Jan. 6 committee meets Trump’s stone wall

BAD NEWS FOR DEMS IN 2022: “Accelerating Inflation Spreads Through the Economy,” by WSJ’s Gwynn Guilford: “Higher inflation weighs on Fed policy, starts to have a broader impact on cost of living, wages and social-benefits programs.”

GOOD NEWS FOR DEMS IN 2022: Former President DONALD TRUMP warned that Republican voters “will not be voting” in the midterms or in 2024 if “we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020.”

RICH LOWRY responds: ”I guess unnecessarily losing the Georgia special elections — and empowering JOE BIDEN to spend additional trillions and get through a bunch of dreadful executive branch and judicial nominees — was just the proof of concept.”

JAN. 6 PANEL FACES POSSIBLE OVERSIGHT WOES — It’s a story we’ve become all too familiar with since Democrats took control of the House in 2019: Lawmakers issue subpoenas to Trump White House officials — who then stonewall at his behest.

Today, the Jan. 6 committee could find itself hitting the same roadblocks. STEVE BANNON and KASH PATEL have been subpoenaed for questioning today, and MARK MEADOWS and DAN SCAVINO are slated for Friday. Trump has asked them not to cooperate, claiming executive privilege bars their participation — an assertion Democrats call bogus.

CRIMINAL CONTEMPT IS NO SILVER BULLET: Members of the panel have been talking this week about referring non-compliant witnesses to DOJ for criminal prosecution. Unlike during the Trump years, they now have allies in a Justice Department run by Democrats — at least in theory. Often when it comes to oversight, presidents protect their predecessors.

A.G. MERRICK GARLAND, however, has shown a willingness to assist Hill investigators on this particular issue, including by ensuring privilege is waived for top DOJ officials to testify about the pressure they faced from Trump.

It’s unclear whether Garland will go along with the panel’s plan to pursue criminal contempt. But even if he does, the cases could drag out in court for months, inching up to the midterm elections — fraught timing for both parties.

Some other dynamics to watch:

— Who’s paying the legal bills? Trump attorney RUDY GIULIANI complained vocally that the Republican Party didn’t pony up for his legal bills when he got sued for defamation over some of his Big Lie conspiracy theories. Could these defendants find themselves in a similar financial bind? If so, would they be more willing to spill?

— The matter of privilege: The Biden White House has been walking a fine line when it comes to Trump’s claims of executive privilege, indicating a willingness to waive depending on the request. On Wednesday, for example, White House counsel DANA REMUS encouraged the National Archives to turn over Trump-era documents to the panel, regardless of what the former president says. But will they do this for everything?

Even if they do, Trump will almost certainly go to court to slow things down, as he has before. The question of a former president’s privilege being waived hasn’t been litigated before.

TOOTHLESS OVERSIGHT? The entire situation underscores how much Hill oversight has been crippled in recent years. Subpoenas have no teeth. And without authority to uphold them, Congress has struggled with holding Trump fully accountable.

Yes, the panel has had some cooperation. Former acting A.G. JEFFREY ROSEN testified for hours before the committee in private Wednesday. But when it comes to what Trump did at the White House on Jan. 6, they still have a real challenge.

Democrats are hoping that the threat of contempt may force some to cooperate. It’s a stain on anyone’s record, they argue, and in the past, the threat alone has made some people play ball.

Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) wants to change this dynamic, in part by requiring courts to quickly resolve any questions of privilege when it comes to oversight. His bill has yet to move through the House, but it will be interesting to see where the GOP comes down on it: There’s already private talk of impeaching Biden if and when they flip the House. Such a provision would undoubtedly be used by the GOP in investigating the Biden White House as well.

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

BIDEN’S THURSDAY:

— 9:30 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— 10:30 a.m.: Biden and VP KAMALA HARRIS will get a pandemic/vaccination briefing in the Oval Office.

— 11:30 a.m.: Biden will speak from the Roosevelt Room to deliver a pandemic response/vaccination update.

— 12:15 p.m.: Biden and Harris will have lunch together.

— 2:15 p.m.: Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Kenyan President UHURU KENYATTA in the Oval Office.

HARRIS’ THURSDAY:

— 10 a.m.: The VP will take part in a virtual town hall focused on the administration’s care agenda and its benefits for families and women, hosted by Care Can’t Wait.

— 5:35 p.m.: Harris and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF will leave to spend the weekend in Los Angeles.

Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 1 p.m.

The HOUSE and THE SENATE are out.

VIRGINIA

This is the week Democrats officially hit the panic button in Virginia. Biden won the state by 10 points in 2020, but TERRY MCAULIFFE, the former popular governor looking to return to Richmond, leads Republican GLENN YOUNGKIN by just 2.5 points (48.1% to 45.5%).

BARACK OBAMA, not exactly BFF with the Macker, is being sent in to stump for him. McAuliffe has started distancing himself from Biden and Washington Democrats, demanding that they “get their act together.” The Crooked Media newsletter, a tipsheet for lefty Dems, declared that it was time to “commence your productive freakout.”

WaPo’s James Hohmann, a keen observer of Virginia politics, writes that “Democrats seem to be sleepwalking into disaster” in the same way they missed warning signs of the growing backlash against Obama in 2009: “The disdain with which McAuliffe dismisses pervasive parental anxiety is eerily reminiscent of the way Democrats underestimated the potency of the emerging tea party movement 12 years ago. It was common then for many on the left to dismiss people getting engaged with right-wing politics for the first time as racist whack jobs who were being taken advantage of by Astroturf groups funded by billionaires.”

Youngkin has been trying to conjure the spirit of Trump to excite the GOP base but without having Trump himself come to Virginia and scare away all the GOP-curious independents in the exurbs. On Wednesday night, a pro-Youngkin “Take Back Virginia Rally” outside Richmond tested this needle-threading strategy. The event, per the AP, featured “Republicans who have spread falsehoods about election fraud,” including “former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon; [state] Rep. MARK FINCHEM of Arizona, who has worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss; and Virginia state Sen. AMANDA CHASE, a prominent promoter of election fraud conspiracy theories.”

Youngkin was not there to watch attendees recite the Pledge of Allegiance before an American flag that was said to be “at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on Jan. 6.” And Youngkin missed Trump himself calling into the event and declaring his support for the GOP candidate while falsely claiming 2020 “was the most corrupt election in the history of our country.”

The AP added: “Youngkin’s campaign did not respond to questions from The Associated Press on Wednesday whether Youngkin expected Trump would campaign with him in the final stretch or why he chose not to attend Wednesday’s event, apart from pointing out the candidate’s busy travel schedule Wednesday.”

CONGRESS

Alice Miranda Ollstein has the reconciliation must-read of the day with a scoopy report on how progressives are desperately trying to preserve a proposed expansion of Medicare benefits. The prognosis? Not great:

“Democratic lawmakers and aides said the envisioned Medicare expansion is the likeliest to drop out in its entirety because of its high cost and the difficulty of rolling it out quickly — a key factor since Democrats are planning to campaign on the new programs next year as they fight to maintain their slim congressional majorities.”

The reality of reducing the reconciliation bill by some 40% from its original $3.5 trillion price tag is setting in. One senior Democratic aide tells Alice, “We’re having to move from snips to chops.”

— Meanwhile, Eleanor Mueller reports: “Senate leadership is considering slashing funding for paid leave in Democrats’ reconciliation package to $300 billion … That’s about $200 billion, or about 40 percent, less than what the House approved. To get there, policymakers would need to make major changes to the House-drafted language.”

— As reconciliation hangs in the balance, Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) is on a fundraising trip to … Europe, according to NYT’s Shane Goldmacher. The senator’s shop was characteristically stingy with details about the boss’s whereabouts:

“Ms. Sinema’s office declined to say how long she would be abroad, what countries she was visiting, how the trip was being paid for and whether she was doing any additional fund-raising for her own campaign. Her political team had reached out to set up meetings in London and Paris, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

THE WHITE HOUSE

AP: “Biden tries to tame inflation by having LA port open 24/7”

NYT: “Biden Administration Plans Wind Farms Along Nearly the Entire U.S. Coastline”

POLITICO: “Biden team asks oil industry for help to tame gas prices”

WaPo: “The filibuster hampered Biden politically, even without being invoked”

CNN: “Sense of urgency grips the White House with Biden facing crises on many fronts”

THE PANDEMIC

VACCINE UPDATE — Those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may benefit from a second dose as a booster, but recently released data also indicates J&J recipients could benefit from a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, WaPo’s Carolyn Johnson reports.

— TSA administrator DAVID PEKOSKE told CNN that 60% of agents are vaccinated, leaving 40% unvaccinated ahead of the administration’s Nov. 22 vaccine deadline for federal government workers.

NYT’s Audra Burch and Amy Schoenfeld Walker explain how “Black Americans were once far less likely than white Americans to be vaccinated. But a wave of pro-vaccine campaigns and a surge of virus deaths have narrowed that gap.”

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

CONSIDERING PLAN B — “Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and Israeli Foreign Minister YAIR LAPID said discussions between their two countries have begun on ‘other options’ should Iran reject an offer to come back into compliance with the agreement if the U.S. rejoins it,” AP’s Matthew Lee reports. “They did not elaborate on what those options might be, but there are a wide range of non-diplomatic options that could be considered, ranging from stepped up sanctions to covert or military actions.”

EXPERIENCING ‘HAVANA SYNDROME’ — NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Ken Dilanian and Brenda Breslauer spoke to foreign service officers about their experience with a mysterious illness also known as the “Havana Syndrome”: “They want the world to know that what happened to them in Havana caused real suffering and documentable injuries, and that those who insist this must be a case of mass psychosis are wrong.”

PULLOUT FALLOUT — The Air Force narrowly avoided a commercial airplane hijacking amid the chaotic Kabul evacuation efforts, as Defense One’s Tara Copp writes.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Gloria Steinem is endorsing Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta in the Senate Democratic primary.

Herschel Walker canceled a fundraising event hosted by film producer Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais after it was pointed out that she used a swastika in her Twitter profile picture as a symbol of protest against vaccine mandates.

Francis Suarez, mayor of Miami, wants to be able to pay city employees in bitcoins.

Alex Padilla showed off impressive tortilla-rolling skills.

Katie Couric admitted editing out RBG’s negative comments about football players who kneel in protest.

Rebekah Mercer hosted a fundraiser in New York for Blake Masters and J.D. Vance.

Washingtonian put out its list of “Washington’s Most Powerful Women,” including Playbook’s own Tara Palmeri and way too many others for us to name here.

Clarissa Ward of CNN is launching a new podcast, “Tug of War,” highlighting “on the ground reports from ordinary citizens who are risking their lives to fight for freedom” around the world. More

IN MEMORIAM — “Former Rep. Dale Kildee, who represented Flint in Congress for 36 years, dies,” by the Detroit Free Press’ Todd Spangler

SPOTTED: VP Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff at The Dabney for dinner Wednesday night.

SPOTTED Wednesday at a party hosted by Molly Jong-Fast to welcome New York mag’s Shawn McCreesh back to Manhattan: Michael Grynbaum, Carl Swanson, Jesse Rodriguez, Lauren Peikoff, Margaret Carlson, Jo Fox, Lachlan Cartwright, Nick Gillespie, Jeremy Peters, Justin Miller, Julie Bloom, Jesse Cannon, Davis Richardson, Dodai Stewart, Alex Vadukul, Kara Tsangeos, Alex Levy and Alexandra Jacobs.

OUT AND ABOUT — Andreessen Horowitz hosted a media happy hour at the Dockmaster Building at the Wharf on Wednesday evening, with an open bar, passed appetizers and the sounds of Kaytranada playing at the Anthem next door. It’s part of the venture capital firm’s big crypto policy push in Washington. SPOTTED: Tomicah Tillemann, Rachael Horwitz, Jen Epstein, Tory Newmyer, Sara Fischer, Eric Lipton, Ephrat Livni, Rachel Janfaza, Cristiano Lima, Victoria Guida, Robert Schmidt, Claire Williams, Nihal Krishan, Niki Christoff and Nick Pacilio.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Allie Freedman is now director of impact at the American Hotel and Lodging Association. She most recently was a director at Banner Public Affairs, and is an AIPAC alum.

MEDIA MOVE — Andrew Solender is joining Axios to cover Capitol Hill. He previously was a reporter at Forbes covering the White House and Congress. More from Talking Biz News

TRANSITION — Jocelyn Frye will be the next president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. She currently is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and is an Obama White House alum.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Susannah Wellford, CEO and founder of Running Start, and Aaron Kisner, founder and creative director of Hundredth Monkey Collective, got married Saturday at her family farm in Essex County, Va., in front of 115 friends and family. Pic, via Zoe Dean-SmithAnother picSPOTTED: Emily Lenzner and Vivek Jain, Alyse Nelson and Hardin Lang (whose daughter was the flower girl), Dylan and Meme Glenn, Charlotte Clymer, Sandra Pepera, and Pamela Reeves and Jeffrey Goldberg.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) … WaPo’s Bob Costa … R Street’s Eli Lehrer … POLITICO’s Bianca Quilantan, Erin Aulov and Aaron McBurnieNorm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute … Emily AtkinJack Fitzpatrick of Bloomberg Government … Ira ShapiroTucker Foote of Mastercard … Melissa Maxfield … CNN’s Annie GrayerLucy Gardner of Sen. James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) office … Stephen OhlemacherDaniel Castro of the ITIF and Center for Data Innovation … Chris May of Quadrant Advisory … Microsoft’s Dave LeichtmanBrian Bond … Targeted Victory’s Anang Mittal … RNC’s Chris WalkerEmma Dulaney of the House Oversight Dems … Isabel MilánJerry Ceppos (75)

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