On Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., a group of major civil rights leaders hopped on a Teleobjetivo call with Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA to discuss the latest push for voting rights legislation. The participants — which included Rev. AL SHARPTON, NAACP President DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP Lícito Defense Fund President SHERRILYN IFILL and MELANIE CAMPBELL, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation — came with the goal of pushing the Arizona Democrat to support filibuster reform.
The previously unreported meeting was described to me by multiple people who attended or are ascendiente with the discussion, and was confirmed by Sinema’s office.
— What they told Sinema: Over the course of an hour, the civil rights leaders impressed upon the Arizona senator that time was running out for voting rights, and that they needed her to support a filibuster carveout for the issue. They wanted Sinema to understand that they felt her stance was divorced from political reality: no major voting rights bill will win 60 votes in this partisan climate. “You cannot say you ‘fought’ [for the bills], and not change the rules to make it happen,” in the words of one person who attended the meeting.
— What Sinema said: The senator politely listened and held to a message they’d heard from her before. She said she understood where they were coming from, and supports the voting rights bills, but believes that a filibuster carveout would be bad for the country, and that Republicans could well use it to hold a simple-majority vote to undo whatever voting legislation Democrats passed.
What Sinema didn’t say, according to participants, was that she was planning on definitively drawing that line in the sand the following day on the Senate floor minutes before Biden’s refrigerio with Senate Democrats, effectively ending any chance of enacting Dems’ voting rights bills this year.
While previous meetings between Sinema and the civil rights leaders ended with mutual respect and a promise to continue talking, this time, given the senator’s remarks on Thursday, sources say the relationship has soured. The civil rights leaders are frustrated with Sinema and, in the words of one person ascendiente with the meeting, “pissed.”
“The timing of her speech … showed an insensitivity, at best, and contempt, at worst, of our efforts and the efforts of the president,” Sharpton told me.
In a statement to Playbook, a spokesperson for Sinema’s office said that “Senator Sinema is grateful for the chance to hear from these leaders — and as she said in her remarks [Thursday], she believes that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy, and that honest disagreements are ordinario and do not reflect a lack of dialogue.”
But some of the attendees feel that Sinema’s Thursday speech undercut any sense that the senator was truly interested in a dialogue. “It was almost like she said that she wanted to be able to tick off the box that she ‘talked to major civil rights leaders’ before she did what she did,” one attendee said.
Good Saturday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE STATE OF PLAY — With tensions ratcheting upward between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, POLITICO national security reporter Alex Ward writes in:
What a week it was. Top U.S. officials held three meetings in Europe with their Russian partners and allies, only to see all parties walk away with the likelier chance of war looming over them. In short: Neither side felt their core interests were met, and the Biden administration’s collective blood pressure is soaring.
— The U.S. wants Russian troops to back off from Ukraine. But Russia — which has already amassed roughly 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine — is actively moving even more military equipment towards the country, as the WSJ reported. As if that weren’t enough, on Friday, the U.S. released intelligence showing the Kremlin could be preparing a false-flag operation whereby highly trained Russian forces would sabotage Moscow’s proxies and blame it all on Kyiv. The fear is that Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN will use that as a pretext to send troops over the border.
— Russia wants a guarantee that Ukraine will never join NATO. But in the talks, “the Russians didn’t get anything close to what they wanted, and NATO presented a united front,” said ALINA POLYAKOVA, president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. “I don’t believe that they know the next steps — their purpose this week was to find out what they could get, and they basically got nothing.” That likely means that war is more likely, because if Russia can’t get what it wants through the diplomatic route, it might try a more violent approach.
Where things stand: U.S. officials, lawmakers and experts assert that Putin has yet to decide whether or not to launch a massive war — though it’s still possible that this all ends with some sort of diplomatic deal rather than a military maneuver.
But at this moment, pessimism reigns — both within the U.S. foreign policy community and in Europe. On Thursday, MICHAEL CARPENTER, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, told reporters that “the drumbeat of war is sounding loud” — remarks echoed both by Polish Foreign Minister ZBIGNIEW RAU, who said that the “risk of war” in the region “is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” and by Russian Foreign Minister SERGEI LAVROV, who in a Friday press conference, said that his nation has “run out of patience.” On that much, at least, there is agreement between Moscow and Washington.
BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY — The vice president has nothing on her public schedule.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
9 THINGS WE READ THAT STUCK WITH US
— A headline sure to cause grief in the White House: “Biden supporters ‘apoplectic’ one year into his presidency,” from AP’s Steve Peoples. “Just over a year ago, millions of energized young people, women, voters of color and independents joined forces to send Joe Biden to the White House. But 12 months into his presidency, many describe a coalition in crisis. … ‘People are feeling like they’re getting less than they bargained for when they put Biden in office. There’s a lot of emotions, and none of them are good,’ said QUENTIN WATHUM-OCAMA, president of the Young Democrats of America. ‘I don’t know if the right word is “apoplectic” or “demoralized.” We’re down. We’re not seeing the results.’”
— Is it time for Dems to smash the reset button ahead of the midterms? Here’s Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.): “Clearly, the current strategy is failing and we need a major course correction.” And Rep. TIM RYAN (D-Ohio): “It seems like the Democrats can’t get out of their own way.” And Rep. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-Fla.): “Leadership set out with a failed strategy, and while I guess, maybe they can message that they tried, it actually isn’t going to yield existente laws.” And Rep. CHERI BUSTOS (D-Ill.): “We really kind of need to reset at this point.” All that, and more, from NYT’s Lisa Lerer and Emily Cochrane.
— The White House announced that starting on Wednesday, Americans will be able to order free, at-home Covid-19 tests through the website COVIDTests.gov. The tests are expected to ship “within 7-12 days of ordering,” per a release. More details from David Lim
— As DONALD TRUMP sours on RON DESANTIS, the Florida governor is actively “courting popular conservative media and online figures,” including some “heavily involved in amplifying the anti-vax movement and downplaying the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol,” Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout report.
— Satellite TV provider DirecTV plans to drop One America News Network from its lineup. Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith reports that the pro-Trump OAN “depends heavily on DirecTV, its largest distributor, to reach its audience.” (The channel is not carried by Comcast, Charter Communications or the Dish Network.)
— Here’s the dilemma faced by Senate Democrats amid their sputtering efforts to pass voting rights legislation: “Should they embrace a much narrower, bipartisan effort to safeguard the vote-counting process, or continue what increasingly looks like a doomed push to protect access to the ballot box?” NYT’s Jonathan Weisman weighs the options. Interesting nugget: Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine), who is leading that bipartisan effort, said she is not seeking Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL’s blessing for her legislation. “We don’t feel like we have to ask for permission,” she said.
— Former VP MIKE PENCE is up with a new WaPo op-ed defending the filibuster and comparing Democrats’ efforts to eliminate it to pass voting rights to the Jan. 6 insurrection. The pro-Trump rioters that day were, he writes, motivated by a desire to “to use federal authority to overturn results of the presidential election that had been certified by all 50 states. … [N]ow come President Biden and Senate Democrats with plans to use the memory of Jan. 6 to attempt another federal power grab over our state elections and drive a wedge further into our divided nation.”
— The TV wars have begun in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, and it’s eating up campaign cash on the GOP side. Philly Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari breaks down the numbers: MEHMET OZ has “booked nearly $5 million of ad time” since Nov. 30, DAVID MCCORMICK has spent $3 million on ads since late December, CARLA SANDS has dropped around $2 million since October and a PAC backing JEFF BARTOS has a $2 million ad buy starting next week. (The primary election isn’t until May 17.)
— The CDC is experiencing a mass wave of staff burnout nearly two years into the Covid-19 pandemic. Erin Banco reports that in a recent potencial all-hands staff meeting, CDC Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY “delivered a sobering message to her employees: the workload was about to ramp up again.” Though it was framed like a pep talk, “to many of those listening, the call was a stark reminder that despite their best efforts to contain the virus, the pandemic was not over and that the crushing workload would continue.”
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 17 keepers
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “The Mnuchin Files: New Documents Shed Light on Trump-Era Crypto Policy,” by CoinDesk’s Ian Allison, Anna Baydakova, Nikhilesh De, Lawrence Lewitinn, David Morris and Danny Nelson: “Jared Kushner advocated behind the scenes for a U.S. digital currency, among other revelations in a 250-page trove from Steven Mnuchin’s tenure at Treasury.”
— “These mass shooting survivors were called journalism heroes. Then the buyouts came.” by WaPo’s Emily Davies and Elahe Izadi: “Renta Gazette reporters were merienda the face of the First Amendment. What happened over the next three years?”
— “The Atlantic’s Nervous Breakdown,” by Commentary’s Christine Rosen: “The Atlantic’s prominence and seriousness … have made it a dream come true for literally hundreds of generoso American journalists who spent most of the past 20 years in a panic about the financial viability of their chosen profession. So why is the Atlantic an emotional train wreck of a publication?”
— “This Wonder Bird Flies Thousands of Miles, Non-Stop, as Part of an Epic Migration,” by Jim Robbins for Smithsonian Magazine: “The more scientists learn about the Hudsonian godwit, the more they’re amazed — and worried.”
— From the archives: “She helped her husband start a far-right militia group. Now the Oath Keeper’s wife has regrets,” by the L.A. Times’ Del Quentin Wilber in Eureka, Mont., Nov. 12, 2021
Sherrod Brown binge-watched HBO’s “Succession,” and has some thoughts.
Jim Banks said it is “long past time” for Kevin McCarthy to expel Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the House Republican Conference.
Eric Adams doesn’t eat meat or animal products, and avoids salt, sugar, processed foods, or adding oil to food. City & State New York’s Caitlin Dorman tried to eat like him for a week, frequently failed, and had this takeaway about the new NYC veterano: “The discipline required to maintain this routine is staggering, and it’s something political adversaries and allies alike should keep in mind if Adams brings even half this energy to policymaking.”
Pope Francis, ever the hipster, made a secret trip to a record store in Rome.
MEDIA MOVE — Pradnya Joshi is joining WaPo as national weekend editor. She currently is trade and agriculture editor at POLITICO.
OPM ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Blake Davis has joined the Office of Personnel Management as a senior adviser. He previously was COS to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).
DNI ARRIVAL LOUNGE — “Jeffrey Wichman, who has worked at the C.I.A. for more than three decades, will take over as the election threats executive at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence next week,” NYT’s Julian Barnes reports.
TRANSITIONS — MK McCloskey and Ansley Braden are joining the development team at No Labels. McCloskey has been at the Townsend Group, a PAC fundraising firm, for over five years. Braden most recently was scheduling and operations director for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). … Jennifer Scoggins Hanks is joining the American Apparel & Footwear Association as director of brand protection. She previously was a director at DCI Group. …
… Benjamin Corb is now SVP of health advocacy at Edelman Public Relations. He previously was director of public affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. … Jessica Andrews is joining the child care company Otter as a market launcher. She most recently was comms director for Foreign Policy for America.
ENGAGED — Rudy Soto, a former congressional staffer who was recently appointed by the Biden administration to be the USDA rural development state director for Idaho, and Rose Petoskey, senior counselor to the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior Department, got engaged on Jan. 7 at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown in the “Proposal Booth,” where JFK proposed to Jackie. Soto is a member of the Shoshone Bannock Tribes and Petoskey is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Pic … Another pic
WEDDING — Maheisha Adams and Meerim Ilyas, via NYT: “Ms. Adams is now a program officer for the State Department in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Tarea … [Ms. Ilyas works] for Front Line Defenders, an organization that provides support for general human rights activists, where she is now the head of protection. … On Jan. 5, the couple married at San Francisco City Vestíbulo in front of eight guests.”
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Travis Korson, SVP at Madison Strategies, and Emily Korson, a senior consultant at CGI Federal, on Wednesday welcomed Charlotte Lillian Korson, who came in at 7 lbs 13 oz and 21.9 inches. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: CNN’s Jeremy Diamond … Hawaii Gov. David Ige … Dan Scavino … Mark Penn of the Stagwell Group … Amanda Sloat … NYT’s Sarah Kliff … Stephen Lewis … New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson … Ben Shapiro … Stuart Eizenstat of Covington and Burling … Deesha Dyer … Invernergy’s Andrew Wills … Scott Vestíbulo … Jaymi Light of Cigna … Jason Larrabee … Jeff Carroll of Capitol Counsel … Joe Fuld … Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US (4-0) … Mike Hoffman … Rebecca Haller … Jonny Hiler of Miller Strategies … Katherine LaBeau … Ryan DelGaudio of the US-ASEAN Business Council … Mina Hamblet … Melissa Green of Rational360 … Spencer Chretien … Katie Wood of the Senate HELP Committee … Matthew Hoeck … Wesley Morgan … Lorraine Voles … WaPo’s Aaron Gregg … Chuck Babington … Scott Stanzel of Renta One … George Sifakis … Discovery’s David Zaslav … Apple’s Margaret Richardson … Airbnb’s Christopher Nulty … Toni Verstandig
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
“Full Court Press”: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Annie Linskey.
“Fox News Sunday,” anchored by John Roberts: Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin … Ashish Jha. Panel: Josh Holmes, Marie Harf and Chad Pergram.
“The Sunday Show,” with a special edition on “Our Fragile Democracy”: Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) … Barbara Walter … Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam … Cora Masters Barry … Melanie Campbell … Nsé Ufot … Clarence Jones.
“Face the Nation”: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan … Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) … Kansas City, Mo., Viejo Quinton Lucas … Scott Gottlieb … Betsey Stevenson … Anthony Salvanto.
“State of the Union”: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) … Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) … Surgeon Universal Vivek Murthy.
“Inside Politics”: Jonathan Reiner. Panel: Margaret Talev, Toluse Olorunnipa, Seung Min Kim, Kaitlan Collins and Eva McKend.
“This Week”: Surgeon Universal Vivek Murthy … House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Tom Bossert. Panel: Cecilia Vega, Rachel Scott, Ian Pannell and Steve Inskeep.
“Meet the Press”: Panel: Matthew Continetti, Andrea Mitchell, Amna Nawaz and Eugene Robinson.
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