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Where Team Nikki Lands on Haley’s Trump Endorsement
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Where Team Nikki Lands on Haley’s Trump Endorsement

Plus: Sen. Bob Menendez’s legal issues may sway his son’s congressional bid.

Happy Monday! If your mother’s birthday is coming up and you’re scrambling for a suitable gift, Hunter Biden has helpfully lowered the bar dramatically.

Up to Speed

  • The fallout from former President Donald Trump’s convictions on Thursday continued into Friday, as eight Republican senators—including multiple rumored contenders for their party’s vice presidential nomination—committed in a letter to stalling President Joe Biden’s judicial agenda. “The White House has made a mockery of the rule of law and fundamentally altered our politics in un-American ways. As a Senate Republican conference, we are unwilling to aid and abet the White House in its project to tear this country apart,” wrote the signatories, including Sens. Mike Lee, J.D. Vance, and Marco Rubio. The senators vowed not to increase non-security related funding for the administration or greenlight appropriations bills that fund “partisan lawfare,” to stonewall Biden’s political and judicial appointees, and to stall Democratic bills that are “not directly relevant to the safety of the American people.”
  • Rubio published an op-ed in Newsweek on Friday arguing that the November election is America’s “last chance” and that the country must elect Trump. “I grew up in Miami listening to the stories about the Castro show trials in Cuba,” he wrote. “Not even in my worst nightmares would something like that ever happen here in America. But it did.” He added that neither “deranged far-left Democrats” nor “old-school Republicans afraid of losing their membership in the ruling class club” will help “make our country great again.”
  • Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump on CNN’s State of the Union did not say for sure whether the RNC would support former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the GOP nominee for the state’s Senate seat, after he urged his followers on X to respect the Trump verdict. “He doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point and, quite frankly, anybody in America if that’s the way you feel. That’s very upsetting to hear that,” she said. Asked if she is willing to use party resources to help Hogan, she told anchor Kasie Hunt that she would “get back to you on all the specifics monetarily.”
  • Trump’s campaign launched a TikTok account for the former president over the weekend as he attended an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event in New Jersey. His first video on the app featured him with UFC President Dana White at the event. “I am going to use every tool available to speak directly with the American people about how Joe Biden’s failed presidency is tearing apart our beautiful nation and how I am going to stop him,” Trump said in a campaign statement. His embrace of the app comes after he tried to ban it via executive order while in office and after Biden signed into a law a bill that will force TikTok’s Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, to divest from it, unless the government shut the app down.
  • Democrats also attempted to capitalize on the verdict as Republicans denounced Trump’s conviction. The House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic members of the House of Representatives, issued press releases Friday, ironically (and falsely) quoting vulnerable Republicans saying, “I support crime.” The Friday releases mimic ones the National Republican Congressional Committee produced earlier in May, jokingly (and falsely) quoting vulnerable Democrats as saying, “I support Hamas,” to attack them for their votes relating to Israel funding.
  • But not all Democrats have taken such a line. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who challenged Biden for the party’s presidential nomination this year, called on New York Gov. Kathy Hochul Friday to pardon Trump. “You think pardoning is stupid? Making him a martyr over a payment to a porn star is stupid. (Election charges are entirely different.) It’s energizing his base, generating record sums of campaign cash, and will likely result in an electoral boost,” he wrote in a post on X responding to critics the next day.

No Signs of Discontent Among Haley’s Former Campaign Staff

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced that she would vote for former President Donald Trump during an event at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2024, (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced that she would vote for former President Donald Trump during an event at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2024, (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After Nikki Haley exited the presidential race in March, senior campaign staff and others in the former South Carolina governor’s inner circle periodically commented publicly, touting the relatively strong support she received in subsequent Republican primaries while taking veiled shots at presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

But since Haley’s May 22 revelation that she would vote for Trump in November, many Republican operatives who worked for, volunteered for, and otherwise backed her for the GOP nomination have largely remained quiet. That might suggest discomfort with Haley’s decision. Yet given the choices before the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations—Trump or President Joe Biden—announcing she would be voting for the man in whose Cabinet she served is hardly shocking. 

And, Haley’s explanation for her decision—which came after a speech at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank she affiliated with in mid-April—was far from a ringing endorsement: 

As a voter, I put my priorities on a president who’s going to have the backs of our allies, and hold our enemies to account. Who would secure the border, no more excuses. A president who would support capitalism and freedom, a president who understands we need less debt not more debt. Trump has not been perfect on these policies, I’ve made that clear, many many times. But Biden has been a catastrophe. So, I will be voting for Trump. Having said that, I stand by what I said in my suspension speech. Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me. And not assume that they’re just going to be with him. And I genuinely hope he does that.

Haley’s remarks were nonetheless treated by many political observers as a full-throated seal of approval—the equivalent of urging voters who supported her in the primary and other disaffected Republicans to get off the fence and pull the lever for Trump. For the conservatives out there who still oppose Trump, the disappointment was palpable. 

“Haley’s latest flip-flop on Trump is probably her worst because she had become something of a symbol of the conservative resistance,” Daily Beast columnist and Trump critic Matt Lewis wrote the day after Haley’s announcement. “She has been garnering roughly 20 percent of the vote in Republican primaries, despite dropping out of the race months ago.”

Meanwhile, knowledgeable Republican sources are not ruling out Haley campaigning for the presumptive GOP nominee in the months ahead. “There haven’t been conversations, yet, about what her involvement would look like,” one such source tells Dispatch Politics.

It’s possible the silence among some Haley campaign veterans evinces some qualms with her decision.

Nevertheless, GOP sources familiar with Haley’s campaign say the political operatives closest to her—those who filled senior roles on her 2024 team—are not upset. And there are reasons, according to multiple GOP sources.

To begin with, Haley’s inner circle was and remains loyal. Republican operatives who joined her campaign or served as consultants took pay cuts or reduced fees to fit Haley’s budget constraints (only in the final few months of the race did she start raising big money).

Plus, Haley has never professed to be a “Never Trump” Republican.

The same goes for the political operatives who filled the key roles in her presidential campaign. Rather, they were “pro-Nikki.” So despite Haley’s brutal attacks on Trump during the campaign, there was never any expectation among those who worked on her campaign that she wouldn’t back her old boss against Biden should her effort to dethrone him as leader of the GOP fall short. Haley and her staff are all Republicans, after all.

They were all certainly less than thrilled with Trump. But there was never a dilemma regarding which choice they would make as voters between Trump and Biden—even if they don’t actively support the presumptive GOP nominee.

“She’s not a third-way candidate. She’s never going to be this sort of elite, Wall Street dream of a unity candidate. She’s a Republican—and not just a Republican but a conservative Republican,” said a veteran Republican operative who supported Haley’s campaign and is fed up with Trump. “Voters decided, it’s a binary choice and she had a binary choice to make.”

“I’m more than totally comfortable with it,” the GOP insider added. “She made the absolute right call.” 

The fallout from New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal indictment and ongoing trial is being felt down his family tree—potentially giving one North Jersey district a more progressive representative in the House as a result.

Rep. Robert Menendez, son of the embattled senator and a first-term Democrat, is facing a challenge in tomorrow’s primary from Ravi Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken. While there’s no independent polling on the race thus far, Bhalla has raised more than $2 million, while the younger Menendez has brought in about $1.6 million. Whoever wins the nomination Tuesday will almost certainly win the general election in this solidly Democratic district.

Bhalla has touted his support for progressive policies, but he is also pitching himself as a public-spirited alternative to the Menendez political dynasty. The elder Menendez and his wife face charges of conducting a bribery scheme with foreign entities that enriched the couple through such gifts as gold bars and a luxury car. In an interview with Dispatch Politics last week, Bhalla said he has earned his political achievements, while the younger Menendez has not.

“We have a real track record of making Hoboken a model city through a period of earned accomplishments that have lasted well over a decade,” Bhalla said. “And I think that’s a sharp contrast to my opponent, on the other hand, who was handpicked by his father in what can only be called blatant nepotism from the first elected office he’s ever held in his entire life.”

Asked specifically about the elder Menendez’s legal troubles, Bhalla repeated his previous call for the senator’s resignation, adding that he was “not focused on my opponent’s father” but rather on “making sure that I can directly communicate my message to voters, which is that I’m the most qualified candidate to serve in Congress for the 8th District.”

But Bhalla has not shied away from associating Menendez with his dad during the campaign. His campaign’s launch video features Bhalla saying the country is better than “politicians who strive only to serve themselves,” as a clip of the father-son duo plays on the screen. More recently, he appeared to tie the primary election directly to Sen. Menendez’s alleged crimes in an X post last week. 

“As if acting as a foreign agent and accepting gold bars wasn’t enough—Senator Menendez keeps finding ways to embarrass New Jersey. Will Rob Menendez Jr. have the courage to support Andy Kim? On June 4th—let’s put an end to the self-serving Menendez dynasty once and for all,” he said, responding to a report that the senator was preparing an independent bid for reelection. (Kim, a three-term House member, is the leading Democratic candidate for the Senate seat, but the New Jersey Globe reported Monday that the elder Menendez will file to run as an independent.)

The younger Menendez, whose campaign did not respond to a request for an interview, appears aware of the negative association with his father. In a recent ad, he charged that Bhalla “wants to run against my father because he’s scared to run against me.” He has also shrunk the size of the “Menendez” name on his campaign logo. When he first ran for reelection in 2022, his website touted his being the son of a “trailblazing political leader,” but that reference is absent today.

If Bhalla, who endorsed the younger Menendez in 2022, capitalizes on the scandal to defeat him, the district will likely end up with a representative less supportive of Israel. The Jewish state’s war on Hamas in Gaza is their most notable policy disagreement, and Bhalla has publicly supported a ceasefire in the conflict.

“I think we need to do our best to make sure that we can lower the temperature and come to a position where we have a negotiated ceasefire,” he told Dispatch Politics. “That includes the unfettered access of humanitarian aid to the suffering people in the Gaza Strip, as well as the immediate release of any and all hostages that are still in the Gaza Strip being held captive by Hamas.” Bhalla added that the attacks on October 7 were an “atrocity” and that he would have voted in favor of Congress’ most recent aid package to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. He also said America must be “outspoken in calling on Israel to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.”

Menendez has an endorsement from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—something Bhalla’s supporters have used to attack him—and he has not been as insistent on pushing for a ceasefire. 

In a recent debate with Bhalla, Menendez put the onus on Hamas to step up its efforts in negotiating an end to the conflict. “We need to have a real engagement on this issue with Israel, with Hamas, that gets out of this crisis that we’re in,” Menendez said. “Calling for a ceasefire alone will not get us there. There have been negotiations, and Hamas has walked away from those negotiations without a resolution. That’s problematic.”

After Bhalla said the congressman “walked around” the question of whether he supports a ceasefire, Menendez offered no response.

Notable and Quotable

“I don’t think Congress has the constitutional authority to reject electors that have been certified by a state. I will accept the results of the election and certify them if it’s a fair and a free election.”

—Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton on NBC’s Meet the Press in response to a question on whether he would commit to certifying this fall’s election, June 2, 2024

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.