A cautionary tale for Dems on abortion politics- POLITICO

PELOSI LAYS DOWN A MARKER ON ABORTION — In a new Dear Colleague letter to House Dems this morning, Speaker NANCY PELOSI encouraged her members to play up the contrast between their party and the GOP over abortion rights following the disclosure of the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

— Here’s a taste from the letter: “Republicans have made clear that their goal will be to seek to criminalize abortion nationwide. Republican state legislators across the country are already advancing extreme new laws, seeking to arrest doctors for offering reproductive care, ban abortion entirely with no exceptions, and even charge women with murder who exercise their right to choose. These draconian measures could even criminalize contraceptive care, in vitro fertilization and post-miscarriage care, dragging our nation back to a dark time decades into the past.”

The speaker also told her members that other basic human rights are on the line, and that “it is urgent and essential that we remain disciplined and focused in sharing with the American people the dangers of the Republican agenda.” The letter

The memo falls in line with Democrats’ new offensive on abortion, which we wrote about in the top of Playbook this morning.

BUT HERE’S THE PROBLEM … Democrats might be getting over their skis. This morning, Reuters’ Tim Read is up with a new story that might as well be a flashing yellow light for the party. The gist? That voters in one critical swing district — specifically, women who support abortion rights — aren’t galvanized by this issue in the midterms at all, at least not yet.

— The lead anecdote:LAURA WILSON is a mother of three who lives in the sprawling suburbs of north Phoenix, a hotly contested electoral area of Arizona that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate after November’s congressional elections. Wilson, 61, is pro-choice, voted for Democratic President JOE BIDEN, and knew all about the news last week that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision giving women the right to an abortion.

“Yet Wilson said she is undecided about who she will vote for this November, and abortion rights are not a priority for her. ‘It’s the economy and jobs,’ Wilson said. She said she was disappointed in Biden, because of high inflation and ‘too many homeless people on the streets.’”

— More: “Wilson was one of 21 women interviewed by Reuters in the northern suburbs of Phoenix — a key area for Democratic Senator MARK KELLY’s efforts to hold onto his seat — after news of the Supreme Court draft ruling broke. Most of the women said inflation, not abortion, was the galvanizing issue for them …

“Of the 21 women … five said they were pro-life and Republican, while 16 said they were pro-choice. Just two of the 16 said the issue was the top priority for them when voting this November, while half of the 16 were undecided about who to vote for in the Senate race because of concerns about the economy.”

Speaking of … 

NEW GALLUP POLL — “Americans are more likely today than they were a year ago to report being ‘very’ or ‘moderately worried’ about several aspects of their finances, reversing the improvement seen last year,” Gallup’s Lydia Saad writes. “People’s concern has increased the most about paying their monthly bills (up eight percentage points to 40%) and maintaining the standard of living they enjoy (up seven points to 52%). But concern has also increased, by five points, on paying one’s rent or mortgage (35%), making minimum payments on credit cards (22%) and having enough money for retirement (63%).”

TOP-ED — “I’m a Pro-Choice Governor, and I’m Not Going to Sit on My Hands Waiting for Congress,” by Michigan Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER in the NYT

Good Monday afternoon.


THE PLOT TO SUBVERT DEMOCRACY — WaPo’s Michael Kranish has a big step-back this morning taking stock of how MARK MEADOWS played a key role in trying to overturn the 2020 election during a three-week period leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Combing through Meadows’ text messages, interviews and other materials obtained by investigators, Kranish writes that Meadows tried to get DOJ to invalidate the election and investigate bogus fraud claims, while also connecting DONALD TRUMP with conspiracy theorists and traveling to Georgia just before Christmas to try to change the results. Now, “his next steps could help determine whether prosecutors seek to press charges against Trump and others.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT — WSJ’s Alan Cullison and Aruna Viswanatha go deep on the creation of the Steele dossier — and discover that “many of the dossier’s key details originated with a few people gossiping after they had been brought together over a minor corporate publicity contract.” CHRISTOPHER STEELE leaned on researcher IGOR DANCHENKO, who culled information from old friends and the PR executive CHARLES DOLAN JR. Cullison and Viswanatha don’t mince words: “[T]he dossier was wrong in nearly all its salient details, and the way it was compiled was far more random, haphazard and amateurish than anyone knew.”


HAPPENING THIS AFTERNOON — Twenty leading internet providers have struck an agreement with the Biden administration to bolster high-speed internet and/or drop costs for low-income households, meaning tens of millions of households will be able to get it for $30 a month or less. Biden and Harris will announce the deal at the White House this afternoon. “To make sure that eligible families take advantage of the offer, the administration will launch a website (GetInternet.gov) that will provide details about how they can sign up and find participating internet providers in their area,” notes USA Today’s Michael Collins.


COMMITTEE LATEST — The Jan. 6 committee is trying to decide whether to call Trump and/or MIKE PENCE themselves to testify, one of the panel’s last big decisions as it readies for public hearings next month, AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri report. Calling them could be risky. But among the outstanding holes in their timeline of events is how Pence responded on the Jan. 6 phone call when Trump pressured him to overturn the election. “The committee wants to be as thorough as possible, and critics are sure to pounce if they don’t even try. But some lawmakers on the panel have argued that they’ve obtained all the information they need without Trump and Pence.”


THE POLITICS OF CRIME — From Milwaukee, WaPo’s Cleve Wootson Jr. explores how fears about crime are playing out in a charged political environment and a state that has seen more than its share of high-profile debates over violence, race and policing. Wisconsin Republicans are looking to talk about crime as “part of a multifaceted Republican message that the country has fallen into chaos under Democratic rule, from soaring prices to out-of-control schools to surging immigration.” And Dems are riven over how much to walk back calls for criminal justice reforms or emphasize racial justice.

MEET THE NEW NY MAPMAKER — Bloomberg Law’s Keshia Clukey profiles JONATHAN CERVAS, a 37-year-old Carnegie Mellon professor who now has just weeks to redraw New York’s congressional and state Senate lines after a court tossed out Democrats’ gerrymander. Cervas has experience working on redistricting in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia, and he’s well respected as a nonpartisan expert on the matter.

AFTERNOON READ — It’s no “Dancing with the Stars,” but former Energy Secretary and Texas Gov. RICK PERRY has a new extracurricular passion: advocating for the use and legalization of psychedelic drugs in therapeutic settings. Texas Monthly’s Christopher Hooks has the story: Perry learned about the matter through MARCUS LUTTRELL and other retired Navy SEALs who used the drugs to help them. “Perry hopes that by encouraging the legalization of psychedelic therapy in Texas, he’ll facilitate bringing it to all fifty states. He has a model in mind: his record on criminal justice reform.”


PUTIN DOESN’T GO THERE — Russia’s grand Victory Day military parade today had loomed as a potential milestone when the West worried that President VLADIMIR PUTIN might turn his “special military operation” in Ukraine into a fully acknowledged war. But although his speech defended Russia’s actions and attacked NATO, “there will be a collective sigh of relief in much of the world that Putin did not, as was feared, use this to escalate the war in Ukraine in some form,” per the BBC.

FLOTUS ABROAD — First lady JILL BIDEN said at the end of her Eastern Europe trip today that she’d told her husband “just how much I saw the need to support the people of Ukraine,” per NYT’s Katie Rogers in Bratislava, Slovakia.

LATEST FROM THE U.S. — The Commerce Department announced today it will pause tariffs on Ukrainian steel for a year.

LATEST ON THE GROUND — Russian attacks continued to bombard the Luhansk region of Ukraine, as their forces reportedly stormed the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. More from the NYT


BORDER TALES — QAnon conspiracy theorists are the latest addition to the circus at the U.S.-Mexico border, where they’re seeking to prevent migrant children from being sex trafficked, NYT’s Miriam Jordan reports from Sasabe, Ariz. It’s not clear that they’re breaking any laws by greeting unaware children crossing the border, providing them food and asking them for their loved ones’ contact information. “But the new focus on immigration, analysts say, also serves to drum up political support and raise money by tapping into people’s inherent instinct to protect children while promoting hard-line border policies.”

PULLOUT FALLOUT — Life has been hard for many Afghan refugees trying to acclimate to resettlement in the U.S., as the country’s many bureaucratic hurdles for immigrants and low-income people exhaust a group that’s already been through a lot, reports WSJ’s Jessica Donati. It’s not just housing shortages and worries about their refugee status; now, “delays in obtaining documents and slow help from overburdened case workers are leading them to miss rent payments, hospital visits and other key obligations.”


FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Heather Hurlburt will be the new chief of staff at USTR. She most recently directed the New Models of Policy Change project at New America’s Political Reform program, and is a foreign policy veteran and Clinton administration alum.

WHITE HOUSE MOVE — Erin Wilson will be deputy chief of staff for VP Kamala Harris, per the N.Y. Post’s Callie Patteson. She currently is deputy director at the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.

TRANSITION — Denise Barnes is now a partner in Honigman’s investigations and white collar defense practice. She previously was a trial attorney in DOJ’s commercial litigation branch, fraud section.

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