The TAKE with Rick Klein

Former President Donald Trump is focused on revenge, with his vows to help defeat incumbent Republicans who were and are less than fully loyal to him.

But even without taking a flight to Alaska, Trump may not have to work very hard to see Congress tilt even further in his direction. The initial wave of Senate retirements is opening new opportunities for Trump-friendly candidates to snatch primary victories — and maybe, though not definitely, Senate seats next year.

The surprise retirement announcement of Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., marks the fifth GOP senator — and counting –choosing to leave rather than seek another term next year. All five earned reputations as potential deal-makers over long careers in both the House and Senate, and all five represent states carried by Trump at least once.

As for what might come next, Trump-aligned Republicans are among the early favorites in developing Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The former president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is considering a bid in her native North Carolina.

In Alabama and Missouri, it’s easier to see Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Josh Hawley getting an ideological twin representing their states, versus seeing anyone like former Sens. Doug Jones or Claire McCaskill coming to the Senate in 2023.

The spate of Republican retirements is being celebrated by Democrats who see the map opening up and see GOP stalwarts seeming to acknowledge how hard it will be to win back chairmanships.

But even amid the internal Republican debate over Trump’s role in the party moving forward, his outsized influence in 2022 seems guaranteed.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Twenty-one Democratic New York assemblywomen have signed onto an open letter tempering calls for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the wake of sexual harassment accusations.

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the second-highest ranking member of the legislative body, was “highly involved” in organizing the effort, according to an aide.

The letter was released Monday, a day after the highest ranking Democrats in the state, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, called on Cuomo to resign. It also came just hours before the Attorney General Letitia James appointed former acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne L. Clark to lead an independent investigation into the claims.

The letter reads more like a statement of support for James’ abilities to oversee an investigation than a concerted effort to save Cuomo, but it’s one of the only attempts to lower the temperature on calls for resignation.

“We request that (James) be allowed the appropriate time to complete her investigation rather than undermine her role and responsibility as the chief law enforcement officer of the state of New York,” the lawmakers wrote. “Our democracy demands that we be diligent and expeditious in our search for truth and justice. This matter deserves no less degree of care.”

While the disgraced governor has denied the allegations and made it clear he will not resign, it is becoming increasingly unclear how his political career could withstand the growing number of accusations and an investigation into how his administration handled nursing home COVID-19 death data ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

With the GOP’s focus on restricting voting rights already underway, particularly in key battlegrounds like Georgia, Senate Democrats are facing a civil war over the filibuster, a procedural hurdle that could thwart their effort to dramatically overhaul the country’s election system.

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, argued on Monday that the filibuster has outlasted its utility. “I think one of our problems right now is that we have a minority that is becoming more and more extreme, that is basically holding the majority — not just at the Congress but of the country — back,” she said.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, too, made a similar case, before specifically calling out Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., in an interview with the Guardian over their opposition to eliminating the key tool for the minority party. “There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights,” he said. Manchin on Sunday, though, signaled an openness to altering the filibuster to make it more “painful” to use, but still reiterated his resistance to nixing it entirely.

But also standing in the way in President Joe Biden, who prefers to keep the filibuster. Asked on Monday if he can succeed on voting rights with the filibuster still in place, Biden played coy, telling reporters, “I can talk to you about that later.”

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt, who breaks down the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for fully vaccinated individuals. ABC News Chief Business and Economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis walks us through an unprecedented tax filing season. And ABC News’ Julia Macfarlane joins us from London to gauge reaction from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News’ “In Plain Sight” podcast. Fresh from landslide victory in the 1964 election, Lyndon and Lady Bird shuttle back and forth between Washington, D.C., and Texas as they make plans for their first full term in office. But despite all that public support, it’s clear there’s trouble ahead. The civil rights movement is confronting a violent backlash, especially in the South, and despite LBJ’s public stance, Lady Bird knows they have “a small war on our hands” in Vietnam. Amid this turmoil, Lady Bird’s ideas about her own work are changing — what started as planting flowers in underserved D.C. neighborhoods is growing into an agenda that brings environmentalism and social justice together in America’s cities. And yet, after nearly two years in office, the Johnsons still find themselves in the shadow of the glamorous Kennedys, when a high profile event at the White House brings the Johnsons their first taste of public protest and bad press. http://abcn.ws/ladybird

ABC News’ “Soul of a Nation” series. The six-episode, primetime series presents viewers with a unique window into authentic realities of Black life and dives deeper into this critical moment of racial reckoning. The future is already here. This episode looks at the NEXT generation of Black Americans and our unique ability to trailblaze, innovate and live on the cutting edge no matter what we have to overcome. “Soul of a Nation” airs Tuesday nights in March on ABC. Episodes can also be viewed the next day on demand and on Hulu. https://abcn.ws/3v4dOgJ

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. examining the COVID-19 response with an update from the frontlines.
  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receive the president’s daily brief at 10:15 a.m. The president visits a small business that has benefited from a Paycheck Protection Program loan in Washington at 11:45 a.m.
  • First lady Jill Biden visits Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to meet with military families at 8:30 a.m. PT.
  • Vernon Jordan’s memorial service begins at 12 p.m. and former President Bill Clinton will deliver the main eulogy for the civil rights leader. The service will be live streamed.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki and National Economic Council Deputy Director Bharat Ramamurti hold a briefing at 1:30 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.