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POLITICO Playbook: Clarence Thomas speaks- POLITICO | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

MCCONNELL VISITS UKRAINE — Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL led a delegation of Senate Republicans to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY. “Zelensky said on his Instagram account that the visit ‘is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people.’ Also seen meeting [Zelenskyy] in video and photographs on the president’s official social media accounts are Republican Sens. SUSAN COLLINS of Maine, JOHN BARRASSO of Wyoming and JOHN CORNYN of Texas. It’s unclear whether the meeting took place Saturday and whether the delegation is still in Kyiv,” per CNN. Video of the visit, via Christopher Miller

‘TREMENDOUSLY BAD’ — Supreme Court Justice CLARENCE THOMAS, a man of few words from the bench, did not hold back Friday about the publication of a draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade. “I do think that what happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Thomas declared during a discussion at a conference for Black conservatives in Dallas, per our colleague Josh Gerstein. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them and then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized what we will have as a country and I don’t think the prospects are good if we continue to lose them.”

KEYING IN ON THE KEYSTONE STATE — New this morning: “Trump endorsed Doug Mastriano in the Pa. governor’s race, a late boost for the far-right front-runner,” by the Philly Inquirer’s Andrew Seidman

A batch of good stories out today digging into the wild, must-watch GOP Senate primary Tuesday in Pennsylvania, where largely unvetted conservative commentator KATHY BARNETTE is mounting a late surge against celebrity doctor MEHMET OZ and hedge fund exec DAVID MCCORMICK:

On what it will say about Trump’s sway over the GOP: Trump is increasingly finding that his grip and ability to clear the field may be waning. “From Nebraska and Idaho to Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republicans have been actively campaigning — or quietly maneuvering — against Trump’s picks in a way that could undermine his sway over the party,” WaPo’s Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey write. “In several cases, some of Trump’s own Cabinet members and advisers, along with other longtime allies in the Republican Party, are working or stumping for candidates running against Trump-endorsed candidates.” In Pennsylvania, Trump’s former Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO and Sen. TED CRUZ have backed McCormick. And even his former VP, MIKE PENCE, is embracing one of Trump’s biggest political targets in Georgia Gov. BRIAN KEMP.

On Senate Republicans’ electability dilemma: McConnell has given his lieutenants a clear marching order: Embrace electable candidates who can reclaim the majority. At the same time, the party apparatus has adopted a posture of not picking favorites in primaries. The upshot: The GOP has little control over who emerges as their standard bearer. And there are fears that Barnette — and a handful of contenders in other states — could blow winnable races.

“While it’s too early to compare the GOP’s plight to the debacles in 2010 and 2012 that frittered away competitive Senate races,” Burgess Everett reports, “there’s a rising sense of unease among party insiders that Republicans could end up with candidates who make a Senate takeover more difficult.”

On whether voters can separate Trump from Trumpism: “In interviews with more than two dozen Republican voters in western Pennsylvania, many [voiced] ambivalence and uncertainty about Dr. Oz — despite Mr. Trump’s backing, they view him with suspicion, call him ‘too Hollywood’ and question his ties to the state. Those Republicans … said they were instead voting for or considering voting for Kathy Barnette, the far-right author and conservative-media commentator who has surged in the polls on a shoestring budget,” NYT’s Jennifer Medina reports from Laughlintown, Pa.

“In a race that could determine control of the Senate, many Republicans in the state find themselves deeply devoted to Mr. Trump yet, at the same time, less swayed by his guidance.”

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. You can find me on email here, or get in touch with the rest of the team: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

BIDEN’S SATURDAY: The president has nothing on his public schedule.

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