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

A volatile week in politics sets up a potentially more consequential summer

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.
Image: House January 6th Select Committee Holds Its Second Hearing
Members are seated during the third hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 16, 2022 in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington.Doug Mills / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday ... The Jan. 6 hearings reveal lawyer John Eastman acknowledged that his election plot wasn’t legal. ... Britain approves extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S. ... President Biden discusses energy and the climate at the White House. ... Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte returns (from Tuscany) to historic flooding in his state. ... Katie Britt releases closing TV ad in AL-SEN runoff. ... And Golden State wins NBA championship.

But first: It’s been quite a week in American politics. 

  • The Federal Reserve increased interest rates by the largest hike since 1994 to control rising inflation. 
  • The Jan. 6 committee held two different hearings — Monday’s on Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election; Thursday’s on the pressure campaign on then-VP Mike Pence to overturn the election results. 
  • Negotiators got closer and closer to a final bipartisan deal on guns, but still have one sticking point to resolve. 
  • Donald Trump once again proved he can defeat GOP members of Congress who cross him, but also reminded us that his endorsement power is far from perfect
  • The FDA authorized the Covid vaccine for young children. 

And on Thursday, President Biden admitted in an AP interview, “People are really, really down.”

“Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset,” he added. “Everything they’ve counted on upset. But most of it’s the consequence of ... the COVID crisis.”

It’s also set up to be a consequential summer — with the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule on abortion, more midterm primaries, the Biden Justice Department’s looming decision on what to do with Trump after hearing all of the Jan. 6 testimony, and much more.  

Tweet the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 100

That’s how many times lawyer John Eastman “pleaded the fifth,” invoking his right against self-incrimination, when he was deposed before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. That’s according to Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif, a member of the committee. 

During Thursday’s hearing, which detailed the pressure campaign on former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election, the committee aired footage of Eastman declining to answer several questions. 

Eastman was asked if former President Donald Trump’s legal team asked him to compose a memo on the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes; if he advised Trump that Pence could reject certain states’ electors; and whether a statement he authored in a memo about states submitting an alternate slate of electors was true. 

Eastman responded to each question simply with, “Fifth.” 

Other numbers to know:

40: How many feet away rioters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 were from Vice President Pence at one point, per the Jan. 6 committee.

$4 million: How much American Action Network, the non-profit group tied to a GOP super PAC, is spending on a new ad campaign tying vulnerable House Democrats to inflation. 

17%: The share of GOP voters who backed Republican Ryan Kelley in the Michigan governor’s race, according to a poll conducted after Kelley was arrested for alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Kelley led the rest of the GOP field, but his lead was within the survey’s margin of error. 

14.2%: That’s how much the price of meat and eggs has increased over the last year, per NBC News’ inflation tracker

4%: The increase in Covid deaths globally over the last week, after five weeks of decline, per the World Health Organization

11: How many U.S. cities were selected Thursday to host a World Cup soccer game in 2026, out of 16 total cities selected in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Midterm roundup: Herschel Walker’s rough week

It’s been a relentless week of negative headlines for Republican Herschel Walker, the untested former football star Republicans are counting on to dethrone Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. 

While Walker had only previously discussed having one son publicly, he admitted this week — after two stories from the Daily Beast — that he had three others out of wedlock. (Walker has criticized absentee fathers, and the story claims that he’s had limited contact with at least one of his children.)

And just one day before the first Daily Beast story, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about Walker’s repeated false claims that he was a member of law enforcement — including an FBI agent. (The campaign points to him attending a week at an FBI school, and being named an honorary deputy). 

That’s just a few days worth of headlines for Walker — just recently, he’s publicly questioned evolution and was accused of peddling junk science on Covid. And that doesn’t even touch on the domestic abuse allegations that have long cast a shadow over his campaign. 

It’s the kind of barrage of opposition research that helps explain why many Republicans were initially cool to his candidacy, and there may be more to come. But in the age of overwhelming partisanship, and amid a great environment for Republicans (who will likely attack Warnock over a custody dispute), the $300 million question is how the voters will respond. 

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Alabama Senate: Former Senate aide Katie Britt released her closing ad ahead of next week’s GOP runoff against Rep. Mo Brooks, making an appeal to voters who are “looking for new blood to shake things up in Washington.” Britt and outside groups supporting her have vastly outspent Brooks and his allies on the airwaves. 

Colorado Senate: A Democratic group launched another ad meddling in Colorado’s GOP Senate primary, knocking businessman Joe O’Dea. The group’s previous spot described controversial state Rep. Ron Hanks, who marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, as “too conservative.” 

Massachusetts Governor: Democratic Attorney General Maura Healy launched her first TV ad buy tracked by AdImpact, reserving $108,000 worth of airtime starting three weeks before the Sept. 6 primary. 

Alaska At-Large: The NBC News Decision Desk projected that former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola secured the fourth spot in Alaska’s Top 4 special primary election to replace the late GOP Rep. Don Young. The other three candidates advancing to the Aug. 16 special election include former GOP Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican Nick Begich, and surgeon and 2020 Senate candidate Al Gross, who is running as a nonpartisan. 

Florida-10: Former Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown, who lost her 2016 primary while under indictment for multiple fraud charges, is running again in the open 10th District. Her initial felony convictions were later overturned, and last month she pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud. Former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is running for the same seat, dropping his Senate bid to run for the House instead. 

Illinois-15: Donald Trump announced a June 25 rally in Illinois, a few days before the state’s primary. Trump’s Save America PAC didn’t announce any speakers yet, but Trump is backing GOP Rep. Mary Miller there against fellow GOP Rep. Rodney Davis. NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard noted that Davis voted to certify 2020 election and supported an independent Jan. 6 commission.

Wyoming At -Large: GOP Rep. Liz Cheney has a new TV ad touting her work to help wildland firefighters. 

Ad watch: Inflation on the airwaves

One Nation, the non-profit arm of the GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, is out with its second ad of a $17 million campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

The ad ties Warnock to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, blaming the three for rising inflation in the U.S. “Trillions in liberal government spending has sent inflation through the roof, costing an average family an extra $453 each month,” a narrator in the ad says.

As inflation keeps rising, Republican groups and candidates across the country have seized on an economic message, pigeon-holing Democrats as the party of rising costs. Just this week, ads from the American Action Network in ConnecticutMichigan and Minnesota  have highlighted the same message against Democratic House incumbents.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

 Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said Thursday that the state is “affirmatively against the Covid vaccine for young kids.”

Senate negotiators racing to craft gun legislation are working to overcome a stalemate over the so-called boyfriend loophole.

An NBC News data analysis shows that grocery stores are a hotbed of racism and hate crimes.