With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
DONALD TRUMP, the former president and the person that polls show is still the most likely GOP presidential nominee in 2024, today on Truth Social called for the suspension of the Constitution to overturn the 2020 election, citing false conspiracy theories about election fraud.
“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” Trump wrote, hours after new details of Twitter’s internal moderation deliberations in 2020 were released at the behest of new owner ELON MUSK. (More on that below.)
Every Republican will be asked about Trump’s statement. The former president dined with antisemites last week, and now he says the Constitution should be discarded. If you are a Republican who thinks being asked to take a position on this is just some liberal media trap, consider what you would say if BARACK OBAMA or JOE BIDEN tweeted this.
GEORGIA PREVIEW — The Senate runoff between Republican HERSCHEL WALKER and Democratic incumbent RAPHAEL WARNOCK is on Tuesday. Ever since the Democrats notched a 50th seat, the Georgia race has received far less attention than it would have were the majority at stake.
As predicted, some Republicans who dislike Walkerno longer feel that voting for him is as existential anymore. Both Biden and Trump have decided to stay away, reducing the national circus-like nature of the race. And polls show a consistent Warnock lead: Of seven surveys released since early November, five showed a Warnock lead, one had the race tied, and one showed a 1-point Walker lead.
But the outcome will still have major implications. A 51-49 Senate means that committees will no longer have even memberships, making Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER’s attempts to get legislation and nominations to the floor easier. And the balance of power in the Democratic caucus will shift slightly to the left, denying Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) the extraordinary control he exercised in 2021 and 2022.
For Republicans, the job of taking back the Senate in 2024 will be easier if they take Georgia now. We’ll also get a sense of whether one of the most important dynamics of the midterms remains strong: voters, especially right-leaning independents, breaking with their preferred party when it nominates someone far out of the mainstream.
And, finally, if Walker loses, it will further diminish the current GOP presidential frontrunner for 2024, whose potential rivals have already settled on a common critique: Republicans lose with Trump.
The latest on the race …
— POLITICO on what to make of the early vote and some fun details on the staging of a Georgia phone bank photo-op for Biden while he was in Massachusetts (“A few minutes after he left, many of the dialers picked up boxes of leftover pizza and headed for the door.”)
— NYT on how a big Hyundai EV plant is affecting the race and how Walker’s team is trying to contain Trump and a look at the precincts that matter most
— WaPo on how Republicans are getting worried
— NBC on Walker’s fundraising woes
— Washington Examiner with a more positive Walker story about his “folksy charm”
Good Saturday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line with your Georgia runoff hot takes: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
SPOTTED dining together at Cafe Milano on Friday night: VP KAMALA HARRIS and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF,GEORGE and AMAL CLOONEY, and BONO. Bono’s band, U2, and Clooney are among those receiving lifetime artistic achievement awards Sunday night at the Kennedy Center Honors.
BIDEN BUNDLERS AT THE BIG BASH — Like many recent presidents, Biden has been criticized, usually privately, by his most generous donors for not receiving the care and attention that they crave and believe that they deserve. But on Thursday night, just weeks before Biden will decide whether he is running for reelection or not, several of Biden’s most important campaign bundlers received the ultimate White House perk: an invitation to a state dinner. Caitlin Oprysko put together this excellent list.
She highlights these four megadonors who were on hand to toast the U.S.-France relationship:
— Filmmaker JEFFREY KATZENBERG and his wife, MARILYN, who gave $1.5 million to one of Biden’s joint fundraising committees and hundreds of thousands more to other Democratic super PACs in 2020;
—STEWART BAINUM, the chairman of Choice Hotels International, who gave $2 million to Unite the Country and six figures to the Biden Victory Fund;
— ROGER ALTMAN, the co-founder of the investment banking firm Evercore who gave $385,000 to a pair of pro-Biden super PACs and another $91,000 to the Biden-DNC joint fundraising committee;
— and BLAIR EFFRON, co-founder of Centerview Partners, who gave $140,000 to one of Biden’s joint fundraising committees and $50,000 to the pro-Biden super PAC Unite the Country.
Other big donors invited to eat Maine lobster and jam to JON BATISTE included ALEXANDER SOROS (son of GEORGE SOROS), LAURENE POWELL JOBS, NICOLE AVANT, Microsoft President BRAD SMITH, former Microsoft President JON SHIRLEY and his wife, KIMBERLY, the Aladdin Project’s LEAH PISAR, Disney’s DANA WALDEN, JOE KIANI of Masimo Corp., real estate developer JEFF WORTHE, Bank of America’s ANNE FINUCANE, Ballard Spahr lobbying chief KEN JARIN and former Rep. FILEMON VELA, who now lobbies at Akin Gump.
MAKING A LIST — Speaking of lists and 2024, WaPo’s Aaron Blake is out this morning with his top 10 list of Democrats “most likely to be the nominee.” In order from least to most likely they are: 10. J.B. PRITZKER, 9. JOSH SHAPIRO, 8. GRETCHEN WHITMER, 7. BERNIE SANDERS, 6. GAVIN NEWSOM, 5. AMY KLOBUCHAR, 4. JARED POLIS, 3. Harris, 2. PETE BUTTIGIEG, 1. Biden.
We would move up some of the governors and move down Pete, to be honest, but it’s a good snapshot of the conventional wisdom right now.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
9 THINGS THAT STUCK WITH US
1. THE ROAD TO 222: The AP called a tight California House campaign for Republican JOHN DUARTE, leaving only one race uncalled. Democrat ADAM GRAY announced he’d conceded to Duarte, who pushes Republicans’ House majority to 221. The L.A. Times’ Seema Mehta notes that the GOP almond/pistachio/grape farmer managed to win despite Democrats’ 14-point voter registration edge in the Central Valley district. “[L]ow turnout among Democrats and Latinos — who make up just over 50% of the population that is eligible to vote — as well as the independent nature of politics in the region have made races unpredictable here.”
The only remaining uncalled race is not really in doubt: In Colorado’s 3rd District, Democrat ADAM FRISCH has long since conceded to incumbent Republican Rep. LAUREN BOEBERT. But the 550-vote race formally went to recount this week, and the AP notes that it “has declared the race too close to call and will await the results of the recount.”
2. 2024 WATCH: The DNC moved Friday to follow Biden’s lead and reshuffle the early presidential primary states: South Carolina, then Nevada and New Hampshire, then Georgia, then Michigan. Elena Schneider breaks down the party’s decision to buck 50 years of precedent — despite vociferous opposition from Iowa and New Hampshire. But several hurdles remain to implement the plan. In New Hampshire, “first in the nation” isn’t just a slogan but a state law requirement, and officials there are pledging to defy Democrats. And in Georgia, the DNC will need the state’s Republicans in charge to help change the date.
Biden’s surprise decision to put South Carolina first came as a shock even to South Carolina, NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald and Natasha Korecki report. The state hadn’t asked to go first; it was just hoping not to fall out of the early group. DNC Chair JAIME HARRISON and House Majority Whip JIM CLYBURN, both South Carolinians, were thrilled and stunned.
3. MUSK READS: “Musk Hails Release of Twitter Emails on Hunter Biden Story,” by Bloomberg’s Kurt Wagner: “Elon Musk heralded the release of Twitter Inc. executive emails that explore some of the internal debate at the social network over a controversial decision in 2020 to restrict access to a New York Post article about a laptop purportedly owned by HUNTER BIDEN. Writer MATT TAIBBI posted a series of tweets and images of what he said were leaked internal Twitter messages and emails … Even as Musk sought to build anticipation for the documents’ release, the materials shared by Taibbi on Friday broke relatively little new ground.”
— Related reads: “Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna expressed concerns over Twitter’s censorship of Hunter Biden laptop story,” Fox News … “Twitter Keeps Missing Its Advertising Targets as Woes Mount,” NYT … “Twitter exec says moving fast on moderation, as harmful content surges,” Reuters … “No, You Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Post Hunter Biden’s Dick Pic on Twitter,” The Bulwark
4. THE TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS: Trump White House lawyers PAT CIPOLLONE and PAT PHILBIN testified in front of a federal grand jury Friday, after the Justice Department won a court battle to have them answer questions, ABC’s Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Soo Rin Kim report. Trump’s legal team tried to assert that the men were protected by privilege, but a judge agreed with DOJ.
Meanwhile, closing arguments wrapped up in the criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York on Friday. “In the end, it wasn’t a last-minute smoking gun,” AP’s Michael Sisak reports, “but a prosecutor insisting that evidence shows Donald Trump was aware of a scheme that his Trump Organization’s executives hatched to avoid paying personal income taxes on millions of dollars worth of company-paid perks.” Defense attorneys asked the judge to declare a mistrial, unsuccessfully.
5. TO RUSSIA, WITH LOVE: The EU and then the G-7 finally reached an accord on a Russian oil price cap Friday, paving the way to keep Russian oil on the market. The limit of $60 a barrel is also meant to hurt Moscow’s revenues. It’s a big victory for Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN, who has long pushed the idea. More from the WSJ
German Chancellor OLAF SCHOLZ phoned Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN on Friday, a day after Biden himself said he’d be willing to talk about peace plans with Putin. But any diplomatic resolution still looks a long way off: Putin blamed the West and Ukraine as he talked with Berlin, per WaPo. And “U.S. officials said that Russia, as they have previously assessed, was not prepared to negotiate in good faith, and Russian officials repeated hard-line demands that are unacceptable to Kyiv,” NYT’s Michael Crowley and Michael Shear report.
6. RAISING EYEBROWS IN AFRICA — In just over a week’s time, as many as 50 or so African leaders will visit the White House for a big three-day summit. But as of now, none of them will get a bilateral meeting with Biden, Alex Ward, Nahal Toosi and Phelim Kine report. That “could lead African leaders traveling thousands of miles to further conclude that the United States doesn’t care about their countries as much as China does — and that it prefers to treat them as a bloc instead of individual governments.”
We don’t talk about China: The U.S. is intentionally not mentioning Beijing much in its plans for the summit, in a shift from the Trump administration, Foreign Policy’s Robbie Gramer reports. Officials’ hope is to make African countries feel like partners in their own right, not chess pieces between two superpowers. “But that decision has also opened a debate within the government about how to handle Chinese, and to a lesser extent, Russian influence in Africa at Biden’s upcoming summit.”
7. WHAT COMES NEXT: “The anti-abortion roadmap for 2023: abortion restrictions and tax cuts on diapers,” by Megan Messerly: “With sweeping abortion legislation having little chance in a divided Congress, conservative state legislators are stepping into the void, proposing to limit when the procedure can take place, enact new regulations on abortion pills and strengthen penalties for doctors who break the law. Taken together, the legislation could make it harder for tens of millions of people to obtain abortions — particularly in Southern states that still permit most abortions, like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.”
8. GET A ROOM: Roll Call’s Jim Saksa has a fun recap of the House office-selection lottery. Rep.-elect MAX MILLER (R-Ohio) got lucky No. 1 — and didn’t seem too excited: “This was the last thing on my mind.” Rep.-elect JONATHAN JACKSON (D-Ill.) didn’t show or send a representative, so he defaulted to the last pick. Other incoming members and their staffers cheered each other on, hammed it up for the crowd, bonded with new orientation friends or leaned on FRANK SINATRA for luck.
9. SO MUCH FOR THAT: “Biden vowed ‘consequences’ for Saudi Arabia after oil production cut. But the U.S. has no plans to follow through,” by NBC’s Courtney Kube and Carol Lee: “[T]he U.S. is not actively considering any significant retaliatory actions against the kingdom … [T]he White House’s initial bitterness about the decision subsided … One administration official said the real goal all along was to come up with ways to needle the Saudis without actually changing the relationship. … If OPEC decides to cut production again on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the U.S. could be permanently marred, one administration official said.”
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “Man In a Can,” Outside magazine: “With Lake Mead drying up due to drought and climate change, the famous desert reservoir is revealing grisly secrets from the past, including the remains of people thought to be victims of Las Vegas foul play. Mark Sundeen hits Nevada for a freewheeling exploration of dark deeds, a rapidly unfolding apocalypse, and a parched future that will dramatically affect the entire American Southwest.”
— “Life, Death, and Total Football,” by GQ’s Rosecrans Baldwin: “My Dutch friend Lars taught me to appreciate the most radical team in World Cup history—and how their tactics could be meaningful far beyond the pitch.”
— “This Tasting Menu Tastes Like Pot,” by N.Y. Mag’s Adam Platt: “My cross-country tour of super-high-dollar cannabis cuisine.”
— “Set Adrift,” by David Wolman in the NYT: “Driven by Covid chaos, online disinformation and a YouTube guru, two Americans went looking for solace on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. They found a different fate.”
— “‘Everybody’s a Joe Manchin.’ A GOP moderate looks ahead to a very narrowly divided House,” by WaPo’s Paul Kane: “[Rep. David] Joyce has thrown himself into the deep end of the House Republican Conference’s ideological swimming pool.”
— “No longer fringe, small-town voters fear democracy’s demise,” by AP’s Tim Sullivan in Hudson, Wis.: “They live in communities where crime is almost nonexistent and Cub Scouts hold $5 spaghetti-lunch fundraisers at American Legion halls. And they live with something else. Sometimes it’s anger. Sometimes sadness. Every once in a while it’s fear.”
— “The Death of Daniel Prude and the Birth of a Thousand Lies,” by Joe Sexton for The Trace: “In the spring of 2020, Rochester, New York, was poised for genuine police reform. Then came a 911 call for a Black man in crisis.”
— “How Dobbs Triggered a ‘Vasectomy Revolution,’” by POLITICO Magazine’s Jesús Rodríguez in Joplin, Mo.: “The Supreme Court ruling made men more interested in how they can prevent unwanted pregnancies. That’s where ‘the Nutcracker’ comes in.”
— From the archives: “One-Man Movement,” by WaPo’s Sarah Kaufman on Jan. 11, 2009
Doug Emhoff said Ye’s antisemitism is “painful, it hurts.”
Emmanuel Macronhad a good old time in New Orleans, where he also met with Elon Musk.
Nancy Pelosi baffled Macron by telling him she eats a hot dog every day.
Joe Biden met withPrince William in Boston.
SPOTTED: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) having dinner with his staffers at Tosca on Friday night.
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at BGR Group’s holiday party at the International Spy Museum on Thursday night: Sean Duffy, David Urban, Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Troy Nehls (R-Texas), Scott Fitzgerald (R-Wis.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.), and Reps.-elect Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), Laurel Lee (R-Fla.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), Robert Menendez Jr. (D-N.J.), Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas) and Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.).
— Duquesne University President Ken Gormley presented NBC’s Yamiche Alcindor with the school’s annual Award for Ethics and Integrity in Journalism at the National Press Club on Thursday night. They discussed her career, misinformation, diversity in the newsroom and more.
— At the Washington Women Technology Network tech leaders breakfast at the Jefferson Hotel on Friday, Jessica Nigro and Tammy Haddad hosted featured speaker Kara Swisher. A molten lava cake was presented for her birthday. SPOTTED: Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Luxembourg Ambassador Nicole Bintner, Austin Brown, Doha Mekki, Yamiche Alcindor, Audrey Abell, Amanda Newman, Amanda Anderson, Amna Nawaz, Alexandra Veitch, Victoria Espinel, Jen Stout, Gina Woodworth, Bruce Andrews, Catherine Hill, Kimberley Fritts and Zoraida Rodríguez Montenegro.
— SPOTTED at a private reception Friday night at the 521 Overlook at Fenway Park, after the Earthshot Awards at MGM Music Hall in Boston: Prince William and his wife, Kate, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Ann Romney, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Lauren Baker, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Susan Blumenthal, John Kerry, Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, Ted Kennedy III, Tatiana Schlossberg, Jack Schlossberg, David Beckham, Annie Lennox, Rami Malek, Catherine O’Hara, British Ambassador Karen Pierce, Kevin Sheekey, Ryan Williams, Liz Johnson, John McCarthy, Senay Bulbul, Ed Roman, Anne Finucane and Paul Smyke.
— Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason hosted a welcome reception Friday evening to kick off the Kennedy Center Honors weekend. SPOTTED: Frances Fitzgerald, Elizabeth and Vaughan Bagley, Joel Kanter, Al and Melissa Mottur, Mark Vlasic, Tom Donohue, Catherine Schultz and Democrat Matt Gorman.
— SPOTTED at a party celebrating Maria Ressa’s new book, “How To Stand Up To a Dictator” ($23.99), hosted by Vivian Schiller and Phil Frank at their Bethesda house Friday night: Sally Buzbee, Kara Swisher and Amanda Katz, George Conway, Marty Baron, Derek Mitchell, Evan Osnos and Sarabeth Berman, Sarah Smith, Adrienne LaFrance, Sam Feist, Sara Fischer, Amanda Bennett, Eliot Gerson, Niamh King, Ginny Badanes, Jim Risen, Richard Gingras, Katie Harbath, Amy Webb and Frank Sesno.
MEDIA MOVES — Kate Davidson will be U.S. economy editor at Bloomberg, focusing on the Fed. She previously co-authored POLITICO’s Morning Money. … Gabby Birenbaum is now D.C. correspondent at the Nevada Independent. She most recently was digital editor at the Washington Monthly.
WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Russell Anello is joining the White House counsel’s office to help respond to the coming House GOP investigations, Bloomberg’s Jordan Fabian and Erik Wasson report. He currently is House Oversight staff director.
WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Jamal Simmons will leave VP Kamala Harris’ office, where he’s been comms director, Eugene reports. He’s moving to New York.
TRANSITION — Karen Comfort has been hired as deputy assistant HHS secretary for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. She most recently was chief employee experience officer at the Department of Agriculture.
ENGAGED —Brett Wakeman, incoming chief of staff for Rep.-elect Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), proposed to Raychel Renna, political director for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), at the Capitol on Thursday. They met on Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-N.Y.) 2018 congressional campaign, and the congresswoman helped plan the proposal. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) … Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson … National Council on Disability Chair Andrés Gallegos … NBC’s Ali Zelenko … Margaret Mulkerrin of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office (3-0) … WaPo’s Scott Higham … White House’s Jesse Lee … Cody Sanders of Plus Communications … POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie and Kimberly Bryson … Kevin Baron of Defense One … Lance Trover … Bill Tighe of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores … Mike Inacay of Sen. Brian Schatz’s (D-Hawaii) office … The Fulcrum’s David Meyers … Daniel Chao … Mandi Critchfield of Senate Finance … Laura Howard of Sentinel Strategic Advisors … Bill Sternberg … former Reps. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) … Robby Mook
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
ABC “This Week”: House Democratic Leader-elect Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) … Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) … Sam Bankman-Fried. Panel: Dan Abrams and Rebecca Jarvis. Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Julie Pace and Marianna Sotomayor.
CBS “Face the Nation”: Secretary of State Antony Blinken … Eric Holder … House Democratic Caucus Chair-elect Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) … Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) … Brian Moynihan.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Israeli PM-designate Benjamin Netanyahu … House Democratic Whip-elect Katherine Clark (D-Mass.). Panel: Yamiche Alcindor, Ashley Parker, Jen Psaki and Marc Short.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Mike Pence … Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) … Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). Panel: Jennifer Griffin and Karl Rove.
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Correction: Friday’s Playbook misstated the name of the firm at which Jordan Evich works. It is Monument Advocacy.