Morning Report — Schumer sparks uproar with Israel critique


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Washington’s reactions Thursday ran the gamut from surprise to seething disapproval. The situation was similar in Israel. The White House, aware of what was coming, held its collective breath.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the most senior Jewish Democrat in Congress, stood on the Senate floor Thursday and took direct aim at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a politician he’s known for decades, while urging new elections and new leadership in Israel amid its ferocious war with Hamas.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take the precedence over the best interests of Israel,” Schumer said, arguing the conservative prime minister is currently in a coalition with “far-right extremists” and has been “too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows.” 

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) slammed Schumer’s remarks as “highly inappropriate” and “wrong.”

GOP senators immediately challenged Schumer’s 45-minute speech as a major miscalculation, The Hill’s Al Weaver reports. 

“There is no good foreign policy or other reasons to make that kind of statement,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said. “There’s a war cabinet [in Israel] that has people that are political archrivals. I don’t hear them calling for an election, so how the hell can somebody in the United States call for elections?” he added.

Schumer responded to the backlash with a post on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “The U.S. cannot dictate the outcome of an election. That is for the Israeli public to decide,” he wrote. “As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders. But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice. There needs to be a fresh debate about the future.”

Full text of Schumer’s floor speech is HERE.

Netanyahu’s allies rejected Schumer’s criticism. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, on X called Schumer’s remarks political, “unhelpful” and “counterproductive.”

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, who met in Washington with the Senate majority leader and other officials early this month without coordinating his visit with Netanyahu, described Schumer as a friend of Israel who made a mistake in calling for elections.

The discord demonstrated rising tensions between the U.S. government and Israel as many Democrats grow increasingly angry over the humanitarian crisis unleashed by Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Netanyahu perceives Israel’s war as his political survival. President Biden, facing domestic pushback from young voters and Arab Americans in swing states, is trying to retain U.S. influence with Israel to negotiate a deal with Hamas for a temporary cease-fire that would allow for hostage swapping and inflows of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Israel has confirmed receiving Hamas’s vision for a truce deal through Qatari mediators — a proposal Netanyahu dismissed as “unrealistic.” (Reuters today reports some of the details of the proposal it has seen.) No progress toward such an agreement emerged Thursday, White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

▪ The New York Times: Overnight, at least 20 people were killed and more than 100 injured while waiting for food aid in Gaza City, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health. Israel denied attacking hungry people but it was not immediately clear what caused the deaths.

▪ The Hill: The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees is in the crosshairs of Congress’s spending fight.

▪ The New York Times: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday appointed a loyal insider rather than an independent prime minister.

The U.S. sanctioned two Israeli entities and three Israeli settlers in the West Bank on Thursday for undermining “peace, security and stability” through violence against Palestinians.   

3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

▪ Would you rather work fewer hours for full-time status? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to legislate a four-day workweek, setting what would be a new threshold for overtime pay. Odds of the idea becoming law this year? Zero.

▪ Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday he’s putting together an investor group to try to buy TikTok to operate the popular video-sharing app in this country. The White House had no comment. Meanwhile, China railed against a House-passed measure that could result in a TikTok ban.

▪ With China worries and alleged mismanagement in mind, a group of House Republicans urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a letter Thursday to push for the replacement of International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva. The European Union this week backed the Bulgarian IMF chief for a second term.

LEADING THE DAY

LEADING Politics Harris 031424 AP Adam Bettcher

© The Associated Press / Adam Bettcher | Vice President Harris toured a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday to advocate for reproductive rights.

POLITICS 

SECOND AND FIRST: How does a vice president make a headline-grabbing stand to spread a political message? Being first can help. Biden, as former President Obama’s vice president, got ahead of his boss with an election-year endorsement of same-sex marriage. Vice President Harris recently took the lead by forcefully calling for a “cease-fire” in Gaza, something Biden had not verbalized.

Harris — the first female vice president and a former California senator and attorney general — flew to a St. Paul, Minn., Planned Parenthood abortion clinic Thursday. She became the first president or vice president to walk the Democratic Party’s talk by standing on a clinic battlefield where reclaiming women’s control of their reproductive health care, including abortion, is viewed within her party as defiance against restrictive state laws and the conservative Supreme Court. The Minnesota Constitution guarantees abortion rights.  

“In this environment, these attacks against an individual’s right to make decisions about their own body are outrageous and, in many instances, just plain old immoral,” Harris said after a tour of the facility. “How dare these elected leaders believe they are in a better position to tell women what they need, to tell women what’s in their best interest. We have to be a nation that trusts women.”

HOPE FLOATS ON POLLS: After months of handwringing among Senate Republicans who worry former President Trump could be a headwind in their drive for the majority next year, skeptics have begun to view the former president and criminal defendant as a potential tailwind, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. What changed? The outlook for individual contests has brightened for the GOP and a top Trump campaign leader, Susan Wiles, met with GOP senators to emphasize that Trump leads Biden in key Senate battlegrounds, according to polls, including in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.

That list does not include Ohio, of new concern among some Senate Republicans who worry candidate Bernie Moreno might win Tuesday’s GOP primary. Moreno, who is supported by Trump, is confronting questions about the existence of a 2008 profile seeking “Men for 1-on-1 sex” on a casual sexual encounter website called Adult Friend Finder. An Associated Press review confirmed that someone with access to Moreno’s email account created the profile, although the AP could not confirm whether it was created by Moreno. The candidate’s lawyer, Charles Harder, said Moreno “had nothing to do with the AFF account,” adding that a former intern created it as a prank. Moreno first ran for the Senate in 2021 before withdrawing from the race.

2024 ROUNDUP

▪ Trump and his allies this month upended the Republican National Committee staff and operations ahead of a marathon general election stretch amid a near-term cash disadvantage. … Here’s why the GOP should be worried about Trump’s RNC purge.

▪ House Republicans said Thursday they’re optimistic the party can grow its majority in November, despite this year’s chaos.

▪ Indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has pleaded not guilty to 18 federal counts including bribery, is considering seeking reelection this year as an independent.

▪ No Labels appointed a panel Thursday to select the “best bipartisan unity ticket” for president and vice president. Names could be announced this month. … The group has spoken with Republican Geoff Duncan, a former Georgia lieutenant governor, about the race.

▪ A New York fundraiser for the Biden-Harris campaign scheduled April 3 is tied to a Broadway performance of “Suffs: The Musical,” about suffrage. Hillary Clinton is an ambassador/producer (The Hill’s ITK).

MORE IN CONGRESS

SHOW US THE MONEY: The battle over this year’s spending plan continues with another shutdown deadline in one week. Lawmakers lumber toward a deadline for six full-year funding blueprints to cover major federal departments, including Homeland Security, Defense and Health and Human Services. Lawmakers’ border rifts with one another and the administration are complicating the outlook for getting the Department of Homeland Security funded in time.

Meanwhile, disagreements continue among Republicans in the House and Senate over supplemental assistance for Ukraine, hung up in the House over prioritization of border security and conservatives’ interest in attaching strings to U.S. backing for Kyiv, such as potential loans, limits and audits.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a persistent voice for additional aid for Ukraine to battle Russia, is among those trying to nudge the right-leaning House. In a floor speech Thursday, he told Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to “finish the job” by taking up a Senate-passed measure ASAP.

“We don’t have time for all of this. We got a bill that got 70 votes in the Senate. Give the members of the House of Representatives an opportunity to vote on it. That’s the solution,” McConnell argued.

CNN: Russia’s war machine is trying to turn Ukrainian teenagers into soldiers.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will hold a pro forma session at 11 a.m.

The Senate will meet at 9:25 a.m. for a pro forma session.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. 🍀 Biden will meet at the White House at 10:30 a.m. with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. The president will attend a luncheon at 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol hosted by Friends of Ireland with lawmakers. He will then return to the White House.

The vice president and husband Doug Emhoff will host Varadkar for breakfast at the Naval Observatory. She will host a 1:25 p.m. roundtable in the White House Roosevelt Room to discuss reforming marijuana classification under law with guests including rap artist Fat Joe, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and people who received pardons for past marijuana convictions.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling through Wednesday to Austria, South Korea and the Philippines. Today in Vienna, he joined Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Blinken plans a midday speech at a session of the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, followed by remarks at a side event about synthetic drugs and public health. In the afternoon, the secretary will meet with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. Blinken will hold a press conference with Schallenberg before meeting with employees and families of the U.S. Tri-Mission Vienna.

Second gentleman Emhoff will be in Harrison, N.J., at 6 p.m. for an event with national soccer team Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena to speak about equal pay in women’s sports. He will participate in Gotham FC’s ceremonial lighting of the torch at the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup at 7:45 p.m.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2:30 p.m.

ZOOM IN

Zoom in Trump docs 100523 DOJ Uncredited

© The Associated Press / Department of Justice photo via AP | Classified and other documents seized during an Aug. 8, 2022, FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump’s club and estate.

TRUMP WORLD

JUSTICE MOVES SLOWLY. Trump and his lawyers want to exploit that fact as the former president campaigns as a criminal defendant in four jurisdictions. The strategy involves trying to blur Trump with Biden on legal terrain, portray Biden as attempting to “imprison” political opponents, use events focused on policy to counter Biden’s reelection bid, and delay trials as long as possible, according to Trump allies who spoke with NBC News.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s delay tactics are paying off in his criminal cases and rallying his supporters.

Two of Trump’s pending cases made headlines Thursday. In Manhattan, the prosecutor surprised many just two weeks before Trump is set to go on trial by proposing a delay of as long as a month. District Attorney Alvin Bragg said a delay would give Trump and his legal team additional time to review records turned over Wednesday.

In Florida, the former president and his lawyers failed to win dismissal of the Justice Department’s allegations on one motion Thursday. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon rejected a filing to dismiss the presidential records case, saying Trump’s argument was premature in asserting that the main statute prosecutors are using against him is unconstitutionally vague. She also appeared skeptical of Trump’s lawyers’ argument for dismissing the case on the basis of the Presidential Records Act.

Trump, who faces dozens of charges in the classified documents case, argues that as president, he designated the materials he took to Mar-a-Lago as personal records, which are excluded from the restrictions in the law enacted after former President Nixon claimed ownership of Watergate records.

The former president and his co-defendants —valet Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira — have pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied any wrongdoing.

Special counsel Jack Smith and Trump were both in the courtroom Thursday. A trial that was once scheduled May 20 will not take place on that date because of Trump’s request for more time. Cannon has not set a new trial date (NBC News and CNN).

Need a road map to keep pace with the tangle of Trump cases? The New York Times has an up-to-date tracker HERE.

ELSEWHERE

Elsewhere Haiti 031424 AP Odelyn Joseph

© The Associated Press / Odelyn Joseph | In violence-torn Haiti on Thursday, National Police patrolled in Port-a-Prince near the National Penitentiary, which was stormed and emptied by armed gangs March 2.

INTERNATIONAL

LAWLESS: Looming international military intervention threatens to perpetuate a security boom-and-bust cycle in Haiti, as gangs consolidate their grip on the country’s power base, reports The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. 

A new round of international military and police presence in Haiti is evolving. The country is poised to adopt a negotiated transitional council to rebuild top government structures in the wake of acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation this week, which followed a festering power vacuum.

Chaos reigns in the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation of nearly 12 million people, which is less than 700 miles from the U.S., NBC News reports.

OPINION

■ Surprise! Maryland could determine control of the Senate this fall, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post.

■ Court minority worries majority opinion could block future challenges, by Don Wolfensberger, opinion contributor, The Hill.

THE CLOSER

Quiz TikTok in China 052121 AP Ng Han Guan

© The Associated Press / Ng Han Guan | In Beijing, Chinese-owned TikTok (known as Douyin) was promoted on the street in 2021.

And finally …  👏👏👏  We’re dancing and singing (with some desk-bound choreography) to celebrate winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! We asked about TikTok headlines and readers were ready.

Here’s who aced the puzzle: Tom Chabot, Patrick Kavanagh, Phil Kirstein, Peter Sprofera, Robert Bradley, John van Santen, Mark Roeddiger, Lou Tisler, John Trombetti, Barbara Golian, Michael Hess, Sharon Banitt, Randall S. Patrick, Casey Teeters, Linda L. Field, Tim Burrack, Susan Reeves, Richard O. Fanning, Tim Abeska, Jay Rockey, Bob Hickerson, Tré Shawn Griffin-Noordermeer, Blair Marasco, Don Swanson, Margaret Ramos, Stan Wasser, Carl Grover, Harry Strulovici, Candi Cee, Schuck Schoenberger, Jaina Mehta Buck, Jack Barshay, Terry Pflaumer, Joan Domingues, Kristin C. Lobash, Pam Manges, James Morris and Richard E. Baznik.

The House, in a rare bipartisan vote Wednesday, backed an effort to force TikTok to split from its owner, ByteDance, or face consequences.

TikTok specializes in users’ short videos.

TikTok’s name is supposed to evoke the sound of a ticking clock.

Trump this week said “some kids” could “go crazy” if there’s a ban on TikTok.

Stay Engaged

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