In today's Principals, Washington Republicans condemn Donald Trump's dinner guests and the White Hou͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏
with Steve Clemons
The World Economic Forum at Davos takes place the third week of January — just when the bite of intense cold will take hold deeply across Ukraine. At a dinner for WEF Chairman Klaus Schwab I attended in NYC last night, the fate of Ukraine was on the minds of many. Some believe Ukraine will do something to dramatically cripple Russian troops in the run-up, making Davos the stage for the world to further shame Vladimir Putin.
On the Asia front, I’m guessing if Biden and Xi had not met on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Bali and agreed to lower the tensions in US-China relations and commit to “mutual respect,” then the White House would be saying a lot more about the widespread protests against COVID-19 lockdowns. Morgan Chalfant captures the essence of Biden’s low-key response to a remarkable wave of Chinese unrest.
Meanwhile in Washington, Republicans are abandoning their usual restraint and letting rip their criticisms of Donald Trump’s antisemitic dinner guests. Kadia Goba and Benjy Sarlin have a roundup of hard-hitting quotes.
PLUS: One Good Text with Rep. Bill Foster on term limits for committees AND Senator Mitt Romney is growing a beard. Seriously.
☞ White House: Biden is headed to Michigan today to deliver a speech at the SK Siltron semiconductor manufacturing plant in Bay City, where he’ll discuss jobs, supply chains and a recent reduction in gas prices that White House officials can’t stop talking about.
☞ Chuck Schumer: The Respect for Marriage remains on track after some drama around amendments at a procedural vote Monday night. Senators agreed to hold votes on three Republican amendments today, setting up final passage likely on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a debt ceiling deal "seems unlikely” during the lame duck, according to a Senate aide. More plausible: Electoral Count Act reform, possibly attached to another bill.
☞ Mitch McConnell: McConnell still has not commented on Trump, but that’s likely to change today when he holds his regular press conference.
☞ Nancy Pelosi: The Speaker announced she’s introducing legislation to avert a rail shutdown as labor unions and rail companies fail to reach an agreement.
☞ Kevin McCarthy: The Republican leader, still facing holdouts on the right for his Speaker vote, pushed back in a Newsmax interview. “If we play games on the floor, the Democrats could end up picking who the speaker is,” McCarthy said.
Congress will try to intervene to avert a rail strike this week. Biden asked for legislation adopting an agreement reached by rail unions and operators in September by a Dec. 9 deadline, warning that a rail shutdown “would devastate our economy.” The White House estimates a strike could leave up to 765,000 workers without jobs. The lower chamber is likely to pass the bill, but it faces a more uncertain fate in the Senate.
Democratic Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin died following a battle with cancer at the age of 61. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin will decide on when to set a special election to decide McEachin’s replacement in the state’s 4th district, which is a safely Democratic seat, per Politico.
Trump will not campaign for Herschel Walker in person in Georgia before the Senate runoff next week, and instead will fundraise and hold a call with supporters, the New York Times reports.
Nearly 70 mayors, including two Republicans, are writing to congressional leaders urging them to enact permanent protections for “Dreamers.” The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is currently facing a court challenge that threatens to end it.
US Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark isn’t worried about a divided Congress ahead. She writes in a “Calling on Congress” piece out later today that in 2018 when the Dems won the House and GOP had the Senate, they got IRS reforms, retirement reforms and the USMCA trade agreement done. Next on the Chamber’s list to work through the fun of a divided 119th: the workforce shortage crisis, energy security, getting back into the global trade scene, more critical infrastructure and somebody’s version of permitting reform.
Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress and a frequently quoted commentator, is leaving the liberal think tank after an effective “no-confidence” vote from leadership, Puck reports. At issue: Gambling on elections and his work with Sam Bankman-Fried (who is an investor in Semafor).
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah is growing a beard. Kadia’s View: It looks good! Room for Disagreement: Benjy is not a fan.Kadia Goba
— Morgan Chalfant, Kadia Goba, and Steve Clemons
Punchbowl News: The White House is preparing for the possibility that Congress passes a one-year stopgap funding bill amid a lack of progress towards a deal on an omnibus package.
Playbook: Biden’s decision to press Congress to intervene to avoid a rail strike has already rankled some union members. “He's going to have some unhappy people,” one former Labor Department official told Politico.
The Early 202: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. said the tentative rail agreement Biden wants Congress to pass doesn’t go far enough and pressed Congress to ensure rail workers have “guaranteed sick leave.”
‘Immoral,’ ‘Disgusting,’ ‘Ass Clown’: Republicans rage against Trump’s antisemitic dinner party
Donald Trump faced a deluge of criticism from across the Republican party spectrum on Monday over his dinner party with noted antisemites Ye (née Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes, starting with his own former vice president and followed by a raft of senators.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and Holocaust denier, a seat at the table and I think he should apologize for it,” Mike Pence said in an interview with NewsNation. “And he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”
In Washington, lawmakers returning from a holiday recess condemned Fuentes, Ye, and Trump’s decision to host them, with varying degrees of severity.
“There is no bottom to the degree to which he is willing to degrade himself and the country for that matter,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah said. “Having dinner with those people was disgusting.”
“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.”
Cassidy had voted to convict Trump in an impeachment trial, and Romney had voted to do so twice, but it wasn’t just his usual critics speaking out this time.
“It was ridiculous,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa said. “I just think that was a really bad idea,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D, the second-ranking Republican leader, said. “He shouldn’t have done it.”
While some lawmakers were reluctant to single out Trump by name, and many paired their statements with attacks on Democrats and reassurances they didn’t consider Trump racist, they almost all made clear he’d crossed a line. Importantly, they did what Trump would not — condemn and disavow the hate his dinner guests preached.
“There’s no room in the Republican Party for white supremacy and antisemitism,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., a close Trump ally, said. “It’s wrong. I think Republicans should all condemn white supremacy and antisemitism.”
“That should be something everybody should clearly say, there's no room for any racism in anything,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who is currently weighing a run for governor, said. “It's easy for me to say.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. called Fuentes an “ass clown” and told CNN he hoped Trump would condemn the “evil” and “disgusting” figure. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas told NBC News he was a “racist clown.”
And some top supporters were, at minimum, willing to concede it wasn’t the best look. “There's a lot of other people, I would think that he could have met with to help the country be stronger and go more in the right direction,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. said.
Meanwhile, condemnations continued to pour in from Jewish supporters of the president. Elan Carr, who Trump appointed to a State Department post devoted to combating antisemitism, tweeted: “No responsible American, and certainly no former President, should be cavorting with the likes of Nick Fuentes and Kanye West.”
KADIA AND BENJY’S VIEW
Trump’s dinner party seemed to be going the way of prior Trump scandals over the holiday weekend — a lot of noise in the press, a handful of attention-getting condemnations from Republicans, but mostly silence within his party. On Monday, it became clear this wasn’t going to be another story that gets quietly swept under the rug.
Overall, it was the most widespread Republican rebuke Trump has received since January 6th. And it came just two weeks after the former president launched his reelection campaign, and three weeks after a disappointing midterm election that many Republicans blamed on Trump-backed candidates who voters perceived as extreme. Trump has made it through worse, and rank-and-file votes are the ultimate judge of his place in the party. But he also can’t afford to bleed support when Republicans have other options in a competitive primary.
— Kadia Goba and Benjy Sarlin
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Biden sticks to a low-key message on China's protests
Tyrone Siu / Reuters
The Biden administration is offering a measured response so far to the outbreak of protests across China, expressing general support for peaceful demonstrations and criticizing the country’s “zero Covid” policy while avoiding comments that could be viewed as provocative by Beijing.
“The White House supports the right of peaceful protest,” national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday afternoon. “We’re watching this closely, as you might expect we would.”
He described the issue as one “for the Chinese people and the Chinese government to speak to.”
Demonstrators have taken to the streets across China’s major cities in order to vent their rage at the government’s far-reaching COVID suppression efforts, which have included strict lockdowns affecting millions and mandatory isolation for those suspected of exposure. A State Department spokesperson gently critiqued China’s stringent public health approach Monday, and said that the U.S. would focus on strategies like vaccination, testing, and treatment.
"We think it’s going to be very difficult for the People’s Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through their zero COVID strategy,” the spokesperson said.
The U.S. embassy in China also issued a rare advisory for Americans overseas, urging them to stock up on medication, water, and food amid the lockdowns. Otherwise, administration officials have been largely silent on the protests.
“I can’t imagine they’re going to say something that would be inflammatory or perceived as such by the Chinese,” said Nicholas Lardy, an expert on China at the Peterson Institute. The White House, he noted, is currently trying to engage with China on various issues. Some worry that backing demonstrators too strongly could upset those efforts.
Notably, the protests erupted just weeks after President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali and agreed to resume dialogues on climate change and other subjects — an early sign of tensions between Washington and Beijing potentially easing. “There’s been no change to our desire to continue to see these channels of communication stay open,” Kirby told reporters.
Republicans, meanwhile, are seizing on Biden’s muted response to paint him as weak on China. “The Chinese Communist Party’s lockdowns have imprisoned people against their will—many have died. As Chinese citizens bravely protest, Joe Biden & the corporate class shrug,” Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is poised to become the next House speaker, tweeted late Monday. “Our Select Committee on China will do what Biden refuses—finally reckon with the pariah that is the CCP.”
— Morgan Chalfant
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One Good Text With...Rep. Bill Foster
WHAT THE LEFT ISN’T READING: Elon Musk claimed he’d soon release files on “free speech suppression” at Twitter before he took over.
WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: A new lawsuit alleges that the Department of Veterans Affairs discriminated against Black veterans for decades.
— with our partners at Ground News
Before the midterms, the Democrats were bracing for a clash over whether Joe Biden should run for a second term. But now? Not so much, according to the New York Times, which reports that after their unexpected midterms success the party’s leaders are mostly happy to let the president run uncontested in 2024 (assuming he feels up for the job). Still, some remain worried about Biden age, and one important Democratic pollster warns that, despite this year’s surprise performance, the party could still be vulnerable on issues like crime and the border.
Department of cutting your nose to spite your face: Republican officials in a small Arizona county are refusing to certify the results of the midterm elections, a move that would flip a U.S. House race to the Democrats. The Democratic Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, who was just elected governor, is suing to make them approve the result, the AP explains.
Ticket-splitters: They might be getting rarer, but they’re still powerful. FiveThirtyEight finds that the number of Americans who decided to back both Democratic and Republican candidates continued its long term decline during this month’s midterms. But they played a decisive role in states like Nevada, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.
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— Steve Clemons