Morning Report — Biden, Trump divide on TikTok; delegate finale


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Former President Trump is against it after being for it. President Bidensays he’s using it, yes, but would ban it.

What are they talking about? TikTok. It’s the popular video-sharing app that for years has been the target of criticism by Trump and lawmakers because of its Chinese ownership, concerns about spying and worries about deleterious impacts on some young fans who use the platform.

Trump, in an about-face, on Monday said he’s opposed to a TikTok ban approved by a 50-0 vote in a House committee, now set to come to the floor this week. The legislation, which Biden on Monday said he’d sign if it reaches his desk, would tell TikTok to divest from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, or face a U.S. ban. It is not yet clear if the legislation has a viable path forward in the Senate.

The Biden campaign began using TikTok this year, despite the president’s executive ban of the app on devices used by nearly 4 million federal workers. The president, meanwhile, seeks to improve his political standing with younger voters, many of whom are fans of TikTok. A ban of the company he’s turned to for help to defeat Trump is premised on national security.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s presidential contests in Georgia, Washington, Mississippi and Hawaii (GOP) could mathematically close out the delegate math to enable Trump and Biden to clinch their respective nominations. Biden needs 102 more and Trump was 137 delegates short as of Sunday. Where are younger voters found? Some proportion of 170 million TikTok users are reachable there. 

Trump’s sudden change of heart, which puts him closer to First Amendment defenders and at odds with some congressional conservatives and also with plenty of Democrats, could slow the House measure.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it. There are a lot of users,” Trump told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday. 

His new rationale? Without TikTok you can make Facebook bigger. And I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with the media,” he explained.

It’s unusual logic, but Trump may be reacting to Biden’s stance, or perhaps to potential big-ticket campaign donors. 

The Hill: Some lawmakers are undecided on the House version of a ban.

TikTok denies spying and the U.S. government has produced no evidence that the company has. Opponents argue that even with a ban, content disseminators could still maneuver around a ban. The company insists it has done nothing wrong. The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their constitutional right to free expression,” the company argues.

What U.S. Intelligence thinks of TikTok,” by journalist Olivier Knox.


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

▪ Brian Butler, longtime Mar-a-Lago employee and government witness, says he unknowingly helped a coworker deliver boxes of classified information to Trump’s plane in June 2022 on the day the former president and his attorney met with the Justice Department at Mar-a-Lago about classified documents.

▪ Former Trump West Wing adviser Peter Navarro on Monday was ordered to prison March 19 to serve a four-month sentence in Miami for defying a congressional investigation.  

▪ Will he seek reelection? He has not announced. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was arraigned Monday on a new charge of obstruction of justice. He says he’s not guilty.


✈️  Aviation: The Justice Department began a criminal investigation into Boeing after a door panel on one of the company’s planes blew out in January. … Boeing says the 737 Max in question underwent out-of-sequence repairs known as “traveled work” months before its midair blowout. And a lengthy 737 Max audit by the Federal Aviation Administration found dozens of manufacturing problems at Boeing and one of its key suppliers. … A Boeing top official says the company cannot find documents about the “opening and closing” of the affected 737’s door plug and says it’s likely such records never existed.


LEADING THE DAY

Politics Women voters Britt 080123 AP Andrew Harnik

© The Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) at the Capitol in March 2023.

POLITICS 

WOMEN VOTERS: Sen. Katie Britt’s (R-Ala.) State of the Union response is shining a light on the GOP’s struggle to appeal to women voters. The Alabama senator’s rebuttal was met with an avalanche of backlash for being out of touch, with many critics calling the choice to have Britt sitting at a kitchen table for the address sexist. The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports political strategists and observers say Britt’s performance is largely emblematic of her party’s problem in appealing to women voters, particularly in the suburbs.

“Republicans have now two years in a row have picked a young woman — last year Sarah Huckabee Sanders, this year Katie Britt — to try to shift the image of the Republican Party away from older white men, which is really quite the reality of the party,” Debbie Walsh, executive director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said of the party’s choice to deliver the rebuttal speech. “It is the image they are trying to strike in an attempt to reach women voters in some way.”

There is no question that — as one of nine Republican women serving in the Senate —Britt is in the minority within her party in the Capitol. The GOP has struggled to reach women in recent years, particularly those in the suburbs, since Trump took office in 2016. In the 2022 midterms, they helped deliver significant victories to Democrats in key swing states. According to the Pew Research Center, Biden won 54 percent of suburban voters in general. Back in 2018, 53 percent of suburban women voters said they voted for Democrats, up from 47 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2016, according to CBS News exit polling.

In a flashback to the 2008 election cycle, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton compares recent reactions to Britt with criticism 15 years ago to GOP vice presidential candidate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). Even some Republicans acknowledged Britt’s delivery of the rebuttal was “over the top,” but viewed the intense backlash from Democrats and media pundits as driven by a fear that Britt’s aww-shucks presentation as a mom sitting in a kitchen might peel away women voters from Biden.

Britt has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate with Trump, akin to the spot Palin landed with former presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“I think Katie Britt is one of the most impressive people to come to the Senate in a long time. I think that the Democrats know that she is a rising star in the Republican Party, and if they can do something to tarnish her early on in her career, they’re going to do it,” said Vin Weber, a GOP strategist. “They don’t want to see an attractive, articulate, intelligent, rising star — a young woman, particularly — in the Republican Party.”


2024 ROUNDUP:

▪ Former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson sat down with NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo for an interview covering recent criticism Carlson received for his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Jan. 6, COVID-19 and other topics. The two appeared to share similar experiences over leaving their respective cable networks, as Carlson noted it was “good to be fired.”

▪ Trump’s allies are remaking the Republican National Committee with more than 60 Washington staff cuts.

▪ Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) announced Monday she’s running to become the Senate’s GOP policy chair next year.

▪ Contrary to hearsay accounts from former aides, Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, did not lunge for the steering wheel of a vehicle after he told a Secret Service agent he wanted to head to the Capitol but was denied that request, according to a newly released portion of an agent’s testimony to a now disbanded House investigative committee. 

▪ Trump told CNBC on Monday (transcript here) that he met with billionaire Elon Musk recently and hoped for his support. Musk later said he will not contribute money to either presidential candidate.

▪ The Biden-Harris campaign is turning to groups representing young voters who back the Democratic presidential ticket to help mobilize support ahead of November. 

▪ Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) will face a GOP primary challenger in Jack Smith, a former Yavapai County supervisor. Crane notably voted to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last fall.

▪ A coalition of progressive groups launched a campaign Monday to counter the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, opening up a new front in the domestic political battle over Israel and Gaza.

▪ A group that works to help elect Democrats to the Senate booked $239 million in television ads to defend seven seats that Republicans will seek to flip this fall.  



ZOOM IN

Zoom In Budget Young 010524 AP Susan Walsh

© The Associated Press / Susan Walsh | Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young at the White House in September.

ADMINISTRATION 

BIDEN ROLLED OUT his sweeping $7.3 trillion budget request for 2025 on Monday, with a set of ambitious proposals aimed at raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. In his annual budget plan, the president calls for trimming the nation’s deficits by $3 trillion in the next 10 years, while doubling down on pitches to increase the corporate tax rate, enact a minimum tax on billionaires, quadruple the stock buybacks tax, and others. While the proposal stands no chance of becoming law in the divided Congress, the plan functions as a key tool for the president as he hits the campaign trail and can serve as a guide for Democrats as Congress begins to look at funding for fiscal 2025, which begins in the fall.

House Republicans have also released a dueling budget blueprint for the coming year as the battle for control of the White House and Congress heats up. The Hill’s Aris Folley compares how the two proposals stack up.

The president traveled Monday to Manchester, N.H., where he called on Congress to apply his $2,000 cap on drug costs and $35 insulin to everyone, not just people who have Medicare. He also advocated for making permanent some Affordable Care Act protections that are set to expire next year (ABC News).

“I’m here in New Hampshire to talk about the budget I released today that would, I think, help in a big way,” Biden said.

The Wall Street Journal: The 401(k) is doing double duty as both a retirement account and a source of emergency funds for more Americans.

Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young today will testify about Biden’s 2025 budget request before the Senate Budget Committee, fielding questions from lawmakers. Biden’s aspirational plan would cut taxes for millions of low- and middle-income families and bring down the costs of prescription drugs and utility bills. Young told NPR.

“What that means is this president, unlike many who talk about fiscal responsibility, pays for every investment in the budget,” she said. “So, we call on Congress: if they want to do something about our fiscal path, take up the president’s budget. Ask the wealthiest in this country to begin to pay their fair share.”

House Republican leaders dismissed the proposal, calling it “misguided” and full of “reckless spending.”

▪ NBC News: Biden’s proposed budget includes $4.7 billion emergency fund for border migrant surges.

▪ The New York Times: Biden’s budget proposal underscores his divide with Republicans and Trump.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary (HUD) Marcia Fudge will step down at the end of the month, she announced. The 71-year-old told USA Today she plans to retire from public life. Fudge was the second Black woman to lead HUD. Prior to joining Biden’s Cabinet, she served in the House from 2008 to 2021 and chaired the Congressional Black Caucus for two years. Warrensville Heights, Ohio, voters elected her mayor in 2000, a role she held for eight years.

“From her time as a mayor, to her years as a fierce advocate in the U.S. House of Representatives, Marcia’s vision, passion, and focus on increasing economic opportunity have been assets to our country,” Biden said in a Monday statement. “I’m grateful for all of her contributions toward a housing system that works for all Americans, and I wish her well in her next chapter.”


ELSEWHERE

International Aid in Cyprus 031124 AP Petros Karadjias

© The Associated Press / Petros Karadjias | Ships preparing to deliver 200 tons of aid to Gaza waited in port in Cyprus on Monday.

INTERNATIONAL

CEASE-FIRE TALKS ARE AT A STANDSTILL as Palestinians begin fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Hunger is worsening across Gaza as Israel’s war against Hamas shows no end in sight. The Associated Press reports prayers were held outside amid the rubble of demolished buildings, and string lights decorated packed tent camps. Families would typically break the daily sunrise-to-sundown fast with holiday feasts, but even where food is available, there is little beyond canned goods, and the prices are too high for many.

“You don’t see anyone with joy in their eyes,” said Sabah al-Hendi, who was shopping for food Sunday in the southernmost city of Rafah. “Every family is sad. Every family has a martyr.”

AN AID SHIP LOADED WITH 200 TONS OF FOOD set sail Tuesday from Cyprus to Gaza, World Food Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, announced. The shipment is a test for the opening of a sea corridor to supply aid to the territory, where starvation is spreading five months into the Israel-Hamas war. It’s unclear how effective the sea deliveries will be in addressing the humanitarian catastrophe, as there will still be difficulties in delivering the aid once it is inside Gaza (NPR).

▪ Axios: In photos: Ramadan begins in Gaza amid the growing humanitarian crisis.

▪ The New Yorker Q&A: What a top United Nations official sees on his weekly trips to Gaza.

Ariel Henry, the embattled prime minister of Haiti, whose capital has been overwhelmed by violent gangs, said Tuesday that he would resign. Henry said his government would dissolve once a transitional council had been set up, following a week of “systematic looting and destruction of public buildings and private buildings.”

“It hurts us. And it has revolted us,” Henry said in a statement where he appealed for calm. “Haiti needs peace. Haiti needs stability. Haiti needs sustainable development. Haiti needs to rebuild democratic institutions.”

The timing of the interim government remains unclear, but his announcement came the same day Secretary of State Antony Blinken and regional leaders are attending a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting in Jamaica regarding Haiti’s collapse in security and humanitarian crisis. Officials said Blinken discussed a proposal developed by CARICOM and Haitian officials to expedite a political transition in Haiti through the creation of a broad-based, independent presidential college. The meeting also addressed the long-awaited deployment of a multinational security mission to restore order in Haiti, which is set to be led by Kenya (NBC News and Reuters).

RUSSIA LOOKS TO BE ON TRACK to manufacture nearly three times more artillery munitions than the U.S. and Europe, a key advantage ahead of what is expected to be another Russian offensive in Ukraine later this year. The U.S. military set a goal to produce 100,000 rounds of artillery a month by the end of 2025 — less than half of the Russian monthly output — and even that number is now out of reach with $60 billion in Ukraine funding stalled in Congress.

“What we are in now is a production war,” a senior NATO official told CNN. “The outcome in Ukraine depends on how each side is equipped to conduct this war.”

▪ BBC: Trump will not fund Ukraine’s fight against Russia if he is elected again, said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

▪ The Washington Post opinion: NATO members must raise their defense spending to 3 percent of GDP, writes Polish President Andrzej Duda.


OPINION

■ It’s time to end the use of special counsels, by Jack Goldsmith, guest essayist, The New York Times.

■ Which Supreme Court justices threw Trump the immunity lifeline? by Steven Lubet, opinion contributor, The Hill.


THE CLOSER

Closer Zoo animals 102923 AP Petr David Josek

© The Associated Press / Petr David Josek | Flamingos pictured at the Prague Zoo last year. 

And finally … 🐒 When a total solar eclipse transforms day into night on April 8, will tortoises start acting romantic? Will giraffes gallop? Will apes sing odd notes?

Researchers will be standing by to observe how animals’ routines at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas are disrupted when skies dim. They previously detected other strange animal behaviors in 2017 at a South Carolina zoo during a previous event of total darkness (ABC News).

“Most of the animals did surprising things,” Adam Hartstone-Rose, a North Carolina State University researcher who led the observations, reported in the journal Animals.

Galapagos tortoises at a zoo “started breeding,” during the peak of an eclipse, surprising zookeepers who are used to the sedentary and largely unchanging behavior of the giants, Hartstone-Rose noted. The cause is unexplained. 

A mated pair of Siamangs, gibbons that usually call to each other in the morning, sang unusual tunes during the afternoon eclipse. A few male giraffes began to gallop in “apparent anxiety.” The flamingos huddled protectively around their juveniles.

Here’s how you can safely view next month’s total eclipse (hint: 🕶 eye protection), whether observing zoo animals or Fido.

Why is a total solar eclipse such a big deal? Americans won’t see another one until Aug. 23, 2044, according to NASA.


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