BREAKING OVERNIGHT — Officials say at least 19 tornadoes hit five states. Among them is Kentucky, where Gov. ANDY BESHEAR said it was likely that more than 50 people were killed and that the death toll will “probably end up closer to 70 or 100 lost lives.”
BIDEN AFTER DARK — On Friday night, President JOE BIDEN guested on the “Tonight Show,” virtually joining host JIMMY FALLON for just the second late-night appearance ever by a sitting president (the first was BARACK OBAMA, who joined JAY LENO in 2009).
The interview was quintessential Fallon — effusive, friendly, jovial, praising — as Biden sought to thread the needle by talking up what he sees as his successes while showing that he understands why so many Americans are frustrated. Here are some highlights:
— Making a pitch for “Build Back Better” amid inflation concerns: “There’s a whole range of things in there that are going to really reduce, essentially, the cost of living for people in a reasonable and rational way.”
— On the country’s mood: “[Americans are] being told that Armageddon’s on the way. The truth is the economy’s grown more than it has [at] any time in close to 60 years, the unemployment rate is down to 4.2% and it’s going to go lower, in my view. We do have inflation on things that in fact matter to people’s lives. … There’s a lot of anxiety. My job is to be straightforward, shoot from the shoulder, let people know exactly what the truth is and lay out how I’m going to try to make life better for them.”
— Biden said he and first lady JILL BIDEN have asked the White House staff to stop cooking breakfast for them. “There’s no need for them to have to [make] breakfast for us. We can make our own eggs or pour a bowl of cereal.”
— Does he pay attention to his approval ratings? “Well, not anymore,” Biden deadpanned. “I paid attention when they were in the mid-60s. Now it’s in the mid-40s; I don’t pay attention anymore.” Video: Part one of Biden’s visit … and part two
ABORTION RIGHTS ADVOCATES FEAR THE WORST — Our ace health care reporter Alice Miranda Ollstein writes in about the Supreme Court’s major ruling on Friday — an in-name-only victory for supporters of abortion rights:
At first, the muddled, divided opinion the Supreme Court handed down seemed like a win for the abortion clinics challenging Texas’ sweeping ban, since a majority of justices said their challenge to the law could go forward in a limited manner. But the court opted to leave that law in place — meaning the vast majority of abortions in the state will continue to be outlawed indefinitely, even with Roe v. Wade still on the books. Grimmer still, five conservative justices effectively endorsed Texas’ strategy for shielding its abortion ban from constitutional challenges — making it far more likely that other states enact their own copycat laws on abortion and beyond.
On a call with reporters hours after the ruling, abortion providers and their attorneys called the news “bleak,” “dark,” and said it left them feeling “grief and fear.” “The Supreme Court has essentially greenlit Texas’s cynical scheme and prevented federal courts from blocking an unconstitutional law,” the Center for Reproductive Rights declared.
— What it means for Texas: Currently, in Texas, private citizens have the right to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone terminate a pregnancy after six weeks. On Friday, the court’s conservative majority ruled that abortion clinics can’t sue Texas state judges and clerks to block them from receiving those lawsuits — cutting off their main legal avenue for blocking enforcement of the law. (They did, however, say the groups could sue some state health officials who may act to strip the licenses of doctors who provide abortions. Lawyers working on the case say while they plan to do so, it wouldn’t allow them to freeze enforcement of the law even if they won those cases.)
Since Sept. 1, hundreds of Texans have traveled out of state to obtain an abortion, while those who can’t afford to do so have remained pregnant against their will. Despite technically winning Friday, abortion clinics in the state say that’s not going to change.
“This does not feel like a green light for us to reopen,” AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, the president and CEO of the Whole Woman’s Health clinic, told reporters. “The risks for clinic staff and physicians remain great.” Miller added that unless state or federal courts block the law soon, her clinic — which provides abortions at four locations in Texas — may be forced to permanently close its doors.
— What it means for Roe: Sometime next summer, the Supreme Court will decide whether to scrap the nearly 50-year-old precedent protecting the right to an abortion early in pregnancy — a decision that could allow states around the country to enact abortion bans even more restrictive than the one in Texas.
While their ruling Friday said little about abortion and largely focused on technical questions of who can sue whom, court-watchers said the writing is on the wall.
“I don’t think anyone can take comfort from a decision like the one we got this morning,” said JULIA KAYE, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Both the Friday ruling as well as the tenor of the court’s oral arguments in the broader Mississippi case “made it clear there are five votes to allow politicians to control our bodies,” she added.
BIDEN AND HARRIS’ SATURDAY: The president and vice president have nothing on their public schedules.
9 THINGS WE READ THAT STUCK WITH US …
— It is perhaps the most infamous PowerPoint in history: A 38-page document “filled with extreme plans to overturn the 2020 election that MARK MEADOWS, the last chief of staff to President DONALD J. TRUMP, has turned over to” the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks, write NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer. Among its alarming contents: The presentation recommended Trump “declare a national emergency to delay the certification of the election results.”
— The “Big Lie” has emerged as a central issue in Georgia’s gubernatorial campaign: On Friday, former Sen. DAVID PERDUE — who is challenging sitting Gov. BRIAN KEMP for the GOP nomination — filed suit to “inspect absentee ballots [from 2020] in Fulton County, repeating some of the same unproven allegations as in a lawsuit dismissed two months ago,” reports Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Niesse. “State election officials have said there’s no indication of fraud after three ballot counts and multiple investigations.”
— In West Virginia, more than 26% of people ages 65+ have no natural teeth left — the highest rate of any state in the nation, notes KHN’s Phil Galewitz. And yet the chances of expanding Medicare to offer dental coverage are slim because of opposition from — who else? — West Virginia Sen. JOE MANCHIN.
— The 2024 campaign appears to be underway in Florida, where Gov. RON DESANTIS wants to launch a new $8 million program to “transport ‘unauthorized aliens’ out of” the state, report the Miami Herald’s Bianca Padró Ocasio, Ana Ceballos and Michael Wilner. A taste of how he’s messaging it: On Friday, DeSantis talked about the program as an effort to deal “with the fallout from the reckless border policies of the Biden administration.”
— Senate Dems are pressuring Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER to “make good on his vow to hold weekend and late-night sessions over the holidays to plow through the dozens of [diplomatic] nominees lagging on the Senate floor” due to a GOP blockade, reports Andrew Desiderio.
— “[T]here is an economic and political chasm on inflation between the administration and American voters,” writes NYT’s Jim Tankersley. And yet: “White House officials say they have no plans to shift Mr. Biden’s messaging on economic issues, even as poll after poll shows his approval ratings in decline and voter worry over inflation swamping all other views of the economy.”
— “In California, Latinos ages 20 to 54 have died from Covid-19 at a rate more than eight times higher than white people in the same age group,” reports L.A. Times’ Alejandra Reyes-Velarde — with effects that “could be felt for generations.”
— The House select committee on Jan. 6 issued six more subpoenas Friday, our Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu report. Four went to activists involved in organizing that day’s pro-Trump rallies, and the other two were issued to ROBERT PEEDE JR. and MAX MILLER — associates of Trump who investigators “believe met with him in the president’s private dining room on Jan. 4 to discuss the speaker lineup” at his Jan. 6 event.
— Quite the lede: “I left QAnon back in 2019, but I don’t seem to be able to walk away. … I even apologized to ANDERSON COOPER on his show for having once thought that he ate babies.” More from Jitarth Jadeja, as told to Anastasiia Carrier in POLITICO Magazine
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 16 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS:
— “Inside the Fall of Kabul,” by Matthieu Aikins for NYT Magazine: “The Afghan capital fell in a matter of hours. This is the story of why it happened and what came after — by a reporter and photographer who witnessed it all.”
— “‘A $10-Million Scarecrow’: The Quest for the Perfect ‘Smart Wall,’” by J. Weston Phippen for POLITICO Magazine: “Can artificial intelligence finally solve the problems on the southern border?”
— “The Demise of America’s Onetime Capital of Black Wealth,” by Lee Bey for POLITICO Magazine: “Chicago was once known for its power marriage of Black business and politics. Today, many Black-owned companies have shuttered, dramatically changing the city’s landscape.”
— “Death of a Lobsterman,” by Jesse Ellison for Esquire: “On a remote island in Maine, a group of friends thought they witnessed one man killing another with an ax. But no one was ever arrested. In a small town far out at sea, justice sometimes works a little differently.”
— “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun,” by Barton Gellman for The Atlantic: “January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.”
— “The Accidental Revolutionary Leading Belarus’s Uprising,” by the New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins: “How Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya came to challenge her country’s dictatorship.”
— “The Day the War on Drugs Came to Chimayó,” by Alicia Inez Guzmán for Searchlight New Mexico: “On a September morning in 1999, federal agents descended on the village as part of a nationwide heroin crackdown. The bust changed nothing and everything.”
— “A Lab of Her Own,” by Rob Goldstein for Nautilus: “Sheltered in her bedroom during WWII, Rita Levi-Montalcini discovered how the nervous system is wired.”
John Kennedy was spotted arriving at New Orleans’ airport “having an officer from the sheriff’s department carry his bags to his car for him.” (h/t Edward-Isaac Dovere)
Jon Tester ventured out to James Madison University to watch the Montana Grizzlies lose to the JMU Dukes, 28-6.
Greg Gutfield eulogized Fox News’ USA-themed Christmas tree, which an arsonist set fire to this week: “This wasn’t just a Christmas tree, it was a beautifully, well-lit middle finger to those who wish to hurt us and you.” That’s the Christmas spirit!
Jeff Flake was sworn in as the new U.S. ambassador to Turkey.
Jenna Ellis complained about POLITICO’s scoop regarding two legal memos she wrote in advance of Jan. 6 in which she promoted the far-fetched claim that Mike Pence could halt Joe Biden’s victory. “Wondering how @politico thinks it’s responsible or ethical journalism to publish attorney-client privileged documents,” she wrote, effectively confirming the validity of the memos, which you can read here.
IN MEMORIAM — “David L. Mercer, 60, of Washington, D.C., passed away peacefully with his family by his side on Dec. 9, 2021, after a heroic battle in the aftermath of this cancer treatment. He was born on March 29, 1961 in Sausalito, Calif. …
“David pursued a successful career in politics, serving in numerous senior-level roles, including as a member of the 1992 Clinton/Gore press advance team, the Deputy National Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the DNC’s ’96 Convention Finance Director, a Trustee for the 2000 Gore/Lieberman Presidential Campaign, a member of the Kerry/Edwards 2004 Presidential Campaign Leadership Council, and as a media adviser for the Hillary for President 2008 campaign. As the founder of Mercer & Associates, David became a nationally-recognized Democratic strategist, government relations advisor, and media commentator on Fox News, France24 and SkyNews.” The full obituary
SPOTTED on Friday night at the annual holiday party hosted by Steve Rochlin and Christina Sevilla in the backyard and patio of their Arlington home: Mark Paustenbach and Emily Haas, Rodell and Sheena Mollineau, Matt Kaminski, Nina Rees, Kate Sullivan, Tim Burger, Tom Toles, Josh Dawsey, Nihal Krishan, Tom Williams, Raquel Krahenbuhl, Hastie Afkhami, Lauren Culbertson and Chris Grieco, Bryan Greene, John Arundel, Suzanne Kianpour and James Gordon Meek.
MEDIA MOVE — Mackenzie Mays is joining the L.A. Times as a state government and politics reporter. She currently is a California education reporter for POLITICO.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: John Kerry … NYT’s Kara Swisher … The White House’s Gabe Amo … POLITICO’s Marianne LeVine and Sarah Morgan … POLITICO Europe’s Lili Bayer … DOJ’s Perry Rosen … NRSC’s Molly Abboud … Helen Robins … Emily Buchanan of the Susan B. Anthony List … Joe Greeley … Michael Allen of Beacon Global Strategies … Margaret Hoover, host of PBS’ “Firing Line” … SiriusXM’s Julie Mason … Elizabeth Spiers … Gideon Resnick … Jessica Seale … William Wechsler … Maya Krishna-Rogers … Josh Jaye of the Tax Foundation (3-0) … Len Khodorkovsky … Haydn Welch … Ashley Spillane … Seth Johnson … John Feehery of EFB Advocacy … Claudia Slacik … Megan Capiak … former U.S. Ambassador to China and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) (8-0) … WaPo’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Annabelle Timsit … Shira Efron … Tyler Daniel … Hannah Lankford … Allison Fleming … Phillip Escoriaza … Peter True … Benjamin Tribbett … Mollie Laniado
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
“Fox News Sunday”: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Panel: Guy Benson, Julie Pace and Juan Williams. Power Player: Robert Montgomery.
“Face the Nation”: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy … Fiona Hill … Scott Gottlieb … Tulio de Oliveira … Mohamed El-Erian.
“This Week”: Anthony Fauci. Ukraine panel: Martha Raddatz and William Taylor. Roundtable: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Justin Amash and Margaret Hoover.
“The Sunday Show”: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) … Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) … Eric Holder … Valerie Jarrett … Rob Reiner … Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) … Connie Schultz.
“Meet the Press”: Secretary of State Antony Blinken … Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear … Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). Roundtable: Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Brendan Buck, John Heilemann and Marianna Sotomayor.
“State of the Union”: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson … Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
“Inside Politics”: Margaret Talev, Jeff Zeleny, Rachael Bade, Joshua Jamerson and Jonathan Reiner.
“Full Court Press”: Jon Decker.
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