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2024 campaign tries to return to regular programming

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott speaks at a town hall Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in Pella, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott speaks at a town hall Wednesday in Pella, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall / AP

If it’s THURSDAY… President Biden speaks on protecting consumers from hidden junk fees at 1:45 pm ET… Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasizes special counsel’s independence in Trump probe… Miami Mayor Francis Suarez files paperwork for presidential run… And Pope Francis gets discharged from hospital tomorrow.

But FIRST... One week after Donald Trump’s indictment on federal criminal charges, the 2024 presidential campaign has returned to its regularly scheduled programming. 

Well, sort of.

There’s a new candidate in the GOP race (Miami Mayor Francis Suarez).

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., held a town hall Wednesday in Iowa (where he talked about abortion, race and, yes, the “weaponization” of the Justice Department, per NBC’s Dasha Burns and Abigail Brooks). 

Never Back Down, the Super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has a new TV ad. (“I am not going to let the media smear what’s going on in Florida,” DeSantis says in the ad.) 

So does North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. (“I literally bet the farm to grow a small business into a billion-dollar global company employing thousands,” he says to camera in his new TV ad.) 

And President Biden, at the White House, holds an event on protecting consumers from junk fees.  

But let’s also be real: Trump has — once again — mostly blotted out the sun.

That shouldn’t be all that surprising when you’re talking about a former president who just got indicted and who still leads the national GOP presidential race by 30 points. 

When Trump — once again — is blasting the indictment, while everyone else remains (mostly) muted, especially in the Biden administration. 

And when Trump is vowing, if he wins the White House, to appoint a special counsel to “go after”Biden and his family. (Talk about the political weaponization of the Justice Department.) 

We saw Trump blot out the sun in 2016. We saw it from 2017-2020. And we’re seeing it again. 

The irony when it comes to the GOP race is that the BEST way for any non-Trump candidate to get attention would be to attack the former president over his indictment and conduct. 

But many of his rivals aren’t doing that — yet.

Quote of the day: “I cannot defend what is alleged”

“This indictment contains serious charges, and I cannot defend what is alleged” — former Vice President Mike Pence on CNBC.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 42%

That’s the share of registered voters who have a favorable view of President Biden in a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. While Biden’s net favorability rating remains underwater (54% view him unfavorably), he sports the highest favorable number of every figure tested in the survey, including former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence. And Biden’s net favorable rating (-12%) is still higher than well-known politicians like Trump, DeSantis and Pence. 

Trump’s favorability number in the poll is at 37%, while 59% of those polled view him unfavorably. Pence tied Trump for the highest unfavorable number of all politicians tested — 59% reporting an unfavorable view of him and 25% of those polled viewing him favorably.

The survey also found many of the GOP candidates are not well known, with more respondents saying they didn’t know enough about the candidate to judge them than those who gave an opinion either way. This group included South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. 

Other numbers to know:

$20 million: The value of an ad campaign launched by three Biden-allied groups intended to promote Biden’s accomplishments on an array of pocketbook issues, Axios reports.

14: The number of days in prison a former National Security Agency employee was sentenced to on Wednesday for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol. 

2: The number of rate hikes likely coming before the end of the year, per the Federal Reserve, even though it skipped raising interest rates for now. 

0.3%: The month-over-month inflation increase in Sweden from April to May, an increase a top bank official in the country attributed in significant measure to Beyonce’s concert there, per Politico.

2: The number of men in California who were arrested Wednesday and accused of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic last year.

About 400,000: The estimated number of people who could have been eligible to apply for DACA if the program wasn’t caught up in legal challenges that make the future of the program uncertain. 

$25.6 million: The amount that one former Starbucks manager was awarded by a jury after she alleged that she was unfairly punished following the arrests of two Black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks in 2018.

Eyes on 2024: Pardon him?

As former President Donald Trump faces the possibility of being convicted on federal charges for his handling of classified documents, Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination are facing more questions about whether they would pardon Trump if elected. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence called the prospect of a potential pardon “premature” on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton radio show, saying that Trump faces “serious charges” and “does deserve to make his defense,” per NBC News’ Frederica Tunnard. 

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were previously asked about pardoning Trump on that same program. Haley said this week that she was “inclined in favor of a pardon,” because having a president in prison would be “terrible for the country.” DeSantis, who appeared on the program late last month, did not directly answer the question about Trump, but said he would be “aggressive” in issuing pardons

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has said he would pardon Trump, and encouraged other presidential candidates to do the same as he stood outside the courthouse where Trump was arraigned on Tuesday.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, on the other hand, said on MSNBC Wednesday that it is “simply wrong” for presidential candidates to discuss pardoning Trump.

“President Trump has a powerful voice. He’s using that, and people are following that,” said Hutchinson, a former prosecutor. “So, we need to have other leaders that step up and make it clear that these are very serious allegations that the Republican Party doesn’t tolerate misuse of classified information. We take these allegations seriously.

In other campaign news … 

Trump bucks: Trump’s campaign said it raised $6.6 million in the days after a federal indictment over his handling of classified documents was made public, far less than his haul after he was indicted earlier this year on state charges in a hush money case. Trump also held a fundraiser at his New Jersey golf course after his arraignment, and supporters had to raise or donate $100,000 to get a ticket, per CNBC’s Brian Schwartz.

Wait and see: NBC News’ Sahil Kapur and Scott Wong report on how Republicans in Congress are split on whether they’d support Trump if he’s ultimately convicted

Another one: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez filed paperwork on Wednesday indicating that he is running for president. And a super PAC supporting his presidential bid released a new video ahead of Suarez’s announcement (which could be a run for president) tomorrow. 

En Miami: Trump’s post-arraignment visit at a well-known Cuban restaurant in Miami underscored how Trump has “cemented his yearslong cultivation of the city’s Latino voters,” write NBC News’ Carmen Sesin and Sandra Lilley.

An early sign of approval from Dem allies: handful of environmental groups, including the League of Conservation voters (which held a dinner Wednesday where Biden spoke) endorsed the president’s re-election Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal reports that the AFL-CIO is expected to endorse President Biden this week. 

Going Green: Activist Cornel West announced he is seeking the Green Party’s presidential nomination

Schiff-ty: The House voted Wednesday to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is running for Senate in California, for his role investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, with 20 Republicans joining Democrats to block the measure. Schiff has used the attention to his advantage, sending out fundraising emails encouraging supporters to help him “fight back against [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy and MAGA Republicans.”

California dreamin’: Tech executive Lexi Reese has hired some experienced campaign hands as she considers a bid for Senate in California, Politico reports

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to China this weekend for a visit that was postponed after a Chinese spy balloon was discovered flying over the U.S. in February.

Daniel Penny, a Marine veteran, was indicted for second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday. He is accused of killing Jordan Neely, a homeless man, whom he placed in a chokehold on the New York City subway on May 1.

The Southern Baptist Convention voted to expel two churches that have female pastors. 

CORRECTION (June 15, 2023, 9:20 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misidentified the country where an uptick in inflation was attributed to Beyonce’s recent concert there. The country is Sweden, not Norway.