DeSantis efforts ramp up in Iowa

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McCARTHY DENIES A ‘DEAL’ WITH TRUMP — It was a scoop that rocked Capitol Hill. This morning, Playbook reported that Trump world is furious at House Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY for not following through on a promise they say he made to former President DONALD TRUMP: that he would hold a vote expunging Trump’s impeachments ahead of August recess.

In the halls of the Capitol this morning, McCarthy responded to our reporting: “I’ve been very clear, from long before when I voted against the impeachments, that they did it for purely political purposes,” he told NBC’s Ryan Nobles. “I support expungement, but there’s no deal out there.” (Notably, he did not address whether he promised Trump he would hold a vote on expungement.)

GOOD PULSE CHECK FROM IOWA — “As Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS faces growing national doubts over his stalled presidential bid, Republican political operatives in Iowa say they’re not ready to hit the panic button — so long as DeSantis takes seriously the opportunity to reset and refocus on competing in the early voting states,” write the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel and Galen Bacharier.

On what DeSantis should do: Iowa GOP operatives say he “needs to follow the traditional Iowa caucus playbook and start hitting the campaign trail in earnest — not just at high-profile events like the Iowa GOP’s approaching Lincoln Dinner, but in smaller meet-and-greets.”

JIMMY CENTERS, a Republican strategist: “If you come in and you do a small gathering with a certain group and then maybe do a speech at a larger event that night, that’s not a blitz, folks. That’s a day in Iowa. It’s a quick business trip.”

Some notable numbers from the Register on the efforts to boost DeSantis:

  • 21: The number of full-time staffers Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, has in the state.
  • Five: The number of offices it plans to have opened by the end of the month (Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport and Sioux City).
  • 200,000: The number of doors the PAC has knocked on in Iowa. The group says that “within weeks [it] will have ‘hit every target voter in Iowa at least once.’”
  • 8,200: The number of “signed, committed caucus pledges” they’ve collected.

A KENNEDY RETURNS TO CAPITOL HILL — House Democrats took several swipes at presidential candidate and prominent anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. during today’s hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the weaponization of government. House Republicans invited Kennedy to testify on alleged social media censorship and free speech.

In her opening statement, subcommittee ranking member STACEY PLASKETT (D-Virgin Islands) blasted the GOP for inviting the candidate whose fringe views on vaccine science have been widely discredited.

“They intentionally chose to elevate this rhetoric to give these harmful dangerous views a platform in the halls of the United States Congress,” said Plaskett. “That’s not just supporting free speech; they have co-signed on idiotic bigoted messaging” — an apparent reference to Kennedy’s baseless assertion last week that Covid-19 might have been “ethnically targeted” to harm white and Black people while sparing Ashkenazi Jewish and Chinese people.

In his testimony, Kennedy defended his social media presence and denied making racist or antisemitic comments. “This is an attempt to censor a censorship hearing,” Kennedy said. “The First Amendment was not written for easy speech; it was written for the speech that nobody likes you for.”

Following Kennedy’s opening statement, Rep. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-Fla.) filed an unsuccessful motion to end the hearing and enter into an executive session, suggesting that he has made frequent “despicable antisemitic and anti-Asian comments” that violated a House rule banning defamatory or degrading testimony. The motion was voted down, 10-8. More per the AP

Good Thursday afternoon. Thanks for reading Playbook PM. Drop me a line: [email protected].

GEORGIA BRACES FOR TRUMP INDICTMENT — As possible charges against Trump loom in Fulton County, Ga., Atlanta law enforcement authorities are preparing for a logistical and public safety nightmare, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tamar Hallerman.

Where Trump’s arraignment in Miami last month largely avoided the chaos and mayhem that some had feared, authorities are considering some location-specific obstacles — ranging from Georgia’s more lax firearms laws to the location of the Fulton County courthouse:

“It’s situated blocks from other institutions that are expecting their own surge of visitors at around the same time as any potential indictments and arraignments. Georgia State University, a few blocks away, begins its fall semester on Aug. 21, and students will be moving into the dorms in the days prior. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is scheduled to host BEYONCÉ, Atlanta Falcons and United games in August and September.”

AFTERNOON READ — “How Donald Trump Ended Up With Priceless Israeli Antiquities,” by WSJ’s Alex Leary, Dov Lieber and Annie Linskey: “The story of how the ceramic oil lamps, which are part of Israel’s national treasures collection, ended up at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is complicated. It’s a saga in which the artifacts made a near-visit to the White House, sat in a California closet for months and were then taken through an X-ray machine in Florida before being delivered to Trump.”


DOES SHE COME WITH A MACKINAC DREAMHOUSE? — “Gretchen Whitmer Would Like You to Call Her ‘Governor Barbie,’” by NYT’s Mattie Kahn: “Instagram users will find this Governor Barbie in tableaux vivants that include her speaking from a podium, signing legislation and ‘fixing the damn roads’ … In one setup, Governor Barbie is pictured behind the wheel of her Pepto Bismol-colored Chevrolet.”

GOING ON OFFENSE — Conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is launching a new “Bidenomics is Broken” ad campaign targeting the White House’s economic policies, Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser scoops. “The campaign includes new digital spots — backed by a six-figure ad buy in all 50 states,” per Steinhauser. “The videos argue that the president’s economic policies are making life unaffordable.”

THE HOUSE LANDSCAPE — The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman announced five new House rating changes today: JOSH HARDER (D-Calif.) moved from solid Dem to likely Dem; KEN CALVERT (R-Calif.) and LAUREN BOEBERT (R-Colo.) moved from lean GOP to toss up; GREG LANDSMAN (D-Ohio) moved from tossup to lean Dem, and; VICENTE GONZALEZ moved from likely Dem to lean Dem.


BEHIND THE CURTAIN — “Influential activist Leonard Leo helped fund media campaign lionizing Clarence Thomas,” by WaPo’s Shawn Boburg, Emma Brown and Ann Marimow “The public relations campaign shows how [LEONARD LEO] has continued to exert influence in support of right-leaning justices after helping them secure lifetime appointments. It adds to an emerging portrait of Leo as a behind-the-scenes benefactor, defending the justices from public criticism and exalting their jurisprudence while tending to personal matters including private travel and a spouse’s employment.”


FETTERMAN THE BETTER MAN — Sen. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-Pa.) sits down with Time’s Molly Ball for the latest conversation on his reentry into Congress and recovery from both his stroke and his depression that hospitalized him earlier this year.

Powerful passage from Fetterman: “‘My message is, I don’t care if you’re a Trumper, MAGA, or hard leftist, or anyone in between. Depression comes across the spectrum, and get help with it,’ he tells me. ‘It’s not a Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania saying this. No. I’m just a husband and a father, somebody that was suffering from depression and got help—’ Here his voice breaks; he wipes his eyes, takes a moment to compose himself. He has turned sideways and curled up in his chair, as if trying to shrink inside himself. ‘—Before it was too late,’ he finally says.”

CLEARED TO FLY — The House has overhwelmingly approved legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years in a 351-69 vote. The passage comes after lawmakers voted down a series of amendments yesterday, including one that would expand round-trip flights from Reagan National Airport. The legislation now moves to the upper chamber, where lawmakers are still working out the specifics of their counterpart bill. Congress has until September 30 to reauthorize the agency or create a temporary extension before risking a complete shutdown of the nation’s aviation industry. More per The Hill


TAKING THE TEMPERATURE — “How Biden’s climate law will — and won’t — transform America,” by WaPo’s Maxine Joselow

KNOWING GIGI SOHN — The Verge’s Makena Kelly is up with a look at the lead up and aftermath of Sohn’s withdrawal this spring as a nominee to become an FCC commissioner. It was “supposed to be the crowning achievement of her 30-year career — and more importantly, a key piece of Biden’s plans for the internet,” Kelly writes. But “after three nominations and three confirmation hearings that got nastier with each new iteration, the votes just weren’t there … Sohn herself felt like she’d been held at arm’s length, unable to respond to the smear campaign consuming her life and nomination.”


NO NEWS ANYTIME SOON — It could take up to several months until North Korea acknowledges that they have TRAVIS KING, a U.S. Army private who crossed the North Korean border Tuesday, in custody, NYT’s Choe Sang-Hun reports from Seoul. “No matter the scenario, North Korea has treated such Americans as propaganda tools against the United States, and in some cases it has tried to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations with Washington.”

DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — Beijing’s warm reception of former secretary of state HENRY KISSINGER this week is the latest example of the nation’s use of informal diplomatic channels and express frustration at what it regards as the Biden administration’s efforts to restrict China, WSJ’s Joyu Wang reports.


OUT AND ABOUT — The Washington Government Relations Group hosted the 12th annual Tin Cup Awards Dinner last night to honor Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Commerce Undersecretary Donald Cravins Jr., Yamiche Alcindor and other supporters of African American government relations professionals. SPOTTED: Kendra Brown, Lauryl Dodson Jackson, Isaac Fordjour, Marcus Sebastian Mason, Nigel Stephens, Joyce Brayboy, Cherie Wilson, Maia Hunt Estes, Kenny Roberts and Kyla Summer Miller.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Caroline Kitchens will be public policy partnerships manager at TikTok. She most recently was lead for government affairs and policy partnerships at Shopify.

TRANSITIONS — The Labor Department has added Veronica Yoo as press secretary and comms adviser and Grace Hagerty as deputy press secretary. Yoo previously was comms director for Senate Majority PAC, and is a DCCC, DOD and DNC alum. Hagerty previously was deputy comms director at American Bridge 21st Century. … Shamina Singh has been named a member of the President’s Export Council, part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration. She will continue as executive VP of sustainability at Mastercard.

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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