Trump descends on S.C. — and splits its Republican Party- POLITICO

PALMETTO STATE INTRIGUE — As President DONALD TRUMP heads to his latest political event this evening — a rally in Florence, S.C. — POLITICO’s lead GOP politics reporter, Alex Isenstadt, writes in to Playbook about a divide in state GOP political circles that’s been magnified by Trump’s visit …

When Trump takes the stage, he’ll be joined by a plethora of South Carolina GOP bigwigs. But two of his former top administration officials who hail from the state weren’t invited and will be notably missing: former acting chief of staff MICK MULVANEY and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. NIKKI HALEY.

Their absences are rich with intrigue — because of both their tense personal relationships with Trump and the fact they’re on opposite sides of him in a knockdown House primary unfolding in the state.

Haley, who like Trump is weighing a 2024 bid, has thrown her support behind GOP Rep. NANCY MACE. The former governor held a Friday afternoon fundraiser for the freshman congresswoman at the Harbour Club in Charleston that netted over $250,000. But Trump is gunning for Mace — who sharply criticized him following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — and will likely unload on her at tonight’s rally. He’s backing Mace primary challenger KATIE ARRINGTON, who’s expected to be on hand and is listed as the co-chair of a pre-rally fundraising reception. See the invite here

“Big rally in South Carolina this weekend,” Trump said Friday. “Will be honoring Katie Arrington, who is running against the absolutely horrendous Nancy Mace.”

Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who served more than a year as White House acting chief of staff, said in a text message he believes Trump “simply got bad advice in this race.” He noted that Arrington, after prevailing in the Republican primary, lost her 2018 bid for the conservative-leaning House seat to a Democrat.

“If there is one thing the party — and the president — should have learned in the last decade it is that bad candidates lose,” Mulvaney added. “I can only wonder if he got advice from anyone who actually follows S.C. politics. I know he didn’t ask me, or Nikki.”

ED MCMULLEN, who was ambassador to Switzerland under Trump and is co-chairing the pre-rally reception, fired back: “President Trump’s approval ratings are higher today than any political leader in the history of South Carolina because true conservatives know him and trust him while the professional politicians get it wrong every time.”

Arrington spokesman CHRIS D’ANNA shrugged off the involvement of Haley and Mulvaney, noting that Arrington prevailed in a past state legislative race in which Haley endorsed her opponent. “Katie is undefeated when Haley lines up against her,” he said.

Haley and Mulvaney’s relationships with Trump soured after the Jan. 6 riot. Mulvaney quit the administration the day after. Haley whacked Trump following the siege, but has since lavished praise on him, including during a closed-door speech before an RNC donor retreat last week.

Haley has said she won’t run for president if Trump does.

Republican Sen. TIM SCOTT, South Carolina’s other would-be 2024 presidential hopeful, is also expected to be absent from the rally. But unlike Haley, Scott is listed as the co-chair of the fundraising reception, which benefits Trump’s Save America PAC. Scott has yet to endorse in the Mace-Arrington primary.

Related reading: “With Trump in Her State, Haley Finds Some Political Distance (Gently),” by NYT’s Jonathan Weisman … “Trump is holding a rally in South Carolina on Saturday. Here’s what you need to know,” by The State’s Caitlin Byrd

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

CARE AGENDA CRISIS — Last year, President JOE BIDEN planned to plow hundreds of billions of dollars into the care economy — lowering child care costs, creating a nationwide pre-K program, extending paid leave benefits and providing home and community-based care.

Fast forward to today: The expanded child tax credit, which dramatically reduced child poverty while it lasted, expired. Build Back Better is all but dead. And the care economy proposal appears to be going nowhere fast.

Now, some Democrats are worried that the major setbacks on Biden’s social agenda will cost the party dearly in the midterms, especially among parents and caregivers, Adam Cancryn and I report in a story that posted this morning.

Republicans, sensing a political opening, are attempting to make inroads on education and children’s issues — largely by waging campaigns around school curriculums and sexual orientation and gender identity instructions in the classroom.

As for BBB, Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) is focused on limiting drug prices and climate initiatives. And many congressional Democrats are signaling they’re willing to give in to his demands to give them something to pass.

“They cannot return home for a midterm election without bringing home the goods,” said APRIL VERRETT, president of the long-term care worker union, SEIU 2015. “Americans want and need the support to lower costs for families.”

Advocates for the care provisions have warned the White House and lawmakers that any reconciliation bill that leaves out large investments in the care economy risks alienating one of Democrats’ most important voting groups ahead of the midterms.

“If a reconciliation package passes without any of the care agenda items, you will see the wrath of women around the country,” said JULIE KASHEN, director of women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation.

The White House continues to reassure them that the president will keep looking for ways to pass the issues into law if they don’t end up in the BBB bill that can be done through reconciliation.

But they’re running out of time: Administration officials have indicated it may take until the end of April for negotiations on the specifics of an economic package to begin in earnest. That means Democrats will likely head into the thick of campaign season having made little headway on the “care economy” — or, possibly at best, stuck in negotiations.

UKRAINE LATEST …

— Is Kyiv in trouble? Russian forces moved closer to the capital amid reports of new explosions and fighting in the northern suburbs. And heavy Russian shelling continued to rain down on other major cities, including a cancer hospital in Mykolaiv. Ukrainian officials said they were still holding off all major Russian advances, but warned that Russian forces near Kyiv appeared to be rearranging in a fresh effort to encircle and attack, per Reuters.

— Ukrainian officials alleged Russia was planning an attack at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which the defense ministry said Russia would try to use as a “false flag” operation to blame Ukraine. More from CNN

— Russia warned that any foreign weapons shipments to Ukraine are “legitimate targets” that it may seek to destroy. The deputy foreign minister also said Russia was working on retaliatory sanctions against the West. “But he said that the Kremlin was prepared to resume arms control talks with Washington,” per NBC’s Max Burman.

— In Russian-speaking Kharkiv, where bombing has flattened city streets and killed hundreds, once friendly sentiment toward Russia has turned into shock and anger that could endure for decades, WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov reports amid the rubble. From seriously damaged Irpin, Heidi Levine has a must-click photo series for WaPo: “For days I have witnessed the scenes of nightmares.”

BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY — The VP will speak at the DNC winter meeting at the Washington Hilton at 12:45 p.m.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

9 THINGS WE READ THAT STUCK WITH US …

1. At House Dems’ retreat in Philly, Biden offered a preview of the party’s midterm strategy:

— Talk up the success of the American Rescue Plan, “which [Biden] said lifted people out of poverty, boosted employment, and reduced home foreclosures, ‘because families had money in their pockets.’ ‘And let’s be clear,’ Biden said, leaning into the microphone. ‘We did it alone, without one single solitary Republican vote,’” writes the Inquirer’s Julia Terruso.

— Warn about the threat of a GOP-controlled Congress: “‘We have to continue to maintain our majority,’ the president said, calling the midterms perhaps the most important off-year election in modern history. ‘We know the fundamental change that shifts if we lose the House and Senate. The only thing I’ll have then is a veto pen,’” reports L.A. Times’ Nolan McCaskill.

But there’s one big thing Biden didn’t do,write Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris: offer any hint of how the party “should use its next nine months of unified government, including whether to revive” BBB.

2. Inside MITCH MCCONNELL’s $1.5 billion phone call to CHUCK SCHUMER. Soon, Biden will sign a bill that more than doubles his initial request of $6.4 billion for Ukraine to roughly $14 billion. Burgess Everett and Andrew Desiderio have the scoop on how it happened — including “a last-minute phone call” from the Senate minority leader to the majority leader that added $1.5 billion in aid in a single conversation. (“To Chuck’s credit, he said, ‘OK,’” McConnell said in an interview.)

3. “A Texas district court judge on Friday temporarily halted all child abuse investigations into gender-affirming care for trans minors after a daylong hearing that pitted the mother of a transgender teenager against the state’s lawyers.” Dallas Morning News’ Lauren McGaughy has the full story.

4. In advance of Jan. 6, 2021, then-VP MIKE PENCE and his top aides “rewrote the script long used to certify elections, making clear that false elector slates wouldn’t fly,” Kyle Cheney reports. The mystery of the added words has piqued the interest of the House Jan. 6 committee, but the story of how the change hasn’t been clear until now.

5. Has Ukraine become the one issue where congressional Republicans are comfortable distancing themselves from Trump? “At least temporarily, the war in Ukraine has established a cease-fire between America’s ever-dueling parties, and lowered the temperature on Capitol Hill by a few degrees,” writes The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey. “Many Republicans seem relieved, both for the reprieve and for the chance to distance themselves a bit from Trump.”

But, but, but: “[T]his détente won’t continue much longer. Soon, Republicans will be criticizing the Biden administration for rising gas prices as a result of Russia sanctions, and encouraging more domestic drilling. Democrats will argue that the war and gas companies’ rising profits are directly to blame.

6. Covid researchers say that Florida “cherry-picked” their studies to justify its controversial decision to recommend against vaccinating children ages 5-17, reports Tampa Bay Times’ Ian Hodgson.

7. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge LEWIS KAPLAN rejected Trump’s bid to sue writer E. JEAN CARROLL, ruling that it was an attempt to keep Carroll’s own suit against Trump from moving closer to trial. Carroll has alleged that Trump raped her decades ago — an accusation Trump denies, and which was the basis of his legal threat. More from WaPo’s Shayna Jacobs

8. “Democratic National Committee members blasted Iowa’s lack of diversity and spoke about shaking up the presidential nominating process on Friday,” report Elena Schneider and David Siders. “But the Democratic National Committee isn’t any closer to actually dethroning Iowa with formal changes yet.” Even so, “a number of members made clear that Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status shouldn’t be kept out of habit.””

9. ICYMI: POLITICO’S The Recast team named its 40 power players of 2021. From strategists to politicians, activists to influencers, they undeniably made an impact at the intersection of race, politics and policy. Explore the full list here — the players are people you need to know, and the visuals are stunning.

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 keepers

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

“Of Course We’re Living in a Simulation,” by Jason Kehe in Wired: “The only people who absolutely disagree are, well, scientists. They need to get over themselves and join the fun.”

“The Grown-Ups Are Losing It,” by George Packer in The Atlantic: “We’ve turned schools into battlefields, and our kids are the casualties.”

“A New, Stealth Kind of Protest Music,” by Carina del Valle Schorske in the NYT Magazine’s music issue: “[I]n recent years, a wave of experimental Latin artists making music in the borderlands between genres and nation-states has gathered its poetic resources to sound out luminous new worlds.”

“Stephen Colbert on Faith and His ‘Late Show’ of Love,” by David Camp on the cover of the WSJ Magazine: “How America’s No. 1 late-night host keeps things upbeat and soulful: ‘I think America is essentially an optimistic country.’”

“The Last of Her Kind,” by Fintan O’Toole in The New York Review: “Angela Merkel emerged from the ruins of the Eastern bloc as a spectacular example of the way the collapse of an old regime might create a much more benign sense of opportunity.”

“Sandbagging in Odessa,” by Elena Kostyuchenko in n+1: “This is my city and I can’t abandon it.”

“How Much Did You Change The Last Two Years? It’s A Small Part Of Why Things Feel Unsettled,” by BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller: “The unsettled nature of the individual, and the unsettled nature of what we’re even living in, undergirds a tiny part of the chaotic, anarchic, deeply emotional way news gets talked about these days.”

“What Really Happened to Abu Zubaydah at Notorious Polish Black Site Stare Kiejkuty?: Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy on the CIA Torture of a ‘High-Value Target,’” a LitHub excerpt of their forthcoming book, “The Forever Prisoner: The Full and Searing Account of the CIA’s Most Controversial Covert Program” ($30).

Janet Yellen and Doug Emhoff visited the Denver mint and admired some freshly created quarters — a striking contrast to an iconic Trump-era photo of Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton. (h/t Sam Stein)

Joe Biden told a class of elementary school students: “One thing I want you girls to remember — no serious guys ’til you’re 30.”

Donald Trump endorsed Bill Huizenga, who is running in a House primary against Steve Carra, whom Trump endorsed in September, and Trump persona non grata Fred Upton. (If you’re confused, it’s not you — read this Detroit News story.)

James Carville was forced to wear Tulane gear while at the New Orleans book festival, but snuck in some LSU socks.

Sam Sanders received his final NPR language advisory over the phrase “gay shit.”

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — An elderly driver reportedly crashed into diners eating lunch at the Parthenon restaurant in Chevy Chase, D.C., on Friday, killing two women and sending several others to the hospital in what police deemed an accident. More from WaPo

NEW NOMINEES — The White House announced a suite of new nominees, including Shefali Razdan Duggal as ambassador to the Netherlands, Susie Feliz as assistant Commerce secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, Brendan Owens as assistant Defense secretary for energy, installations and environment, Russell Rumbaugh as assistant secretary of the Navy (financial management and comptroller), Rheanne Wirkkala as assistant Defense secretary for legislative affairs, Carmen Cantor as assistant Interior secretary for insular and international affairs, Naz Durakoğlu as assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs, and Rebecca Dye as commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission.

TRANSITIONS — Chris D’Aloia is now press secretary for Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.). He previously was at Levick. … The boutique law firm Robbins Russell is joining Kramer Levin and becoming its D.C. office, including partners Brandon Arnold, Alison Barnes, Roy Englert, Jr., Lee Turner Friedman, Ariel Lavinbuk, Matthew Madden, Gary Orseck, Barry Pollack, Lawrence Robbins, William Trunk and Jennifer Windom. Lariza Garzón will be director of North Carolina and mid-South operations at the Hispanic Federation. She previously was executive director of the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry in Dunn, N.C.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) … Reps. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) … Jake Tapper … White House’s Remi Yamamoto … WSJ’s Emily StephensonKedenard Raymond … Leidos’ Jalen DrummondColleen Carlos of Rep. Madeleine Dean’s (D-Pa.) office … Tara (Jeffries) Payne … former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) … Andrew Young (9-0) … Alex Vargo of Sen. Mitt Romeny’s (R-Utah) office … Riley BarnesScott ComerAshley Ludlow … Fox News’ Eric ShawnAndres Penfold … USTelecom’s Brian Weiss Eric Burns of Bullfight Strategies … Slate’s Jim Newell … FT’s Peter Spiegel … S-3 Group’s Matt Bravo … Protocol’s Justin Stuckey Jeremy Pelzer (4-0) … David Sheon of Whitecoat Strategies … Aaron MagidRebekah Williams LovornNeil FriedJeff LandeRebecca Dishotsky Marshall Kosloff James Ball Steven Stenberg

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

CNN “State of the Union”: National security adviser Jake Sullivan … Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) … Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko. Panel: Susan Glasser, Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), Jane Harman and Mike Rogers. … (at noon) Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) … Latvian President Egils Levits. Panel: Jill Dougherty and Julia Ioffe.

Gray TV “Full Court Press”: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) … Franklin Graham.

FOX “Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Bret Baier: Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) … retired Gen. Jack Keane … Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Panel: Jason Chaffetz, Steve Harrigan, Susan Page and Marie Harf.

NBC “Meet the Press”: National security adviser Jake Sullivan … Bill Barr … Marie Yovanovitch, Michael McFaul and retired Adm. James Stavridis … Richard Engel reporting from Ukraine. Panel: Peter Baker, Helene Cooper, Rich Lowry and Kimberly Atkins Stohr.

CBS “Face the Nation”: National security adviser Jake Sullivan … IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva … Mohamed El-Erian … Albert Bourla.

ABC “This Week,” with co-anchor Martha Raddatz reporting from Lviv, Ukraine: Pentagon press secretary John Kirby … Lviv Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy. Panel: Mary Bruce, Jane Coaston, George Will and Heidi Heitkamp.

MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Ned Price … German Ambassador Emily Haber … Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) … Max Boot … Ruth Ben-Ghiat … Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen.

CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: retired Gen. Mark Kimmitt, David Sanger, Julia Ioffe, Rachael Bade, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Margaret Talev.

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