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The GOP remains stuck with Trump — and his latest legal drama

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.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside the White House on Jan. 12, 2021, before traveling to Alamo, Texas.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Back in January, the Republican Party had a chance to walk away from Donald Trump — after his defeat, after Jan. 6, after his second impeachment and after he refused to attend President Biden’s inauguration.

Instead, they stuck with him, which has led to many GOP members downplaying the Capitol attack, fighting the creation of a bipartisan commission to study what happened on Jan. 6, and watching the former president continue to question the legitimacy of a contest he lost fair and square.

And now they face the very real possibility of seeing their party’s de-facto leader and potential 2024 frontrunner getting indicted in the coming months.

“Manhattan's district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself, should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

“The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance thinks he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump, by someone potentially close to him or by his company.”

It’s important to note that this empaneled grand jury doesn’t mean charges have been filed against Trump (at least not yet). And Trump has called yesterday’s news “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in American history.”

But it does mean that this new Trump legal drama will be with us — and the GOP — for months.

Since last January, the Republican Party has been stuck in a no-win situation with Trump: Either they cut ties with their former president and see him take his base of supporters with him, thus hurting them in 2022 and 2024.

Or they stick with him — and all of the drama that comes with it.

Well, they chose Door No. 2.

Huge and insignificant at the same time

The grand jury news, which Manhattan’s DA hasn’t confirmed, is both huge and insignificant.

Huge that a former president and possible 2024 frontrunner might be indicted.

But also insignificant, because Trump has been under investigation — in one way or another — ever since first entering office in 2017.

And Trump being under investigation has never truly moved public opinion and his base of supporters.

Then again, erosion is something that you can’t witness in days, weeks or months. It takes years to see it.

Schumer files cloture motion to proceed on Jan. 6 commission

Speaking of the Jan. 6 commission, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the House-passed resolution that establishes the commission, per NBC’s Frank Thorp and the NBC Capitol Hill team. Translation: A 60-vote procedural motion related to the January 6th commission could happen as soon as this week (likely Thursday, if it happens this week).

More from NBC’s Hill team: The vote could also happen when they return from the Memorial Day recess. Either way, the bill does not currently have the 60 votes needed to bypass a Republican filibuster, so it's currently on its way to being blocked by Republicans.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

Only 40 percent: The share of Californians who support recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a new PPIC poll.

$110 million: The amount of new U.S. economic assistance to Palestinians, announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week.

33,332,924: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 22,701 more than yesterday morning.)

595,106: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 702 more than yesterday morning.)

287,788,872: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

36.4 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per NBC News.

50 percent: The share of all American adults over 18 who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Talking policy with Benjy

Where’s infrastructure? Infrastructure talks are still up in the air, despite pessimism from Democrats and Republicans alike that the two sides are at an impasse after the White House put out a $1.7 trillion offer that included both physical infrastructure and funding for the “care economy.”

A GOP working group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va. said they would present a new offer of up to $1 trillion in spending on Thursday. Meanwhile, a second bipartisan group that includes Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. is working on another plan. Both would stay limited to what Manchin calls “traditional” infrastructure items like transportation and broadband.

The big obstacle so far is how to pay for it. Capito’s group has said undoing any of the 2017 Trump tax cuts is a nonstarter and has called for repurposing Covid relief funding that’s already been approved. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the bipartisan working group is considering a mix of existing COVID-19 funding, raising gas taxes in line with inflation, imposing new fees on electric vehicles and increasing tax enforcement (an idea Biden has endorsed).

“We’ll work on the pay-fors as we need to, there’s a reasonable path forward, but you got to pay for it,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

Repurposing Covid aid money seemed like a nonstarter earlier this year, and so far the White House has not warmed to the idea. But with state budgets looking stronger than expected, coronavirus cases plummeting, and more than 60 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated, there may be at least some flexibility.

In theory, there’s upside to Democrats working out a bipartisan deal on what Manchin called “traditional” infrastructure, leaving them free to potentially pass Biden’s proposals on things like electric vehicles, caregiving, and schools separately. For one, it could make it easier to pay for the rest of his agenda, where Democrats appear divided on some of Biden’s plans to tax wealthy investors, heirs, and corporations and could water down the available revenue.

But Democrats are nervous about getting bogged down in long negotiations, especially with a fragile minority in both chambers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a goal early on of passing a bill by July 4. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also named a July target on Tuesday “regardless of the vehicle” used to pass a bill. He may not have a choice, though. So long as the White House and especially moderate Democrats like Manchin want to keep talking, it will be difficult to move forward.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s the latest on where the infrastructure talks stand, per our Hill team.

Trump is bashing the reported convening of a grand jury as “purely political.”

Biden will visit Tulsa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre.

Sufferers of “Havana syndrome” say the Biden administration needs to do more to support them.

HHS chief Xavier Becerra is calling for a follow-up investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

Democrats want to make a pandemic-born summer meal program for kids into a permanent one.

Arizona Republicans have introduced a measure to strip the Democratic secretary of state of her ability to defend election lawsuits.

An avowed member of the Proud Boys says he attended a meeting of state party officials in Nevada and cast a vote in the censure of an elected official who said the 2020 election was not the product of fraud.