June 20, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: SCOOP: What Biden told Capito in their Oval Office meeting – POLITICO – Politico

15 min read

A seemingly sleepy post-Memorial Day week turned surprisingly newsy late Wednesday into this morning. Here’s what you need to know to understand the three big storylines overnight:

INFRASTRUCTURE

SCOOP: GOP CONSIDERING ANOTHER COUNTEROFFER AFTER BIDEN-CAPITO MEETING — The public readouts from the high-stakes Oval Office meeting didn’t sound all that positive: President JOE BIDEN and Sen. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-W.Va.) both issued bland statements and said they’d talk more Friday.

So we did a bit of late-night sleuthing, and here’s what we learned:

— Capito briefed the other five Senate Republicans in her negotiating group — JOHN BARRASSO (Wyo.), ROY BLUNT (Mo.), MIKE CRAPO (Idaho), PAT TOOMEY (Pa.) and ROGER WICKER (Miss.) — on Wednesday night. Per three people familiar, Biden wants $1 trillion in new spending and is sticking to his guns on corporate tax hikes being part of the pay-fors. (A fourth person familiar tells us that the new money Biden wants would be atop a baseline of $400 billion over five years, if you want to get uber technical. Point is: New money.)

— Republicans weren’t happy, to say the least. Biden, they have said publicly, told them just a few weeks ago in an Oval Office meeting that baseline spending — i.e., money that would be spent under current policy — could be included in the total. In their latest $928 billion infrastructure proposal, they had put forward only $257 billion in new spending, while the White House’s last number was $1.7 trillion.

— The GOP is considering another counteroffer that could come as soon as Friday, when Capito will be talking to Biden again, this time likely by phone. It’s unclear what that would look like — or even whether Republicans will make a new proposal. On Wednesday night’s call, no final decision was made about another offer, particularly because some Republicans in the group are starting to feel discouraged.

— One person familiar told us: “I have a hard time seeing this go ahead because Republicans’ plans always have baseline included; I don’t think Senate Republicans are interested in $1 trillion in new spending, or changing the tax cuts … or raising other taxes — and that’s been clear from Day 1.”

This person added: “It’s a great dance but at some point the music is going to stop. Clearly nobody wants to be holding the bag.”

THE NYC MAYORAL DEBATE

“You’re unprincipled: New York mayor’s race turns vicious at first in-person debate,” by POLITICO New York’s Erin Durkin: “[T]he leading contenders in the New York City mayor’s race launched into full attack mode, questioning each other’s policies, ethics and competence. The eight major Democratic candidates … sparred over crime on the streets and in subways, the city budget and education. But it was a cutting exchange between ANDREW YANG and ERIC ADAMS that stood out. …

“Adams went after Yang for never voting in a city election, leaving the city at the height of the pandemic and showing a lack of policy chops on key issues facing New York. ‘You started discovering violence when you were running for mayor. You started discovering the homeless crisis when you were running for mayor,’ Adams said at the height of the debate …

“Yang fired back: ‘The problems have been getting worse around you while you’ve been running for mayor and raising money from your friends in real estate,’ he said, before tearing into Adams over a failed casino deal during his time as a state senator and his fundraising practices as Brooklyn borough president that have drawn scrutiny — but no charges — in city, state and federal investigations.” The primary is on June 22.

BIBI NEARLY OUT IN ISRAEL

— A trio of experts writing for POLITICO Magazine has an excellent breakdown on the imminent change of power in Israel, and how it will affect U.S.-Israeli relations. “Netanyahu’s On the Way Out. Here’s What Biden Can Expect Next,” by Daniel C. Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller and Steven N. Simon: “Biden’s team should anticipate a few months of calm on the Palestinian issue and the Iran nuclear deal — thanks as much to gridlock in the Knesset as to Jerusalem’s desire to smooth relations with Washington. But they shouldn’t forget that NAFTALI BENNETT is an ideologue farther to the right than [BENJAMIN] NETANYAHU. The new prime minister’s hardline credentials and the machinations of right-wing members of his coalition are likely to become a problem at some point. There’s no trainwreck in store for Biden with Israel’s new government — but he shouldn’t expect a honeymoon, either.

“Netanyahu will essentially be replaced by a more extreme, though much less politically savvy, version of himself. At 49, an untested and ambitious Bennett — the first Orthodox prime minister and a former aide to Netanyahu — will have to keep his fervent annexationist convictions and implacable opposition to Palestinian statehood under control. His new coalition government will be weighed down and checked by opposing factions that may constrain — but not eliminate — the right-wing impulses of the prime minister and his conservative partners.”

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

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: ATLANTIC EMPLOYEES MOUNT UNION DRIVE — The NewsGuild of New York is organizing editorial employees at the D.C.-based Atlantic magazine.

Two Atlantic journalists tell us they believe they have the numbers necessary to join the NewsGuild, the rapidly expanding union known for its left-wing politics that is also organizing media workers at Forbes and on Gannett’s digital team.

But not all Atlantic employees want to be next. The push to unionize has been greeted with skepticism from some members of the magazine’s old guard, which is wary of the Manhattan-based guild and concerned that it could chase away the Atlantic’s deep-pocketed owner, LAURENE POWELL JOBS, the billionaire widow of Apple co-founder STEVE JOBS.

They point out that the Atlantic still operates at a loss, despite some recent success with a subscriber paywall.

The union drive is being powered by the magazine’s younger, more liberal staffers, frustrated with low pay and haunted by pandemic layoffs last spring when the Atlantic sacked almost a fifth of its employees.

The compensation floor for writers and editorial staff is $60,000, according to an Atlantic employee with insight into the data. Another staffer said that in addition to health care, employees receive 20 weeks of paid parental leave and a flexible time off policy.

Organizers downplayed any dissension in the ranks. “Asserting there’s a divide of this type is a standard media union-busting talking point,” said one Atlantic staffer.

As the union effort has gained momentum, several old-guard skeptics have come around and even signed onto an internal letter supporting the union. We’re told that JEFF GOLDBERG, the magazine’s editor, has given up an initial attempt to stop the union, assuming that it’s a fait accompli.

“People who don’t realize how good they have it want it better, and this is the best they’ve come up with,” one Atlantic writer said. “But some of the top editors who have left many in the newsroom feeling like they’re not paying attention have brought this on themselves.”

As union organizers prepare to formally announce their demands to management, which has known about the drive for months, new Atlantic CEO NICHOLAS THOMPSON, a former writer and editor widely respected in media circles, has attempted to preemptively respond to some of the concerns. On Friday, in an email to staff, he announced new compensation tiers for each department, “with the goal of ensuring greater equity within the organization.”

Union organizers, Goldberg and Powell Jobs all declined to comment. -With reporting by Olivia Reingold

BIDEN’S THURSDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule. (It’s beach day in Rehoboth for first lady JILL BIDEN’S 70th.)

— The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 11 a.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 12:30 p.m.

HARRIS’ THURSDAY:

— 11:30 a.m.: VP KAMALA HARRIS will deliver remarks on broadband access in the South Court Auditorium. Interior Secretary DEB HAALAND and Commerce Secretary GINA RAIMONDO will also deliver remarks.

CONGRESS is in recess this week.

INVESTIGATIONS

SCOOP: HUNTER-LINKED FIRM ON THE HOT SEAT — “Dem lobbying firm under investigation for Burisma work,” by Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman: “The Justice Department is investigating the work of a consulting firm linked to the president’s son for potential illegal lobbying, four people familiar with the probe told POLITICO. The firm, Blue Star Strategies, took on as a client the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while HUNTER BIDEN served on its board. Republican operatives’ efforts to investigate Burisma and the alleged corruption that surrounded the firm were at the heart of the first Trump impeachment.

“The probe comes as the Justice Department ramps up its scrutiny of foreign governments’ efforts to influence U.S. politics through covert lobbying operations. Much of that enforcement work has focused on Republicans linked to former President DONALD TRUMP, including an active probe of his personal lawyer RUDY GIULIANI. The existence of the investigation into Blue Star, meanwhile, shows that DOJ’s torqued-up enforcement efforts may also create legal jeopardy for firms and operatives aligned with the Democratic Party.

“The Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office is involved in the probe, and is coordinating with lawyers in the National Security Division at DOJ’s Washington headquarters, the sources said. The Delaware office is also investigating Hunter Biden for potential tax violations. The existence of the federal probe into Blue Star Strategies has not been previously reported. There has been grand jury activity in connection to the probe, two of the people said.”

AND ANOTHER SCOOP FROM OUR MAN IN FLORIDA — “Federal prosecutors looking into whether Gaetz obstructed justice,” by Marc Caputo: “Federal prosecutors are examining whether Rep. MATT GAETZ obstructed justice during a phone call he had with a witness in the sex-crimes investigation of the Florida congressman, according to two sources familiar with the case. … The obstruction inquiry stems from a phone call the witness had with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend. At some point during the conversation, the ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call, sources said. While it’s unknown exactly what was said, the discussion on that call is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice, which makes it illegal to suggest that a witness in a criminal case lie or give misleading testimony.

“The witness later spoke with prosecutors, the sources said. Gaetz has denied all wrongdoing, including obstructing justice or having sex with the trafficked 17-year-old, who was a friend of both Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend and the witness prosecutors interviewed.”

CONGRESS

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: AD CAMPAIGN TARGETS MANCHIN, SINEMA — VoteVets, a progressive outside group, is launching a pair of ads aimed at prodding Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) to get behind voting rights legislation. The ads, which will run in their home states, are crafted to give cover to the moderates to back voting rights legislation, the group says. You can watch the spots here and here

Sinema is already a co-sponsor of the Democratic legislation, S. 1, though she opposes nuking the filibuster to pass it. Manchin has said he has concerns about the bill’s broad scope. Both senators are about to come under a crush of pressure in the coming weeks to get the proposal to Biden’s desk, even if it means killing the filibuster.

INSIDE THE MCCARTHY-LUNTZ BROMANCE — “Video indicates how McCarthy and Luntz mixed friendship and business,” by WaPo’s Glenn Kessler: “When GOP pollster FRANK LUTZ in mid-March assembled a group of Trump voters to find out why they were hesitant to take a coronavirus vaccine, he invited several Republican politicians to join him in the discussion. One was [House Minority Leader KEVIN] MCCARTHY — at the time also Luntz’s guest in Luntz’s 7,000-square-foot penthouse apartment in the Clara Barton building in Penn Quarter.

“Luntz did not mention during the Zoom call that McCarthy was in a separate room in the same apartment, according to an audio version of the session that is longer than the 30-minute ‘highlights video’ released by the de Beaumont Foundation, which sponsored the discussion. … The exchange illustrated how the two men mix friendship and business.”

PANDEMIC

VACCINE DIPLOMACY — “White House weighs sending states’ unused vaccine doses abroad — before they expire,” by Erin Banco, Adam Cancryn and Rachel Roubein: “States have built up stores of unused Covid-19 vaccine doses in recent weeks as the number of people signing up for vaccinations has decreased. Some of those spare doses — including tens of thousands of Johnson & Johnson shots — are set to expire at the end of this month.

“Senior Biden officials helping to plan how to share U.S. vaccines with other countries are deliberating shipping the surplus doses out before their expiration date, those same two officials said. Another senior administration official said the Biden team is also considering a plan to send abroad doses that will be delivered to states in the coming months but may go unused. But sending states’ unwanted vaccine to other nations poses several problems.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

NEW YORK TAXPAYER DOLLARS AT WORK — “Andrew Cuomo’s Office Has $2.5 Million Contract for Counsel in Federal Investigation,” by WSJ’s Jimmy Vielkind: “New York Gov. ANDREW CUOMO’S office signed a $2.5 million contract with a Manhattan law firm earlier this year for its legal services in connection to a federal investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of Covid-19 deaths at nursing homes, state records show. … The contract specifies that ELKAN ABRAMOWITZ, a partner in the firm, will be paid $937.50 per hour and other attorneys will be paid $680 an hour.”

A WIN FOR THE DAILY MAIL — “Katie Hill ordered to pay $220,000 in attorneys’ fees in revenge porn case,” by L.A. Times’ Seema Mehta

MEDIAWATCH

NOT JUST WAPO AND CNN — “Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters,” by NYT’s Charlie Savage and Katie Benner: “The department informed The Times that law enforcement officials had seized phone records from Jan. 14 to April 30, 2017, for four Times reporters: MATT APUZZO, ADAM GOLDMAN, ERIC LITCHTBLAU and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT. The government also secured a court order to seize logs — but not contents — of their emails, it said, but ‘no records were obtained.’ …

“[T]he lineup of reporters and the timing suggested that the leak investigation related to classified information reported in an April 22, 2017, article the four reporters wrote about how JAMES B. COMEY, then the F.B.I. director, handled politically charged investigations during the 2016 presidential election.”

FROM THE UPSIDE-DOWN — “Is Glenn Greenwald the New Master of Right-Wing Media?” by The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove and Justin Baragona: “This past month has occasioned spectacular success, of a sort, for the pugnacious contrarian pundit, an erstwhile leftist journalist-turned-Donald Trump defender who once again is proving his mastery of the right-wing media ecosystem. Indeed, in a self-perpetuating feedback loop that runs from Twitter to Fox News and back again, [GLENN] GREENWALD has managed, like Trump before him, to orchestrate his very own news cycles. …

“And now he is effectively operating as something of a Fox News assignment editor, as indicated by The Daily Beast’s spot check of the frequency with which Greenwald’s online musings on social media and elsewhere, especially his Substack page, have served as the basis for dozens of articles on Fox News’ website.”

A SECOND LOOK FOR MULLETS: The “first daughter of Bushwick” and daughter of second gentleman Doug, Ella Emhoff, is bringing mullets back. You know … that “business-up-front, party-in-back optical illusion,” as Vogue’s Jancee Dunn describes it. In fact, the 22-year-old IMG model told Vogue she cut her hair herself in her Brooklyn apartment. Celebrity hairstylist Masami Hosono softened it up for the pages of Vogue, “taking it ‘from a square shape to more jellyfish-looking,” he said.

Emhoff told the glossy: “‘I feel like in the past, the mullet was deemed unattractive and kind of odd, and I’m really drawn to that almost ugly-chic look … The more you have this style, the more you want to push the limits of how mullet-y you can get it.”

UVA PROFESSOR ROBERT MUELLER: “Robert Mueller will take law students behind the decision-making process of the Russia inquiry,” NYT: “The course, called ‘The Mueller Report and the Role of the Special Counsel,’ will be taught by [Robert] Mueller alongside three former federal prosecutors: James Quarles Iii, Andrew Goldstein and Aaron Zebley, who was Mr. Mueller’s deputy.”

MEDIAWATCH — FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: The name of Dan Bongino’s new weekend primetime Fox News show is “Unfiltered with Dan Bongino.” It debuts Saturday at 10 p.m.

WHAT SCOTT BROWN IS UP TO — The former senator and U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa has a new band, Scott Brown and the Diplomats. His bio: “Scott has had an interesting public service career. However, his real excitement is playing on stage with the likes of Cheap Trick – (5 times), Warrant, Firehouse – (2 times), Alice Cooper, The Doug Flutie Band, The James Montgomery Band (numerous times), The Ayla Brown Band, One Bar Heater New Zealand, the Fabulous Pakeha’s and more.”

SPOTTED: Michelle Obama at Imperfecto on Wednesday night.

SPOTTED at a virtual party for Sasha Issenberg’s new book, “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage” ($40), hosted by Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin and Josh Green: Amy Levin, Vicki Kennedy, Sally Quinn, Margaret Carlson, Adam Nagourney, David Chalian, Maggie Haberman, Joe Pounder, Heather Podesta, Trey Grayson, Matt Paul, Scott Mulhauser, Nu Wexler, Todd Purdum, Campbell Robertson and Erik Smith.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Signal Group’s strategic comms practice is adding Chris Ortman as EVP, Jess McCarron as VP, Aisha Dukule as senior manager, Shane McCarthy as senior associate and Will Burdulis as comms associate. Chelsea Koski is also moving up to become chair of the practice.

TRANSITIONS — Seven Letter is adding several new hires to its strategic comms team: Nu Wexler as a partner, Annalyse Keller and Jessa Scott-Johnson as senior directors, and Regina Anderson and Valentina Mendez as content specialists. … Damon Wilson will be president and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy. He currently is EVP of the Atlantic Council. Announcement

Bernadine Williams Stallings will be deputy comms director for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). She most recently was comms director for Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.). … Stephen Parker will be VP of public affairs at gener8tor. He previously spent eight years at the National Governors Association.

ENGAGED — Justin German, chief of staff to Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), and Carson Hale, a landscape architect at Oehme, van Sweden, got engaged over the weekend in the Shenandoah Mountains. They met through a cycling group that a friend organized in D.C. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: First lady Jill Biden (7-0) … Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) … Anderson CooperJustin ClarkErick Erickson … WSJ’s Michelle HackmanMichael Fleischer of BCW Global … Andrew WeinsteinJohn KirbyEvan Medeiros of the Asia Group … Brady PAC’s Brian Lemek and Ashley LantzDavid Planning of the House Small Business GOP … Patrick Martin of Cozen O’Connor … Gina Foote of Finsbury Glover Hering … Edelman’s Rob Rehg and Hannah WalterKellee Barron-Lanza … Subject Matter’s Bryce HarlowMichael McLaughlinLilia Horder of Monument Advocacy … Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al ThaniSophia Sokolowski … former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) … former Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) … Benjamin CassidyChet Rhodes Amy McGrathAbe RakovAnn Stock … POLITICO’s Shireen Sarkar Tommy McFly

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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