December 6, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: Bannon indicted, Britney freed – POLITICO – Politico

11 min read

An otherwise yawny week in Washington ended with a jolt.

BANNON INDICTED — Late Friday afternoon, the Justice Department charged STEVE BANNON, a former top strategist to former President DONALD TRUMP, with two counts of contempt of Congress over his refusal to testify and provide documents to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

Here are the details, via Kyle Cheney, Betsy Woodruff Swan, Nicholas Wu and Josh Gerstein:

  • Bannon’s potential punishment: “Each of the two counts Bannon was hit with Friday is punishable by up to a year imprisonment, with a minimum sentence of one month in jail.”
  • What happens next? Bannon is expected to surrender to law enforcement on Monday, and has an initial court appearance scheduled in the afternoon.
  • Here’s a name you’re going to want to learn: Bannon’s case is assigned to Judge CARL J. NICHOLS, a Trump appointee who, notes Betsy, is a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice CLARENCE THOMAS.
  • What does this all mean for the Jan. 6 investigation? “The move is a major victory for the … committee, which has viewed Bannon’s recalcitrance as a stumbling block in their probe, encouraging other potential witnesses to stonewall investigators.” In a joint statement released on Friday, committee Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.): “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”
  • The big non-Bannon question now: Will the panel pursue similar contempt charges against former White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS? On Friday, Meadows failed to show up for a scheduled deposition with the committee. Now that Bannon has been indicted, it raises the very real prospect that Meadows’ defiance of the subpoena could end in similar fashion — a prospect explicitly raised by the committee in its statement late on Friday. More on Meadows from Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney at Congress Minutes

— SCENE OF THE DAY: As the news broke on Friday, Bannon was in the middle of a live webcast of his “War Room” show while MSNBC aired on a TV directly behind him, its chyron blaring “Bannon indicted for contempt of Congress.” (h/t NPR’s Tom Driesbach)

— Monday is going to be quite a media circus: (1) Bannon will surrender to law enforcement and have a court hearing; (2) President JOE BIDEN will sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIF) into law; (3) Biden will host a bilateral virtual summit with Chinese President XI JINPING; (4) three more Congressional Budget Office scores of components of the Build Back Better package (BBB) will drop, giving us more clarity about the path forward for Biden’s signature legislation; (5) closing arguments begin in the trial of KYLE RITTENHOUSE.

BIDEN VAX REQUIREMENT BLOCKED — The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended a stay blocking the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for private businesses with 100 or more employees.

In its opinion, a three-judge panel (two appointed by Trump, one by Reagan) called the requirement a “mandate” that is “staggeringly overbroad” and “a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers),” per Reuters. The Biden administration is expected to appeal, and it’s likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. More from Rebecca Rainey

BRITNEY FREED — On Friday, a judge in Los Angeles agreed to terminate pop icon BRITNEY SPEARS’ conservatorship, ending a 14-year saga during which the singer had virtually no control over her finances, body or health decisions, reports L.A. Times’ Christie D’Zurilla.

In recent months, Spears’ ordeal became a cause celebre in Washington, inspiring legislation by Reps. NANCY MACE (R-S.C.) and CHARLIE CRIST (D-Fla.), spurring oversight inquiries from Sens. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) and BOB CASEY (D-Pa.) over guardianship issues, and leading Sens. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-Conn.) and TED CRUZ (R-Texas) to hold a Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting on “toxic conservatorships.”

PAY MORE ATTENTION TO THIS ONE — U.S. officials are increasingly worried that Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN may be on the verge of invading Ukraine, and are warning European allies about the possibility, report Nahal Toosi and Paul McLeary. The concern, they write, indicates that President Joe Biden’s “efforts to reach some sort of equilibrium with Putin are running out of steam.”

— Why they’re worried: A large buildup of Russian military forces along the border with Ukraine includes “artillery, tanks, new infantry units and other armored units that are normally based elsewhere in the country.” Worth noting: “Russian units newly arrived along the border have taken to repositioning themselves under the cover of night, a change from previous troop buildups when Moscow made big, public displays of moving armor and troops on railways and highways during the day.” More from Bloomberg, which first reported the news

— The latest from VP KAMALA HARRIS’ trip to Europe, via L.A. Times’ @Noahbierman: “Asked whether Russia is heeding US warnings to back off Ukraine, @VP says she cannot reveal classified info but ‘we are very concerned.’”

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

BIDEN’S SATURDAY: The president has nothing on his public schedule.

HARRIS’ SATURDAY: The vice president participated in a meet and greet with personnel at the U.S. Embassy in France and departed France to return to D.C. earlier this morning.

9 THINGS WE READ THAT STUCK WITH US …

— When CHRIS CHRISTIE was hospitalized with Covid — so serious that a Catholic priest visited to pray over him — Trump called him on the phone with one big concern, per NYT’s Maggie Haberman, who obtained a copy of Christie’s new book: “Are you gonna say you got it from me?”

— In the Rittenhouse trial, it was “the one charge that seemed obvious to everyone but his lawyers,” reports Bruce Vielmetti of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The defendant was a minor in possession of a firearm. But on Friday, the judge ruled that “he’ll instruct the jury that unless the state proved the teen’s AR-15-style rifle had an unlawfully short barrel, he can’t be convicted” of the charge — meaning that the matter “might not even get to the jury.”

— The spat between DNC Chair JAIME HARRISON and Team Biden has attracted the involvement of House Majority Whip JAMES CLYBURN (D-S.C.), who, in an interview for an AP piece out this morning, “declined to criticize the White House directly but questioned whether Harrison is being ‘hamstrung by people who never ran for anything.’

— New emails and documents released by a congressional committee investigating the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic “show the extent to which top White House officials interfered” in the CDC’s “efforts to warn Americans about Covid-19,” writes Erin Banco.

— Establishment Republicans in Utah are frustrated with Sen. MIKE LEE and quietly plotting to oust him, reports The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins. Their ire stems not from Lee’s support of Trump, but over Lee’s role in importing “MAGA-style politics to the state.”

— Dems’ reconciliation package has a new hurdle in the Senate: its provision to limit the inflation of drug prices may be “a violation of the Senate’s parliamentary rules for considering the bill because it’s a non-budgetary item,” report Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Wilson.

— “Threats of violence are becoming commonplace among a significant segment of the Republican Party,” write NYT’s Lisa Lerer and Astead Herndon. “Ten months after rioters attacked the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, and after four years of a president who often spoke in violent terms about his adversaries, right-wing Republicans are talking more openly and frequently about the use of force as justifiable in opposition to those who dislodged him from power.”

— On Friday, the Washington Post removed major portions and made substantive corrections to two big stories about the “Steele dossier,” WaPo’s Paul Farhi reports. Executive editor SALLY BUZBEE said the paper could no longer stand by the accuracy of those elements of the story.

— Interesting quote on 2024 from Biden pal and former Sen. CHRIS DODD, in the NYT: “I’m hoping the president runs for re-election, but for whatever reason that might not be the case, it’s hard to believe there would be a short list without Kamala [Harris’] name on it. She’s the vice president of the United States.”

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 18 funnies

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

“The Greatest Unsolved Heist in Irish History,” by Dan Nosowitz for Atlas Obscura: “Scandal, conspiracy, and cover-ups in the theft of the ‘Irish Crown Jewels’ from Dublin Castle.”

“The CIA Is Trying to Recruit Gen Z — and Doesn’t Care If They’re All Over Social Media,” by Washingtonian’s Jessica Goldstein: “You’d think a generation of folks raised on making look-at-me posts on social media could never go work at the Agency. You’d be wrong.”

“A dog’s life,” by WaPo’s Gene Weingarten: “Why are so many people so cruel to their dogs? My search to understand a hidden scourge.”

“Where’s the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Stephanie Hayes: “The primate who ruled the news vanished again. A quest to find him led deep into Florida’s monkey kingdom.”

“What lies beneath: the secrets of France’s top serial killer expert,” by Scott Sayare for The Guardian: “An intrepid expert with dozens of books to his name, Stéphane Bourgoin was a bestselling author, famous in France for having interviewed more than 70 notorious murderers. Then an anonymous collective began to investigate his past.”

“Secrets of the Death Chamber,” by The State’s Chiara Eisner: “They executed people for the state of South Carolina. For some, it nearly destroyed them.”

“Who Poisoned Joe Gilliam…Twice?” by Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss: “The enforcer for Oregon’s grocery industry made enemies. One tried to kill him with thallium.”

“How to fix Facebook,” by Recode’s Shirin Ghaffary: “Can Facebook be redeemed? Twelve leading experts share bold solutions to the company’s urgent problems.”

“The Dueling Ideas That Will Define the 21st Century,” by Uri Friedman in The Atlantic: “Our paradigms mold our assumptions and expectations, and thus our policies and behavior.”

SPOTTED at Paris Hilton’s wedding to Carter Reum on Thursday in Bel Air: former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Hilary Geary Ross. (h/t Daniel Lippman)

SPOTTED: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy having a “get to know you” dinner on Thursday night with Pennsylvania A.G. Josh Shapiro, who’s running for governor, at Drumthwacket, the New Jersey governor’s mansion in Princeton.

SPOTTED at a Trump Interior Department happy hour at Succotash following the funeral of longtime Interior aide Jim Cason on Friday: Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Gena Bernhardt, Kate MacGregor, Rob Wallace, Timothy Petty, Todd Willans, Margaret Everson, Gregory Zerzan, Ben Goldey, Melissa Brown, Jeff Small, Karen Budd-Falen, Caroline Boulton and Aaron Theile.

STAFFING UP — Biden announced a new slate of nominations: Amanda Bennett as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Jose Emilio Esteban as under secretary for food safety at the Agriculture Department, Geeta Rao Gupta as ambassador at large for global women’s issues at the State Department, Glenna Gallo as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services at the Education Department, Christopher Lowman as assistant secretary of defense for sustainment at the Defense Department, Erin McKee as assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia at USAID, Christopher Williamson as assistant secretary for mine safety and health at the Labor Department. The announcement

MEDIA MOVE — Lauren Morello is joining Laura McGann’s unnamed startup as science/tech editor. She previously was deputy health care editor at POLITICO.

TRANSITIONS — Garrett Marquis is now global head of external comms at BNY Mellon. He is an adjunct professor at SMU and USC, previously was VP and senior adviser to the CEO of the International Development Finance Corporation and is a Trump White House NSC alum. … Josh Blumenfeld is joining Google as manager of government affairs and public policy for YouTube. He previously was managing director of global policy and advocacy and chief legal officer at Malaria No More.

WEDDING — Andrew Katz and Marysa Greenawalt, via NYT: “He is now the deputy director of photography at Time magazine; she is a freelance photo editor at The New York Times. … They were wed Oct. 24 before 90 vaccinated guests at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: A.G. Merrick Garland Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) … Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and first lady Cecilia Abbott … Massachusetts Gov. Charlie BakerMax MillerJoe Cirincione … CNN’s Eric Bradner … POLITICO’s Sue Allan, Joyce Liu, Ming Li and Hannah Farrow Ken Rudin Geoff Freeman of the Consumer Brands Association … Jon Wadsworth of Atlas Advocacy … Jared LeopoldJared Parks of the Herald Group … Zach Gillan of S-3 Group … Washington Times’ Seth McLaughlinTanya BrownJohn LappMartha McKennaAddie WhisenantJordan Howard of Rep. Jerry Carl’s (R-Ala.) office … Lindsay Drewel … NBC’s Bradd Jaffy Jonathan Topaz Todd Priest of Todd Priest & Associates (57) … Ayaan Hirsi Ali … Harry Hurt III (7-0)

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

  • MSNBC

    “The Sunday Show”: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) … Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) … Maya MacGuineas … Matthew Dowd … Dionne Warwick … Maya Wiley.

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen … Colorado Gov. Jared Polis … World Bank Group President David Malpass … Neel Kashkari … Scott Gottlieb.

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday”: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy … Texas A.G. Ken Paxton. Panel: Doug Heye, Julie Pace and Mo Elleithee. Power Player: Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears.

  • ABC

    “This Week”: National Economic Council Director Brian Deese … Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Jane Coaston and Heidi Heitkamp.

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: National Economic Council Director Brian Deese … Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) … Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) … more of Jake Tapper’s interview with Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio).

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press”: Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Panel: Jackie Kucinich, Astead Herndon, Paul Kane, Tarini Parti and Paula Reid … Austan Goolsbee.

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … National Economic Council Director Brian Deese … Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Panel: Leigh Ann Caldwell, Matthew Continetti, Claire McCaskill and Eugene Scott.

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