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Bombshell report, dueling Pence speech disrupt Trump’s Washington return

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.
Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at an America First Policy Institute agenda summit in Washington on July 26, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at an America First Policy Institute agenda summit in Washington on July 26, 2022.Andrew Harnik / AP

WASHIINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates. ... Donald Trump calls for the death penalty for drug dealers and again falsely claims he won the 2020 presidential election. ... An anti-Greitens group spends big in Missouri Senate. ... A new poll shows Sen. Raphael Warnock up in Georgia Senate, as well as Gov. Brian Kemp ahead in Georgia Governor (though both leads are within margin of error). ... And the DCCC gets backlash from Democratic lawmakers for meddling in Michigan-03. 

But first: On the very day Donald Trump made his first visit to Washington, D.C. since leaving the White House a year and a half ago, Attorney General Merrick Garland told NBC’s Lester Holt that the Justice Department will hold everyone — and anyone — criminally responsible for what happened on Jan. 6 accountable. 

“We will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next,” Garland said. 

Then, just hours later, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department is indeed investigating Trump’s actions in a criminal probe focused on the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. 

“Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won,” per the Post.  

The New York Times added that federal prosecutors “have directly asked witnesses in recent days about former President Donald J. Trump’s involvement in efforts to reverse his election loss.”

And NBC’s Pete Williams this morning confirmed that the Justice Department has been asking questions about Trump’s actions leading up to Jan. 6, according to an administration source familiar with the investigation. 

The official says it would not be accurate to describe this meaning that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation of Trump. But it IS correct to say the DOJ is investigating Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe. 

To top off Trump’s day yesterday, his former vice president — Mike Pence — delivered his own speech in DC, where he appeared to make a dig at Trump’s efforts to relitigate 2020. 

“Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future,” Pence said. 

Add them all up, and Tuesday was a rough day for Donald Trump.  

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $6.2 million

That’s how much a super PAC opposing former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has spent on ads through next week’s GOP Senate primary, outspending every other outside group and candidate in the race, per AdImpact. 

The super PAC, known as Show Me Values PAC, has attacked Greitens on the airwaves, launching ads highlighting recent allegations of domestic abuse from Greitens’ ex-wife, which Greitens denies. The onslaught of negative ads has been a “game-changer” in the race, said one Missouri GOP strategist, appearing to drag Greitens down to third place in recent primary polls. 

Read more about the group’s impact on the Senate race on the Meet the Press Blog.

Other numbers to know:

12%: That’s how much online fundraising fell for GOP campaigns and committees during the second fundraising quarter, the New York Times reports.

552: How many days between Trump’s final day in office and his speech in the nation’s capital Tuesday, per NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard.

5 years: The prison sentence for a Trump supporter who assaulted police officers during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

74%: The percentage of New Hampshire residents who said they probably or definitely do not want President Biden to run for ree-lection in 2024, a University of New Hampshire poll found

Midterm roundup: On Wisconsin

It’s nearing crunch time in Wisconsin, where Republicans and Democrats are gearing up to pick the nominees they hope will vanquish two incumbents — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, respectively. And Tuesday brought some notable developments in the GOP gubernatorial primary. 

Former President Trump is bringing his roadshow to the state next week for a rally to boost his gubernatorial pick, businessman Tim Michels, along with what his PAC called the “entire Wisconsin Trump ticket.” But despite having Trump’s endorsement, Johnson has said he won’t attend the rally because he wants to remain neutral in the gubernatorial primary and doesn’t want to be seen as giving another candidate a leg up. Also on the endorsement front, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, the other top candidate in the gubernatorial race, won Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s endorsement on Tuesday

Michels’ bid got another boost yesterday from the Club for Growth Action, which booked more than $1.1 million on TV and radio (including a flight of ads on Fox News, per AdImpact,) in what appears to be an attempt to tank Kleefisch.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Georgia Senate/Governor: new poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the latest to show a split-ticket dynamic in the top two statewide races in Georgia — while Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock narrowly leads Republican Herschel Walker by 3 points, Republican Gov. Brain Kemp is ahead of Democrat Stacey Abrams by 5 points (both are within the margin of error). 

Pennsylvania Senate: Republican Mehmet Oz’s campaign told NBC News’ Sahil Kapur that Oz would support a bill ensuring same-sex marriage protections.

Wisconsin Senate: The Senate Democratic primary may come down to who makes the best electability argument, HuffPost reports.

Wyoming At-Large: GOP Rep. Liz Cheney is getting back on the airwaves, making an $80,000 TV ad buy per AdImpact.

Michigan-03: A handful of Democratic lawmakers are blasting the DCCC on the record over the decision to boost a primary challenger to Republican Rep. Peter Meijer. DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney responded to the criticism by saying the move “makes sense” because “our focus is on winning 218 seats.” 

Michigan-13: Democratic state Rep. Shri Thanedar’s new spot features his son describing him as “Superman” for raising him and his siblings as a single parent, and criticizing attack ads as lies. 

New York-12: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., narrates in a new ad for Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler in his primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Ad watch: Democratic group goes after Dixon in Michigan governor

 Democratic outside group called “Put Michigan First” (which is backed by the Democratic Governors Associationis going after Republican Tudor Dixon in the Michigan governor’s race, Fox News reports. The group reserved nearly $2.1 million worth of airtime from Wednesday through the Aug. 2 primary, per AdImpact.

The group’s ad alleges Dixon wants to defund state police. A narrator tells viewers, “Tudor Dixon’s dangerous budget plan could slash up to 500 million from state police across Michigan, threatening funding for thousands of law enforcement jobs.”

“Tudor Dixon’s devastating plan would mean less cops on the street, making Michigan less safe,” he concludes. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Hill profiles Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s return to the campaign trail.

Trump returned to Washington on Tuesday to give a speech at the America First Policy Institute’s two-day summit.