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In today’s edition, Biden moves forward with weapons for Israel despite Rafah concerns, Angela Alsob͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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May 15, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Maryland Senate primary
  2. Biden greenlights Israel weapons
  3. Michael Cohen’s cross-examination
  4. Trump’s entourage
  5. China slams tariffs
  6. Another buyer for TikTok
  7. NYT tensions
  8. Blinken’s rock diplomacy

PDB: Primary results in West Virginia, Nebraska

Biden to speak at police memorial … Schumer releases AI roadmap … … NYT: White House worries over Russia’s momentum in Ukraine

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Maryland Democrats pick Alsobrooks

Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Maryland Democrat Angela Alsobrooks won her party’s US Senate nomination, triumphing over Rep. David Trone, who’d outspent her 10-1 with the fortune from his Total Wine empire. Endorsed by Gov. Wes Moore, Alsobrooks surged in the race’s final days, and benefited from Trone’s gaffes — including an accidental racial slur. She’ll face former Gov. Larry Hogan, who Republicans hope can win over anti-Trump Democrats who liked his eight years in Annapolis. (There are a lot of them: Alsobrooks won more votes than were cast in the entire GOP primary.) Down the ballot, state Sen. Sarah Elfreth beat former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, after AIPAC’s PAC spent heavily and erased Dunn’s cash advantage; he raised $4.5 million and outspent her campaign 3-1. April McClain Delaney, another self-funder, won the nomination to replace Trone in the competitive 6th Congressional District.

— David Weigel


Biden moves forward with $1 billion in weapons for Israel

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Biden administration officials told Congress they plan to move forward with $1 billion in new weapons shipments for Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported, sending tank ammunition, tactical vehicles, and mortar rounds to the country despite ongoing concerns about a pending major incursion of Rafah. President Biden has threatened to withhold weapons from Israel if it undertakes a major ground offensive in southern Gaza, but so far has only held back 2,000-pound bombs. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. criticized the move, telling the Washington Post it “undercuts the president’s earlier decision and should not go forward.” The news came on the eve of a House vote on a GOP bill that would force Biden to send withheld weapons shipments to Israel, which the White House has threatened to veto.


Team Trump grills Michael Cohen

One of the opening questions from Trump attorney Todd Blanche to Michael Cohen: “You went on TikTok and called me a ‘crying little s—, didn’t you?” Cohen responded: “Sounds like something I would say.” The exchange set the tone for cross-examination, where Blanche tried to portray Cohen as a vindictive and disgruntled Trump castaway who lied about his actions before being indicted himself — thus providing the jury with reason to question his otherwise damning testimony tying the former president to a plot to falsify reimbursements in a hush money scheme. Blanche went over some of Cohen’s nastier moments cheerleading Trump’s downfall in books, a podcast, and branded merchandise. “Do you want President Trump to get convicted in this case?” he asked at one point. “Sure,” Cohen said. The prosecution said Tuesday Cohen is their final witness.


Donald Trump’s courtroom cavalry arrives

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Donald Trump’s trial was once again a red carpet event for ambitious Republicans. Speaker Mike Johnson made an appearance along with several potential Trump running mates — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, and Vivek Ramaswamy. The former president’s allies even dressed up for the occasion, sporting a Trumpian navy-suit/red-tie combo. While Republicans echoing Trump in denouncing his various indictments as politically motivated is de rigueur at this point, Johnson drew special attention for calling the justice system “corrupt” while serving as speaker of the House. “The system is using all the tools at its disposal right now to punish one president and provide cover for another,” Johnson said.


China vows response to new Biden tariffs

Win McNamee/Getty Images

China threatened to take “all necessary actions” to defend its trade rights after President Biden announced new tariffs on a range of Chinese imports. “We want to tell our US colleagues that blaming others won’t make yourself more competitive,” Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu told reporters. He implored the US to “stop using overcapacity as an excuse for trade protectionism.” Biden delivered a speech on the new measures from the Rose Garden, accusing China of “cheating” by using subsidies and stealing intellectual property to prop up its industries. While the move will add to bilateral tensions, Beijing is likely to limit its retaliation. “Actions that lash out at prominent US firms or ramp up supply-chain restrictions, such as limiting exports of critical minerals, would hurt Xi’s efforts to shore up domestic and international confidence in China,” one analyst told Bloomberg.

Morgan Chalfant


Real estate billionaire mounts bid for TikTok

Nasser Berzane/Abacapress.com via Reuters Connect

Billionaire tech critic Frank McCourt says he plans to bid to buy TikTok and turn it into a better version of itself. The real estate business head told Semafor’s Ben Smith he would shift TikTok to a technical protocol developed by Project Liberty, the tech and innovation initiative he founded, that gives users more control over their digital identities and personal data — including having creators control their own videos. The company is fighting the new law that would force ByteDance to divest the app or face a ban in the US; eight TikTok creators have also sued the federal government. Estimates of TikTok’s current value vary widely around the $100 billion dollar mark, on reported revenues of about $16 billion in 2023. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also expressed interest in the company.


New York Times staff complain of ‘unwillingness to tolerate dissent’

New York Times reporters are circulating a draft of an open letter to Joe Kahn, criticizing the paper’s top editor over comments they said were dismissive of young reporters, Max Tani writes. In a series of recent interviews with outlets including Semafor, Kahn said he wanted to correct what he saw as the paper’s excesses during the first Trump administration. He also suggested younger journalists were “not fully prepared” to “commit themselves to the idea of independent journalism” and that they weren’t accustomed to “open debate” about controversial issues. In a draft note shared with Semafor, staff said Kahn’s comments were “broad generalizations that reflect a poor understanding of the people who make up your newsroom” and that new policies suggested an “unwillingness to tolerate dissent.”


Blinken plays “Rockin’ in the Free World” in Kyiv

Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Tuesday in Kyiv ended on a high note — literally. The top US diplomat and noted music lover strapped on a guitar at an underground cocktail bar in the city, Barman Dictat, to join the band 19.99 for a performance of Neil Young’s protest anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World.” The bar is a product of the Russian war: the owner designed it in 2014 and 2015, during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas, and it is fortified with metal doors and walls with metal reinforcements. “The United States is with you, so much of the world is with you,” Blinken told the crowd before the performance. Ukrainian soldiers, he said, are “fighting not just for Ukraine but for the free world.”


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: House Democrats interpreted the White House’s decision to move forward with $1 billion in weapons for Israel as an effort to give cover to pro-Israel Democrats to vote against the GOP bill up for a vote today. Top White House national security officials including Jake Sullivan are phoning House Democrats and “urging them to vote no.”

Playbook: The White House and Biden campaign are planning to take a hands-off approach to Hunter Biden’s forthcoming trials. They’re most worried about the personal impact on President Biden. “He worries about Hunter every single day, from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep,” one adviser said. “That will only pick up during a trial.”

The Early 202: Republicans privately said that Angela Alsobrooks would be more difficult for Larry Hogan to beat than David Trone in the Maryland Senate race.

Axios: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ranted against Biden after he warned a major offensive in Rafah would cross a red line. “We are not a vassal state of the United States!” Netanyahu said during a security cabinet meeting.

White House

  • President Biden will give a speech today at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the US Capitol, and later will hold a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will also host a dinner for combatant commanders at the White House tonight.
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan plans to travel to Israel and Saudi Arabia this weekend. — Axios
  • After getting fact checked on it last week, Biden once again made the bogus claim that inflation “was at 9% when I came in” to office — this time in an interview with Yahoo! Finance Tuesday. A White House official told Semafor Biden was only “making the point that the factors that caused inflation were in place when he took office.”


  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer along with Sens. Todd Young, Martin Heinrich, and Mike Rounds released their roadmap to regulate artificial intelligence.
  • The House is expected to vote today on a GOP’s bill on arms and Israel. Democrats are whipping against the measure.
  • House Republicans want to bar nonprofits from receiving federal funding through earmarks in order to slash funding for LGBTQ causes. — NYT
  • Congress missed a deadline to honor law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. — NBC
  • Top national security officials including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines will testify on threats to the 2024 election during a public Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this afternoon.

Outside the Beltway

Former President Jimmy Carter is “coming to the end,” his grandson, Jason Carter, said Tuesday. The elder Carter has been in hospice care since February 2023.



  • Eight TikTok creators sued the federal government over the law that would force ByteDance to divest the app or face a ban in the US.
  • Donald Trump’s gag order in his Manhattan trial was upheld.
  • Trump’s trial in Georgia is being further slowed by the reelection campaign of the judge overseeing it, Scott McAfee. — NYT
  • Hunter Biden failed to delay his trial on gun charges until September, and it will begin in June as planned.
  • Prosecutors in Arizona are having trouble serving Rudy Giuliani with an indictment unveiled last month related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. — WaPo
  • In related news: The judge overseeing Giuliani’s bankruptcy on Tuesday refused to remove a roadblock that has prevented the former NYC mayor from appealing a $148 million defamation judgment, saying he is “disturbed” that Giuliani has made little headway in sorting out his finances.


Boeing breached a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement that prevented the company from facing charges over fatal 737 Max crashes, the Justice Department said.

On the Trail

  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice easily won the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Joe Manchin, and became the heavy favorite to flip the seat from blue to red. Attorney Gen. Patrick Morrisey, who lost the 2018 Senate race to Manchin, won the nomination to replace Justice.
  • Two House Republicans who voted for military aid to Ukraine easily defeated primary challengers. Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon and West Virginia Rep. Carol Miller both won around 63% of the vote over Republicans who ran to their right; Miller defeated Derrick Evans, who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
  • Billionaire Ken Griffin is holding back on supporting Donald Trump until he sees who the former president chooses as his running mate.
  • Wisconsin voters will choose someone to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Mike Gallagher in a special election scheduled for Aug. 13, the same day as the primaries.
  • A Boeing 757 owned by Trump struck a parked corporate plane while taxiing after landing early Sunday at an airport in Florida, according to the FAA. It wasn’t known if he was on the plane when it struck the rear elevator of a VistaJet in West Palm Beach.

Foreign Policy

  • Ukraine is pushing the Biden administration to lift a prohibition on using US-made weapons to strike inside Russia. — Politico
  • The Biden administration is working to send another Patriot air-defense battery to Ukraine as the US and its allies are scrambling to help the country’s demand for air defense to fight back an intensified attack by Russia. — Bloomberg


OpenAI’s co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever quit. He led the company’s “superalignment” team, intended to make future, very powerful AIs safe; Jan Leike, Sutskever’s superalignment co-lead, resigned hours later. Sutskever was also involved in the 2023 coup which briefly ousted CEO Sam Altman, apparently over concerns about safety.


Big Read

The crisis that was predicted after federal COVID-19 subsidies for childcare expired last year echoed predictions of a “she-cession” that didn’t materialize past the first months of the pandemic, so advocates are updating their messaging, Vox’s Rachel M. Cohen writes. After female labor force participation steadily rose during the pandemic, advocates began emphasizing those gains could plummet if major new federal investments weren’t made. Century Foundation predicts $9 billion in annual lost family earnings and $10.6 billion less in tax and business revenue for states. Still, congressional Republicans rejected Democrats’ child care proposals during the Build Back Better fight. Cohen says labor force arbitration among women 25-54, has continued to rise and that the lesson here is people should keep pushing for policies that improve the lives of parents, children, and childcare providers.


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: A group of House Republicans are advocating for awarding Donald Trump the Congressional Gold Medal.

What the Right isn’t reading: Student workers at the University of Washington went on strike.

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

Nicole Malliotakis is a Republican congresswoman from New York. She made an appearance in Manhattan on Monday to support Donald Trump.