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D.C. Memo: Dean Phillips visits dad’s Vietnam War crash site; rubs elbows with South Korean stars

Plus: Emmer raises campaign cash on Trump’s legal woes and Flanagan raises profile in visit to D.C.

Rep. Dean Phillips, far right, actor Woody Harrelson, in back, with K-Pop stars from BigBang and BLACKPINK and popular South Korean actor, Park Bo-gum, standing next to Harrelson.
Rep. Dean Phillips, far right, actor Woody Harrelson, in back, with K-Pop stars from BigBang and BLACKPINK and popular South Korean actor, Park Bo-gum, standing next to Harrelson.

WASHINGTON – While the U.S. House was on a two-week break earlier this month, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, traveled to the spot in rural Vietnam where his father, a captain in the Army  had died in a plane crash 54 years ago.

It was a tearful moment when Phillips arrived at the site. He scooped up some of the area’s red earth, placing it in a plastic bag to take home and hugged actor Woody Harrelson, who with several other friends went on the trip with him. The group held what Phillips called “a little ceremony,” said some prayers and left some flowers at the site.

“It was one of the most meaningful events of my entire life,” Phillips said.

He said the group toured north Vietnam first before heading for the site of the fatal crash.

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Phillips never knew his father, Artie Pfefer, because he was only six months old when his father died. His mother later married Eddie Phillips, heir to the Phillips Distilling Company.

Phillips said his birth father grew up “with limited resources, but big dreams,” and that an ROTC scholarship allowed him to attend the University of Minnesota law school.

Capt. Artie Pfefer
Capt. Artie Pfefer
Phillips wanted to visit the site of his birth father’s crash to get a better sense of who he was, but said he could not make the trip, which was paid for by the congressman and not official business, until he was ready.

“I knew it would be a deeply emotional journey,” he said. He also said the trip was “very healing.”

Just a few years ago Phillips was surprised to find a box of mementos that included a recording of his father singing a song that was popular in 1969, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” by the Animals. In that recording sent to Phillips’ mother, Pfefer said, “Boy those words fit the situation to a tee,” and sent his love to his wife and “Baby Dean.”

The Vietnamese media widely publicized Phillips’ trip to the site of his father’s death. But the trip with Harrelson may have gotten even more attention during a stop in Seoul, South Korea when the lawmaker and the actor ran into a group of K-Pop stars from BigBang and BLACKPINK and a popular South Korean actor, Park Bo-gum at a recording studio. A photo of the group went super viral.

“I had the most incredible time with these young, talented folks in Seoul a couple of nights ago,” Harrelson said in a post of the photo on Instagram. “They were so warm and friendly, I didn’t want to leave!”

Phillips also praised the South Korean superstars as “kind and warm.”

Emmer raises campaign cash on specter of Trump indictment

Nearly immediately after former president Donald Trump sounded an alarm last weekend on social media that he was about to be arrested and his supporters should “protest, protest, protest,” leading House Republicans, including Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, seized on Trump’s outrage as an opportunity to raise campaign cash.

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A Manhattan grand jury is hearing evidence of Trump’s alleged role in a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Empaneled by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the case centers on a $130,000 payment from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to Daniels, to keep her from making public allegations that she and Trump once had a sexual encounter.

Bragg appears to be investigating whether Trump falsified business records and broke campaign finance or other campaign-related laws while reimbursing Cohen for the payment to Daniels.

On Monday, Emmer’s campaign sent out an email appeal.

“President Trump is expecting to be indicted as soon as THIS WEEK!  This has never happened before in our nation’s history. The Liberal mob thinks they can get away with ANYTHING and no one will stand up to them. Not today. That is why we’re asking every last Conservative to stand with us right now,” the appeal said.

It asked for donations in the amount of $25 to $500 and urged potential donors to refrain from unchecking a box allowing those contributions to recur every month.

On Wednesday, Emmer’s campaign sent out another appeal, this time asking supporters to respond to a “ Trump Witch Hunt Survey” that asked, among other things, “Do you think it’s wrong for the Manhattan D.A. to arrest Donald J. Trump?” and “Do you think this is a witch hunt?”

At the end of the appeal there’s a request for donations to Emmer’s campaign fund.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., also put out a Trump-based appeal this week.

“Barricades are being set up around Manhattan Criminal Court – as our nation awaits an announcement on whether President Donald J. Trump will be INDICTED despite having committed NO CRIME,” alerts McCarthy’s appeal. “Please make a contribution to stand with President Trump at this critical moment – for 1,500% impact.”

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Trump, who denies having an affair with Daniels, is also using the perceived threat of an indictment to raise money for his “Trump Save America Joint Fundraising Committee,” a fund he can use to pay legal expenses.

‘Never say never’

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan was in Washington, D.C. this week as part of a gathering of Democratic lieutenant governors, who are celebrating a growth in their numbers and diversity after last November’s elections.

Flanagan, in her 5th year in office, said she is one of the “elder members” of the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association (DLGA) and as such moderated a panel to introduce three new Democratic lieutenant governors, Austin Davis of Pennsylvania, Kim Driscoll of Massachusetts and Aruna Miller of Maryland.

Flanagan said the importance of the nation’s lieutenant governors should not be underestimated. She also pointed out that several former lieutenant governors, including Pennsylvania’s Sen. John Fetterman (D), were able to attain higher offices.

Asked whether she had aspirations for higher office, Flanagan said what many politicians say when asked similar questions: “Never say never.”

“Right now, I’m very happy being second in command,” she said.

The DLGA’s visited the White House on Wednesday to meet with a slew of Biden administration officials, as well as Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris.

“He’s my second favorite second gentleman,” Flanagan said. Her favorite is husband Tom Weber, she said.

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Flanagan said the most “powerful moment” she experienced at the White House was her meeting with Susan Rice, the Biden administration’s domestic policy adviser.

But the most lucrative meeting might have been the one with Mitch Landrieu, a former mayor of New Orleans and former Louisiana lieutenant governor who is the White House’s infrastructure czar and tasked with the rollout of billions of dollars in the massive infrastructure bill.

Editor’s note: In a previous version of the story, Artie Pfefer was misidentified as a captain in the Air Force. He was an Army captain.