12:30 Report

The Hill’s 12:30 Report — TikTok CEO grilled on Capitol Hill

State attorneys general have launched a nationwide investigation into TikTok and its possible harmful effects on young users’ mental health, widening government scrutiny of the wildly popular video platform. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

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–> A midday take on what’s happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.* 

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha–breaks down crying hysterically.


Times up? TikTok CEO gets congressional thumping:

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is grilling TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew today amid concerns about consumer privacy and data security. 

The federal government (with the support of President Biden) has mulled banning the video sharing platform over concerns about parent company ByteDance’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Democrats and Republicans have voiced concern about the company’s ties to the Chinese government. 

China has objected to calls for a forced sale of the social media platform. 

During this morning’s hearing, House lawmakers pummeled Chew with questions about whether TikTok could be used to spy on American users. 

Chew largely dodged “yes or no” questions about the app to obviously skeptical lawmakers. 

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) called Chew’s assertions that the Chinese government has never sought access to the app’s data “preposterous.”  

“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values,” House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said, calling for a ban.

Watch more from the hearing here


More on Chew’s background here from The Hill.

It’s Thursday, March 23. That means it’s almost Friday. I’m Elizabeth Crisp, filling in for Cate today, with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up.

Did someone forward this newsletter to you? Sign up here. Send me your tips, scoops and any other feedback to ecrisp@thehill.com and follow me on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. 

In Congress 

Manhattan DA objects to House GOP demands:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) says House GOP leaders’ demands that he testify about the ongoing investigation into former President Trump is an “unlawful incursion.” 

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has demanded that Bragg turn over documents and communications about the case. 

In a response, Bragg on Thursday called the situation “an unprecedent[ed] inquiry into a pending local prosecution.”  

“The letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene,” he wrote. 

The Hill’s Rebecca Beitch has more on the unfolding situation


The Manhattan grand jury is not taking up Trump’s alleged hush money case today, pushing any potential indictment to Monday at the earliest.

Sinema unleashed: 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) says he’d be open to stumping for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) if she decides to run for reelection next year. 

Politico’s Jonathan Martin took a deep dive into the Sinema situation, noting the Democrat-turned-independent Arizona lawmaker “has used a series of Republican-dominated receptions and retreats this year to belittle her Democratic colleagues, shower her GOP allies with praise and, in one case, quite literally give the middle finger to President Biden’s White House,” Martin reports. 

Sinema also has dished on why she stopped attending Democratic caucus lunches. 

“Old dudes are eating Jell-O, everyone is talking about how great they are,” Sinema told a group of Republican lobbyists at a reception one attendee told Martin. “I don’t really need to be there for that. That’s an hour and a half twice a week that I can get back.” 

And that middle finger salute? That was for former White House chief of staff Ron Klain

Read more here via Politico

🌎 In the White House 

120 leaders invited to Biden’s democracy summit:

The Biden administration has invited 120 global leaders to take part in next week’s Summit for Democracy, The Associated Press reports based on word from an unnamed senior administration official.  

Bosnia, Gambia, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Lichtenstein, Mauritania, Mozambique and Tanzania are being invited this time around after being left out of the 2021 gathering. 

The summit will take place Wednesday and Thursday and will be co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia. 

More from the AP here.

🦠 White House winding down covid team:

After three years, the White House COVID-19 response team is coming to an end when the public health emergency declaration expires in May. 

The Washington Post (citing “multiple current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal operations”) reports that national coordinator Ashish Jha will likely leave the Biden administration as the effort winds down. 

“As a result of this administration’s historic response to Covid-19, we as a nation are in a safer, better place than we were three years ago,” a senior administration official told WaPo. “Covid no longer disrupts our lives because of investments and our efforts to mitigate its worst impacts. Covid is not over, fighting it remains an administration priority, and transitioning out of the emergency phase is the natural evolution of the covid response.” 

Why it matters: More than 1.1 million people have died of covid in the U.S. since the pandemic began in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2,000 people are still dying per week, but that’s significantly lower than during pandemic peaks. 

Shifting tides: The White House scale back comes as the new GOP majority in the House kicks off its own scrutiny of pandemic response and the virus origin.  

“We have a ‘war on cancer,’ and that doesn’t require a cancer czar,” Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco told the Post.  

🏃 2024 

Midwest is best? Dems from there think so 

Midwestern Democrats are pressing President Biden to pick Chicago for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, NBC News reports

Governors, members of Congress and other leaders penned a letter this week calling on the White House and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison to choose Chicago in a sign of support for the “blue wall” of states backing Democratic candidates for president. 

“Those states were taken for granted until ominous warning signs flashed on Election Day, at which point they were already lost,” the letter, which NBC got its hands on, reads. “That single exception proves the rule: When the future of the country hangs in the balance, we cannot afford to overlook the Midwest.” 

In other news 

Canceling subscriptions could get easier: 

The Federal Trade Commission is looking to make it easier to cancel free trials and subscriptions.  

The “click to cancel” proposal would require sellers to make canceling an enrollment more straightforward to battle “seemingly never-ending struggles” customers sometimes face. 

“Some businesses too often trick consumers into paying for subscriptions they no longer want or didn’t sign up for in the first place,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a news release. “The proposed rule would require that companies make it as easy to cancel a subscription as it is to sign up for one.”  

Under the proposed rule, sellers could still make subscription modifications to try to keep customers if they are disclosed.  

Sellers would also have to notify customers about some automatic renewals. 

More from The Hill here

🐥 Notable tweets 

In search of Trump supporters in Manhattan: 

Jordan Klepper, from “The Daily Show,” headed to downtown Manhattan this week to find Trump supporters protesting the former president’s possible indictment. See the video “The Daily Show” tweeted about what Klepper found. 

Place your bets — best political ad version: 

The folks at AdImpact Politics are running a Twitter March Madness poll in search of the best political ads of 2021-2022. Check out the latest bracket here on Twitter.   

On tap 

The House and Senate are meeting today. President Biden and Vice President Harris are in D.C. ahead of the president’s trip to Canada.  

  • 9 a.m.: The president received his daily briefing at the White House. 
  • 10 a.m.: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is taking part in a Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee hearing.  
  • 10 a.m.: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began testifying to the House Appropriations Committee. 
  • 1 p.m.: President Biden hosts an event marking the 13th anniversary the Affordable Care Act. 
  • 4:40 p.m.: The president and first lady depart the White House for their trip to Canada. 
  • 6:40 p.m.: The Bidens will be greeted by Canada Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and her husband, Whit Fraser
  • 8:25 p.m.: The Bidens will be greeted by and meet privately with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Trudeau
  • Note: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security adviser Jake Sullivan will talk to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Ottawa. 

All times Eastern. 

📺 What to watch 

  • The House Energy & Commerce Committee is hearing from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew amid concerns about consumer privacy and data security. (Watch here
  • 1 p.m.: The president hosts an event marking the anniversary of former President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law 13 years ago. (Watch here

In lighter news 

Today is National Tamale Day! It’s believed that the delicious, portable food originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 B.C. 

And because you made it this far, check out this video of the Cincinatti Zoo’s hippo siblings Fritz and Fiona splashing around together. 🦛 

Tags 12:30 Report Alvin Bragg Capitol Hill China Donald Trump Donald Trump economy Jim Jordan Joe Biden Manhattan DA Mitt Romney Social media TikTok White House

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