With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

The presidents aides, led by chief of staff Ron Klain, are making the case that Joe Biden is a transformational president with historic achievements. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo



THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: RON KLAIN The White House suddenly has a lot to brag about. And the presidents aides, led by chief of staff RON KLAIN, are reaching deep into the 20th century to make the case that JOE BIDEN is a transformational president with historic achievements.

Heres the litany from Klain:

We now have a presidency where the president has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since ROOSEVELT, the largest infrastructure plan since EISENHOWER, the most judges confirmed since KENNEDY, the second largest health care bill since JOHNSON, and the largest climate change bill in history. The first time we’ve done gun control since President CLINTON was here, the first time ever an African American woman has been put on the U.S. Supreme Court. I think its a record to take to the American people.

On Thursday, we ventured over to the White House and sat down with Klain in the Roosevelt Room to review the last 18 months of the Biden presidency and talk about whats next.

When Biden is out of town, as he was on Thursday, the vibe in the West Wing is a little different. Aides are more relaxed, but often busier. Klain sleeps in a little later, but powers through more work. (I definitely get more done when he’s not here, he told Playbook. No question about it.) Its also noisier: Theres an ongoing refencing project outside the White House that revs up whenever the president is away.

At the start of the summer, this conversation would have been vastly different. Now, gas prices have dropped, the last CPI report hints that inflation may finally be trending down after hitting a peak. Election forecasters are writingpieces at least entertaining the idea that Democrats might not suffer the long-predicted midterm wipeout. And theres that burst of legislative victories that were squeezed out of Congress in July and August that had Biden, a lover of alliteration, calling this period a season of substance. 

You can listen to the full conversation with Klain on this weeks episode of the Playbook Deep Dive podcast subscribe here on Apple Podcasts and Spotify but here are the key highlights:

On moving the reconciliation package talks to Capitol Hill:

When you negotiate at the White House, the negotiations are very high profile and put a lot of pressure on everyone involved, and kind of create a lot of breadcrumbs for the press to follow. [Its] good for the journalism business; not so good, maybe, for the progress business. One thing we wanted to do was to take the temperature down on these negotiations and have them conducted in a more low-key way. And I think moving it to Capitol Hill was very effective that way. It kind of ended the cycle we had in November, December of just daily breathlessness about who said what to whom and when they said what to whom and how they said what to whom which was not a not a productive vehicle in which we could get to an agreement.

Klain speaks with reporters at the Capitol on Feb. 17. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Bidens temperament:

Look at the presidents personal history: Its a personal history of tremendous, joyous successes and devastating tragedies. And I think that helps moderate his spirit at all times. There is nothing I can ever walk into the Oval Office and tell him thats any bigger than the bigger things hes already experienced in life. And nothing I could ever tell him is any sadder than the saddest things hes already experienced in life. And I think that gives him a very level temperament as president.

Summing up Bidens/Dems midterms message:

Elections are choices, and the choice just couldnt be any clearer right now. Democrats have stood up to the big special interests. They stood up to the big corporations and insisted that all corporations pay minimum taxes, stood up to the big oil companies and passed climate change legislation. They stood up to Big Pharma and passed prescription drug legislation. They stood up to the gun industry and passed gun control legislation. Things that this city [was] unable to deliver on for decades because the special interests had things locked down, Joe Biden and his allies in Congress have been able to deliver on.

On how theyre branding Republicans:

We have an extreme MAGA group in the Republican Party that has no real plan to bring down inflation. They obviously want to pass a nationwide ban on abortion. They sided with Big Pharma. They sided with the climate deniers. They sided with most of them sided with the gun lobby. And so I think that choice [is] between a party thats standing up to the special interests and delivering change, and an extreme party, a party thats talking about, well, some of the leaders talking about abolishing Social Security and Medicare every five years. The extreme nature of our opponents, whether it’s with regard to democracy or Social Security, are all part of a movement that is just very different than weve seen in recent years in this country.

The best day since he arrived?

For me, it was Jan. 20, 2021. The fundamental challenge we faced in the 2020 campaign was whether or not democracy would prevail. And there was a profound threat to that during the transition and on Jan. 6, and an effort to prevent that from happening. There were times on Jan. 6 where I really wondered if the electoral votes would ever get counted and if Joe Biden would ever get sworn in as president. So to be here at 12 noon on Jan. 20 to welcome the president here in the Oval Office when he got back from the inauguration ceremonies to me, that was the biggest victory we could ever win.

The worst day?

Theres no question: The worst day here was Aug. 26 of last year, when we lost 13 service members in Afghanistan. Just a terrible tragedy and certainly the darkest day.

On Bidens public profile:

I dont think its true hes out there less than his predecessors. I just think DONALD TRUMP created an expectation of a president creating a shitstorm every single day.

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Happy Friday. Thanks for reading Playbook. What was your season of substance? Drop us a line and tell us: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

THE NEXT BIG RACES YOU SHOULD WATCH Our colleagues have a pair of stories up this morning as election attention turns to the Empire States Tuesday primary.

Want to know if a red wave is happening? Watch this special election next week, by Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris. The race to succeed Democrat ANTONIO DELGADO in New Yorks 19th district next week will offer one of two signals about the 2022 election: It will either (1) preview the pain headed the Democratic Partys way in November, or (2) provide powerful evidence that a Republican wave election is not in the offing. Ally and Sarah report from Woodstock, N.Y., that both parties are dumping money into this Hudson Valley district to notch a short-lived but symbolic victory in the last competitive race before the midterms.

Maloney kicks NY-12 campaign into overdrive. But will it be enough? by Sally Goldenberg and Georgia Rosenberg. Back in Manhattan, Rep. CAROLYN MALONEY is charging forward in a late push to keep up with fellow Rep. JERRY NADLER in the 12th districts Democratic primary amid a surge in his support over recent weeks (he nabbed the endorsement of the NYT and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER).

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BIDENS FRIDAY: The president has nothing on his public schedule.

VP KAMALA HARRIS FRIDAY: The VP has nothing on her public schedule.


STEP INSIDE THE WEST WING: What’s really happening in West Wing offices? Find out who’s up, who’s down, and who really has the presidents ear in our West Wing Playbook newsletter, the insider’s guide to the Biden White House and Cabinet. For buzzy nuggets and details that you won’t find anywhere else, subscribe today.


Donald Trump supporters drive outside of the Paul G. Rogers Federal Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 18. | Lynne Sladky/AP Photo



JUDGE PUNTS AFFIDAVIT DECISION Florida Magistrate Judge BRUCE REINHART indicated on Thursday that he was skeptical of the Justice Departments arguments to keep sealed the probable-cause affidavit that led to the FBIs search of Trumps Mar-a-Lago compound. Reinhart ordered DOJ prosecutors to propose redactions to the affidavit by next week. But Reinhart also signaled he would likely allow significant redactions, and a final resolution on the issue of public access to the pivotal court filing may still be a long way off, our colleagues Nicholas Wu, Andrew Desiderio, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report from West Palm Beach, Fla.

ABOUT THOSE DOCUMENTS Trump has claimed that he had a standing order to declassify documents that he brought from the Oval Office to the White House residence. But 18 former top Trump administration officials tell CNN they never heard any such order issued during their time working for Trump, and that they believe the claim to be patently false, Jamie Gangel, Elizabeth Stuart and Jeremy Herb report. Several officials laughed at the notion. One senior administration official called it bullsh*t. Former chiefs of staff JOHN KELLY and MICK MULVANEY went on the record to push back on the idea Trump had such a standing order.

WATCH: Can we explain all of Trumps legal woes in 2 minutes? A POLITICO reporter tries (and fails)


MCCONNELL TEMPERS 2022 EXPECTATIONS Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL weighed in on the GOP candidate-quality question on the same day that the Senate Leadership Fund poured $28 million into J.D. VANCEs cash-dry campaign, NBCs Sahil Kapur and Frank Thorp V write.

Heres what McConnell said: I think theres probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome. Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, were likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.

PENNSYLVANIA LATEST Once Alarmed, Mainstream Pennsylvania Republicans Unite Around Mastriano, by NYTs Trip Gabriel

DEEP DIVE APs Julie Carr Smyth looks into J.D. VANCEs Our Ohio Renewal charity, which shut down its nonprofit and foundation over the past year after he won the Ohio GOP Senate nomination. An AP review found that the charitys most notable accomplishment sending an addiction specialist to Ohios Appalachian region for a yearlong residency was tainted by ties among the doctor, the institute that employed her and Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin.

TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN APs Will Weissert and Zeke Miller have a story up on the Will he or wont he Washington parlor game over Bidens potential 2024 campaign, writing that allies hope his recent string of success and positive headlines will at least temporarily tamp down suggestions that the would-be octogenarian shouldnt run. A sampling of the vocal supporters:

Former Virginia Gov. TERRY McAULIFFE: I think the naysayers are pretty quiet right now. I think theyve seen reality.

Rep. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-N.Y.): If someone were to say that a president had a record of accomplishment that I just described, without putting a time frame on it, the logical response would be: That person had a successful two-term presidency.

Which brings us to Sen. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-R.I.) appeared on the Rhode Island Report podcast, where he was asked whether he supports Biden running for reelection: Im going to duck that question, if you dont mind, Whitehouse said. We dont have any candidates yet for 2024, and Im not picking amongst them. More from the Boston Globes Edward Fitzpatrick

FLORIDA FILES DeSantis announces 20 arrests tied to voter fraud charges, by Matt Dixon: The investigation was led by the DeSantis-championed Office of Election Crimes and Security, an office created during the 2022 legislative session to focus on election fraud investigations and prosecutions.

HOGAN GOES THERE In a recent radio hit, outgoing Maryland Gov. LARRY HOGAN called DAN COX, the Trump-backed GOP gubernatorial nominee, a nut who has no chance whatsoever of winning in November, WaPos Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox write.

More from Hogan: Hes not, in my opinion, mentally stable. He wanted to hang my friend, MIKE PENCE, and took three busloads of people to the Capitol.


WHAT RAPINOE TOLD BIDEN Our friends over on West Wing Playbook have the scoop on a call that Biden had with soccer star MEGAN RAPINOE, whom he awarded a Medal of Freedom. Multiple people familiar with the matter told West Wing Playbook that Rapinoe also used her call with Biden to raise the issue of BRITTNEY GRINERs detention in Russia, urging him to take more steps to secure her release, Max Tani and Alex Thompson report. One person familiar with the call said Biden assured Rapinoe that his national security team was pursuing every avenue to try to secure her release as quickly as possible, and would continue to support her family. Sign up for West Wing Playbook here


FISA FIGHT The GOP fury stoked by the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago is about to upend a long-running fight over intelligence agencies surveillance powers, Jordain Carney reports this morning. Greenlighting future Section 702 surveillance was never going to be easy in a GOP with long-running fractures over the often-sweeping scope of law enforcement and intelligence monitoring, as illustrated by brawls on the matter in 2018 and 2020. Congress technically has until late 2023 to act, but House Republicans told Jordain that theyve started discussing it in anticipation of a GOP-controlled House.

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SCOTUS SECRETS Michael Schaffers latest Capital City Column: Where are Stephen Breyers Papers?:The decision on whether to provide answers to the most compelling questions about the court Who penetrated its inner sanctum? What did the justices really think of each other, and of the momentous changes in the law that they engendered? Which biases and stray thoughts altered their decision-making? will be Breyers alone.


THE VIEW FROM WALL STREET Wall Street Bets the Fed Is Bluffing in High-Stakes Inflation Game, by WSJs Akane Otani: The market rebound reflects a belief that inflation has peaked and rates will go down sometime next year, an outlook Fed officials have tried to dismiss.

MEGATREND U.S. Home Sales Dropped in July for Sixth Straight Month, WSJ


SHIFTING STRATEGY The Biden administration is planning for an end to its practice of paying for Covid-19 shots and treatments, shifting more control of pricing and coverage to the healthcare industry in ways that could generate sales for companies and costs for consumers for years to come, WSJs Stephanie Armour reports.


END OF AN ERA BRIAN STELTER, one of CNNs biggest stars, is leaving CNN as the network reshuffles its lineup and cancels his Sunday show, NPRs David Folkenflik reported. Reliable Sources is the longest-running show on CNN; Stelter has hosted it for the past nine years and celebrated the show’s 30th anniversary in March. CNN chief CHRIS LICHT informed Stelter of the decision yesterday. Licht has been making cuts throughout the network since taking the helm as part of Warner Bros. Discovery’s takeover of the old Time Warner company.

It was a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential, Stelter said, promising to say more on Sunday’s show its final episode.

NYTs Benjamin Mullin with the context:DAVID ZASLAV, the companys chief executive, has said that he wants a network for both Republicans and Democrats. JOHN MALONE, an influential Warner Bros. Discovery shareholder, said that he wanted the network to evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with in an interview with CNBC last year. That new focus seemed to put Mr. Stelter, who has been critical of former President Donald J. Trump and his treatment of the press, in possible jeopardy.

CNNs Oliver Darcy on whats next for the Reliable Sources newsletter: In the immediate future, this newsletter will take a brief summer hiatus. But in a few weeks, I will return with a reimagined product that expands our coverage and mirrors the complex media landscape our nation and world are facing today.

TV TONIGHT PBS Washington Week: Peter Baker, Eugene Daniels and Susan Page.


ABC This Week: Jonathan Karl will have an exclusive interview with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). Panel: Jane Coaston, Ramesh Ponnuru, Susan Page and Mark Leibovich.

FOX Fox News Sunday: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. Panel: Jason Chaffetz, Jessica Tarlov and Juan Williams.

CBS Face the Nation: Deborah Birx Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

NBC Meet the Press: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.). Panel: Brendan Buck, Marc Caputo, Symone Sanders and Ali Vitali.

CNN Inside Politics: Panel: Maggie Haberman, Audie Cornish, Catherine Lucey and Jackie Kucinich.

MSNBC The Sunday Show: Michael Cohen Tom Nichols Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.).

INTRODUCING POWER SWITCH: The energy landscape is profoundly transforming. Power Switch is a daily newsletter that unlocks the most important stories driving the energy sector and the political forces shaping critical decisions about your energy future, from production to storage, distribution to consumption. Dont miss out on Power Switch, your guide to the politics of energy transformation in America and around the world. SUBSCRIBE TODAY.


Brian Schatz got bored waiting for takeoff.

Kara Swisher has the latest on crudité-gate.

Betsy DeVos said that while she was in a wheelchair in 2019, Joe Biden placed his hands on her shoulders and pressed his forehead to my forehead for several seconds when he first met her.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.s anti-vaccine group got kicked off of Facebook and Instagram, per the AP.

A portion of the Senates Ohio Clock corridor has been painted bright Aztec Yellow.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK Maggie Grove has been named chief strategy and impact officer at Public Agenda. She previously was interim president and VP for strategy and operations at Campus Compact.

The Earthshot Prize and Bloomberg Philanthropies are co-hosting The Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit on Sept. 21 in New York City. The summit aims to drive impact around systems-changing climate solutions and amplify The Earthshot Prizes call to accelerate progress to repair our planet through collaboration and bold innovation.

STAFFING UP Jennifer Berlin is now assistant national cyber director for stakeholder engagement. She most recently was deputy COS for the deputy secretary of Defense. Drenan Dudley is now assistant national cyber director for budget review and assessment. She most recently was a professional staffer for the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. Lorand Laskai is now deputy assistant national cyber director for strategy and research. He is a recent graduate of Yale Law School who served on the Biden-Harris transition. Jose Fontanez is now special assistant to the national cyber director. He most recently was director of scheduling for Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Former President Bill Clinton NYTs Joe Kahn and Farhad Manjoo Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) Nebraska Gov. Pete RickettsMolly Jong-Fast of The Atlantic Mary MatalinJulius Genachowski of the Carlyle Group WSJs Brody Mullins and Madeline Marshall Daily Mails Emily Goodin McKinseys Neil GraceNeil Patel of the Daily Caller and Bluebird Asset Management Adam TomlinsonPat Jones of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association CNNs Paula ReidSteve Sothmann of the Leather and Hide Council of America and Meat Import Council of America former Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) Andrew Vlasaty of FGS Global … Maria Reynolds of Sen. Ted Cruzs (R-Texas) office Christian McMullen of TAG Strategies Adam Conner of the Center for American Progress WaPos Mark Seibel Alan PykeShannon Campagna of Van Scoyoc Associates Metas Eva Guidarini Kevin MinoliJack Livingston … Rob Damschen of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkins office Matthew Beck … Ralph Alswang Tipper Gore former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tom Rogers Carol Blymire of Neon Strategies Sara Durkin

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