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The FBI’s silence on Trump search gives GOP room to play with fire

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 Trump Holds Rally In Support Of Wisconsin Candidates
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally on Aug. 5, 2022 in Waukesha, Wis.Scott Olson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... The Bureau of Labor Statistics says inflation slowed, but still up 8.5% year-over-year. … President Biden will sign burn pit legislation. ... Former President Trump will be deposed by New York Attorney General. ... Republicans win Minnesota House special but Democrats overperform. ... Michels defeats Kleefisch in Wisconsin governor's primary. … Rep. Omar, D-Minn., narrowly wins her primary.

But first: It’s not surprising that former President Donald Trump quickly politicized the FBI’s search of his Florida home. But it is worth noting that not even an active FBI investigation could hold back pressure on other Republicans to fall in line — fast.  

Just look at Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.. Early Tuesday morning, Scott told CBS. “As opposed to rushing to judgment, the most important thing to do is let it play out because I have no idea what they are looking for.”

A few hours later, Scott, who just launched a 2024esque book tour, issued a tweet echoing other GOP reactions: “If they can target a former president, they can target me and you.” 

The decision to immediately cry “political persecution” without all of the facts is not just irresponsible. It’s dangerous.

NBC News’ Ben Collins and Ryan Reilly report that after news of the search broke, some on pro-Trump internet forums began echoing calls for violence and warning of a civil war. 

One of those users: A man currently awaiting sentencing for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But while the GOP’s rush to demonize the FBI is troubling (Trump went even further this morning, suggesting FBI agents may have been “planting” evidenceduring their search), the agency could help restore some public trust by being more transparent. Silence from law enforcement may be standard operating procedure, but it leaves a vacuum to be filled by Trump and other Republicans who are undermining the agency.

New revelations that the FBI seized Scott Perry’s cell phone also adds to the confusion here. And Perry, unlike Trump, is on the ballot in three months. 

It is possible for Republicans to demand answers without passing judgment on the merits of the search. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, said in a short statement Tuesday night, “The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday. Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”

On this, at least, McConnell may be a leader without many followers. 

Tweet of the day

 Data Download: The number of the day is … 7

That’s how many House Republicans won’t be coming back to Congress next year after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is the latest Republican to join that group, conceding her primary Tuesday to Trump-backed Republican Joe Kent. 

Along with Herrera Beutler, two others have lost to Trump-backed primary challengers. Four other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump opted not to run for re-election.

Two Republicans have won their primaries despite their impeachment vote, both in states with Top 2 primary systems. The fate of the last Republican who impeached Trump will be decided next week, when GOP Rep. Liz Cheney faces off against fellow Republican Harriet Hageman, who has Trump’s endorsement in the race.   

Other numbers to know:

214,000: The approximate number of signatures certified by the Missouri secretary of state for a ballot referendum this fall, where voters will choose whether to legalize recreational marijuana

$50,000: That’s the annual tax break Republican Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz is receiving on his $3.1 million home in Pennsylvania (which he still is not living in), per the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

66: How many years it’s been since the lynching of Emmett Till. After being presented about a month ago with an unserved, old arrest warrant for a woman tied to his death, a grand jury decided Tuesday not to indict that woman

Midterm roundup: The results are in

Voters in Wisconsin, Vermont, Minnesota and Connecticut headed to the polls for primaries on Tuesday. Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes easily won the primary to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson after Barnes’ top competitors dropped out. And Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., won the Democratic primary to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy.

There were some competitive races to watch. Here’s a look at the results in the major races, per the latest vote counts from NBC’s Decision Desk: 

Wisconsin Governor: Construction company owner Tim Michels (47%) defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (42%) in the GOP primary. Michels, who had Trump’s backing, will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. 

Connecticut Senate: Leora Levy (51%), a GOP fundraiser who has Trump’s endorsement, defeated former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (40%), who was backed by the state GOP, in the primary to take on Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. 

Vermont Senate: Army veteran Gerald Malloy (43%) upset former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan (36%) in the GOP primary for Senate. He will face Welch in the fall. 

Minnesota-01 (special): Former state Rep. Brad Finstad (51%) won the special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, defeating Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate Jeff Ettinger, a former CEO of Hormel Foods (47%). The two men also won their respective primaries for the newly drawn 1st District and will face off again in November. 

Minnesota-05: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (50%) won the primary, defeating former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels (48%) in the 5th District, which is expected to remain in Democratic hands. 

Vermont-At Large: State Senate President Becca Balint (60%) won the Democratic primary for the state’s at-large House seat, defeating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray (37%). Balint is in a strong position to win the traditionally Democratic seat, which would make her the first woman to represent Vermont in Congress.  

Wisconsin-Assembly: The Associated Press projects that State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who Trump has pressured to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, will win his primary over Trump-backed challenger Adam Steen.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail: 

Ohio Senate: One Nation, the non-profit arm of the GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, launched a $3.8 million ad campaign targeting Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. The first ad knocks on inflation, and urges him not to support the sweeping climate, health care and tax package that passed the Senate. 

Pennsylvania Senate: Outside groups are spending big in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Senate Leadership Fund announced it would spend an additional $9.5 million in the state. 

Arizona Governor: The Arizona Democratic Party released its first TV ad targeting Republican Kari Lake, painting Lake as “radical,” focusing largely on Lake’s positions on abortion. 

Pennsylvania Governor: GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s virtual appearance before the Jan. 6 Committee Tuesday only lasted 15 minutes, Mastriano’s attorney told NBC News’ Julia Jester. Mastriano wanted to record the interview, or postpone it until after the November election, but the committee rejected his terms, per Mastriano’s attorney. 

Indiana-02: Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that there will be a special election on Election Day to replace the late GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski. Local party officials will choose their nominees and the winner will serve out the period after the election through early January. 

Ad watch: Down to the wire in Wyoming

Attorney Harriet Hageman is out with a new ad in Wyoming, blasting GOP Rep. Liz Cheney for making their primary race “all about her.”

In the ad, Hageman tells voters, “There’s been an awful lot of noise this election; candidates attacking each other, making things up, desperate for attention. Liz Cheney? She’s made her time in Congress and this election all about her.”

With less than a week left before the Wyoming primary, Hageman has spent over $800,000 in her bid to unseat Cheney in the state’s only congressional district. Cheney has spent over $1.9 million defending herself on the airwaves, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Former President Donald Trump said he is testifying under oath Wednesday as part of the New York attorney general’s investigation into his business dealings.

President Biden signed a bipartisan bill aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing

A suspect was arrested for the killings of Muslim men in New Mexico.

A federal appeals court ruled that a House committee can access Trump’s tax records.