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The Early 202

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

An Illinois race turns into battle over GOP response to Jan. 6

The Early 202

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

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Good morning, Early Birds. From this former college athlete: happy golden birthday to Title IX. We appreciate you. Tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … The Senate could pass the bipartisan gun bill today … From the notebook of Josh Dawsey: Trump heading to Alaska … Rosen, Donaghue, and Engel expected to testify today … Poll Watch: Emily Guskin on who's watching the Jan. 6 hearings … but first …

The campaign

A primary in Illinois has turned into a battle over Republicans’ response to Jan. 6

The next showdown between the Republican establishment and former president Donald Trump will play out on Tuesday in Illinois.

Rep. Rodney Davis is facing off against Rep. Mary Miller in the Republican primary after Democrats redistricted them into the same seat.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Reps. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and the Illinois Farm Bureau — a powerful voice in the rural district — have lined up behind Davis. But Trump is backing Miller, heading to Quincy, Ill., on Saturday to hold a rally for her.

The race has turned into a battle, in part, over Republicans’ response to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Davis was one of 35 House Republicans who voted last year to set up a commission to investigate the attack. 

The proposal died in the Senate — Davis voted against creating the Jan. 6 select committee that’s been presenting its findings this month — but the vote has become a flash point in some Republican primaries. Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), who voted for the commission, was forced into a runoff earlier this month by a Republican challenger who criticized his vote.

Miller has lambasted Davis for stabbing “President Trump in the back by voting for the sham January 6th Commission.”

“That’s really the only thing that I’ve heard her talk about,” said David Bockhold, the chairman of the Adams County Republican Central Committee, who's backing Davis. “She never talks about anything she’s accomplished. All she does is criticize Congressman Davis.”

Davis hasn’t repudiated his vote, but he’s pledged to spearhead “a full investigation into Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Select Committee’s circus” if Republicans retake the House and he becomes chairman of the House Administration Committee.

Neither Davis nor Miller responded to requests for comment.

Davis was one of five Republicans whom House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy named to the committee, but Pelosi's rejection of two of McCarthy's other picks — Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — led McCarthy to reverse course and pull all of his picks.

Trump has said privately for months that McCarthy's move “was a mistake, one that has become clearer as Trump watches the hearings that are working to build the case that he should be criminally charged for conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” as our colleagues Marianna Sotomayor, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany report.

  • “According to a close adviser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, Trump has made it clear to anyone who will listen that ‘there’s no one to defend me’ on the dais before, during or after the hearings. The blame is falling squarely on McCarthy’s shoulders, according to some Republican congressional aides and advisers close to the former president.”
Do voters care?

It’s not clear how much of an impact Davis’ vote for the Jan. 6 commission is having in the race.

“I see some people where they absolutely despise the thought of looking into [Jan. 6] because they see no wrongdoing,” said Travis Coffey, the chairman of the Coles County Republican Party, who hasn’t endorsed in the race. Other Republicans have no problem with an investigation.

“There’s a little bit of a split in the party, in my opinion,” he added.

The race echoes the Republican primary last month between Reps. Alex Mooney and David McKinley in West Virginia — another pair of lawmakers forced into the same seat by redistricting. 

The Chamber of Commerce, which is running ads for Davis, spent more than $230,000 backing McKinley. But Trump endorsed Mooney after a perceived slight (in McKinley’s case, voting for the infrastructure bill, which Davis voted against, as well as the Jan. 6 commission). Mooney won last month by a wide margin.

But Davis’ relationships in the district — he was first elected a decade ago, while Miller is a freshman — could help him hang on.

Dianne Barghouti Hardwick, the chairwoman of the Sangamon County Republican Party, who’s backing Davis, said Miller had made no effort to reach out to the county party.

“Why would she think that she could represent us well?” she said.

Super PAC battle

The race could test which is more influential in the deep-red, heavily agricultural district: Trump or the Illinois Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau’s PAC has spent more than $100,000 on radio and digital ads backing Davis, who’s a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

But the big money has come from elsewhere.

The Club for Growth’s super PAC, which is often — but not always — aligned with Trump, has spent $2.6 million backing Miller, and another super PAC largely funded by the Club has poured in $1.4 million more on her behalf. (A Club spokesman said Davis’ vote for the Jan. 6 commission played no role in its endorsement.)

A super PAC funded by Ken Griffin, a billionaire Republican megadonor whose hedge fund is based in Chicago, has shelled out $1.5 million backing Davis. Griffin criticized Trump’s false allegation that the 2020 elected was stolen in a rare interview in April with the Wall Street Journal.

Another super PAC, this one backed by the crypto billionaire Ryan Salame, has spent $2.5 million backing Davis. And a third, called the Governing Majority Education Fund and run by six former House Republicans who served with Davis, has spent about $400,000 supporting him.

Governing Majority is mostly funded by labor unions — but one of Davis’ old colleagues, former Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa.), also contributed, chipping in $25,000 from his leadership PAC.

“Rodney is a true conservative and the only person in the 15th Congressional District race who can take on President Biden and his administration,” Shuster, who is now a lobbyist, wrote in an email to the Early.

On the Hill

Gun safety bill could pass Senate today

The Senate will take a second procedural vote today on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the compromise gun legislation. The tally is expected to easily clear the 60-vote threshold after 14 Republican senators voted to support the bill during a procedural vote Tuesday. 

The question that remains is purely a question of timing: Will the vote on final passage happen today or Friday? It depends on what sort of demands Republican opponents to the bill make. Will they want a vote on an amendment in exchange for quick passage? 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is pushing an alternative proposal that focuses on school safety by spending $17 billion in reallocated funds — more than the cost of the entire bipartisan gun safety bill. 

But it's hard to imagine Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing for a vote on an alternate plan to the one he supports. 

Relatedly, our colleague Mike DeBonis dives deep into the Republican divisions on the issue, which has even resulted in a rare split among the Republican leadership team. Leadership aides are downplaying any discontent but, as Mike notes, some rank-and-file members aren't happy. 

Meanwhile, Marianna reports that House Republican leadership are against the bill and is encouraging its members to vote against the Senate deal. The House could pass it as early as this week, too. 

The campaign

From the notebook of Josh Dawsey...

Our colleague Josh Dawsey writes in to inform that Trump is expected to go to Anchorage, Alaska, on July 9 to attend a rally for Kelly Tshibaka, who is running against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), according to people familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the trip has not been announced.

Murkowski voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, and the former president is eager to see her defeated in November.

Several of Trump's political advisers, including former campaign manager Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, are working for Tshibaka.

This will be the farthest Trump has travelled since leaving the White House, and he is expected to make a stop in Las Vegas or somewhere on the West Coast, according the people familiar with his plans.

Speaking of Alaska, our colleague Emily Davies has a look at how Sarah Palin outpaced her rivals in the primary and now faces new challenges as she seeks a seat in Congress.

On the Hill

Rosen, Donaghue, Engel expected to testify today

Happening today: “The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Congress is set to hear testimony from former senior officials who resisted President Donald Trump’s efforts to bend the Justice Department to his will to try to overturn the election won by Joe Biden,” our colleague Devlin Barrett reports.

The witness list:

  • Star witness: Jeffrey Rosen, former acting attorney general
  • Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general
  • Steven Engel, former assistant attorney general

While you wait:

Poll Watch

The Jan. 6 committee will hold another hearing today. Are Americans paying attention?

From Post polling analyst Emily Guskin: Almost 50 years ago, the nation gathered in front of its collective televisions to watch the Senate Watergate hearings from May through November 1973. And the “gavel-to-gavel coverage” of the hearings changed public opinion dramatically, with the share of Americans approving of how President Nixon was handling his job plummeting and the share saying he should be removed from office soaring over the length of the hearings.

About seven in 10 Americans said they had watched some of the Watergate hearings live, a remarkably high level of attention for congressional proceedings. Today, far fewer Americans appear to be paying attention to the House’s hearings focused on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. 

  • Fewer than half of Americans said they watched at least some clips or highlights of the committee’s hearings, according to an Economist/YouGov poll conducted June 18 through 21. (By the time the poll began, three hearings had aired, and another hearing aired the final day of the field period.)

That includes 14 percent who said they watched at least one entire hearing, 15 percent who said they watched parts of the hearings and 18 percent who said they watched clips or highlights. Another 27 percent said they read or watched news stories about the hearings and the same share said they hadn’t heard anything about the Jan. 6 hearings. Nearly 19 million people watched the first primetime hearing across various channels, according to Nielsen, which does not include the people who watched the hearings on streaming apps or on social media. And the share of viewers dropped precipitously after the first televised hearing.

Far more Democrats (64 percent) said they watched at least clips or highlights of the hearing than Republicans (38 percent), along with 42 percent of independents.

The same poll found that 52 percent of Americans said Trump bears “a lot” or “some” responsibility for the takeover of the Capitol on January 6. That’s almost identical to the 51 percent who said this when the Economist and YouGov asked before the hearings started in late May. 

If the committee hopes to sway public opinion, it may need Americans to continue to tune in.

But a majority of Americans are disinclined to watch more of the hearings: 53 percent said they do not plan to watch any future Jan. 6 hearings. Future polls will show whether Americans change their views of Trump, the Jan. 6 attack and their faith in the 2020 election results.

On K Street

New hires: The U.S. Travel Association has tapped Geoff Freeman as its next president and chief executive. He currently heads the Consumer Brands Association and before that led the American Gaming Association. He will succeed the trade group's longtime CEO, Roger Dow.

The lobbying firm Invariant has hired Kelly Hitchcock, who was previously a Republican lobbyist for the Investment Company Institute. And the lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates has hired Paul Sass off the Hill, where he was the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Republican staff director.

What we're watching

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is testifying before the House Financial Services Committee at a tenuous time in the economy. We’ll be watching along with the rest of the country what his latest inflation prognosis is and if he thinks the country can avoid a recession.

⚖ : The Supreme Court also added another opinion day this week, and is expected to issue decisions today and Friday at 10 a.m. ET. There are 13 cases remaining on the docket this term, including major issues involving abortion, immigration, and gun control.

The Media

Early reeeads 🐣 📖

Viral

Muriel Bowser and Eric Adams walk into a bar …

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

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