Tuesday, March 28

POLITICO Playbook PM: McCarthy’s Cawthorn two-step

MCCARTHY CALLS CAWTHORN OUT — In the latest instance of KEVIN MCCARTHY breaking with his caucus’ far-right contingent without setting them asea, the House minority leader said at his weekly presser today that he disagreed with Rep. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-N.C.) calling Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY a “thug.”

“Madison is wrong,” McCarthy said, noting that he’d spoken to Cawthorn. “If there’s any thug in this world, it’s [Russian President VLADIMIR] PUTIN.” He called Russian actions, like bombing a maternity hospital ward and a theater with children, “atrocious” and “wrong,” and said Russia was “the aggressor” that “everybody should unite against.”

McCarthy followed Cawthorn’s North Carolina GOP colleague Sen. THOM TILLIS“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://twitter.com/SenThomTillis/status/1504504376223846402″,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04e70000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04e70001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>THOM TILLIS in criticizing Cawthorn explicitly. But siding against Ukraine is still no sin LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.)”,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/us/politics/kevin-mccarthy-harriet-hageman-liz-cheney.html”,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04e70002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04e70003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>on the level of Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.): When asked if he were supporting Cawthorn’s reelection bid, McCarthy said yes.

Other bites from McCarthy’s presser: He vowed that House Intelligence Chair ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) will be kicked off the committee if Republicans retake the House this fall. And he said we “won’t see any fallout” from intraparty tensions at the upcoming GOP retreat.

HE SAID, XI SAID — President JOE BIDEN’s call this morning with Chinese President XI JINPING lasted nearly two hours, wrapping up at 10:53 a.m., per the White House. We’re still waiting on the official U.S. readout of the call. Chinese public takeaways, on the other hand, apparently began while the call was still ongoing. Per NYT’s Edward Wong, their readout didn’t indicate any new stance on Ukraine, but they said they didn’t want to see war there — and continued to blame the U.S.: “Let he who tied the bell on the tiger’s neck take it off.” More from Myah Ward

THIS TOWN — Michael Schaffer’s new Capital City column launched this morning in POLITICO Magazine, and his inaugural piece is a look at whether Washington society will shun or accept norm-breaking Trump-era figures as the city opens back up. For now, “the jury is still out—and one legacy of Covid was that we tabled a lot of the small daily social decisions that demonstrate someone’s standing,” he writes.

RE: MURPHY — In this morning’s Playbook and on the Deep Dive podcast episode out today, retiring Rep. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-Fla.) reiterated claims that the DCCC threatened to withhold campaign funds from vulnerable Democratic members to get them to support Build Back Better. The DCCC has previously denied this, and still does.

Happy Friday afternoon.



— The fates of hundreds of people in the bombed theater in Mariupol remain unknown after 130 were rescued alive, Ukrainian officials said today. More from WaPo“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/18/russia-ukraine-war-news-putin-live-updates/#link-OR62WKPXFBFDBJDAY3URIWO6CU”,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04e90001″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04e90002″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>More from WaPo

— New explosions were reported in Kyiv and Odesa, per the NYT.

— The southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv came under fire and siege early in the war. But the Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion has proven so successful in the area that some aspects of life are tiptoeing back toward normal, WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov reports: “Coffee shops and some restaurants are open again. Supermarkets have been restocked with fresh groceries. Bank branches have reopened. Municipal buses and trams run the streets. Mothers with children play in playgrounds as the sound of artillery thuds in the distance.”

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— In an uncommon public speech, Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN showed no sign of yielding, quoting the Bible to praise his troops at a massive Moscow rally. “The event included patriotic songs, including a performance of ‘Made in the U.S.S.R.,’” AP’s Cara Anna reports, “with the opening lines ‘Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.’” (But the BBC reports that many attendees were pressured to be there.)


— The Commerce Department is essentially grounding 100 planes that it says violated restrictions by flying to Russia recently, including that of Chelsea owner ROMAN ABRAMOVICH, Reuters’ David Shepardson scooped.

— The International Energy Agency warned today that oil supply could keep shrinking worldwide, recommending that countries lower speed limits, encourage work from home and take other steps to limit demand. “[R]arely has the body had to resort to the dramatic demand-reduction steps that it outlined on Friday,” writes FT’s Leslie Hook.

— And good luck getting U.S. oil producers to ramp up output quickly. AP’s Matthew Brown and Susan Montoya Bryan report that there are plenty of hurdles: “There’s not enough workers to rapidly expand, scant money to invest in drilling and wariness that today’s high prices won’t last.”

— After Democrats impeached DONALD TRUMP for keeping aid from Ukraine, Republicans are blasting Biden for not providing enough support to the country. But they don’t see any connection between the two, Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio and Olivia Beavers report: “The GOP’s refusal to acknowledge the Ukraine-related substance of the Trump impeachment as Russia bombards Zelenskyy’s nation is a case study in the hopeless partisanship of the modern Congress, and the difficulties ahead as leaders weigh more support for Ukraine.”

— But Democrats are trying to draw a clearer link between Ukraine’s struggle for democracy and America’s, NBC’s Sahil Kapur reports. “The U.S. and other Western countries say that if authoritarianism prevails in Eastern Europe, it can spread elsewhere. Leading Democrats also argue that American democracy is under siege by elements of the Republican Party.” Republicans, of course, disagree and don’t see a connection.

— Electric car sales could be hampered by the war if access to Russian nickel is limited, damaging efforts to accelerate the clean energy transition, NYT’s Jack Ewing and Stephen Gandel report.


ON THE HOUSE FLOOR — The House today passed a bill that would ban race-based discrimination related to someone’s hair in employment and federally aided programs. All Democrats and 14 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, which now heads to the Senate. More from CNN“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/18/politics/house-vote-crown-act/index.html”,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ec0000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ec0001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>More from CNN


MOMENT IN THE SUNRISE — The Sunrise Movement is undergoing a period of reflection as it reckons with its failure to transform a popular climate movement into big policy wins, Time’s Molly Ball reports. Sunrise has mobilized massive youth activism on climate, but it’s alienated some in Washington with its aggressive tactics. Amid the “painful process of sifting through the wreckage and trying to chart a way forward,” she writes, Sunrise is looking at pivoting toward more work at the local level in the absence of major federal action. But “one thing Sunrise does not appear to be reconsidering is the philosophy that has drawn so much criticism—its core tactic of moral confrontation, primarily targeting Democrats.”

2022 WATCH — Behind the scenes, former first lady MELANIA TRUMP is boosting MEHMET OZ in the contentious Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary, NBC’s Marc Caputo and Henry Gomez report. “Don’t underestimate the influence of the first lady” on Trump, one source tells them. “She normally doesn’t weigh in, but she has here. And that matters.”

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WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE — In the Obama years, White House photographer PETE SOUZA and White House physician RONNY JACKSON became good friends sitting together in the motorcade. Now, with Jackson an elected Republican congressman, they insult each other in personal, public terms online, NYT’s Annie Karni reports, “a particularly vivid and public example of how allegiance or opposition to former President Donald J. Trump has driven more Americans into partisan corners, sometimes transforming personal relationships in the process.” Some of their former colleagues are dismayed by Jackson’s turn into public hard-right partisanship, but they don’t like Souza’s tactics either.

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — WaPo’s Ellie Silverman and Karina Elwood have a fascinating profile of BRIAN BRASE, the 37-year-old Ohioan who’s been de facto leading the conservative trucker convoy outside Washington. In his decision to allow far-right extremists to join the convoy, they write, he grappled with “a choice similar to one facing leaders of the mainstream Republican Party: appeal to a wide audience or follow the rallying cries and untrue claims about electoral fraud that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

On a personal level, Brase is a fascinating case study, “a man torn by contradictions, who doesn’t fit easily into any one narrative of what this convoy or its leader is about.” He’s a Trump voter who wants the government out of individual health care decisions, asked participants not to chant “Let’s go Brandon” and supports the teaching of critical race theory on college campuses. He’s also had a brutal couple of years, having lost his livelihood during the pandemic, seen a rift grow with his daughter over politics and vaccines, and lost his 16-year-old son to suicide in September.

ENDORSEMENT KERFUFFLE — AIPAC defended its controversial decision to support dozens of Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election, writing in a letter today that “[t]his is no moment for the pro-Israel movement to become selective about its friends,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod scooped.


INFLATION NATION — Everybody’s paying attention to gas prices, but the single biggest driver of inflation right now is housing — and there’s little D.C. policymakers can do about it, Katy O’Donnell reports. Sticker shock shows no sign of slowing down in the housing market, and many of last year’s increases haven’t even shown up yet in national inflation data. It’s “the result of a severe supply shortage fueled by municipal government restrictions across the country,” she writes, and these structural, balkanized root causes are mostly untouchable for the likes of the Fed.

Related: Sales of existing homes in the U.S. plummeted 7.2% in February, a greater drop than expected, per new data released today. That change, too, is due to the housing shortage, as well as rising mortgage interest rates, per CNBC.

— WSJ’s Julia Carpenter takes a look at the moments“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-are-having-an-inflation-aha-moment-11647595848?mod=hp_featst_pos4″,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ed0000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ed0001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>takes a look at the moments when inflation is becoming real for individual Americans: at the pump, at Starbucks, searching for a new apartment, paying the utility bill.


NDA DNA — “Trump’s Campaign Was Ordered To Pay $350,000 For Trying To Enforce An ‘Unenforceable’ Nondisclosure Agreement,”“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/trump-campaign-nda-pay-arbitration”,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ef0001″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ef0002″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>“Trump’s Campaign Was Ordered To Pay $350,000 For Trying To Enforce An ‘Unenforceable’ Nondisclosure Agreement,” by BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman: “A former staffer unsuccessfully tried to sue Trump, but his campaign’s effort to enforce a legally unsound NDA was the wrong move, an arbitrator found.”


PAGING JOE ROGAN — The biggest ivermectin trial yet shows that the drug — often touted by vaccine skeptics as a Covid alternative treatment — had no effect on reducing hospitalizations from the disease, WSJ’s Sarah Toy scooped.

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ANOTHER HEADACHE FOR ELECTIONS OFFICIALS — Election administrators around the country are having trouble landing the physical materials they need to make elections run, thanks to supply chain snarls, Zach Montellaro and Marissa Martinez report. The run on paper and envelopes could pose problems for upcoming primaries. And the issue is drawing congressional attention, too.

AFTERNOON READ — In the Mississippi abortion case before the Supreme Court, one argument from anti-abortion advocates is that women don’t need Roe v. Wade anymore because of widespread availability of contraception. But in largely poor, Black towns in the Mississippi Delta, “many Mississippians do not enjoy easy access to contraception — let alone other basic medical services necessary to plan families and thrive,” reports Vanessa Gregory in a big POLITICO Magazine feature. She follows the efforts of the nonprofit Plan A Health, which set out last year to support women’s reproductive and sexual health needs — and ended up discovering that they had to address much more fundamental health concerns too.


IRAN WATCH — Iran has managed to get around some onerous U.S. sanctions via a “clandestine banking and finance system to handle tens of billions of dollars in annual trade,” WSJ’s Ian Talley reveals. That has allowed the country to withstand economic and diplomatic squeezes and “resist the Biden administration’s pressure to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, buying it time to advance its nuclear program even while negotiations were under way.” It could also indicate how tough it is to sanction pariah countries effectively at a moment when much of the world is trying to do the same to Russia. “This is an unprecedented governmental money-laundering operation,” one Western official told him.


ANOTHER ONE — Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has a tested positive with a breakthrough Covid-19 case and is experiencing very mild symptoms.

BOOK CLUB — AP’s Julie Pace and Darlene Superville are writing a new biography of first lady Jill Biden, titled simply “Jill” ($14.99“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/julie-pace/jill/9780316377607/?utm_source=Author+Social&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_campaign=Jill”,”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ef000b”,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-9e5d-de65-a57f-bf5d04ef000c”,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>$14.99). The book publishes April 19. It’s billed as revealing “some of the private sides of Jill Biden” and how she “has held the Biden family together through tragedy and good fortune alike.”

OUT AND ABOUT — The Irish Embassy hosted a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the U.S Institute of Peace on Thursday night. SPOTTED: Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall and Greta Mulhall, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Ashley Kavanaugh, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss,Rufus Gifford and Stephen DeVincent,Timothy Lenderking, Chris Matthews,Tina Flournoy, Mitchell Rivard, Julie Callahan and Orla Keane.

— SPOTTED at the launch party for CNCT, an exclusive networking app for Hill staffers centered around meetups and events, at Mission on Thursday night: founder David Tennent, Selby Schnobrich, Matt Bonaccorsi, David D’Antonio, Cole Miller, Will Kiley, Krista Perkins, John Mark Kolb, Rey Anthony, Rachel Walker, Bradley Jaye and Sophie Seid.

The Motion Picture Association hosted a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Attica” on Thursday night, with opening remarks from Charles Rivkin and Edward Hill.Major Garrett led a panel discussion afterward with the film’s creators, Stanley Nelson,Traci Curry and James Asbury. Also SPOTTED: Emorie Broemel, Lauren Kleiman, Jamie Shor, Paul Farhi and Arden Farhi.

TRANSITIONS — Josh Weisz is now a senior director at Purple Strategies. He previously was comms director for the House Education and Labor Committee. … Allison DeBattista is now coalition advocacy director at Woodberry Associates. She previously was a director at Moore Communications.

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