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The Auto-CR Dilemma

Real Clear Politics -

If the debt ceiling deal passes, the military budget goes up and IRS funding gets slashed. But if Congress doesn't pass the subsequent spending bills, that reverses.

Ron DeSantis starts throwing some uppercuts at Trump

Politico -

CLIVE, Iowa — In his first appearance on the campaign trail as a declared candidate, Ron DeSantis told voters he was substance over “fluff,” results over superficiality and, above all else, not a loser like Donald Trump.

The Florida governor didn’t actually mention his chief rival by name. But he didn’t have to. The contrasts were big and small, and mainly implicit. He talked about closing the border, spoke about how he would have fired Anthony Fauci during the Covid pandemic, and made note — in his speech’s crescendo — that no conservative wish could come true if their candidate doesn’t actually win.

“Leadership is not about entertainment. It’s not about building a brand. It’s not about virtue signaling,” DeSantis said. “It is about results.”

DeSantis’ return to Iowa marked a new chapter in his political arc and a slightly new approach to boot, with the mainstream press-averse governor taking questions afterward from an assembled press corps.

But the changes weren’t overwhelming. DeSantis stayed largely on script during his speech, airing a list of policy achievements and painting a dystopian picture of Democratic governance to sell himself to voters. As for that press conference, he only called on reporters pre-selected by his campaign, using the opportunity to — once more — needle Trump for suggesting Florida had taken the wrong approach to Covid.

The stop Tuesday followed a trip DeSantis had made to Iowa earlier this month that was, by most accounts, a success. But with Trump still far ahead in public polling — and returning here himself on Wednesday — the stakes this week are especially high for DeSantis. Few candidates have arrived in the first-in-the-nation caucus state freighted with such high expectations and viewed by many of his supporters as the only viable alternative to Trump.

DeSantis’ event Tuesday night and four-stop blitz across the state on Wednesday will offer the first test of his ability to build a coalition of voters who can beat the former president.

“I’ve been listening to these politicians talk about securing the border for years and years and years,” DeSantis said, in one of many subtle jabs against Trump. “I can tell you, if I’m president, this will finally be the time where we bring this issue to a conclusion.”

DeSantis’ speech introduction was particularly policy heavy, railing against President Biden’s handling of the border, fentanyl, the economy, the national debt, energy, China, vaccines and more, lambasting an “unaccountable, weaponized administrative state.”

Despite making a handful of veiled attacks of Trump throughout his address at Eternity Church outside Des Moines, DeSantis also echoed some of the core themes of Trump’s movement, criticizing the “elites” who are “imposing their agenda on us.”

DeSantis’ aggressive schedule in the Hawkeye State illustrates the intensity with which he intends to brawl with Trump here. He has pitched himself as an energetic executive and the multiple stops appear designed as a demonstration of it.

“If you were trying to succeed in Iowa, this is the trip you put together,” said David Kochel, an Iowa-based Republican strategist who was an adviser to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. “He’s going to draw a lot of media attention. He’ll cover a lot of ground in Iowa both ideologically and with different demographics available to him.”

“It’s not like Trump’s in trouble — he’s got the biggest current base of support,” Kochel continued. “But it’s not a done deal.”

As DeSantis prepared to take the stage, Trump’s campaign roasted him in press releases, declaring DeSantis’ last trip to Iowa was a “failure” and highlighting the governor’s embrace of some pandemic-mitigation measures in 2020.

After stops across Iowa on Wednesday and two more days of barnstorming New Hampshire and South Carolina, DeSantis will make the trek back to Des Moines on Saturday to attend Sen. Joni Ernst’s annual Roast and Ride fundraiser, a political cattle call being attended by the other major declared and likely candidates besides Trump. DeSantis’ decision to show up for the event at the Iowa Fairgrounds — an announcement only made Tuesday — will make him the leading GOP candidate attending.

DeSantis’ campaign operation — and his strategy in Iowa — draw some parallels to Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 run. Cruz, who defeated Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio to win the Iowa caucuses that year, has shared a number of top strategists with DeSantis, between the governor’s own political operation and that of a super PAC supporting his presidential bid. Jeff Roe, Ken Cuccinelli and Chris Wilson are among the Cruz veterans working with Never Back Down, while Sam Cooper and David Polyansky, other past Cruz advisers, are now part of DeSantis’ political operation.

Never Back Down has field workers on the ground in the first four nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — including just under 200 people who have knocked on 50,000 doors in the Hawkeye State. The super PAC, which is committing to spend $100 million on field operations and is training its door-knockers in a West Des Moines office, has also employed 10 political staffers in Iowa.

Kristin Davison, the chief operating officer for Never Back Down, said the group is “building an army that’s worthy of the enthusiasm that’s already behind DeSantis.”

Trump, meanwhile, is set to arrive in Iowa on Wednesday, taking part in a Des Moines radio interview before meeting with the Westside Conservative Club on Thursday morning just outside the city. He’ll tape a Fox News town hall event moderated by Sean Hannity, a televised program that comes on the heels of a widely-watched CNN town hall earlier this month.

In an attempt to contrast himself with Trump, someone born into immense wealth and who did not serve in the Vietnam War at a time many of his peers did — DeSantis described himself as someone who worked “minimum wage jobs” through school, and who after Sept. 11, 2001 decided to risk the “loss of personal income” to enter the military.

That, he said to applause, was “worth more than anything money can buy.”

Among a handful of other areas where DeSantis sought to subtly put distance between himself and Trump, he said Florida “chose freedom over Fauci-ism” during the pandemic.

“You do not empower somebody like Fauci,” he said. “You bring him into the office and tell him to pack his bags.”

In the presser afterward, responding to a question about Trump’s comments on his handling of Disney, DeSantis pivoted to the former president’s “bizarre” and “ridiculous” criticism of Florida’s pandemic response.

“The former president is now attacking me, saying that [Andrew] Cuomo did better handling Covid than Florida did,” DeSantis said. “I can tell you this, I could count the number of Republicans in this country on my hands that would rather have lived in New York under Cuomo than lived in Florida in our freedom zone.”

Asked how he would distinguish himself from Trump, DeSantis said “there’s no substitute for victory,” and argued that “there are a lot of voters who just aren't going to ever vote for him.”

DeSantis bragged that Florida had “banned ballot harvesting,” a strategy many Republican leaders have begun urging the party to embrace after recent midterm losses. That includes Trump, who once decried the approach but has more recently suggested the GOP adopt such a get-out-the vote method in order to better compete with Democrats.

And he touted a six-week abortion ban that he recently signed in Florida, legislation DeSantis had initially avoided discussing on the campaign trail, and which Trump said was “too harsh.” Iowa has a similar law in effect.

DeSantis’ packed schedule this week highlights his physical and financial ability to hit the road day after day — a hustle that’s likely to give him a boost with grassroots activists. And despite having aligned himself closely to Trump on many policy issues, DeSantis’ case to voters centers in part on his generational difference with Trump and his relatability to young, conservative-leaning families.

The location where DeSantis held his Tuesday event, a multi-campus church on the outskirts of Des Moines, is helmed by a similarly aged Australian pastor and markets itself to a younger generation of believers — a different flavor of conservative Christianity than traditional pew-and-suit congregations. In the same vein that DeSantis opted for an unprecedented Twitter campaign launch last week than a conventional event made for television, the Gen-X Florida governor appears set on emphasizing his youthfulness in the field.

The church’s pastor, Jesse Newman, said the “DeSantis team called” his church to inquire about hosting the event there.

The governor received resounding applause when he talked about his efforts to prevent schools from “indoctrinating” students, an issue he said he views “through the lens of a dad.” DeSantis then called his wife up to discuss the issue, who apologized for her hoarse voice and explained she had been busy with motherhood duties.

“I’ve been negotiating with a 3-year-old all day today as to why they cannot color with permanent marker on the dining room table,” Casey DeSantis said, to laughter.

DeSantis is the second-youngest Republican presidential contender this cycle, just behind 37-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy who touts himself as the only millennial in the field and who has also emphasized newer digital communication mediums in his effort to reach voters.

“I saw the way the press tried to trash him, you know, with the Twitter thing and all of that, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot,” said Bill Burch, a Des Moines Republican attending DeSantis’ event Tuesday. “It does mean a whole lot he's out stomping and getting the message out, and people are listening.”

Burch, whose two biggest policy issues are closing the border and expanding the country’s energy supply, said he is turned off by Trump’s habit of “insulting your competition,” as he has done with DeSantis.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has said she intends to remain neutral ahead of the caucuses, introduced DeSantis with effusive praise on Tuesday, calling him “a candidate who has shown us that he can, and all you have to do is look at his record.”

“I have a hunch they’re going to be here a lot,” Reynolds said of DeSantis and his wife Casey. “If I know anything about these two, it’s that they will not be outworked.”

Kelly Garrity contributed to this report.

Senate braces for conservative debt deal drama of its own

Politico -

Kevin McCarthy and Joe Biden achieved what once looked improbable: A bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling. Now any one senator has the leverage to bring the country right to the brink of default.

After the House’s planned Wednesday vote to raise the debt ceiling through 2024, the Senate will have only days before the June 5 deadline. And Senate leaders may have to do procedural acrobatics to clear the bill through their chamber in time to keep financial markets and everyday Americans comfortable.

“If somebody used every procedural motion, we wouldn't even be done by June 5,” said Sen. Debbie Stabebow (D-Mich.), the No. 3 Democratic leader, who supports the deal. “Anyone who runs this out just to be an obstructionist, I think would be extremely irresponsible.”

Stabenow, like many senators, foresees some Senate magic as the weekend gets closer and senators want to go home. But it could be a bumpy ride: Due to the quirks of the upper chamber, individual senators can drag out a bill for roughly a week, as all 100 members must agree in order to fast-track legislation.

It’s a very Senate debate, albeit one with serious ramifications if the country gets too close to the cliff. In 2011, Standard and Poor's downgraded the United States’ credit rating several days after Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling. Fitch has already put the U.S. on a negative ratings watch for this year’s saga.

But if conservatives get what they want, namely roll call votes on altering the bill, they may acquiesce and give the country plenty of breathing room before June 5.

“There are a lot of things that they could still do to convince me to collapse time,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who had threatened to “use every procedural tool” to impede a bill that didn’t have significant spending cuts. “If they don't do those things, then I might do that.”

There are tactics Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can use to minimize debate time and keep things moving but, in all likelihood, he’ll have to strike a deal of his own on the debt limit.

It won’t be a new version of a debt agreement; there’s not enough time for senators to change the bill and send it back to the House. Instead, Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will have to make a deal on amendment votes. Presumably, all of them would fail, but such an agreement would make individual senators feel heard on a two-year budget deal that takes the debt ceiling drama out of Washington until 2025 — and in turn, gives them political cover to allow the legislation to come to a quick vote.

“I haven’t heard much of a desire to delay the inevitable,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who once forced Senate clerks to read the entire American Rescue Plan.

A variety of senators are already making their demands known. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says he “will use all powers available” to get a vote on redoing the legislation’s small boost to defense spending, arguing it is insufficient. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) wants to strip approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from the bill; Kaine has fought the pipeline for months.

And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), no stranger to using impending deadlines as leverage, wants to vote on an alternative debt ceiling proposal that would raise the debt limit for a shorter time span while imposing hundreds of billions in budget cuts. He readily admitted his amendment won’t pass but said people need to see it get a vote.

“I don't think there are 50 votes. I think about half of the Republican caucus will support mine. No Democrats will support it. But the American people need to know that's where we are,” Paul said.

Some senators are already signaling they want to make the chamber look somewhat dignified in comparison to a House GOP majority that’s riven over the deal. McConnell and Schumer both endorsed the agreement Tuesday, a significant development as both urged Congress to send the bill to the president’s desk. McConnell called it a “historic agreement” while Schumer said he would move to pass it “as soon as we can.”

Both Senate Democrats and Republicans will meet for party meetings Wednesday and begin to assess what it will take to move the bill through the Senate quickly. On the Republican side, there’s already a split between McConnell allies and conservatives like Paul, Lee and Johnson.

“It's just a question of figuring out what the appetite is for amendments. And how our guys want to proceed. If they want to, there are a number of procedural ways they could slow it down,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).

This time, progressive grumbling could also become an issue. Some on the left are worried about additional work requirements for government benefits, losing billions for IRS enforcement and the potential environmental impact of the new pipeline. It's still unclear if they'll demand amendment votes.

“We don't build a stronger future as a nation by helping out tax cheats and taking away food from hungry people. This is just wrong,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who did not say whether she would oppose the bill. “I have concerns and I continue to read.”

At the moment, there’s a feeling in both parties that finishing up before the weekend is achievable, despite all the complaints about what’s in the deal. Democratic and Republican Party leaders are lining up behind the deal and conservatives are signaling they’ll allow it to move quickly — as long as they get their amendment votes.

Of course, it only takes one dissatisfied senator to change all that.

“It'll still pass before the deadline. It may be three in the morning on June 6,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). “But for all practical purposes, we're going to do the deadline.”

Republican candidate accused of lying about military record ends comeback bid

Politico -

JR Majewski, a pro-Trump Republican accused of misrepresenting his military record, is ending his comeback bid.

It marks a dramatic end for the Republican candidate who lost a competitive Ohio congressional seat in 2022 after his campaign became plagued by reports that he had lied about serving in Afghanistan, despite no military records that reflect such a deployment. Majewski has denied lying about his record.

Majewski, an Air Force veteran who launched a second run against veteran Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in April, sent an email to supporters on Tuesday announcing his decision to withdraw from the race, according to a letter obtained by POLITICO. He explained that his mother had to undergo triple bypass surgery later this month and that he wanted time to help with her recovery, especially because he lost his father during the last campaign cycle.

“Yes. I plan on withdrawing because of my mothers (sic) health,” Majewski confirmed to POLITICO, adding that "my family is top priority."

His decision is a coup for House Republicans, many of whom were not eager to see Majewski try again after a disastrous midterm result. During redistricting, Kaptur was drawn into a Toledo-based Republican-leaning seat that former President Donald Trump would have carried by 3 points in 2020 under the new lines. But the revelation by the Associated Press that Majewski had misrepresented his military service spooked the National Republican Congressional Committee, which slashed its planned ad buy in the district during the last campaign cycle.

Majewski beat two other state legislators in the 2022 primary for the seat, despite little spending or campaign infrastructure. He was perhaps best known for twice turning his lawn into a shrine to Trump. But that lack of successful fundraising, negative reports and poor outside help ultimately contributed to Majewski’s loss, and he lost the seat to Kaptur by double digits.

He was eager to try again in 2024, until his family’s medical problems arose.

“I hope you all understand. This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Majewski wrote in the email.

White House press shop adjusts to proliferation of AI deep fakes

Politico -

When an image showing what looked to be a bombing at the Pentagon started to spread online last week, the stock market dipped momentarily. Kayla Tausche, who covers the White House for CNBC, quickly started fact checking. Popping into Lower Press — the cluster of desks and offices behind the briefing room where many press aides work — she found principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton and asked about the reports.

“There was initially confusion about where it was coming from (I said ‘RT-style unconfirmed viral accounts’) and then exasperation,” Tausche told West Wing Playbook.

Dalton moved quickly, connecting with the Pentagon and National Security Council before telling Tausche there did not appear to have been a bombing. Once additional tweets suggested the phony image had been generated by artificial intelligence, Tausche followed up with Dalton to apologize for the diversion.

“She said, with visible frustration, that she is dealing with these types of inquiries on a daily basis, with greater and greater frequency,” Tausche added.

The White House press shop has found itself on one of the many front lines of the AI battles. Aides there, who collectively handle hundreds of media inquiries a day, have already been briefed by experts on the potential national security risks posed by images and videos that have been altered using AI, according to an administration official.

Outside the press shop, the White House has scaled up its efforts to assess and manage AI’s risks, impressing on AI companies during meetings on campus that it’s their responsibility to ensure their products are safe. It updated the strategic plan for AI research and development","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/National-Artificial-Intelligence-Research-and-Development-Strategic-Plan-2023-Update.pdf","_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">updated the strategic plan for AI research and development for the first time in four years and last week launched a process","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/05/23/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-takes-new-steps-to-advance-responsible-artificial-intelligence-research-development-and-deployment/","_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">launched a process to work toward developing an AI bill of rights.

“Everyone is trying very hard to be sensitive, to issue these warnings but without predicting what could happen, and that's because they don't know,” said Kara Swisher, a prominent tech-focused journalist. “Most people, if they're being honest, would tell you they don't know what's going to happen.”

The administration’s knockdown of reports of the Pentagon bombing — backed by a tweet from Arlington, Va.","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVaFD/status/1660653619954294786?ref_data-consent=","_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">backed by a tweet from Arlington, Va., first responders — was part of a swift debunking that helped the market recover after the S&P fell 0.3 percent, a momentary loss of some $500 billion in value.

But days later, another AI-generated deep fake popped up in the form of a video showing a purported Microsoft Teams call between anti-Russia activist Bill Browder and former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko arguing for the easing of sanctions","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://go.politicoemail.com/?qs=91717329563b6282993bdf2ec093d9cff31220dbea70ed2bbbfe115a2583aa4abf9ce38ffe9b5483c55554b4026d4642","_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50006","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50007","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">arguing for the easing of sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Both fakes were easy enough to spot for those familiar with AI. But as the technology develops and improves, AI-generated text, audio and video could quickly become indistinguishable from that produced by human beings.

On Tuesday, prominent industry officials, including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, issued a succinct but jarring statement","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.safe.ai/statement-on-ai-risk","_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50008","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a50009","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">jarring statement aimed at seizing the attention of global leaders: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the statement said.

When asked about the statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wouldn’t say if the president shares the belief that AI, if mismanaged, could lead to extinction. She only acknowledged that AI is “one of the most powerful technologies that we see currently in our time” and that the administration takes risk mitigation seriously.

There are various proposals floating for regulating AI — and Big Tech more broadly — on Capitol Hill, including legislation released earlier this month","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.bennet.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/1/2/12ae84c9-04fa-4fce-afef-b83726ef0b8b/7D763FFDBE9EEE69451A7C26EFCAC0F8.2023-dpca-one-pager.pdf","_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a5000a","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000188-6f27-deb6-afb8-6f6766a5000b","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">including legislation released earlier this month by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to create a new federal agency to oversee the technology.

“We remain concerned about an uptick in deepfake videos and manipulated images spreading on social media platforms,” said White House assistant press secretary Robyn Patterson. “As the technology for creating fake videos and images improves, it’s important for the media and the public to be aware of this trend, which we expect to grow, if not exponentially.”

While there are huge potential upsides with AI that are already triggering a global arms race to harness and capitalize on the technology, the unanticipated bumps could be severe, especially amid the coming presidential election.

“It’s not that one piece of content is going to be devastating; it’s the collective, scaled approach to inauthenticity that’s the problem. People can do this at scale now,” said Sarah Kreps, a professor at Cornell University’s Brooks School Tech Policy Institute and one of three AI researchers invited to speak to Biden’s new working group on the matter within the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. “It can look like massive numbers of citizens are supporting a particular issue when they’re not.”

In a country where sectarian partisanship has already given rise to misinformation and the spread of conspiracy theories, AI may only deepen the public’s growing mistrust of facts. “It just creates this ecosystem of distrust in a democracy where trust is such a foundational pillar,” said Kreps.

‘Not happy’: Key progressive pushes back on new food aid work requirements in debt deal

Politico -

The House’s biggest anti-hunger crusader is rejecting the Biden administration’s defense of new food aid restrictions in its deal with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling — but he didn’t say he wouldn’t vote for the legislation.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the ranking member on the House Rules Committee, said Tuesday that he’s “not happy” with the GOP-backed measure expanding work requirements on the nation’s leading food aid programs, which he had pleaded with White House negotiators to reject. McGovern also dismissed one of the White House’s key selling points on that part of the deal — that the expanded work requirements are offset by provisions that provide new access for veterans, the unhoused, and people just aging out of foster care. Biden aides hope that pitch will secure enough Democratic support for the bill ahead of the House vote on Wednesday. Without them, the legislation is likely to fail in the lower chamber.

The debt limit bill faces its first procedural Tuesday afternoon when McGovern and other members of the House Rules Committee are set to vote on the legislation. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that if Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit by June 5, the country is at risk of defaulting on its debt.

Many key progressives and even moderate Democrats had very publicly pushed the White House to reject any GOP demands to expand work requirements during the negotiations. Few, however, have weighed in on the deal’s language extending work requirements for a certain age group of people receiving food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — which anti-hunger groups say would increase poverty and hunger in the country.

“I’m just disappointed that it’s in there,” McGovern said in a brief interview. “We’re gonna have to figure out how to proceed here.”

McGovern also took issue with the idea that pushing several hundred thousand low-income Americans ages 50 to 54 off food aid, as the new work requirements are forecast to do, can be balanced out by providing the food aid to new groups of people. It’s also unclear if that estimate, on paper, will actually bear out in reality given the immense logistical challenge of signing up several hundred thousand new SNAP recipients, many unhoused and without documentation.

“This is a food benefit. So moving the deck chairs around and saying, you get food, but you don’t — that’s not a very convincing argument to me,” McGovern said.

McGovern declined to say if he would help Republicans get the bill out of the Rules Committee, if they end up short on votes as some GOP lawmakers are threatening to tank the bill. But he added he thought Republicans likely had the votes to advance the legislation to the floor.

“It’s a Republican bill. So they have the obligation to report it out,” he said.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed similar sentiments Sunday morning, describing the expansion of SNAP work requirements in the debt deal as an “absolutely terrible policy.”

The president, however, dismissed those objections Sunday afternoon.

Biden told reporters that Hill Democrats’ concerns that the new SNAP measure would lead some low-income Americans to go hungry, was a “ridiculous assertion,” shocking some in his own party.

A spokesperson for Jayapal declined to comment on Biden’s remarks.

Before Biden struck the final agreement with McCarthy late Saturday, Jayapal told POLITICO that any added work requirements on aid programs would increase hunger among poor Americans and the move was “a nonstarter” with her group, which includes about 100 House Democrats.

But key House moderate Democrats and even members of Democratic leadership are publicly warming to or getting behind the deal, arguing it's better than defaulting while publicly noting the changes will hurt poor Americans, despite the president's rejection of such concerns.

"It sounds like a simple, straightforward policy change," Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said in an interview. But he noted it needed to be measured against the "reality of people's lives," especially those "who are struggling to get by economically, some even to survive."

"I think it's an accommodation I wish we didn't have to make. But I don't want to rule out voting for the bill because of it," Durbin said.

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee charged with overseeing SNAP, initially described the GOP demands as “un-Christian.” Scott has yet to issue a public statement on the agreement struck this past weekend. A spokesperson for the Georgia Democrat didn’t respond to questions about the nutrition measures in the agreement.

Even the White House maintains that expanding work requirements for food aid “tie the most vulnerable up in bureaucratic paperwork” and “have shown no benefit for bringing more people into the workforce.” Republicans, however, have lauded new work requirements for both SNAP and the emergency cash aid program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which sunset in 2030, arguing they will help grow the workforce. Even with those measures in the debt deal, more than a dozen conservative members of the GOP caucus have made clear they will not vote for the legislation to raise the debt limit, forcing the House Republican majority to rely on Democratic votes to pass the bill.

McGovern, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, said at the beginning of the Rules Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon that he “didn’t come to Washington to hurt people,” referring to the agreement’s changes to SNAP and other key aid programs.

Fox News, backed by Trump White House lawyer, fights subpoena in leak lawsuit

Politico -

A former Fox News reporter is fighting in court to scuttle a subpoena demanding that she reveal the source behind a series of stories that aired confidential details of a counterintelligence probe into a Chinese American scientist.

That scientist, Yanping Chen, is suing the FBI for damages, claiming that the leaked information was part of a campaign to damage her after federal prosecutors ended their six-year investigation of her without bringing charges. Chen, who operated a graduate education program based in Arlington, Virginia, also subpoenaed Fox and Catherine Herridge, now of CBS — to force her to disclose the source of several 2017 stories.

Notably, Fox News and Herridge are being represented by Patrick Philbin, a former top lawyer from Donald Trump’s White House. Philbin, who decried media leaks during Trump’s first impeachment trial, appeared in court Tuesday to help Herridge fend off the effort to expose her source.

The FBI initially suspected that Chen had lied on immigration forms about her work on the Chinese space program, and she was the subject of two search warrants and seizures of her devices. But she was informed in 2016 that she would not be charged with any wrongdoing.

Within a year, Herridge was reporting on key aspects of the probe, as well as on the divisions within the government about the decision not to charge Chen. Chen says the reports were followed by a sharp drop in enrollment and funding for her graduate program.

Herridge’s reporting included “snippets of her immigration forms, a summary of an FBI interview with her daughter, and personal photographs of her and her husband,” according to U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper.

Chen sued the FBI, DOJ, Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security in 2018 seeking damages, an admission of wrongdoing from the government and prosecutions of any violations of the Privacy Act that may apply to her case. But after dozens of depositions failed to unmask the potential leaker, Chen turned her sights to Fox News and Herridge, which Chen’s attorneys say is a last resort.

The lawsuit has steadily advanced for five years despite generating little attention. Yet it represents the collision of a wide range of Washington interests and issues, carrying implications for how journalists’ First Amendment protections are balanced against the need to prevent leaks of sensitive government information that implicates privacy rights. Cooper noted in court Tuesday that while Congress passed the Privacy Act almost five decades ago, lawmakers have “not seen fit to pass a reporters’ shield law.”

“For better or worse,” the judge added.

Philbin, who works in the Washington office of the firm helmed by former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, sought to conduct Tuesday’s proceedings under seal, a nod to the voluminous details about the case that have been redacted from public view and the potential implications for the FBI’s counterintelligence operations. But Cooper declined, at first, to close the hearing to the public, instead urging Philbin to make broader legal arguments without delving into the sensitive details of the case. Cooper later sealed the hearing to permit the parties to delve into the sensitive details of the case.

During the public portion of the hearing, Philbin contended that Chen had failed to pursue all possible leads about the source of the leak before turning to a subpoena for Herridge. Chen’s inquiry centers around the existence of a PowerPoint document that contained details of the FBI’s probe that later wound up on Fox. Philbin said that while Chen narrowed down potential sources of the leak who “possessed” the PowerPoint to a handful of officials, she omitted a much larger number of people who had “access” to the file. That includes a counterintelligence “squad” of eight to 12 people who worked in an office where the PowerPoint was stored on a CD, he said.

Philbin’s comments prompted Justice Department senior litigation counsel Carol Federighi to interject, warning that he appeared to be veering into subjects meant to be kept from public view. Federighi intervened a second time when Philbin began to describe some binders that included pictures similar to information contained in the PowerPoint.

While journalists have won considerable protection in state courts and enjoy near-immunity from subpoenas by prosecutors in federal criminal cases due to DOJ regulations adopted by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Privacy Act lawsuits remain treacherous for members of the press.

In 2008, a judge handling a Privacy Act lawsuit brought by former government scientist Steven Hatfill ordered former USA Today reporter Toni Locy to pay escalating fines of up to $5,000 a day and attorneys’ fees for defying an order to identify her sources for stories about a federal investigation into Hatfill’s potential ties to deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.

Locy said she could not recall which sources provided specific information about Hatfill, but a judge rejected that.

While Locy’s appeal of that contempt order was pending, the U.S. government settled with Hatfill for $5.8 million, mooting the contempt fight.

Shortly after the settlement, the Justice Department informed Hatfill’s attorneys that investigators had ultimately concluded that Hatfill was not involved in the anthrax mailings.

Chen’s effort to seek damages comes just three months after the Biden administration shut down a China-focused anti-espionage program, known as the China Initiative, claiming it had created a false perception about Chinese Americans and U.S. residents from China.

Philbin has been a figure of intense interest in recent years for his presence in the White House during the crucial chaotic weeks at the end of Trump’s term, when Trump attempted to subvert the 2020 election and rebuffed calls to calm his supporters for hours as violence raged at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Philbin has interviewed twice with prosecutors now working for special counsel Jack Smith. But he’s also been seen entering the federal courthouse for various civil matters that he and his firm are involved in.

Philbin had a harsh assessment about media leaks during Trump’s 2020 impeachment trial on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress over allegations that he pressured Ukraine’s president to launch a criminal probe of Joe Biden. At the time, Philbin assailed congressional Democrats for what he said was animus toward Trump, exemplified by leaks from closed-door depositions.

“The testimony that took place was selectively leaked to a compliant media to establish a false narrative about the president. If that sort of conduct had occurred in a real grand jury, that would have been a criminal violation.”

No, that isn't the real AOC you may have seen on Twitter

Politico -

No, that wasn’t actually Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez you saw tweeting about having a crush on Twitter chief Elon Musk.

An account impersonating the New York Democrat cropped up over the weekend, going viral and catching the attention of both Musk and Ocasio-Cortez.

“FYI there’s a fake account on here impersonating me and going viral. The Twitter CEO has engaged it, boosting visibility,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Tuesday. “It is releasing false policy statements and gaining spread. I am assessing with my team how to move forward. In the meantime, be careful of what you see.”

Musk had previously responded to the tweet from the fake account claiming to have a crush on him with a fire emoji.

As of Tuesday evening, the fake account had racked up more than 130,000 followers.

The account, showing the name “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Press Release (parody),” was “verified” with a blue check. The verification system used to be a form of authentication for Twitter accounts — in part, a way to prevent users from confusing the accounts of government officials or famous users with fakes. Under Musk, the site switched to a pay-to-verify system, allowing any user to subscribe and have a blue check attached to their profile.

Ocasio-Cortez’s real account has a gray check, the type of verification now attached to government officials.

Two top Ramaswamy aides worked simultaneously for LIV golf

Politico -

Two top Vivek Ramaswamy advisers were simultaneously earning money through the Saudi government’s public investment fund while working on the entrepreneur’s 2024 presidential campaign.

Gitcho Goodwin, the firm led by longtime political operatives Gail Gitcho and Henry Goodwin, registered retroactively over the weekend as foreign agents for the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league. The firm revealed that it drafted marketing materials, conducted media training for players, and advised the golf league on its corporate social responsibility strategy, according to a new Foreign Agents Registration Act filing. Since March, Gitcho Goodwin earned more than $167,000 in reimbursements and fees for its work, according to their filing. A lawyer for the firm said the work ended on Monday morning and would file the appropriate termination paperwork.

It’s not uncommon for foreign entities to seek out politically-connected consultants to help navigate U.S. regulations and politics. But both Gitcho and Goodwin are not just consultants. They are currently senior advisers to Ramaswamy’s election team, according to an April memo from the campaign.

Their registration on behalf of LIV marks a stark overlap of foreign lobbying and a presidential campaign in which the state of U.S.-Saudi relations is likely to be a topic of debate. It was two days after the firm struck an oral agreement to work for LIV that it was first reported that Gitcho and Goodwin were signing on to be Ramaswamy advisers. Ramaswamy’s campaign declined to comment, noting Gitcho and Goodwin’s work for LIV had ended.

Officials with ties to foreign interests have served on campaigns before, though their involvement has led to controversy. The federal government has sought more disclosure in recent years around these arrangements while members of Congress have tried to curb foreign influences on elections.

The hiring of Gitcho Goodwin represented just the latest attempt by LIV Golf to make major inroads in U.S. politics, particularly on the Republican side of the ledger. It has teamed up with Donald Trump for events at his golf clubs, including one this past week, which the former president attended. It also plans to host an event at The Greenbrier, which is owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice who is currently a Republican candidate for Senate. It has also paid $370,000 to the firm HHQ Ventures — including former Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-Ariz.) — to lobby on its behalf, according to Lobbying Disclosure Act filings.

LIV’s connections to Republican presidential candidates go beyond Ramaswamy and Trump. Gitcho Goodwin was contracted to work for LIV through 50 State LLC and P2 Public Affairs, two subsidiaries of the consulting conglomerate GP3 Partners, which counts Phil Cox as one of its leaders. Cox was a top adviser to the super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign before stepping down recently.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that Cox would be working for LIV. But the new filings indicate that the relationship began much earlier than previously known, dating back to at least February when Gitcho Goodwin struck an oral agreement with GP3 to work for LIV. According to the Justice Department filings, Gitcho Goodwin “entered into an oral agreement” with GP3 Partners around February 20 to provide the league with public relations and consulting services.

As part of the arrangement, Gitcho Goodwin received a $55,000 monthly retainer, and would have received “a one-time $125,000 bonus upon successful renewal of GP3 Partners’ contract with LIV Golf,” according to the filings.

The league’s launch in the U.S. has been supported by a small army of consulting firms and D.C. insiders that have included the PR giant Edelman, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and McKenna & Associates. According to a 2021 FARA filing, the CEO advisory firm Teneo reported working on “Project Wedge,” which ultimately became LIV, for the Saudi wealth fund.

Prior to their work advising Ramaswamy’s long shot campaign, Gitcho served as a communications adviser for former Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker. She is a 2012 Mitt Romney alum. Henry Goodwin previously advised Bobby Jindal’s 2016 presidential campaign.

According to the filings, Gitcho Goodwin did not originally believe it needed to register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice. However, over the course of its work, it learned that the Public Investment Fund — the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia that finances LIV — ”occasionally oversaw its public relations activities.”

The firm also cited recent court filings in which a filing for the Public Investment Fund called the fund “inextricably intertwined with the [Saudi] government such that” the Public Investment Fund’s “objectives may be indistinguishable” from Saudi Arabia’s interests. A federal magistrate judge also wrote in a ruling in February that “PIF is not a mere investor in LIV; it is the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight and operation of LIV.”

“My client is committed to full compliance with FARA, and in an era of unprecedented enforcement and out of an abundance of caution, they have registered regarding their performance of public relations services for LIV Golf, the global sports league,” said David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana who previously oversaw FARA enforcement at the Justice Department and advised Gitcho Goodwin on whether to register as a foreign agent.

Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

Video: Chinese fighter jet buzzes U.S. Air Force plane in 'unnecessarily aggressive' maneuver

Politico -

A Chinese fighter jet conducted “an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” by darting in front of an American surveillance plane over the South China Sea on Friday, according to the U.S. military.

The incident, which was captured on video and released by the U.S on Monday, came as the U.S. Air Force RC-135 surveillance plane was flying in international airspace. The maneuver by the Chinese J-16 forced the U.S. plane to fly through the jet’s turbulence.

“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows, and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement. “We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.”

The intercept comes as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrives in Japan for consultations with officials there, the start of a trip that will also take him to India, followed by a major speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

It also comes as China’s defense minister, Li Shangfu, continues to refuse to speak with Austin despite repeated U.S. requests in recent months.

Chinese jets also buzzed American military aircraft over the South China Sea in February and December, drawing protests from Washington.

Senate eyes vote this week on repeal of Biden’s student debt relief

Politico -

The Senate is expected this week to take up House-passed legislation that would overturn President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan and nullify the pause on monthly student loan payments and interest.

The measure, H.J. Res. 45, could be considered in the Senate as soon as Wednesday or Thursday, according to Congressional aides.

House action: The House last week passed the Congressional Review Act resolution blocking student debt relief last week on a 218-203 vote. Two Democrats, Reps. Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and and Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez of Washington, joined with Republicans to pass the measure.

Senate process: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate education committee, who has been leading the charge to stop Biden’s student loan policies in that chamber, wrote in a Fox News opinion piece with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday that they expected the measure would be voted on this week.

The pair wrote that Biden’s student debt relief plan, which the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would cost roughly $400 billion, was among the “most egregious” examples of excessive government spending during this administration.

The “fast-track” procedures of the Congressional Review Act allow Republicans to force a floor vote on the measure in the Democrat-controlled chamber and pass it with a simple majority vote. It’s not yet clear if they’ll be able to win over enough moderate Democrats who have been cool to Biden’s debt relief plan to pass the legislation.

The Congressional Review Act limits Senate debate on resolutions to 10 hours, though lawmakers could reach a timing agreement that reduces that time.

Veto threat: The White House has said that Biden would veto the legislation if it passes Congress. “This resolution is an unprecedented attempt to undercut our historic economic recovery and would deprive more than 40 million hard-working Americans of much-needed student debt relief,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement last week.

Debt ceiling deal: The vote comes as the White House and House GOP leaders are racing to pass their agreement to raise the debt ceiling, which includes a provision requiring the Biden administration to restart monthly student loan payments and interest.

The deal would not rollback any part of Biden's plan to cancel up to $20,000 of debt per borrower, which the White House has hailed as a victory.

Meanwhile, some members of the House Freedom Caucus who are opposed to the debt deal on Tuesday cited student debt relief as one of the many areas where the bill doesn't go far enough in achieving conservative priorities.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chair of the caucus, said he was disappointed that the “student loan bailout” was left in tact under the deal. “Biden forgives, you pay,” he said. “None of that changes.”

The deal “upholds Joe Biden’s student loan transfer scheme,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) told reporters.

Jack Miller Center Unveils New Civics Library

Real Clear Politics -

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who means to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives," wrote James Madison. The success of the American experiment in self-government depends on an informed, united citizenry that is engaged in public life.

A China Reset?

Real Clear Politics -

U.S.-China relations are sour, with President Xi Jinping escalating military threats against Taiwan, walling off basic economic data on the Chinese economy, and doubling down on predatory development strategies. China views U.S. export controls as a deliberate scheme to maintain U.S. "technological hegemony." The Xi-Biden summit in Bali last November was quickly overtaken by the spy balloon fiasco, which led to a cancellation of a long-planned fence-mending visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.


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