Morning Report — Biden, Trump mix world woes and domestic politics

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President Biden juggled international affairs with Kenyan President William Ruto at the White House on Thursday, with appreciation for Kenya’s military help to Haiti and a defense of his decision not to send U.S. forces to the gang-ravaged Caribbean nation. The Ruto state visit is the first for a president of an African nation since 2008.  

Biden, during a news conference with his Kenyan counterpart, also defended Israel against accusations of crimes in Gaza and helped nudge a resumption of Israel-Hamas cease-fire talks, to include U.S. participation, unveiled Thursday and poised to restart soon in Europe. 

The president also kept his eyes on political imperatives, including a prominent appeal by former President Trump for Black and Latino backing during a rally in the Bronx, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to back South Carolina’s Legislature in a congressional redistricting plan that Democrats and the NAACP believe is racially biased. The president’s campaign on Thursday also began airing a new TV ad in battleground states, trashing Trump’s boasts of accomplishments for Black voters while he was in office.

Trump’s rally in blue-state New York — in the nation’s largest media market — got plenty of attention, including pushback from Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who appeared on CNN to deride the former president’s efforts. Hochul’s job approval in the state is underwater, according to recent surveys.

Among his assertions, Trump told the crowd that the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 “wouldn’t have happened if the [2020] election hadn’t been rigged.” Just miles from where he campaigned, Trump’s legal fate will be in the hands of a Manhattan jury next week.

Revisiting a campaign refrain from 2016 and 2020, Trump tells New Yorkers he can win the Empire State and its 28 electoral votes. Note: It was Biden’s strength among Black and Hispanic voters, especially those from New York City, that helped him defeat Trump by 23 points in New York four years ago. Biden’s lead in the state has fallen to single digits in recent polls.


▪ The NCAA and its five power conferences on Thursday approved a $2.8 billion settlement that would allow schools to pay college athletes, a first.

▪ Memorial Day is about tributes to the U.S. military and service members’ sacrifices.

▪ Ohio’s Legislature Tuesday will hold a rare special session, called by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, to ensure Biden is on the state’s ballot in November.

State Dinner celebs: The Clintons were there, as was surprise guest former President Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan. Who else was family-focused while attending the South Lawn soiree for Kenya’s president? Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) brought his mom to the swanky event, describing her as the “greatest woman in the world,” The Hill’s Judy Kurtz reports. Actor LeVar Burton, 67, who hosted the classic PBS children’s show “Reading Rainbow” from 1983 to 2006, quipped “just one? Can I swear?” when asked by The Hill what word of the day would describe the current political climate. Lawmakers on the guest list last night included Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin (Md.), fellow Democrats Chris Coons (Del.) and Raphael Warnock (Ga.), House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (Texas), plus Democratic Reps. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Richard Neal (Mass.), Joe Neguse (Colo.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and John Garamendi (Calif.).


Politics Mifepristone 032624 AP Jose Luis Magana

© The Associated Press / Jose Luis Magana | In a first-in-the-nation law, Louisiana is expected to reclassify two abortion-inducing drugs as controlled and dangerous substances.


REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Democrats are leaning into protecting birth control as part of their election-year push, looking to emphasize Republican efforts opposing protections most voters say they support. The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports Democratic lawmakers in red and purple states have introduced a flurry of bills to protect contraception this year, and in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to have a vote next month on the Right to Contraception Act. The efforts face an uphill battle, but Democrats want to get Republicans on the record on contraception, especially as the GOP still struggles with how to message its stance on reproductive rights in the wake of the Dobbs decision. 

The focus comes as Louisiana is expected to reclassify two abortion-inducing drugs as controlled and dangerous substances under a first-of-its-kind bill that is expected to be signed into law by the governor. While supporters of the reclassification say the law would protect expectant mothers from coerced abortions, doctors have said it will make it harder for them to prescribe medicines for other important reproductive health care needs and could delay treatment. The law would make possession without a prescription a crime punishable with jail time (NBC News and The New York Times).

REDISTRICTING: South Carolina’s congressional map crafted by the Legislature was not racially gerrymandered, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday by a vote of 6-3, with the three liberal justices dissenting. The NAACP argued that the state unconstitutionally moved Black voters out of the district represented in the House by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion that the Legislature sought to make the seat safer for Republicans, a goal that does not violate the Constitution.

Biden objected Thursday to the court’s decision in a written statement, saying the ruling supports “a dangerous pattern of racial gerrymandering efforts from Republican elected officials to dilute the will of Black voters.”

THE VOICE WAS FAKE. The penalty is real. Creators of artificially manipulated audio used to fool voters could face stiff fines and criminal charges from the Federal Communications Commission. Just ask political consultant Steven Kramer, who used AI-generated robocall audio to emulate Biden’s voice ahead of the New Hampshire presidential primary. Proposed fine: $6 million, plus more than two dozen criminal charges. Kramer admitted orchestrating a message that was sent to thousands of voters two days before the January primary. 👉 Voter suppression carries a prison sentence of 3-1/2 to 7 years. Impersonating a candidate is punishable by up to a year in jail.


▪ Attorney General Merrick Garland said Trump’s false claim about the FBI being ready to kill him in their search of his Mar-a-Lago home is “extremely dangerous,” after the former president said in a fundraising email that Biden was “locked & loaded and ready to take me out.”

▪ In the Senate, Justice Alito has the firm backing of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) while some GOP senators question the justice’s judgment in flying flags symbolic of the Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump movement at two of his residences. Meanwhile, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) urged Senate Democrats to investigate the news reports showing Alito’s upside-down American flag and “Appeal to Heaven” flag photographed on flagpoles at his homes.

▪ A Libertarian Party convention in Washington beginning today will spotlight tensions between Trump and independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., each of whom aims to capture conventiongoers’ support.

Nikki Haley’s decision this week to say she’ll vote for Trump in November could quiet public GOP protests among voters not sold on four more years of the former president.

▪ A Republican member of the Arizona House used ChatGPT to help craft legislation on artificial intelligence-driven impersonations.


Morning Report will return Tuesday, following the Memorial Day holiday.

The House will meet at 11 a.m.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will depart the White House, arriving in Wilmington, Del., by midday.

Vice President Harris will participate in a moderated conversation this morning about digital inclusion in Africa with President Ruto at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She will co-host a luncheon for Ruto and his wife at the State Department.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet this morning at Blair House with Kenya’s president. Blinken and Harris join forces for a state luncheon to honor Ruto at 12:30 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Stresa, Italy, for meetings with Group of Seven finance minister and central bankers, beginning this morning. Yellen will join a working lunch with her counterparts to discuss global implications of artificial intelligence. In the afternoon, the secretary meets with French Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire, then European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde. Yellen will join more topic specific G7 meetings throughout the afternoon.


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© The Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the Capitol on Tuesday.


THE SENATE VOTED DOWN the bipartisan border bill Thursday, the second time the legislation has been blocked in a matter of months as Democrats look to give Biden and incumbent senators a boost in the process. In a widely expected outcome, senators voted 43-50 to take down the proposal, which was negotiated over the fall and winter by a bipartisan group of senators and was initially voted down in February. Schumer said repeatedly in recent weeks that he wanted to put the bill on the floor again to drive home the point that Trump and his supporters killed the bill for political purposes, and that Democrats want action at the border (The Hill).

Biden bashed Republicans for blocking the measure, saying in a Thursday statement that “Congressional Republicans do not care about securing the border or fixing America’s broken immigration system.”

“If they did, they would have voted for the toughest border enforcement in history,” he said. “Instead, today, they put partisan politics ahead of our country’s national security.”

Meanwhile, House lawmakers from both parties are racing to complete a bill that would sanction International Criminal Court (ICC) officials after they filed requests for arrest warrants for top Israeli leaders over their conduct in the war in Gaza, hoping a forceful bipartisan response from Washington will deter the court’s judges from ratifying the charges. It’s a rare piece of agreement between House leaders in both parties, but putting the bill together is still a difficult task, write The Hill’s Mychael Schnell and Mike Lillis, and the Memorial Day recess is putting a time crunch on the proceedings.

▪ The Hill: Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Thursday announced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will “soon” address a joint session of Congress.

▪ The Hill: Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) entry into the Senate GOP leadership race is shaking up the contest to replace McConnell.

The Hill: Space guard funding, COVID-19 amnesty and other highlights from the House defense bill.

▪ The Hill: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) on Thursday reintroduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill that would create federal police reform.


Intl Gaza U.S. aid 031824 AP Abdel Kareem Hana

© The Associated Press / Abdel Kareem Hana | Aid transported to Gaza via the U.S. military’s sea pier has struggled to reach Palestinians.


CEASE-FIRE TALKS: CIA director Bill Burns is expected in Parisin Paris today or Saturday, according to an AFP source, to meet with the head of Israel’s Mossad and the prime minister of Qatar in hopes of reviving talks to release hostages in Gaza and establish a cease-fire in the enclave. Israel’s war Cabinet on Thursday instructed negotiators to resume discussions about releasing hostages held in Gaza after the families of five female Israeli soldiers shared footage of their capture by Hamas on Oct. 7 (The Washington Post). It is not clear whether Egyptian officials will attend the meeting after a CNN report earlier this week accused them of giving Israel and Hamas different proposals during the last round of talks, leading to its failure (Axios and CNN).

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is expected to issue an order today on Israel’s offensive in Rafah, potentially ordering a stop to the operation. While the court has no way to enforce its orders, the case, brought by South Africa, has put increasing international pressure on Israel to show more restraint in its military campaign in Gaza (NPR).

AID DELIVERIES: In the week since the U.S. military and allies attached a temporary pier to the Gaza shoreline, planners have come face-to-face with the logistical nightmare that critics had warned about. Little aid has reached Gaza and the pier and crowds overran some of the first trucks over the weekend. The U.S. military has worked with the U.N. and Israeli officials to select safer alternate routes for trucks coming from the pier, increasing its capacity (The Hill).

China on Thursday launched two days of military drills surrounding Taiwan in what it called a “strong punishment” to its opponents after the self-governing island’s new president pledged to defend its sovereignty (The New York Times).

▪ The Hill: Top Russian military officials are being arrested. Why is it happening?

▪ Reuters: Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines.


■ Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr. swing the election to Biden? Kennedy could use these outlandish claims to pry more than a few wackos off Mr. Trump,” by Karl Rove, commentator, The Wall Street Journal.

■ The Trump-Oprah voter, by Kristen Solis Anderson, contributing opinion writer, The New York Times.


Quiz Galore 101420 AP Guillermo Arias

© The Associated Press / Guillermo Arias | Former Vice President Al Gore, pictured in 2010, used a “No Gobbledygook” award while in office to promote federal use of plain language.

And finally … 👏 👏 👏 Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! With bureaucratic jargon in mind, we asked about various federal efforts to embrace clear writing and communications.

Here’s who Googled or guessed to come up aces, plain and simple: John van Santen, Randall S. Patrick, Carmine Petracca, Joan Domingues, Mark R. Williamson, Linda L. Field, Rick Schmidtke, William Chittam, Steve James and Pam Manges.

The impenetrable legislative shorthand term “permitting reform” refers to speedier federal approval for construction of big energy projects.

The Center for Plain Language (there is such a thing) early this month announced its annual “ClearMark Awards,” which recognize the best in plain-language communications, singling out the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Government Accountability Office. Thus, the answer we needed was “all of the above.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, while in office, promoted a monthly “No Gobbledygook” award for federal workers who turned jargon into plain language.

It is true that Congress in 2010 passed and former President Obama signed the “Plain Writing Act,” with the goal of eradicating confusing words and sentences in government documents and communications.

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