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In today’s edition: Donald Trump has his day in court. Ron DeSantis prepares to sign an abortion ban͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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April 4, 2023


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Steve Clemons
Steve Clemons

He reportedly won’t be handcuffed, put in a jail cell, or forced to stand for a mugshot. But President Trump will finally be arraigned today in a Manhattan courtroom, where he’ll hear the more than 30 unsealed counts waiting for him. It’s the news event of the year, and our team has an hour-by-hour preview of the day’s drama ahead, from protests to Trump’s planned remarks tonight at Mar-a-Lago. As for the lack of a mugshot: I guess the makers of America’s political swag can always make due with an AI portrait.

In other news — yes, there’s other news — Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes on the floundering efforts by Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La. and Angus King, I-Maine to build a bipartisan plan to extend Social Security’s solvency. The problem? Democrats don’t actually want to sign on to the emerging proposal.

Be sure to check out the Semafor World Economy Summit, which takes place next Wednesday in Washington, DC. and will stream online for a global audience. The event’s headliners include White House National Economic Council director Lael Brainard, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, White House Senior Advisor for Infrastructure and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, UPS CEO Carol Tome, GE CEO Larry Culp, former Federal Reserve Board Governor Roger Ferguson, former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Jordan Finance Minister Mohamad Al Ississ, and many others.

PLUS, Morgan Chalfant has One Good Text with former Pentagon official and China expert Elbridge Colby on what Speaker Kevin McCarthy ought to tell Taiwan’s President when they meet tomorrow.

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Cheat Sheet

Your guide to Donald Trump’s day in court

Donald Trump arriving in New York.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Donald Trump will be arraigned on Tuesday in Manhattan on the first charges to emerge out of the many investigations into his business, campaign, and personal behavior over the years.

The spectacle is already the news event of the year, with the cable networks tracking his plane and motorcade by helicopter on Monday on his way to Trump Tower. Here’s a timeline for what to expect today, which will feature protests, speeches, press conferences, and of course, Trump’s courthouse appearance.

8:00 AM: The New York Young Republican Club, which is organizing a protest, begins setting up. The NYPD has already sectioned off two sections of Collect Pond Park, directly across the street from the courthouse at 100 Centre Street. Trump supporters are expected to arrive on the south side of the park, counter-protestors on the north. Things were quiet in the area on Monday, except for a crush of media. Reporters — or the placeholders their companies hired —  began lining up well before 4pm in the hopes of getting a first-come, first-serve ticket into the courtroom the next morning (or one of the overflow rooms within the building).

10:30 AM: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. is expected to arrive at the rally. NYYRC president Gavin Wax told Semafor she’ll be the de facto leader of the event, which will feature speeches and chanting. “She’s really been pushing it and she’ll probably be the biggest named elected official there,” he said. Other politicians may also make appearances, however.

With memories of January 6th still fresh, New York authorities are preemptively deploying police through the city. Mayor Eric Adams, a former officer himself, called on protestors to behave themselves, and specifically Greene, who he said was “known to spread misinformation and hate speech.”

Greene told Semafor that she doesn’t expect any fireworks. “Every single officer has been called up,” she said. She plans to shake hands with cops and thank them for safeguarding the event and said she “will be pointing at people to be arrested if they’re being violent.”

Trump is expected to present himself at the courthouse, accompanied by Secret Service, at some time in the late morning.

2:15 PM: Trump will face the charges against him in the courtroom and plead not guilty. The judge presiding over the case is Juan Merchan, who Trump criticized late last week by suggesting he was biased. Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina said over the weekend that he had no reason to take issue with Merchan, however, who presided over the tax fraud case against the Trump Organization and former Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg. Merchan denied a motion to allow live cameras inside the courtroom late Monday, siding with Trump’s legal team, but a small number of photojournalists will be briefly allowed inside and members of the press will be present as well.

There’s been plenty of reporting and speculation around what Trump would do for his mug shot. Smile brightly, like former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay? Or look serious like former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who Trump later pardoned? Unfortunately for America’s political merchandisers, Yahoo News’s Michael Isikoff reported Monday that Trump will “not be put in handcuffs, placed in a jail cell or subjected to a mug shot,” because prosecutors determined it wasn’t necessary for an ex-president.

3:30 PM: Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is set to hold a press conference. Bragg has faced months of intense scrutiny from his left and right and plenty of criticism, including from legal experts outside Trump’s orbit. This will be his first chance to lay out the details of the case on his own terms.

8:15 PM: The former president will end his day with a quick return back to his Mar-a-Lago home. He plans to give remarks to the nation at 8:15pm, despite his team reportedly being concerned about a potential gag order from the judge that would prevent him from discussing the case. A Trump campaign source told Semafor that they’re “preparing for every single scenario.”

—Semafor Staff


White House: Biden will hold a meeting with science and technology advisers about artificial intelligence at the White House this afternoon. A spokeswoman wouldn’t entertain a question yesterday about whether Biden has been watching any of the coverage of former President Trump’s indictment on television.

Senate: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised Biden’s Labor Secretary nominee Julie Su after their meeting last week. But Su could face headwinds to getting confirmed after the two-week recess: She received no Republican support in 2021 when she was picked for her current job as deputy labor secretary.

House: It’s official: Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. A handful of Democrats and Republicans will join him. China issued another warning about the meeting.

Need to Know

REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer

Embattled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. will face a primary challenge from Kellen Curry, a former vice president at JPMorgan and Air Force veteran. Curry summed up his campaign pitch to Bloomberg: “Restoring honesty and integrity back to congressional representation.” Santos told Semafor he welcomes the challenge. “The more people giving Joe Cairo a headache the merrier. I believe in the people and I believe in our democracy,” he said, name-checking the Nassau County Republican Party chairman who called for Santos to resign after revelations about his resume fabrications.

Florida’s state senate passed a bill that would ban abortions after six weeks. The measure, which includes exceptions for the life of the mother and pregnancies from rape or incest, has Gov. Ron DeSantis’ backing. On the same day, DeSantis also signed legislation that would allow Floridians to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. The law became an immediate target of the White House, where press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rebuked it as the “opposite of commonsense gun safety.”

And in other Florida news: Disney CEO Bob Iger took direct aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a shareholders meeting, accusing the Republican governor and likely 2024 presidential candidate of trying to punish Disney “for its exercise of a constitutional right.” The two have tussled over Disney’s opposition to a law restricting classroom discussion about gender identity. Iger accused DeSantis of being “anti-business.”

Roy McGrath, who served as chief of staff to former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, was killed in a confrontation with the FBI while on the lam from embezzlement charges. The FBI confirmed an “agent-involved shooting” in Tennessee during an attempted arrest, according to the Washington Post, but few details beyond that. Hogan, who broke with McGrath over the allegations, said in a statement that he and his wife were “deeply saddened by this tragic situation.”

Finland becomes NATO’s 31st member today. Sweden still faces hurdles in its membership bid.

Morgan Chalfant, Kadia Goba, and Benjy Sarlin

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: There’s bipartisan interest in clawing back compensation from executives at failed banks, but the legislative path forward could be challenging.

Playbook: Trump spent the flight from Palm Beach to New York making edits to the speech he will deliver later today.

The Early 202: Trump has invited over 500 people to an event at Mar-a-Lago tonight following his arraignment.

Axios: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says the U.S. economy is in good shape and warns that China’s efforts to dominate key technologies are a national security risk in a letter to shareholders.

Joseph Zeballos-Roig

The Senate’s Social Security reform gang is in trouble

Reuters/Julia Nikhinson


The closely watched effort by a club of Senate moderates to craft a bipartisan Social Security reform plan may be stalling out for the foreseeable future.

Semafor previously reported that the group, which is led by Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, had eyed establishing a new investment fund to finance future benefits and gradually raising the retirement age to nearly 70, among other options. But King, an independent, is struggling to amass support from his Democratic colleagues, with whom he caucuses. That’s contributing to a holdup in releasing a bipartisan framework, according to three people familiar with the talks.

No Democrats so far are willing to sign on as original co-sponsors of a potential final proposal, despite the fact that Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, D-Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, another independent who caucuses with Democrats, form part of the bipartisan gang. Both are up for re-election in 2024.

Asked if Kaine was open to co-sponsoring the final product, a spokesperson for the Virginia Democrat responded, “Kaine is not aware of any proposed legislation.” Sinema’s office did not respond to a request for comment.


The Cassidy-King effort has always been something of a Hail Mary given the growing reluctance in both parties to touch Social Security, which is currently on a trajectory toward insolvency that would trigger large, automatic benefit cuts in a decade. A comprehensive fix that extends the lifespan of the program by 75 years — the common metric used to measure solvency — is slipping further and further out of reach.

Both President Biden and Trump, the current front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination, are pledging to keep their hands off Social Security benefits, dampening the odds of a bipartisan agreement to salvage the program ahead of a combative presidential campaign.

The last Social Security deal in 1983 contained a mix of tax increases and benefit cuts that was brokered by the Reagan White House with only months to go until the program would be unable to pay full benefits. Time is still Washington’s ally, but many believe any major reform effort today would need similar involvement from the executive branch to help steel lawmakers against a barrage of political attacks.

“Senate Democrats are probably looking around and wondering why they should position themselves to the right of Donald Trump,” a Senate Democratic aide told Semafor.

Cassidy has criticized Biden for refusing to personally negotiate on Social Security after a string of mostly staff-level meetings with the White House failed to yield a breakthrough. He’s repeatedly assailed the president for not detailing how he would secure the retirement program. The Louisiana Republican recently signaled the group won’t release a framework that doesn’t have buy-in from the White House.

“What I really admire about my friend Bill Cassidy is he’ll come to the table with just a whole plate of different ideas,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a recent interview. “Some of them don’t pan out, but he is just so willing to put things out there.”

Two of the three sources said King-Cassidy staff had been trying lately to shore up external support among unions by touting a measure to repeal a provision within Social Security that reduces benefits for some retired public sector workers.

But there’s significant unease among organized labor at being kept in the dark on other pieces of the proposal. A separate person directly briefed on the group’s outreach said Cassidy’s staff had requested an endorsement from their organization without showing legislative language and dodging questions about key aspects of their plan.

Even moderate Democrats remain skeptical about proposals like raising the retirement age, which is enormously unpopular with the American public. “It all has to be in a big package for me to look at. In isolation it’s a non-starter because everybody’s different,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. told Semafor. “You get a farmer, 69, you’re gonna have the shit pounded out of your body by then. Somebody who’s sitting at a desk for their whole life, maybe not so much.”


Cassidy is holding firm that his proposal is critical to extending Social Security’s lifespan while avoiding enormous benefit cuts. A new report from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees recently projected that the program will be insolvent in 2033, a year earlier than projected last year.

“There’s no difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s ‘Social Security plan,’” Cassidy told Semafor in a statement. “They don’t have one and choosing to do nothing is a 24% cut in Social Security benefits for everyone.”

One Good Text

Elbridge Colby is the author of “The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict” and co-founder of The Marathon Initiative. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development under the Trump administration and led the development of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.


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: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. wouldn’t rule out challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. for her Senate seat during an interview with Politico.

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio said that U.S. support for Ukraine is overwhelming during a visit to Kyiv.

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— Steve Clemons