Welcome to the courtroom campaign

Presented by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross


DeSANTIS SPEAKS … TO NBC! — RON DeSANTIS’s campaign boycott of NBC News is over. The governor sat down with Dasha Burns for an interview that was just posted and will air on the Today show and on other programs through the day. Some highlights:

On Florida’s new Black history curriculum …

Burns: “I’ll just read it to you. ‘Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. ’So let’s just be clear. You believe this is an important topic that should be taught in schools?”

DeSantis: “So that means they developed skills in spite of slavery, not because of slavery. It was them showing resourcefulness, and then using those skills once slavery ended. And the people that put those standards together were scholars of African American history. These were not political standards. Florida eliminated Critical Race Theory because it’s ideology, and we want education, not indoctrination.”

On abortion …

Burns: “In this post-Dobbs era, do you believe that abortion is an issue that should just be dealt with on a state by state basis?”

DeSantis: “… I think the reality is that that basically means the states are going to have primary control over it. You know, I do think the federal government would have an interest in, say, preventing post-birth abortions or things that are really horrific, but I don’t think that there’s enough consensus in the country to see a lot of mileage in Congress.”

On whether DONALD TRUMP lost the 2020 election …

DeSantis: “Well, of course — no, of course he lost.”

Burns: “Trump lost the 2020 election?”

DeSantis:JOE BIDEN’s the president. But the issue is, I think what people in the media and elsewhere, they want to act like somehow this was just like the perfect election. … I don’t think it was a good-run election. But I also think Republicans didn’t fight back. You’ve got to fight back when that is happening.”

THE COURTROOM CAMPAIGN — We are getting a glimpse into how much the next year may be completely dominated by the trials of Donald Trump.

Consider the last few days: On Thursday, Trump was indicted. On Friday, prosecutors asked the judge in the case to issue a protective order to safeguard evidence. On Saturday, the judge asked Trump to respond to the prosecution’s motion by 5 p.m. today. Yesterday, Trump’s defense lawyer, JOHN LAURO, flooded the Sunday shows with interviews, saying he would soon ask for a venue change and for the judge in the case to recuse herself. Today, with Congress out and President JOE BIDEN returning from vacation, the Trump response filing will be the main event. On Thursday, there’s another deadline in the case, over a proposed trial schedule.

What are routine motions in other criminal cases merit wall-to-wall news coverage in these Trump cases. By Thursday, an entire week will be burned up just on two motions (the protective order and the trial schedule) and discussion of a third (the recusal and change of venue) that hasn’t been filed yet, and, as Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein note, is highly unlikely to be granted.

And, remember, this is just one of seven trials — four criminal and three civil — that Trump will be enmeshed in before election day, all of which will be brimming over with fascinating legal angles, salacious details and profound constitutional questions.

There will be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of motions. And that’s all before the drama of the actual criminal trials in New York, Washington, Florida, and (likely) Georgia begin and the entire constellation of characters from the Trump era start testifying. STORMY DANIELS and MICHAEL COHEN will be starring in Manhattan. MIKE PENCE and RUDY GIULIANI could be front and center in D.C. Gen. MARK MILLEY and the guy who erased the security tapes will no doubt be providing riveting testimony in Fort Pierce. BRAD RAFFENSPERGER and CLETA MITCHELL will likely take the stand down in Atlanta.

If 2020 was the Zoom campaign, 2024 will be the courtroom campaign.

For now, Trump sees this as a net plus. “Any time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls,” he said at a GOP dinner in Alabama on Friday. “We need one more indictment to close out this election. One more indictment, and this election is closed out. Nobody has even a chance.”

It is worth considering two things. While Trump is correct that his legal troubles have galvanized GOP support so far this year, he will increasingly become a candidate defined by these prosecutions. Court dates, public spats over technical legal issues, finances drained to lawyers, deposition and trial prep — it will all crowd out the campaign trail. It’s possible the same dynamic continues, and Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina stick with him. But as the campaign becomes about the Trump trials, there may be second thoughts five months from now.

But if Trump is the Republican nominee, there is no persuasive case we have seen that standing trial for falsifying business records, illegally retaining national security secrets, obstructing justice, trying to overthrow an election, and fighting a federal civil case for rape and defamation is a political benefit in a general election. (And don’t forget the New York A.G.’s civil fraud case and the under-the-radar pyramid scheme civil case that is scheduled for trial in January.)

If you want a sense of how these metastasizing cases are creating new headaches for Trump, check out Erica Orden’s excellent piece today: “Every case everywhere all at once: The increasingly complex multiverse of Trump’s legal troubles.”

As she notes, “Donald Trump’s expanding web of legal troubles is becoming ever more intertwined. Actions he takes in one case are coming back to haunt him in others. Potential trial schedules are starting to conflict. Even a lawyer representing Trump in one of his criminal indictments could be a witness against him in another.”

One example: Trump was deposed last year as part of E. JEAN CARROLL’s civil lawsuit accusing him of rape and defamation. Parts of the videotape became public in May when it was introduced as evidence at the trial — which prompted the Manhattan prosecutors who filed the hush money case to subpoena Carroll’s lawyers for the full deposition.

On Thursday, in a little-noticed handwritten ruling that came down as Trump was being indicted in D.C., Erica writes, “a judge ruled the law firm can comply with the subpoena.”

Related reads: “Jack Smith Is Known to Take On Tough Cases. But He Doesn’t Always Win” by WSJ’s Sadie Gurman and James Fanelli … “Pence, Trump attorney clash over what Trump told his VP ahead of Jan. 6, 2021,” by AP’s David Klepper … “Trump Calls for Judge’s Recusal as His Lawyer Deems Effort to Overturn Election ‘Aspirational’,” by NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Maggie Astor

Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line about the Trump case you’re watching most closely: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

THEN AGAIN, HE ALSO PROMISED A CYBERTRUCK — The MARK ZUCKERBERG-ELON MUSK cage match may be back on, per Musk: “Zuck v Musk fight will be live-streamed on X. All proceeds will go to charity for veterans.”

Over at Threads, Zuckerberg responded, “Shouldn’t we use a more reliable platform that can actually raise money for charity?”

THE WEEK — Monday: Trump legal team faces deadline to respond to motion for protective order in Jan. 6 case. Biden hosts the Houston Astros at the White House. … Tuesday: Ohio votes on constitutional amendment referendum. Biden holds climate-themed event at the Grand Canyon in Arizona and attends fundraiser in Albuquerque. … Wednesday: CHRIS CHRISTIE town hall in Salem, N.H. …Thursday: Iowa State Fair opens its 11-day run. July inflation numbers released. Biden in Salt Lake City for official and campaign events. … Friday: DeSantis participates in a Never Back Down bus tour in Iowa.



2024 WATCH

HIT THE ROAD, JOE — The president is taking his message on the road this week, trying to preach his gospel of Bidenomics, climate agenda and reelection, hoping to give all three a huge boost in voters’ eyes. Poll numbers show persistent voter skepticism about the state of the economy, and Republicans are working aggressively to tank Biden’s self-coined term.

But inside the White House, aides remain confident the bet will pay off, Jennifer Haberkorn reports, adopting the mantra of the hockey legend WAYNE GRETZKY: Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is now. ‘If you look at where the puck’s going to be a year from now,’ said a White House official granted anonymity to discuss strategy, ‘inflation’s going down and the term Bidenomics is going to come to signify … President Biden has a plan. They may not be able to list every single thing in that plan, but it’s more factories, it’s more jobs, it’s prescription drug costs cut.’”

VEEP FILES — Just as Republicans try to elevate Kamala Harris to boogeyman status in the GOP presidential primary, Harris herself is stepping back into the spotlight, representing her latest swipe at silencing her critics in an effort to “reclaim the momentum” that put her on the Biden ticket in 2020, NYT’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs writes. While Harris world sources grant that the critiques of her political relevance in the past have impacted her approach, the recent attacks and “rising extremism” from Republicans have “galvanized” her campaign efforts.

DNC adviser CEDRIC RICHMOND: “[Biden] is still uniting the West against Russian aggression, and he’s tackling the economy and inflation. She can go highlight the accomplishments, and she can take on people like DeSantis.”

WHERE THEY WON’T GO — Yesterday, the leading names in the GOP presidential primary packed into a barbeque bash, where the candidates tried to stand out among the crowded field — with the low-hanging fruit of yet another arrest there for the taking. “But in their pitches to challenge Trump for the 2024 nomination, it was as if his indictment Tuesday on federal charges accusing him of working to overturn the 2020 election results had never happened, even from the candidate who has suggested the former president quit the race,” AP’s Thomas Beaumont writes from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Related reads: “2024 GOP hopefuls: Enough about Trump. Let’s talk about Biden,” by Kelly Garrity … “Barbecues, Fairs and Weddings: Ron DeSantis Amps Up Retail Politics in Iowa,” by NYT’s Nicholas Nehamas in Des Moines

SHAKE AND VIVEK — “Vivek Ramaswamy’s Hindu faith is front and center in his GOP presidential campaign,” by AP’s Deepa Bharath: “On the campaign trail, Ramaswamy has leaned into his faith as he vies for the nomination of a party where evangelical Christian support is key. In speeches and casual conversations with these voters, he maintains that his religion has much in common with ‘the Judeo-Christian values this nation was founded on.”

Related read: “Vivek Ramaswamy calls Juneteenth ‘useless’ 2 months after posting a video celebrating it,” by NBC’s Alex Tabet and Katherine Koretski


HMM — “Congress has paid major campaign cash to score ads in Chinese foreign agent newspaper,” by Washington Examiner’s Gabe Kaminsky: “Campaigns for eight Democratic and Republican politicians have paid over $41,500 combined between 2011 and 2023 for advertisements in Sing Tao U.S., according to campaign finance disclosures reviewed by the Washington Examiner. The newspaper is a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Sing Tao News Corporation and reported itself as a foreign agent in 2021 that is involved in ‘political activity,’ DOJ filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act show.”


JUST POSTED — Former Speaker NANCY PELOSI sits down with N.Y. Mag’s Ankush Khardori for an extensive interview reflecting on her post-leadership career in the House. A choice passage: “‘I knew on January 6 that he had committed a crime,’ Pelosi told me. She also recalled the GOP’s efforts to block any kind of inquiry after the attack on the Capitol, including the bipartisan commission she had originally envisioned: ‘People said to Mitch, “You think Nancy is going to let this go?” What could he have been thinking?’

“She referred to the federal indictments pending against Trump as ‘exquisite,’ ‘beautiful’” and ‘intricate,’ and she was optimistic that Trump will eventually be convicted and not wind up back in the White House.”

KNOWING PETER WELCH — “‘The nicest dude in DC’: Meet the Senate’s oldest freshman,” by Daniella Diaz: “At 76, he’s the oldest person ever first elected to the upper chamber. And when the longtime former House member sat for a recent interview, rather than rehearse Democratic talking points, he went out of his way to praise the other party’s leader.

“‘I like Mitch McConnell. And if you quote me on that, I’ll deny it,’ Welch said half-jokingly, citing the Kentucky Republican’s willingness to work with Democrats. Welch is also a rare House veteran who almost immediately stated his preference for the Senate, citing the increased power of individual members compared to the House.”

AGREEING TO DISAGREE — “Comity crumbles on Congress’ Covid committee,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein: “After nearly a dozen contentious hearings and a series of clashes that have played out in public and behind the scenes, [Chairman BRAD WENSTRUP (R-Ohio) and ranking member RAUL RUIZ (D-Calif.)] admit there is little-to-no chance of the committee unifying around findings or recommendations.”


HOW IT’S PLAYING — “In an Atlanta suburb, American realities collide over Trump’s indictment,” by WaPo’s Sarah Ellison and Greg Jaffe in Marietta, Ga.

DAILY RUDY — “‘Protect them’: How S.C.’s honor-bound military college camouflaged its connection to Rudy Giuliani,” by Raw Story’s Dave Levinthal: “The Citadel officials don’t want to talk about [RUDY] GIULIANI, his myriad troubles — including newfound status as ‘co-conspirator 1’ in Trump’s latest federal indictment — or the honorary The Citadel degree he continues to enjoy. And in a series of internal The Citadel emails, which Raw Story obtained through a South Carolina Freedom of Information Act request, school officials detail how they decided to close ranks, protect themselves and deflect scrutiny over the school’s connection to Giuliani.”


LANDING PARTY — “A Fed Official Wonders: ‘Do We Need to Do Another Rate Increase?’” by NYT’s Jeanna Smialek: “JOHN C. WILLIAMS, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, thinks that the central bank’s push to cool the economy is near its peak and that he expects that interest rates could begin to come down next year.”

NEW OVERNIGHT — “Trucker Yellow Files for Bankruptcy, Will Liquidate,” by WSJ’s Paul Page and Soma Biswas: “The bankruptcy follows years of struggles for the Nashville, Tenn.-based trucker as it tried to address the debt it accumulated through a series of mergers and a $700 million federal Covid-19 relief loan during the pandemic.”


IT AIN’T EASY BEING GREEN — “Biden’s climate science test: proving green ag program actually works,” by Garrett Downs: “Biden officials are hoping their $3 billion initiative — which began doling out money this spring — will lay the groundwork for long-term buy-in for green farming from rural voters and American agribusiness, not to mention future investment from Congress and Wall Street.”

Related reads: “The EPA’s ambitious plan to cut auto emissions to slow climate change runs into skepticism,” by AP’s Tom Krisher … “As climate change worsens, military eyes base of the future on Gulf Coast,” by WaPo’s Brady Dennis

WHAT UNION JOE IS READING — “Automakers Face a Labor Showdown as the E.V. Era Looms,” by NYT’s Neal Boudette: “The United Auto Workers leader vowed to be tougher than his predecessors in contract talks. His initial demands attach big numbers to that promise.”

THE REAL-WORLD IMPACT — “Veterans see historic expansion of benefits for toxic exposure as new law nears anniversary,” by AP’s Chris Megerian


DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — “U.S. companies are buying less from China as relations remain tense,” by WaPo’s David Lynch: “Through the first five months of this year, U.S. imports from China were down 24 percent from the same period one year ago, according to the Census Bureau.”

Related read: “A key U.S. ally wants to walk back its ‘atrocious’ embrace of China,” by NBC’s Alexander Smith: “The U.S. was deeply critical of Italy’s decision in 2019 to become the only major Western economy to sign on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. … But this week Italy gave its strongest signal yet that it planned to pull out of the project.”


WHAT NEIL GORSUCH IS READING — “In Oklahoma, Governor Picks Unusual Fight with Tribes — and Fellow Republicans,” by WSJ’s Adolfo Flores: “Last week, [Oklahoma Gov. KEVIN] STITT sued GOP lawmakers, the latest escalation in disputes over compacts between the state and tribes that bring millions of dollars in revenue to the state each year, most of it from gambling.”


Donald Trump blamedJoe Biden for the U.S. women’s national team’s exit from the World Cup.

Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff got a Vogue spread for their night out at the Beyonce concert.

Amy Klobuchar is not impressed by the planned cage fight between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

OUT AND ABOUT — The Institute for Education hosted an event titled, “The Great Lawn” at Congressional Country Club on Saturday, where guests sipped on Congressional’s signature cocktail, the Seabreeze (vodka, cranberry and grapefruit juice), and perused a snack-bar dinner. SPOTTED: Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski and Anna Magierowski, Rwandan Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana, Austrian Ambassador Petra Schneebauer, Katharina Schneebauer, Kevin Chafee, R. David Edelman, Joanne Ke Edelman, Janell Fields, Shanel Fields, Jennifer Griffin, Kathy “Coach” Kemper, Varoon Mathur, Beatrice Mercier, Greg Myre, Haflin Saiful and David Spence.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Natalie Johnson is now comms director for Will Hurd’s presidential campaign. She most recently was VP at Firehouse Strategies and is a Nancy Mace and Martha McSally alum.

TRANSITIONS — Lauren Miller is now a comms adviser for USAID. She previously was an associate director at FGS Global. … Max Sepulveda is now senior manager for institutional affairs, trade and commerce at Ferrero USA. He previously was manager for the Americas Department at the Chamber of Commerce.

WEDDING — Andrew Block, an attorney at America First Legal Foundation, and Hailey Lernihan, a senior analyst at the Defense Department, got married in Whitefish, Mont., on July 29. The ceremony and reception were held at the private residence of the bride’s family friend, who also served as the officiant, and were photographed by Tia Dufour and Andrea Hanks, the bride’s friends and former White House photographers. PicAnother pic. SPOTTED: Ethan and Taylor Meredith, Margo Martin, Braden Murphy, Surya and Mandy Gunasekara, Bryan Burack and Manmeet Dhindsa, Colin Miller and Taylor Mountain and Caitlin Jarvis.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mary Miller (R-Ill.) … Robert Mueller … NYT’s Jonathan Swan … Axios’ Sara FischerLarry Sabato of the U.Va. Center for Politics … Reason’s Nick GillespieRon ChristieAndrew Gradison … The Atlantic’s Scott Stossel Allyn Brooks-LaSure … The Messenger’s Dan MericaMatt Mazonkey of Airbus … Alisa WolkingJordan Heiliczer of the National Restaurant Association … POLITICO’s Maura Forrest Matt Dornic Jenn Lore LondonBruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute … Juven Jacob of Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s (D-Ohio) office … Kimberly Ellis of Monument Advocacy … Washington Examiner’s Breanne DeppischAlex KahanCaitlin LegackiRyan CallananTamika Mason of House assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) office … Tom McCluskyWesley Derryberry of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati … Andrew DeSouzaKirsten Borman DoughertyRyan PettitHollie Tracz H.W. BrandsAlan KeyesSusan Feeney of GMMB … former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor Martina McLennan of Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-Ore.) office … George Kelemen … INTRVL’s James Owens

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