Below we have the latest details from MARK MEADOWS’ Jan. 6 texts and Monday’s MANCHIN-BIDEN telephone chat, but first …
COVERING THE THREAT TO DEMOCRACY — One of the most consistent criticisms of the political press from the left these days is that it treats politics and policy as “normal” when the United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of democracy.
To review, briefly:
— The Trump team tried to engineer a reversal of the 2020 election results and was stymied only by local officials scattered throughout the American electoral machinery and a VP who refused to go along with various harebrained schemes.
— At the time this was unfolding in 2020, especially in November and December, it all seemed ridiculous and was sometimes described as a Keystone Coup — a bunch of nincompoops with no real leverage engaging in far-out conspiracy-mongering.
— Then came Jan. 6. And then, out of office, DONALD TRUMP continued to amp up the false election claims. Over time a lot of Republican leaders grew tired of correcting him and his allies. Others joined them.
— Today prominent GOP candidates are running campaigns based on waving the bloody shirt of a stolen election. Sixty percent of the party’s voters believe the blood is real when it’s actually fake. Republicans in several states are trying their best to make sure those local officials who protected the election from false fraud claims won’t be there next time.
So, given this set of facts, the media critics on the left fairly ask: Why isn’t this the only subject in American politics that we in the press are covering?
Two stories Monday related to this question are worth your time:
1) NYT’s David Leonhardt reviews this history, quotes credible experts describing a “five-alarm fire” and “a democratic emergency,” and offers an important summary about what’s going on in five key states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). He also offers a note of caution about how widespread this fever is within the GOP: “The new anti-democratic movement may still fail. This year, for example, Republican legislators in seven states proposed bills that would have given partisan officials a direct ability to change election results. None of the bills passed.”
2) CNN’s Isaac Dovere comes a little closer to answering the question we posed above about the mismatch between what critics see as the seriousness of the crisis and the press’ attention to it. The headline of the piece is all you really need to understand what we mean: “Democratic governors worry about threat to democracy but don’t see it as a winning message for 2022.” No, that’s not a headline from The Onion, and it is an accurate and fair summary of Dovere’s piece.
There’s a lot more to be said about all of this, but here’s one point that both of these articles raise: For better or worse, campaign coverage emphasizes what candidates are doing and saying. Washington policy and politics coverage emphasizes what the president and other leaders are trying to move through Congress. If Democratic candidates aren’t talking about America’s anti-democratic movement, and if President JOE BIDEN, Speaker NANCY PELOSI and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER aren’t doing it every day in Washington, then the coverage will reflect that. That is not a defense of the political-media ecosystem but just a description of it.
Drop us a line and let us know if and how you think that ecosystem could be changed.
— 10:05 a.m.: The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 6:15 p.m.: Biden, Harris, first lady JILL BIDEN and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF will attend a DNC holiday celebration, with Biden and Harris speaking.
HARRIS’ TUESDAY: The VP will also deliver remarks and take part in a conversation with Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN at the Freedman’s Bank Forum at 11:30 a.m.
Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 1 p.m.
THE HOUSE will meet at noon to take up the Combating International Islamophobia Act, legislation related to the debt limit and a resolution recommending that the House find former White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS in contempt of Congress, with votes as early as noon. The Rules Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to formulate a rule on the Islamophobia bill and the Meadows resolution.
THE SENATE is in, with a recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly conference meetings. The Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on ambassador nominations, including ERIC GARCETTI for India. The HELP Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on ROBERT CALIFF’s nomination as FDA commissioner.
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
MEADOWS’ GIFT TO THE 1/6 PANEL — The Jan. 6 committee on Monday night released a slew of text messages that Meadows handed over to the panel before he stopped cooperating. Here are a few takeaways from the messages sent by members of Congress, conservative media and even Trump’s own family — all pleading with the former congressman to get Trump to call off the rioters.
1) FOX NEWS HOSTS: The conservative media channel has received criticism for being too cozy with Trump over the years — then downplaying and even whitewashing what occurred on Jan. 6. But in real time, some of Trump’s top allies and the network’s biggest stars beseeched Meadows to lean on Trump to speak out that day — though it was not reflected in the network’s coverage. …
LAURA INGRAHAM: “Hey Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home…this is hurting all of us…he is destroying his legacy.” (That night, Ingraham led her show suggesting that antifa might have been at fault and that only three dozen people stormed the Capitol, as WaPo’s Aaron Blake pointed out on Twitter on Monday night.)
BRIAN KILMEADE: “Please get him on tv. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
SEAN HANNITY: “Can he make a statement?…Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
2) TRUMP’S FAMILY: We already knew that IVANKA TRUMP went in and out of the Oval Office trying, unsuccessfully, to get her dad to call for calm. Now we see that DONALD TRUMP JR. was seemingly just as worried, texting Meadows over and over: “He’s got to condemn this [shit] Asap. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough… We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
The texts, of course, reinforce what we knew of Trump’s inaction on Jan. 6. But they also highlight how many Republicans who were scared to death that day have since refused to speak a cross word publicly against the former president.
ONE MAJOR THING: Though Meadows changed his mind and is now stonewalling the committee, his prior cooperation paved the way for hundreds of witnesses to hand over critically important text messages from that day. More coverage: “Jan. 6 Committee Recommends Contempt Charge for Meadows,” NYT
— Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) read aloud some of the texts sent to Meadows.
— For Rolling Stone, Hunter Walker profiles DUSTIN STOCKTON and JENNIFER LYNN LAWRENCE, Jan. 6 rally organizers who have since lost faith in Trump and are now going public, testifying before the committee next week. They’re turning over text messages and Instagram DMs, including with Rep. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-N.C.), and naming names. The story has tons more details from extensive interviews with the couple.
A couple of notable reactions we noticed:
— DANIEL GOLDMAN: “Meadows was clearly on his way to full coop by turning over loads of docs. But then something happened before testimony. One new fact: the Cmte subpoenaed his cellphone metadata, which would show the date/time of his calls. He stopped cooperating. What’s in those phone records?”
— STEPHANIE GRISHAM: “Trump’s anger level has got to be through the roof right now. Not that it matters AT ALL, but I can absolutely picture his reaction & I promise it’s not pretty.”
THE MEETING OF THE JOES — Sen. JOE MANCHIN emerged from his call with Biden on Monday revealing little — and driving reporters on the Hill crazy with his elusive responses to questions. The West Virginia Democrat says he’s still “engaged” in Build Back Better talks and that conversations are going well. But he’s not committing to voting for the bill — or making demands that Schumer kick it into next year.
But if you read between the lines of what Manchin told reporters before his meeting with Biden, a picture emerges of a senator in no hurry. He essentially made the case for Democrats to scrap the entire bill and rewrite it. He’s no fan of “sunset” provisions in which new programs expire after a few years to save money on paper, when he predicts they’ll likely be extended.
“If it’s whatever plan it will be, pre-K, child care and in-home care, then it should be 10 years, it shouldn’t just be one year here, three years here, five years there,” he said Monday. “And I think it’d be very transparent for the public to see exactly what they’d be getting for what we’re spending for 10 years.”
The question now is whether Manchin will force his party to drop some programs and extend others. Or is this just Manchin Manchin-ing? He’s hard to read sometimes, even for the savviest Senate reporters. Biden and Manchin expect to talk again later this week. Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine have the latest state of play.
MEANWHILE, MANCHIN EYES CTC FOR THE CHOPPING BLOCK: Manchin has been privately complaining about the very issue that Schumer is using to try to force action on BBB by Christmas, Hans Nichols of Axios reports: the child tax credit. The New York Democrat has been using the year-end expiration of the expanded child tax credit to say the party needs to act — in part so voters don’t see a tax hike in an election year.
But here’s Schumer’s problem: Manchin has always thought the enhanced credit was too generous to begin with. And now, per Nichols, he’s complaining that the cost is “the most underpriced item — and biggest inflation-driver.”
WALKER SPEAKS — Georgia Senate candidate HERSCHEL WALKER is speaking out for the first time in the race about the domestic violence allegations against him. While he didn’t get into specifics with Axios’ Emma Hurt, he said he’s never broken the law and that “I’m always accountable to whatever I’ve ever done.” Walker also said he’s healed from past battles with mental illness and doesn’t want anyone to be “ashamed” of such struggles.
THREE YEARS RUNNING … The seemingly never-ending legal battle over Congress’ effort to get Trump’s tax returns continued Monday as opposing lawyers urged an appeals court to trash or uphold a House subpoena for accounting firm Mazars USA. The three judges, all Democratic appointees, “gave little indication that they were likely to quash the subpoena,” writes NYT’s Charlie Savage. “But the judges spent extensive time exploring whether there was a basis to narrow the scope of the subpoena.”
The legal spat, which began in early 2019, is likely to end up back at the Supreme Court in the end. It’s also a reminder of just how hobbled congressional oversight has become by lengthy court fights.
HOT ON THE LEFT — The Biden administration said the Interior Department was compelled by a court ruling to open up a record auction of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas drilling tracts last month. But The Guardian’s Oliver Milman reports that a DOJ filing in August said the government was not actually forced to do so. That’s prompting criticism from environmentalists.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
LONG READ — The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey has an interesting feature about Gunnison County, Colo., where the national politics of Covid played out at a local level — and eventually roped in out-of-state millionaires, Texas A.G. KEN PAXTON, lawsuits, threats, CORY GARDNER, a super PAC and more. “In this time of coarseness in American politics, it can be easy to convince yourself that the loudest voices are the most representative, even if you know, intellectually, that they aren’t.”
OMICRON LATEST — “Omicron appears to cause less severe illness than earlier variants of the coronavirus but is more resistant to the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine widely used in South Africa, according to the first major private study since omicron was first detected last month,” WaPo’s Lesley Wroughton writes in Cape Town, South Africa.
MANDATE DEBATE — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a pair of challenges to New York’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, which notably includes no religious exemptions. The decision continues a pattern of the high court generally allowing vaccine mandates to stand, though Justices SAMUEL ALITO, NEIL GORSUCH and CLARENCE THOMAS dissented. More from CNN
FIRST AMENDMENT WATCH — The AP asked DHS for answers Monday on why reporter MARTHA MENDOZA was among those “run through the databases and identified as a potential confidential informant during the Trump administration,” Ben Fox reports, as some congressional Democrats also raised concerns. The original Yahoo investigation
SCOOP: OZ CANDIDACY CAUSES TV EXECS HEARTBURN — Execs at some local TV stations that carried Mehmet Oz’s show are none too happy about his career change: They think the planned replacement, a cooking show called “The Good Dish” from his daughter Daphne Oz, is no match for the popular “Dr. Oz Show.”
“It’s thrown everything up in the air and created a tremendous uncertainty and instability in our programming lineup,” an executive at a local broadcasting company told Daniel Lippman. “The fact that it’s coming off the air this quickly is problematic.”
A number of stations air “The Dr. Oz Show” before their local evening news and are nervous that many loyal viewers won’t embrace the new cooking show. “You always want to have the best lead-in possible and I’m not putting in a show that’s not been researched or tested,” said the executive, who called it “destined for failure.”
Cooking shows are “a cute little segment on the ‘Today’ show for two minutes, but not a full hour,” the exec told Daniel. “Dr. Oz is the show and his daughter is not, and you can’t just fill her in in a new genre.” A source close to the cooking show said they were “extremely happy with the support from the entire station community,” adding that “it has been incubated within ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ for three seasons and awareness of the talent, the content/concept and the interest in this type of show is strong.”
Mehmet Oz’s show, now in its thirteenth season, is set to air its final episode Jan. 14 as the Republican political newcomer mounts his campaign for Senate in Pennsylvania. Daphne Oz didn’t respond to a request for comment, and a spokesperson for Mehmet Oz had no comment.
SPEAKING OF DR. OZ … He appeared on “Fox and Friends” for a segment criticizing fellow Dr. Anthony Fauci for “mixing medicine and politics,” in the words of Fox News’ website.
Kim Kardashian, who recently passed California’s “baby” bar exam, thanked Van Jones for talking her “into going to law school.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — John Rader recently started at Affinity Partners, Jared Kushner’s new private equity firm, where he’s helping run day-to-day operations. He most recently was chief of staff to Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and is a Trump White House and NSC alum.
STAFFING UP — The White House announced a few new nominations: Erik Raven as undersecretary of the Navy, Kristyn Jones as assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller, and Ventris Gibson as director of the Mint.
TRANSITIONS — The Republican State Leadership Committee is adding Stephanie Rivera as national press secretary and Mason DiPalma as deputy comms director. … Alex Macfarlane will be director of public affairs at SKDK. She currently is comms director for Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). … Brock Murphy is now governmental and public affairs lead at Interstellar Lab. He most recently was an executive assistant at SpaceX, and is a Trump OMB alum. …
… Ryan Hom is joining Powell Tate, the D.C.-based unit of the global Weber Shandwick network, as part of the agency’s social impact team. He previously was director of executive operations at the United Nations Foundation. … Chris Ford is now a media relations associate at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He previously was a broadcast manager at the Center for American Progress. … The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft is adding Ben Freeman and William Hartung to its research staff.
ENGAGED — Thomas Winslow, special assistant to the president and senior adviser to deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, and Brenna Williams, who went back to school this fall to get her masters in conflict resolution at Georgetown, got engaged on Dec. 4 outside of the Library of Congress, where they had ended up while taking a walk on one of their first dates. The couple met at summer camp when they were in high school and were reconnected by a mutual friend in D.C. who worked with Brenna at CNN at the time and had been an intern at Precision Strategies when Thomas was there. Pic … Another pic
WEDDINGS — Ethan Clark, press assistant for Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Elizabeth Todsen, executive assistant for WinRed, got married Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. They originally met working at the Nebraska state Capitol in 2019. Pic … Another pic … SPOTTED: Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, Emily Larsen, Alyssa Khamma, Ty Seymour, Matthew Keenan, Rosie Wilson and Jillian Kinder.
— Kevin Preskenis, a VP at Allymar Health and Trump Commerce Department alum, and Jazmin Castro, who works in financial and accounting advisory at EY, recently got married at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort in Mexico. The couple met through mutual friends. Pic
— Sunita Saligram, director for strategic response at Facebook and a Twitter and PwC alum, and Ladji Kouyate, general manager for protein retail for Northeast at Cargill, recently got married in an Indian ceremony and lunch at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami with an exchange of vows and reception at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Saligram is the daughter of Newell Brands CEO Ravi Saligram. The couple met in March 2018 at the Harvard Kennedy School. Pic by Farrah Arenson … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Jude Barry of Catapult Strategies … former FBI Director James Comey … John Ullyot of Brighton Strategy Group … Rob Placek of the British Embassy … Chuck Rocha … Raffi Williams of Edelman … CNN’s Abigail Crutchfield … Aubrey Quinn … DoD’s Sloane Speakman … Elizabeth Wenk of Burness … Cindy Chetti of the National Multifamily Housing Council … Suzanne Wrasse … American Council of Engineering Companies’ Allison Schneider … IntraFi’s Elizabeth Vale … Stephanie Allen of the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity and SpringHarbor Financial Group … Pierce Wiegard of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) office … Matt Duss of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office (I-Vt.) … CNN analyst and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers … Ted Frank … Kyra Jennings … Purple Strategies’ Tom Egan … Sylvester Giustino … R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. … David Vennett … BrabenderCox’s Matt Beynon … Kristin King … Jason Weingartner … Norbert Funke … Nicholas Patterson … Lindy Li … SHRM’s Katie Johnson (3-0) … Ryan Boles … Morning Consult’s Ellisa Brown … Julia Griswold Dailer … Schuyler Ebersol
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