With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
SIREN — Late Thursday night, Sen. JOE MANCHIN effectively killed any chance of major climate-related provisions making their way into Democrats’ reconciliation package. The West Virginian told party leaders that “he would not support an economic package that contains new spending on climate change or includes new tax increases targeting wealthy Americans or corporations,” WaPo’s Tony Romm and Jeff Stein were first to report, “marking a massive setback for party lawmakers who had hoped to advance a central element of their agenda before the midterm elections this fall.”
What else he said: “Manchin told Democratic leaders he was open to changing federal laws that might lower prescription drugs costs for seniors… And the West Virginia moderate expressed support … for extended subsidies that will help keep health insurance costs down for millions of Americans for the next two years…”
NYT: “The West Virginia Democrat’s decision dealt a crushing blow to President [JOE] BIDEN’s domestic agenda, effectively ruling out action on anything beyond prescription drug pricing and health care subsidies.”
WaPo’s Jeff Stein: “Worth recapping just how much has fallen out [of a possible reconciliation deal] since this all started: Universal pre-k, child care, public housing, paid family leave, dental, vision care for seniors, free community college, Child Tax Credit, climate plans & a lot of other stuff I can’t even remember now.”
POLITICO: “His move leaves a slim health-care focused bill as the only option for Democrats who have long hoped for far more expansive legislation. … [It] sparked deep frustrations from progressives, particularly those who saw Democrats’ control of Congress and the White House as a long-sought opportunity to rein in carbon emissions.
Rep. JARED HUFFMAN (D-Calif.): “It’s important that every young person, every activist, the majorities of this country who are demanding climate action understand very clearly this is not the Democrats. … This is one man named Joe Manchin. When it comes to the most important existential issue of our time, this man is a wrecking ball.”
ONE THING THAT COULD ENERGIZE DEMS —“Bidenworld, fellow Dems, dreaming of a Trump pre-midterm announcement,” by Christopher Cadelago
ANOTHER POSSIBLE GRENADE FOR THE GOP — “Republican fears of an abortion backlash grow,” by David Siders, Adam Wren and Megan Messerly: “Republicans knew the minute Roe v. Wade was overturned that they had a political problem, particularly with moderates in the suburbs who they need to vote for GOP candidates in the midterms. The unfolding story of a 10-year-old rape victim who crossed state lines from Ohio for an abortion in Indiana is confirming just how damaging the issue may be.”
THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: GEORGE GASCÓN — Gascón was elected district attorney of Los Angeles County in November 2020 with 54% of the vote.
“I won handsomely,” he reminisced Wednesday during a 90-minute conversation at the Hall of Justice in downtown L.A. “I got over 2 million votes.”
It was a big victory for criminal justice reformers: the leading progressive prosecutor in the country taking over the movement’s top target, the largest county in the country and one that has long been hostile to change.
“I knew how challenging L.A. County was because I had been a police officer here for 27 years,” he said. “This office had been one of the leading incarcerators, death penalty, put young kids into adult prison. This office actually led the way.”
Back then, in the fall of 2020, after the murder of GEORGE FLOYD sparked a new racial justice movement, being a well-known advocate for criminal justice reform was an asset in L.A.
Black Lives Matter signs appeared in Beverly Hills, and Gascón leaned into his message of radical reform. “This is really about beginning to sort of dismantle systemic racism from the criminal justice system,” he said at the time.
Gascón moved quickly after he was sworn in. He ended cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. He told his deputies not to seek the death penalty anymore, to never try juveniles as adults, to stop prosecuting people for first-time non-violent misdemeanors, and to stop using so-called “sentencing enhancements,” which allow prosecutors to pile on jail time. And he did all of that on his first day in office.
Then came the backlash.
When certains types of crime spiked in Los Angeles, Gascón got the blame. In Beverly Hills, the city council passed a vote-of-no-confidence resolution against him.
“It became fashionable for affluent white people to want to be pro-police accountability,” he recalled of the initial political shift after Floyd’s murder. “It was kind of the chic thing to do. So you also are going to want to be seen with BLM. They wanted to be in demonstrations, right? … I’m a little cynical now, looking back. At the time, I actually thought that there was a parting of the waters. I said, ‘For the first time, I’m hearing white affluent people understanding the suffering of black people in this country and poor people.’ And I thought, ‘This is a reversal.’
“I was wrong.”
California makes it relatively easy to recall an elected official. It’s been part of the state constitution since 1911. And in sour times, recalls spike. Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM faced a recall last year that he defeated. San Francisco recalled three school board members in February. More ominously for Gascón, last month, San Francisco recalled its district attorney, Gascón’s friend and ideological kin, CHESA BOUDIN, who had instituted many of the same policies.
There was talk of recalling Gascón as soon as he was sworn in. And those calls were coming from inside the Hall of Justice, where many of his deputy district attorneys revolted against the changes.
“The week that I got sworn in, they started talking about recalling me,” Gascón said. “And they had to be told you have to wait at least 90 days.”
In L.A., the deep state is real. Gascón can’t fire the deputy district attorneys who are so hostile to his agenda that they have publicly endorsed the recall.
“Think about Biden coming in and keeping DONALD TRUMP’s cabinet,” he said. “That’s what it’s like.”
Voters will know by August 17 whether a recall of Gascón will be on the November ballot. In the meantime, Gascón’s policies have become a flashpoint in other major California elections. In the Los Angeles mayor’s race, the right-leaning candidate, RICK CARUSO, has condemned him, and the left-leaning candidate, Democratic Rep. KAREN BASS, has distanced herself from him. Nationally, Gascón has become a recurring character on Fox News and an unwelcome issue for vulnerable Democrats.
The backlash against progressive prosecutors even caught the attention of the White House.
On the day after Boudin was recalled last month, Joe Biden told reporters, “I think the voters sent a clear message last night: Both parties have to step up and do something about crime, as well as gun violence.” He reminded everyone that his budget called for more money to hire and train more cops.
Gascón said he’s learned from the Boudin recall.
“One of the mistakes that Chesa made that I learned from it — and he’ll readily recognize — is he was trying to talk to people about data,” Gascón said. “People don’t care about data. This is about emotions. This is about how you perceive and feel. And you cannot use data to deal with feelings. And I think that was a failure. And by the time he kind of woke up to that, it was too late for him.” Listen to the full conversation with Gascón here on the Playbook Deep Dive podcast … Subscribe here on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
Happy Friday. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line and tell us who you would recall: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK, NATCH —Playbook has hired a new editor and we couldn’t be more stoked about it: MIKE DeBONIS, a star congressional and national politics reporter at the Washington Post, will lead the team starting Aug. 9. Since 2015, Mike has done it all for the Post’s Hill team. As the paper’s lead House correspondent during the Trump administration and lead Senate correspondent since, he reported on party leadership, Supreme Court nominations, the Jan. 6 attack and congressional campaigns.
He also knows a thing or two about writing a politics newsletter: As a reporter and editor for Washington City Paper earlier in his career, he penned its free-wheeling political column “Loose Lips” and — inspired by Playbook — turned it into a daily newsletter. This will be a reunion for Mike and Rachael, who worked closely together on the Post’s Congress team.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
THE WHITE HOUSE
INSIDE BIDEN’S ISRAEL PRESSER — Our own Alex Ward is following Biden around the Middle East as the president aims to bolster support for normalization of relations between Israel and other countries in the region, and gain Saudi Arabia’s support for more oil production. Alex sent in this color from the president’s news conference in Jerusalem on Thursday, where Biden refused to say that he would explicitly mention the killing of JAMAL KHASHOGGI in a meeting with Saudi leaders in Jeddah:
“To walk the eight minutes from the press hotel to the Waldorf Astoria, where Biden spoke alongside Israeli PM YAIR LAPID, was to find a section of Jerusalem under complete lockdown. There are always extra security precautions and police presence at presidential-level events, but this was a step above. The streets around this swanky part of the city were completely blocked, save for pathways for pedestrians, as masked troops stalked around flashing their rifles.
“Then came the security process, which required someone at the hotel door to ensure you had the right credentials, followed by a closer credential check, leading to a TSA-style security checkpoint.
“But it was worth it. On the other side, sandwiches and treats awaited –– and the people around were nice, too. The extra time led to conversation among reporters, in off-record settings with administration officials and the normal jockeying for the best seats.
“After the event, Biden’s motorcade made its way back to the hotel, complicating the walk back to the hotel. Guards moved us aside, telling us to go around the usual way so as not to interfere with the passage. It wasn’t a big inconvenience, but it showed just how seriously everyone is taking safety here.
“Today we jet off to Jeddah, and it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast how the Israelis and the Saudis handle the press behind the scenes.”
WHAT TO WATCH — As Biden begins his visit to Saudi Arabia today, he aims to repair a battered relationship that threatens to create a power vacuum — one that Beijing is itching to fill, Phelim Kine writes. “Beijing has positioned itself as a nonjudgmental partner to Riyadh and as a counterpoint to a U.S.-Saudi diplomatic chill that hit new depths after Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.”
— Related read: “The AP Interview: Khashoggi fiancee criticizes Biden visit,” by Ayse Wieting and Suzan Fraser
AD WARS —Our colleague Ally Mutnick reports this morning that a number of endangered House Dems are already airing weeks of TV ads, using their cash-rich campaigns to try to define themselves early and inoculate themselves against the political environment before the attacks start flying in full in the fall. “Nine incumbents in battleground seats were already airing ads by early July, according to a POLITICO analysis — and some plan to keep going straight through to November.”
2024 WATCH — “GOP governors mulling 2024 run aren’t rushing abortion laws,” by AP’s Stephen Groves
THE BATTLE FOR THE SENATE — Senate Dems are having a “blockbuster” summer of fundraising — at least, that’s how DSCC spokesperson DAVID BERGSTEIN is billing it. And even though some campaigns are spending cash just as fast as they take it in, “Democrats see it as a sign of momentum after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last month and an uptick in their chances of keeping the Senate,” Burgess Everett and Madison Fernandez write.
IN THE HOUSE —Our colleagues Jordain Carney and Sarah Ferris write that House Dems “might have to swallow whatever the Senate feeds them on two of the party’s biggest bills in order to pass either one.” But that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it.
Rep. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: “It’s very tough if the Senate finishes something and it comes over here. It takes away a lot of leverage. It makes it sort of a yes-no question, versus a ‘what more can we get?’ question. … There’s always the ‘no’ option. That is the ultimate leverage.” (Important caveat: This interview was conducted before the surprise news that Manchin was gutting the climate and tax portions of the reconciliation bill. So stay tuned.)
Rep. ELISSA SLOTKIN, a vulnerable Michigan Dem: “I’m for getting the CHIPS Act done, one way or another, by August 1.”
SENATE DEMS CASH CHIPS IN — The Senate may be seeing a vote on domestic computer chip production legislation soon — signaling an end to formal talks on a broader China competition bill. Schumer “has told senators to expect votes as soon as Tuesday to move forward on $52 billion in initial funding for chip factories, as well as a tax credit for ongoing semiconductor production, a person familiar with the plans said,” per our colleagues Andrew Desiderio and Gavin Bade. “Any movement would elate vulnerable Democrats who have pressed party leaders to break through a logjam on the bill, which lawmakers have spent nearly two years crafting.”
— Related: As Republicans continue to threaten pulling support for the China competition bill if Democrats move forward, there’s been an uptick in Chinese state-run media attacking the bill, calling it emblematic of a “steeped in Cold-War mentality.” Now, the White House and Dems aim to use such attacks as a cudgel against the GOP:
“We’ve seen the People’s Republic of China consistently spread propaganda criticizing this game-changing legislation for U.S. national security, and now we’re seeing these propaganda outlets celebrating MITCH MCCONNELL’s attempts to stall it,” a White House official told Playbook on Thursday. “This just helps make our case to pass the BIA now.”
SPARTZ PLUG — “Republicans wince as their Ukrainian-born colleague thrashes Zelenskyy,” by Andrew Desiderio and Olivia Beavers: “VICTORIA SPARTZ took the GOP mantle on aiding Kyiv back in the spring. Now, her fellow lawmakers worry she’s undermining the effort.”
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Hans Nichols, Tarini Parti, Luke Broadwater and Nick Schifrin.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
CBS “Face the Nation”: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) … Scott Gottlieb.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). Panel: Kevin Roberts, Morgan Ortagus, Josh Kraushaar and Mo Elleithee.
ABC “This Week”: Panel: Heidi Heitkamp, Rick Klein, Ramesh Ponnuru and Leigh Ann Caldwell.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Jeff Zeleny, Seung Min Kim, Tamara Keith and Gabby Orr.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Doug Jones … Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) … Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) … Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) … Tonya Lewis Lee.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi — yes, of MTV “Jersey Shore” fame — filmed a Cameo that John Fetterman’s campaign is using to troll Mehmet Oz for his ties to New Jersey.
Ivana Trump’s passing resurfaced one of Sarah Palin’s first appearances in print: a 1996 story about the Alaskan going to JC Penney for a promotional appearance by Trump hawking her new perfume. “We want to see Ivana,” said Palin, “because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.”
Hershel “Woody” Williams became the first West Virginian to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday.
Universal Pictures released the trailer for “She Said,” the story of NYT reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s investigation into Harvey Weinstein, starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan.
IN MEMORIAM — “Ivana Trump, a skier-turned-businesswoman who formed half of a publicity power couple in the 1980s as the first wife of former President Donald Trump and mother of his oldest children, has died in New York City, her family announced Thursday. She was 73. The former president posted on his social media app that she died at her Manhattan home,” per the AP.
“‘She was a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing woman, who led a great and inspirational life,’ he wrote on Truth Social. The couple shared three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric. ‘She was so proud of them, as we were all so proud of her,” he wrote. ‘Rest In Peace, Ivana!’”
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED: First lady Jill Biden making an unscheduled stop at Row 34 for dinner in downtown Boston on Thursday night with Anthony Bernal, Michael LaRosa, Mala Adiga, and Amber Macdonald.
— SPOTTED at a party for Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz’s book “American Cartel: Inside the Battle to Bring Down the Opioid Industry” ($30) at the D.C. home of Ceci Connolly and Manuel Roig-Franzia on Thursday night: Thurgood Marshall Jr. and Teddie Levy Marshall, Jane Mayer and Bill Hamilton, Jeanne Cummings, Rick Atkinson, James Rosen, Lyndon Boozer, Warren Bass, Josh Dawsey, David Marchick, Rafe Sagalyn, Tony Podesta, Gail Ross, Sandra Eskin, Juleanna Glover, Tammy Haddad, Jill Zuckman and Jim Mulhall, Indira Lakshmanan and Maralee Schwartz.
— The Motion Picture Association and Sony Pictures co-hosted a screening of “Where The Crawdads Sing” on Thursday night, where Charles Rivkin and Ton Vinciquerra provided opening remarks and Meridith McGraw moderated a discussion with producers Lauren Levy and Erin Siminoff. SPOTTED: Dan Glickman, Keith Weaver, Cameron Normand, Emily Lenzner, Lauren Levy, Erin Siminoff, Liz Hart, Caitlin Legacki, John Lenzner, Susan Page, Norah O’Donnell, Glen Roberts, Ali Dukakis, Arlette Saenz and Emily Beyer.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Patrick X. Mordente is leaving the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, where he has been director for more than five years. He is a former general officer in the U.S. Air Force and is taking an opportunity in the private sector in logistics.
TRANSITIONS — Perc Pineda is rejoining the Plastics Industry Association as chief economist. He previously was senior economist at the Credit Union National Association. … Rachel Weiss is joining Arnold Ventures as VP of advocacy for health care. She previously was director of comms in HHS’ Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Chris Stewart (R-Utah) … Arianna Huffington … WaPo’s Paul Kane … Alex Lasry … Chris LaCivita … JPMorgan Chase’s Heather Higginbottom … Cecile Richards … Chris Krepich of Nahigian Strategies (31) … Bloomberg’s Jodi Schneider … Gareth Rhodes … Svetlana Legetic … Tia Bogeljic of Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Colo.) office … DCCC’s Kathryn Crenshaw … David Miliband … POLITICO’s Max Tani, Eun Kim, Rebecca Moore and Adrian Wyatt … E&E News’ Peter Behr and Daniel Kim … Sheerica Ware Wilkins of Sen. Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) office … Aspen Institute’s Elliot Gerson … Ericka Perryman … Andrew Usyk … Brunswick Group’s Mark Palmer … Séverine de Lartigue … Michael Francisco … Helen Hare … Erica Fein of Rep. Andy Levin’s (D-Mich.) office … Susan McCue … Nate Gaspar … Heath Tarbert … Palladium’s Amanda Fernandez … former Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) … Hayley Arader … David Lippman … Electric Power Research Institute’s Arshad Mansoor … Meghan Blasig of J Strategies
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