We keep learning disturbing new details about how far DONALD TRUMP’S Justice Department was willing to go after perceived enemies it suspected were responsible for Russia-related leaks. It pursued members of the media and, according to a bombshell report by the NYT on Thursday night, Democrats in Congress and their family members, too: “As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.
“All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative ADAM B. SCHIFF of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry.
“Prosecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, JEFF SESSIONS, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.”
Schiff said “the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement.”
WE HAVE MORE BELOW on the latest bipartisan infrastructure talks and rising Democratic tensions over Rep. ILHAN OMAR (D-Minn.). But first a dispatch from Tara, who spent years reporting on European politics for us in Brussels, on why President JOE BIDEN’S trip abroad is so important to his political prospects at home:
‘THIS IS AN ACID TEST’ — When we talk to European diplomats and officials, they all say the same thing — the Biden presidency is a “sigh of relief” after the “near-death experience” of Trump.
The past five years have made them acutely aware of U.S. domestic politics — specifically an American electorate that’s drifted away from the internationalism of BARACK OBAMA toward Trump’s isolationism. Trump’s lost, but his America-first message will be front and center in Republican politics, whether it’s Trump as messenger or someone else. And Democrats will need to have a credible response.
This week we checked in with the former U.S. ambassador to the EU, ANTHONY GARDNER, about Biden’s first foreign trip. Gardner has a unique perspective: He was widely respected in Brussels during Obama’s second term and advised Biden’s 2020 campaign by serving as co-chair of the EU working group.
Gardner had some tough advice for Europe if they really want to avoid a Trump comeback: Give Biden a win on China. Not mushy assurances of cooperation or niceties about the change in tone from America — a tangible victory that he can use to neutralize Trump’s message.
“There’s always that risk, that’s what democracies are about,” Gardner told Playbook, referring to a Biden loss in 2024. “That’s exactly why you in Europe should think about how you can contribute to the success of the administration.”
Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN said in March that the U.S. won’t make its European allies choose between “us-or-them” on China. But Gardner sees it differently.
There’s a short window for Biden and the Democratic Party to prove to voters that Europe is worth our time and preferable to Trump’s go-it-alone policy on China. That means working together on trade, using the power of the WTO to close off their markets to Chinese exporters, and getting tough on Chinese subsidies and IP violations. These are issues Gardner believes Biden could sell at home to working- and middle-class voters.
“We cannot afford to go through the motions,” Gardner said. “We need to make clear to our electorate and our voters that working multilaterally, with rules and institutions, yields better results, and that communiques are no substitute for results.”
He added: “Some Europeans won’t like it to be put this way. But this is the acid test. This is the reality today. What good is Europe if it’s not going to work with us on this issue?”
Europeans aren’t sure they’re ready to trust the U.S. wholeheartedly again. It was Trump’s abandonment of Europe that essentially pushed them into China’s arms. That split European countries into two camps: those that rely on the U.S. for security and defense and agree with Gardner that the way forward is to help Biden domestically; and others like France and Germany that want to tread cautiously so as not to alienate China, in case they have to prepare for a world order without the U.S. at the top.
“Some [Europeans] thought the China problem was basically just a Trump thing, underestimating the bipartisan basis in Washington for criticism of Beijing,” said ANTHONY TEASDALE, director general of the European Parliamentary Research Service. “The reality is that most Americans feel threatened by China’s challenge to their status as global No. 1. This isn’t just a Trump thing, it’s an American thing. Realizing this has disoriented some European leaders, who are having to get up to speed with a longer-term shift in U.S. foreign policy.”
Happy Friday, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
THE CAPITOL RIOTER NEXT DOOR — Imagine learning that someone you’ve known for 18 years is alleged to have been responsible for some of the worst violence on Jan. 6. How do you square that? In this week’s episode of “Playbook Deep Dive,” RACHAEL and journalist MELANIE WARNER dive into the story of JEFFREY SABOL, one man whose alleged activity on Jan. 6 left many in his life confused and grappling for answers — about how a highly educated, middle-aged man with so much to lose could participate in what FBI Director CHRISTOPHER WRAY called “domestic terrorism.” What does his story tell us about the Capitol insurrectionists, and how everyday Americans became the new face of extremism? Listen and subscribe here
— 12:15 p.m. British Summer Time: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— Noon: First lady JILL BIDEN and the Duchess of Cambridge will tour a preschool in Cornwall and participate in a roundtable on early childhood education.
— 1:55 p.m.: Biden will depart St. Ives en route to Carbis Bay, where he will arrive at 2 p.m. and greet British PM BORIS JOHNSON and his wife, CARRIE, at 2:10 p.m.
— 2:20 p.m.: Biden will participate in a family photo with other G-7 leaders.
— 2:45 p.m.: The president will attend the G-7 Summit Session 1.
— 4:25 p.m.: Biden will depart Carbis Bay en route to St Ives, where he will arrive at 4:30 p.m.
— 5:40 p.m.: The president and first lady will depart St Ives en route to Bodelva, Cornwall, where they will arrive at 6 p.m.
— 6:15 p.m.: The Bidens will participate in a reception, family photo and dinner with other G-7 leaders and the Royal Family.
— 9:10 p.m.: The president and first lady will depart Bodelva en route to St Ives, where they will arrive at 9:30 p.m.
HARRIS’ FRIDAY: VP KAMALA HARRIS will deliver remarks on child care and families at 10:30 a.m.
THE SENATE is out. THE HOUSE will meet at 11:30 a.m. in a pro forma session.
UNDERSTANDING THIS NEW BIPARTISAN DEAL: The group of 10 centrist senators scrambling to save infrastructure talks announced a framework for a deal: $1 trillion over five years, or $1.2 trillion over eight years, including $579 billion in new spending. The agreement is substantially more money than the final offer Sen. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-W.Va.) made to Biden before talks fell apart — though still $400 billion less than Biden asked for.
But take this with a grain of salt for three reasons:
— One of their pay-fors includes indexing the gas tax with inflation, which would obviously increase the tax over time. The idea has been a major no-no for Biden, who vowed not to raise taxes on people making under $400,000 a year. In fact, our transportation reporter SAM MINTZ scooped Thursday that the White House “considers indexing the gas tax to inflation to be a violation of Biden’s pledge … and is not willing to include it in an infrastructure package, according to a source familiar with President Biden’s thinking.” Later, the White House released a statement saying “questions need to be addressed, particularly around the details of both policy and pay fors, among other matters.”
— Only five Republicans had their name on this agreement. But the chamber won’t get the 10 GOP senators needed for passage without Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL. We’ll have to see what the Kentucky Republican says about this.
— This also assumes every Senate Democrat would swallow a deal that’s a far cry from the bold vision they want. In just one warning sign this week, climate advocates are growing increasingly alarmed at suggestions that their pet issue may fall by the wayside.
WaPo’s Jeff Stein, Juliet Eilperin and Tyler Pager reported Thursday night that AL GORE called Biden to implore him to tackle climate head on. And Senate Finance Chair RON WYDEN (D-Ore.) told the trio he would oppose any infrastructure deal that didn’t address climate or hike taxes on multinational corporations.
SO WHAT NOW? Don’t expect Democratic leaders to immediately pan the deal. Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER intends to let this process play out so his moderate members get a chance to make the bipartisan deal they’ve been hoping for — or at least try. In the process, they’ll either learn it can’t be done or they’ll succeed. Either way, Schumer can push forward anything they can’t pass with Republicans, via reconciliation.
POLITICO: “Deal or no deal? Confusion rules Senate infrastructure talks” … WaPo: “Ten Senate Democrats and Republicans say they reached five-year, nearly $1 trillion infrastructure deal”
DEMS IN DISARRAY
— “Dem leaders look to deescalate Omar drama,” by Sarah Ferris: “Top Democrats on Thursday attempted to quickly defuse a fraught dispute within their caucus after comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar that compared war crimes committed by the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban incensed some Jewish Democrats. Speaker NANCY PELOSI’S leadership team took the unusual step of issuing a statement that both rebuked Omar for her comments and thanked her for later clarifying her remarks — taking a more nuanced approach than the last major uproar over the Minnesota Democrat’s comments on Israel that escalated into a days-long political crisis for her party.”
— In response to leadership’s statement Omar, however, Rep. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-Mich.) tweeted a rather astounding rebuke of senior Democrats, suggesting this drama isn’t over yet: “Freedom of speech doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.”
DEATH AND TAXES
— “Billionaire Tax Leak Referred to FBI as Probe Grows, IRS Says,” Bloomberg: “The disclosure of the personal income and tax data of some of the wealthiest Americans has been referred to additional federal investigators to probe the leak of confidential information, an Internal Revenue Service official said.”
— “Republicans use leak of billionaires’ tax secrets to attack Biden’s plan to boost IRS,” by Aaron Lorenzo: “Ways and Means Committee Republicans on Thursday said the leak of tax information on rich Americans like JEFF BEZOS, ELON MUSK and other billionaires erodes trust in the IRS and should disqualify President Joe Biden’s proposals to boost agency enforcement. GOP members of the panel — without citing evidence — blamed IRS insiders for the criminal breach of private taxpayer data, and suggested the timing was fishy.”
— “Jill Biden wants to share the ‘LOVE’ overseas,” by Eugene: “The day that she departed with her husband for his first foreign trip as president, the first lady’s office sent out a picture that encapsulates how Dr. Jill Biden thinks about her new role. She’s sitting at a desk in a cornflower blue jacket, poring over a huge binder with stacks of papers all around.
“The message: Jill Biden is not here to just focus on the frilly aspects of the first lady gig, she’s a woman of substance and wants the public to know it. In some ways the veteran political spouse is a return to more traditional, non-controversial first ladies after one — MELANIA TRUMP — who enjoyed celebrity status but spent most of her time as a partisan lightning rod. … For this first presidential trip abroad, the first lady is working on cementing her independent, ‘Jill from Philly’ image by setting up her own schedule during the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, primarily highlighting her main initiative on military families.”
— London Playbook: “Prez and PM punching: Pretty much all the British papers splash on the Carrie Johnson/Jill Biden photo-op — and it sounds like the president was a fan too. Joe Biden laid it on thick at yesterday’s brief appearance in front of the press, telling the PM: ‘I’m thrilled to meet your wife. I told the prime minister we have something in common: we both married above our station.’ Newlywed Johnson responded: ‘I’m not going to disagree with the president on that or anything else.’ (H/t POLITICO’s White House correspondent Anita Kumar.)”
BUCKING THE BOSS — “Shelby sides against Trump in Alabama Senate race,” by Burgess Everett: “Republican RICHARD SHELBY is backing his former chief of staff KATIE BOYD BRITT in the race to succeed him in the Senate, siding against former President Donald Trump’s favored candidate, Rep. MO BROOKS. ‘She’s like family. She’d make a good candidate. She’s probably the best-qualified candidate to come along in a long time,’ Shelby said in an interview. ‘I’d support her, I’d vote for her.’”
2022 WATCH — “Mark Brnovich, Arizona’s attorney general, launches U.S. Senate campaign,” Arizona Republic: “Arizona Attorney General MARK BRNOVICH announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate race’s Republican primary in 2022, jumping into what is expected to be a hotly contested battle to challenge incumbent Sen. MARK KELLY. Brnovich, a libertarian-leaning Republican who has served as the state’s top prosecutor since 2015, becomes the third Republican to get into the race and the most well-known politically.”
FOR THE RECORD — Post and Courier’s JAMIE LOVEGROVE (@jslovegrove): “Asked by @postandcourier if he will run for reelection next year, [Rep. JIM CLYBURN] says, ‘Not just yes, but hell yes.’ He has represented #SC06 since 1993 and will be 82 by the time of the 2022 midterms.”
— Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson tweeted this context: “This is interesting. Alot of people thought Clyburn would retire when Pelosi did. While Pelosi has not committed to retiring, she made a promise in 2018 not to run for speaker again in 2022. And Clyburn has said he’s not interested in replacing her. So what’s his plan?”
HOW RED — REBA MCENTIRE will be a special guest at a fundraiser for South Dakota Gov. KRISTI NOEM this weekend, per Stephen Sanchez.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
WHAT BERNIE IS READING — “These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: Raising wages to $15 an hour or more,” by WaPo’s Eli Rosenberg: “Across the country, businesses in sectors such as food service and manufacturing that are trying to staff up have been reporting an obstacle to their success — a scarcity of workers interested in applying for low-wage positions. The issue has raised concerns about the strength of the country’s recovery as coronavirus cases abate, with the economy still down more than 7.5 million jobs compared with before the pandemic.”
GONE BIBI GONE
STOP US IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE — “Israel’s Netanyahu lashes out as end of his era draws near,” by AP’s Josef Federman in Jerusalem: “In what appear to be the final days of his historic 12-year rule, Israeli Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU is not leaving the political stage quietly. The longtime leader is accusing his opponents of betraying their voters, and some have needed special security protection. Netanyahu says he is the victim of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy. He speaks in apocalyptic terms when talking about the country without his leadership.”
HIGH, HOW ARE YOU — NATALIE FERTIG (@natsfert): “Me: ‘I work at POLITICO, I’m the cannabis reporter.’ @BernieSanders: ‘You’re the cannabis reporter?’ Me: ‘I’m the cannabis reporter.’ Sanders: ‘Are you stoned right now?’ Me: ‘I am not stoned right now.’ Sanders: ‘Is that a requirement to be…?’ Me: ‘It’s actually not.’” Audio of the exchange, via POLITICO Dispatch
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week,” with Yamiche Alcindor moderating from Cornwall, England, and Ed O’Keefe co-moderating from D.C.: Jonathan Martin, Anna Palmer and Vivian Salama.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“This Week”: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). Panel: Rick Klein, Michèle Flournoy, Will Hurd and Amna Nawaz.
“Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) … Mike Pompeo. Panel: Marc Thiessen, Catherine Lucey and Harold Ford Jr. Power Player: Donna de Varona.
“The Sunday Show”: Kimberly Atkins Stohr … Michael Gerson … Chris Matthews … Yamiche Alcindor … Katty Kay … Helene Cooper.
“Inside Politics”: Panel: Olivier Knox, Laura Barron Lopez, Melanie Zanona, Vivian Salama and John Harwood.
“Face the Nation”: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) … Andy Slavitt … Scott Gottlieb.
“Full Court Press”: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) … Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
TRUMP’S PIVOT? — “Jason Miller to head tech startup that could become Trump platform,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Longtime senior Donald Trump adviser Jason Miller is taking over as chief executive officer of a tech startup company that could be used by the former president.
“Miller’s company is currently developing a social media platform that is being considered for use by Trump. People familiar with the discussions stress that no final decision has been made by the former president about which platform he will use. … The aide is expected to remain with Trump’s team, but not in a full-time, day-to-day role, according to a person familiar with the plans.”
PENCE’S NEW PALACE — “Mike Pence buys $1.9M Indiana home packed with amenities,” N.Y. Post: “Property records reveal that Pence, 62, bought a seven-bedroom, 7½-bathroom house in the upscale location of Carmel — known as the luxury pinnacle in his state of Indiana. …
“Spanning a massive 10,300 square feet, the estate sits on five acres of land and comes with all the amenities your heart desires. Built in 2008, the home offers a fitness room, an indoor basketball court, a handcrafted bar, a media room, a study, and several living spaces throughout. Outdoor features include a dock looking out onto a large pond, an in-ground pool and an expansive screened porch.”
CRINGE-WORTHY TV — Jeffrey Toobin is back on air with CNN eight months after he was fired from The New Yorker and took leave from the TV network for getting caught masturbating on a Zoom call. Host Alisyn Camerota didn’t mince words Thursday, describing his act before asking Toobin, “What the hell were you thinking?”
Watch the 1:56-second clip for his answer. Story here: “‘Deeply moronic’: Jeffrey Toobin returns to CNN, talks Zoom incident that cost him job,” NBC
MEDIAWATCH — This year’s National Magazine Awards were announced Thursday, with top honors going to The New Yorker, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Audubon and Stranger’s Guide. The full list of winners
SPOTTED: Pete and Chasten Buttigieg dining with Pete’s mother, Jennifer Anne Montgomery, at The Duck & The Peach on Thursday night. Pic… Another pic … Bret Baier and Paul Ryan at Cafe Milano for lunch on Thursday.
SPOTTED at an event at Australian Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos and Elizabeth Sinodinos’ residence for the outgoing Deputy Ambassador Katrina Cooper on Wednesday night: DNI Avril Haines, Kurt Campbell, Julie Smith, Michèle Flournoy, Jill Tiefenthaler, Jean Baderschneider, Amanda Nguyen, Lisa Truitt, Laura Rosenberger, Singaporean Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri, Jane Duke, Dan Feldman, Harold Koh, Suzanne Spaulding, John Negroponte, Margo Smith and Paula Dobriansky.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — The Commerce Department is adding a slate of senior staff: Liani Balasuriya is now executive secretariat, Jenny Kaplan is senior adviser for private sector engagement, Caitlin Legacki is senior adviser for strategic comms, and Scott Mulhauser has taken a temporary leave from Bully Pulpit Interactive to serve as a senior adviser to Secretary Gina Raimondo.
TRUMP ALUMNI — Christopher Ford is now senior adviser for geopolitical policy and strategy at MITRE. He most recently performed the duties of the undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.
TRANSITIONS — Francesca Craig is now acting as social secretary at the British Embassy. She most recently was director of special projects for the Motion Picture Association and is also the former social secretary to the French ambassador. … Chanse Jones is now senior director of public affairs at Forbes Tate Partners. He previously was senior manager of media relations and external comms at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. … Michael Feldman is now director of public affairs at CISA. He previously worked on the Biden campaign. …
… Ilse Zuniga is now press secretary for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). She most recently was press secretary for Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). … Ryan Shay is now legislative director for Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.). He most recently was senior legislative assistant for Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.). … Schroeder Stribling will be president and CEO of Mental Health America. She currently is CEO of N Street Village, a D.C. housing nonprofit.
WEDDING — Geoff Burgan, comms director for Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and a Biden campaign alum, and Farah Melendez, campaign manager for Virginia A.G. Mark Herring and political director at the Democratic Attorneys General Association, got married May 20 in Salt Lake City in front of a small group of family and friends. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Hannah Bruce Huey, principal at Molly Allen & Associates, and Daniel Huey, a partner at Something Else Strategies, on Wednesday welcomed Henry Burtch Huey, who came in at 7 lbs, 13 oz and 20.5 inches. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Jennifer Rubin … Tad Devine of Devine Mulvey Longabaugh … Greta Van Susteren … Kim Oates of the House Radio/TV Gallery … J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami … Cisco’s Michael Timmeny … Lindsey Williams Drath … Cesar Gonzalez of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.) office … Deputy CIA Director David Cohen … TJ Adams-Falconer … DNC’s Lucas Acosta … Will Rahn … Jessica Franks Owens … Antonio De Loera-Brust … Eric Lieberman … Pentagon’s Jamal Brown … Duke’s Mike Schoenfeld … APCO Worldwide’s Penina Graubart … Treasury’s Arian Rubio … Lorissa Bounds … Alexa Papadopoulos … Kristen Thomaselli … Mary Kate Cunningham … Salesforce’s Tom Gavin … Matthew Campbell … Google’s Ramya Raghavan … Tom Alexander … Marty Kearns of Netcentric Campaigns … POLITICO’s Denis Manevski … Emily Dobler … former Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) (91) … Ashley Mocarski … former South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard … Jennifer Budoff of the D.C. City Council
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