POLITICO Playbook: Trump aide: Ex-prez emboldened by indictment news

“Now he’s definitely going to run for president” again, an adviser to Donald Trump said of the former president’s reaction to the news of the forthcoming indictment against the Trump Organization. | Brandon Bell/Getty Images TRUMP ORG INDICTMENT DAY — “New York grand jury returns criminal indictments against Trump’s company […]

TRUMP ORG INDICTMENT DAY — “New York grand jury returns criminal indictments against Trump’s company and its CFO, the first from prosecutors probing the former president’s business dealings,” by WaPo’s Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell: “A grand jury in Manhattan filed criminal indictments Wednesday against former president DONALD TRUMP’S company and its longtime chief financial officer, according to two people familiar with the indictments. The indictments against the Trump Organization and its CFO, ALLEN WEISSELBERG, will remain sealed until Thursday afternoon. … [P]eople familiar with the case said the charges were related to allegations of unpaid taxes on benefits for Trump Organization executives. …

“Trump himself is not expected to be charged this week, the people said, and no others in his orbit are expected to face imminent charges. But the indictments could mark a significant escalation in his legal problems — both by exposing his company to potential fines and by raising the pressure on Weisselberg. Prosecutors hope Weisselberg will offer testimony against Trump in exchange for lessening his own risk, according to another person familiar with the case.”

TRUMP PRE-REACTION: The former president was on a conference call with his advisers Monday discussing his favorite topic — revenge — when he was interrupted with an update on the Manhattan D.A.’s investigation. He would not be personally indicted, Trump was told — only Weisselberg and the Trump Organization would be. Trump was thrilled by what he saw as light charges, and according to one of the advisers on the call, his mind raced to 2024.

“Just wait until 2024, you’ll see,” Trump said. The former president implied that the legal case would be seen as a political witch hunt that would backfire on Democrats. “This is going to hurt Sleepy Joe.”

The adviser had the impression that Trump, who was already coming off a high from the large crowd at his rally in Ohio last weekend, was emboldened by the news. “Now he’s definitely going to run for president” again, the person said.

“It’s going to be a two-pronged message: the message for political public consumption and then the PR message against the substance of the case itself,” Trump’s former campaign adviser SAM NUNBERG told Meridith McGraw.

“He’s already talked about this being the greatest witch hunt, a continuation of the greatest witch hunt, and it will just anger his supporters.”

So expect to hear Trump push that narrative on his nationwide tour when he’s not dwelling on his true fixation: the results of the 2020 election.

Aides said that Trump’s interest in the Manhattan D.A.’s case pales in comparison to his obsession with the idea that he could still prove to be the winner of the 2020 election. (Our minds drift to a GEORGE COSTANZA classic: “Jerry, just remember: It’s not a lie … if you believe it.”)

“His world is seriously consumed by that,” said another Trump adviser. “In comparison to election fraud, [the D.A.’s investigation] is not even close.”

According to this adviser, Trump is holding out hope that if the Arizona “audit”/fishing expedition ends up in his favor, a few other states will follow suit, triggering some sort of legal process that would make him president.

He’s even questioned the merits of the Constitution, if it can’t be used to investigate election fraud.

DRAMA IN KAMALA’S OFFICE — We can’t say we haven’t heard this type of complaint before: VP KAMALA HARRIS has a long-running reputation for presiding over dysfunctional, unhappy staffs. But on Wednesday night, Chris Cadelago, Daniel Lippman and Eugene were first to report on it happening inside the VP’s office. The story is juicier for the sheer lack of these kinds of palace intrigue pieces on the largely leak-averse Biden White House. Here’s a taste from the story:

“When Vice President Kamala Harris finally made the decision to visit the Mexico border last week, people inside her own office were blindsided by the news. For days, aides and outside allies had been calling and texting with each other about the political fallout that a potential trip would entail. But when it became known that she was going to El Paso, it left many scrambling, including officials who were responsible for making travel arrangements and others outside the VP’s office charged with crafting the messaging across the administration.

“The handling of the border visit was the latest chaotic moment for a staff that’s quickly become mired in them. Harris’ team is experiencing low morale, porous lines of communication and diminished trust among aides and senior officials. Much of the frustration internally is directed at TINA FLOURNOY, Harris’ chief of staff, a veteran of Democratic politics who began working for her earlier this year.

“In interviews, 22 current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials and associates of Harris and [President JOE] BIDEN described a tense and at times dour office atmosphere. Aides and allies said Flournoy, in an apparent effort to protect Harris, has instead created an insular environment where ideas are ignored or met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out. Often, they said, she refuses to take responsibility for delicate issues and blames staffers for the negative results that ensue.”

Good Thursday morning. Happy July and halfway through 2021! And thank you, as always, for reading. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

A TEST OF CHUTZPAH — A vote on the House floor today will reveal how much chutzpah a group of moderate House Republicans have.

Lawmakers will vote on a $715 billion surface transportation infrastructure bill (separate from the plan Biden just negotiated with Senate Republicans). Tucked inside are hundreds of millions of dollars in goodies sought by House Republicans in the form of earmarks, which were revived by House leaders this year after a yearslong ban.

Yet Republicans are expected to vote overwhelmingly against the package, calling it a financial boondoggle — even as many of them reap the benefits.

The attack ads practically write themselves.

Playbook did a deeper analysis of how this might play for Republicans in some of the most competitive districts. According to the House Infrastructure Committee, 105 GOP members sought a total of 605 projects. The bill would fund two-thirds of those requests, or 403 projects.

Roughly half of 22 Republicans in districts being targeted by House Democrats in the midterms requested and received earmarks in the package.

They include $20 million each for roads in DAVID VALADAO’S California and DON BACON’S Nebraska districts; $15 million for trails and roads in MARIANNETTE MILLER-MEEKS’ Iowa district; and $19.4 million for JOHN KATKO (N.Y.). and $4 million each for CARLOS GIMENEZ (Fla.).

In theory this would make it difficult for Republicans to oppose a bill like this. But we’re told House GOP leaders are whipping moderates to keep them fairly unified in opposition. And most of those members are expected to fall in line, arguing that the House Dems’ bill is too costly, doesn’t include enough details about pay-fors and tackles climate issues they’re not keen on supporting.

Democrats are watching this one closely, sensing an opportunity to put vulnerable GOP members on their heels on an issue that has broad bipartisan support. And the politics of infrastructure will only get harder for these moderate Republicans if and when the bipartisan Senate framework makes it to the lower chamber.

Final thought: GOP leaders have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want to give Biden a bipartisan win. But as one moderate Republican source told us, these members would like to campaign on a bipartisan win themselves — particularly one with bacon for their constituents.

IN MEMORIAM — “Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary During Iraq War, Is Dead at 88,” by NYT’s Robert McFadden: “Encores are hardly rare in Washington, but Mr. Rumsfeld had the distinction of being the only defense chief to serve two nonconsecutive terms: 1975 to 1977 under President Ford, and 2001 to 2006 under President Bush. He also was the youngest, at 43, and the oldest, at 74, to hold the post — first in an era of Soviet-American nuclear perils, then in an age of subtler menace by terrorists and rogue states.

“A staunch ally of former Vice President DICK CHENEY, who had been his protégé and friend for years, Mr. Rumsfeld was a combative infighter who seemed to relish conflicts as he challenged cabinet rivals, members of Congress and military orthodoxies. And he was widely regarded in his second tour as the most powerful defense secretary since ROBERT MCNAMARA during the Vietnam War.”

BIDEN’S THURSDAY:

— 6:55 a.m.: The president and first lady JILL BIDEN will leave the White House for Miami, arriving at 9:30 a.m.

— 10:05 a.m.: The Bidens will get a command briefing at the Surfside building collapse from the incident commander, first responders and local and state leaders, including Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS.

— 11 a.m.: The Bidens will thank first responders, search and rescue teams and others.

— 12:30 p.m.: The Bidens will meet with families at the St. Regis Hotel in Miami.

— 3:50 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks.

— 5:20 p.m.: The Bidens will leave Miami to head back to D.C., arriving at the White House at 7:50 p.m.

Principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Miami. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 1:30 p.m.

THE HOUSE will meet at 9 a.m., with last votes at 3 p.m. Speaker NANCY PELOSI will hold her weekly presser at 10:45 a.m. McCarthy will hold his at 11:30 a.m.

THE SENATE will meet at 11 a.m. in a pro forma session.

POLITICS ROUNDUP

MORE CONFUSION IN NEW YORK … But we’re basically back to where we were Tuesday afternoon in the mayoral primary vote-counting: “N.Y.C. Mayor’s Race Remains Tight With Adams Leading in Revised Tally,” NYT: “According to Wednesday’s nonbinding tally, [ERIC] ADAMS led KATHRYN GARCIA by just 14,755 votes, a margin of around 2 percentage points, in the final round. MAYA WILEY, who came in second place in the initial vote count, barely trailed Ms. Garcia after the preliminary elimination rounds were completed: Fewer than 350 votes separated the two.

“But in reality, all of those candidates remain in contention, and those numbers could be scrambled again as the city’s Board of Elections tabulates ranked-choice outcomes that will include roughly 125,000 Democratic absentee ballots, with a fuller result not expected until mid-July.”

2020 AUTOPSY — “We Just Got Our Clearest Picture Yet Of How Biden Won In 2020,” by NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben: “The Pew Research Center just released its validated voters’ report, considered a more accurate measure of the electorate than exit polls, which have the potential for significant inaccuracies. … Suburban voters (especially white suburban voters) swung toward Biden … Men (especially white men) swung toward Biden … Women (especially white women) swung toward Trump … Hispanic voters swung toward Trump … Nonwhite voters leaned heavily toward Biden.” The analysis Steve Shepard’s story

THE STATE OF OUR DEMOCRACY — “The Senator Who Decided to Tell the Truth,” by The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta in Vulcan, Mich.: “A Michigan Republican spent eight months searching for evidence of election fraud, but all he found was lies.”

HISTORY LESSON — Today marks the 50th anniversary of the nation ratifying the 26th Amendment, as three-quarters of states signed on to dropping the voting age from 21 to 18. The White House issued a proclamation Wednesday in which Biden linked the milestone to today’s fight for voting rights and noted, “My first race for the Senate was one of the first elections in which 18-year-olds could vote, and the energy and passion of Delaware’s young people helped propel me to an unlikely victory.” Gallup also has an interesting breakdown of how public opinion on the question of youth voting shifted during the 20th century.

TRUMP CARDS

‘NOBODY WANTS TO CANCEL’ “DeSantis feuds with Trump over Florida rally amid search for survivors in Surfside,” by the Washington Examiner’s Katherine Doyle: “Former President Donald Trump is rejecting pleas from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to postpone a campaign-style rally this weekend some 200 miles from the Miami suburb … DeSantis’s office has ‘made a direct plea’ to the former president’s team, calling on it to postpone the Saturday event in Sarasota.

“One Florida Republican bluntly said Trump and his team need to ‘read the room.’ … For now, the Trump camp is holding firm. ‘Nobody wants to cancel,’ a source close to Trump told the Washington Examiner.”

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — “Milley was one of Trump’s favorite generals. Now he’s a villain of the right,” by Lara Seligman

ALSO, THE SKY IS BLUE — “GOP embraces Trump during visit to Texas, border wall,” by AP’s Jill Colvin

POLICY CORNER

SCOTUS WATCH — As we await what could be big voting rights and campaign finance decisions from the Supreme Court today, Rick Hasen has a long thread breaking down what to expect from a liberal perspective.

ONE ON ONE — “Biden’s spy chief, Avril Haines, on Russian cyberattacks, the climate crisis and the intelligence community’s role in domestic terrorism,” by Yahoo’s Daniel Klaidman

CONGRESS

JAN. 6 LATEST — “House approves Jan. 6 riot probe as Dems fret over pro-Trump chaos agents,” by Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris: “Two Republicans, Reps. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) and ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.), voted alongside every Democrat to establish the 13-member panel. But as Democrats prepare its roster, both parties are still unsure about which Republicans, if any, will join its ranks — a decision that will dramatically shape the direction of the investigation.

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

PULLOUT FALLOUT — “U.S. Questioned Whether Afghan Government Could Survive Taliban Onslaught,” by Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer: “The Biden administration is mapping out a strategy for Afghanistan after the U.S. military completes its withdrawal that is centered around the boosting of economic support for the government, even as many Afghans are ‘increasingly skeptical’ of the government’s competence, according to an internal State Department document submitted to Congress and newly obtained by Foreign Policy.”

MEDIAWATCH

THE FINAL VOTE — “UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones,” NC Policy Watch: “In a public vote, the board approved Hannah-Jones’s tenure application 9-4 after a closed session of nearly three hours. … Hannah-Jones issued a written statement shortly after the vote, leaving it unclear if she would accept the position.”

MAKINGS OF A DOOZY — “Ed Henry Sues Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Alleging She Covered Up Affair Between Network President and Employee,” by Mediaite’s Josh Feldman: “Former Fox News anchor ED HENRY, who was fired from the network after being accused of rape, is suing Fox News CEO SUZANNE SCOTT, accusing her of defaming him ‘as a sex criminal.’ Henry’s suit also alleges that Scott accused him of sexual misconduct while covering up an affair between the president of Fox News and a subordinate. …

“[A] Fox News Media spokesperson said … ‘We are fully prepared to vigorously defend against these baseless allegations as Mr. Henry further embarrasses himself in a lawsuit rife with inaccuracies after driving his personal life into the ground with countless extramarital affairs in a desperate attempt for relevance and redemption.’” Of the claims against the Fox News president, the Fox statement added that it “conducted a full and independent investigation of the claims against JAY WALLACE — he was cleared of any wrongdoing and the allegations are false.”

JUST POSTED: Kara Swisher interviews White House COS Ron Klain for the latest episode of her “Sway” podcast for NYT.

IN MEMORIAM — “Al Eisele, founding editor of The Hill, dies at 85,” by The Hill’s Alexander Bolton: “Al, as he was known by his colleagues, was one of the most popular editors in the history of The Hill … For years, he penned The Hill’s ‘Under the Dome’ gossip column, for which he collected funny and in-the-know anecdotes from walking the halls of Congress and sidling up to the bars and tables of D.C.’s clubbiest steakhouses.”

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — The Museum of the Bible is opening a new exhibit Friday that will for the first time feature the two original Magna Cartas on display together, the 1217 Hereford Magna Carta and the 1300 Sandwich Magna Carta. The museum is hosting a press preview event today and a VIP opening event tonight, with speakers including British Ambassador Karen Pierce.

SPOTTED: Cornel West walking out of Bistrot Du Coin on Wednesday evening.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Beth Fouhy is now a partner at Finsbury Glover Hering. She previously was senior politics editor at NBC News/MSNBC, and is an AP and CNN alum.

WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Max Bronstein is now assistant director for health innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He most recently was principal at MGB Consulting.

TRUMP ALUMNI — “Gov. DeSantis to name Todd Inman next Secretary of Florida DMS,” by Florida Politics’ Kelly Hayes: “Inman previously served as the Chief of Staff under U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.”

TRANSITIONS — Brian Levine is now global head of government relations at Riot Games. He most recently was head of regulatory affairs and public policy at Hulu, and is a Biden alum. … Brian Kaissi is moving up to be chief of staff for Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), as Mark Schauerte departs to become director of the speaker series at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. …

… Kim Soffen is now legislative director for Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.). She most recently was senior legislative assistant for Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.). … Kristin Butcher is joining the Brookings Institution as director of the Center on Children and Families, the Cabot family chair and senior fellow in economic studies. She previously chaired the economics department at Wellesley College.

ENGAGED — Logan Dobson, a managing director at Targeted Victory and an NRSC and Cory Gardner alum, proposed to Emily Taylor, comms director for Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) and a Martha Roby alum, on Wednesday at Rasika Penn Quarter, one of their favorite date spots. The couple met through a mutual friend. Pic SPOTTED at Rasika for celebratory drinks after the proposal: Jake Wilkins, Jerry Dunleavy, Louis Nelson, Alex Byers, Alex Schriver, Caroline Buyak, Harper Stephens, Morgan Ulmer, Regan Opel, Lee Moran, Taylor Price, Melissa Carter, Samantha Helton and Andrew Callahan.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Monica Hesse, a WaPo columnist, and Robert Cox, director of program impact and operations for AmeriCorps VISTA, welcomed Mairead “Mazie” Grace Cox on Saturday. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sally Quinn … Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) … Reps. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.) and Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) … NBC’s Kristen WelkerBrett Zongker of the Library of Congress … Renewable Fuels Association’s Bob Dinneen … Washingtonian’s Susan FarkasMike Czin of SKDKnickerbocker … Greta Lundeberg of Boeing … AJ Roshfeld of Brady PAC … Guy Cecil of Priorities USA … Neal Patel of the Alpine Group … North American Millers’ Association’s Jane DeMarchi … E&E News’ Timothy Cama Grace KohKate WilsonMichael Berson Martin Indyk (7-0) … Julie Gibson John Giesser … POLITICO’s Vali Mansouri

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.

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