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POLITICO Playbook: Rittenhouse verdict pushes BBB out of the headlines


Kyle Rittenhouse cries as he is found not guilty on all counts Friday. | Sean Krajacic – Pool/Getty Images

Happy almost-Thanksgiving. I’m Zack Stanton, Playbook’s deputy editor, taking a turn in the driver’s seat this morning to give our intrepid, 24/7/365 authors a breather.

For months, national media documented every move of the Build Back Better package — seemingly any utterance by Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) was news; the standoff between House moderates and progressives laid bare the ideological schisms within the Democratic coalition; in the balance were not just BBB’s component provisions, but the entire Biden presidency.

Then it passed the House on Friday morning, and its time as the most important story in the country didn’t even last until the evening news.

The “not guilty” verdict in the trial of KYLE RITTENHOUSE for shooting three men in Kenosha, Wis., killing two, led the nightly news broadcasts on ABC, NBC and CBS. It got the full-width banner headline treatment on the NYT homepage, above every story on BBB. Cable news? By the afternoon, it appeared “to be 100% Wisconsin verdict and 0% House Democrats passing a sweeping domestic policy bill that caps everyone’s co-pay for insulin at $35/mo, etc.,” tweeted LUPPE B. LUPEN, a popular legal and political writer better known as @nycsouthpaw.

Here’s what you need to know about the Rittenhouse verdict and fallout.

— The reactions:

  • President JOE BIDEN: “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. … [W]e’re not going to heal our country’s wounds overnight, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law. I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law.”
  • Former President DONALD TRUMP: “Congratulations to Kyle Rittenhouse for being found INNOCENT of all charges. It’s called being found NOT GUILTY — And by the way, if that’s not self defense, nothing is!”
  • VP KAMALA HARRIS: “Today’s verdict speaks for itself. I’ve spent a majority of my career working to make our criminal justice system more equitable. It’s clear, there’s still a lot more work to do.”
  • The Congressional Black Caucus, via Nicholas Wu: “It is unconscionable our justice system would allow an armed vigilante — who traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin and killed JOSEPH ROSENBAUM, ANTHONY HUBER and wounded GAIGE GROSSKREUTZ — to go free.”
  • Meanwhile, at least three members of Congress — Reps. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-N.C.), MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.) and PAUL GOSAR (R-Ariz.) — have offered Rittenhouse an internship (despite his never having expressed any interest in one), notes Vox’s Zack Beauchamp.
  • The verdict prompted “sporadic” protests across the country — notable demonstrations took place in Portland, Oakland and Brooklyn. But in Kenosha, there was “relative calm” overnight, report WaPo’s Andrew Jeong, Stephanie Lai and Adela Suliman.

— The big picture:

  • “Rittenhouse Verdict Shows Self-Defense Is Hard to Disprove, Experts Say,” by NYT’s Shaila Dewan and Mitch Smith: “The acquittal points to the wide berth the legal system gives to defendants who say they acted out of fear, even if others around them were also afraid. Wisconsin’s rules for self-defense are well within the national mainstream. If people reasonably believe they are at risk of death or great bodily harm, they can use deadly force. … Self-defense laws typically do not require someone to have good judgment and tend to consider only the moments leading up to the violence, not whether the person willingly entered a turbulent situation or contributed to the chaos.”
  • Meridith McGraw reports on the “lionization of Kyle Rittenhouse by the right,” writing that “a wide swath of conservatives had turned his case into an example of a social justice system run amok and Rittenhouse himself into an avatar of Second Amendment virtuosity. They treated the trial outcome as vindication, perhaps divine. … Republican strategist GREGG KELLER said he could see a future in which Rittenhouse becomes a featured speaker at the conservative confabs where activists congregate. A CPAC invitation ‘would not surprise me. … I think there will be every effort made to turn him into conservative hero.’”

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

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FIT FOR DUTY — The results of Biden’s annual physical were released Friday evening, and his physician deemed the president “fit for duty.” Nick Niedzwiadek and Myah Ward write that the president’s report “noted two changes since his last screening was released in 2019: more throat clearing and a change in gait.”

— “The president’s persistent cough and throat clearing has been ‘more frequent and more pronounced,’ the report said. It attributed the change to gastroesophageal reflux.”

— “The report also said the president’s gait is ‘perceptibly stiffer and less fluid’ than it was last year. [It] attributed the stiffness to ‘wear and tear,’ a ‘mild sensory peripheral neuropathy of the feet’ and ‘significant spinal arthritis.’ The physician did not find significant nerve root compression, at least not enough to warrant ‘any specific treatment.’” The full medical report, via the White House

A PRE-THANKSGIVING TRADITION — On Friday, Biden pardoned two turkeys, PEANUT BUTTER and JELLY, and joked that the two were picked because of their “temperament, appearance and, I suspect, vaccination status.” Continuing with the dad jokes, he said that “instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted today.” More from AP’s Alexandra Jaffe

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BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.

HARRIS’ SATURDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.

Two turkeys are pictured outside the White House. | Getty Images

PHOTO OF THE DAY: The turkeys Peanut Butter and Jelly wait outside the White House to be officially pardoned by President Joe Biden on Friday. | Alex Wong/Getty Images


— The Supreme Court is planning to issue at least one opinion Monday, and speculation is high that it’ll be about Texas’ six-week abortion ban, reports AP’s Mark Sherman.

— The Election Assistance Commission has a new advisory board member: CLETA MITCHELL, “a voter fraud conspiracy theorist who joined President Trump in the January phone call pressuring Georgia officials to ‘find’ 11,000 more votes for him,” reports Votebeat’s Jessica Huseman, who has the strange backstory on the appointment of the (largely powerless) role.

— “Some of [New York Gov. KATHY] HOCHUL’s accomplishments are the low-hanging fruit of simply not being a raging asshole.” That’s just one of the many memorable lines from Laura Nahmias’ profile of ANDREW CUOMO’s successor for New York magazine.

— Whose job is it to defend Earth against a possibly life-ending asteroid if one was headed our way? “The answer right now is no one,” reports Bryan Bender, detailing NASA’s preparations to “slam a spacecraft into an asteroid at 16,000 miles per hour, in a pioneering attempt to nudge it off course.”

— Sens. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine), JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-N.H.) and LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska) wrote a letter to the editor of the NYT, criticizing the paper’s coverage of Sinema’s fashion choices. “Sinema is a serious, hardworking member of the Senate who contributes a great deal to the policy deliberations before us,” they write. “Your repeated focus on how she dresses, rather than what she says and does, is demeaning, sexist and inappropriate.”

— JOE SCARBOROUGH is negotiating a new contract and reportedly wants more money than RACHEL MADDOW: “‘$30 million plus $1’ — in part because he wants to be the highest paid talent at MSNBC,” reports Puck’s Dylan Byers.

— The FBI is investigating an attempted breach of an Ohio county’s election network. The attack “bears striking similarities to an incident in Colorado earlier this year, when government officials helped an outsider gain access to the county voting system in an effort to find fraud,” WaPo’s Amy Gardner, Emma Brown and Devlin Barrett report. “Data obtained in both instances were distributed at an August ‘cyber symposium’ on election fraud hosted by MyPillow executive MIKE LINDELL, an ally of Trump who has spent millions of dollars promoting false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.”

— California wildfires have killed off nearly 20% of all the giant sequoia trees on Earth over the past two years, per AP’s Brian Melley.

— “A federal judge on Friday squarely placed the blame for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Donald Trump, suggesting that the former president’s role in seeding lies about the 2020 election — and the effect it had on his followers — has been an underappreciated part of the entire episode,” reports Kyle Cheney.

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CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 18 funnies

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

— “‘You can’t even cry loudly’: Counting Ethiopia’s war dead,” by AP’s Cara Anna, David Keyton and Nat Castaneda: “The lists represent just a fraction of the dead.”

— “The Elephant Who Could Be a Person,” by Jill Lepore for The Atlantic: “The most important animal-rights case of the 21st century revolves around an unlikely subject.”

— “It’s Not Just White People: Democrats Are Losing Normal Voters of All Races,” by The Intercept’s Ryan Grim: “Democrats fear they are losing white swing voters over racial politics. Three studies suggest that the party’s elite culture may be the real problem.”

— “Shopping online surged during Covid. Now the environmental costs are becoming clearer,” by Catherine Boudreau: “Piles of cardboard and fleets of delivery trucks are changing the environmental equation of retail.”

CNN’s Steven Page won $21,650 on “Wheel of Fortune.” We reached out to him this morning, and here’s what he told us: “After a few years or so of going to ‘Wheelmobile’ events, I uploaded a one-minute video of myself to their website after getting back into the show during working-from-home. I got a virtual audition on June 29 (playing simulated games) and by July 27 (a month later) I learned I’ll be on the show! I taped on Friday August 13th and had to sit on it for three months lol. By the time I get the winnings, I’ll have a birthday coming up (March 5) so I’ll probably do a little travel!”

Tina Smith stopped holding back about her colleague John Kennedy’s questioning.

OUT AND ABOUT — The Multicultural Media and Correspondents Association hosted their sixth annual black-tie dinner and summit Thursday night at the National Press Club, hosted by DL Hughley and honoring Paula Madison, Enrique Santos, Harris Faulkner and Sara Kehaulani Goo.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Jeff Person is now strategic partner at Polity Fundraising & Strategies. He most recently was a campaign manager for several local races in Virginia and Maryland.

James Braid is now a government affairs fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute. He most recently was chief of staff for Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), and is a Trump OMB and Ted Budd alum.

Matt David is now chief comms officer at Crypto.com, overseeing global comms and government affairs. He most recently was chief external affairs officer at Juul Labs, and is a Bush, Schwarzenegger, Huntsman and Edelman alum.

MEDIA MOVE — Megan McCrink is joining Dignari as a UX/UI designer. She previously was visuals editor at POLITICO.

TRANSITIONS — Carol Danko is now VP of government affairs at Prudential Financial. She most recently was a consultant at SIFMA and held several senior public affairs roles in the Trump administration. … Janessa Lopez is joining Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange company, as senior associate of public policy. She previously was a legislative assistant for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

ENGAGED — Jake Hilkin, legislative director for Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) proposed to Shannon Donohoe, operations manager at Washington Nationals Philanthropies, in front of the Capitol at sunset on Oct. 27. Pic … Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: President Joe Biden (79) … Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) … White House’s Courtney Corbisiero … PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff … Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report … John Bolton … Robert Edmonson of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office … Beverly Hallberg of District Media Group … Beth Foster … POLITICO’s Sushant Sagar, Dan Goldberg, Jing Sun and Mayo Rives … Bloomberg’s Ian Kullgren and Samantha Boyd … Ron Suskind … CNN’s Ryan Struyk … SKDK’s Cecelia Prewett … Jules Albertson of Rep. Cori Bush’s (D-Calif.) office … Brian Reisinger of Platform Communications … Parita Shah … Jayne Sandman of the Brand Guild … Jay Lefkowitz … Aaron Harison … Phil Ewing … Yahoo’s Julie Hyman

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg … Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) … Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Panel: Kristen Soltis Anderson, Kelly O’Donnell, Al Sharpton and Betsy Woodruff Swan.

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: Anthony Fauci … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu … Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears … Beto O’Rourke.

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) … Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) … Derrick Johnson … Scott Gottlieb … new polling from Anthony Salvanto.

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Bret Baier: Chris Christie … National Economic Council Director Brian Deese. Panel: Jason Riley, Susan Page and Harold Ford Jr. Power Player: Virginia Ali.


    “The Sunday Show”: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) … Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) … Nii-Quartelai Quartey … Soledad O’Brien … Wilson Cruz … Michael Harriot.

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Anthony Fauci. Economic panel: Rebecca Jarvis and Diane Swonk. Panel: Jonathan Karl, Averi Harper, Laura Barrón-López and Jonathan Swan.

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press”: Jerome Adams … Jeanne Marrazzo.

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Panel: Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Heather Caygle, Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim.

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