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Donald Trump promises a new plan to slash federal spending and wage war on the “deep state,” an anti͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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June 21, 2023


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Steve Clemons
Steve Clemons

Donald Trump has rolled out another piece of his plan to wage war on the “deep state” if he’s reelected, promising to unilaterally cut federal spending using the tactic known as “impoundment.” In doing so, he would challenge a decades-old federal law put in place after Richard Nixon tried something similar. As Shelby Talcott and Joseph Zeballos-Roig write, the plan is already horrifying some longtime budget experts, who are warning about a presidential power grab, and delighting allies, who see it as a “paradigm shift.”

Shelby also has a scoop this morning on how Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is trying to nudge Republican politicians to go on offense on abortion issues. It’s brandishing new polling, showing that even many voters who consider themselves “pro-choice” support bans on the procedure after 15 weeks.

I’ve confirmed that GE CEO Larry Culp will be one of the VIPs attending this week’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (GE is set to co-produce fighter jet engines in India under an agreement Modi and President Biden are expected to announce). Meanwhile, Kadia Goba notes that progressives on Capitol Hill are splitting on Modi’s visit, with some promising to boycott his upcoming address.

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☞ White House: President Biden referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” during a fundraiser in California last night, potentially complicating his administration’s efforts to ease tensions with Beijing (China quickly called his words a “provocation”). Biden plans to kick off a second installment of his administration’s “Investing in America” tour to highlight his economic agenda, beginning with an infrastructure announcement at the White House next Monday. The White House says top officials are scheduled to visit more than 20 states in a three-week period.

☞ Senate: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will give a speech today about his vision for a “comprehensive framework” around artificial intelligence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. will also give a speech on the Senate floor making the case for his bill to establish a commission to regulate AI and Big Tech, his office tells Semafor.

☞ House: The House Armed Services Committee will hold its full committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act today, an annual marathon that usually stretches into the early hours of the following morning. House AI Caucus offices received a staff-level briefing Tuesday from European Union Parliament staffers on the new European Union Artificial Intelligence Act, a legal framework centered around the regulation and development of AI.

☞ Outside the Beltway: Abortion issues dominated Tuesday’s primaries for the Virginia state legislature, leading one anti-abortion Democratic incumbent, state Sen. Joe Morrissey, to lose his race. Republican candidates endorsed by GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin won their primaries across the state. Both parties invested a record amount of money in the race, one of the only off-year state legislative elections in the country.

Need to Know
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

A “sweetheart deal.” That’s how Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans characterized Hunter Biden’s plea agreement on tax and gun charges, which is expected to keep him out of prison. GOP politicians, who have long called for the president’s son to be prosecuted over various allegations, suggested that the agreement was further evidence of a “two-tiered” justice system that favors Democrats and vowed to continue their investigation into Hunter and the Biden family’s foreign business dealings. “We will not rest until the full extent of President Biden’s involvement in the family’s schemes are revealed,” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. said in a statement. Democrats noted that the investigation was carried out by a U.S. attorney appointed under Donald Trump, David Weiss, who said his inquiry was ongoing.

The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal case in Florida set the trial date for Aug. 14. The date will likely be pushed back, but if it sticks, the trial could be starting shortly before the first Republican primary debate.

Trump once again called for imposing the death penalty on drug dealers during his interview with Fox’s Bret Baier, who pointed out that would have meant executing Alice Johnson, the woman who the former president famously granted clemency and featured in a Super Bowl Ad touting his criminal justice reforms. “She’d be killed under your plan,” Baier said. “No, no, no. Oh, under that? It would depend on the severity,” Trump responded. As Semafor’s David Weigel writes, Trump has largely stopped touting the First Step Act, his marquee sentencing reform bill, which his Republican opponents have begun attacking as a well-intentioned mistake.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito published a Wall Street Journal op-ed to get ahead of a new ProPublica report that accuses him of failing to disclose a fishing trip that he took with hedge fund manager Paul Singer in 2008 and suggests he should have recused himself from cases involving Singer before the court in the years following. Alito, who accuses ProPublica of misleading its readers, defended accepting a seat on a private jet paid for by Singer by arguing the seat “would have otherwise been vacant.”

Morgan Chalfant and Jordan Weissmann

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: House Republicans are both emphasizing their investigations into Biden and his family and serving as staunch defenders of Trump against his own scandals as the 2024 race heats up. The strategy may be working well for conservative House members in safe districts with little fear they won’t be reelected, Punchbowl suggests, but could spell trouble for the party’s members in more vulnerable seats and the party’s slim five-seat majority.

Playbook: House Republicans are privately “cringing” at plans by Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. to force votes on impeaching Biden and members of his Cabinet, Politico reports. Many Republicans think it’s too early to go down that road, and the votes may well end up seeing Republicans vote with Democrats to kill the resolutions.

The Early 202: The Washington Post explores the potential political ramifications of Hunter Biden’s plea agreement, writing that Trump and his allies might have a hard time making the president’s son’s legal problems an issue in 2024.

Shelby Talcott and Joseph Zeballos-Roig

Trump unveils his plans to defund the ‘deep state’

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


Donald Trump unveiled another sweeping piece of his plans to slash federal spending and defund the “deep state” on Tuesday, effectively claiming vast, unchecked powers to shape the government. 

In a new video, first shared with Semafor, the former president vowed to scrap pieces of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the once obscure federal law he was accused of violating when he froze funding Congress had earmarked for Ukraine. That move helped lead to his first impeachment.

The statute forces the executive branch to spend money Congress approves. But it also puts in place rules governing how the president can delay — or “impound” — federal funding for specific programs, or permanently rescind cash from them with permission from lawmakers. Congress passed it after President Richard Nixon attempted to scrap tens of billions in federal spending on his own, in what was widely seen as an abuse of his powers.

On Tuesday, Trump vowed to challenge the law’s constitutionality in court, and in doing so effectively reserve the right to unilaterally cut the federal budget with the stroke of a pen.

“Bringing back impoundment will give us a crucial tool with which to obliterate the Deep State, Drain the Swamp, and starve the Warmongers,” he said in the video. “We can simply choke off the money.”

Trump appears to be promising deep cuts across much of the government. In a fact sheet accompanying its policy rollout and reviewed by Semafor, he promises to “direct federal agencies to identify portions of their budgets where massive savings are possible” using impoundment, while exempting Medicare, Social Security, and defense spending.

It’s not at all obvious that Trump’s impoundment plan would hold up in court, however. The fact sheet also noted how past presidents used impoundment before Congress reined it in, setting up an argument that seemed tailor made for the Supreme Court’s originalists. But any effort by Trump to revive the tool would run into questions about whether the president was usurping Congress’s power over the purse.


Whether or not it would survive legally, longtime budget hands told Semafor that they found Trump’s proposal deeply troubling.

“The worry here is the abusability of this,” Bobby Kogan, senior director of federal budget policy at the Center for American Progress, told Semafor. “The worry here is it allows the president to act by fiat to completely ignore laws that the president doesn’t think are useful.”

G. William Hoagland, a former Senate GOP budget aide who is now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, was blunter, calling Trump’s proposal “ridiculous.”

“I’m so upset with this,” he said. “I guess I’m just flabbergasted by his lack of understanding of the Constitution.”


Trump’s allies view the matter quite differently.

Russell Vought, who ran Trump’s Office of Management and Budget, has for years been a proponent of ridding the presidency of the guardrails put into place back in 1974. He told Semafor that Trump’s latest policy pitch is “enormously important,” and that the idea of bringing back impoundment “informed a lot of our strategies in the last administration as we were moving towards a second term.”

(He declined to say whether he’d spoken to Trump recently about the new policy plan, but noted that the former president is aware he’s “a huge supporter of this.”)

Reviving impoundment is just one of the ways Trump is promising to reshape the federal bureaucracy, or the so-called “deep state” he believes undermined his last administration. He’s also proposed changes to federal civil service rules that would make it easier to fire career employees who have a role in policymaking, which he began trying to implement at the end of his first term.

Vought said the impoundment plan represented several years of Trump’s thinking on “how to use the purse strength to deal with the deep state.”

“I don’t think now’s the time to be talking about middle ground,” he added. “I think now’s the time to be talking about the paradigm shift.”

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Major anti-abortion group works to rally GOP support for 15-week ban

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A key anti-abortion group is pushing to get Republicans singing from the same songbook a year after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade damaged the party’s national political prospects.

Citing a new round of national polling the group commissioned, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America argues in a new memo, obtained by Semafor, that many Americans are comfortable limiting access to abortions even if they consider themselves broadly “pro-choice.”

It’s part of an effort to convince Republicans to go on offense with an issue that many believe played a role in the party’s disappointing midterms performance, and get them to at least back a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

The memo, which was sent to 2024 presidential candidates, Republicans on Capitol Hill, GOP chairmen and RNC committee people, includes the finding that 59% of voters say they’d back “Congressional legislation that would prohibit abortions after a baby can feel pain at fifteen weeks of pregnancy,” with exceptions for the life of the mother, rape, and incest. That includes 53% of self-described “pro-choice” voters.

“There is NO partisan difference in the viewpoint that abortion should be limited here, with 59% of Republicans and Democrats alike choosing that option, along with 56% of independents,” the memo, compiled by The Tarrance Group for SBA, reads.

​​Abortion polling tends to be sensitive to wording and context, which SBA’s pollsters tried to account for by asking questions in different ways. The findings are in keeping with other surveys that have typically found that most Americans are open to some limits on the procedure, even when they oppose outright bans.

The memo also notes that a majority of Americans backed requirements that minors inform their parents before seeking an abortion, as well as laws that would permanently prohibit federal dollars from funding abortion.

“Too often we hear that abortion is a controversial and divisive issue, but the reality is we have consensus. The American people have spoken loudly and consistently about their support for protections for the unborn starting at least when a baby feels pain,” SBA Legislative Director Jamie Dangers wrote in an email accompanying the memo.

Shelby Talcott

Foreign Influence

Progressives are splitting on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Capitol Hill thanks to concerns about his human rights record. Modi is set to address a joint session of Congress during his state visit this week, after Rep. Ro Khanna, who co-chairs the House’s India caucus, urged Speaker Kevin McCarthy to invite him in a letter last month. But Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — two of Khanna’s colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus — are promising to sit out Thursday’s speech in protest and host an event immediately following with human rights experts. CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal is trying to split the difference: She co-authored a bicameral letter that welcomed the prime minister to the U.S. while urging Biden to raise concerns about human rights and democratic governance when he meets with Modi this week.

Kadia Goba


A new bipartisan group of House members from rural districts is coming together to work on ideas for fixing the farm industry’s labor shortage.

Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn G.T. Thompson, R-Pa. and Ranking Member David Scott, D-Ga. say the working group will focus in particular on ways to reform the H-2A visa program, which allows farmers to hire seasonal guest workers from abroad. The program has been criticized as being badly designed for dairy and animal farms in particular, which require year-long employees.

“The Committee on Agriculture has heard loud and clear from producers across the nation that one of the biggest challenges confronting the agriculture industry is a lack of reliable labor,” they said in a joint statement.

Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark. and Don Davis, D-N.C. will co-chair the 14-member group, which will be made up entirely of Agriculture Committee members. Although the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over immigration legislation, the working group plans to produce reports tackling the flaws within the H-2A program in hopes to influence future bills.

Kadia Goba

One Good Text

Vivek Ramaswamy is a former biotech executive and a Republican candidate for president in 2024.


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: The Supreme Court won’t take up a private Christian college’s challenge to the Biden administration’s rule meant to prevent discrimination of transgender people in housing.

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis selected new justices to sit on the state’s Supreme Court with the help of vetting from a panel led by conservative legal activist Leonard Leo, according to the Washington Post.

Principals Team