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In today’s edition, the fallout from Trump’s guilty verdict, Biden’s frees up Ukraine to strike insi͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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May 31, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Trump found guilty
  2. Jail time?
  3. Predicting the political fallout
  4. Biden eases Ukraine arms limits
  5. China’s military flex
  6. The year of the split ticket?

PDB: Adelson to bankroll Trump.

WSJ: Musk plans Trump X town hall…How Trump’s team blew it…Bird flu found in third U.S. farmworker.


The apocalyptic GOP response to Trump’s guilty verdict

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

If there was any question before, the GOP reaction to Donald Trump’s conviction left no doubt: America’s entire criminal justice system will be a central theme of the 2024 election. As Dave Weigel writes, the jury’s guilty verdict on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records catapulted Republicans into a stage of rage. Members of Congress called the decision ”unAmerican,” ”rigged,” and a ”sham,” with some suggesting it signaled the very end of democracy. “Millions of Nazi and Imperial Japanese soldiers could not take down America but one Scumbag New York judge just did,” wrote Wisconsin Rep. Derrick Van Orden. More unusual was former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is now running for Senate as an anti-Trump Republican, and urged voters to “respect the verdict.” “You just ended your campaign,” Trump campaign manager Chris LaCivita tweeted in response.

The reaction from Biden and his camp mostly followed the same muted script of the last several months, emphasizing support for the legal process without going into the specifics, Shelby Talcott and Kadia Goba report. The president himself did not speak, while his campaign said in a statement, “In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law.” Most Democrats stuck to that script, seemingly wary of making it look like Republicans were right about the trial — that it was a political hit on Trump. Some were a bit more jovial, however. “BONG! Today, our justice system beat Donald Trump!” Rep. Jamaal Bowman tweeted.


Trump probably won’t go to jail

REUTERS/Jabin Botsford/Pool

Donald Trump has been convicted, but will he end up behind bars? Not anytime soon — if at all. “[Judge Juan] Merchan is unlikely to send him to jail as a first time offender for business fraud,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. His charges are the lowest tier, punishable by probation to four years in jail. One defense lawyer told CBS a home detention sentence is the most likely scenario. Trump has pledged to appeal, which will help him delay any jail time and could result in the conviction being overturned altogether. His sentencing is scheduled for July 11 — less than a week before the Republican convention in Milwaukee. On the off chance he does serve time, the Secret Service will be there to protect him, per The New York Times.

Morgan Chalfant

Mixed Signals

Media Circus of the Century, a Buzzfeed Comeback and Sleeping with Your Phone

The debut episode of Mixed Signals from Semafor Media, presented by Think With Google, is ready for your ears. Ben Smith and Nayeema Raza catch up with New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy to talk about the media circus of the century, the future of Buzzfeed, and the case for sleeping with your phone, according to Editor Max Tani. Listen wherever you get your podcasts


Why the Trump conviction might matter in November

When it comes to predicting the political fallout from any Trump crisis, we defer to Socrates: “I know that I know nothing.” Trump typically seems impervious to scandal, but Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin also makes the case that the felony conviction might be more impactful than most with voters. The biggest reason: It’s actual news to them. A recent poll by Navigator Research found that only 36% of voters and 30% of independents thought Trump would ever be convicted of any crime, even as majorities of both assumed he was guilty of something. “It won’t be a public opinion earthquake,” Sarah Longwell, a Trump critic on the right known for her focus groups with swing voters, said on X. “But in an election where inches will matter, this just created a new barrier for undecided swing voters: voting for a convicted felon.”


Biden frees up Ukraine to attack inside Russia

REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

President Joe Biden is allowing Ukraine to use US-weapons to strike targets inside Russia near Kharkiv. Politico first reported the major policy change, which followed pressure from Ukrainian and other European officials and members of Biden’s own team. Biden made the decision “so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them” in the Kharkiv region, a US official said, stressing the change does not apply to long-range strikes. Meanwhile, NATO countries are weighing whether to take a more aggressive role in protecting Ukraine’s skies, including by directly shooting down Russian missiles and drones, Semafor’s Mathias Hammer and Morgan Chalfant report. The idea has picked up some steam but remains divisive, with one European official saying, “I’m not holding my breath right now.”


China’s military might grows

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

China is increasingly catching up to the US as a military power in Asia, a new study showed. Beijing held 128 “combined-military exercises” from 2003 to 2022, barely a tenth of the 1,113 the US carried out in the same period, but China “is increasing its efforts,” the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said. The US retains the upper hand in the complexity of its exercises, which can indicate a military’s overall capacity to jointly wage war on land, sea, and in the air at once, and in the breadth of its regional alliances, IISS research showed, but Beijing is now also “developing sophisticated exercises with Indian Ocean partners.”

Prashant Rao


New poll, same story: Democrats are outrunning Biden

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

New polling from Cook Political Report finds Donald Trump effectively tied or leading Joe Biden in key battleground seats, but Democratic Senate candidates beating their opponents. Biden trails by 9 in Nevada, for example, while Sen. Jacky Rosen leads an unnamed Republican challenger by 7. This down-ballot split is something we’ve been tracking closely at Semafor. One theory: Republican candidates just need time to catch up on name recognition against incumbent Democrats. Cutting against that idea, CPR finds Biden’s weak spot is with less-engaged voters who are relatively strong supporters of abortion access, suggesting they’re not closet Republicans waiting to come home. But those same voters are also more likely to say Trump is “about right” on abortion. Expect a lot of ad spending by Democrats to try and disabuse them of that notion.


Beltway Newsletters

Playbook: Biden aides offered three reasons why they weren’t being more vocal about the verdict: “1. There’s no need to spike the football when the conviction is already dominating the news; 2. polling suggests the race will turn on other issues, so seizing on the conviction could be a trap; and 3. they can always readjust if the conviction somehow turns into more of an anchor for Trump.”

WaPo: Post conviction, Trump’s campaign intends to continue portraying him a martyr to rev up his supporters.

Axios: Both Republicans and Democrats are concerned that the guilty verdict could “touch off unrest” or outright attempts at political violence.

White House

  • President Biden will host Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the White House today for a discussion likely to focus on the war in Ukraine and seizing frozen Russian assets for Ukraine.
  • Biden will also host the Kansas City Chiefs at the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win.
  • The White House National Security Council’s Terry Wolff will lead a delegation to Cairo next week for meetings with Egyptian and Israeli officials about reopening the border crossing between Israel and Egypt. — Axios
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced Biden would make his first state visit to France, after commemorating the D-Day anniversary in Normandy next week. He leaves on Wednesday.


  • Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., wants President Biden to go further in allowing Ukraine to use US weapons to strike in Russia. “They should authorize all weapons to be used to strike any site within Russia that has military application. That means energy infrastructure, troops, staging sites, industrial sites,” he told Semafor’s Mathias Hammer.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts declined a request for a meeting to discuss the Supreme Court’s recent ethics controversies from Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse, calling it “inadvisable.”
  • House Republican and Democratic whips have been traversing the country during recess on fundraising blitzes. Rep. Tom Emmer is rounding off his week in Chicago after fundraising in Austin, while Rep. Katherine Clark has been on the road in Colorado and Arizona.
  • The FCC announced today it’s bringing the Affordable Connectivity Program to an end on Saturday without additional funding from Congress.

Around The World


The IRS is making its free online tax filing system permanent for all 50 states and D.C.


The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the NRA can pursue a free speech case against a New York official who encouraged companies to cut ties with the group.


Sixty percent of Israelis disapprove of the way President Biden is handling the war in Gaza, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. The same poll found more than six in 10 Israelis are concerned about the war expanding into other countries, while nearly seven in 10 are concerned about the war lasting for a long period of time.

On the Trail

  • GOP candidates in all eight of the most competitive races have softened their anti-abortion rhetoric, shifted positions, and at least one has embraced policies pushed by Democrats. — NYT
  • Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, will be a special guest at Donald Trump’s campaign office opening in Philadelphia next month, Semafor’s Kadia Goba reported.
  • Billionaire Miriam Adelson is planning to bankroll a pro-Trump super PAC. — Politico
  • Trump may also get a major boost with backing from Bill Ackman, the hedge fund billionaire who is leaning towards supporting the former president. — FT
  • The Trump campaign is warning down ballot GOP candidates not to fundraise off the former president’s conviction, which it sees as “siphoning” from his donors. — Politico
  • A former “Apprentice” producer claimed that Trump used the n-word to describe a Black contestant during the show’s first season (a Trump campaign spokesman called it a “fake and bullshit story.”).
  • X and NewsNation are planning to host town halls with Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — Axios
  • Indicted Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J,. has the signatures needed to run for reelection as an independent. — NBC
  • David Axelrod isn’t a fan of the Biden campaign’s stunt with Robert De Niro.

Foreign Policy

  • Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz said his National Unity party has introduced a bill to dissolve the Israeli parliament, which would trigger an early election.
  • US and China defense chiefs met for rare talks in Singapore, the first in-person meeting since 2022 and a sign of improving relations, even if they ultimately agreed on little.
  • The Treasury Department sanctioned firms linked to Russian mercenary group Wagner in the Central African Republic.


  • The US has slowed down granting licenses to leading chipmakers to sell advanced semiconductor technology to the Middle East. — Bloomberg
  • OpenAI said it found groups from Russia, China, Iran, and Israel using its technology for influence operations and removed accounts associated with the efforts. The company found that the operations “do not appear to have benefited from meaningfully increased audience engagement or reach as a result of our services.”
  • TikTok is cloning its recommendation algorithm for US users “that may result in a version that operates independently of its Chinese parent and be more palatable to American lawmakers who want to ban it.” — Reuters


  • Elon Musk has agreed to testify in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe into his 2022 takeover of Twitter.
  • Layoffs at The Wall Street Journal are continuing despite surging paid subscriptions, strong profits at parent News Corp, and a nine-figure license deal with OpenAI. — NPR

Big Read

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull offers some advice for world leaders in preparation for a possible return of Donald Trump to the White House. “Other leaders, especially those of countries that are close U.S. allies, have an opportunity and a responsibility to speak to Trump with a blunt but respectful candor that few of his advisers will be able to offer him,” he writes in a new Foreign Affairs piece, arguing that flattery “is the last thing the United States needs.” Turnbull, who served for the first half of Trump’s first term, doesn’t hold back his criticism, at one point calling the former president “an effective and relentless gaslighter.”


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 House committee investigating the US response to COVID-19 is seeking Dr. Anthony Fauci’s personal emails and phone records.

What the Right isn’t reading: Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., blocked one of President Biden’s judicial nominees for Montana who would have been the state’s first Native American federal judge, saying the administration never sought out his advice.

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

Jean-Arthur Régibeau is Belgium’s ambassador to the United States. President Biden is hosting Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the White House today.

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