The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump indicted. Now what?
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Trump indicted. Now what?
Former President Trump’s indictment Thursday in Manhattan prompted shock-and-awe headlines and predictions that criminal charges will change little for the norm-busting presidential candidate — or maybe a lot.
The charges against Trump will be announced when he’s arraigned, likely on Tuesday. In the meantime, he becomes the first current or former president to face criminal charges, a dynamic that could upend the 2024 election, even if the twice-impeached Trump faces no legal barrier to his pursuit of the GOP presidential nomination. The ultimate jury may be next year’s voters.
The New York Times: Indictment or conviction would not bar Trump from running for the White House. Extraordinary complications would arise if he were to be convicted and incarcerated and yet elected anyway.
The case brought by the Manhattan district attorney after a lengthy investigation and a grand jury vote is tied to a hush money payment to a porn star during Trump’s 2016 campaign. In some legal quarters, it is considered the weakest case among those that have been pending. Trump has denied wrongdoing while wielding the same phrase — “witch hunt” — to describe the New York investigation involving Stormy Daniels, Georgia’s probe into alleged efforts by Trump and associates to overturn the 2020 election results and a Justice Department special counsel’s two-track investigation of Trump’s election actions and his retention of classified documents.
“This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history,” Trump said, adding he is “a completely innocent person.”
The statement in its entirety expressed disbelief, anger and claims of victimhood — but Trump did not, at least immediately, call for his supporters to take to the streets or seem to encourage violence (The Washington Post). New York police increased their security presence in the city overnight.
The Justice Department and the White House had no comment on Thursday. President Biden, who is widely expected to announce a reelection campaign later this spring, has tried to steer clear of Trump’s legal entanglements while unreservedly bashing his policies. Biden’s initial denunciation of his predecessor’s possession of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago was overtaken when classified documents in the president’s possession were uncovered in three locations before Biden and his lawyers voluntarily relinquished them to the Justice Department.
The Hill: Five takeaways on Trump’s indictment.
The immediate questions posed by Trump’s indictment could fill a page: How will he use his criminal indictment to advantage with die-hard supporters, and will their reactions turn violent? How soon will the Georgia and federal probes into Trump’s actions conclude? Will GOP members of Congress, some of whom vowed to support Trump next year if he’s the nominee, reassess or double down on those commitments? Will Republican donors and even aggrieved former Trump associates cheer or assail the indictment? Will Fox News, pressured by defamation litigation that produced damning evidence against top executives and on-air personalities, back Trump with more, or more subdued, gusto?
▪ The Hill: Tucker Carlson: Trump indictment “greater assault” on democracy than Jan. 6.
▪ The Hill: Fox News host Jesse Watters “mad” about Trump indictment: “The country’s not going to stand for it. … People better be careful and that’s all I’ll say about that.”
▪ The Washington Post: GOP rivals, leaders rally around Trump.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s reaction Thursday suggested that Trump’s potential challengers, fearful of alienating Trump’s base and loath to invite personal attacks from the former president, will defend him publicly against what they say are his Democratic foes. The governor called the Manhattan indictment “un-American” and said Florida would not assist in any extradition request (The Hill).
“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head,” DeSantis said.
▪ The Washington Post: Trump and advisers were caught off guard by Thursday’s New York indictment timing.
▪ The New York Post: Late on Thursday, Trump appeared with former first lady Melania Trump at a Mar-a-Lago party (photo).
▪ The Atlantic, David Frum: Trump’s indictment presents Republicans, and all Americans, with a clear choice.
▪ The New Yorker, David Remnick: An American Tragedy, Act III.
▪ The Hill and CNN: “An outrage”: Former Vice President Mike Pence reacts to the Trump indictment.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says bank rules might have become too loose.
LEADING THE DAY
U.S. officials on Thursday denounced Russia’s arrest of Wall Street Journal Moscow-based journalist Evan Gershkovich, 31, on charges of espionage. A Russian district court in Moscow said Thursday that Gershkovich would be in pre-trial detention until May 29 (CNN).
“The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. The State Department has been “in direct touch” with the Russian government on the matter, she added, and officials spoke with Gershkovich’s family and the Journal.
National Security spokesman John Kirby said the presidentwas briefed on the situation Thursday morning. The newspaper has denied the charges and demanded Gershkovich — who covers Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union — be released. The U.S. journalist’s arrest in Russia, the first since the Cold War and the days of the Soviet Union, comes amid escalating tensions between the two nations over President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine (The Associated Press).
Russian intelligence FSB said Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg, on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains, and claimed he was “trying to obtain secret information” relating to “the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”
The Wall Street Journal: U.S.-Russia rift complicates case of arrested Journal reporter.
Nine U.S. service members were killed after two helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division crashed in southwestern Kentucky late Wednesday. There were no survivors, officials said. The two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that crashed around 10 p.m. in Trigg County near the Tennessee border were taking part “in a routine training mission when the incident occurred,” officials at nearby Fort Campbell said in a statement on Facebook (CNN and WSMV). Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) spoke about the crash during a Thursday news conference (The Tennessean).
The Hill: Army team heads to Kentucky to investigate a deadly helicopter crash.
“Today is a tough and tragic day for Kentucky, for Fort Campbell and for the 101st,” Beshear said. “The nine individuals we lost are children of God. They will be mourned and missed by their families, by their communities.”
Reuters: Biden will veto a Republican-backed bill to overturn police reforms in the District of Columbia, if passed by Congress, according to a White House official.
Biden designated today Transgender Day of Visibility, saying in a statement that the day “celebrates the joy, strength, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I know — people who have too often had to put their jobs, relationships, and lives on the line just to be their true selves.”
“Today, we show millions of transgender and nonbinary Americans that we see them, they belong, and they should be treated with dignity and respect,” he said in the statement. “Their courage has given countless others strength, but no one should have to be brave just to be themselves. Every American deserves that freedom.”
But this year alone, state legislatures have introduced more than 450 bills targeting LGBTQ identities — putting at risk the health and safety of LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people. According to the Williams Institute, transgender Americans are also four times more likely than their cisgender peers to be victims of violent crime. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth said they had seriously considered suicide in the past year in a recent report by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization.
Three months into an already record-shattering year for legislation targeting the rights of transgender Americans, LGBTQ legal groups and community organizers are focusing on the road ahead, where they say they can see successful court battles, repealed anti-LGBTQ laws and a better future in their sight line (The Hill).
▪ CNN: Understanding and supporting the transgender community.
▪ NPR: More states pass laws to restrict or ban gender-affirming care for transgender kids.
▪ The 19th: Democrats reintroduce federal Trans Bill of Rights as GOP tries to advance restrictions.
▪ The New York Times: Nebraska’s fight over transgender care turns personal and snarls lawmaking.
The Disney World oversight board installed by DeSantis accused its predecessor of using an 11th-hour agreement to sharply curtail the new board’s powers and bolster the company’s control over the Florida-based theme park (Orlando Sentinel and The Washington Post).
The Washington Post: Abortion rights will be on the ballot in Maryland in 2024, expected to pass. Gov. Wes Moore (D) says he will sign the measures and wants to make the state a “safe haven” for abortion.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The House on Thursday passed an energy package that was the Republican conference’s top legislative priority, sending the measure to the Senate where the Democratic leader has said it is “dead-on-arrival.”
The legislation, titled the Lower Energy Costs Act, passed in a 225-204 vote. Four Democrats — including Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.) and Jared Golden (Maine) — voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) was the only Republican to vote against it.
In broad strokes, the bill — which Republicans have named H.R. 1 to signify its status — would bolster fossil fuel production and exports, as well as domestic mining, and would aim to speed up the approval process for energy and other infrastructure projects. Additionally, it would repeal some programs in the sweeping climate legislation Democrats passed last year. And while the bill is not expected to advance further, it serves as a starting point for GOP lawmakers as they seek to negotiate with Democrats on finding a way to speed up the approval process for energy projects (The Hill).
Hard-pressed to come up with significant savings to reduce the deficit, Senate Republicans are taking a closer look at reforms and possible spending cuts to Medicare Advantage in light of reports that insurers have milked billions of dollars in extra profits by over-diagnosing older patients and manipulating the reimbursement system, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.
“To have a significant impact on fiscal policy, you’d have to look at entitlements,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who called Medicare Advantage “an area we’re going to be looking at very shortly — the committee will be looking at Medicare Advantage, the cost of Medicare Advantage… It’s become more expensive than the old fee-for-service Medicare.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), meanwhile, signaled Thursday that Republicans could forge ahead with their own bill to raise the debt ceiling and slash federal spending by billions as he reiterated his demand that Biden meet with him to discuss a potential deal. His ultimatum appeared to unite often fractious congressional Republicans — and set the stage for a potential political showdown in the face of a fragile economy (The Washington Post).
“I would bring lunch to the White House, I would make it soft food if that’s what he wants,” McCarthy said Thursday, making a swipe at Biden’s age. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet.”
Politico: The campaign to save TikTok has been years in the making.
Black women in Congress — specifically Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) — are taking the lead in trying to revive the Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee equal rights for all Americans regardless of gender. As The Hill’s Cheyanne M. Daniels reports, the ERA, a subject of furious debate a half-century ago, would be the 28th amendment to the Constitution if affirmed by Congress. Already, 38 states have ratified the amendment, and 27 states have their own ERAs in their state constitutions. And while much has changed since the battles over the ERA first began, the leadership of Black women has been a constant.
“Black women have always been leaders of the fight to enshrine equality in our nation’s constitution, but we haven’t always been in the headlines for leading that work,” Bush noted in remarks outside the Capitol this week.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the U.S. this week is a carefully orchestrated trip to project the island’s strength against China’s threats but calculated to avoid sparking a military conflict. As The Hill’s Laura Kelly writes, Taiwanese and U.S. officials are deliberately calling Tsai’s travel through New York and Los Angeles as “transit” stops on her way to and from official, diplomatic engagements in Central America.
It’s a weak cover story for Tsai to carry out important, high-level meetings with American lawmakers and civil society, who view Taiwan’s survival as a democratic country part of the vital national security interests of the United States. Chinese officials have lashed out at Tsai’s travel, viewing any global engagement with Taiwanese officials as an extreme provocation that undercuts what Beijing views as its solemn right to control the tiny island.
▪ Reuters: Taiwan, China must do “everything possible” to avoid war, says Ma Ying-jeou, former president of Taiwan.
▪ CNN: Beijing warns of “severe impact” on U.S.-China relations as Taiwan’s leader lands in New York.
Through wave after wave of Russian assault and tenacious Ukrainian defense over the course of eight months, Bakhmut has become a central battlefield of Russia’s invasion despite limited strategic significance. A mere six weeks after coming to help defend the city, the men of the Adam Tactical Group, one the most effective Ukrainian battle units, were quietly confident they had turned the tide against the Russian troops trying to encircle and capture the city.
“The enemy exhausted all its reserves,” the commander, Col. Yevhen Mezhevikin, told The New York Times Tuesday.
▪ CNN: “It’s a slaughter-fest for the Russians”: Top U.S. general on Bakhmut battle.
▪ The New York Times: Ukraine goes dark: Images from space drive home the nation’s anguish.
▪ ABC News: Wounded Ukrainian soldiers get prosthetic legs in the U.S. with help from a nonprofit.
▪ Al Jazeera: Austria’s far-right lawmakers walked out of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual speech to parliament.
He’s still on the job. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was fired on Sunday, setting off country-wide unrest, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never formally confirmed his dismissal. As Gallant continues to work, a spokesman for the prime minister said Thursday afternoon that no decision had been made on Gallant’s future, declining to comment further (The New York Times). Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Thursday evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (The Times of Israel).
The Associated Press: 35 bodies found inside well after collapse at Indian temple.
■ Even Trump should be held accountable, by The New York Times editorial board. https://nyti.ms/3M5lZUQ
■ “Strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan is not working, by Tara D. Sonenshine, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3zkZGmM
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will hold a pro forma session at 2 p.m. on Monday. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol in two weeks.
The Senate meets Monday at 12:30 p.m. for a pro forma session.
The president and first lady Jill Biden will fly to Mississippi this morning to meet at 12:55 p.m. with Rolling Fork’s first responders, state and local officials and community residents impacted by recent deadly tornadoes following a briefing at South Delta Elementary School. The president will deliver remarks at 1:25 p.m. The Bidens will depart Mississippi at 3 p.m. for Delaware while routing through Philadelphia. They will remain for the weekend in Delaware.
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff this morning are in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, poised for departure to Lusaka, Zambia, where they will be officially welcomed at the airport before the vice president sits down with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema at 2:15 p.m. CAT. Both delegations meet in an expanded bilateral at 2:25 p.m. CAT. Harris and Hichilema will hold a joint press conference at 3:40 p.m. CAT. Separately, Emhoff will meet at Kalingalinga School Yard at 2 p.m. local time with grant recipients of USAID’s Alternatives to Charcoal project, focused on clean cooking technologies. The vice president and second gentleman will meet with Speaker of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti at 5:10 p.m. CAT. They’ll meet with staff members and families of the U.S. Embassy Lusaka at 5:55 p.m. CAT.
Treasury Secretary Yellen will chair a 10 a.m. meeting of the boards of trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. She will hold a 2 p.m. bilateral meeting with European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager to discuss developments in the international financial system and the Clean Energy Incentives Dialogue.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report at 8:30 a.m. on personal income and spending in February. BEA at 10 a.m. will report state gross domestic product and personal income by state for the fourth quarter of 2022 and for the entire year.
➤ HEALTH & PANDEMIC
A federal judge in Texas appointed by former President George W. Bush on Thursday struck down the Affordable Care Act requirement that insurers cover some preventive care services. The ruling could jeopardize coverage nationwide for people relying on the health care law for screenings for cancer as well as HIV drugs. It’s not the first time Judge Reed O’Connor has targeted Obamacare in recent years. In 2018, he struck down the 2010 care law, saying, “The individual mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s tax power and is still impermissible under the interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the individual mandate is unconstitutional.”
Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, in a statement, said O’Connor’s ruling “is based on deep discrimination” against people who benefit from PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis medicines for non-HIV-positive people who are sexually active) and other medical services that prevent or detect serious health conditions. “We expect that the U.S. government will quickly act to stay this decision so that preventive services can continue nationwide, and appeal it,” he added, calling on health insurers to continue to cover preventive services without cost-sharing during an appeals period.
ObamaCare has won before the Supreme Court three times (NBC News).
Millions are poised to lose Medicaid as pandemic coverage protections end. Five states will start April 1 — the first date allowed under a recent federal law — to cut off beneficiaries who no longer qualify for Medicaid or have not provided proof they still deserve the coverage. Nearly all other states will begin to remove people between May and July (The Washington Post).
Congress on Wednesday night passed a GOP-led resolution to end the COVID-19 national emergency and Biden is expected to sign it, writes The Hill’s Joseph Choi. The national emergency is separate from the COVID-19 public health emergency, with some limited flexibilities tied to the declaration, and the impact of its dissolution likely won’t be that noticeable.
CBS News: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the decline in the U.S. but long COVID-19 cases prevail. Here’s why.
Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 1,596 for the most recent week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Morning Report is discontinuing its daily tracker after today.)
And finally … 👏👏👏 Kudos to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Sleuthing and Googling their way through headlines about spycraft, they conclude a newsy month of March in the puzzlers’ victory circle.
Here’s who went 4/4 about international surveillance and all things clandestine, ripped from recent headlines: Kathleen Kovalik*, Rick Dupré*, Dan Woolley*, Robert Bradley*, Edwin Shanahan*, Jeremy Serwer*, Bob McLellan*, Peter Sprofera*, Pam Manges, Bill Grieshober, Randall S. Patrick, Harry Strulovici*, Stan Wasser*, Mary Anne McEnery*, Richard E. Baznik*, Paul Harris*, Ki Harvey*, Steve James*, Luther Berg, Barbara Golian* and Patrick Kavanagh*.
They knew that China uses TikTok to spy on millions of Americans, including children, according to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who allege it’s a big national security and privacy problem.
Russia trained and controlled a spy formerly based in Washington who used a cover as a Brazilian graduate student, the Justice Department revealed in court, according to recent news accounts of the arrest of Sergey Cherkasov (aka Victor Ferreira) (The Washington Post and CBS News).
Israel on Wednesday launched a spy satellite into orbit.
Netflix debuted a popular new spy thriller just days ago, featuring a character named Peter who works out of the White House basement (NPR and The Hollywood Reporter). His employer is the FBI. 🥇Readers who identified the show as “The Night Agent” captured a bonus point (marked with an asterisk *, above).
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