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The topsy-turvy weekend came after weeks of complaints from liberals who see Biden’s policy response to the Dobbs decision as sluggish and scattershot, falling well short of what’s needed after a foreseeable ruling with life-changing consequences for millions.
Biden’s candidacy and presidency have always involved a balancing act when it comes to his relationship with the left flank of the Democratic Party. Activists helped power him to the White House even as he dismissed some of their policy priorities and made his centrism and bipartisan aspirations a selling point.
That didn’t come with much of a cost in 2020, when the party was united behind beating President Trump. But it’s a problem in a midterm elections year, when Democrats need the energy from the party’s base to have any chance of salvaging their thin majority in Congress.
On abortion, White House aides have defended the president’s words and deeds since the decision landed June 24 — nearly two months after its contours became known in a May 2 leak — and expressed mounting irritation with criticisms from their left flank.
On Saturday, in a piece by my colleagues Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Pager, outgoing White House communications director Kate Bedingfield vented that frustration, saying the president’s team had put “months of hard work” into crafting its response.
“Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” Bedingfield said. “It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign.”
(To judge just how annoyed the West Wing is with the pressure from liberals, imagine that same Bedingfield statement shorn of everything from “is not to satisfy” through “Democratic Party.” Yes, yes, and change the “it’s” to “is.” Confrontation averted.)
Self-identified activists rebelled.
Here’s Shaunaa Thomas, co-founder of the women’s-rights group Ultra Violet, arguing Biden’s the one who’s out of step.
“I took offense to it,” Ashley Allison, an alum of President Obama’s White House who went on to be the Biden campaign’s 2020 national coalitions director, said on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper.
“These people going into the street saying that we need bodily autonomy, that is the excitement that Democrats need right now ahead of the midterms,” she said. “And to demonize them and say they're not mainstream, well, abortion is a very popular issue in the country, and it goes across Democratic and Republican lines.”
In a telling turn of phrase, Allison said this: “It was an unforced error. And I hope they address it. I'm not sure they will.”
Maybe not address it directly, but Biden’s own remarks on Sunday seemed to suggest he does, in fact, hope to satisfy some of the activists his communications director disparaged.
“Keep protesting. Keep making your point. It’s critically important,” he said to those who have taken to the streets since the ruling.
Public health emergency?
As for declaring a national emergency, Biden said he had asked his team “to look at whether I have the authority to do that and what impact that would have.”
(Bedingfield and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not acknowledge an email from The Daily 202 asking how the White House could still, weeks after the ruling, be in the process of trying to determine this, and when that process began.)
Not only would such a step surely draw legal challenges but, if left standing, it would also raise the prospects of a future Republican president using the same tool to try restrict access to abortion nationally.
On Friday, Jen Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, had told reporters declaring a national emergency was “definitely not off the table” but also that an internal assessment found it “didn’t seem like a great option.”
“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple things. One is that it doesn't free very many resources. It's what's in the public health emergency fund, and there's very little money — tens of thousands of dollars in it,” Klein said. “So that didn't seem like a great option. And it also doesn't release a significant amount of legal authority. And so that's why we haven't taken that action yet.”
What’s happening now
Self-described ‘propagandist’ for the Oath Keepers expected to testify Tuesday
“Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesman for the Oath Keepers, a far-right ‘militia’ organization that participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, is expected to testify Tuesday at the latest hearing of the panel investigating the insurrection,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.
Trump lawyer Justin Clark was interviewed by the FBI about Bannon's contempt case
“Former President Donald Trump’s attorney Justin Clark interviewed with federal investigators two weeks ago, the Justice Department revealed in a court filing early Monday morning, a significant development that could reverberate in multiple investigations facing Trump’s inner circle,” Politico's Kyle Cheney reports.
- “Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said that Clark had confirmed in his June 29 interview what DOJ long suspected: that Trump had never invoked executive privilege to block Bannon from testifying.”
Drugmaker seeks approval for first over-the-counter birth control pill
“Paris-based HRA Pharma said in a news release that it submitted its application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a progestin-only daily oral contraceptive. Progestin is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone,” Laurie McGinley reports.
The war in Ukraine
Officials: Three dead, 28 wounded in Kharkiv airstrikes
“Three people were killed and at least 28 injured — including a 16-year-old — in airstrikes that hit the northern region of Kharkiv early Monday, the regional governor said, citing Ukraine’s Regional Center of Emergency Medical Assistance,” Annabelle Timsit, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle C. Chapman report.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
The Uber Files
The Uber Files is an international investigation based on more than 124,000 records obtained by the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which helped lead the project, and dozens of other news organizations, including The Washington Post.
Uber wooed Russia’s rich and powerful but failed there anyway
“Uber viewed Russia as among the company’s most important foreign markets, according to a memo that is part of the Uber Files,” Ian Duncan reports. “That memo shows that Uber believed Russia’s dozen ‘millionniki’ — cities home to at least a million people — presented a ripe opportunity. But like the golf club’s, Uber’s foundations in Russia were questionable. A little over a year later, Uber would essentially pull out of the country.”
The context: “The files do not contain evidence that Uber violated sanctions or broke the law as it tried to grow in Russia. But today, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, almost everyone with whom Uber allied then is under sanction for their alleged ties to Putin by U.S. or European authorities.”
Key takeaways from the Uber Files investigation
- Uber leveraged a violent backlash against its drivers to win support
- Uber used its tech capabilities to gain a covert edge over authorities
- Uber risked driver well-being as it rushed to expand in South Africa
- One of Uber’s trusted allies in Europe? Emmanuel Macron.
- Uber allied with Russian oligarchs in bid to get close to Putin
… and beyond
Binance served crypto traders in Iran despite U.S. sanctions, clients say
“The world's largest crypto exchange, Binance, continued to process trades by clients in Iran despite U.S. sanctions and a company ban on doing business there, a Reuters investigation has found,” Tom Wilson and Angus Berwick report.
- The timeline: “In interviews with Reuters, seven traders said they skirted the ban. The traders said they continued to use their Binance accounts until as recently as September last year, only losing access after the exchange tightened its anti-money laundering checks a month earlier.”
What will happen if Obergefell is overturned? Queer legal experts are scrambling
“Legal experts are split on whether or not Congress would even have the authority to codify rights left vulnerable by the Dobbs decision. That’s because such issues have traditionally been under the power of states," the 19th's Kate Sosin and Candice Norwood report.
Why the Jan. 6 committee rushed Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony
“The speed, people close to the committee said, was for two crucial reasons: Ms. Hutchinson was under intense pressure from Trump World, and panel members believed that getting her story out in public would make her less vulnerable, attract powerful allies and be its own kind of protection. The committee also had to move fast, the people said, to avoid leaks of some of the most explosive testimony ever heard on Capitol Hill,” the New York Times's Robert Draper reports.
The latest on covid
As the BA.5 variant spreads, the risk of coronavirus reinfection grows
"The latest omicron offshoot, BA.5, has quickly become dominant in the United States, and thanks to its elusiveness when encountering the human immune system, is driving a wave of cases across the country.
The size of that wave is unclear because most people are testing at home or not testing at all," Joel Achenbach reports.
The Biden agenda
New poll: Most Democrats don’t want Biden in 2024
“President Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt from inside his own party, with 64 percent of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new standard-bearer in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll, as voters nationwide have soured on his leadership, giving him a meager 33 percent job-approval rating,” the NYT's Shane Goldmacher reports.
- The Trump view: “One glimmer of good news for Mr. Biden is that the survey showed him with a narrow edge in a hypothetical rematch in 2024 with former President Donald J. Trump: 44 percent to 41 percent.”
Mexico, U.S. presidents to meet amid newly tense relationship
“President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is to visit Washington on Tuesday to meet with President Joe Biden, a month after López Obrador snubbed Biden’s invitation to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Mexico’s leader had demanded that Biden invite to the summit the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — all countries with anti-democratic regimes — and he has also called U.S. support for Ukraine 'a crass error,' ” the Associated Press's Mark Stevenson and Zeke Miller report.
Biden will find a changed Middle East on his coming visit
“When President Biden arrives in the Middle East this week, on his first visit as American head of state, he will find a region where alliances, priorities and relations with the United States have shifted significantly since his last official trip, six years ago,” the NYT's Patrick Kingsley reports.
D.C.'s food deserts, visualized
“Full-service grocery stores proliferate across the city, but in majority-Black wards 7 and 8, that number can be counted on one hand. A D.C. Hunger Solutions report from November found that just three out of 75 such stores were located in those wards. A fourth, Good Food Markets, opened in Ward 8 in November,” Vanessa G. Sánchez reports.
Hot on the left
The case against judicial review
“The inexorable march of tradition and timidity on the part of the government’s other branches has given this pack of conservative apparatchiks what amounts to monarchical powers over the American people. It’s no wonder that their decisions are so terrible — and so ominous for the country’s future,” Ryan Cooper writes for the American Prospect.
“What is to be done? I propose to attack the problem at the root and abolish judicial review. The Court does not have the sole power to interpret the Constitution, nor the power to strike down any law it choses, and it’s time to say so.”
Hot on the right
RNC's neutrality called into question over promotion of Trump and his business
“The party and its leaders have committed to staying neutral in the upcoming presidential election. And as the RNC continues to tout Trump and even push his private business ventures through its official channels, the fear grows that it is dispensing with even the veneer of neutrality,” Politico's Meredith McGraw reports.
Today in Washington
At 5 p.m., Biden and Vice President Harris will get a briefing from NASA officials to see the images from the Webb Space Telescope.
A nifty fact for your Monday:
I was today years old when I found out that the word nifty is short for magnificent.— Yvette Clark (@yvettewrites) July 10, 2022
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.