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Let’s talk about 2024.
President Biden, expected to announce his reelection bid soon, is fine-tuning a policy-focused pitch to voters. Former President Trump, who is an announced candidate, unveiled a three-minute video condemning Chinese government influence in America. In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen by many in his party as a prospective presidential contender, courts national attention by swatting at Democrats’ “wokeness” and jumping with both boots into the culture wars.
It will be a long two years.
Biden, who flies to sodden California today to promote federal assistance amid weeks of storms, is on track to signal reelection plans in the next few weeks, reports The Hill’s Amie Parnes. At 80, the president is said to be undaunted by divided government, House conservatives, investigations into his family and rediscovered classified documents, as well as umpteen global crises, according to his supporters.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the campaign groundwork tell The Hill that Biden will signal his intention to seek a second term following his Feb. 7 State of the Union address. A more formal campaign declaration would take place closer to spring.
“It’s still very much in the works and nothing has changed,” said a source who described planning.
Trump as a candidate has been unusually low-key for months. Ahead of a South Carolina rally at the end of January, the former president this week advocated, in a video message released to the New York Post, banning Chinese nationals from buying U.S. farmland and barring Chinese investments in major tech, energy, telecommunications and medical companies.
“We should be very concerned about all Chinese Communist activity in the United States. As I’ve long said, economic security is national security,” Trump added while knocking what he called “corrupt influence-peddlers like the Biden crime family.”
Some Republican operatives insist the former president remains the GOP front-runner for another turn in the Oval Office, reports The Hill’s Max Greenwood, despite interest in DeSantis and a long list of Republicans who are gauging a 2024 run amid talk of a younger, fresher, less polarizing contender. The Florida governor, who has a book out next month and a legislative session in Tallahassee that won’t end until May, is unlikely to announce a decision until June or July, Time reports.
▪ CBS News: Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House assistant Democratic leader, says he’s convinced Biden will seek reelection.
▪ The Hill: The National Archives says it must consult with the Justice Department before sharing information related to the Biden documents.
▪ The Hill: DeSantis, House Republicans defend natural gas cooktops against federal regulation. “Don’t tread on Florida, and don’t mess with gas stoves!” the governor tweeted.
So early in the presidential cycle, polls are an iffy barometer. Plus, the results are confusing. A Morning Consult survey released on Wednesday posed a hypothetical match-up and found that Trump trounced DeSantis among potential GOP primary voters (The Hill). That differed from polling in late 2022 that found DeSantis leading Trump among Republicans who weighed the governor head-to-head against the former president (FiveThirtyEight).
▪ The Hill: Here are the House GOP power players in the 118th Congress.
▪ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Bloomberg TV: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia ventured to the Swiss Alps, where he promoted the Peach State to CEOs and leaders gathered in Davos, gave interviews and called for Washington bipartisanship on the debt ceiling.
▪ Roll Call: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) floats fiscal commissions for a debt limit bill.
▪ Axios: House Oversight Committee becomes ground zero for partisan clashes.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ MORE POLITICS & CONGRESS
The president’s visit today to Santa Clara County, Calif., follows a devastating three weeks of rain along the state’s central coast that created flooding, mudslides and sinkholes. The nine consecutive rainstorms that inundated California since Dec. 26 killed at least 20 people while tens of thousands remained under evacuation orders as of Monday.
Biden will see damaged areas from a helicopter, meet first responders, visit affected towns and “assess what additional federal support is needed,” according to the White House. Planned stops include Capitola and Seacliff State Park in Aptos, both in Santa Cruz County just off Monterey Bay. The president, who will deliver a speech at the park and amended his disaster declaration to cover 100 percent of eligible costs for 60 days, will be joined by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
While damaging, a benefit of so much rain is some relief from historic drought. Much of the Golden State has already received half or more of its average annual rainfall (CNBC).
KRON4: Biden will tour Santa Cruz to survey storm destruction.
A bipartisan group of senators seeking to craft an immigration compromise faces a tough path to come up with a deal that could clear the House as hard-line conservatives seize power, The Hill’s Al Weaver reports. Almost a decade ago, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” attempted to move a comprehensive immigration reform package through Congress but failed when then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not bring the measure to the floor for a vote. Six of those senators remain in office. Anti-immigration reform animus on the right has since hardened, although it has not deterred talks among senators.
“This is going to take months to potentially get to something that we could support in the House. We can’t simply, because it’s politically difficult, say we can’t touch it this Congress,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told The Hill following last week’s trip to the border with a bipartisan group of senators.
Truth & Consequences? Yes, there’s more news about Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).
Santos has repeatedly said his mother was inside one of the World Trade Center towers when they were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, but immigration records indicate that she wasn’t in the United States on that day. Instead, the records show that Fatima Devolder applied for a visa to enter the United States from her home country of Brazil in February 2003 and stated on her application that she had not been in the United States since 1999 (The Washington Post).
Two New Jersey veterans say Santos promised to raise funds for life saving surgery for one of their dogs in 2016, then became elusive and took off with the money. The fundraiser eventually raised around $3,000, but things went south after one of the men tried to access the GoFundMe donations.
“I had to jump through hoops and do everything his way,” Navy veteran Rich Osthoff told CNN when describing his pit bull “Sapphire,” which developed a tumor in 2015. “He was just totally, totally difficult. One obstacle after another,” he said of Santos.
▪ Business Insider: Santos used a fake Jewish name on a GoFundMe because he thought “Jews will give more,” a former roommate said.
▪ The New York Times: Santos shows early signs of tilting to the hard right. Through his staff hires and his public appearances with members of the House Freedom Caucus, he has signaled a move away from the mainstream.
Republicans have incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) Senate seat in their sights ahead of 2024, pointing to signs that the Buckeye State is trending redder every election cycle. As the Hill’s Julia Manchester reports, state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Ohio) launched his second bid for Senate on Tuesday and became the first Republican to enter Ohio’s 2024 senatorial primary. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already started running ads in the state, targeting Brown and urging him to retire.
Republicans have won Ohio in the last two presidential races and maintained their hold on former Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) seat after he retired last year. However, Brown is considered a political institution in the state, making him an abnormally tough candidate to beat in an increasingly red region.
The Hill: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) knocks Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in exchange over committee assignments.
In Illinois, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) is bracing for a challenging reelection bid as she vies to remain the city’s top executive, writes The Hill’s Caroline Vakil. Lightfoot, who made history in 2019 as the city’s first Black female and openly gay mayor, has faced a slew of challenges in recent years, including confrontations with local unions, the COVID-19 pandemic and rising concerns over crime in the Windy City. Observers suggest Republican ambitions to defeat Lightfoot could be uphill. She faces eight challengers in February’s election.
Chicago Sun-Times: Lightfoot raised $1.49 million, more than all of her competitors except Brandon Johnson. But she spent $3 million, twice as much as she took in.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ EMPLOYMENT & SHRINKAGE
Microsoft and Amazon, two of the world’s biggest companies, began cutting a total of 28,000 jobs on Wednesday as part of a post-pandemic reckoning that has left almost no tech name unscathed. Microsoft began notifying some of the 10,000 workers who will lose their jobs this quarter, while its Seattle-based neighbor Amazon started sending out emails to employees in the U.S., Canada and Costa Rica who are among 18,000 people whose positions will be eliminated (Bloomberg News).
▪ USA Today: Tracking tech layoffs: Why companies like Amazon and Meta cut jobs in 2022.
▪ Bloomberg News: Amazon kills “Smile” charity program to focus on other giving.
▪ CNBC: Microsoft, Amazon and other tech companies have laid off more than 60,000 employees in the last year.
▪ Bloomberg News: Fed’s beige book says U.S. price growth seen moderating in 2023.
More than 26,000 tech employees have been laid off in 2023 to date, according to a tracking site focused on tech job losses.
A lawyer for investors told jurors at Elon Musk’s securities fraud trial that the CEO misled Tesla shareholders when he tweeted in 2018 about taking the company private with “funding secured” and cost them millions of dollars.
“His lies caused regular people, like Glen Littleton, to lose millions and millions of dollars,” attorney Nicholas Porritt said in his opening arguments Wednesday, referring to the named plaintiff in the class-action case. Porritt said it’s “critical that he is held, and the company is held, liable” in order for markets to operate normally and fairly (Bloomberg News).
After nearly a year of fighting in Ukraine and numerous setbacks in the war, Russia is planning another major offensive to make up for its losses and gain more ground in the country, reports The Hill’s Brad Dress. Intelligence analysts and researchers largely agree there is an offensive brewing in Moscow and that it is likely to come sometime in the winter or early spring. Still, there is no clear picture of what that might look like, and there is wide dispute over how effective it would be considering the heavy losses the army has suffered in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have been warning for months about the possibility of another surge in attacks, but have said very little publicly about the details.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday made a passionate appeal by video to heads of state and other decision makers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, urging a faster pace of support for his country in the face of Russia’s invasion. Too often, he said, Ukraine found itself in a race against time (The New York Times).
“Tragedies are outpacing life. The tyranny is outpacing democracy,” he said. “The time the free world uses to think is used by the terrorist state to kill.”
▪ CNN: U.S. preps another major Ukraine aid package, but Kyiv pleads for tanks.
▪ The Globe and Mail: Canada to send 200 more armored vehicles to Ukraine as Kyiv stresses a need for tanks.
▪ The New York Times: U.S. warms to helping Ukraine target Crimea.
Ukraine needs a “significant increase” in weapons at a pivotal moment in Russia’s invasion and such support is the only way to a negotiated peaceful solution, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, as defense leaders from around 50 countries and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prepare hold talks at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base on Friday (Reuters).
Stoltenberg’s comments follow repeated pleas from Kyiv for tanks from Western allies. While the U.S. has said it would likely supply Ukraine with tanks, its decision hinges on Germany doing the same, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday steered clear of committing to the supply of Leopard 2 tanks. He argued his country was “strategically interlocked” with the U.S., France and other “friends and partners,” and that any decisions about weapons had to be part of a collective effort to help Ukraine win the war (The Guardian).
Poland would supply Ukraine with the German-made tanks if Germany doesn’t grant approval for the transfer soon, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, increasing pressure on Berlin to back down from its stance that the U.S. must send tanks to Kyiv before allies donate the most-widely used tank in Europe (The Wall Street Journal).
▪ The New York Times: Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Aryeh Deri, a politician convicted of tax fraud, was not fit to serve as a senior minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition.
▪ The Washington Post: The shadowy groups trying to keep North Koreans from listening to K-pop.
▪ CNBC: The threat of a transatlantic trade war is dominating Davos.
▪ The Hill: Four U.S. citizens, residents killed in Nepal plane crash.
▪ Politico EU: United Nations boss to Davos: You’re the problem.
In a surprise announcement, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced her resignation, saying she “no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job. Ardern, who has led the country since 2017 when she became the world’s youngest female head of government and whose time in office spanned the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, a volcanic eruption and a global pandemic, said her term will conclude no later than Feb. 7. She’ll remain a lawmaker until the general elections, which she said would be held on Oct. 14 (The Guardian and ABC News).
“I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused,” she said. “And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go.”
■ As Russia weakens, whoever has soldiers and guns will survive, by
Alexander J. Motyl, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3GO6eNP
■ Why George Santos won’t be able to fake his way through Congress, by former Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3XCCs5w
WHERE AND WHEN
👉 The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.
The House will meet briefly at noon on Friday and return for legislative business on Jan. 24.
The Senate meets Friday at 1 p.m. for a pro forma session.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 7:30 a.m. in the Oval Office before flying to Santa Clara County, Calif., where he will arrive at midday accompanied by Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell. Biden plans en route to survey storm-ravaged areas via helicopter, then visit with business owners and local residents during an event at Capitola Pier, Capitola, Calif. At 2:35 p.m. local, the president will meet with first responders and state and local officials at Seacliff State Park, Aptos, Calif., to survey recovery efforts. At the park, Biden will deliver a speech at 3 p.m. local before departing California to return to the White House by early Friday.
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will leave Washington this morning for Tonopah, Ariz., where she will join IBEW workers this afternoon to talk about a transmission line project. The vice president will speak at 2:25 p.m. MT about clean energy, joined by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Emhoff’s schedule also includes a 2 p.m. MT roundtable at Arizona State University with college students to discuss combating antisemitism. Harris will greet U.S. service members at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., at 4:50 p.m. MT before flying with her husband to Los Angeles.
Economic indicator: The Treasury Department forecast that the U.S. statutory cap on borrowing of $31.3 trillion would be reached today, requiring “extraordinary measures” to forestall default for as long as possible in the absence of action by Congress. Separately, the Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending Jan. 14.
➤ HEALTH & PANDEMIC
🦠 Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, 69, contracted COVID-19 and is suffering mild symptoms while working in isolation. He is expected to be able to participate in the central bank’s next two-day meeting that concludes on Feb. 1 (CNBC).
▪ Nature: China’s COVID-19 wave has probably peaked, model suggests, but a lack of data is obscuring the true impact of the outbreak.
▪ Forbes: Why seniors should still get their COVID-19 booster.
As the United States enters its third full COVID-19 winter, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha is warning that the permanence of the virus in the disease landscape could mean brutal and long-lasting seasonal surges of cold-weather illnesses for years to come, resulting in hospitals struggling to care for other emergencies and unable to give patients timely, lifesaving treatments.
“I just think people have not appreciated the chronic cost, because we have seen this as an acute problem,” Jha said. “We have no idea how hard this is going to make life for everybody, for long periods of time.”
So far, this COVID-19 winter in the United States has been challenging, though not nearly as disastrous as the past two. But much of the winter still lies ahead (The Washington Post).
Information about the availability of U.S. COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots can be found at Vaccines.gov.
▪ The Washington Post: Lab-leak fears are putting virologists under scrutiny.
▪ The New York Times: California joins other states in suing companies over insulin prices.
▪ NBC News: Another major HIV vaccine trial fails.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,102,286. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 3,907 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)
And finally … 🚘 It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by America’s passion for automobiles, we’re eager for some smart guesses about cars in the news.
Be sure to email your responses to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Which is the beloved automobile Biden told reporters was “locked” in his Wilmington, Del., garage near cartons of White House records from the Obama administration? 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville 1967 Corvette Stingray 1960 Volkswagen Type 1 Coupe 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT
Police in Baltimore (and other cities) this week offered anti-theft tips to owners of certain vehicle models made by which manufacturers because they’re vulnerable to thieves inspired by a TikTok dare? Tesla and Bolt Honda and Toyota BMW and Audi Hyundai and Kia
Prices of used cars, previously soaring, have plummeted, according to a Tuesday news report. The reason(s) cited? Higher interest rates Affordability strains for consumers Increased supply of new cars All of the above
A car show on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Pierce, Fla., was interrupted by what headline event? A shooting that accompanied an argument at the show injured eight people (one critically) An alligator escaped an exhibit used to display a car Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) delivered remarks to the crowd A small tornado ripped through the roof Utah surgeon, others accused of destroying vaccines, giving fake shots to children Santos denies performing as a drag queen
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