With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
Correction: This newsletter has been updated to more accurately reflect the content planned for President Biden’s speech.
COUNTDOWN — 10 weeks until Election Day.
FIRE UP YOUR PACER ACCOUNT — A new filing from the Department of Justice of up to 40 pages responding to DONALD TRUMP’s request seeking a special master to review documents seized in the search of Mar-a-Lago is expected today. See more below
BIDEN FLIPS THE SCRIPT ON DEFUND THE POLICE — As a policy issue, crime, like inflation and immigration, has consistently been a political vulnerability for JOE BIDEN and Democrats. A Fox News poll in June showed Republicans with a net advantage of 13 points on the issue, the party’s second best rating, behind inflation and border security. An ABC News/Ipsos poll this month found a similar 11-point advantage for Republicans on the issue of crime, which was Democrats’ worst issue tested in the poll.
Republicans have seized on the national spike in murders (almost 30% in 2020, when, um, Trump was president), the “defund the police” movement, and criminal justice reform policies pursued by unpopular progressive presecutors who have faced a backlash even from liberals, such as San Francisco’s CHESA BOUDIN, who was recalled, and Los Angeles’ GEORGE GASCÓN, who recently dodged a similar effort.
Biden has responded in three ways.(1) He has tried to talk more about “gun safety” or “gun violence.” When pollsters use those phrases to ask voters which party they trust more, Democrats suddenly have the upperhand. In the ABC poll this month, Democrats had a 5-point advantage over Republicans when asked about gun violence. (2) Biden has also sharply dismissed any notions that he supports defunding the police, the activist-driven slogan that gained sympathy among progressives two years ago but has been almost universally rejected by elected Democrats. (3) Finally, Biden has downplayed progressive criminal justice reform and tweaked the way he talks about it.
“Fund the police and promote effective prosecution of crimes affecting families today” is now the White House’s preferred framing about those two issues (in that order).
For more than a year, Biden has been on the defensive on these issues, tacking to the middle and adjusting his language. Now, suddenly, White House aides tell Playbook they believe Biden can play offense.
Today in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Biden will not just defend his record and spotlight the recent bipartisan gun safety package he signed into law, he’ll attack the GOP as soft on crime — for its record on guns, its defense of Jan. 6 criminals and, most interestingly, its recent response to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
Here’s how a White House official previewed today’s 3:15 p.m. speech at Wilkes University for Playbook:
“President Biden will … talk about his Safer America Plan and the simple, basic notion that when it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer isn’t to defund the police, it’s to fund the police.
“The president will talk about how he brought together Democrats and Republicans earlier this summer to pass the most significant gun safety law in 30 years. He’ll say we must build on that momentum and act to ban assault weapons. A majority of Americans support it. The NRA opposes it. Do Republican Members of Congress side with the American people or the NRA? It’s time to hold every elected official’s feet to the fire.
“The president will make clear that Congressional Republicans’ extreme MAGA agenda is a threat to the rule of law. He will say that you can’t propose defunding the FBI or defend the mob that stormed the Capitol and attacked and assaulted police officers on January 6th and be pro-police.
“And he will highlight how his plan would invest in 100,000 more cops who will be trained and supervised consistent with standards in the president’s Executive Order to advance effective, accountable community policing that builds public trust and strengthens public safety. As part of the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed into law last year, we sent $350 billion to local governments to keep cops on the beat. Every Republican in Congress voted against that funding for law enforcement.”
This is a significant escalation for Biden in terms of how he will attack the GOP in the final 10 weeks of the campaign. Raising the GOP’s ties to the NRA and its response to Jan. 6 isn’t new. Going after Republicans for wanting to “defund the FBI” is, and it represents the first time that Biden will be weighing in on the political fallout from the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. We’ll be eager to hear how he talks about it, considering the sensitivity around any hint that the White House is politicizing the document investigation.
SPEAKING OF VIOLENT CRIME — America’s pandemic-era murder increase isn’t fading this year as experts had hoped, NPR’s Martin Kaste reports from Seattle in a look at what might be the “new normal.” Early data shows homicides dropping slightly in some cities (but nowhere near pre-pandemic levels) and continuing to rise in others.
ELYNE VAUGHT, a prosecutor in King County, Washington: “This is definitely not the ’90s, what we’re seeing. The ’90s was more gang-oriented, there was much more organized, sort of targeted shootings. Today, it’s petty offenses, petty conflicts, reckless shootings.”
THE NEXT BIDEN SPEECH — Biden will be back in Pennsylvania on Thursday to deliver a big primetime speech outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall echoing his 2020 campaign theme about “the battle for the soul of nation,” NBC’s Mike Memoli scooped. The president will lay out the actions he’s taken to protect democracy while in office — but also warn of the ongoing risks to fundamental “rights and freedoms.”
TRUMP FORCES GOP OFF-SCRIPT (AGAIN) — The fallout over the Mar-a-Lago search has once again forced Republicans to answer for Trump when they’d prefer to be talking about Biden and the economy, Meridith McGraw, Andrew Desiderio, Nick Wu and Kyle Cheney report. “Some top Republicans acknowledge the growing angst and concern, as it’s become clearer that Trump may have been warehousing some of America’s most sensitive secrets in an unsecured basement.”
One GOP fundraiser says the donor mood is “enormous frustration.” “The question is, is there willingness to express that frustration,” the fundraiser added. “I don’t know the answer to that. But there is real frustration, and with the exception of people who are too stupid to understand the need to be frustrated, it is nearly universal.”
MEANWHILE — “Republicans bob and weave on abortion — as Democrats hammer away,” by Zach Montellaro and Ally Mutnick
CLIMATE SIREN — “Zombie ice from Greenland will raise sea level 10 inches,” AP’s Seth Borenstein
MORE PER ASPERA THAN AD ASTRA — The much-anticipated Artemis I trip to the moon got delayed Monday when problems with engine cooling caused officials to call off the launch. NASA could give it another go as soon as Friday or Monday. More from Space.com
PHOTO OF THE DAY
THE VIEW FROM DOJ — A Justice Department filing Monday said that its “filter team” has already finished reviewing the materials seized from Mar-a-Lago for info protected by attorney-client privilege — a timeline that “could undercut the former president’s efforts to have a special master appointed to review the files,” reports WaPo’s Devlin Barrett. The filing
— But if the special master is appointed, Trump could successfully delay the DOJ investigation and force a legal battle to drag out, NYT’s Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer report. A potential DOJ appeal of an injunction “would play out not just on its legal merits, but also on how quickly judges moved before issuing a ruling that will itself be subject to further appeal. … The appointment … would also prompt other novel legal questions, raising the possibility of time-consuming litigation to resolve them.”
ON THE OTHER SIDE — Trump’s attorneys are advancing a line of legal argument that envisions expansive powers for the president, AP’s Eric Tucker writes, citing a recently revealed May letter from his team. It “suggests that a defense strategy anchored around presidential powers, a strategy employed during special counsel ROBERT MUELLER’s Russia investigation when Trump actually was president, may again be in play.” Legal experts are skeptical.
WHAT’S IN THE DOCS — Trump has told people for years that he knew details about French President EMMANUEL MACRON’s love life, perhaps via “intelligence,” Rolling Stone’s Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng report. That could perhaps shed light on why the FBI’s list of seized documents included “info re: President of France,” though there’s no indication yet of what that material pertains to.
SAME STRATEGY, DIFFERENT STATE — “Dems interfere in GOP primary in New Hampshire,” by Ally Mutnick
TIGHT SQUEEZES IN THE GRAND CANYON STATE — New Arizona polls out Monday from the Trafalgar Group, a GOP polling firm, showed Democratic Sen. MARK KELLY leading Republican BLAKE MASTERS by 3.3 points, but GOP gubernatorial nominee KARI LAKE ahead of Democrat KATIE HOBBSby 0.7 points. Nobody topped 48%.
— Masters pivots: As the Republican’s campaign website keeps changing, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck have the latest on what else Masters scrubbed recently: An inaccurate claim that the 2020 election was stolen, along with statements that Democrats wanted to “import” new voters via immigration and that America would be better off with Trump in office.
— Masters doesn’t pivot: After liberals criticized a Masters tweet that blasted a focus on diversity among Fed leaders, he put out a video slamming “the Democrats’ diversity obsession”: “I don’t care if every single employee at the Fed is a Black lesbian, as long as they’re hired for their competence … We are done with this affirmative action regime. You know, I can’t think of a single policy since the end of Jim Crow that’s been worse or more divisive for race relations.” Masters also said Harris is “so incompetent she can’t even get a sentence out.”
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE — The House GOP-aligned super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund is reserving $37 million in new ads around the country as Republicans play offense to flip the House, Axios’ Hans Nichols and Sophia Cai report. Nine-tenths of the TV reservations are in Biden-won districts, though CLF is also shoring up a few GOP-held seats in California, Iowa and Nebraska.
BATTLE FOR THE SENATE — “A Surprise Senate Race Rises Out West,” by NYT’s Carl Hulse on the race between Democratic Sen. MICHAEL BENNET and Republican JOE O’DEA
PANDEMIC POLITICS — Pennsylvania AG JOSH SHAPIRO is moderating on pandemic policies as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, opposing shutdowns, mask mandates and vaccine mandates to distance himself from Gov. TOM WOLF’s more stringent measures, AP’s Marc Levy reports from Harrisburg.
RICK ROLLED — Billionaire developer RICK CARUSO looked like a moderate insurgent poised to have a real shot at the Los Angeles mayoralty this spring. But now he’s running second to Rep. KAREN BASS as the national mood shifts, Lara Korte and Alexander Nieves report. “Caruso’s predicament is a reminder of a bitter truth about politics: Money can get you only so far,” they write.
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES — “Who is going to debate in key midterm races in battleground states,” ABC
2024 WATCH — Former Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO will be at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics for a “Politics & Eggs” event Sept. 20, per Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser.
THE WHITE HOUSE
HIT THE ROAD, JOE — In addition to Pittsburgh, the White House said Biden will head to Milwaukee on Labor Day, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
FIRST LADY HEALTH UPDATE — First lady JILL BIDEN has now tested negative for the coronavirus after having a rebound case last week, the White House said. She’ll head back to the D.C. area today.
OTHER FBI NEWS — TIMOTHY THIBAULT, an FBI agent who came under fire from the right over allegations of bias in the HUNTER BIDEN laptop investigation, retired this weekend, Fox News’ Bradford Betz and David Spunt report. Senate Judiciary ranking member CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa) had raised concerns about Thibault this summer, citing whistleblowers.
FIRST PERSON — AP congressional reporter ALAN FRAM is retiring after almost 40 years covering the Hill, and he writes in a farewell piece of the changes, for better and for worse, that he’s seen in Congress. Along with anecdotes about BOB DOLE, GEORGE W. BUSH, JOHN BOEHNER and more, Fram offers a warning: “I still overhear Democrats and Republicans making dinner plans. The sorrow over this month’s traffic accident death of Rep. JACKIE WALORSKI, R-Ind., and two aides was bipartisan and heartfelt. Yet today’s common ground seems narrower, the atmosphere darker, the stakes higher.”
LOCK, STOCK AND BARREL — A judge ordered DOJ to make public by next week more information about the search warrant underpinning the 2020 seizure of Sen. RICHARD BURR’s (R-N.C.) cellphone, the L.A. Times’ Sarah Wire reports.
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
SECRET SERVICE SECRETS — TONY ORNATO, the Secret Service leader and Trump White House alum who featured prominently in CASSIDY HUTCHINSON’s Jan. 6 committee testimony, announced Monday that he’s retiring, Kyle Cheney scooped. “Although Ornato quickly signaled he was willing to testify in response to Hutchinson’s account, he has yet to appear for a new interview with the select committee.”
— The Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein adds this detail: “Ornato had finally agreed to an interview with Department of Homeland Security investigators on August 31 … Ornato has indicated that he still intends to attend … but since Ornato will be a private citizen, investigators won’t have testimonial subpoena authority to compel his cooperation.”
THE INVESTIGATIONS — A judge on Monday tossed out Georgia Gov. BRIAN KEMP’s attempt to evade a subpoena in the Fulton County investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election — but he allowed Kemp to delay it until after the midterms. The judge “largely sided with [DA FANI] WILLIS’ office in Monday’s ruling,” per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tyler Estep. He also turned down attorney KENNETH CHESEBRO’s attempt to quash a subpoena in the probe.
— Willis said in a filing Monday that Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) should be made to testify because “his public entanglement with the political interests of the former president” undercuts his legal arguments against doing so, per Bloomberg.
WAR IN UKRAINE
E-RING READING — “Ukraine lures Russian missiles with decoys of U.S. rocket system,” by WaPo’s John Hudson
— “Ukraine has hobbled Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Could it turn the tide of the war?” by Christopher Miller and Paul McLeary
— “Ukraine War Is Depleting U.S. Ammunition Stockpiles, Sparking Pentagon Concern,” by WSJ’s Gordon Lubold, Nancy Youssef and Ben Kesling
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
DISHY READ — “Inside Liz Truss’s not so special relationship with the U.S.,” by FT’s Felicia Schwartz
DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — The Biden administration intends to ask congressional committee leaders to sign off on a $1.1 billion sale of missiles and other arms to Taiwan, Lara Seligman and Andrew Desiderio scooped.
GETTING A BOOST — The FDA is likely to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccine booster shots as early as Wednesday, Adam Cancryn and Katherine Ellen Foley report. The Omicron-focused shots then could roll out soon after Labor Day, though exact timing may yet change.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
DISASTER IN MISSISSIPPI — “‘Do Not Drink The Water’: Jackson Water System Failing For 180,000 People,” Mississippi Free Press
BORDER TALES — “A ‘radical shift’ at the border is making things tougher for Biden,” by CNN’s Catherine Shoichet and Christopher Hickey: “For decades, many border policies have been designed with Mexican migrants in mind … but it’s much more difficult to deport people to other countries. There are limits to which nationalities can be turned back under Title 42, for example. And frosty diplomatic relations can affect deportations, too.”
— AP’s Gisela Salomon explores the Cuban exodus, as much higher numbers of emigres “stake their lives and futures on a dangerous journey to the United States by air, land and sea to escape economic and political woes.”
BOOK REPORT — Early versions of DINESH D’SOUZA’s conspiratorial forthcoming book “2000 Mules” have been recalled by Regnery, which pushed back its publication date to Oct. 25. The publisher cited “a publishing error” for the change, though it said the book will still come out.
Bill Clinton sat next to Dr. Ruth at the U.S. Open.
IN MEMORIAM — “Colleagues remember longtime CBS photojournalist George Christian,” CBS: “Christian had a front-row seat to history. He was there when President Nixon resigned and with President George W. Bush on 9/11. Following his death over the weekend, his CBS colleagues are remembering him as a friend and a mentor.”
OUT AND ABOUT —Michael Wong of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) office was treated to a surprise serenade by The Beach Boys at San Lorenzo on Sunday night. The group (who had just finished playing Wolf Trap) performed “Kokomo” after discovering Wong was celebrating finishing his MBA from Wharton at the next table. Pic …SPOTTED: Barrett Lane, Kelley Williams, Ian Mariani, Baillee Brown, Macey Matthews, Phoebe Miner, Jack Welty, Alyssa Marois, Gregg Sheiowitz, Alex Sternhell and Langston Emerson.
— Foreign Policy for America held its NextGen Initiative Leadership Retreat on Sunday, an event gathering the heads of the initiative to examine plans for the upcoming year and ways to center young foreign policy voices in congressional elections. SPOTTED: Andrew Albertson, Michael Poznansky, Shannon Kellman, Simone Williams, Grant Haver, Leah Fiddler, Bo Machayo, Esther Im, Elizabeth Rosen, Elizabeth Lopez-Sandoval, Scott Bade, Phoebe Benich, Mike Fox, Tashi Chogyal, Mari Faines, Sarah Gardiner, Tabatha Pilgrim Thompson, Sam Denney, Caroline Kaufman, Mai El-Sadany, Matt Keating, Stacey Pirtle, Bethan Saunders, John Lindsay, Kristina Biyad and Ben Weingrod.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Sophie Shulman will be deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, two people familiar with the matter told Daniel Lippman. She currently is deputy chief of staff for policy at DOT and will start in her new job by the beginning of next year.
—Carmen Iguina González is joining Kaplan Hecker & Fink’s D.C. office as counsel. She previously was senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and is a former Supreme Court clerk.
MEDIA MOVES — David Plotz’s City Cast is launching the “City Cast DC” podcast to dive into the city’s stories, hosted by Bridget Todd and POLITICO’s Michael Schaffer. … The AP announced its politics, democracy and elections team, comprising 14 journalists across the country.
STAFFING UP — Jennifer Tyre is now social media director at DHS. She previously was senior digital comms officer at the German Marshall Fund.
TRANSITION — Lyndsey Fifield is now digital marketing director for Nikki Haley’s Stand for America. She previously was social media manager at Heritage.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) … Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) … CNN’s John King and Christi Parsons … Warren Buffett (92)… WaPo’s Martine Powers … Patrick Kerley … POLITICO’s Mitch Schuler, Jordain Carney and Jen Dreyer … Bryan Rich … State’s Tom Countryman … Lia Albini … NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny … George Riccardo … Karl Russo … Rachel Harris … Elliot Bell-Krasner … Caitlin Girouard … Laura Moser … Cheryl Mills … Ariana Berengaut … Alec Camhi … Murray Weiss
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Correction: Monday’s Playbook misstated the scheduled launch time of the Space Launch System Rocket. It was slated for 8:33 a.m. EDT.