• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG

Donald Trump is arraigned yet again; anti-abortion activists struggle to make an impact in the prima͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
sunny Washington
cloudy Dysart
sunny Niamey
rotating globe
August 3, 2023


Sign up for our free newsletters
Steve Clemons
Steve Clemons

Yesterday afternoon, our own Kadia Goba was in the Capitol when she heard the words “active shooter” come out of a Capitol Police officer’s radio. Officers drew their guns and put up police barricades for what was ultimately a false alarm, but also a scary flashback to January 6 for the staffers who poured out into the street with hands raised.

It’s a nervous time in Washington, again. Donald Trump is being arraigned here today on the latest federal charges from Jack Smith, only his second visit since leaving office, and the many legal cases raise the stakes and emotions of the election cycle.

The gap between the legal process and the campaign continues. One of the things Donald Trump seems to be getting right politically, at least according to the polls and our own Benjy Sarlin, is his refusal to get into the details of abortion policy relative to his opponents. Trump believes that abortion drove the GOP’s poor performance in 2022 and activists have so far failed to show he’ll pay any price for ignoring their demands for a national ban.

For the next 12 days, I will be taking a break from this stressed out city, taking a vacation along the Dalmatian Coast in Southeastern Europe. But there’s no vacation for Principals — the team will be here in the DC Swamp covering everything that’s consequential.


☞ White House: The U.S. ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy in Niamey, Niger, but is still not calling the military takeover of the country a “coup.” The National Institutes of Health found its new Dr. Fauci: an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo.

☞ Senate: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill. is feuding with Justice Samuel Alito after he told the Wall Street Journal Congress doesn’t have the authority to “regulate” the Supreme Court with ethics legislation. “The next time Justice Alito thinks about taking a private plane to a billionaire-funded fishing trip, he should have to ask more than ‘Can I take this empty seat?’” Durbin said in a statement.

☞ House: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are requesting briefings on the breach by Chinese government-linked hackers of unclassified email accounts at the State and Commerce Departments.

☞ Outside the Beltway: The House select committee on China is taking its work on the road today with a roundtable in GOP member Ashley Hinson’s district in Iowa. The panel will hear from farmers and a seed dealer about “ongoing threats” the agriculture industry faces from the Chinese government, including intellectual property theft and deceptive trade practices, according to a committee aide.

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: It’s unclear whether any Republican members of Congress will show up to support Trump during his arraignment today..

Playbook: Trump’s defense against his latest indictment has five pillars, including attacking D.C. as an unfair venue.

The Early 202: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. has a complicated relationship with the Inflation Reduction Act — and it’s straining his relationship with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Axios: Ron DeSantis has hired three aides for his gubernatorial office that were recently let go from his campaign, a sign the candidate wants to keep some aides close even as the campaign side cuts costs.

Benjy Sarlin

Donald Trump is ignoring anti-abortion activists and winning anyway

REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario


The anti-abortion movement is at risk of being seen as a paper tiger just a year after its greatest triumph, as Republican voters show little sign of being moved by high-stakes battles over the issue.

That’s one takeaway from Donald Trump’s ongoing rise in the polls, which comes as several candidates have tried to get to his right on the issue.

Ron DeSantis signed a 6-week abortion ban in Florida earlier this year that Trump indicated was “too harsh.” But the latest New York Times/Siena poll found that 70% of Republican voters who strongly support a state 6-week ban also backed Trump in the primary — a higher percentage than Trump’s total support among Republicans in the same poll.

The situation has looked much the same on the ground, where Trump has been a hit at social conservative events despite his reluctance to embrace demands from major anti-abortion groups for a national ban. Meanwhile, DeSantis is stuck in a fight with a major anti-abortion group for not backing a national 15-week ban himself, which Tim Scott and Mike Pence have embraced.


What’s going on here? Most Republicans identify as “pro-life” and say abortion should be mostly or entirely illegal in polls. But a May survey by our partners at Gallup found that only 21% of Republican voters who consider themselves “pro-life” say they only vote for candidates who share their view on abortion. That’s notably far less than the 37% of “pro-choice” Democrats who say they only vote for like-minded candidates, and the biggest gap between the two sides that Gallup has ever recorded.

Trump himself has argued abortion is overrated as a vote driver even as he continues to take credit for the fall of Roe v. Wade. He blamed “the abortion issue” for contributing to 2022 election losses, saying activists supported policies that were too extreme and that their supposed backers “just plain disappeared” after Dobbs.


If it’s any consolation, anti-abortion activists aren’t especially unique in this regard. One Republican pollster ruefully told Semafor that no candidate seems to be getting much traction with policy specifics this cycle, which has largely been a referendum on Trump.


A short guide to Donald Trump’s unindicted co-conspirators

REUTERS/Jim Bourg, Elijah Nouvelage, Yuri Gripas/Pool

It took about a day for reporters to unpuzzle the identities of all six (for now) unindicted co-conspirators accused of trying to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election in the former president’s latest indictment. So, who’s on the roster of alleged accomplices? Here’s a quick rundown.

Co-Conspirator 1: Rudy Giuliani

Who is he? Trump’s wartime consigliere, who on Wednesday had his own extremely NSFW legal news cycle. We can’t stop you from clicking on that link, but seriously — don’t do it.

Indictment highlight: Giuliani allegedly called a Senator after the Jan. 6 riot asking them and other Republicans to delay the vote count until the next day.

Co-Conspirator 2: John Eastman

Who is he? The lawyer who concocted Trump’s scheme to have Vice President Mike Pence throw out the election result on Jan. 6.

Indictment highlight: Eastman allegedly lied to RNC chair Ronna McDaniel about Trump’s plans to organize slates of fake electors, telling her their votes would only be submitted if the president won some of his court cases challenging state results.

Co-Conspirator 3: Sidney Powell

Who is she? The lawyer best known for championing the fringiest of fringe election conspiracy theories in 2020, including the accusations against voting machine company Dominion that helped fuel its massive defamation suit against Fox News.

Indictment highlight: According to the indictment, Trump privately admitted to others that Powell’s claims sounded “crazy.”

Co-Conspirator 4: Jeffrey Clark

Who is he? The acting head of the Department of Justice’s civil division who aided the president’s bid to stay in power, despite orders from his boss not to talk with the White House.

Indictment highlight: When a White House lawyer warned there would be “riots in every major city” if Trump succeeded in overturning the election, Clark allegedly responded: “That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”

Co-Conspirator 5: Kenneth Chesebro

Who is he? The attorney who has been described as “the mastermind” behind Trump’s fake elector plot.

Indictment highlight: Chesebro warned a lawyer “it could appear treasonous” if Trump’s fake electors voted without using some sort of ongoing litigation about the election’s result as a pretext.

Co-Conspirator 6: Boris Epshteyn

Who is he? A lawyer and close political aide to Trump who describes himself as the former president’s in-house counsel. “Boris is a pair of heavy hands — he’s not Louis Brandeis,” Steve Bannon once said of him.

Indictment highlight: Epshteyn sent Giuliani a list of lawyers who could help with the fake elector scheme in various states — which, to be fair, is the role you’d expect your in-house counsel to play in such a scheme.

Jordan Weissmann

To share this story, click here.

The Courtroom Election
Semafor/Al Lucca

In 2016, Trump’s tweets and rallies dominated campaign coverage. This time, it’s his indictments, arrests, and court appearances. The political calendar is already jam-packed with legal news and that’s before we get a trial date for his latest charges, with possibly more on the way after that. To any of his rivals planning to just wait out the indictment story before making their big nomination push: good luck with that.

—Benjy Sarlin


You might want to sit down and take a few minutes to watch Mike Pence’s take on the Trump indictment in full. Speaking to reporters in Indiana on Wednesday, Pence said he always “knew that it was false” to suggest he had the power to overturn the election. “I dismissed it out of hand,” he said. “Sadly, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear.” He gave just as tough a take later on Fox News.

Pence is not cheerleading the indictment — he said he’d “hoped” it wouldn’t come to that — but he’s not shying away from it either. His presence in the race could force other candidates to confront that day in more detail, including whether they’d have done the same in his shoes, especially if he makes the debate (he says he’s close to qualifying). Considering Trump is openly talking about picking one of them as a running mate, it’s an especially relevant topic.

Benjy Sarlin

One Good Text

Vivek Ramaswamy is a Republican presidential candidate. We asked him about this clip in which he is asked by a BlazeTV host whether he believes 9/11 was an “inside job.”


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

WHAT THE LEFT ISN’T READING: Tucker Carlson interviewed Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer, who told the ex-Fox News host that Hunter’s speakerphone calls with his dad and business associates represented an “abuse of soft power.”

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: A deep-red county in Arizona voted against hand-counting ballots in the 2024 election cycle after an elections official said it would cost more than $1 million and require hiring 245 new workers.

Principals Team

Hot on Semafor

  • U.S. federal prosecutors are considering fraud charges against Binance, but the fate of customers after FTX went bankrupt is weighing on the Justice Department.
  • On the U.S. presidential campaign trail, Republican candidates are scared to confront the frontrunner — and increasingly turning on each other.
  • Permitting reform is happening, but leaving both sides unhappy.