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The Biden-Trump debate takes shape

The Biden-Trump Debate Takes Shape
Presented by Comcast: The unofficial guide to official Washington.
Jun 15, 2024 View in browser
 

By Ryan Lizza, Eugene Daniels and Rachael Bade

Presented by 

With help from Eli Okun, Garrett Ross and Bethany Irvine

DRIVING THE DAY

MICHAEL COHEN’S NEXT ACT — Cohen tells NY Mag’s Olivia Nuzzi and Andrew Rice that he will challenge Rep. JERRY NADLER in the 2026 Democratic primary: “He’s been in office 30 years,” Cohen says. “We thank him for his service, but it’s enough already.”

We reached out to the Nadler team about this curious development. “What a great country America is,” the congressman told us in a statement. “Anyone can run for Congress — even con men.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — President JOE BIDEN’s campaign is releasing a new digital ad today hitting DONALD TRUMP for his “inaction on gun violence.” The stark 30-second spot partly narrated by a Biden voiceover will target Nevada voters and seems to reference three infamous gun massacres that occurred while Trump was president: the 2017 mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas; the 2018 Parkland high school shooting in Florida; and the 2017 mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, where the killer fired over 1,000 bullets in 11 minutes by using a bump stock, a device that the Supreme Court legalized this week.

Biden correctly notes in the ad that the murder rate has declined during his time in office. However, there have been significantly more mass shootings so far in Biden’s term (2,208) than in Trump’s four years in office (1,706), per the Gun Violence Archive. Watch the ad

More details about the upcoming Debate between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are rolling out. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

DEBATE UPDATE — The CNN presidential debate in Atlanta is in 12 days, and we’re learning a bunch of new details this morning:

— There will be two commercial breaks. Unlike the Commission on Presidential Debates’ events, CNN will have corporate sponsors interrupting the 90-minute event. This will be a financial windfall for the third-place cable news network, and it will allow Trump and Biden to take a breather. But CNN says “campaign staff may not interact with their candidate during that time.”

— No opening statements. Per the NYT, each side gets two minutes for answers and one minute for rebuttals. There will be two-minute closing statements.

— Mics will be muted when it’s not the candidate’s turn. This was a demand from the Biden team because of Trump’s constant interrupting at the first debate in 2020. We’ll be curious to see if this was a smart idea or not for Biden, considering that Trump’s antics that night were the reason he was widely seen to have lost the debate. In fact, Biden’s most memorable line of the night was prompted by Trump’s repeated interruptions: “Will you shut up, man?” More generally, the mic rule could create a more stifled event. Many of the best moments from past debates have been small asides or interjections made when it wasn’t the candidate’s turn to speak.

— ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. is on the polling bubble. Kennedy has hit CNN’s 15% participation threshold in three polls. He now needs a fourth.

— But ballot access remains a problem. CNN is standing firm in insisting that participating candidates be on the ballot in enough states to theoretically win 270 electoral votes. The network today notes that Kennedy has qualified in six states that add up to 89 electoral votes — suggesting they are not sympathetic to his arguments that he’s on track to hit 270 later this year and that neither Trump or Biden have been officially nominated so technically they are not on the ballot anywhere yet. In fact, by June 27, only seven states will have completed the process to determine what parties will appear on their ballots.

— Biden is about to enter debate camp. His team “is blocking off much of the final week before the debate, after he returns from Europe and a California fund-raising swing, for structured preparations,” per the NYT. “If past is prologue, Mr. Biden will use the early meetings to hash out how he wants to answer various questions. In later sessions, he is expected to rehearse with a stand-in opponent.” As we first reported in April, RON KLAIN will be taking a leave from his new job at Airbnb to once again oversee debate prep. No word yet on whether BOB BAUER is reprising his 2020 role playing Trump.

— Trump is going to wing it. “Mr. Trump has long preferred looser conversations, batting around themes, ideas and one-liners more informally among advisers,” the NYT continues, noting that he held an initial session at RNC headquarters while in Washington on Thursday. “Mr. Trump has never consented to anything resembling traditional, rigorous debate preparation, and this election appears no exception. He has often said that he is at his best when improvising.” So, no, no one will be playing Biden at a mock debate.

— There will be a spin room. The NYT says GAVIN NEWSOM will be there for Biden. The Trump campaign told us they don’t have any names to reveal just yet.

— CNN is determined to keep a lid on things. The network told the campaigns in a letter that muted mics are not the only means for Jake Tapper and Dana Bash to keep control: “[M]oderators will use all tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion.”

— And they’re attaching strings for competitors. The LA Times has a piece detailing some of the rather onerous restrictions that CNN is putting on networks that want to simulcast the debate, including that “CNN’s on-screen logo — or ‘bug,’ as its often called — must appear throughout the simulcast” and that “other networks cannot insert their own anchors and commentators during the breaks or any other portion of the telecast — only before and after the event.”

We reached out to FRANK FAHRENKOPF JR., co-founder and co-chair of the CPD, about CNN’s rules and he was generally impressed. But he thought that the mic-muting might be a problem. At the second debate in 2020, Fahrenkopf muted mics during each candidates’ initial answers to questions but not during the subsequent discussion, which allowed that portion of the conversation to be more spontaneous.

“By and large what they have laid out is not that bad. On balance they have emulated us,” Fahrenkopf told Playbook this morning. “But that part is very, very different.”

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

 

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LEDE OF THE DAY — From the AP: “Donald Trump will use back-to-back stops Saturday to court Black voters and a conservative group that has been accused of attracting white supremacists as the Republican presidential candidate works to stitch together a coalition of historically divergent interests in battleground Michigan.”

FROM RICHES — “Biden Team Set to Raise Record $28 Million at Hollywood Fund-Raiser,” by NYT’s Peter Baker: “Air Force One touched down in Washington only long enough to refuel for the continuing flight and landed in Los Angeles on Saturday morning. … Tickets for the Democratic event at the Peacock Theater run from $250 for grass-roots supporters to $500,000 for a four-seat package.”

TO RAGS — “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s cash crunch,” by Brittany Gibson: “Months of hawking $10 raffle tickets — Whale watching! The thrill of Falconry! Luxury sunset sailing adventure! — have only resulted in anemic small-dollar donation totals. The campaign has tried to attract larger donations by running online auctions for Kennedy paraphernalia and exclusive perks, but those efforts have never once hit their monthly fundraising goals. … Without the $10 million cash infusion from his running mate, NICOLE SHANAHAN, the campaign would be in debt.”

 

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WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY

At the White House

Biden is in Los Angeles for a campaign reception this evening.

VP KAMALA HARRIS is in Switzerland, where she is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY and participate in a Summit on Peace in Ukraine with Swiss President VIOLA AMHERD and other leaders. Later, she will depart Switzerland to return to D.C. More on Harris’ trip from AP’s Aamer Madhani

 

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PLAYBOOK READS

9 THINGS THAT STUCK WITH US

Biden's message at the G7 summit this week was delivered with a Trump-shaped cloud hanging over it. | AP

1. POTUS ABROAD: Biden’s trip to the G7 summit this week turned out to be all about Trump, Adam Cancryn and Alex Ward report from Fasano, Italy, capping the president’s travel. Biden came to Europe touting an expansive vision for the U.S. and its partners, but the prospect of Trump’s return to power, and the likelihood that he would immediately shred Biden’s carefully laid plans, hung over everything.

“Divisive wars in Ukraine and the Middle East are overshadowing his rhetoric about global leadership at home for those who care about foreign policy, while plenty of American voters are focusing instead on domestic issues like inflation and immigration. Some allies are frustrated with his administration’s “no, no, no, yes” approach to equipping Ukraine with ever-bigger and more effective weaponry. And as much as many of his European partners worry about the return of Trump, they’re also concerned that even a second Biden term will be tough.”

2. FOR YOUR RADAR: “Global leader of ISIS targeted and possibly killed in U.S. airstrike,” by NBC’s Courtney Kube: “The U.S. military targeted the global leader of ISIS in an airstrike in Somalia late last month but cannot confirm whether he was killed, three U.S. officials say. The U.S. government has publicly identified Abdulqadir Mumin as the head of the ISIS affiliate in Somalia, but two U.S. officials say that last year he quietly became the worldwide leader of the terror group. U.S. Africa Command released a statement on May 31 saying it had conducted an airstrike against ISIS militants in a remote area 81 km (50 miles) southeast of Bosaso, Somalia, and killed three militants.”

3. HOW IT TURNED FOR TURNING POINT: Trump is set to appear at an event with Turning Point Action, a group known for its growing political heft as well as its pugilistic founder, CHARLIE KIRK. “It’s a longstanding partnership tying Trump to a lightning-rod commentator,” Natalie Allison writes, but it “has also armed Trump’s presidential campaign, lagging in fundraising and organization in the battleground states, with a powerful operational ally.

“Once spurned by top officials at the Republican National Committee, Turning Point’s stature has rapidly grown from a controversial student movement into one of the most active organizations in conservative politics. Now, Turning Point is pouring tens of millions of dollars into an ambitious get-out-the-vote operation in three battleground states, making the 2024 election a major test of the organization’s operations — with ramifications not only for Kirk and his organization, but for Trump and the GOP at large.”

4. A FACE FIT FOR TELEVISION: As Trump continues to sort out who he will select as his running mate (which he claims will be announced during the Republican National Convention), three of the reported 11 names under consideration have stood out — that’s North Dakota Gov. DOUG BURGUM, Ohio Sen. J.D. VANCE, and Florida Sen. MARCO RUBIO — and they all have a certain penchant for appearing on the airwaves, The Bulwark’s Marc Caputo reports.

By the numbers: “Since May 1, Burgum has participated in at least 33 televised or webcast shows as a Trump surrogate; Vance is in second place with 20 appearances; and Rubio’s in third with 13, according to a Bulwark review of their media hits, a majority of which were on Fox. The appearances by the three aren’t the only strong indicator they’re at the top of the shortlist: Trump mentions them most frequently in private discussions.”

5. CHOOSE YOUR NEWS: Multiple attendees of the Business Roundtable meeting with Trump this week told CNBC that Trump “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and that he was “remarkably meandering, could not keep a straight thought [and] was all over the map,” Christina Wilkie and Brian Schwartz write. “Among the topics on which Trump offered scant details were how he would reduce taxes and cut back on business regulations, according to two other people in the room who spoke to CNBC. … At no time during his remarks was there any noticeable applause for Trump, two attendees told CNBC.”

But, but, but: WSJ’s Cara Lombardo, Dana Mattioli and Alexander Saeedy report that a variety of CEOs are “flocking to meet” Trump again as he pledges to enact policies to their benefit, noting their frustrations with Biden and a desire to shape a potential incoming GOP agenda. Even CEOs like JPMorgan Chase’s JAMIE DIMON and Bank of America’s BRIAN MOYNIHAN, who have eluded endorsements in the past, are warming to Trump.

6. FAKE ELECTORS, REAL DELEGATES: “When Republicans converge for their convention in Milwaukee next month to again nominate Trump for president, at least 17 people who participated in fake elector schemes will be present as official GOP delegates or alternate delegates,” the Boston Globe’s Sam Brodey reports, based on public records and a review of the delegate selection process. “In total, five fake electors from Nevada, three from Arizona, three from Pennsylvania, two from Michigan, two from Wisconsin, one from Georgia, and one from New Mexico are headed to the convention.”

7. SWING ON THE FENCES: “Why Democrats Keep Losing the Battle for Small-Town America,” by WSJ’s Valerie Bauerlein in Wilson County, North Carolina: “Since 2016, the number of registered Democrats has fallen 19% in rural Wilson County, while unaffiliated voters have grown 33%. Republican registration is largely unchanged, and local GOP leaders say their focus will be turning out their voters in November’s presidential election. The Democratic Party is losing rural voters, an especially serious problem for President Biden’s re-election campaign in North Carolina, the most rural of the battleground states this year. Biden narrowly lost the state in 2020.”

8. WHAT JEFF BEZOS WANTS: As WaPo tries to cool simmering tensions over a recent upheaval, its mega-mogul owner appears to be more involved in the decision-making than previously known, NYT’s Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson report. Bezos met with publisher and CEO WILL LEWIS to devise the plan that spurred consternation among the newsroom and ultimately resulted in executive editor SALLY BUZBEE’s abrupt departure. “He approves The Post’s budget and advises the newspaper on business matters through regular phone calls with the chief executive and occasional meetings with its leadership team. According to people who have spoken to him, he has said that he believes The Post could reach 100 million paying subscribers, a feat that would catapult it far ahead of competitors. (The Post now has about 2.5 million paying subscribers.)”

9. GETTING WHAT YOU PAY FOR: “Do members of Congress need a pay raise? After 15 years, some say yes,” by WaPo’s Paul Kane: “It’s been 15 years since members of the House and Senate allowed their federally mandated cost-of-living adjustment (often referred to as COLA) to take effect. Since then, their pay has been set at $174,000. … The net result has been a drastic pay cut — at least in terms of buying power — to members over the last 15 years, particularly given the rapid inflation of the last three years and the soaring cost of living in Washington. This has sent many lawmakers toward retirement exits over the last decade as they grow frustrated with the dysfunction inside the Capitol and reap much higher wages in the private sector’s influence industry.”

Fun fact: “It’s no coincidence that the five-member Board of Supervisors for Los Angeles County includes two members who formerly served in the House. They now make about $280,000 — at least $100,000 more than when they served in Congress.”

 

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CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 17 funnies

Matt Davies - Andrews McMeel Syndication

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

“Is That Drink Worth It to You?” by NYT Magazine’s Susan Dominus: “Alcohol is riskier than previously thought, but weighing the trade-offs of health risks can be deeply personal.”

“The Optimists Ended up in Auschwitz,” by Der Spiegel’s Christoph Giesen: “Our author knew that his great-grandfather was murdered in Auschwitz. But he didn't know what it was like to live with the constant fear of becoming stateless. Until he suddenly received a letter from the United States.”

“What America Owes The Planet,” by The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II: “Climate reparations would hold the globe’s biggest polluters — including the United States — responsible for their actions. They might also be the best hope those nations have for saving themselves.”

“Inside Mexico’s anti-avocado militias,” by Alexander Sammon for The Guardian: “The spread of the avocado is a story of greed, ambition, corruption, water shortages, cartel battles and, in a number of towns and villages, a fierce fightback.”

“Spreadsheet Superstars,” by The Verge’s David Pierce: “An elite handful of analysts, actuaries, and accountants have mastered Excel, arguably the most important software in the business world. So what do they do in Vegas? They open a spreadsheet.”

“How to Lead an Army of Digital Sleuths in the Age of AI,” by Wired’s Samanth Subramanian: “Eliot Higgins and his 28,000 forensic foot soldiers at Bellingcat have kept a miraculous nose for truth — and a sharp sense of its limits — in Gaza, Ukraine, and everywhere else atrocities hide online.”

“Pete Buttigieg’s Paternity Leave Was Complicated. Here’s What He Learned,” by GQ’s Chris Cohen: “The secretary of transportation (and 2020 presidential candidate) opens up about taking time away from work after he and his husband adopted twins who were dealing with health issues: ‘There were some dark moments when I wondered if the time that I had on leave was gonna be the only time that we got.’”

“Tory Identity Crisis,” by City Journal’s Fred Bauer: “The Conservative Party’s failure to address British populists’ concerns offers a warning to center-Right parties elsewhere — including Republicans in the United States.”

“Carnival of Self-Harm,” by The London Review of Books’ Tom Crewe: “Short-term thinking has been the fatal tendency of the Conservative governments to which Britain has been subjected since 2010.”

 

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PLAYBOOKERS

Peter Navarro describes life in lockup to The Daily Caller.

Jay-Z’s work on school vouchers in Pennsylvania is raising ethical concerns.

Jason Kearns is under scrutiny for his behavior at the International Trade Commission.

Ritchie Torres is teeing off on Kathy Hochul’s congestion pricing U-turn.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is still spitting out cherries.

IN MEMORIAM — “Alex Gage, trailblazing GOP strategist credited for ‘microtargeting,’ dies at 74,” by the Detroit News’ Grant Schwab: “Gage, a data scientist who U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney and others credit for revolutionizing how political campaigns try to reach voters, died Wednesday near his hometown of Grosse Pointe after a battle with dementia. He was 74. By many accounts, Gage changed the course of American political history through his work.”

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at the King’s Birthday Party on Thursday night at the British Ambassador’s Residence, in honor of King Charles III, and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s birth: Goli Sheikholeslami, Greta Van Susteren, Chris Matthews, Sam Feist, Chris Ruddy, Jonathan Finer, Mike Donilon, Beth Van Schaack, C.S. Venkatakrishnan, Brian Moynihan, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Jim Himes (D-Conn), French



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The Biden-Trump debate takes shape

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