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Refusal by Republicans to hold Trump accountable has only led to more chaos

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 prepares to walk on stage after a panel on policing and security on July 8, 2022, in Las Vegas.
Former President Donald Trump prepares to walk on stage after a panel on policing and security on July 8, 2022, in Las Vegas.Bridget Bennett / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... President Biden arrives in Israel on the first leg of his Middle East trip. ... The Jan. 6 committee reveals  Donald Trump’s actions in summoning the protesters who would later attack the Capitol. ... Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., discloses that Trump also called a witness after the previous hearing — and that the contact has been referred to the Justice Department. ... Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly raises $13.6 million in the 2nd quarter in Arizona Senate. ... Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock announces haul of $17.2 million. ... And the conservative Americans for Prosperity launches $4 million-plus ad campaign. 

But first: It’s worth remembering that Republican senators like Mitch McConnell voted not to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial for the Jan. 6 attack because of a technicality. 

Trump was no longer president during the Feb. 2021 trial, they argued, and so you couldn’t remove someone who was no longer in office — even though Jan. 6 and the House’s impeachment vote took place while he was still president. 

“This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out,” McConnell said back then.

But he added, “We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.”

And it underscores this reality: Investigations into Jan. 6 — either by Congress or the Justice Department — would look far different today had McConnell and other GOP senators voted to convict the former president and later bar him from running for office again. 

Instead of a bipartisan political conviction, the GOP’s punt set the stage for congressional Democrats (as well as GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger), the Justice Department and GOP primary voters to be the final arbiters of Trump’s conduct.

All that’s done is put more pressure on our institutions — a deeply divided Congress, a skittish Justice Department, a political party that’s nominated Trump twice, as well as members who guessed correctly that there would be more damaging revelations to come. 

“I will, with a heavy heart, oppose impeachment at this time,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, back in Jan. 2021. “I did not come to this decision lightly. And I truly fear there may be more facts that come to light in the future that will put me on the wrong side of this debate.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … more than $4 million

That’s how much the conservative Americans for Prosperity tells NBC News it’s spending on a new ad campaign across nine states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin — plus D.C. on inflation. 

The mix of ads on TV and digital also include spots at 165 gas stations across the targeted areas that criticize Democrats over pushing a reconciliation bill despite high gas prices and inflation. 

Read more details about the ad campaign on the Meet the Press Blog. 

Other numbers to know:

9.1%: The amount by which inflation increased over the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed on Wednesday.

9: That’s how many GOP House members (plus then-Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Green) were at a December White House meeting where attendees discussed whether former Vice President Mike Pence could reject Electoral College votes. 

2: The number of Republicans who voted with Democrats to confirm Steve Dettelbach to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He’s the agency’s first permanent director since 2015. 

1: The percentage-point difference between Republicans and Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot in the New York Times/Siena poll (Dems lead 41% to 40% with registered voters, Republicans lead 44% to 43% among likely voters).

Midterm roundup: Kelly rakes it in

Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s campaign tells NBC News that it raised $13.6 million during the second fundraising quarters of 2022, the latest in Democrats announcing eight-figure fundraising hauls. 

Kelly’s campaign adds it’s raised $52 million so far this cycle and closed June with $25 million cash on hand. 

While second quarter reports aren’t due until the end of the week, Kelly’s fundraising total is among the highest publicly announced so far. Read more about Kelly’s haul on the Meet the Press Blog, and check out some of the top Senate fundraisers from the second quarter so far below.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Missouri Senate: new ad from a PAC supporting former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens tries to discredit recent criticism pointing to allegations of abuse by his ex-wife by asserting the ads are “smears.” 

New Mexico Governor: Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti is up with a new ad attacking Gov. Michelle Lijan Grisham by arguing her position on abortion is too far to the left, the latest salvo on the issue. 

Oregon Governor: Former Democratic Sen. Betsy Johnson, who is running for governor as a nonaffiliated candidate, has spent more on ads this cycle than both major party nominees combined. 

Florida-13: The Club for Growth has booked $1.5 million in TV and radio ads in August as it supports Republican Anna Paulina Luna’s primary bid, per AdImpact. 

Michigan-13: VoteVets launched a new ad criticizing Shri Thanedar on guns, the economy and abortion (it’s backing state Sen. Adam Hollier in the primary). 

Missouri-01: Democratic Rep. Cori Bush is going up on television for the first time ahead of her primary next month, per AdImpact. 

Ad watch: The Pelosi/Cheney agenda? 

As Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney stays in the national spotlight for her role on the Jan. 6 committee, her Trump-backed primary opponent is up with a new spot decrying the “Pelosi/Cheney agenda.” 

“I believe in fighting for the ‘America First’ agenda, protecting our Constitutional rights, reigning in government overreach, standing up for election integrity and stopping the radical Pelosi/Cheney agenda in D. C.,” Harriet Hageman says in her new ad

“As we so often say here: You are in Wyoming, act accordingly.” 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world 

The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV of Austin obtained and released security footage from the May shooting in a Texas elementary school, which shows law enforcement arriving in the school just minutes after the shooting began but waiting in the hallways for more than an hour. 

Politico reports the FDA will authorize a new Covid vaccine from Novavax, which is built similar to other vaccines that have been developed for decades instead of the newer MRNA technology. 

The U.S. military says it killed the head of ISIS in Syria in a drone strike early Tuesday.