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In a big week for GOP, Trump’s arrest might have been least important event

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.
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz holds hands with Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Dallet, left, and and Ann Walsh Bradley at Protasiewicz’s election night party in Milwaukee on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz holds hands with Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Dallet, left, and Ann Walsh Bradley at Protasiewicz’s election night party in Milwaukee on April 4. Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA Today Network

If it’s MONDAY…”I plan on running, Al, we’re just not prepared to announce it yet,” President Biden says to NBC’s Al Roker ...  Biden and the first lady host Easter Egg Roll at the White House… Team Biden prepares for 2024 re-election launch, even with no official announcement imminent… Ousted Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee say they will seek reinstatement of their seats… Trump lawyer says there are no more classified docs at Mar-a-Lago… And entire elections team in Virginia county quits after being hounded by baseless vote-fraud claims, NBC’s Jane Timm reports.

But FIRST… Last week may very well have been a consequential week for the Republican Party’s future and for next year’s presidential contest.

And former President Donald Trump’s arrest might have been the least consequential of all the big events that took place.

On Tuesday, conservatives lost a statewide judicial race — and majority control of the state Supreme Court — in all-important Wisconsin, due in large part to the GOP’s struggles on abortion and abortion messaging after Roe v. Wade’s overturn a year ago.

On Thursday, Tennessee Republicans expelled two Black Democratic state lawmakers — but spared a white woman — for protesting for gun control on the House floor. (Since the Civil War Era, only two other elected Tennessee lawmakers had been ousted, for sexual misconduct and for soliciting a bribe.)

And on Friday, a Trump-appointed conservative federal judge in Texas suspended the FDA’s approval of a commonly used abortion pill that had been on the market for more than 20 years. (Less than an hour later, an Obama-appointed federal judge in Washington state ruled in other way, promising an inevitable Supreme Court showdown.)

Oh, and Donald Trump got arrested in Manhattan — though there are real questions about whether the indictment by District Attorney Alvin Bragg was the right call.

Make no mistake: Trump’s legal troubles in Georgia (over the former president’s alleged election interference there) and with the special counsel in DC (over Jan. 6 and the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago) remain a significant story in the months ahead.

But when it comes to what happened last week, it’s those other events — on abortion and race — that could shape the upcoming 2024 contest.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … More than 50%

That’s the share of abortions in America that are conducted by medication instead of a surgical procedure, according to a 2022 survey from a pro-abortion rights group, a figure that’s again in the spotlight after court rulings on Friday put the future of a medical abortion pill in question. 

On Friday, a federal judge in Texas suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s decades-old approval of mifepristone, a key part of a medicinal regimen used for abortions up to 10 weeks in a pregnancy. The judge delayed his ruling a week to allow the government time to appeal. 

But within hours, a federal judge in Washington issued a contradictory opinion requiring the pill remain available in states that don’t restrict it. House Democrats are trying to pass legislation to bolster mifepristone’s approval, but the complicated landscape makes it likely the pill’s fate will end up in front of the Supreme Court — all as the political backlash from the court’s 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade continues to loom large in electoral politics. 

Other numbers to know

53%: The portion of Americans who believe former President Donald Trump intentionally did something illegal, according to a new ABC News-Ipsos poll.

More than 50: The number of documents leaked from the Pentagon and obtained by NBC News that show the depth of the U.S. spying operation in Russia and other key intelligence findings.   

79%: The share of Americans who say they oppose reducing the size of Social Security benefits, per a new AP-NORC poll.

9.1%: The rejection rate for car loans in February, the highest number since 2017.

3: The number of rockets fired over the weekend from Syria towards Israel, the Israeli military said.

52%: The portion of Virginia voters who approve of the way GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin is doing his job, a new Washington Post/Schar School Virginia poll found.  

25%: India’s employment rate for women, a number that has shrunk in recent years despite the country’s growing population, the Associated Press reports.

Eyes on 2024: Senate battle comes into focus

The battle for the Senate is continuing to take shape as Democrats look to defend their one-seat majority in the chamber. They received some good news Monday morning when Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced he would seek a fourth term after undergoing surgery related to prostate cancer. 

But complicating that path forward, another senator — Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — also appears to be gearing up to run for a second term, but this time as an independent, per the Wall Street Journal. 

GOP primaries are also gearing up. In Arizona, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb is expected to launch a Senate run this week, per NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard. Other Republicans, including former gubernatorial candidates Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson, as well as last year’s Senate nominee, Blake Masters, are still weighing runs.

And in West Virginia, a GOP proxy war is brewing in a top pick-up opportunity for Republicans, NBC News’ Allan Smith and Sahil Kapur report. The conservative Club for Growth recently backed GOP Rep. Alex Mooney in the race, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies are pushing for term-limited GOP Gov. Jim Justice to run. 

While Democrats are largely on defense next year, Republicans’ most vulnerable incumbents include Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida. Cruz is gearing up for his race, stressing his bipartisan bonafides in an interview with NBC News, Scott Wong and Sahil Kapur report.

And as the Senate fields take shape, also keep an eye on election laws in key states. In Montana, for example, state legislators are weighing making this year’s Senate primary a Top 2 contest, effectively eliminating a third-party candidate from the November ballot.

In other campaign news…

Biden his time: President Joe Biden is not in any rush to launch his re-election campaign, NBC News’ Peter Nicholas, Carol E. Lee, Monica Alba and Mike Memoli report.  

Trump’s team: NBC News’ Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen delve into former President Donald Trump’s inner circle, as his aides try to help the former president navigate a presidential campaign amid legal battles. 

Classified: One of Trump’s legal battles includes the ongoing investigation into his handling of classified documents. Trump’s attorney James Trusty told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that there are no more classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

The latest in DeSantis World: The New York Times reports on how DeSantis’s prolific fundraising at the state level is “is no guarantee of success on the national stage.” The Washington Post also reports on DeSantis’ calculus in responding to Trump’s indictment. And the Associated Press writes that the governor is traveling to South Carolina later this month. 

How do you solve a problem like no media?: Politico reports on the difficulties that Trump’s GOP rivals have had breaking through as the former president has dominated the headlines.  

Hop, skip and a dodge: When asked about the Tennessee House expelling two black Democratic state lawmakers last week, former Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson told “Meet the Press NOW”,“I don’t think that every national leader needs to comment on what’s happening in Tennessee.”

Strange bedfellows: What do two likely presidential candidates, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic author Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have in common? They both recently criticized the Federal Reserve’s digital plans.    

Denial: Kennedy Jr. tweeted this past weekend denying reports that he discussed his presidential bid with Trump ally Steve Bannon. 

Convention jockeying: NBC News’ Natasha Korecki has the scoop on a private call from a key Illinois politico (no, not that one), in which Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson pitched Biden on bringing the Democratic National Convention to the Windy City. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

In a statement, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas responded to a ProPublica report about luxury trips and gifts from a wealthy friend that he never disclosed in yearly financial and ethics statements, saying the trips were a matter of “personal hospitality.”

Tensions between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other senior House Republicans could derail debt ceiling negotiations and other legislative priorities, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., broke his femur at a parade in Connecticut and successfully completed a routine surgery to address the injury on Sunday.