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D.C. Memo: Is Phillips disrespecting Black voters?

While the president is shrugging off Phillips’ longshot challenge, some of Biden’s allies have taken aim at the centrist Democrat, whose district is made up of many Twin Cities suburbs.

Rep. Dean Phillips holding hands with a supporter after filing the paperwork to put his name on the ballot for New Hampshire’s primary election in October.
Rep. Dean Phillips holding hands with a supporter after filing the paperwork to put his name on the ballot for New Hampshire’s primary election in October.
REUTERS/Reba Saldanha

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden visited a family farm near Northfield this week to tout his billions of dollars in administration investments in rural America, including expanded high-speed internet to sparsely populated areas and new farm conservation programs aimed at fighting climate change.

“When rural America does well, when Indian Country does well, we all do well,” Biden said.

The president’s visit to Dutch Creek Farms — a hog, soybean and corn farm now being run by a third generation of the Kluver family — was attended by prominent Democrats, but Rep. Angie Craig, who represents the area in Congress, was in Washington and not there for the event. Craig’s office said some of her staffers attended instead.

Although the White House said the trip was scheduled far before Rep. Dean Phillips, R-3rd District, began his primary challenge to Biden in New Hampshire last week, reporters were curious as to why the president chose to visit Minnesota now. When asked about the timing of the trip, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre laughed.

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“I said this last week, and I’ll say this again: We are very proud of — or very thrilled and thankful to — to the congressman for voting with the president almost 100% of the time in the last two years, and I’ll leave it there,” she said.

While the president is shrugging off Phillips’ longshot challenge, some of Biden’s allies have taken aim at the centrist Democrat, whose district is made up of many Twin Cities suburbs.

The Democratic National Committee has reshuffled its early presidential primary calendar so that Iowa and New Hampshire – two states whose populations are less racially diverse – are no longer the first contests in the nation. South Carolina, where more than half of Democrats are Black, is the first state to hold a primary according to the DNC calendar, but New Hampshire has stubbornly insisted it would go first, even if it loses delegates because of its disobedience and regardless of Biden’s name not being on its ballot.

Phillips’ decision to launch his campaign in New Hampshire prompted Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, to accuse of Phillips of disrespecting Black voters in South Carolina by focusing the early stages of his campaign on New Hampshire, which is 90% white.

“South Carolinians have demonstrated for decades that we are good predictors of great presidential candidates,” wrote Clyburn, who is a co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign, in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Apparently, Dean Phillips disagrees. He’s not respecting the wishes of the titular head of our Party and the loyalties of some of our Party’s most reliable constituents.”

In an interview with Fox News this week, Phillips said he was “disappointed” in Clyburn’s remarks.

“Mr. Clyburn, a man I admire and respect, knows better,” Phillips said. “And that’s exactly the political conversation that is dividing the country right now. Anybody who knows me and will get to know me knows how much affection and appreciation I have for every community — the Black community, the brown community, LGBTQ+ community, Jewish community, Muslim community, Christian community, Buddhist community.

“All I’m doing is appearing in a great American state that has a 103-year-old tradition of assessing candidates first,” Phillips added. “That’s not precluding me from getting to South Carolina or Michigan or anywhere else in the country.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, criticized Phillips for conceding Nevada’s primary to Biden. The filing deadline for this early contest in a state with a substantial Latino population passed before Phillips announced his candidacy.

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“The path to the White House runs through Nevada — a strong, diverse, pro-union state,” Cortez Masto wrote on X. “You shouldn’t run for President if you’re not going to compete for Nevada voters, @deanbphillips.”

In Minnesota, elected officials who represent Phillips’ district reaffirmed their support for Biden in a statement issued just before the president made his visit to the state.

“With so much on the line in 2024, including reproductive rights and the very fate of democracy, we know President Biden is the right person to stop Donald Trump and the damage that MAGA Republicans would bring, and to lead our nation forward. We are proud to welcome him back to Minnesota,” the statement said.

Phillips has yet to receive an endorsement from any elected official in the state, or from any of his U.S. House colleagues, including those he serves with from Minnesota, who have all declared their loyalty to Biden.

This and That

Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-7th District, has kept a fairly low profile since winning her congressional seat in 2020, but that could change next week.

Fischbach formally declared her candidacy for vice chair of the Republican conference on Wednesday. But she has plenty of competition from six other Republicans who are vying for the job, which was left vacant when Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana — who held that post — was chosen Speaker of the House last week.

Fischbach’s rivals are Reps. Mark Alford of Missouri, Mike Collins of Georgia, Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Brian Mast of Florida, Blake Moore of Utah and Beth Van Duyne of Texas.

The position of vice chair of the Republican conference is the No. 5 job in House GOP elected leadership, (Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, is in the No. 3 job as majority whip.)

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The vice chair works with the chair of the Republican Conference, Trump loyalist Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, to arrange party meetings and communicate the party’s message. The vice chair also has a seat on the House GOP steering committee and helps decide committee assignments.

Since she’s only in her second term in the U.S. House, Fischbach has been campaigning on her experience in the state Legislature, including her time as president of the Minnesota state Senate. The 57-year-old lawmaker also touts her “maturity” and conservative credentials.

Fischbach will have the chance to pitch her candidacy to her House GOP colleagues at a candidate forum on Nov. 7. A vote on the nominee will be held the following day.

As a member of the House Ethics Committee, which is considering a complaint against Rep. George Santos, R-New York, Fischbach was required to vote “present” when the U.S. House considered a motion to expel Santos this week.

Besides a broad ethics complaint against Santos that includes allegations of sexual misconduct, the lawmaker has been recently indicted by federal prosecutors for allegations of identity theft and transferring money to his personal bank account from a supporter’s credit. Despite the severity of the charges, the U.S. House late Wednesday failed to muster the two-thirds vote needed to pass a resolution that would expel the New York lawmaker.

Reps. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, Brad Finstad, R-1st District, and Pete Stauber, R-8th District, voted against the resolution. An expulsion of Santos would further diminish the very narrow majority Republicans hold in the U.S. House.

Minnesota’s Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, Betty McCollum, D-4th District and Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, voted with most Democrats for the resolution. However, 31 Democrats voted against it.  Many said expelling him without a conviction — Santos’ trial is set to begin in about a year — would set a dangerous precedent.

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, who has been campaigning for president in New Hampshire this week, missed the vote.

Meanwhile, Santos indicated he knows he’s not in the clear. In a post on X, Santos said the vote was “a victory for due process not me.”

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“This was never about me, and I’ll never let it become about me. We all have rights under this great Constitutional Republic and I’ll fight for our right to uphold them till my last dying breath,” Santos wrote.

The U.S. House has expelled five members, three for joining the Confederacy as traitors to the Union and two after they were convicted of criminal offenses.

Meanwhile, new House Speaker Mike Johnson had a victory this week, sort of, when 12 Democrats — including Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, voted for a $14.3 billion aid package to Israel late Thursday, which was approved by the U.S. House 226-196.

Johnson insisted the aid to Israel be paid for by a $14.3 billion cut to money President Biden had secured for the Internal Revenue Service budget.

But there was a problem with that.

The Congressional Budget Office had determined that cutting money from the IRS to go after tax cheats would actually cost the government money. Most Democrats — including those from Minnesota, except for Craig –voted against the bill because it would cut money from the IRS and  because it lacked any money for Ukraine. Minnesota’s Republican lawmakers all voted for the bill.

Johnson’s victory will be short-lived.  The bill is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to completely ignore it. And Biden has said he would veto the bill.

“I voted yes because I wanted to signal my strong support for aid to Israel,” Craig said. “This is the bill that was put in front of me, but it won’t be the one that becomes law. I’m looking forward to the Senate’s work on this issue, and supporting a bill that can pass the House, the Senate, and be signed by the President.”

Your questions and comments

A reader this week had a question that has stumped a lot of reporters, including me. Here’s what he asked:

“If Donald Trump should actually be convicted of a felony on a criminal charge that carries with it a prison sentence, what happens to his Secret Service security detail? Do they go back into the agent pool to be potentially assigned elsewhere? Must they spend time in prison as his guardians against the slings and arrows of fellow convicted felons? I have a hard time imagining a more terrible duty assignment than being made Donald Trump’s roommate in a prison cell.”

The short answer is that, unless Trump waives his lifetime right to Secret Service protection (to date Richard Nixon is the only president to have done so) the officers would have to continue to serve, in prison or anywhere else.

This would present unprecedented logistical challenges and a judge would likely prefer to impose a sentence that included probation, fines, community service and home confinement instead of placing the former president behind bars, several judicial experts have said.

The Secret Service has said it cannot comment on what it would do if Trump is given a prison sentence because it has no policy or procedure that would address that situation.

Please keep your comments, and any questions, coming. I’ll try my best to respond. Please contact me at

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