By ZACK STANTON
06/27/2021 11:07 AM EDT
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On Saturday, President Joe Biden personally worked the phones, calling Republican senators and has seemingly saved the bipartisan infrastructure deal — for now, at least. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo
A MUST-READ ON SURFSIDE — The tragedy continues to grow in Miami-Dade County following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South early Thursday morning. There are five people confirmed dead, and at least 150 are still unaccounted for. Reporting from the scene, WaPo’s Marc Fisher, Laura Reiley, Lori Rozsa and Meryl Kornfield have a vivid, devastating tick-tock of the moments before and after the building fell. Take a few minutes to give it a read.
THE ART OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL — On Friday, the bipartisan infrastructure deal between President JOE BIDEN and a group of moderate senators appeared to be falling apart following Biden’s suggestion that he wouldn’t sign the bill unless the (much larger, party-line) reconciliation package landed on his desk simultaneously. Sen. ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) was “pissed and disappointed.” Sen. BILL CASSIDY (R-La.) felt “blindsided.” And so on.
What a difference a day makes.
Yesterday, Biden personally worked the phones to save the deal, as Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago report, and issued a semi-apology and long clarification of his earlier remarks, which had “understandably upset some Republicans, who do not see the two plans as linked,” the president said. “My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent.” Here’s Biden’s full statement
It seems like Biden may have saved the deal — for now, at least.
— Portman quickly reaffirmed his support for the infrastructure deal: “This week Republicans and Democrats agreed on an historic bipartisan framework and we should pass it because it is good for the economy and the country.”
— Cassidy praised the infrastructure deal as a “good bill” that will be popular with voters on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this morning: “My wife says that roads and bridges are a ‘woman’s problem,’ if you will, because oftentimes, it is the woman, aside from commuting to work, who is also taking children to school. They’re doing the shopping, and the more time she spends on that road, the less time she spends doing things of higher value. So if you speak to her, she’s going to say this is a good bill.”
— Our own Burgess Everett has the details from Capitol Hill, reporting that Biden’s “domestic agenda appears back on track in Congress, with Republicans praising his newly clarified approach to their bipartisan infrastructure plan.” You can practically hear the sighs of relief from 1600 Penn.
TRUMP’S SUMMER OF RETRIBUTION — In Ohio on Saturday, former President DONALD TRUMP kicked off the first in a series of planned MAGA rallies aimed at defeating House Republicans who voted to impeach him for inspiring the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — starting with this event targeting Rep. ANTHONY GONZALEZ and boosting his primary opponent, former Trump aide MAX MILLER.
But as Meridith McGraw reports, “Trump’s apparent laser focus on getting even for past slights was short-lived,” and the former prez mostly stuck to his greatest hits for the crowd of diehards.
— That said, there was some new material. Trump praised MyPillow magnate and election conspiracy theorist MIKE LINDELL, prompting a standing ovation. And in the warm-up act by Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.), the audience broke into a “Lock him up!” chant about ANTHONY FAUCI, which MTG joined in on.
— The event was plagued with technical difficulties. Trump complained that his TelePrompter was “waving in the wind like the American flag,” and mocked his staff for shoddy work. Jumbotron screens didn’t turn on, prompting the restless crowd — some far away and unable to see him — to yell about it while he spoke. And that, in turn, led the crowd to thin out as the speech dragged on.
— Fun fact: Trump was onstage for 97 minutes. That’s longer than the runtimes of “12 Angry Men,” “Mean Girls” or “The Lion King.”
— One thing that’s different about Trump’s MAGA rallies now: He doesn’t have Twitter or Facebook, as NYT’s Maggie Haberman shrewdly observed on Twitter. And that creates an interesting dynamic in these “summer of retribution” rallies on behalf of his endorsed primary candidates: They function as “vehicles for himself to get attention” after “having the most attention he ever had to having the least in decades.”
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Three more important Sunday stories:
— The buzzy inside scoop on Bill Barr’s decision to disavow Trump’s election conspiracies, by ABC’s Jonathan Karl in The Atlantic. There is a dump truck full of previously unreported news in this excerpt from Karl’s upcoming book on the final months of the Trump administration, including Trump’s furious reaction to A.G. BILL BARR publicly deflating his fraudulent claims about the election, and what — and who — exactly drove Barr to take that stance. A sample:
“Barr told me that Republican Senate leader MITCH MCCONNELL had been urging him to speak out since mid-November. Publicly, McConnell had said nothing to criticize Trump’s allegations, but he told Barr that Trump’s claims were damaging to the country and to the Republican Party. Trump’s refusal to concede was complicating McConnell’s efforts to ensure that the GOP won the two runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for January 5. … Republicans needed to make the argument that with Biden soon to be in the White House, it was crucial that they have a majority in the Senate to check his power. But McConnell also believed that if he openly declared Biden the winner, Trump would be enraged and likely act to sabotage the Republican Senate campaigns in Georgia. Barr related his conversations with McConnell to me. McConnell confirms the account.”
— WaPo’s Erik Wemple on the teeth-gnashing at Fox News over Ben Smith’s column on Tucker Carlson. Fox News host TUCKER CARLSON likes to attack the “fake news” media, but as NYT columnist BEN SMITH wrote in his much-discussed column this week, the irony is that Carlson is himself a frequent source for reporters, gossiping about the goings-on both in TrumpWorld and at the network with the same journalists he trashes on his show — which gives his whole shtick a bit of a kayfabe feel. Though a poorly kept secret in much of the media world, this appears to have rankled some big-name Fox News personalities, including MARK LEVIN and SEAN HANNITY, as Wemple reports.
— NYT’s Shane Goldmacher on the widespread use of deceptive fundraising tactics to scam the elderly. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: This is an incredibly damning read on the political fundraising industry. Looking at federal campaign contributions from California in the 2020 cycle, the Times found that “more than four times as much money was refunded to donors who are 70 and older than to adults under the age of 50 — for both Republicans and Democrats.” The reasons why verge on elder abuse.
“The dirty little secret of online political fundraising is that the most aggressive and pernicious practices that campaigns use to raise money are especially likely to ensnare unsuspecting older people,” writes Goldmacher, referencing the now-commonplace “faux bill notices and official-looking correspondence; bogus offers to match donations and hidden links to unsubscribe; and prechecked boxes that automatically repeat donations, which are widely seen as the most egregious scheme. … Even the kinds of silly deceptions that millennials and digital natives might roll their eyes at — like stress-inducing donation countdown clocks — can more easily distract or confuse many retirees who adopted computers later in life.”
Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
SUNDAY BEST …
Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) on ABC’s “This Week” on whether progressives will support the bipartisan infrastructure bill: “I hope they just look at the bill. … We’ve worked on the one track. We’re going to work on the second track. … I think we need to make some adjustments. And I’m willing to step forward to make those adjustments.”
White House senior adviser CEDRIC RICHMOND on “Fox News Sunday” on Biden’s infrastructure clarification: “People keep underestimating us. We keep delivering. … [Biden] says exactly what he’s been saying in terms of this is a once-in-a-lifetime investment. … I think what he’s doing is making sure that we’re talking about the issue and not the process.”
Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.) on the infrastructure bill on “Meet The Press”: “The president is more than able to take his own approach, but I believe that we also have to talk about this missing piece, which is the House. And I believe that in the House, and House Democrats are very committed to making sure that, you know — in Senator Cassidy’s words — that infrastructure is very centered on women, and in addition to a bridge, you need a babysitter.”
Portman on “This Week” on whether Trump is still the leader of the GOP: “He’s definitely the leader of the party in the sense that he has high popularity among the Republican base and that’s what you saw last night, I think. You saw a big turnout. But my view is pretty simple, is that the Republican Party and President Trump ought to focus on two things. One is policies. … And second, let’s focus on 2022 and getting the House majority back and the Senate majority.”
Sen. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Trump: “I also think, frankly, that here in the U.S., there’s a growing recognition that this is a bit like WWF, that it’s entertaining, but it’s not real. And I know people want to say, yes, they believe in the ‘big lie’ in some cases, but I think people recognize that it’s a lot of show and bombast, but it’s going nowhere. The election is over. It was fair. Look, the president was crying foul on election night and actually before election night. And the question is, what were his sources of information? … Did he hear it from the Justice Department? No. Did he hear it from the intelligence community? No. So, where did he hear it from? The MyPillow guy? Rudy Giuliani?”
— Romney on “critical race theory”: “Let’s keep the federal government out of telling people what can be taught in our schools, because, by the way, that’s the sort of direction you see out of places like China, where they censor the media, they censor what can be taught in schools. Let’s not open the door to that in this country.”
BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president and first lady JILL BIDEN will arrive at the White House at 8 p.m.
HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP is in Los Angeles and has nothing on her public schedule.
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PHOTO OF THE DAY: Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium in the Surfside area of Miami on Saturday, June 26, after the building partially collapsed on Thursday. | Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
THE SURFSIDE BUILDING COLLAPSE
EXPERTS TEAM UP TO UNCOVER WHAT HAPPENED — “Team of specialists sent to south Florida to probe collapse,” AP: “A half-dozen scientists and engineers who specialize in disastrous structure failures are headed to south Florida to collect firsthand information on the cause of the catastrophic Champlain Towers South collapse. Their initial work will be used to determine whether to pursue a more thorough study.
“The first two members of the team arrived in Florida on Friday and four more will be there by Monday, said Jason Averill, an official at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. … Averill said the team will collect information over the next week to decide whether a more thorough investigation is warranted.”
— “Engineer Warned of ‘Major Structural Damage’ at Florida Condo Complex,” by NYT’s Mike Baker, Anjali Singhvi and Patricia Mazzei: “Three years before the deadly collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex near Miami, a consultant found alarming evidence of ‘major structural damage’ to the concrete slab below the pool deck and ‘abundant’ cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the 13-story building.
“The engineer’s report helped shape plans for a multimillion-dollar repair project that was set to get underway soon — more than two and a half years after the building managers were warned — but the building suffered a catastrophic collapse in the middle of the night on Thursday, crushing sleeping residents in a massive heap of debris.”
THE WHITE HOUSE
REPORT CARD — “Biden’s Push for Equity in Government Hits Legal and Political Roadblocks,” by NYT’s Michael Shear, Stacy Cowley and Alan Rappeport: “No part of Mr. Biden’s agenda has been as ambitious as his attempt to embrace racial considerations when making decisions. It pushes against limits set by the Supreme Court, which say programs based on race must be ‘narrowly tailored’ to accomplish a ‘compelling governmental interest.’ And it ignites passions at a time when Democrats hold the narrowest majority in Congress and the country is already seething with disagreements about race, power and fairness. …
“The challenges to Mr. Biden’s proposals have so far halted only a small fraction of his broader equity agenda, which has already ensured that billions of dollars in government spending have reached African Americans and poor women. … Administration officials say the court rulings and political opposition are merely speed bumps that will do little to block progress. And they say Mr. Biden will continue to fight for parts of his legislative agenda that are not in a compromise bill.”
NEW NORMAL — “The remarkably unremarkable White House Pride ceremony,” by WaPo’s Annie Linskey: “Friday’s warm presidential embrace of the LGBTQ community was remarkable for not being all that remarkable because of how much and how quickly the country and the Democratic Party have changed. Public opinion among Democrats is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBTQ rights, and Biden talks so frequently on the subject that it’s become routine, another agenda item he ticks off in his public remarks.”
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PROJECTING OUT — “What Does Eric Adams, Working-Class Champion, Mean for the Democrats?” by NYT’s Katie Glueck: “With his substantial early lead in the Democratic mayoral primary when votes were counted Tuesday night, ERIC ADAMS, the Brooklyn borough president, demonstrated the enduring power of a candidate who can connect to working- and middle-class Black and Latino voters, while also appealing to some white voters with moderate views.
“Mr. Adams is not yet assured of victory. But if he prevails, it would be a triumph for a campaign that focused more heavily on those constituencies than any other winning New York City mayoral candidate in recent history. As the national Democratic Party navigates debates over identity and ideology, the mayoral primary in the largest city in the United States is highlighting critical questions about which voters make up the party’s base in the Biden era, and who best speaks for them.”
RON JOHN — “At WI convention, Ron Johnson calls for GOP to ‘take back our culture,’” The Capital Times (Madison, Wis.): “U.S. Sen. RON JOHNSON preached unity and positivity to the party faithful at the state Republican convention on Saturday, painting Democrats as an angry party bent on fundamentally changing the United States.
“Johnson said he’s ‘more panicked’ than ever about the state of the country, having run for the first time in 2010 based on the same fears. … Johnson has not yet announced whether he will seek a third term, but took the stage to chants of ‘six more years!’”
DON’T CALL IT A ‘PASSPORT’ — “States hesitant to adopt digital COVID vaccine verification,” AP: “Across the U.S., many hard-hit businesses eager to return to normal have been reluctant to demand proof of vaccination from customers. And the public and the politicians in many places have made it clear they don’t care for the idea. In fact, far more states have banned proof-of-vaccination policies than have created smartphone-based programs for people to digitally display their vaccination status.”
COVERT OPS — “As Parents Forbid Covid Shots, Defiant Teenagers Seek Ways to Get Them,” NYT: “[T]he secret that Elizabeth, 17, a rising high-school senior from New York City, keeps from hers is new to the buffet of adolescent misdeeds. She doesn’t want her parents to know that she is vaccinated against Covid-19. Her divorced parents have equal say over her health care.
“Although her mother strongly favors the vaccine, her father angrily opposes it and has threatened to sue her mother if Elizabeth gets the shot. Elizabeth is keeping her secret not only from her father, but also her mother, so her mom can have plausible deniability. (Elizabeth asked to be identified only by her middle name.) … Forty states require parental consent for vaccination of minors under 18, and Nebraska sets the age at 19. … Now, because of the Covid crisis, some states and cities are seeking to relax medical consent rules.”
BACK IN BUSINESS — “1st post-pandemic cruise ship from U.S. sails away,” AP
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
POLICING IN AMERICA — “Democrats pushed hard last year to rein in police. A rise in murders is prompting a shift,” by WaPo’s Sean Sullivan, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany: “Thirteen months after the police killing of GEORGE FLOYD sparked an impassioned movement in the Democratic Party to rein in police departments, a surge in homicides has prompted a shift in the opposite direction. Democrats are scrambling to make new investments in policing and seeking to project toughness on crime, even as they continue pushing for police reforms and alternative means of deterring crime. …
“These trends have alarmed Democrats at all levels — from the White House, where Biden recently delivered his first major speech on fighting crime; to voters, who are rallying behind crime-focused candidates in early primaries; to U.S. House members who are bluntly warning liberal colleagues to tone down their attacks on law enforcement.”
JOIN TODAY FOR A PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW WITH ANITA DUNN: Anita Dunn, a senior White House adviser to President Biden and one of the most influential women in Washington, will join Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza to discuss the administration’s legislative priorities, including getting the massive infrastructure plan through Congress, the latest on efforts to get 70% of U.S. adults vaccinated against Covid, and preparations for the White House’s first big public event on Independence Day. Don’t miss this Playbook Live event, REGISTER HERE.
IN MEMORIAM — “Mike Gravel, former U.S. senator for Alaska, dies at 91,” AP: “Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and confronted Barack Obama about nuclear weapons during a later presidential run, has died. He was 91.
“Gravel, who represented Alaska as a Democrat in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, died Saturday, according to his daughter, Lynne Mosier. Gravel had been living in Seaside, California, and was in failing health, said Theodore W. Johnson, a former aide.”
SPOTTED: Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee was feted Saturday night at a Kansas-themed garden party at the Chevy Chase home of Barbara Rosewicz and Jerry Seib, and co-hosted by Susan Page and Carl Leubsdorf. Among those in attendance were Dan Balz, Susan Goldberg, David Ignatius, Anne Rumsey Gearan, Francesca Chambers, Karen Tumulty, Kim Hefling, Ken Thomas, Andrea Mitchell, Carrie Budoff Brown, Terry Hunt, Heather Timmons and Jeanne Cummings.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), David Scott (D-Ga.) and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) … Tom Steyer … Jennifer DeCasper of Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) office … Hunter Morgen … Jesse Lehrich … Terry Nelson of FP1 Strategies … Ilya Shapiro … Bob and Louis Boorstin … Josh Rubin … Reuters’ David Shepardson … POLITICO’s Eleanor Mueller and Liz Thompson … David Wochner of K&L Gates … Isaac Reyes of Target … Kathleen Welch … Sarah Bovim … Clyde Group’s Geoff Vetter … American Bridge PAC’s Jessica Floyd … Bryon Allen of WPAi … Robert Schlesinger … Jim Nussle … NYT’s Lisa Friedman … CNN’s Carrie Stevenson … Matt Letourneau … Jon Cardinal … Carolina Hurley … Sarah Habansky … former Reps. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) (8-0) and Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) … former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) … former USTR Ron Kirk … former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt … Caroline Adler Morales … Tony Fratto … Charles Bronfman (9-0) … POLITICO Europe’s Jakob Hanke Vela
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Zack Stanton is the deputy editor of Playbook and a regular contributor to POLITICO Magazine, where he was digital editor from 2016–2021.
Since joining POLITICO in 2016, Zack has worked on a wide variety of projects. As an editor — among other pursuits — he helmed an epic, award-winning investigation into Liberty University under Jerry Falwell Jr., that is one of the most widely read pieces in POLITICO’s history. As a podcast producer, he shepherded POLITICO’s “Off Message” and “Women Rule” podcasts across hundreds of episodes, earning the latter a spot on New York Magazine’s “100 Great Podcasts Worth Listening To.” As a writer, he’s tackled subjects as wide-ranging as the rise of “Biden Republicans,” a deep dive into Betsy DeVos, a tribute to Aretha Franklin, and a plea to take Kid Rock’s potential senate candidacy seriously. And in 2020, he launched the magazine’s regular Q&A series, which he continues to lead.
Prior to joining POLITICO, Zack was editor of the Wilson Quarterly, and, in a prior life, was a speechwriter on Capitol Hill. A native of Macomb County, Mich., Zack is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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