June 19, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: The curious case of Stephen Miller and Andrew Yang

SPOTTED: CHUCK SCHUMER and MITCH MCCONNELL walking maskless through the halls of the Senate for the first time in a long time. (h/t @mkraju)

WHY IS STEPHEN MILLER TWEETING IN FAVOR OF ANDREW YANG? — In the past week, STEPHEN MILLER has posted 10 messages in support of New York City mayoral hopeful ANDREW YANG.

Yang’s campaign is not happy about it.

Since the tweeting started May 11, the campaign has been inundated with questions from volunteers who want to know why Miller — a figure reviled by the left for creating DONALD TRUMP’S Muslim ban and his child separation policy — would be talking up their candidate. Progressives have attacked Yang on Twitter over it. And the New York press corps has asked Yang about his support from Republicans. “I certainly would never ask for or want their support,” Yang responded.

“It’s hurting us, [Miller] must know that,” said one Yang campaign aide, adding that the candidate’s supporters are asking: “‘Why is this happening? What is happening?’ It’s making people question why people like Andrew Yang.”

Yang had been ahead in the polls until recently, when ERIC ADAMS took a slight lead. In order to win, Yang needs a coalition of voters under 45, base Democrats and some progressives. Yang’s campaign fears that Miller’s praise will turn off “normy Dems.”

“Stephen Miller doesn’t endorse normal Democrats,” the aide said.

There are suspicions in New York political circles that Miller is sabotaging Yang to help Adams, who is considered to be the more conservative of the two. But Miller laughed at the idea that he was secretly working for a Democrat in the mayoral race.

“I would never play that game,” Miller told us. “If I was working for a candidate, I would very publicly be working for that candidate. Full stop.”

Miller’s not the only prominent Republican to weigh in on the mayoral race. On his May 7 show, TUCKER CARLSON spoke favorably of Adams, a former police officer, asking, “Could New York City have a gun-wielding mayor?”

As for Miller, he claims he’s just an observer: What happens in New York politics affects the rest of the country.

“As much as I disagree on issues with Yang, I’ve admired that he’s taken on positions antithetical to the progressive left in a very progressive primary,” Miller said.

He also noticed that Yang, who is the son of immigrants and pro-sanctuary cities, has barely waved off his support.

“He hasn’t made any real significant attempt to distance himself from Republican praise … which suggests to me that he, as an individual, understands that there are a lot of independent voters in the primary,” Miller said.

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

FEDERAL TAX RETURNS: JOE & JILL VS. KAMALA & DOUG …

Read Bloomberg’s story on the tax returns, which were released Monday.

BIDEN’S TUESDAY — The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. He’ll leave the White House at 9:40 a.m. for Detroit, arriving at 11:30 a.m. He’ll tour the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich., at 12:45 p.m. and deliver remarks at 1:40 p.m. He’ll leave Detroit at 3:55 p.m., getting back to the White House at 5:30 p.m.

— The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 10:15 a.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Detroit.

HAPPENING TODAY: Senate Republicans are expected to present a new proposal to the White House on infrastructure. Sens. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (W.Va.), JOHN BARRASSO (Wyo.), MIKE CRAPO (Idaho), PAT TOOMEY (Pa.) and ROGER WICKER (Miss.) will meet with Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG, Commerce Secretary GINA RAIMONDO and White House legislative affairs.

THE HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m. and will take up a variety of bills, including the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act. House Dems and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus will hold a news conference on the bill at 10 a.m. The Rules Committee will take up the Jan. 6 response appropriations supplemental at 9:30 a.m. ZALMAY KHALILZAD, special representative on Afghanistan reconciliation, will testify before the Foreign Affairs Committee at 10 a.m.

THE SENATE will meet at 10 a.m. to take up the Endless Frontier Act, with a recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CLASH

POTUS BREAKS HIS SILENCE — “Biden calls for cease-fire in Israel-Hamas fighting as pressure mounts to halt violence,” WaPo: “Biden ‘reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks’ during a call with ­Israeli Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, the White House said. But in adding that Biden ‘expressed support for a cease-fire,’ the administration went further than previous accounts of U.S. interactions with Israeli officials in describing the closed-door diplomacy and suggesting a private push.

“Even as pressure mounted from fellow Democrats and others urging a cease-fire, Biden administration officials had stopped short of joining their calls until Biden spoke to Netanyahu and then issued a carefully worded statement afterward.”

“Where Biden Is (and Isn’t) Turning Back Trump’s Israel Policies,” NYT

AND IS UNDER GROWING PRESSURE FROM THE LEFT — “‘I’m troubled by it’: Dems trash Biden’s handling of Israeli strikes in Gaza,” by Andrew Desiderio: “While Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he ‘supports’ a ceasefire, according to the White House, that may not be enough for fellow Democrats who have urged the president to more aggressively join the international push for both sides to lay down arms.

“The pressure campaign from top Democrats represents a recalibration of the party’s posture toward Israel, which has grown increasingly antagonistic on Capitol Hill after decades in which support for the Palestinian cause was seen as a political third rail. Many lawmakers have lost patience with Netanyahu, arguing that his government has taken actions against Palestinians that make a two-state solution to the conflict less achievable.”

— As Biden heads to Michigan today, he’ll be encountering some tough crowds: “More than 1,000 march in Dearborn as death toll ticks higher in Israeli-Palestinian crisis,” Detroit Free Press … “Arab Americans, supporters rally over Gaza fighting in Dearborn,” AP

CONGRESS

CHENEY UNBOUND — Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), the deposed No. 3 House Republican sat with Olivia Beavers and Mel Zanona to talk about what comes next. “In some ways, it feels as though Cheney views her current place in the political wilderness as her destiny. And she is certainly embracing her role as a self-cast Cassandra, determined to speak prophecies no matter who’s listening.

“‘I’m really glad that I decided to stay in the House,’ Cheney said. ‘As we’re engaging in these battles about principles and the future and standing up for truth, I think that these battles really are being fought out in the House.’

“‘When you look at history, it’s individuals who make a difference,’ she added. ‘And I feel really honored to be able to stand up and speak on these issues that I think are going to determine the future of the country and the future of our democracy.’

“But other Republicans … argue Cheney may have seen a brighter future, and surely a safer one, had she landed in the Senate.

“‘If she had run for the Senate and won, she’d be a rank-and-file senator. Would it be such a big deal? She’d be like MITT ROMNEY,’ said Sen. KEVIN CRAMER (R-N.D.), who endorsed now-Sen. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R-Wyo.) before Cheney decided not to enter the race. ‘She wouldn’t have a leadership position to lose, plus she’d have a six-year term. It’d be a lot different.’”

SCOOPLET: HOUSE GOP LEADERS CALL ON PELOSI TO END PROXY VOTING — It’s not exactly surprising since they’ve never been fans of the practice in the first place. But today House GOP leaders and all Republican committee rankers will cite updated CDC guidelines to call on Speaker NANCY PELOSI to end proxy voting and remote hearings.

In the letter led by Rep. BRUCE WESTERMAN (R-Ark.), which will be sent later today, Republicans note that 75% of lawmakers are vaccinated — and everyone has access to the vaccine. They also cite new guidance from the chamber’s attending physicians suggesting members and staff can essentially return to normal operations once they get those shots. The letter comes as Pelosi and her leadership team have extended proxy voting through July 3. The practice of remote voting was set to end this week. Read the letter

SENATE GOP COULD KILL BIPARTISAN JAN. 6 COMMISSION — Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine talked to a bunch of Senate Republicans on Monday and found that many of them were signaling they might not vote for the 9/11-style commission proposed by a bipartisan group of House members.

“The commission will slow us down from some of the things we need to do,” Sen. ROY BLUNT (R-Mo.), a McConnell ally, told our colleagues. “I’m no fan of the commission.”

McConnell has refused so far to weigh in. Republicans in the Senate want to see how the idea plays out in the House first.

THE WHITE HOUSE

BEING KAMALA HARRIS — In a bit of a passion project for White House reporter Anita Kumar, she spoke with 20 people who know Harris’ personal story firsthand or from an arm’s length — friends, aides, lawmakers, activists and scholars — about the VP’s Indian heritage. “Politicians and activists of Asian descent have cheered Harris’ ascent,” she writes. “But they want her to speak out more about her Indian heritage, embracing it as she does her Black roots, and advocate for policy issues important to Asian Americans, including legal immigration, Covid-19 disparities and discrimination and hate crimes. They say the need has never been more pronounced, as the discrimination Asians have long faced continues to grow, marked tragically by the March shooting of six women of Asian descent at three Atlanta-area spas. …

“She’s been accused of not being Black enough, criticized for not touting her Asian heritage and faulted for choosing to say she’s Asian over Indian. Some Americans are unaware of her biracial background while others forget she has any Asian heritage at all.”

SCOTUS WATCH

THE LOOMING ABORTION RULING — National Review forecasts how the conservative majority might handle Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a major abortion rights case it decided Monday to rule on. “The Stakes of the Supreme Court’s New Abortion Case”: “[W]e shouldn’t expect Dobbs to be the case in which Roe falls. More likely, the Court could start cracking open the internal contradictions in its prior abortion jurisprudence, paving the way for more dramatic progress later — much in the way that the Court’s liberals used decisions striking down sodomy laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act to lay the legal groundwork for overturning state bans on same-sex marriage. If Chief Justice John Roberts and some of the other Republican appointees on the Court are not on board with that campaign, we will know from their opinions in Dobbs.”

And read Alice Miranda Ollstein on the politics for Biden heading into next year’s midterms.

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

TWO NO. 2s SIGNING OFF IN ATLANTA — “Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Trump critic, will not run for a second term in 2022,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Lt. Gov. GEOFF DUNCAN said Monday that he won’t be seeking a second term as Georgia’s No. 2 official and will instead focus on building a ‘GOP 2.0’ movement that urges fellow Republicans to envision a party beyond former President Donald Trump.

“Duncan said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t plan on resigning his seat, but instead will seek to serve his final 19 months in office while also pushing a plan to revive what he calls a foundering national GOP still too focused on the 2020 election.”

— “CDC’s second-in-command Anne Schuchat to step down,” by Adam Cancryn and Erin Banco: “Schuchat’s retirement [this summer] would be the CDC’s second high-profile departure in the past month … A career CDC scientist for more than 30 years, Schuchat has served as the agency’s No. 2 official since 2015. She twice did brief stints as the CDC’s acting director, and was key to the federal government’s response to major infectious disease outbreaks … But she had clashed with CDC Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY in recent months.”

ARIZONA AUDIT GETS MESSIER — “Arizona Republicans fight back against election fraud claims,” AP: “The GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors cast the audit as a sham that’s spun out of the control of the state Senate leader who’s ostensibly overseeing it. Board Chairman JACK SELLERS said Senate President KAREN FANN is making an ‘attempt at legitimatizing a grift disguised as an audit.’

“Last week, Fann sent a letter to Sellers questioning records that document the chain of custody of the ballots and accusing county officials of deleting data. The county on Monday sent a 12-page response vehemently denying wrongdoing, explaining its processes and accusing Cyber Ninjas of incompetence.”

WEATHERING A SCANDAL, AND THEN SOME — “Cuomo Set to Receive $5.1 Million from Pandemic Book Deal,” NYT: “The governor received the bulk of the money last year, $3.12 million, and under the contract, he is set to be paid another $2 million in installments over the next two years, state officials said. … Across the publishing world, the revelation of Mr. Cuomo’s payment elicited shock: The amount appeared to be a staggering sum to pay to a politician who already had a meager sales record for his previous book, a memoir that sold just a few thousand print copies.”

SALLY QUINN DECLARES D.C.’S SOCIAL SCENE DEAD — Say it ain’t so, for our sake. WaPo: “Trump and covid may have finished off what was once the traditional Washington A-list, but it was already in trouble long before January 2017. The GEORGE W. BUSH administration was the last time it really thrived. Things slowed considerably during the Obama years. The First Couple was famous for not wanting to make new friends or go out in Washington except to see those already close to them. NEERA TANDEN, head of the Center for American Progress, once was quoted as saying that President BARACK OBAMA didn’t like people. Many in his administration took their cues from the White House.” Read her full piece here

NYT’S ANNIE KARNI DECLARES W.H. CELEBRITIES ARE GONE TOO: “Mr. [MIKE] DONILON’S low-key presence, despite his considerable influence over the leader of the free world, is emblematic of the overall culture of the Biden White House: It is the least personality-driven West Wing in decades. Because of his longevity in politics and underdog personality, combined with the depth of the crises he is facing, President Biden is undoing a longstanding Washington tradition in which staff members enjoy their own refracted fame.”

NOBEL THIRSTY — “Bill Gates Thought Jeffrey Epstein Was His Ticket to a Nobel, Ex-Staffer Says,” by Daily Beast: “‘[BILL GATES] thought that JEFFREY [EPSTEIN] would be able to help him, that he would know the right people, or some kind of way to massage things, so he could get the Nobel Peace Prize, which is what Bill wants more than anything else in the world,’ the staffer said. ‘I think he was ultimately disappointed it didn’t work out,’ the person added.”

IN MEMORIAM — A bipartisan group of bold-faced names is organizing a fundraiser to honor Richard Bates, Disney’s beloved longtime government relations chief who died suddenly late last year at age 70. More than a dozen of his admirers — from Wayne Berman and Kellyanne Conway to Rahm Emanuel and Tom Daschle and ABC journalists Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein — are aiming to raise $250,000 on Bates’ behalf to support the Music Health Alliance, which helps music industry professionals gain access to health care.

Bates became a fixture in Washington politics representing Disney for three decades. Here’s Variety’s obit on him, and a personal tribute written by his son, Ricky.

MEDIAWATCH — “WarnerMedia-Discovery merger could save CNN’s Jeff Zucker: sources,” N.Y. Post: “David Zaslav — the always-working, fleece-wearing chief executive officer of Discovery — is expected to run the new media conglomerate he’s forming with AT&T with a little help from his friends.

“And that could lead to some of the top media executives who failed to thrive under telecom giant AT&T returning to the fold, including CNN chief Jeff Zucker and ex-HBO chief David Plepler, sources said.”

SPOTTED: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) on a Southwest flight from Cincinnati to BWI on Monday morning. … Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) sitting in first class on a midday flight Monday from Dallas/Fort Worth to DCA. … Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) at the Salt Line in Navy Yard. … J.D. Vance at Joe’s on Monday night.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Michael Long is joining S-3 Group as a principal on its government affairs team. He previously was senior adviser and director of member services for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Alexandria Phillips is now comms director for Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. She previously was deputy chief of staff for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and is a Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and State Department alum.

TRANSITIONS — Greg Minoff has launched Blue Wall Mail, a direct mail political consulting firm. He most recently led the Biden campaign’s direct mail program, and is a longtime Democratic politics veteran. … Erika Naegeli is now a consultant at APCO Worldwide. She previously was press officer at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

ENGAGED — Caryn Lenhoff and Matt Sarge, veteran operatives who lead the DNC research department’s rapid response team, got engaged over the weekend at Lake Anna in Virginia. Pic

Theresa Gambo, financial and office administrator for the House Energy and Commerce GOP, and Thomas Neal, a sales executive for Fairview USA, got engaged this weekend. Thomas pretended there was a rock in his shoe and got down on one knee to pop the question in front of the Capitol reflecting pool. Pic

WEEKEND WEDDING — Sophie Trainor, deputy chief of staff for Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), and Peter Khanahmadi got married this weekend in Baltimore, surrounded by family and close friends. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) … Seven Letter’s Erik Smith Matt Yglesias (4-0) … NBC’s Josh Lederman and Leah GrafTim Chapman … Vox’s Libby Nelson … POLITICO’s Cristiano Lima, Bryan Bender, Simona Lightfoot, Felicia Figueiredo and Blake Turner … E&E News’ Chelsea Harvey … Univision’s Janet Rodriguez Alex Witt of the Center for American Progress … Abby Sugrue … Snap’s Sofia Rose Gross Dana Singiser … Democrat Matt GormanGabrielle Shea of NEC Corp. … Laura Morgan-Kessler of Carpi & Clay … AP’s Meg KinnardFarah Melendez … Hiltzik Strategies’ Ryan HughesJennifer Foley LisaiusPete Boogaard of FWD.us … Eric Trager … GMMB’s Liz OxhornSam Graham-FelsenCaitlin ManaoisKatie YoungTaylor West Ezra Cohen-WatnickHeather SwiftRobin (Roberts) WinchellQuerry RobinsonClyde HabermanGary Kopff … former Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) … Anthony Cruz Nate Denny Javier LLano

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