Welcome to Playbook Deep Dive, the stories behind the power. From Congress and the White House to bar stools and back rooms, POLITICO's top reporters and Playbook authors bring you the most compelling and confounding stories that explain what’s really going on in Washington.
New Jan. 6 witness: Trump had mystery call with Putin
If documentary filmmaker Alex Holder’s memory is accurate, Donald Trump was on the phone with Vladimir Putin just minutes after the news broke that the Russian president had dismissed Trump’s Hunter Biden allegations. Holder began filming former President Donald Trump in September 2020 during his campaign for reelection. In the runup to the election and continuing after they left office, Holder had extensive access to film and interview Trump, his inner circle and former Vice President Mike Pence.
The House select committee investigating Jan. 6 recently sent a subpoena to Holder for raw footage related to interviews and discussions Holder recorded, as well as raw footage from Jan. 6 when Holder and his cameraman were there filming as the mob attacked the Capitol. On Thursday, shortly after Holder finished talking to Jan. 6 investigators, Ryan Lizza met Holder at his hotel. On this week’s Playbook Deep Dive, Holder talks about what it’s like behind the scenes filming Trumpworld, the significance of his project and potential impact of the footage subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 Committee.
Director’s cut: What else did Judge Luttig have to say about Jan. 6 in his interview
J. Michael Luttig is the former federal appeals court judge who advised Vice President Mike Pence that the VP had no authority to reject electors on Jan. 6. Back in February, Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza spent four hours interviewing Luttig for a Deep Dive episode that ended up being mostly about his extraordinary role advising Mike Pence on Jan. 6. Given the interest in Luttig this week, we went back through what was left on the cutting room floor to create a new show that goes deep on who Luttig is and where he comes from, which will help you understand why this lifelong right-winger is saying what he’s saying now about the threat to democracy.
He defied Trump and still survived a GOP primary
This week in the GOP primary for South Dakota’s at-large district, Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) defeated a challenger from his right who claimed he wasn’t aligned closely enough with former President Donald Trump, even though Johnson agrees with Trump on many policies. Johnson’s vote for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks and his support for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to remain in House Leadership was cited as proof he is not an ally of the former president. Johnson also faced more than $500,000 in spending against him from Drain the DC Swamp PAC. He tells Ryan Lizza that South Dakotans like Trump – but they also like Dusty Johnson. Find out how he overcame the challenges faced from defying Trump and how he survived to win the Republican nomination on this week’s episode of Playbook Deep Dive.
Will the GOP control Congress for the next decade?
There’s at least a few people in the Democratic establishment who have hope for the midterms. They’re the redistricting experts, people like Kelly Burton. She’s a long-time political operative and the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization that she leads along with other top party names like former attorney general Eric Holder. The NDRC is leading the Democrats’ charge against Republican gerrymandering during the 2022 redistricting cycle.
So why are Burton and her counterparts so sanguine? Because for the first time since 2018, they are confident that redistricting and numerous legal battles are making the field more hospitable for midterm victories. The NDRC is bringing lawsuits to state courts to fight what it says are illegal attempts at gerrymandering districts. Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama — the list goes on. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Burton tells Playbook Deep Dive host Ryan Lizza what it’s taken to draw an equitable voting map for 2022 and what she’s hoping to see in November.
Will ‘extremism’ fracture the GOP? Cheney vs. Trump in Wyoming
Trump-backed candidates have lost recently in Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina and Idaho. The biggest caveat about how the lessons of other states might apply in Wyoming is that in states where the Trump candidate lost, the non-Trump candidate was not anti-Trump. Rep. Liz Cheney’s political identity — at least, her identity on the national stage — is now defined by her criticism of the former president. The anti-Cheney effort in Wyoming has been led by Frank Eathorne, the Wyoming GOP chair and Trump’s most important ally in the state. Last weekend, Victoria Eavis of the Casper Star-Tribune and Rone Tempest of WyoFile, published a bombshell 6,500-word profile of Eathorne. On this week’s episode of Playbook Deep Dive, co-author Ryan Lizza is in the Casper Star-Tribune’s newsroom, where Eavis explains how the story came together. Plus, former chairman of the Natrona County Republican party Dr. Joseph McGinley explains what it’s like to be pushed out of his own party.
The GOP rancher trying to save Idaho from the far right
For this week’s episode of Playbook Deep Dive, we sat down with Jennifer Ellis at her cattle ranch in eastern Idaho to understand how the state’s GOP establishment delivered a stinging rebuke to Trumpism.
About As Non-Partisan As Mainstream Can Be
Politico has gotten a bit of a reputation as a left-leaning medium and their website deserves that. But, as a Libertarian often looking for non-partisan reporting, I have to say these podcasts seem to stick mostly to just reporting w/o extolling.
Sure there was an episode that seemed Biden friendly, but there was also another that benefited the win of GOP Governor-elect Youngkin.
It’s tough to avoid a partisan slant in reporting these days but I feel this podcast walks the line about as well as can be expected.
First episode I’ve listened too and I am extremely frustrated by the hosts interview approach. Let your guest speak! Quit talking and listen. The filmmaker was about to share his thoughts on Trump and you took over and offered your own. Maddening.
Ryan Lizza, great interview with Steve Schmidt.
Great interview. Just wish it had been longer.