with Tobi Raji

Good Wednesday morning. Happy Cinco de Mayo 🎉 – and five year anniversary to Trump's taco bowl tweet. Wonder if that's what they ate for dinner last night at Mar-a-Lago.This is the Power Up newsletter; thanks for waking up with us. 

On the Hill

HOW WE GOT HERE: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) may have helped save Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) from losing her leadership post back in February. 

At the time, House Democrats were pressuring Republicans to strip Greene of her committee assignments over her history of propagating conspiracy theories and support for political violence on social media. Concurrently, House Republicans were grappling with whether to keep Cheney in leadership after she defended her support for former president Trump's impeachment. 

Two Republicans with knowledge of House leadership's thinking at the time say the timing of the backlash against Greene in part allowed Cheney to keep her post. With two members facing internal and external criticism for dramatically different reasons, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's “big tent” gamble had to extend to both Cheney and Greene. The optics of protecting Greene but not Cheney, according to these sources, would have been too toxic for House Republicans. 

  • “They were in a position where they were like, ‘we can’t save Greene's [butt] and throw Cheney to the wolves because that will look awful optically,” one of the Republicans told Power Up. “It's all or nothing — we either have to boot both or defend both and I ultimately think the decision was made for the purposes of party unity that we should defend both of our party members.”
  • “Their transgressions in the eyes of the conference were completely different but the situation was very similar — so we just said, no blood and let's move forward as one,” the second source with knowledge of House GOP leadership's deliberations over Cheney and Greene's fate told Power Up.
  • “They both saved each other in some sense, the source added.

But the gulf between Cheney and the rest of GOP leadership only widened. The play to protect the third-highest-ranking House Republican didn't pay dividends for McCarthy as he worked to unify the conference in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection. After House Republicans overwhelming voted to keep Cheney in her No. 3 spot, she continued to speak out against Trump. 

  • “The view was that we saved her and that she'd be thankful we saved her … put her head down and not cause any headaches — no one ever assumed or wanted her to walk back her criticisms,” the first source told Power Up, describing private conversations among GOP leadership at the time. “It very quickly became clear that Liz wasn't very interested in putting her head down and doing work for the caucus but was a lot more interested in going on CNN every day."
  • Fact check: Cheney has not gone on CNN a single time since the vote, according to her spokesperson. 

At a news conference at the end of February, McCarthy and Cheney awkwardly disagreed with each other over former president Trump's role in the party. And this past weekend, Cheney told a crowd of donors and scholars at an annual retreat for the American Enterprise Institute that the GOP should not “whitewash” the Jan. 6 insurrection “or perpetuate Trump's big lie,” CNN reported

Yesterday, McCarthy publicly voiced renewed frustration with Cheney on ‘Fox & Friends’ and questioned her “ability to carry out the message” — a not-so-subtle hint that Cheney may once again face an effort to remove her from party leadership once members come back from recess next week. 

  • I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message. We all need to be working as one if we're able to win the majority,” McCarthy said.
  • “When you lose a locker room, or a team, or a classroom whatever it may be that's a tough time and poses a challenge to what we're trying to do, the second GOP source told Power Up. “I imagine our first conference meeting will address this issue in one way or another next week.” 
  • “She can't message, she can't raise money, and she's constantly causing headaches for members,” a source close to McCarthy's team said of Cheney's leadership — or lack thereof.

In a statement responding to McCarthy's television comments, Cheney's spokesperson Jeremy Adler said: “This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan 6. Liz will not do that. That is the issue."

  • A source close to Cheney disputed the idea that Cheney wouldn't have enjoyed the support of the conference without Greene's concurrent drama. After all, 145 House GOP members voted to keep her in her post as House Republican Conference Chair, while 61 voted to remove her. And many stood up and spoke in support of Cheney during the closed door conference meeting, according to the source.
  • But the source added that criticisms of Cheney's weakness on messaging for the party might be accurate: “She's not going to be a good messenger if it requires lying, the source said, referencing Trump's continued unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. 

It remains to be seen who might replace Cheney if she's ousted. A source close to Trump-world said this isn't “a situation where people in Trump's orbit would let imperfect be the enemy of good.” 

  • “So long as it's not another Never-Trumper, they'd be fine with anyone,” the source added.
  • “….some of McCarthy’s allies have started pitching other Republicans on Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) for the post, according to multiple GOP sources familiar with the conversations," Politico's Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers, and Quint Forgey report. “Stefanik herself has begun building support for a potential bid if Cheney is booted.”

CNN anchor Ana Cabrera:

At the White House

BIDEN HITS RESET BUTTON ON VACCINE GOALS: “Biden declared a new goal Tuesday that 70 percent of adults will have at least one coronavirus vaccine shot by the Fourth of July as the White House grappled with how to send Americans a complex message: A normal life is within reach if you get vaccinated — but the crisis is far from over, so don’t fully relax your guard,” our colleagues Tyler Pager and Yasmeen Abutaleb report

  • Use it or lose it: “The White House also told states Tuesday that coronavirus vaccine doses they choose not to order will become available to other states — the most significant shift in domestic vaccine distribution since Biden took office and part of his effort to account for flagging demand in parts of the country.”
  • “The use-it-or-lose-it strategy could transform how vaccine flows across the country. In recent weeks, numerous states have begun leaving significant quantities of doses on the shelves. Last week, officials in Arkansas declined the state’s entire share,” our colleague Isaac Stanley-Becker reports

“Biden said he will focus on three areas in the coming weeks: vaccinating adolescents between 12 and 15, if the Food and Drug Administration determines the vaccines are safe for them; making it more convenient for everyone to get vaccinated, especially those in rural and hard-to-reach locations; and persuading individuals who are hesitant to get vaccinated,” Pager and Abutaleb write.

In the agencies

YELLEN’S INFLATION REMARK SENDS MARKET INTO FRENZY: “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen insisted Tuesday that she is not concerned about the risks of economic overheating hours after her earlier comments about inflation caused a brief panic on Wall Street and invited fresh scrutiny about the White House’s position,” our colleague Jeff Stein reports

  • “First, in an interview with the Atlantic that was released Tuesday morning, Yellen defended the administration’s new spending proposals and said the central bank could handle inflationary pressures with modest interest rate increases.”
  • “It may be that interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure our economy does not overheat, even though the additional spending is relatively small relative to the size of the economy,” Yellen said. “It could cause some very modest increases in interest rates to get that reallocation.”
  • “Her comments briefly led the stock market to dip and seemed to suggest that White House officials were acknowledging that inflationary pressures were a growing concern.”
  • Then, “at a separate event with the Wall Street Journal later Tuesday, Yellen was adamant that she was not concerned about inflation and stressed that she was not predicting or recommending an imminent increase in rates.”

What it means: “The confusion sparked by the treasury chief showed the delicate situation the Biden administration confronts as it seeks to demonstrate its attention to inflationary pressures without fueling criticism that its spending packages could hurt the economy.”

At the Pentagon

HOW FAR CAN OFFICIALS GO TO LIMIT EXTREMISM? “Pentagon officials are considering new restrictions on service members’s interactions with far-right groups, part of the military’s reckoning with extremism, but the measures could trigger legal challenges from critics who say they would violate First Amendment rights,” our colleague Missy Ryan reports.

  • “One step the [newly formed extremism] task force is examining would alter a regulation that prohibits ‘active’ participation in extremist organizations — activities such as fundraising, attending rallies and distributing propaganda — but permits what officials have called ‘passive’ membership, which could include being admitted to groups or possessing their literature.”
  • “Pentagon lawyers, also part of the task force, are likely to take a cautious approach in considering new restrictions on service members’s First Amendment rights.”
  • “The deliberations reflect a larger debate about the proper balance between Americans’s constitutional right to voice opinions, even if many people find them offensive, and the threat posted by far-right movements espousing racist, misogynistic and anti-democratic ideas that sometimes advocate violence to achieve their goals.”

In the media

D(ECISION) DAY: Facebook’s Oversight Board will decide whether to uphold Trump’s ban from the social media platform or scrap it altogether, per AP News’s Barbara Ortutay.

  • The decision comes after “Trump launched a communications platform on Tuesday, which will serve as ‘a place to speak freely and safely,’ and will eventually give him the ability to communicate directly with his followers,” Fox News’s Brooke Singman reports.

The policies

ADMINISTRATION'S FAMILY REUNIFICATION EFFORT STARTS WITH MOTHER AND SON: “Three years, seven months and four days after U.S. immigration agents separated her from her child, Sandra Ortíz was walking through the San Ysidro border crossing Tuesday when she spotted Bryan Chávez,” our colleague Kevin Sieff writes. “My son!” she cried. “I missed you so much!”

  • “Ortíz and Chávez were among the thousands of families separated by the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018 under a policy intended to deter migration.”
  • “Now they were among the first [of four to be] reunited under the Biden administration — the start of a massive relocation of parents deported by one U.S. president and returned by another. In total, more than 1,000 families are expected to be reunited.”

The investigations

DOJ SAYS GIULIANI EVIDENCE SHOULD BE REVIEWED BY AN OUTSIDE LAWYER: “Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to appoint an outside lawyer to review the records seized from Rudolph W. Giuliani — echoing the Justice Department’s pursuit of a criminal case against a previous attorney for Trump, Michael Cohen,” our colleague Devlin Barrett reports

  • “In a letter unsealed Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan asked U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken to appoint what’s known as a special master to examine evidence taken late last month from the former New York mayor’s home and office. They cited the Cohen case as a past example when such an appointment helped to show that Trump’s lawyer was treated fairly.”

From the courts

DEREK CHAUVIN WANTS A NEW TRIAL: “The attorney for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd, filed a motion for a new trial Tuesday, alleging that misconduct by the judge, prosecutors and jurors compromised his client’s right to a fair trial,” our colleague Holly Bailey reports.

  • “The request comes several days after one of the jurors, Brandon Mitchell, spoke out publicly about the panel’s deliberations.”
  • “Mitchell has come under scrutiny after a photo surfaced of him wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt while attending last summer’s March on Washington, a ceremony to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”

Viral