Mar 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Inside Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns' new Biden book

"This Will Not Pass" cover

Cover: Simon & Schuster

President Biden confessed in private that he didn't understand Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who helped stymie his biggest legislative dreams, New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns write in the first major book about the Biden-Harris administration, coming May 3.

Sneak peek: "One person close to the president likened Biden's perplexity at Sinema to his difficulty grasping his grandchildren's use of ... TikTok. He wanted to relate, but he just didn’t quite get it," the authors write in "This Will Not Pass," about the 2020 election and President Biden's first year.

  • In the spring of 2021, "she became the first-ever lawmaker to argue with White House aides when they asked her to wear a face mask in the company of the president, repeatedly asking why that was necessary when she had been vaccinated."
  • She also discouraged Biden from coming to Arizona after the president signed the COVID rescue plan in 2021.

Biden aides complained that Sinema sounded more like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) than a Democrat, the book says:

  • At a private fundraiser in D.C. with a Republican-heavy group of lobbyists — which hasn't been reported before — she portrayed herself as anti-tax and anti-government.
  • She mocked Biden while speaking warmly about House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, and even defending far-right Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who denied the election results and claimed Antifa had infiltrated the Capitol riot. "I love Andy Biggs," she said.  "I know some people think he’s crazy, but that's just because they don’t know him."
  • Separately, Sinema told colleagues five or six other Senate Dem moderates were "hiding behind my skirt" as she pushed back on the left.

Between the lines: The title alludes to this period of political tumult not passing with the 2020 election.

  • "A big reason we wanted to capture all of 2021 rather than just ending with the campaign aftermath or Jan. 6 is because there's so much more to report about the ongoing strain in both parties," JMart told me.
  • "Trumpism on the right is a central theme. But more broadly we wanted to capture how both party establishments are being tested like never before."

On Jan. 6, an enraged Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) telephoned White House counsel Pat Cipollone and told him that if President Trump didn't act more aggressively to denounce the mob "we’ll be asking you for the 25th Amendment" to remove Trump from office.

  • In an in-person interview with the authors that afternoon, after they all evacuated from the Senate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed optimism that the riot could become a turning point: "People will say, 'I don't want to be associated with that' ... There will be a rallying effect for a while, the country says: We're better than this."
  • Graham suggested Biden was the right man for this time: "I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?"

Burns and Martin were represented by Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn of Javelin.

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