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The Kevin McCarthy revenge tour gets ready for opening night: From the Politics Desk

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The Kevin McCarthy revenge tour gets ready for opening night: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, we report on Act I of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s revenge tour. Plus, senior political editor Mark Murray breaks down the polling gap between Joe Biden and Donald Trump on compassion and toughness.

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Kevin McCarthy’s first target in his revenge tour: Nancy Mace

By Ali Vitali, Bridget Bowman and Kyle Stewart

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. — Rep. Nancy Mace is no stranger to an intraparty battle. Now, her role in a big Republican fight last year — the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker — is complicating her primary on Tuesday.

Mace, who is both a candidate seeking her third term and her own campaign manager, has earned the ire of the highest ranks of Republicans in the few short years she’s been in Washington. In 2022, it was former President Donald Trump — though they’ve since patched things up. Then, a year later, she voted in historic fashion to boot a House speaker from her own party. 

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In fact, McCarthy is the first thing Mace points to when asked about the stakes of her latest political fight against a primary challenger running with McCarthy’s support.

“It’s about revenge,” Mace told NBC News in an interview at her campaign headquarters. “It’s also about honesty and integrity. And my vote to oust Kevin McCarthy was about trust.”

Mace says she doesn’t regret the vote. McCarthy, for his part, has said his support of GOP candidates challenging several of “the crazy eight,” as he calls the Republicans who voted against him, has nothing to do with political vendetta. Sources close to McCarthy point out he’s limited in what he can do directly, outside of giving money and advice. His spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview. 

But operatives aligned with McCarthy are directing big money into these races through outside groups. Tuesday’s challenge to Mace is the first test, followed by House Freedom Caucus chair Bob Good’s primary in Virginia next week. Two other anti-McCarthy voters — Reps. Eli Crane of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida — are also facing primary challengers this summer. 

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In South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, Catherine Templeton said Mace’s vote against McCarthy was “absolutely” what sparked her to run against Mace. Templeton is also a Trump backer and served as labor secretary in then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s Cabinet.

Before launching her bid, Templeton met with Brian O. Walsh, a GOP political strategist and McCarthy ally. But she told The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston that she has not talked to McCarthy “about taking out Congresswoman Mace, but I have asked him to help raise money.” McCarthy contributed to Templeton’s campaign through his leadership PAC.

Yet Templeton also downplayed the former speaker’s role in the race. 

“Her antics have consequences,” Templeton said of Mace, defining the race as larger than one action, though clearly tied to that historic vote. “All due respect to Kevin McCarthy, who is, I’m sure, a wonderful man: Nobody’s paying attention to Kevin McCarthy in the Low Country of South Carolina.”

Read more ahead of tomorrow’s primary →

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An emerging 2024 dynamic: Trump’s toughness vs. Biden’s compassion

By Mark Murray

The latest national CBS News/YouGov poll has an illuminating set of numbers on the 2024 election that go beyond the horse race (it’s still super close) and attitudes about Trump’s recent felony conviction (majorities say it was fair, but also that it won’t factor into their vote). 

The eyebrow-raising finding in the poll: 66% of registered voters said they view Trump as “tough,” while only 28% of voters said the same of President Joe Biden. 

Meanwhile, a majority of voters — 52% — described Biden as being “compassionate,” compared with just 37% who said that about Trump.

Call it Trump’s toughness vs. Biden’s compassion. 

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That frame plays out in NBC News’ own national polling from earlier this year. Trump held a 35-point lead over Biden on the question of which candidate better secures the border and controls immigration. Yet Biden was ahead by 17 points on the question of which candidate better treats immigrants humanely and protects immigrant rights. 

It’s also reflected in focus groups, such as one NBC News recently observed of Latino voters in Arizona who had unfavorable views of both Biden and Trump. Their descriptions of Biden: “Too old,” “useless” and “incompetent.” As for Trump? “Rude,” “arrogant” and “ridiculous.”

And it’s a helpful way to distill the chief perceived vulnerabilities of both Biden and Trump. For Biden, it’s questions about his age. In addition to the 28% of voters who said they view the president as “tough,” just 26% saw him as being “energetic” in the CBS News/YouGov poll.

And for Trump, his weaknesses are his rhetoric and his legal challenges, which include his conviction in the New York hush money case, as well as his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. 

What do swing voters want more from their president — toughness or compassion? The answer to that question could very well decide who wins in November.

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🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • Closing time: After Hunter Biden’s defense team rested Monday without calling him to the witness stand, jury deliberations began in the federal gun-related case against the president’s son. Read more →
  • 🎙️Trump talk: Trump was set to sit Monday for a virtual interview with a probation officer as part of the New York hush money case. Since his historic guilty verdict, Trump’s rhetoric has increasingly focused on revenge and retribution. Read more →
  • 🗣️ Hostage negotiations: White House officials have floated the possibility of negotiating a unilateral deal with Hamas to release American hostages being held in Gaza if the ongoing cease-fire talks involving Israel do not succeed. Read more →
  • 🌴 Palmetto State primary: While Mace’s primary has gotten a lot of attention, it’s also worth watching South Carolina’s 4th District, where GOP Rep. William Timmons is the latest lawmaker to be targeted by his hard-line House colleagues. Read more →
  • 👀 Watch this space: The Federal Election Commission’s deadlocked days appear to be behind it, with one Democratic commissioner siding with Republicans on a range of issues that further deregulate money in politics, The New York Times reports. Read more →
  • 🐘 Veepstakes: Many of Trump’s potential running mates have been sharply critical of the former president in the past, including calling him a “whack job,” “reckless” and “reprehensible,” and saying they would not get into business with him. Read more →
  • ⚖️ Full Court press: The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on two major abortion cases, including one relating to access to a commonly used abortion pill and another on Idaho’s near-total ban. Read more →
  • 💸 Costly claims: Right-wing media outlets that spread Trump’s false claims around the 2020 election have lost a string of recent legal challenges and continue to face new ones. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

And if you’re a fan, please share with everyone and anyone. They can sign up here.



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US House holds attorney-general Merrick Garland in contempt over Biden audio recordings

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US House holds attorney-general Merrick Garland in contempt over Biden audio recordings

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The Republican-led US House of Representatives has voted to hold the country’s highest law-enforcement official in contempt of Congress for defying an order to hand over audio recordings of Joe Biden’s interviews with special counsel Robert Hur.

The House on Wednesday voted 216-207, along party lines, in favour of censuring attorney-general Merrick Garland, as allies of former president Donald Trump escalated their attacks on the Department of Justice.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, said it was “up to Congress” to decide “what materials it needs to conduct its own investigations, and there are consequences for refusing to comply with lawful Congressional subpoenas”.

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He added: “This is a simple matter — we have the transcript, and we need the audio.”

Garland appointed Hur in January 2023 to investigate the president’s handling of classified information. The special counsel did not charge Biden but ignited a political firestorm in February when Hur’s report cast the president as an “elderly man” whose “memory was significantly limited” during interviews with investigators.

Last month, Biden blocked the release of audio recordings of his interviews with Hur, with the White House noting the DoJ had already released transcripts of those conversations.

Wednesday’s measure against Garland came just a day after Biden’s DoJ secured the conviction of the president’s son, Hunter, on federal firearm charges.

Republicans have repeatedly claimed, however, that the department has become part of Democratic efforts to prosecute Trump, who faces federal charges relating to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and to his mishandling of classified documents.

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In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Carlos Uriarte, head of the DoJ’s legislative affairs unit, told House Republicans last month that the department had “a responsibility to safeguard the confidentiality of law enforcement files where disclosure would jeopardise future investigations”.

Garland pushed back against Wednesday’s House vote, saying in a statement that it was “deeply disappointing” that the chamber “has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon”. 

“Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the justice department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the committees,” Garland added.

The House’s censure means Garland could face prosecution, but only if the DoJ decides to begin a legal process against him. It brings to a culmination a fraught battle between the DoJ and Republican lawmakers, who have also sought to probe alleged business connections between Biden and his son Hunter.

Garland has appointed a trio of special counsels in a bid to quash accusations of bias, Hur, prosecutor Jack Smith, who has obtained two federal indictments against Trump, and David Weiss, who brought the gun charges against Hunter Biden.

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After Hunter Biden was convicted on criminal gun charges on Tuesday, Weiss thanked Garland for ensuring his office had the “independence to appropriately pursue our investigations and prosecutions”.

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Hur’s report into the president’s handling of classified documents sent shockwaves through Washington and revived questions about the 81-year-old’s age and fitness for office.

While Trump is only a few years younger — he will turn 78 later this week — Biden’s age is seen as one of the president’s biggest liabilities on the campaign trail.

In an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Tuesday, Garland said there had been an escalation of “baseless, personal and dangerous” attacks on the DoJ in recent weeks. “Using conspiracy theories, falsehoods, violence and threats of violence to affect political outcomes is not normal,” he warned.

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“The short-term political benefits of those tactics will never make up for the long-term cost to our country,” he said. “This must stop.”

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ACLU sues Biden administration over new executive action on the southern border

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ACLU sues Biden administration over new executive action on the southern border

President Biden delivers remarks on June 4 on executive actions to limit asylum.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/Getty Images North America


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The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday challenging the Biden administration’s new executive actions that block migrants from seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border when crossings surge.

Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney for the ACLU, told NPR that President Biden’s new measures are nearly identical “from a legal standpoint” to ones that former President Donald Trump used to try to ban migrants from seeking asylum between ports of entry.

But Gelernt said Congress has been “crystal clear” that asylum seekers can request relief “whether or not you enter at a port.”

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“We are challenging President Biden’s executive action because it’s flatly illegal and inconsistent with the asylum laws that Congress passed decades ago,” Gelernt said in an interview.

“President Trump enacted a nearly identical asylum ban, and we successfully challenged that. We have no choice but to challenge this one as well.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Texas advocacy groups: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

The lawsuit doesn’t seek an emergency injunction for the new rules

The Biden administration announced the rules last week. Specifically, they bar migrants from seeking asylum when they cross into the country between ports of entry when border encounters rise above 2,500 per day.

The restrictions can be lifted two weeks after daily numbers dip below 1,500 people.

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Migrants walk on the U.S. side of the border wall in Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif., on June 5, after crossing from Mexico.

Migrants walk on the U.S. side of the border wall in Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif., on June 5, after crossing from Mexico.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images/AFP


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The lawsuit alleges the Biden rule violates legal procedures for agency rulemaking and adjudications because it did not justify “radical departures” from prior practices and because the public didn’t have the chance to comment before the rule took effect.

However, the lawsuit did not seek an emergency injunction to block the administration from applying the new rule. Gelernt said that is an option for the future once advocates find specific migrants who have been harmed by the measure.

Biden is under pressure over the border

The border has become an increasingly difficult issue for Biden, given the record number of migrants coming across the border – and because polls show most Americans don’t approve of the way he has handled the challenge.

When he announced the new measures last week, Biden said he was forced to take unilateral action after Republicans rejected a bipartisan compromise on legislation. Trump had opposed the compromise..

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The lawsuit was not unexpected. The ACLU announced its plans to sue as soon as Biden announced his measures. The Biden administration has said it is prepared to defend the new rules.

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Live news: US stocks hold gains as traders digest Fed outlook

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Live news: US stocks hold gains as traders digest Fed outlook

US stocks opened at fresh record highs and Treasury yields dropped following the release of cooler than expected US inflation data on Wednesday, as investors bet on more interest rate cuts this year.

The S&P 500 was 0.9 per cent higher shortly after the open, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.2 per cent.

After Wednesday’s figures, traders in the futures market fully priced in two interest rate cuts this year, beginning in November, according to Bloomberg. Previously the average estimate was between one and two.

Traders also amped up bets on a September cut, putting the odds at 84 per cent, compared with a 60 per cent chance beforehand.

The two-year Treasury yield, which moves with interest rate expectations, fell to its lowest level since early April, down 0.16 percentage points to 4.68 per cent.

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