The Hill’s Morning Report — What changes at Twitter under Musk?
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that Elon Musk, the richest person in the world, says is a digital town square that will improve after he closes his ownership agreement reached on Monday with the company’s board to spend about $44 billion and take it private.
Twitter’s ownership upheaval might have been a techie market-focused sidebar, except that the owner will be Musk, often described as the inscrutable CEO of Tesla and innovator behind SpaceX. Twitter, founded in 2006, caters to more than 206 million users on a planet with nearly 8 billion humans, but they are some of the noisiest, most opinionated, most famous, thought-shaping and bottom-feeding minds in any language.
News of the sale moved markets, prompted hand-wringing in Congress, sparked U.S. and European regulatory questions, and rumbled through the political world, where social media megaphones are loved and loathed.
Former President Trump, who was kicked off Twitter for false and misleading tweets and incitement of violence, called Musk “a good man” who could improve the platform, but he said he would not return to Twitter, where he once had more than 80 million followers (Fox News). Needless to say, some Trump advisers don’t believe him (The Washington Post).
The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that on Capitol Hill, progressives anticipate that Musk’s new acquisition will mobilize lawmakers who favor breaking up Big Tech companies. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Musk’s vision of a global town square and his interest in freedom of speech prompt an easy first question: Is “the message board going to include Donald Trump?”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), also a Judiciary Committee member, who in 2020 described Trump supporters as “very anti-immigrant and white supremacist,” voiced a similar concern on Monday. She said she believes social media platforms have “the responsibility … to do a better job of keeping out the lies” (HuffPost).
The announced deal at $54.20 per share, which had been building for weeks, sparked shirt-rending and speculation on Twitter, where else? The new billionaire owner added to the intrigue.
■ The New York Times: Four ways Twitter could change under Elon Musk.
■ DealBook, The New York Times: The Musk-Twitter endgame.
■ The Wall Street Journal: What Musk would do with Twitter.
■ WIRED: How Musk won Twitter.
■ Politico: Musk has tangled with official Washington through Tesla and SpaceX. Now Twitter?
■ The Associated Press: Analysts question whether Musk knows what he’s getting into with content moderation challenges.
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LEADING THE DAY
➤ POLITICS & CONGRESS
A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from ending the Trump-era Title 42 policy that bars migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, a restriction that was implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision by Judge Robert Summerhays, a Trump appointee, will prevent the administration from carrying out its plans to end the policy on May 23. The order, though temporary, is a victory in a suit initially filed by Louisiana, Missouri and Arizona that includes more than 20 GOP-led states.
The details of the order are unknown. A summary of the non-public hearing said that “the parties will confer regarding the specific terms to be contained in the Temporary Restraining Order and attempt to reach agreement.”
The future of the program has proved to be a problem for Democrats. If the temporary ruling is made permanent, it would be a major political relief for a number of moderate Democrats and those who are up for reelection in the fall who had been critical of the administration’s decision. Among their top arguments was that the White House did not have an adequate plan to deal with the looming surge at the border in late May once the policy came to an end (The Hill).
The Hill: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warns of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
➤ Jan. 6 latest:
McCarthy insisted on Monday that he did not lie when he denied Thursday’s report in The New York Times that he considered calling Trump to suggest he should resign in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
McCarthy, speaking to reporters at the U.S.-Mexico border, said that he was under the impression that the Times was reporting that he called Trump urging him to resign, hence why he denied the story.
“The reporter never asked me that question. The reporter came to me the night before he released the book, and my understanding was he was saying that I asked President Trump to resign. No, I never did, and that’s what I was answering,” McCarthy said (CNN).
© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, 2021.
However, the GOP leader’s answer does not hold muster, as even after the story was published, he tweeted out that the report was “totally false and wrong.” The original story also contained a denial from a McCarthy spokesman, who said that “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.” Hours later, audio of McCarthy’s remarks were played on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
Meanwhile, the select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack is zeroing in on one phrase by McCarthy during those leaked calls regarding his unwillingness to “get into any conversation about [former Vice President Mike Pence] pardoning,” as Rebecca Beitsch notes.
In addition, newly revealed text messages show that then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was caught in the middle of GOP factions who were heaping pressure on him to challenge the 2020 election and others who were skeptical and critical of Trump’s election fraud claims.
The messages Meadows turned over to the panel totaled more than 2,300 and add to reports showing that Republicans were pressuring Pence to side with Trump.
In response to a message from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who told Meadows on behalf of a constituent saying he should “call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all,” the former North Carolina lawmaker said that he wanted that to happen as well.
“I have pushed for this. Not sure it is going to happen,” Meadows wrote the morning of Jan. 6 (The Hill).
The Associated Press: Judge finds Trump in contempt in New York legal fight.
Times Herald-Record (Middletown, N.Y.): Jury selection for former New York police officer Thomas Webster began on Monday. He was videotaped attacking law enforcement, but claims self-defense.
Washington Examiner: Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C.) seeking top Financial Services Committee spot instead of House GOP leadership position.
➤ Biden World moves:
Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to the president, is set to depart the White House, becoming one of the first top Biden aides to leave the administration as Democrats brace for a rough-and-tumble midterm election cycle.
The New York Times reported the upcoming exit, saying that the former Louisiana Democrat is expected to take a job in the private sector and will remain as a consultant to the Democratic National Committee as the months move closer to the elections. White House press secretary Jen Psaki teased the move, telling the press corps that when she has “something to announce, it will involve a new important role for Cedric Richmond,” adding that it’s a job President Biden is “excited about and has asked him to do.”
On the electoral front, Biden on Monday endorsed Rep. Kurt Schrader (Ore.), a leading moderate Democrat, over the progressive candidate ahead of the May 17 primary in Oregon. In a statement, Biden hailed him for being there for him “when it has mattered most” (Oregon Public Broadcasting).
The Hill: GOP hopes to make gains with women by highlighting inflation.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: Illinois governor’s race becomes battle of the billionaires.
The New York Times: Front-runners in GOP Pennsylvania Senate race are put on spot at debate.
The Hill: Takeaways from Monday’s Pennsylvania GOP Senate debate.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
Vowing to weaken the Russian military is a different U.S goal than pledging to fortify Ukraine’s forces in a war.
Biden, his top advisers and some leaders in Congress believe Ukrainians are making such impressive use of the heavy weapons, ammunition, intelligence and funding supplied by Western allies that the U.S. goal must be to pound Russia into retreat or defeat and render the superpower unable to carry out such military aggression anywhere (The New York Times).
The administration, anticipating Russian President Vladimir Putin’s renewed military efforts to seize territory in Ukraine’s Donbas region in the east and to cripple its critical infrastructure everywhere, publicly argues that Russia is losing its war after two months.
The Associated Press: Today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West again of potential nuclear consequences. “The danger is serious,” he said. “It is real. It should not be underestimated.” The Ukrainian city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen to Russian forces, according to the latest British Defense Ministry update today.
The Guardian: Russia on Monday bombed five Ukrainian train stations in central and western Ukraine in the span of an hour.
U.S. officials say Putin’s initial aims have been scuttled: NATO is more unified, global sanctions against Russia are crippling its economy, Ukraine’s military ferocity confounds the Kremlin, Russia failed to seize Kyiv, Mariupol is decimated but not surrendering and Russia was humiliated by Ukraine’s apparent sinking of Russia’s battleship Moskva with well-targeted missiles.
From furnishing billions of dollars in weaponry and supplies, to providing intelligence and military training, to gathering evidence of war crimes, to Biden’s red-hot rhetoric about Putin, Washington’s defense of Ukraine has become offense against Moscow.
David Sanger, The New York Times: “The risk is that ‘degrade Russian military power’ could easily shift into a degradation of Russia as a power generally — and that Putin will use that to stoke nationalism,” James Arroyo, a former senior British national security official, told the Times.
The Hill: House lawmakers returning from recent visits to Eastern Europe say the international efforts to support Ukraine are necessary to shield a global democratic order from the growing threat of despotism. “We are at the beginning of this war, really,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Ukraine Caucus.
CBS News: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will meet with Putin today in Moscow after an initial stop in Turkey.
© Associated Press / Leo Correa | Monday in Pokrovsk, Ukraine, train station.
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday handed down its first full approval for a COVID-19 treatment for children under age 12.
The FDA granted approval to remdesivir, known also as Veklury, a Gilead Sciences product that previously was approved for adults. The treatment was previously under emergency use authorization for children.
“As COVID-19 can cause severe illness in children, some of whom do not currently have a vaccination option, there continues to be a need for safe and effective COVID-19 treatment options for this population,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval of the first COVID-19 therapeutic for this population demonstrates the agency’s commitment to that need.”
Now, all eyes are on regulators as they look at potentially giving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for young kids the green light in June (The Hill).
Today, the White House announced federal expansion of free COVID-19 treatments, such as Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, to 40,000 sites around the country with enough supply for 20 million people. In coming weeks, the government will work with states to expand free Test-to-Treat sites beyond existing pharmacies that have partnered with the administration and improve guidance to physicians who are working with patients to obtain available treatments, according to the White House (The Wall Street Journal and KOMO News).
Bloomberg News: Why nasal sprays are poised to be the next weapon for fighting COVID-19.
The Associated Press: Beijing enforces mass COVID-19 testing, closes neighborhoods.
The Hill: ChinaCOVID-19 lockdowns threaten higher prices in U.S.
The Hill: Former Trump administration coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, who is on a book tour with a new memoir, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she demanded the White House retract Trump’s briefing room comment in 2020 about possibly treating COVID-19 with injected disinfectant, what he called “almost a cleaning” of the lungs.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University: 991,609. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 314, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Elon Musk, Twitter and free speech, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3rQaVjB
Musk’s Twitter: Weed memes. Editable tweets. And the return of Trump, by Kara Swisher, opinion writer, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3rQUELp
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 2 p.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.
The president and Vice President Harris receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 3 p.m. Psaki will be joined at the podium by new White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, just returned from Ukraine and Poland, will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10 a.m.
The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress tonight at a Washington event will honor Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Angus King (I-Maine) with the organization’s Publius Award for “bipartisan leadership, pragmatism and civility.”
➤ SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review the request of Rodney Reed, a death row inmate, for DNA testing of evidence gathered in connection to the 1996 murder for which Reed was convicted and sentenced to death. Reed has maintained his innocence throughout and has long called for DNA testing of items on and around Stacey Stites, the victim (The Hill). … Justices on Monday also posed sharp questions during oral arguments over a case involving Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach who was reprimanded for holding postgame prayers on the football field’s 50-yard line. It was not apparent from the roughly 90-minute argument how a majority of justices would rule in the case, according to The Hill’s John Kruzel.
➤ STATE WATCH
Taxes on legal marijuana are surpassing liquor taxes in the states that have welcomed cannabis business, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson. Currently, 18 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have made marijuana legal (U.S. News & World Report).
© Associated Press / Paul Sancya | Cannabis plants growing in Jackson, Mich., in March.
The U.S. Navy is opening a probe into the deaths of seven sailors assigned to the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, including three who were found dead in a single week. The Navy’s investigation will include correlations, command climate, and culture issues, and the systemic relationships between them. Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, also asked his staff to work with Naval Air Force Atlantic, the ship, and other Navy stakeholders to “better understand and assess the efficacy of the existing Total Sailor Fitness programs,” according to Capt. Sarah Self-Kyler, a spokesperson for U.S. Fleet Forces Command (The Hill).
And finally … A first in space exploration.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule, which contained four crewmembers from the Ax-1 mission, completed the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station on Monday as the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. The splash-landing took place off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., on Monday afternoon, completing the 17-day expedition.
“On behalf of the entire SpaceX team, welcome back to planet Earth,” a SpaceX mission communicator told the crewmembers following the splash (Space.com).
© Associated Press / via SpaceX | The Dragon space capsule returns to Earth from the International Space Station on Monday.
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