IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump’s grip on GOP tightens as legal troubles mount

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 Rallies Supporters In Wyoming
Former President Donald Trump speaks on May 28 in Casper, Wyo.Chet Strange / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday .... It’s Primary Day in Alaska and Wyoming. ... Ranked choice voting gets its latest test. ... President Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act into law. ... The Justice Department  asks a judge to keep Trump search warrant affidavit sealed … The NRSC cuts $10 million from ad spending in three key Senate battlegrounds, per the New York Times. ... And GOP Gov. Brian Kemp set to dole out $1.2 billion to poor Georgians. 

But first:  Donald Trump’s revenge tour is now almost complete — with Rep. Liz Cheney’s, R-Wyo., likely primary defeat tonight. 

But it also comes at a time when there’s never been more potential legal trouble for the former president and those associated with him. 

Just consider what happened on Monday: 

Rudy Giuliani’s attorney told NBC News that he’s a “target” in the criminal investigation into whether Trump’s team tried to overturn Georgia’s election results.

Former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg is expected to plead guilty to criminal charges.

And Justice Department lawyers asked a judge to keep the search warrant affidavit used to retrieve those Mar-a-Lago documents under seal — “to protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security.” 

That was all in one day. 

It’s a stunning split-screen moment: Trump’s grip on his party has never seemed stronger after Jan. 6. 

In fact, if Cheney loses tonight, she’ll be the eighth House Republican who voted for Trump’s impeachment to either lose a GOP primary or retire before trying; only two Trump impeachers (Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wa., and David Valadao, R-Calif.) have survived their primaries. 

But Trump’s legal peril also has never seemed greater. 

It reminds us of last week when almost the entire Republican Party jumped to Trump’s defense after the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago — before there was consideration of whether any crimes might have been committed. 

Trump is dominating everything right now. 

It’s unlike any previous midterm cycle we can remember — when it’s usually the sitting president getting all of the scrutiny.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $5.2 million

That’s how much money has been spent on the airwaves in Wyoming’s congressional race through Monday, per AdImpact, making it the 25th most expensive House race over that span. 

Cheney’s campaign spent more than any other advertiser, $2.2 million. But on top of Harriett Hageman’s $1 million, two allied groups pitched in to close the gap: Wyoming Values, which spent $875,000, and Club for Growth Action spent $305,000. 

Other numbers to know: 

$10 million: That’s how much the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s independent expenditure arm cut in TV ad spending in three Senate battlegrounds, per the New York Times. The NRSC contends it is still planning to spend in those states, and is moving the money to spend more efficiently. 

4%: That’s the decrease in Southwestern border encounters by U.S. Customs and Border Protection from June, down to 199,792, per NBC’s Julia Ainsley

23,368: How many valid signatures were accepted by North Dakota’s secretary of state on a petition for a vote on legal marijuana, more than enough to get the question on the November ballot

$1.2 billion: How much Republican Gov. Brain Kemp’s office says the state will hand out, in $350 payments, to 3 million low-income Georgians, per the AP. The payments start in September, right before Kemp’s re-election. 

$120,000: How much money was raised for a partial recount of Kansas’ recent vote rejecting an amendment that would have paved the way for new abortion restrictions. The “no” vote won with 59%

520,000: About how many valid signatures were collected in a failed attempt to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, which needed about 570,000 to make the ballot.  

Midterm roundup: A new “ranked choice” test

Alaska’s new ranked choice voting system will be put to the test today in the special election to replace the late GOP Rep. Don Young. 

The race features two Republicans, former Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola. There are also multiple write-in candidates, including Republican Tara Sweeney, who finished fifth in the June primary and launched a last-ditch write-in campaign on Friday. 

Under the new system, which will also be used in November, voters rank the candidates, and a write-in candidate if they choose to do so, in order of preference. If a candidate wins a majority of votes on the first round, he or she wins the race. 

But if no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and his or her supporters’ second-choice votes will go to the remaining candidates. The rounds continue until two candidates are left, and the candidate with the most votes wins. 

And it could be a while before we know the results. Alaska officials won’t start the ranked choice voting rounds until 15 days after Election Day, on Aug. 31 (when absentee ballots from overseas are due). 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Arizona Senate: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched its first general election ad campaign against Republican Blake Masters. The new TV ad highlights Masters’ comments that Social Security should be privatized.

Kentucky Senate: Democrat Charles Booker is up with a new ad where he makes the sale to “Democrats, Republicans and independents.” 

New Hampshire Senate: Former Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc holds a big lead in the new Saint Anselm College poll of the GOP primary with support from 32% of registered Republicans, while state Sen. Chuck Morse gets 16%. 

Texas Governor: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott booked $4.1 million on TV ads from mid-August through early September, per AdImpact. His campaign launched a new ad Tuesday, narrated by Abbott’s wife. 

Michigan-03: Democrat Hillary Scholten launched her first TV ad Tuesday in her race against Republican John Gibbs, who beat GOP Rep. Peter Meijer in a primary earlier this month. 

New York-10: Democrats Dan Goldman and Rep. Mondaire Jones both booked at least $400,000 in television ads over the next week, per AdImpact. 

New York-12: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is endorsing Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler in his crowded primary, the New York Times reports

Ad watch: Trump-backed candidate is up on the air in Wisconsin-03

The first general election ad in Wisconsin’s 3rd District is up on the airwaves, with Republican Derrick Van Orden making his pitch to voters. Van Orden was backed by Trump in last week’s primary, and he’s running against Democrat Brad Pfaff. 

In his ad, Van Orden rails against “career politicians,” telling viewers, “Three out of four members of Congress were already professional politicians before they even got to D.C. And then they cash in and become lobbyists. It ain’t me.” 

He continues, “I will pass term limits and ban congressmen from ever becoming lobbyists.”

Van Orden ran unopposed in the primary, and he didn’t run any TV ads in that race. Now, he’s up against Pfaff in a seat currently represented by Democratic Rep. Ron Kind (who has endorsed Pfaff). The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates the race “Lean Republican” and rates the district R+4.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The FBI arrested a Pennsylvania man for making threats against the FBI on a far-right social media website. 

The FBI acknowledged it had Trump’s passports following the Mar-a-Lago search, but a DOJ official said the passports were returned.