“Welcome to a more full briefing room,” Psaki said, welcoming the larger group. “Double the fun!”
— On the continuing infrastructure talks: “The ball is in Republicans’ court. We are eager to engage and even have them down here to the White House once we see that counter proposal.”
— On whether this means Dems should start the reconciliation process: “We’re not quite there.”
— On the WSJ’s Wuhan lab news: “We don’t have enough data and information to jump to a conclusion at this point in time.”
— Psaki declined to share any private conversations between President JOE BIDEN and A.G. MERRICK GARLAND regarding reports of the DOJ seeking journalists’ phone and email records in previous administrations, but said: “What I can convey is that the president spoke clearly that he won’t allow the abuse of power to intimidate journalists, and he is alarmed by the reports of numerous abuses of power regarding how the previous administration used the powers of the Department of Justice.” (Biden had said on Friday it is “simply wrong” and “I will not let that happen.”)
— On Eugene’s question about how the White House can get anything bipartisan accomplished given that Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL recently said, “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration”: “It’s really a test for Republican senators, do they want to find common ground … or are they going to take all their direction from leadership?”
— On reports that Dems plan to use reconciliation to move immigration legislation: “The president doesn’t feel that reconciliation is the preferred path forward for moving these priority areas for immigration forward. … We should move things forward in a bipartisan manner and we will continue to press for that.”
— Psaki also made it clear there is no update to reverse or revise the Trump-Biden Title 42 expulsion policy for asylum seekers.
— Finally, asked for an update on Biden’s health regime and whether he brought his beloved Peloton bike to the White House, Psaki demurred: “I have nothing to read out on the president’s private exercise regime.”
Good Monday afternoon. JOIN US — DONALD TRUMP is winning the internal GOP war over the future of the party, following the ouster of Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) from leadership and the looming death of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot. Join RACHAEL and EUGENE on Tuesday, May 25, at 1:30 p.m. for an interview with Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.), a lead member of the Trump opposition. They’ll discuss his efforts to change the direction of the party — and whether it’s even possible. Register here
BIDEN’S ANNOUNCEMENT — “As hurricane season looms, Biden doubles funding to prepare for extreme weather,” WaPo: “President Biden will announce Monday afternoon that he’s doubling the amount of money the U.S. government will spend helping communities prepare for extreme weather events, while launching a new effort at NASA to collect more sophisticated climate data.
“While the $1 billion in funding is a fraction of what taxpayers spend each year on disasters, it underscores a broader effort to account for the damage wrought by climate change, and curb it. Just last week the president signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to identify and disclose the perils a warming world poses to federal programs, assets and liabilities, while also requiring federal suppliers to reveal their own climate-related risks.”
ON THE BLINK — “Blinken off to Mideast to push peace talks after Gaza truce,” AP: “President Joe Biden announced [Secretary of State ANTONY] BLINKEN would depart on Monday for a short visit to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt for what will be the Biden administration’s highest-level in-person meetings on the crisis that erupted earlier this month.
“Blinken’s primary goal will be to shore up the cease-fire in the hope that it will hold, discuss an urgent infusion of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, stress the need for an end to intra-communal violence within Israeli cities and lay the preliminary groundwork for a return to peace talks, according to a senior State Department official.”
— WHAT BLINKEN IS ARRIVING TO, via AP: “[W]hen U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits on Tuesday, he will meet with Palestinian leaders who were sidelined by the protests and outmaneuvered by the militant Hamas group — and who seem to be more despised by Palestinians than at any time in their long reign. The Palestinian Authority is no closer to statehood than it was when Mahmoud Abbas, now 85, was elected president in 2005 after the death of Yasser Arafat, and the Palestinians are far more deeply divided.”
THE BIDEN-PUTIN MEETING — “White House, Kremlin, aim for Biden-Putin summit in Geneva,” AP: “The White House and the Kremlin are working to arrange a summit next month between President Joe Biden and Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN in Switzerland, according to officials. National Security Advisor JAKE SULLIVAN is meeting with his Russian counterpart in Geneva, the proposed host city, this week to finalize details, according to one U.S. official familiar with the preliminary planning but not authorized to discuss the deliberations publicly.
“Geneva is now expected to be the choice for Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with Putin as president, according to a second official. The Americans and Russians are eyeing June 15-16 for the summit. An official announcement was expected in the coming days.”
WAPO INVESTIGATION — “Commerce Department security unit evolved into counterintelligence-like operation, Washington Post examination found”: “The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) covertly searched employees’ offices at night, ran broad keyword searches of their emails trying to surface signs of foreign influence and scoured Americans’ social media for critical comments about the census, according to documents and interviews with five former investigators.
“In one instance, the unit opened a case on a 68-year-old retiree in Florida who tweeted that the census, which is run by the Commerce Department, would be manipulated ‘to benefit the Trump Party!’ records show. In another example, the unit searched Commerce servers for particular Chinese words, documents show. The search resulted in the monitoring of many Asian American employees over benign correspondence, according to two former investigators.”
STIMMY STATUS REPORT — “Small Businesses Have Surged in Black Communities. Was It the Stimulus?” NYT’s Upshot: “There has been a surge in start-ups in America that experts have yet to fully explain. But a new study — using data that allows researchers to more precisely track new businesses across time and place — finds that the surge coincides with federal stimulus, and is strongest in Black communities.
“Across a number of states, the pace of weekly business registrations more than doubled in the months after the CARES Act was signed in March 2020. Business registrations rose again, by 60 percent, around the period of the supplementary aid package signed in December. Coinciding with the third wave of stimulus in March, weekly business registrations have been up by 20 percent, but the data is less complete.”
THE NEW NORMAL — “Biden administration moves toward making the pandemic work-from-home experiment permanent for many federal workers,” WaPo: “The shift across the government, whose details are still being finalized, comes after the risk-averse federal bureaucracy had fallen behind private companies when it came to embracing telework — a posture driven by a perception that employees would slack off unless they were tethered to their office cubicles. …
“Notice of the change is expected in June, when the administration is set to release long-awaited guidance to agencies about when and how many federal employees can return to the office — likely in hybrid workplaces that combine in-person and at-home options, according to officials and memos obtained by The Washington Post.”
STAKING THEIR CLAIM — “Top Republicans flock to Reagan Library to speak out on GOP’s future,” Fox News: “Kicking off the speaking series, which is titled “Time for Choosing,” is former House Speaker PAUL RYAN. The former Republican lawmaker from Wisconsin will travel to the famed presidential library situated in the hills of Simi Valley, Calif., to launch the speaking series with a Thursday address.
“Also taking part in the discussions about the future of the conservative movement – with speeches at a later date – are former Vice President MIKE PENCE, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former South Carolina governor and former ambassador to the United Nations NIKKI HALEY, and Sens. TIM SCOTT of South Carolina and TOM COTTON of Arkansas – all of whom are considered to be possible GOP candidates in the next race for the White House.”
WHO GETS PAID — “Tech giants’ foes open up their wallets to the House’s top antitrust Republican,” by Emily Birnbaum: “Colorado Rep. Ken Buck helped start a GOP groundswell earlier this year when he pledged to refuse campaign donations from major tech companies — some of the deepest-pocketed corporate players in U.S. politics.
“But that stance has enhanced his appeal with another group of big-spending political donors: the tech giants’ major antagonists and their lobbyists. Buck, the top Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, has raised tens of thousands of dollars from companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and Fox Corp. since June 2019, a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance disclosures shows.”
SCOTUS WATCH — “Supreme Court: Guam can pursue $160M dump cleanup lawsuit,” AP: “The Supreme Court says the U.S. territory of Guam can pursue a $160 million lawsuit against the federal government over the cost of cleaning up a landfill on the island. The justices on Monday unanimously overturned a lower court decision that had said Guam had waited too long to pursue the claim.”
STATE OF STATEHOOD — “Dozens of constitutional scholars tell Congress it has power to make D.C. a state,” NBC … The letter
TRY, TRY AGAIN — “Could Beto be back? O’Rourke mulling bid for Texas governor,” AP: “There’s no road trip, no soul searching. No beard or blogging. But BETO O’ROURKE is making a political life decision again. Three years after becoming Democrats’ breakout star out of Texas, and a year removed from crashing back to Earth in a short-lived presidential run, O’Rourke is again weighing another campaign — this time for governor.
“But now O’Rourke, who teased an announcement of his bid for the White House on the cover of Vanity Fair, is being quiet about it. … And Texas Democrats are itching for an answer. … A top aide to the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate said O’Rourke, 48, has not ruled out challenging Republican Gov. GREG ABBOTT in 2022 but has taken no formal steps toward a campaign, like calling donors or recruiting staff.”
STAFFING UP — “GOP data hub brings in new senior adviser,” by Alex Isenstadt: “CHRIS CARR, who has held senior positions on the Trump reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, has been tapped to serve as a senior adviser to Data Trust, according to three party officials familiar with the move. Carr will report to HENRY BARBOUR, the board chairman of Data Trust, and the organization’s overall leadership.
“Data Trust is a key piece of the Republican Party’s electoral machinery: It is the GOP’s centralized hub of voter data, providing that information to vendors and consultants throughout the party.”
MEDIAWATCH — “AP Staffers Demanded To Know Why Emily Wilder Was Fired After A Conservative ‘Smear Campaign’ Over Her Pro-Palestinian Activism,” BuzzFeed: “More than 100 Associated Press employees have criticized the way the news organization fired a young journalist last week after a conservative ‘smear campaign’ over her pro-Palestinian activism in college.
“In the open letter published Monday, AP staffers from across the world demanded more clarity from the company about why Emily Wilder, 22, was fired as a news associate in Phoenix only three weeks into her job.” The letter
— Paul McLeary is joining POLITICO as a defense reporter covering major weapons programs and acquisitions policy for all the military services. He currently is a senior reporter at Breaking Defense.
SPOTTED: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) on an American Airlines flight from Charleston to DCA this morning. According to a tipster, Scott was No. 2 on the upgrade list but did not get it 🙁 Pic
TRANSITIONS — Dominique McKay will be comms director for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). She currently is a director at Narrative Strategies and is a John Thune alum. … Becca Durr will be a principal at Public Strategies Washington. She previously was senior director of legislative affairs for the Credit Union National Association. … Natasha McKenzie is now deputy national finance director for John King’s Maryland gubernatorial campaign. She previously was deputy Midwest and South finance director at the DSCC.