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In today’s edition: Matt Gaetz pulls the trigger on his challenge to Kevin McCarthy, new Gallup numb͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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October 3, 2023


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Today in D.C.
  1. McCarthy under threat
  2. Gallup polls the economy
  3. Bowman’s five-alarm fire
  4. Trump on trial
  5. John Kelly blasts Trump

PDB: Half of voters say Biden impeachment inquiry won’t be handled fairly

Harris will swear in Laphonza ButlerHunter Biden to plead not guilty on gun charges … Bloomberg: Senators hoping for Xi meeting in China

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Matt Gaetz makes his move

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Rep. Matt Gaetz finally pulled the trigger: As promised, the Florida Republican moved to topple House Speaker Kevin McCarthy with a motion to vacate Monday evening. The move will force an up-or-down vote on McCarthy’s speakership within two days. While the GOP leader has sought to appear unbowed in public — “Bring it on,” he tweeted Monday — it’s unclear if he has the support to survive.

A CNN tally indicated at least five House Republicans were supportive of Gaetz’s effort — enough to strip McCarthy of his gavel if all Democrats also line up against him. Over a dozen other Republicans were at least open to deposing McCarthy. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, told Semafor that conservatives like him were blindsided by McCarthy’s last-ditch maneuver during last week’s budget showdown to pass a short-term funding bill with the help of Democratic votes. “I just don’t know right now,” he said of whether he’d support the speaker.

There’s been heated speculation about whether House Democrats might lend McCarthy their support in exchange for concessions on issues like Ukraine funding, but it’s unclear how much appetite exists for such a deal. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash. told CNN she’d consider a bargain to back McCarthy depending on his offer (“The word of the week is leverage,” she said). Others are ready to let McCarthy sink. Most importantly, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has yet to take a public stance. Punchbowl reports this morning that McCarthy placed a call to Jeffries late last night, but that the Democratic leader won’t help McCarthy unless he has sign off from his Democratic colleagues.


Gallup: GOP’s economic edge hits new heights

A record-high percentage of Americans trust Republicans to manage the economy over Democrats, according to a new Gallup survey. Some 53% of respondents said the GOP were more likely to “do a better job of keeping the country prosperous,” versus 39% who favored Democrats. Gallup has been polling the same question since 1951 and the 14-point edge is the widest for Republicans since 1991 and a slight bump from their 10-point advantage this time last year. Democrats led by one point in September 2020. Gallup analyst Justin McCarthy noted to Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin that the final election year polling on the question has typically predicted the winner since 1984, with the most recent exception being 2000 (the question was not asked in 2004). The results come as the White House and Biden campaign are in the midst of a major push to sell voters on “Bidenomics” and publicize falling inflation rates and low unemployment.


Putting out the fire with gasoline

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. got some good news on his fire alarm defense before his staff created another five-alarm fire of their own. On Monday, the U.S. Capitol Police issued an update on their investigation in which they said still-unreleased security footage of the Saturday incident showed an individual “trying to exit the door in the Cannon Building and then pulling the fire alarm.” That description might help support Bowman’s claim that he was confused by the blocked doors while trying to get to a vote and did not plan to set off a building-wide evacuation. But the congressman’s office poured gasoline on the still-simmering situation when they circulated a memo asking Democrats to defend Bowman by attacking “Nazi members” of the Republican party. After it leaked to the press, Bowman called the language “inappropriate” and said he had only “just become aware” of it. “I condemn the use of the term Nazi out of its precise definition,” he tweeted. His seat is safe from Republicans, but any further embarrassment could bolster efforts to primary him, Politico notes: AIPAC had already been searching for a challenger to Bowman over his views on Israel and Westchester County executive George Latimer is the most-discussed potential candidate so far.


Trump lashes out on first day of civil trial

Jefferson Siegel/Pool via REUTERS

Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial kicked off in New York with the former president calling New York Attorney General Letitia James a “racist” and Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron a “Democratic operative.” Trump took issue with the fact that the case will be decided by the judge, who already found Trump liable for business fraud, rather than a jury. But it turns out, according to Engoron, that “nobody asked for” a jury trial — his attorneys never sought to litigate the question.

Prosecutors accuse Trump of inflating his assets and defrauding banks, taking direct aim at Trump’s business empire and his business magnate persona. Trump’s team argued that real estate estimates are subjective and that there was no “nefarious intent” behind his claims, which sometimes went many multiples above independent valuations. “What we have here is an attempt to hurt me in an election,” Trump told reporters in a lengthy tirade heading into the courtroom.

He was quieter inside, sitting mostly silent with his arms crossed and “occasionally rolling his eyes,” according to the New York Times. “He sat well, kept his mouth shut and didn’t create any commotions or distractions during the trial. He deserves a lollipop,” former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told Semafor’s Morgan Chalfant. Cohen, who will be a witness for the prosecution, said he skipped the proceedings out of concern for his personal security and to avoid giving the defense a means to claim his testimony was influenced by listening to other witnesses.


John Kelly scorches Trump over wounded soldiers comments

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former Trump White House Chief of Staff John Kelly issued a lengthy statement to CNN on Monday flaming his former boss as a “person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about.” In it, the ex-Marine Corps general provided on-the-record confirmation for a slew of stories about Trump badmouthing dead and wounded U.S. soldiers, which had previously been reported only based on anonymous sources. Among the details: Trump referred to America’s WWI dead buried in France as “losers” and “suckers”; said he didn’t want wounded veterans in a parade because “it doesn’t look good for me”; and struggled to understand why soldiers killed in Afghanistan had bothered risking their lives, saying “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” (Those anecdotes happen to dovetail with recent reporting by The Atlantic that Trump responded to watching a wheelchair-bound veteran sing “God Bless America” by saying, “No one wants to see that, the wounded.”)

“There is nothing more that can be said. God help us,” Kelly’s statement concludes.

Live Journalism

October is abuzz with live journalism from Semafor. See below our schedule of gatherings for your calendar. We look forward to welcoming you.

Igniting Innovation: America’s Digital Future

Join us for a discussion on the state of broadband access, equity, connectivity challenges, and digital infrastructure. Program Partner: AT&T

Date: October 10 | Washington D.C


Principals Live with Joe Dominguez, Constellation CEO

Join us for a candid discussion with Joe Dominguez examining the next generation renewable energy technologies that will help usher in a new era of the energy transition, and how to scale innovative and effective clean energy projects.

Date: October 11 | Washington D.C.



Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: The “overwhelming” sentiment during a Democratic leadership meeting last night was that Democrats shouldn’t intervene to help save Kevin McCarthy from the motion to vacate.

The Early 202: Many Democratic House members aren’t buying McCarthy allies’ argument that keeping him around would make the House more functional: “Any vote that helps Kevin McCarthy would be nauseating to many of us,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.

Playbook: Laphonza Butler is “genuinely undecided” on whether she will run in 2024 for the California Senate seat she’s been appointed to by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

White House

  • President Biden is planning a call with U.S. allies to assure them that America supports Ukraine, after the Congress left out funding for Kyiv from the short-term funding bill passed over the weekend. — Bloomberg
  • The Pentagon has $5.2 billion remaining to provide weapons and security assistance to Ukraine, which the White House said would help support Ukraine on the battlefield for “a bit longer.” The Biden administration plans to announce another tranche of assistance soon.
  • The 10 drugmakers selected for Medicare drug price negotiations are all agreeing to participate in the talks, despite earlier protest. — CNBC
  • Vice President Harris will swear in Laphonza Butler to the U.S. Senate later today.


  • A group of senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is aiming to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping when they visit China next week. — Bloomberg
  • Retired Air Force general John Teichert is running as a Republican to replace outgoing Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.


  • Special counsel David Weiss is considering filing tax charges against Hunter Biden in California. Biden plans to plead not guilty to gun charges in court in Wilmington today stemming from
  • Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. is set to face trial on bribery charges next May.


Interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds crossed 4.5% this week for the first time since 2007, prompting a new round of warnings from fiscal hawks that Washington is sleepwalking into a debt crisis. “Ultimately, Washington’s interest rate may settle around 4% to 5%, which would gradually push the debt well past 200% of GDP,” Manhattan Institute senior fellow Brian Riedl wrote at CNN. “Yet congressional spenders have offered nothing by way of a backup plan in case higher interest rates hit the soaring national debt.”


Half of registered voters polled by Monmouth University think the House impeachment of President Biden won’t be conducted fairly. Unsurprisingly, 69% of Democrats polled had no confidence in the proceedings. But Independents and Republicans share a good portion of the skepticism, with 48% and 29% having no confidence, respectfully.

Big Read

In The Atlantic, Helen Lewis profiles Satanic Temple leader Lucien Greaves, a provocateur whose movement exists primarily to force legal disputes over questions related to the separation of church and state. Recently, however, it’s gone through a schism after members criticized Greaves for posing with an atheist who had been accused of sexual misconduct and transphobia. ​​ “In recent years, movements and institutions far more illustrious than the Satanic Temple have struggled to prioritize their original mission,” Lewis writes in a piece that examines the tension between Greaves’ Gen X edgelord ways and his critics’ progressive values.


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: L.A. County moved to a zero-bail system.

What the Right isn’t reading: Elon Musk was sued for libel by a man falsely accused of being involved in a brawl involving the Proud Boys.

One Good Text

Mark Alford is a Republican congressman from Missouri. He caught attention for suggesting yesterday that Taylor Swift was a distraction for Travis Kelce.