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Newly appointed senator hasn’t ruled out running for competitive seat

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Laphonza Butler
Laphonza Butler, president of Emily's List, speaks in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 23, 2023. Susan Walsh / AP file

Happening this Tuesday: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., triggers vote to oust Kevin McCarthy from speakership… Vice President Harris swears in newly appointed Sen. Laphonza Butler at 3:00 pm ET… Hunter Biden gets arraigned on federal gun charges in Wilmington, Del., per NBC’s Tom Winter… And Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is victim of armed carjacking in D.C.

But FIRST… An unexpected — and fascinating — development might be playing out regarding the woman California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed over the weekend to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein in office, EMILY’s List’s Laphonza Butler. 

Despite Newsom’s earlier promise that his appointment would serve on an “interim” basis, Butler hasn’t ruled out running for the California Senate seat next year. 

And that could scramble the already competitive and expensive race already featuring Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. 

Butler gets sworn into office on Tuesday. 

Some backstory: Weeks before Feinstein passed away, Newsom said on “Meet the Press”that he would abide by his earlier pledge to appoint a Black woman to the seat if it became vacant, but he also said that appointment would be an “interim” one — appearing to rule out Lee. 

CHUCK TODD: Are you going to abide by your pledge?

NEWSOM: Yes. Interim appointment. I don’t want to get involved in the primary.

TODD: So no — you would not appoint anybody –

NEWSOM: -- that would not run again.

TODD: — on that has filed for this race?

NEWSOM: It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.

Those Newsom comments sparked criticism from Lee. “The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country,” she said

Well, flash forward to today’s swearing-in of Butler, and the newly appointed senator has yet to rule out running for the seat in 2024.  

And on Monday, Newsom said the decision about whether Butler runs is up to her

Now it’s still early; the news of Butler’s appointment came only on Sunday night. 

If she did run, Butler would start out at a considerable financial disadvantage in pricey California, especially when it comes to the millions that Schiff and Porter have already raked in. 

And Butler’s recent residency in Maryland could hurt her politically. 

But if she does run, that would definitely shake up what’s already a bare-knuckled contest in California. 

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … 2

That’s how many days House lawmakers have to act on a resolution Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., introduced to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his leadership post.

Gaetz filed the resolution, called a motion to vacate, on Monday night, starting a 48-hour time period during which the House has to consider the resolution. 

There’s no certainty that the measure will pass. Gaetz would need all 212 Democrats and four Republicans to support his motion, per NBC News’ Scott Wong and Sahil Kapur. So far, Democrats are mum on whether they’ll back Gaetz or make a deal with McCarthy to save him.

On Gaetz’ side, though, a handful of Republicans have already said they’ll back the measure and more have signaled that they are open to it, though they haven’t made firm decisions yet. McCarthy hasn’t formally responded to Gaetz’ motion, but on Monday evening he posted“Bring it on,” to social media.

 Other numbers to know 

2.5: How many years a Jan. 6 rioter who urged other protesters to steal guns from police officers will serve in prison, per a plea deal unsealed on Monday.

$5.4 billion: The amount the U.S. still has available to pull weapons from its stockpile to send to Ukraine, even though Congress did not include Ukraine funding in the short-term resolution funding the government passed over the weekend.

30: The number of minutes that FEMA will test the Emergency Alert system on Wednesday, in part by sending messages to all cellphones, TVs and radios.

43: The number of military service members, out of 8,000 who were discharged from the U.S. military for refusing to take the Covid vaccine and have returned to the military since the vaccine mandate was repealed, CNN reports.

$20,000: The value of grants that were awarded to businesses run by Black women, before a federal court blocked the grant program over the weekend.

27 million: The number of people who tuned in to Sunday’s Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets football game, which Taylor Swift also attended, making it the most-watched Sunday game since the Super Bowl. 

Eyes on 2024: Trump brings the campaign trail to trial

Former President Donald Trump appeared in a New York court Monday as a civil fraud trial against him began, and he turned his appearance into a campaign stop of sorts. 

Trump was not required to attend the trial, per NBC’s Dareh Gregorian, Adam Reiss, Chloe Atkins and Zoë Richards. But he went anyway, railing against the judge presiding over the case and against New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed the lawsuit roughly one year ago, alleging Trump overstated his wealth and detailing more than 200 instances of frauds over a decade. 

Before he entered the courtroom, Trump tied the case directly to his presidential campaign, saying, “They’re trying to damage me so I don’t do as well as I’m doing.”

He laid into James, as he’s also ramped up his violent rhetoric on the campaign trail, per NBC News’ Jake Traylor.

Trump’s campaign also sent out a flurry of fundraising emails referencing his court appearance, looking to capitalize on fundraising boosts that have come with big moments in other legal battles.

In other campaign news … 

Abortion politics: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared during a chaotic moment in last week’s GOP debate to voice support for the first time for a 15-week federal abortion ban, although his campaign is saying that’s in line with his previous comments on the issue, per the AP.

Palmetto State pitch: South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott’s national finance co-chair told donors to stand by his campaign until Scott’s home state holds its primary, saying, “We make the difference when we win South Carolina,” per Politico.

Fox faceoff: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy announced Monday that they will face off during an “in-depth discussion” Fox News on Tuesday 

Buckeye State bucks: Ohio GOP Senate candidate Bernie Moreno will report raising $4 million during the third fundraising quarter, which includes $3 million from Moreno himself, per Politico. 

Mark your calendars: Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has not yet said if he’s running for re-election as he faces bribery and corruption charges. But if he does, he’ll be running in a primary as his trial is underway. The trial was set to begin May 6, one month before the state’s June 4 primary. 

Betting on Biden: Republicans in this year’s Kentucky and Mississippi governor’s races are trying to nationalize their races by tying Democrats to President Joe Biden, the AP writes.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recused himself Monday from a case involving former Trump legal adviser John Eastman, marking the first time Thomas recused himself from a case tied to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, per NBC’s Lawrence Hurley

NBC’s Ben Collins delves into Elon Musk’s strategy for Twitter.