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Playbook Deep Dive


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.

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.


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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...


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...


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...


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...


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...


The GOP rancher trying to save Idaho from the far right

Jennifer Ellis is the face of the movement that handed Donald Trump his biggest defeat of the year. She leads Take Back Idaho, a political action committee founded last year to beat back the growing tide of extremist candidates in Idaho. Ellis’s main target on Tuesday was Janice McGeachin, the state’s far-right lieutenant governor, whom Trump backed in her gubernatorial primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Brad Little. Trump’s candidate lost by almost 21 points. For this week’s episode of...


'He absolutely betrayed me': Steve Schmidt tells all about John McCain

This week on “Playbook Deep Dive,” we sat down over Zoom with Steve Schmidt, the architect of the late Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential run, to hear what amounts to an untold chapter of that exhaustively chronicled campaign. It’s a story about regret and disillusionment that we are confident you will want to hear. Schmidt has long maintained that the roots of Trumpism, which he has spent the last seven years fighting, can be found in the movement that first gathered around Palin in 2008....


Lifting the curtain on SCOTUS with a POLITICO reporter who broke the Roe story

This week on Playbook Deep Dive, POLITICO’s Peter Canellos talks with our own Josh Gerstein, who broke this week’s massive news that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has drafted an opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade. Peter and Josh nerd out on everything from the history of the court, to potential implications of the draft opinion — both for the country and the judiciary itself. Peter Canellos is POLITICO's managing editor for enterprise. Josh Gerstein is POLITICO's senior legal...


Haddad dishes on more than brunch

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is back for the first time since 2019. Journalists, A-list celebrities and Washington’s power players will pack the cavernous ballroom at the Washington Hilton. That means brunch is back too. On this week’s episode, Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza gets a tour from Tammy Haddad at the site of her annual garden brunch, one of the most sought after invites of the weekend. Plus, insights from comedian and WHCD alum Elayne Boosler and Ed Solomon of Anthony's...


‘You only win if you fight:' Will Gallego unseat Sinema?

This week Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza is in Arizona to dig into a few big plotlines ahead of this year’s elections. Trump narrowly lost the state in 2020, Senator Mark Kelly – the Democratic incumbent – is one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection this year and strategists are already looking at the 2024 Senate election to see who will run against Kyrsten Sinema. On this week’s Playbook Deep Dive Episode, Ryan joins Rep. Ruben Gallego for a long dinner and a few drinks. They...


Biden’s pollster on how to ‘not get our a---- kicked’ in midterms

In the coming weeks and months, the Playbook team will be out covering the key districts and states that will decide the outcome of the midterm elections. This week, co-author Ryan Lizza was in Las Vegas to interview John Anzalone, who is best known as President Joe Biden’s pollster, but who is also a top adviser to Gov. Steve Sisolak, who is up for reelection this year. In Nevada, two of the Democrats’ biggest political challenges collide: Democrats’ Hispanic voter problem is their...


Ro Khanna had some BBB advice for the president. Biden called it ‘homicide.’

Congressman Ro Khanna is one of the most influential progressives inside the house democratic caucus. He represents California’s 17th district – a large chunk of Silicon Valley. It’s wealthy, influential and home to companies like Apple, Intel, and Cisco Systems. Today, Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza asks Representative Khanna what went wrong trying to pass Biden’s Build Back Better plan and what he thinks progressives’ influence on Biden has been. Khanna also suggests how Democrats can...


Think you understand suburban voters? Doug Sosnik has a 14-page memo betting otherwise.

Doug Sosnik is a man whose deep dive political memos are considered essential reading in Washington. He's best known as a former senior adviser to then-President Bill Clinton. His latest memo dissects the new center of political power in America and argues that the most important battlegrounds are fought in the suburbs. Today, Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza has dinner with Sosnik to find out why he thinks a lot of conventional wisdom about the politics of American suburbs is wrong. Ryan Lizza...


'It's war and the enemy gets a vote’: The man advising Blinken

When you look at the major diplomatic events of the last thirty years, Derek Chollet has experienced them all. He’s worked with legends like James Baker, Strobe Talbott and Richard Holbrooke and served in some of the highest echelons of the White House, the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of State. From Bosnia to Syria — and now Russia — Chollet has helped to shape America’s approaches to its policy abroad. Today, Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza sits down with Chollet, who’s currently the...


Why a centrist Democrat is ditching Congress

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) pioneered the playbook that helped Democrats flip the House in 2018. Less than four years later, she announced her retirement. Her experience has raised alarms about the Democratic Party going forward. Today, Playbook co-author Rachael Bade sits down with Rep. Murphy to talk about how the Democratic House leadership’s insistence on absolute party unity is fracturing the Dems and putting their congressional majority at risk. Rachael Bade is a Playbook co-author...


The man fighting for Ukraine in DC

Even as President Joe Biden has emphasized that the U.S. and NATO do not want to engage with Russia militarily, Congress has pushed the administration to take a hard stance against Russia through unprecedented financial and economic sanctions. In recent years, behind the scenes, lobbyists representing Ukrainian interests pushed for sanctions on the other combustible issue, gas. Tonight, Playbook author Ryan Lizza has dinner in downtown DC with lobbyist Daniel Vajdich, on his strategy, before...


An insider’s look into Putin’s long game

More than a week into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has escalated his military offensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rallied international support for a major resistance. And major Western powers have isolated Russia by imposing devastating economic sanctions that leave Putin without an obvious off-ramp. There is no end in sight to the war on the ground. But there’s another war being fought in parallel through news interviews, social media...


Putin’s new war, inside and out

It’s an event that Russians, Ukrainians and the rest of the world have been thinking about, but one that many people didn’t think would actually happen: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Tense warnings and attempts at diplomacy have been discarded, with airstrikes and resistance arriving instead. Today, Playbook author Ryan Lizza talks with two journalists — Nataliya Gumenyuk and Uliana Pavlova — about the events unfolding in Kyiv and along the Russian border right outside of the Donbas...


The untold story of the former judge who beat Trump on Jan. 6

For most of his life, J. Michael Luttig has operated behind the scenes at the top of the conservative legal world. He started his career as a young aide at the U.S. Supreme Court, worked as an attorney in the Reagan White House, clerked for Judge Antonin Scalia before he was a legal icon, helped guide the appointment of two other Supreme Court justices, and was appointed to a federal judgeship by President George H.W. Bush. During Luttig’s time on the bench, one of his clerks was a young...


The Gen X activists upending Democratic politics

For months, the parental backlash against school closings has dominated headlines and driven speculation about a brewing electoral wave for Republicans. But what if the parents are part of the deep-blue core of one of the most heavily Democratic cities in the country? That's exactly what's happening in San Francisco, as the political collision between a liberal school board and a group of angry, just-as-liberal parents is earning national attention for what it tells us about the shifting and...