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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Trump uses Pa. primary to continue effort to undermine electoral system

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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Good morning, Early Birds, and a special good morning to the U.S. women’s national soccer team for landing a “game-changing” deal to close the pay gap with the men’s soccer team. 😎 💪 Tips? earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s editionPresident Biden is heading out on a trip to Asia where he will try to reassure allies he is still committed to leading a coalition to counter China … Poll Watch: The Senate is poised to clear $40 billion in aid for Ukraine on Thursday. What do polls tell us about where American stand on all that funding? … The Senate next week plans to take up a domestic terrorism bill that the House passed Wednesday night… but first …

🚨First in The Early: More than 1,300 children’s book authors, including Judy Blume and Dav Pilkey, have signed a letter condemning the rash of book bannings across the country. “When books are removed or flagged as inappropriate, it sends the message that the people in them are somehow inappropriate,” author Christina Soontornvat wrote in a letter addressed to Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, respectively.

  • “Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone’s humanity.”
  • The committee will hold a hearing on book bans today.

The campaign

Trump casts doubt on veracity of Pennsylvania GOP primary result with familiar false claims

Donald Trump's continued effort to discredit or manipulate the electoral process is playing out in two distinct but related ways in the wake of Tuesday's primary contests in Pennsylvania.

First, he is casting doubt on the result of the Senate GOP primary by once again making baseless claims that mail-in ballots are causing problems and suggesting his preferred candidate, Mehmet Oz, should just declare victory.

“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump said, providing no evidence, on his social media platform Truth Social, our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports

Second, the nominee he backed for governor, Doug Mastriano, won the primary and if he wins the election in November, Mastriano would have considerable influence over how the state's presidential election results are handled in 2024 when Trump may be on the ballot as our colleague's Rosalind S. Helderman, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey explain.

Mastriano has been one of the staunchest backers of Trump's false claims about the 2020 election and the steps he wanted officials to take to deny Joe Biden victory.

“As governor, Mastriano would have the opportunity not just to speak, but to act,” Roz, Isaac and Josh write. A possibility that is “worrying experts already fearful of a democratic breakdown around the 2024 presidential contest.” 

  • “Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.”

Most of Wednesday's focus was on Oz's too-close-to-call contest against former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, which could be heading to a recount as officials tally the final batch of votes that include mail-in ballots.

Election experts and Democrats have called the claims of fraud surrounding mail-in ballots unfounded, and Trump and his allies have provided no evidence of any impropriety that impacted the 2020 election results.

“It allows more Democrats to vote, it allows more Republicans to vote and in the fall it will allow more Independents to vote,” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) told The Early.

But some of Trump's allies in Congress are joining him once again in raising doubts about Pennsylvania's mail-in ballots despite no evidence of problems beyond the time it takes to count votes in a close race.

“It's like Yogi Berra 'de ja vu all over again' right?” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a close Trump ally who voted to object to Pennsylvania's electoral college count on Jan. 6, told The Early.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said mail-in ballots create “a serious opportunity for mischief,” adding that “this train wreck keeps repeating itself” in Pennsylvania. 

Cruz is one of seven Senate Republicans who joined 138 House Republicans to object to Pennsylvania's electoral college count on Jan. 6, 2021, including all members of the Pennsylvania Republican delegation except for Rep. Brian K. Fitzpatrick and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey Jr. Trump lost Pennsylvania by nearly 81,000 votes.

A key difference between now and 2020 is that Trump and his allies are casting aspersions about a GOP primary, not a contest against a Democrat, which could cause Republicans some headaches heading into the fall election if Oz loses and the former president continues to cast doubt on the result.

Speaking of GOP Senate primaries

The Post's Paul Kane digs into an issue we've been wondering about: How will the fact that many of the Republicans winning Senate primaries are loyal to Trump impact the Senate Republican conference next year if they get elected?

As Paul points out, many of the candidates are running for seats being vacated by lawmakers who represent the party's fading establishment and who have been allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

"… this younger crop of Republicans include a half dozen or more agitators who can make his job more difficult, particularly if he’s the majority leader next year and has to craft some bipartisan deals with Biden.

The question will be, depending on which of these 2022 nominees make it to the Senate swearing in next January, how deferential will they be toward McConnell?”

At the White House

Biden, after months focused on Ukraine, makes first trip to Asia

Happening today: “Biden embarks on his first trip to Asia, hoping to reassure Asian allies that the United States is not too preoccupied with Ukraine to take a leading role in blunting the influence of China,” our colleagues Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Seung Min Kim and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report. “Biden has called China America’s chief global competitor. As the war in Ukraine settles into what may be a long slog, Biden is seeking to show that his administration can multitask when it comes to leading coalitions against aggressive superpowers.”

  • “Biden lands in South Korea on Friday and heads to Japan three days later … The president’s five-day trip includes meetings with South Korea’s newly elected president, Yoon Suk-yeol, and with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Biden will also hold a summit with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan as part of a meeting of the so-called Quad, a strategic partnership formed in part to counter China’s ascent.”
  • “Biden faces a host of challenges on the trip, including a looming intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea that threatens to upend his plans. South Korean officials said Wednesday that Washington and Seoul are preparing a joint command-and-control ‘Plan B’ in case Pyongyang conducts a missile test this weekend.”
  • “Biden also plans to unveil his banner economic vision for the Asia-Pacific region. But he faces a steep credibility gap, particularly in Japan, where officials are still reeling after the United States, under then-President Donald Trump, pulled out of a major trade agreement in 2017 that it had brokered in the region.”

Poll Watch

What Americans think about sending aid to Ukraine

Introducing a new weekly feature from The Post's expert polling team of Scott Clement and Emily Guskin exploring what public opinion polls tell us about issues in the news. Emily has the wheel this week:

On top of already being the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine, the Senate is set to clear an aid package Thursday with almost $40 billion in additional humanitarian and military aid to the country, more than what President Biden requested. 

The package has wide support in both chambers and parties, but some Republicans oppose the legislation, including 11 who are expected to vote against it in the Senate. They argue it's too much money and Europe should be spending more or that the funding could be better used on border security in the United States. 

Here’s what Americans think about sending aid to Ukraine: 

A majority of Americans approve of sending money to Ukraine: 63 percent of Americans said that sending financial aid to Ukraine was a “good idea” for the U.S. in an Economist/YouGov poll and 76 percent said the U.S. should provide more humanitarian support than it has so far in a Post-ABC poll.

Most Americans also want to send weapons: Between 62 percent and 77 percent of Americans said that the U.S. should send weapons to support the war against Russia in recent polls by the Pew Research Center, Monmouth University and the Economist/YouGov.

And Americans support sending troops to European allies: In the Economist/YouGov poll, 47 percent said that sending troops to NATO ally countries in eastern Europe was a “good idea,” while about half as many said it was a bad idea (23 percent) and the remaining 30 percent said they were not sure. Pew’s survey found that 64 percent of Americans approved of stationing large numbers of U.S. military forces in NATO countries near Ukraine; 20 percent disapproved and a comparatively small share said they were not sure (15 percent).

But Americans oppose sending American troops to Ukraine or attacking Russians: 80 percent of Americans said they were concerned about the U.S. getting involved in the fighting in a Post-ABC poll last month. And the Economist/YouGov poll found 54 percent saying it was a “bad idea” to send soldiers to Ukraine to fight Russian soldiers while 20 percent said it was a good idea and 26 percent said they were not sure. The Post-ABC poll also found 72 percent opposed to the U.S. taking direct military action against Russian forces in Ukraine.

On the Hill

House passes legislation aimed at curbing domestic terrorism in wake of Buffalo mass shooting

The Congressional response to Buffalo: “The House on Wednesday passed legislation that would create domestic terrorism offices across three federal agencies, spurred by alarm over the rise in incidents of homegrown violent extremism in recent years,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez, Mariana Alfaro and Leigh Ann Caldwell report.

  • “Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.) pushed for a vote on the bill, known as the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, in the wake of Saturday’s mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo. Eleven of the 13 people shot were Black, and authorities are investigating the incident as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism.”
  • “The measure was approved on a 222-to-203 vote. One Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), joined all Democrats present in voting ‘yes.’ The legislation’s future remains uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats have the slimmest of majorities and a unanimous vote on similar legislation was blocked by Republicans two years ago.”

The Media

What we’re reading: 

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Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @LACaldwellDC and @theodoricmeyer.

The Data

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