAEL BARR, a former Treasury Department official, to serve as the Federal Reserve’s top banking regulator, the White House said, after Mr. Biden’s first pick for the job withdrew amid opposition from Republicans and a key Democratic senator. If confirmed, Mr. Barr would serve as the Fed’s vice chairman for supervision, charged with overseeing the largest U.S. financial firms including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc.,” WSJ’s Andrew Restuccia and Andrew Duehren write.
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Peter Baker, Eugene Daniels, Simon Ostrovsky and Marianna Sotomayor.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
FOX “Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Mike Emanuel: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Panel: Ben Domenech, Josh Kraushaar, Catherine Lucey and Mo Elleithee.
CBS “Face the Nation”: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba … Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) … David Beasley … Sister Norma Pimentel.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. Panel: Matthew Continetti, Eugene Daniels, Ruth Marcus and Amna Nawaz.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Ivo Daalder … Maria Hinojosa … Raquel Willis … George Hahn … Beto O’Rourke.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Karoun Demirjian, Evelyn Farkas and retired Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson. Panel: Melanie Zanona, Molly Ball and Jordan Fabian.
ABC “This Week”: Panel: Rachel Scott, Chris Christie, Donna Brazile and María Elena Salinas.
Joe Biden met Spot the robot.
Marc Caputo got a look at Marco Rubio’s notes from his appearance on “Hannity.”
Jake Sullivan said he’s been eating like a college student, but wouldn’t touch the question of who among Biden, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is smartest.
Elon Musk took to the TED Conference stage in Canada on Thursday and said that his takeover bid and vision for Twitter is “extremely important to the future of civilization.”
Liz Mair’s finger is healing.
Herschel Walker went on “Hannity” and invited The Nation’s Elie Mystal to come to Georgia and “break bread” with him. (Judging from Mystal’s response, that seems … unlikely.)
The Reagan Library is not happy about John Hinckley’s plans to perform a concert this summer in New York City: “We strongly oppose his release into society where he apparently seeks to make a profit from his infamy.”
OUT AND ABOUT — Bill Browder had a party for his new book, “Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath” ($28.99), organized by Juleanna Glover at the Willard. Evgenia Kara-Murza, wife of the recently jailed Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza, spoke to the crowd, reading a letter written by her husband (Video). Also SPOTTED: Michael Wolff, Michael Crowley and Sarah Haight, Ishaan Tharoor, Tevi Troy, Bill Kristol, Tammy Haddad, Steve Clemons, Josh Dawsey, Juleanna Glover and Christopher Reiter, Sam Feist and Tina Nguyen.
— Jonathan Allen and Cathy Merrill hosted a party for Kim Wehle’s new book, “How to Think Like a Lawyer — and Why: A Common-Sense Guide to Everyday Dilemmas” ($13.59) at Rod Rosenstein and Lisa Barsoomian’s home Thursday night. SPOTTED: Chris Matthews, Laura Coates, A.B. Stoddard, Kevin Walling, Paula Reid, Jessica Schneider, Kathy O’Hearn, Abby Livingston, Gayraud Townsend, Mondale Robinson, Erin McPike, Sarah Isgur, Peter Roberson and Evelyn Farkas.
— The White House Historical Association hosted a reception at the Decatur House on Wednesday for Mark Updegrove’s new book, “Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency” ($29). Updegrove spoke in conversation with moderator Amna Nawaz, covering everything from the Cuban missile crisis to civil rights to Kennedy’s womanizing. SPOTTED: Stewart McLaurin, Anita McBride, Frank Gannon, Ben Barnes, Ken Adelman, John McCarthy, John McConnell, Lauren Leader, Tara Hogan Charles, Steve Clemons, Tasha Cole, Amy Dacey, Robert Draper and Kirsten Powers, Pat Harrison, Steve Rochlin, Christina Sevilla, Liz Sizer, Anne Sidey, Riley Temple, Alice Stewart and Jim Popkin.
TRANSITIONS — Elliot Imse is moving up to be executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. He currently is VP of comms at LGBTQ Victory Fund and Victory Institute. He’s replacing outgoing executive director Ruben Gonzales, who’s joining the White House Presidential Personnel Office as special assistant to the president for domestic agency personnel. … Christopher Neefus will be director of comms at government spending watchdog Open the Books, as they scale up their operations for 2022. He’s a Michigan GOP and Koch network alum.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) … Sarah Bloom Raskin … Pete Rouse … The Hill’s Amie Parnes … Tom Rosenstiel … Ray Locker … Pat Devney of Rep. Annie Kuster’s (D-N.H.) office … Leslie Shedd of the House Foreign Affairs GOP … Jamie Geller … Brussels Playbook author Suzanne Lynch … Rishi Banerjee … POLITICO’s Anna Gronewold and Alex Samsel … Dana Gansman … FERC’s Mary O’Driscoll … Max Neuberger … Heather Joy Thompson … Lisbeth Lyons of Printing United Alliance … Nina Rees of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools … Bloomberg’s John Harney … Jason Lamote … Asher MacDonald … former Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), now at Covington … Kristin McCarthy … FTI Consulting’s Cheyenne Hopkins … MSNBC’s Brian Montopoli … Ann Miller of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers … Robyn Swirling … Kate Bernard … Jaimey Sexton … Kathryn Garza
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