The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Officials slam congressmen's unauthorized Kabul trip


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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.



They went where, now?:  

Via The Washington Post’s Annie Linskey, Tyler Pager, John Hudson and Sean Sullivan, Reps. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation GOP lawmaker says he did not threaten US Embassy staff in Tajikistan House panel approves B boost for defense budget MORE (D-Mass.) and Peter MeijerPeter MeijerOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (R-Mich.) made a secret visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday to witness the evacuation operations.

The trip was not exactly welcomed: “The cloak-and-dagger trip infuriated some officials at the Pentagon and the State Department, where diplomats, military officers and civil servants are working around-the-clock shifts in Washington and at the Kabul airport to evacuate thousands of people from the country every day.” 

From two people familiar with the trip: “The visit … which was not approved as part of the normal process for congressional fact-finding trips — served as a distraction for military and civilian staffers attempting to carry out frenzied rescue efforts.”

Did they take seats that could have been used for evacuations?: No, they sat in crewmember seats.  

Reaction from a senior White House official: “It’s as moronic as it is selfish … They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans — while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk — so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.”


“This is deadly serious. We do not want members to go,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' MORE (D-Calif.) said of the unauthorized trip, adding that, “it was not, in my view, a good idea.”

Watch Pelosi’s full reaction


Pelosi press conference



^ This screenshot says it all.


"As veterans we care deeply about the situation on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport. America has a moral obligation to our citizens and loyal allies, and we must make sure that obligation is being kept. Like many veterans, we have spent the last few weeks working without sleep to try to get as many people as we could through the gates and to safety.”

It’s Wednesday — a week from today and it will be September. I’m Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to  — and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel  and  Facebook.

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Sooo, is Olivia Pope taking new clients?:

Via The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant, Amie Parnes and Brett Samuels, “The White House is trying to regain control of the narrative on Afghanistan by staging more public appearances for President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE and highlighting the way in which evacuations have ramped up significantly over the past week.”

Why Biden is being widely criticized, including from some Democrats: “The president spent the early days of the withdrawal after Kabul fell to the Taliban at Camp David, prompting criticism he was away from Washington, D.C., at a pivotal time. Last week, the widespread impression was also that Biden officials were caught flat-footed by the speed at which the Taliban overran the war-torn country.” 


Biden is giving public addresses: “As of Tuesday, Biden had delivered three speeches in five days on the evacuation efforts and twice took questions from reporters.” 

The White House comms team is activated: “White House press briefings restarted this week following a brief hiatus, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan appearing alongside press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. Senior officials have also been dispatched to appear on leading cable news programs.” 

Giving regular updates: “Daily and sometimes twice daily, the White House has sent updates to reporters on the numbers of individuals evacuated from Afghanistan, with the highest tally in a 24-hour period recorded Monday as U.S. military flights transported 12,700 people out.” 

How the strategy is working for Biden


‘We did it! We did it! We did it! Yay! Lo hicimos! We did it!’:



^Live look of House Democrats yesterday.  

“House Democrats on Tuesday rallied behind a new strategy to advance President Biden’s economic agenda shortly after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) struck a deal with a small group of moderates that was threatening to blow up leadership’s carefully laid plans to pass trillions of dollars in federal spending.” 

The deal: The House voted “to adopt a rule that allows Democrats to immediately begin work on a massive $3.5 trillion social benefits package. The rule also requires the lower chamber to take up the Senate-passed bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill by Sept. 27.” 

The vote: 220-212, strictly along party lines.

Joe Biden basically just sent the GOP a group slogan and a t-shirt cannon:

Via The Hill’s Jordain Carney, “President Biden and congressional Democrats are handing Republicans a rare unity moment, providing a boost for a party that has struggled to get on the same page in the post-Trump era.” 

How so — the past few weeks were important: “Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending plan, which they teed up this week after high-profile internal divisions, and a days-long fallout over a messy Afghanistan exit are sparking across-the-board GOP criticism and giving Republican lawmakers an opening to go on offense.”  

Why this is worth mentioning — the GOP had been in a tough spot: “The U-turn comes after months of Republican attempts to figure out ways to land blows on Biden that could reverberate in next year's midterm elections, when the GOP is hoping to win back the House and Senate.”


Boost away, J&J!:

Via CNN’s Maggie Fox, Johnson & Johnson reported this morning that a booster shot to its COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be highly effective.

Details: “People who received a booster six to eight months after their initial J&J shots saw antibodies increase nine-fold higher than 28 days after the first shot, Johnson & Johnson said.”

Now what?: J&J is working with health agencies about the recommendation for a booster shot.

Interesting graphic — ‘How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You?’:

Via The New York Times, “About one in 4 U.S. hospitals with intensive care units, or 770 total hospitals, recently reported that at least 95 percent of their I.C.U. beds were full.” Zoom in to see specific hospitals


Coronavirus cases in the U.S.: 38,081,322 

U.S. death toll: 630,873 

Breakdown of the numbers


Total number of vaccinations administered in the U.S.: 364 million shots have been given. 

Seven-day average of doses administered: An average of 860,114 doses

For context: The U.S. population is roughly 331 million.

Breakdown of the numbers:








Harris visits McCain memorial




The House is in. The Senate is out. President Biden is in Washington, D.C. Vice President Harris is in Vietnam. 

9:30 a.m. EDT: President Biden received the President’s Daily Brief. 

10 a.m. EDT: President Biden met with his national security team to discuss the evolving situation in Afghanistan. 

2 p.m. EDT: President Biden meets with members of his Cabinet and his national security team to discuss cybersecurity.

4:30 p.m. EDT: President Biden signs the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act.” This is closed to press, though I think there is a missed opportunity here for adorable photos… Like this:  

5 p.m. EDT: President Biden signs the “Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act.”


11:30 a.m. EDT: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE (R-Calif.) held a news conference. Livestream 

1 p.m. EDT: White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense & National Security: US-Australian sub deal causes rift with France Psaki says White House offered 'early stage call' to Nicki Minaj Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE holds a press briefing. Livestream

Sep. 5: “CNN has gathered the Florida second grade class where President George W. Bush was reading on September 11 when he learned the World Trade Center was attacked for a special, 20 years later” (Tweeted by CNN’s Betsy Klein


Today is National Banana Split Day. Random, though it actually does sound good now…

Have we NO respect for the last bit of summer??:

Starbucks and Dunkin’ have rolled out their pumpkin-themed drinks for the season. 


Pumpkin spice is back at Starbucks



And because this may very well be the best thing I’ve seen all week, here are some pretty entertaining penguins: 


Time to weigh some penguins