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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Pence and RNC take radically different roads on Jan. 6

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

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The big idea

Pence and RNC take radically different roads on Jan. 6

Former vice president Mike Pence and the Republican National Committee have made radically different bets on whether the GOP can break up with former president Donald Trump without abandoning Trumpism, and whether loyalty to him is a political asset or might be a liability.

Lurking behind both decisions are calculations about how the events of Jan. 6 — Pence’s refusal to illegally try to overturn the election at Trump’s behest, and the pro-Trump riot that interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s victory — will play out this year and in 2024.

The former vice president, who may run for president in 2024, bluntly broke with Trump by saying the former president was “wrong” to say Pence could and should derail Biden’s win. The RNC, on the other hand, said investigating the violent effort to pressure Pence amounted to targeting “legitimate political discourse.”

Trumpism without Trump?

The question of Trumpism without Trump is already shaping Republican politics. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) mostly kept Trump at arm’s length in his successful race last year, but a top adviser sped to Trump’s side in December to smooth things over. 

On Friday, the former vice president fully repudiated Trump’s false claim Pence could have rightfully and single-handedly overturned the results of the 2020 election, saying the former president was “wrong” and that the very suggestion he try to do so was “un-American.”

“I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone,” Pence said. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election.”

In an editorial on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal called it Pence’s “finest hour,” declared the U.S. “desperately needs a Republican Party that is a sane alternative to the ruling Democrats,” and branded Trump a “three-time election loser” who cost the GOP the House in 2018, the White House in 2020, and Georgia’s two Senate seats in 2021.

Trump “had significant policy successes,” the Journal wrote, in a nod to Trumpism, and Pence “has received too little credit for his policy and personnel advice.” 

Trump issued multiple statements over the weekend, but shied from attacking Pence personally, merely saying he was wrong on the law and repeated his false claims of being cheated out of a second term. He has yet to brand the former vice president’s words an act of disloyalty.The 

The envelope please

Early reaction from some elected Republicans — in an unscientific sample of weekend TV appearances — seemed to side with Pence.

“I voted to certify the election and I think Mike Pence did his constitutional duty that day. It's not the Congress that elects the president, it's the American people,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Fox News Sunday’s Martha MacCallum. Trump and Pence “did remarkable things for this country,” Barrasso said, in another nod to Trumpism. “I hope they can work out their differences.”

On CBS’s Face The Nation, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Margaret Brennan Pence was right. 

“That's the same thing that I concluded back in January of 2021,” Rubio said. “When that issue was raised, I looked at it, had analyzed it and came to the same conclusion that vice presidents can't simply decide not to certify an election.”

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee has been in clean-up mode after adopting a resolution accusing the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 ransacking of the Capitol of targeting “[o]rdinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel later said that was a reference to “ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.”

There is no other reference to Jan. 6 protesters in the resolution, no paragraph rejecting the violent attempt to stop the certification of Biden’s victory, no call for prosecuting people who beat police officers with flagpoles or sprayed them with bear mace. The resolution passed not long after Trump floated the possibility of pardoning them if he wins reelection.

"From my front row seat, I did not see a lot of legitimate political discourse," former Pence chief of staff Marc Short told NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.

What really shines through the GOP resolution — apart from the characterization of the subjects of the investigation — is the RNC’s evident fear that the probe’s findings could have devastating repercussions on Republican ambitions to take the House and Senate in November.

Winning back the majority in Congress, including the United States House of Representatives, in 2022 must be the primary goal of the House Republican Conference (“Conference”) and requires all Republicans working together to accomplish the same,” it says.

Republicans efforts to recapture Congress “must not be sabotaged by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger,” the only two GOP members on the select congressional committee investigating Jan. 6, “who have demonstrated, with actions and words, that they support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump more than they support winning back a Republican majority in 2022.”

“Congressional Republicans bear ultimate responsibility for their own success or failure and the RNC supports their efforts by denouncing those who deliberately jeopardize victory in November,” the resolution said.

What's happening now

Top White House scientist apologizes after internal review finds he bullied and demeaned staff

[Eric] Lander, who has been involved in the Biden administration’s work on the coronavirus pandemic, will continue working with the Biden administration but will face disciplinary measures ‘to correct the behavior,’ an [Office of Science and Technology Policy] spokesperson said,” Mariana Alfaro and Tyler Pager report.

  • Politico first reported that the investigation had been sparked by a complaint from Rachel Wallace, Lander’s then-general counsel, last year after she accused him of bullying. Politico obtained a January briefing on the review’s findings. In the recording, Christian Peele, the White House’s deputy director of management and administration for personnel, said the review found evidence ‘of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff.’”

Biden to meet with Scholz, Macron to visit Putin as window for Ukraine diplomacy narrows

“Top-level diplomatic meetings in Washington and Moscow on Monday will push for a resolution of the crisis between NATO and Russia over Ukraine, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down hopes of a swift breakthrough, saying that tensions persist,” Rachel Pannett and Robyn Dixon report.

China’s Peng Shuai says there was ‘misunderstanding’ over her allegations, announces retirement

Lu Pin, a prominent Chinese women’s rights activist and founder of the media platform Feminist Voices, who now lives in the United States, said Peng’s new account of what happens ‘demonstrates a great deal of absurdity.’ But Peng, Lu adds, should not be blamed for falling into a ‘trap set by a violent system’ that engages victims to be part of denying that violence to the world,” Christian Shepherd reports.

U.S. losing patience with China on trade deal, calls for ‘concrete action’

“U.S. officials called on Monday for ‘concrete action’ from China to make good on its commitment to purchase $200 billion in additional U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021 under the ‘Phase 1’ trade deal signed by former President Donald Trump,” Reuters's Andrea Shalal and David Lawder report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

In his fight against ‘woke’ schools, DeSantis tears at the seams of a diverse Florida

“As part of the ‘stop-woke’ agenda of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Florida lawmakers are now considering bills that would allow almost anyone to object to any instruction in public school classrooms. DeSantis wants to give people the right to sue schools and teachers over what they teach based on student ‘discomfort.’ The proposed legislation is far-reaching and could affect even corporate human resources diversity training,” Tim Craig and Lori Rozsa report.

“While the legislation mirrors national efforts to ban critical race theory in schools, the debate in Florida has turned especially raw and emotional, a testament to how central multiculturalism is to the state’s identity. Many parents and teachers — who note that critical race theory is not taught in Florida’s public schools and is already banned under state law — fear the legislation would force teachers to whitewash history, literature and religion courses.”

… and beyond

Republican attacks on Fauci aren't new. But they're spreading.

“The Republican war on [Dr. Anthony S. Fauci] is partly a sign of Mr. Trump’s strong grip on the party. But Dr. Fauci, both his friends and detractors agree, has also become a symbol of something deeper — the deep schism in the country, mistrust in government and a brewing populist resentment of the elites, all made worse by the pandemic,” the NYT's Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports.

  • “ 'Populism is essentially anti: anti-establishment, anti-expertise, anti-intellectual and anti-media,' said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist, adding that Dr. Fauci ‘is an establishment expert intellectual who is in the media.' "

Amy Coney Barrett and the rightward shift of the highest court in the land

“Barrett has a hard-to-rattle temperament…Despite her pro-forma circumspection, her answers on issues from guns to climate change left little doubt that she would feel at home on a Court that is more conservative than it’s been in decades. Yet she also represented a major shift. Daniel Bennett, a professor at John Brown University, a Christian college in Arkansas, who studies the intersection of faith and politics, told me that Barrett is ‘more embedded in the conservative Christian legal movement than any Justice we’ve ever had,’” Margaret Talbot writes for the New Yorker.

The Biden agenda

Jill Biden acknowledges free community college has fallen out of her husband’s Build Back Better agenda

“First lady Jill Biden acknowledged Monday that two years of tuition-free community college is no longer part of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, telling a group of educators that she is ‘disappointed’ that the provision was dropped because of ‘compromises’ her husband must make,” John Wagner reports.

White House offers blueprint for union growth as labor movement struggles to gain ground

“The White House released a detailed blueprint Monday for how the federal government can work to increase union participation and strengthen workers’ right to organize in the absence of legislative actions, another sign of the Biden administration’s historic support for organized labor,” Eli Rosenberg reports.

  • “The 43-page report, produced by the White House’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, is a strikingly pro-union document, seeking to connect the history of union organizing in the United States to its importance for the country’s economic well-being.”

Biden to visit Israel later this year

“President Joe Biden will visit Israel ‘later this year’ after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett invited him to the country, according to a readout of a call between the two on Sunday released by the White House,” CNN’s Donald Judd reports.

Ukraine’s geography, visualized

“As military analysts warn of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, they also are keeping an eye on the weather. Temperatures, cloud cover or even the radioactivity in the soil could determine when and where Russian troops make a possible move.” Our colleagues explain how Ukraine’s geography could influence a Russian invasion.

Hot on the left

Biden's blind spot

“In a two-party system in which one party has gone completely off the rails, Biden and the Democrats are the only option, the only chance for normalcy, sanity and truth. They are the only hope democracy has in this country,” columnist Charles M. Blow writes for the NYT. “And yet Biden keeps saying and doing things that are absolutely infuriating — not to mention alienating.”

It seems that Biden suffers from the same blind spot as other white liberal leaders throughout history: looking past the oppressive impulses of other white men to see kinship and commonality. Where the oppressed see an existential threat, men like Biden only seem to see a disagreement among decent men on a political issue. They see them as simply on the ‘other side’ rather than 'other than.'”

Hot on the right

Is a Jan. 6 committee pivot on the horizon?

“The idea of keeping the Capitol riot committee alive if the GOP retakes the majority this fall, with a wildly different focus, has high-profile fans on the right. Freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said it would be ‘asinine’ for a GOP majority to disband the panel, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has called for using it to pursue unfounded theories about the Justice Department’s involvement in the Jan. 6 attack,” Politico's Olivia Beavers and Kyle Cheney report.

“But interviews and public comments from a dozen House Republicans reveal a split about how a potential GOP-led chamber should handle the remnants of the select committee. Reshaping it into a political cudgel against Democrats, as compelling as it might sound to some conservatives, will take time and focus from a party that wants to pursue its own policy agenda should it vault back to power as expected.”

Today in Washington

At 1:30 p.m., Biden will have a bilateral meeting with Scholz.

Biden and Scholz will hold a joint news conference at 3:15 p.m.

In closing

Merchandise featuring the official mascot of the 2022 Winter Olympics is already selling out

Looking for Bing Dwen Dwen? The mascot is getting difficult to find, but China just pledged to increase its supply of souvenirs featuring the bear's likeness.  

“The announcement came as Chinese media and internet users reported difficulty in purchasing souvenirs in the likeness of the chubby panda in a hard, transparent body suit. Many had queued for hours in cold weather outside a flagship store in Beijing but failed to get the soft toys and other decorations,” Reuters's Muyu Xu and Karolos Grohmann report.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.