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In today’s edition, the fallout from Kristi Noem’s dog revelations, Antony Blinken arrives in Saudi ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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April 29, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Kristi Noem’s pet sematary
  2. Gaza ceasefire talks
  3. Trump-Biden polls
  4. Don/Ron summit in Miami
  5. Murphy talks bipartisanship
  6. White House-NYT

PDB: House, Senate lawmakers reach deal on FAA reauthorization

World Central Kitchen resumes Gaza operations … WSJ: Investor jitters about presidential election … WaPo: ‘Assassination plot on American soil reveals a darker side of Modi’s India’

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Kristi Noem’s dog-killing bombshell

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

What is Kristi Noem doing? After the South Dakota governor and potential Trump running mate penned a book taking credit for shooting a 14-month-old problem dog, which she followed up by tweeting about killing three horses, theories abounded: Was she deliberately sabotaging her VP chances? Making a bet dog-killing would look tough to Trump? Or getting ahead of a damaging story? The median reaction when we checked around Trump world was “WTF,” although some noted her chances were considered slim already — her take on abortion is to his right, and she filmed an odd infomercial for a Texas dental clinic last month, among other issues. “Governor Noem just keeps proving over and over that she’s a lightweight,” one person close to the Trump campaign said. “We can’t afford a Kamala problem.”

Noem acknowledged “some people are upset” on Sunday, while defending her actions. Historically, voters are sensitive about canines: An ad by an environmental group attacking Sarah Palin’s support for aerial wolf-hunting was the most effective of the 2008 cycle, per one study. We’ve also heard a 2022 ad tying Dr. Mehmet Oz to experiments on dogs was seen by Democrats as a top performing spot in that race, which Sen. John Fetterman won. There’s a reason FDR and Richard Nixon each delivered famous speeches defending their dogs, and that Biden sent Cujo — er, Commander —to live with relatives instead of to a “farm upstate.”

—Shelby Talcott and Benjy Sarlin


Can Blinken deliver a ceasefire deal?

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

It’s another high-stakes week for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived in Saudi Arabia today to push negotiations for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages held for more than six months. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on ABC Sunday that Hamas was still considering a proposal on the table from the Israelis, which Axios reported includes an offer to discuss the “restoration of sustainable calm” in Gaza. A Hamas official told AFP that it has “no major issues” with the draft agreement. President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the possible deal on Sunday, while also raising concerns about Israel’s planned Rafah offensive. The White House is feeling rising domestic pressure over the war; pro-Palestinian protesters heckled White House Correspondents’ dinner attendees while student demonstrations spread to George Washington University. Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders said on CNN it was important to condemn antisemitism but defended the demonstrations for calling attention to the actions of “Netanyahu’s right wing, extremist, and racist government.” Sen. John Fetterman was less sympathetic: “I don’t believe living in a pup tent for Hamas is really helpful.”


Voter views of Trump grow more positive

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Absence does make the heart grow fonder, apparently: Voters are feeling more positive about Donald Trump and the economy he presided over than they did at the time he was in office, according to new polls from CNN and CBS, a factor helping the former president in matchups against President Biden. The CNN poll, which has Trump leading Biden nationally, found that 55% of Americans see Trump’s presidency as a success looking back. Compare that with January 2021 — immediately after the attack on the Capitol — when the same percentage classified his term as a failure. According to the survey from CBS, more than 60% of voters in each of three swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — today rate the economy as good under Trump broadly. That’s a lot higher than the share in each state — about one third — who viewed the economy positively in 2020 following the COVID-19-induced recession. The candidates are neck-and-neck in all three battlegrounds.


Trump and DeSantis have a chat

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis met on Sunday, a sign their icy relationship may be thawing. While DeSantis endorsed Trump after dropping out, Trump has made little effort to court him and the former president’s staff have continued to engage in public flame wars. “Chicken fingers and pudding cups is what you will be remembered for, you sad little man,” top Trump aide Chris LaCivita tweeted in February in response to a story about DeSantis’ private post-election grumblings. But the two met for several hours in Miami on Sunday, per the Washington Post, as their allies hope to broker fundraising help for Trump from DeSantis’ robust donor network. Steve Witkoff, a Florida real estate developer friendly with both figures, is reportedly playing peacemaker.


Chris Murphy hasn’t given up on bipartisanship yet

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

His bipartisan border bill failed, but Sen. Chris Murphy thinks Washington could see Democrats and Republicans work together more on economic issues in the coming years. The Connecticut Democrat, and sometimes successful dealmaker, offered his thoughts on stage last week at a Hewlett Foundation conference, where the slightly heady theme was how the left and right could move beyond old “neoliberal” ideas. Bills like the CHIPS Act and recent TikTok legislation gave lawmakers an anti-China national security “excuse” to work across the aisle, Murphy said. Next up, he thinks we could see legislation on normal domestic legislation like a $10 or $11 minimum wage (“Democrats eventually will choose to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good”), social media regulations protecting children (Josh Hawley wants a legal age limit) and antitrust reforms (though he noted those will be “fraught.”) Two big caveats: Murphy said he doesn’t expect any big economic efforts until after this year’s elections, and only feels “optimistic about this in the context of a Democratic controlled House and Senate. That’s the only forum right now where you’ll get any bipartisan cooperation.”

Jordan Weissmann


Latest White House NYT snub is a Howard Stern sit-down

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Biden officials and campaign press staff spent the White House Correspondents’ dinner weekend gloating about pissing off the New York Times. A Politico piece published Thursday claimed publisher A.G. Sulzberger was pushing reporters to cover the president more critically because he’d continued to avoid an interview with the Times (something the Times denied in its response). The very next day, the president once again brushed off the paper of record in favor of a lengthy sit-down with SiriusXM shock-jock Howard Stern. During Semafor’s party Friday evening, White House communications director Ben LaBolt told me that one reason the White House settled on Stern was because he’s a means of reaching a broader audience of regular Americans, and because his team was impressed by Stern’s reach on YouTube.

Max Tani


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: As House lawmakers return to Washington for a full four weeks, expect plenty of messaging bills and potentially an effort by conservatives to remove Speaker Mike Johnson.

Playbook: Most senior House Republicans believe that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has threatened to oust Johnson, is completely backing off. A Greene aide called that “absurd” but declined to offer any timeline for her motion to vacate.

The Early 202: President Biden’s campaign sent Rep. Ro Khanna to Wisconsin to rally college students behind the president’s reelection campaign, despite his opposition to the administration’s support of aid to Israel. His pitch? Trump would be even worse: “If Donald Trump is president, he’s not going to care one bit about what I or Jamie Raskin or any of the progressives — Bernie Sanders — think.”

Axios: Nearly two dozen House Democrats wrote to Columbia University’s board of trustees demanding they “act decisively” to disband the pro-Palestinian encampment on the school’s campus. “If any Trustees are unwilling to do this, they should resign so that they can be replaced by individuals who will uphold the University’s legal obligations under Title VI,” the letter states.

White House

  • President Biden cheered the tentative agreement between the United Auto Workers and Daimler Truck to avert a strike of thousands of workers, calling it “a testament to the power of collective bargaining” that “shows that we can build a clean energy economy with strong, middle-class union jobs.”
  • Biden phoned Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt Sunday to offer federal support after the state was hit with deadly tornadoes.
  • Vice President Harris is beginning her new “economic opportunity tour” with an event in Atlanta today during which she’ll highlight the Biden administration’s infrastructure investment, student loan forgiveness, and other policies. She’ll take part in a moderated conversation with the hosts of the podcast “Earn Your Leisure.”


  • The House is back but has suspended votes Thursday to accommodate the late Rep. Donald Payne’s funeral services. The Senate returns Tuesday, with a procedural vote scheduled on a judicial nominee.
  • Late last night, House and Senate negotiators announced they had reached an agreement on a FAA reauthorization bill that adds 10 additional flight slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, despite opposition from lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia. The legislation comes ahead of a May 10 deadline to fund the agency before funding expires.
  • Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Korean War and passed away earlier this month, will lie in state in the US Capitol Rotunda today.
  • The House is voting this week on a resolution to crack down on antisemitism on college campuses, an issue likely to revive divisions within the Democratic Party. — Axios
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer along with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Cory Booker may reintroduce their bill decriminalizing cannabis and removing it from the list under the Controlled Substances Act this week, according to a Schumer aide.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t say if he supports a national abortion ban and blamed his party for the setbacks that Ukraine has suffered on the battlefield in separate interviews airing on the Sunday shows.

White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., is expected to face Mondaire Jones, a Democrat, in New York’s 17th congressional general election. But the “frenemies” took some time to pose together at NBC’s White House Correspondents’ dinner after party.

Kadia Goba/Semafor

Outside the Beltway

Utah’s Republican Party picked Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs as its nominee to replace outgoing Sen. Mitt Romney, shortly after he received Donald Trump’s endorsement. Staggs still needs to make it through the June primary.


Fast food prices are rising faster in California than in other states since its new $20 minimum wage for workers at chain restaurants went into effect. — WSJ


Israeli officials are bracing for the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for top officials in connection with the war against Hamas in Gaza, including potentially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. — NYT

On the Trail

  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is reportedly rising on Donald Trump’s list of possible vice presidential picks, in part because he’s seen as appealing to moderate voters. — Axios
  • President Biden’s decision to sign a bill that forces ByteDance to divest TikTok by threatening a ban isn’t going over too well among influencers who have helped his campaign (though none said he’d lost their vote). “I’m pretty critical of him at this moment in time,” said one, Awa Sanneh, who visited the White House earlier this year. “If you truly understood the impact, then you would want to keep TikTok.” — Bloomberg
  • Vice President Harris has been keeping in touch with women whose voices the Biden campaign has elevated to share their stories about experiences with abortion access and restrictive abortion laws. — WSJ
  • Sen. John Cornyn, who is running to replace Mitch McConnell as Senate GOP leader, has raised $18.3 million and counting for GOP candidates and incumbents this election cycle. — Axios

National Security

The State Department is divided over whether Israel is using US-provided arms in compliance with international law ahead of a May 8 deadline for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to make a determination to Congress. — CNN

Foreign Policy

  • Poland’s foreign minister, Radosław Sikorski, said that Donald Trump’s stance on Ukraine is “not as black and white as some people” believe. — Politico
  • World Central Kitchen is resuming operations in Gaza today, a month after seven workers were killed in an Israeli strike.
  • The outgoing commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. John Aquilino, accused China of pursuing a “boiling frog” strategy with its increasingly aggressive military activity in the region. — FT
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he invited House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to visit Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s forces were forced to retreat from three villages in the war-torn east in the face of Russian attacks along the entire 620-mile front line, the head of Ukraine’s army said. Moscow is keen to consolidate recent gains and break Ukrainian lines before the new infusion of US aid arrives.


Elon Musk made an unannounced visit to China and met with Premier Li Qiang.


Paramount Global is set to fire chief executive Bob Bakish amid merger talks with Skydance Media and preparations for another possible bid.

Big Read

President Biden’s brother partnered with Qatari officials on various business ventures according to recent testimony in a Kentucky bankruptcy court, Politico reports. If true, the alleged arrangements would be the closest links between the Biden family and a foreign government — though the dealings occurred between Joe Biden’s stint as vice president and his return to the White House. The sworn testimony comes from Michael Lewitt, a fund manager and former business partner of Jim Biden, who claims that companies owned by “members of the Qatari government” worked with Biden on fundraising efforts and a loan deal. Politico says the White House, Qatari government, and representatives for Jim Biden did not respond for comment.


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, curated with help from our partners at Ground News.

What the Left isn’t reading: One of President Biden’s top White House aides, Anita Dunn, wanted press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to move along from her role, the New York Post reported.

What the Right isn’t reading: In Italy, dozens participated in a fascist salute on the anniversary of Benito Mussolini’s execution.

Principals Team

Editors: Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann, Morgan Chalfant

Editor-at-Large: Steve Clemons

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

Two Good Texts

Mike Lawler is a Republican congressman from New York. He shared his favorite jokes — both delivered by comedian Colin Jost — from the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner with Semafor’s Kadia Goba.

Seth Moulton, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, also weighed in.

Hot on Semafor