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Mike Johnson’s make-or-break moment: From the Politics Desk

By 37ci3 Apr16,2024

Welcome to the online version of From the policy deskevening bulletin that brings you the latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill from the NBC News Politics team.

In today’s edition, senior national political reporter Sahil Kapoor looks at the week ahead for House Speaker Mike Johnson. Plus, on Day 2 of Donald Trump’s hush money trial, national political reporter Steve Kornacki explains how Manhattan, the site of the trial, has become a voter gold mine for Democrats.

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Mike Johnson is having his most dangerous moment yet as Speaker of the House

By Sahil Kapoor

House Speaker Mike Johnson faces the biggest threat yet, nearly six months into his job, as his divided Republican Party closes the walls on aid to U.S. allies.

After months of hesitating and exhausting his breaks, finally calls the play: a trigger for separate votes on four bills — aid to Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and other national security priorities important to Republicans.

Each will have its own coalition, and that’s the point.

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In theory, Israeli aid could pass with mostly Republicans over progressive opposition. Ukraine aid, structured as a loan, could pass over conservative opposition, mostly with Democrats. GOP supporters opposed to aid to Ukraine could vote against it, and supporters of arming the country to fend off Russian aggression finally get off Johnson’s back.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s public Republican opposition doubled: Rep. Thomas Massie announced Tuesday that it will sponsor A motion by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to remove him as speaker. Massie said he’s confident Johnson has more GOP opponents than the eight who ousted Kevin McCarthy as speaker today, though he didn’t name them.

“Mike Johnson is fighting for the Triple Crown against our base. He voted for the omnibus, which spent more money than Pelosi. He put his finger on the scales to get through the FISA warrant. Now he is about to deal with Ukraine without protecting our own border,” said Massi. “It’s going to be called and it’s going to lose its sound.”

Two votes may not seem like a lot, but after this Friday, Johnson will have a staggering majority. Two runs and Johnson loses unless Democrats vote against the motion to bail him out and discharge him. That would be highly unusual, but some centrist Democrats say they would, especially if Johnson brings up aid to Ukraine.

“He should manage his own politics. If they try to fire him as speaker, I will vote to keep him,” said Rep. Tom Suozzi, D.N.Y.

Massie said a Democratic bailout would ultimately do Johnson more harm than good.

“Then he goes further down the hole with the Republicans,” Massie said. “He’s becoming toxic to the conference. Every Democrat who comes to his aid will lose 2-3 more Republicans. … There is no lasting solution that the Democrats are going to save him from.”

And that sums up Johnson’s dilemma: He can’t govern with far-right insurgents, but he can’t do without them. The same dynamic became too much for McCarthy to navigate. Today, Johnson has an even slimmer majority.

However, he realizes that he cannot tolerate such threats, or else he will be completely taken away from the agitators. And it could be the last big piece of work until the 2024 election, when voters redefine the makeup of Congress.

“I am not resigning. And I think it’s an absurd idea that somebody would come up with a motion to resign when we’re here just trying to do our jobs,” Johnson told reporters. “I’m not worried about that. I’m going to do my job.”

First jurors sit in Trump’s silent money trial

Donald Trump participates in jury selection
Donald Trump during jury selection on the second day of his trial in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday. Curtis Means/Getty Images pool

By Adam Reiss, Dareh Gregorian, Jonathan Allen, and Lisa Rubin

The first seven jurors were selected Tuesday in Trump’s hush money trial amid old Facebook posts from candidates and calls to “shut it up” and a judge’s warning. decides his fate.

“I will not intimidate any jurors in this courtroom. I want to make it clear,” Judge Juan Merchan told Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanch. Judge Blanche said Trump said something “loudly” to the jury while he was “12 feet away from your client.”

Merchan said he did not know what Trump was saying, but told jurors he was “nationalizing” and “gesturing” and ordered Blanche to talk to her client about his behavior. Blanche then whispered something in Trump’s ear.

The incident highlights Trump’s penchant for acting out in court and the problems his lawyers have with keeping him under control.

The drama came on the second day of jury selection. The jury is anonymous, so their names were not used in open court, but the panelists included a salesperson, an oncology nurse, an IT consultant, a teacher and a software engineer.

In all, the search to find a 12-member jury and six replacements who could be “fair and impartial” to the polarizing New York native and former commander-in-chief moved faster than Monday.

Court is not held on Wednesdays, so proceedings will continue on Thursday.

Read more about the second day of Trump’s trial here →

Trump needs a different kind of swing voter in Manhattan

Analysis by Steve Kornacki

Trump’s legal team argues that the former president faces “real potential prejudice” in the hush money trial because of the location: Manhattan, the bluest borough in one of America’s bluest cities.

Whether this actually has any effect on the Republican presidential candidate’s ability to receive a fair trial is debatable. But just in terms of political leanings, Manhattan’s partisan bias is stark.

Overall, New York City favored Joe Biden over Trump in 2020 by a 76-23% margin. But of the five boroughs that make up the Big Apple, it was Manhattan that produced the most uneven margin for Biden:

Each of these districts has its own unique demographic and political mix. For example, the lone red redoubt of Staten Island has the least population and is more suburban in nature. significant local support for separation from the rest of the city.

The other four districts are densely populated Democratic strongholds. But even among these four, Manhattan stands out. Why is it one or two shades bluer than the others? A comparison of its demographics with the city as a whole provides an explanation:

Simply put, compared to New York City, Manhattan is whiter and wealthier, and contains a deeper concentration of white residents with college degrees. It’s a demographic mix that’s political gold for Democrats, especially in the Trump era.

In Manhattan, registered voters (one of the sources from which potential jurors are selected) are 10 times more likely to be Democrats (72%) than Republicans (7%). Political participation is also higher in Manhattan: 19.2% of the city’s population, but 22.9% of all votes cast in New York City in 2020.

The combination of its size, turnout, and partisan leanings make Manhattan one of the largest single sources of Democratic votes anywhere in the country. To put that in perspective, Biden’s 603,040 votes in Manhattan in 2020 were greater than the votes he received in 20 states.

When it comes to his legal destiny in Manhattan, Trump will need a very different set of voters.

🗞️ The best stories of the day

  • ⚖️ Questions ahead: Supreme Court justices have raised concerns about the Justice Department’s use of the statute of limitations to indict those involved in the Jan. 6 attack in a case that could be related to Trump’s election meddling prosecution. More →
  • 💰 Cash Dash: Democrats face an uphill battle to retain control of the Senate, but new fundraising reports show their candidates are gaining an early cash advantage in key races. More →
  • 👀 On the way: Arizona GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake suggested her supporters “belt on the Glock” to prepare for the intensity of the 2024 campaign and called on military and law enforcement veterans to “get ready.” More →
  • 📜 Trial and error: The House sent articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on Tuesday, expected to begin a brief trial in the upper chamber. More →
  • 📱 Content Creation: High-profile right-wing influencers were briefed on House Speaker Mike Johnson’s voter registration bill long before the announcement in what appeared to be a coordinated social media campaign to drum up support for the legislation. More →
  • 🇮🇱 Middle Eastern State: US officials expect a possible Israeli response to the Iranian attack over the weekend to be limited in scope. More →
  • 💸 To cut or not to cut: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has raised the possibility that interest rates will not be cut in the near future as inflation remains stubbornly high. More →

For now, that’s it from The Politics Desk. If you have feedback – like it or not – send us an email

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