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In today’s edition, new Gallup polling on how voters view President Biden and Donald Trump, the Trum͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
thunderstorms Washington
thunderstorms Guangzhou
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April 3, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Trump’s Nebraska gambit
  2. Gallup digs into Biden/Trump
  3. Israel pressure mounts
  4. Trump’s courtroom campaign
  5. U.S.-China talks
  6. Tax bill chatter
  7. Wisconsin constitutional amendments

PDB: NATO weighs Ukraine plan

Biden speaks about healthcare … Deadly earthquake hits Taiwan … José Andrés in NYT: ‘Let People Eat’

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Trump and Nebraska governor push to deny Biden a crucial electoral vote

Ron Sachs/CNP/Sipa USA

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen endorsed legislation that would take Omaha’s potentially decisive electoral vote out of play for Democrats, hours after conservative activist Charlie Kirk’s Tuesday X post suggesting it, Semafor’s David Weigel reports. In 200 words, Kirk urged Republicans to repeal the state’s 1991 law that assigned two electors to the winner of the state, and one for each of its three congressional districts; in 2008 and 2020, the Omaha-based 2nd district voted Democratic, saying it was “pointlessly giving strength to their political enemies.” Pillen put out a statement supporting a bill that would convert the state to a winner-take-all system, five hours and 10 minutes later. Donald Trump weighed in early Tuesday evening, praising Pillen’s “very smart letter” in a Truth Social post.

The Nebraska split has drawn special attention this year because of the unusually high chance the state plays tiebreaker in a close race: If Biden lost only Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada from his 2020 column, he would win the electoral college 270-268 with Nebraska’s 2nd District. But Democrats, who hold just a third of the state senate, predicted the bill would be blocked as the legislative session ended this month. “The Nebraska Democratic Party is watching this bill closely and still believes we have the votes to stop the Republicans from removing a fair electoral system that represents voters,” Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb told Semafor.


Gallup: It’s ‘likable’ Biden versus ‘strong’ Trump

The 2024 race could come down to Joe Biden the backslapper versus Donald Trump the strongman. New Gallup polling testing each candidate’s individual qualities finds that the president’s personality remains his biggest asset heading into the general election — 57% agree he’s “likable,” albeit down from 66% in 2020. Only 37% say the same of Trump. Trump retains an advantage on “strong and decisive leader,” however — 57% of Americans say they agree with that characterization, versus 38% who say the same of Biden. Views on Trump are largely unchanged since the last election, but Biden has seen some slippage. With neither candidate looking especially popular, the so-called “double haters” — voters who dislike both candidates — seem poised to again play a major role in deciding the outcome. Gallup’s polling in March also found 29% of respondents thought neither Biden nor Trump “would be a good president,” including 42% of independents.

— Benjy Sarlin


Israel faces blowback over strike on aid workers

Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israel is facing an international backlash over its strike that killed seven aid workers with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the strike “tragic” and unintentional. But the White House is demanding a broader investigation into the incident and for those responsible to be held accountable. “Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” President Biden said in a statement expressing outrage at the deaths following a call with Andrés. The U.K. summoned the Israeli ambassador (the dead included three British nationals, as well as workers from Palestine, Poland, Australia, and a U.S.-Canadian dual citizen). Several relief organizations, including World Central Kitchen, have also suspended operations in Gaza. Still, American officials signaled no shift in support for Israel as it fights Hamas. “We’re still going to make sure that they can defend themselves,” national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “That doesn’t mean that it’s a free pass.” According to HuffPost, humanitarian experts at USAID warned in a cable sent Tuesday to national security and diplomatic officials that famine is already occurring in areas of Gaza.


Trump camp prepares for a courtroom campaign

REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

Donald Trump hit the campaign trail on Tuesday, but his wings could soon be clipped by a six-week criminal trial starting April 15. His staff is already looking at ways to fit in events in between his required courtroom appearances as he faces criminal charges in the New York hush money case, Semafor’s Shelby Talcott reports. Wednesdays are expected to be free, there may be room for mini-trips to neighboring states in the evenings, and weekends will be crucial. Trump sometimes showed up to court dates voluntarily during the primaries, betting correctly that GOP voters would rally to support him. But a big unanswered question is how a general election audience responds to his usual claims of persecution and his nonstop attacks on judges and prosecutors. “I don’t think our messaging needs to change,” one Trump aide told Semafor. “It’ll be just as effective during the primary as it will be in the general, or vice versa.”


Yellen heads to China after Biden-Xi call

Brendan Smialowki/Getty Images

They’re still talking: Following President Biden’s call with Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is leaving for Guangzhou today for four days of meetings with Chinese officials. She’s set for sit downs with her counterpart Vice Premier He Lifeng and Premier Li Qiang, during which she plans to press them on China’s trade practices and industrial overcapacity. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Yellen wouldn’t comment on the possibility of new tariffs but said the U.S. would do what it needs to to protect critical U.S. industries. Biden and Xi spoke at length on Tuesday about areas of friction, including Taiwan, China’s confrontations with the Philippines, and even TikTok. Biden — whose meeting with the leaders of Japan and the Philippines next week will be dominated by China — also warned Xi about supporting Russia’s defense industrial base. But both sides described the conversation as “candid and constructive” and the U.S. expressed cautious optimism about progress on an AI, military-to-military communications, and combating fentanyl.


Could Congress’s stalled tax bill see a vote after all?

REUTERS/Craig Hudson/File Photo

Remember how Congress’s big tax bill looked like it was near death right before recess? Well, it still is. But there’s now chatter around K Street that Democrats might try to put it on the floor late next week just before the April 15 tax deadline despite opposition from Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo, and essentially dare Republicans to veto it. “If you’re a Democrat I don’t know what you’d have to lose, it’s kind of a win-win,” one GOP lobbyist told Semafor. If “Republicans vote it down, then the business community is going to blame Crapo and Republicans for this — right or wrong, that’s what’s going to happen.” Depending on how much floor time the Senate needs for other business like handling a Mayorkas impeachment trial, Democrats might only have time for a message vote before Tax Day; to pass it quickly, they would have to bring the bill up via unanimous consent, which could be blocked by any single senator. A spokesman for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declined to comment.

Joseph Zeballos-Roig


Wisconsin voters approve anti-“Zuckerbucks” amendments

REUTERS/Erica Dischino

Wisconsin voters approved two Republican Party-backed constitutional amendments, which will prevent private grants from paying for election administration and limit who can fulfill official election duties. Democrats opposed both measures, but did not build the sort of organization that won them last year’s decisive supreme court race. “Wisconsinites have turned the page on Zuckerbucks and secured our elections from dark money donors,” Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brian Schimming said in a statement – “Zuckerbucks” was the term Republicans used to describe private grants after Facebook’s CEO donated $400 million to election security efforts in 2020. The margins were closer in Wisconsin than they’d been in last year’s anti-”Zuckerbucks” vote in Louisiana, when a ban passed with 73% of the vote, and the “no” side won in the state’s most reliably Democratic counties.

David Weigel

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Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan for a new Ukraine bill is “iffy at best and will almost certainly have to change.” One major hurdle he faces, for example, is that the House Rules Committee is basically controlled by a trio of Ukraine aid skeptics.

Playbook: The Israeli strike that killed World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza sparked considerable outrage in Washington and a sensitive response from Israeli officials, in part because of José Andrés’ clout. “His access and the respect he garners from people in the Democratic Party, he’s going to have their ear in a way that many other people will never get to have their ear. And I think that that is going to mean something,” one Democratic strategist said.

Axios: George Conway, the anti-Trump lawyer now divorced from former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, donated $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund and will headline a fundraiser for the president on April 24.

White House

  • President Biden will give a speech from the White House about healthcare alongside progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The two will tout the Inflation Reduction Act and efforts to reduce prescription drug costs, according to a White House official.
  • The White House criticized Speaker Mike Johnson’s idea of tying Ukraine assistance to a reversal of the administration’s pause on liquified natural gas export permits, instead encouraging the lower chamber to vote on the Senate-passed national security package. “The president supports the pause on pending, additional approvals of LNG export licenses to evaluate the economic and climate impacts on consumers and communities,” the White House said in a statement to Bloomberg that does not explicitly say he would veto the package floated by Johnson. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Biden administration officials were open to the idea.
  • The White House wants a lunar time zone.


  • It’s that time of year again: The House Armed Services Committee is looking at May 15 to hold a full committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act. — Politico
  • The House Steering Committee will meet next Tuesday to decide who will replace Rep. Kay Granger as the leader of the House Appropriations Committee. — Punchbowl
  • Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., traveled to Israel and offered a full-throated defense of the Israeli military’s campaign in Gaza, setting him apart from many of his Democratic colleagues who have grown uneasy with the offensive. “I see the goal of removing Hamas from power as non-negotiable,” Torres told the Times of Israel. “When I met with the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, I said, You’re prosecuting a defensive war in the most complex warzone in human history.”
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. is recovering from surgery after doctors found an acute blood clot and diagnosed her with May-Thurner syndrome, according to her campaign.
  • Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva has cancer.


Taiwan National Fire Agency/Handout via REUTERS
  • Taiwan was hit with its worst earthquake in a quarter century that left at least seven people dead, collapsed buildings, and forced the world’s leading silicon chip maker, TSMC, to briefly shut some of its manufacturing facilities. Japan also ordered evacuations of some areas of Okinawa and issued a tsunami warning that was eventually lifted.
  • Two top Federal Reserve officials said they still believed the central bank was likely to cut interest rates three times this year, despite a recent uptick in inflation and signs the economy is still hot. Stocks have been taking a hit as investors have become more pessimistic about how fast the central bank will lower borrowing costs.


  • Who is the man behind Donald Trump’s bond? Bloomberg takes a look at Don Hankey, the 80-year-old billionaire who made his money with car dealerships and whose firm Knight Specialty Insurance Company “is known for subprime auto loans.” Hankey supports Trump but said the bond decision didn’t have to do with his personal political views.
  • Trump sued the cofounders of his media group, Andy Litinsky and Wes Moss, arguing they shouldn’t get their 8.6% stake in the company.


  • Donald Trump leads President Biden in six of seven swing states (the president leads only in Wisconsin), according to a new Wall Street Journal poll.
  • According to new polling from the liberal firm Navigator shared with Semafor, nine in 10 voters across 61 House battleground districts have paid “junk fees” — a focus of the White House — but only 14% say they have heard a lot about the surprise charges. More than 80% of respondents said they would support Congress taking legislative action to address them.

On the Trail

  • President Biden’s campaign debuted a new ad targeting Donald Trump on abortion. Trump, meanwhile, said he would make a statement on abortion “next week.”
  • Organizers in Arizona and Nevada said they have enough signatures to get abortion rights on the ballot in November.
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is facing backlash after arguing that Biden poses a larger threat to democracy that Trump. — WaPo

Foreign Policy

NATO is planning a five-year $100 billion military aid package for Ukraine which is in large part driven by concerns about the return of Donald Trump to the White House, the Financial Times reported. The proposal will be a topic of discussion for NATO foreign ministers today and has been pushed by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenber as a way to “shield the mechanism against the winds of political change.” The news follows Semafor’s reporting about the alliance planning to take on more responsibility in providing aid to Ukraine.


The Federal Communications Commission is planning to vote later this month on restoring net neutrality rules that were repealed under the Trump administration. — Reuters

Think Tank

The Heritage Foundation has tapped Mary Vought, founder of Vought Strategies and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, to serve as its next vice president of communications, Semafor’s Shelby Talcott reports exclusively. Vought is replacing Rob Bluey, who served in the role since 2017 and is shifting to work on a “new initiative that will be announced in the coming months,” according to a press release.


White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre thanked the Daily Caller for retracting a story about a “ban” on religious content on Easter eggs.

Big Read

NATO will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Thursday, but it’s facing a spat over selecting the next chief of the military alliance, The Wall Street Journal says. Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, will host all the diplomats to the organization today, and leaders had hoped to decide this week who will succeed Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the end of his term on Sept. 30. His initial four-year term has been extended four times. Alliance leaders want the matter resolved before the European Union begins choosing its next leadership team after European Parliament elections in June. The head of NATO has always been European. In recent years, Central Europeans have expressed resentment over being passed over for senior NATO posts despite spending more proportionately on defense than Western European members.


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

What the Left isn’t reading: Secretary of State Antony Blinken tapped Zakiya Carr Johnson to serve as the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer following a vacancy of nearly a year.

What the Right isn’t reading: Lawmakers in Nebraska advanced a tax reform bill that would increase the state’s sales tax.

Principals Team

Editors: Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann, Morgan Chalfant

Editor-at-Large: Steve Clemons

Reporters: Kadia Goba, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Shelby Talcott, David Weigel

One Good Text

Michael Waltz is a Republican congressman from Florida. He cosponsored a GOP bill that would rename Washington Dulles International Airport after former President Donald Trump.