Morning Report — Will Tim Scott be Trump’s ‘bold’ VP choice?

Morning Report — Will Tim Scott be Trump’s ‘bold’ VP choice? | The Hill

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), first elected in 2012, is high up on vice presidential “guess lists” amid informed speculation and strategic teases from former President Trump about an eventual running mate. Morning Report asked political analysts this week about Scott, the 58-year-old former GOP presidential primary rival and the Senate’s sole Black Republican.

I feel strongly Tim Scott is probably going to be the pick,” Boston University associate professor Thomas Whalen, a political historian and author, told Morning Report.

“Tim Scott is anti-abortion, he’s from a key state. And that will appeal to conservative Black voters, and also to Hispanics who are against abortion.”

Whalen believes picking a conservative woman as a running mate “makes no sense at this point,” because abortion is a potentially vote-shifting issue in this election year, including among Republican and independent women. He believes Trump will cater to his bedrock supporters and try to lure votes away from the Biden-Harris ticket on other issues.

“Trump has such a hold on his base. It’s compared to a religious cult, and I think that’s fair. The reason you pick a VP is to expand, try to dig into the margins of your opponent, grow whatever you can to your base,” Whalen said. “With Tim Scott, Trump might be able to peel off Black conservative voters and especially Hispanic males who have traditionally voted for Democrats, [but] who are staying at home. And he might secure a key state for the election.”

The Boston University professor suggests Trump is likely to unveil his running mate before the convention because “he’s going to need a distraction and he’s the master of distraction.”

Selecting Scott would be “considered a bold choice,” Whalen added, presented by the candidate as, “‘We are the party of inclusion. Democrats say we’re not, but we are. We have a big tent.’ [Trump] would benefit in the short term and get a little bump in the polls, I would think.”

Reuters: Who will Trump choose for his Republican running mate?

Republican strategist and Trump campaign alum Brian Seitchik was less certain about Scott’s chances, but told Morning Report he thinks the South Carolina senator “provides a window into the African American community, specifically African American men, who certainly seem Trump-curious this time.”

Still, Seitchik cautioned that in looking for a vice-presidential candidate, the Trump campaign will be looking for an A-level campaign surrogate, and someone who can “deliver a punch” when stumping.

“Trump calls himself a counterpuncher,” Seitchik said. “Certainly, Trump likes people with fight in them. If you watch [the GOP primary] debates, Senator Scott, while a great orator, didn’t do a lot of counterpunching. So, is he going to be able to go out on the stump for the next 200 plus days and beat up [President] Biden and [Vice President] Harris in a sufficient manner? That’s one question.”

Like Whalen, Seitchik said the possibility of the former president picking a female running mate for the purpose of attracting women voters is slim, since “at the end of the day, this is a binary choice between Trump and Biden.”

“Republicans don’t traditionally play identity politics [when choosing a ticket],” Seitchik added. “That’s the game of Democrats. But let’s also understand that whoever the vice-presidential nominee is, they’re a distant second fiddle to Donald Trump, who’s a larger-than-life character.”


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

▪ Top diplomats from NATO’s member states, gathering today on the alliance’s 75th birthday, will be talking about the threat posed by Moscow — and from the potential next occupant of the White House.

▪ A 62-year-old patient who two weeks ago received a transplanted pig kidney at Massachusetts General Hospital is doing so well, he left the hospital Wednesday to return home after the groundbreaking surgery.

▪ A patient Federal Reserve appears to be downshifting market expectations. Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday it will take time for policymakers to evaluate the current state of inflation, which means timing of a central bank move is uncertain.


🍎 First lady Jill Biden disclosed while congratulating National Teacher of the Year Missy Testerman of Tennessee Wednesday that the White House will host teachers for a special state dinner later this year — a first. “When you come to the White House, we are going to have a state dinner for the teachers,” Biden said on the set of “CBS Mornings.” “It’s the first time ever.”


LEADING THE DAY

© The Associated Press / Fatima Shbair | Members of the World Central Kitchen food charity at a hospital in Rafah Wednesday transported the body of a colleague killed by Israeli drone strikes.

INTERNATIONAL

STRIKE FALLOUT: On Wednesday Benny Gantz, a prominent member of Israel’s wartime Cabinet, called for early elections to be held in September, Axios reports, before the first anniversary of the Hamas terrorist attacks that shook the country.

Gantz, a retired army general and opposition leader who currently leads in the polls by a wide margin, said in a video address that Israel is facing “tremendous challenges” but must strive for unity, including with allies in the U.S., while criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not prioritizing the families of the roughly 100 hostages still held alive in Gaza by Hamas. Gantz’s calls come just days after protests erupted in Israel, marking the largest demonstrations since the war began, and provide a direct challenge to Netanyahu’s leadership, which has come under fresh domestic and international criticism.

Netanyahu’s hard-line policies on Gaza have also angered the Biden administration, which is trying to manage growing Democratic outrage in the U.S. after the war has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians. Israel is currently responding to international condemnation as it tries to contain the fallout from a hunger crisis in Gaza (The Hill).

BIDEN IS EXPECTED TO SPEAK with Netanyahu today, three days after international aid workers were killed in an Israeli strike, as senior American officials said his frustration over Israel’s actions in Gaza was coming to a head. Biden’s anger and frustration over Israel’s conduct in the war has hit a peak in recent weeks, The New York Times reports.

The Israeli military said Wednesday an initial investigation into a strike that killed seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK) found its forces had wrongly identified their vehicles as hostile targets. The Monday-night strike that hit WCK — an aid group founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, and one of the most important providers of food assistance in the Gaza Strip — came amid rising international criticism of Israel’s war in the besieged enclave (The Wall Street Journal).

IN THE WAKE OF THE ATTACK, WCK stopped its work in Gaza and sent three ships with hundreds of tons of food back to port in Cyprus. The food was meant to be unloaded at a makeshift jetty in northern Gaza that was built by the group, which says it has provided 43 million meals to Palestinians in Gaza since the start of the war (The New York Times).

“Humanitarian aid organizations are unable to carry out their work safely [in Gaza],” the International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday.

Politico: The Biden administration has reached out to the United Nations to help distribute aid from a U.S. military-built pier to desperate civilians in Gaza — but the arrangement might be in peril.

Time magazine: Israel’s past “weaponization” of Gaza food supplies looms over the WCK deaths.

The Washington Post: American Jacob Flickinger killed in Gaza by Israeli strike was father, military veteran.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed legislation lowering his country’s draft eligibility age from 27 to 25, a politically unpopular move Zelensky said was necessary to replenish the ranks of his country’s exhausted and battered army (The New York Times).

“It is a very unpopular decision, and that is why Zelensky held it without signing,” said Volodymyr Ariev, a lawmaker in Parliament who is in the opposition European Solidarity party. “Now he has no choice.”

Meanwhile, NATO members have agreed to start planning military support for Ukraine on a long-term basis. Urged by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, a meeting of NATO foreign ministers agreed Wednesday to move toward guaranteeing long-term weapon deliveries to Kyiv. However, proposals to establish a five-year $107 billion fund met resistance from some quarters (Al Jazeera).


WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet for a pro forma session at 9 a.m. Friday.

The Senate will hold a pro forma session at 2 p.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will host an East Room reception at 5 p.m. celebrating Greek Independence Day.

Vice President Harris will travel to Charlotte, N.C., to describe $20 billion in federal investments in climate action and environmental justice at a 2:15 p.m. event, accompanied by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Belgium for a NATO meeting. He participated while in Brussels this morning in a signing ceremony with Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen dealing with a memorandum of understanding about countering foreign state information manipulation. Blinken joined the NATO meeting with the Ukraine Council, then meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. He will join a meeting that includes Indo-Pacific partners, followed by a press conference, then a U.S.-EU trade and technology council reception in Leuven, Belgium. Blinken this evening will tour IMEC headquarters in Leuven, followed by a dinner at 8 p.m. local time attended by the ministers on the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council.

Treasury secretary Janet Yellen is en route to Guangzhou, China, to meet with Vice Premier He Lifeng.

Economic indicator: The Labor Department will report claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending March 30.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg heads to Dallas to highlight $80 million in federal assistance to reconnect and rebuild communities previously divided by highways there.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm heads to Atlanta for a tour of Georgia Tech’s lab facilities before announcing at 10:15 a.m. new funding grantees to support partnership efforts to advance clean energy innovation. Participating: Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens. Granholm will speak at 12:30 p.m. about clean energy industrial policy. The secretary will head to Morehouse College to join a roundtable about Energy Department goals dealing with climate.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.


ZOOM IN

© The Associated Press / Paul Sancya | Former President Trump at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Tuesday.

MORE POLITICS

WHAT’S TRUMP’S POSITON ON ABORTION? Although he’s said he’d make a statement next week, he may remain strategically vague for as long as possible, despite his recent remarks about an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy as a middle ground.

The former president told Fox News last month, “I would like to see if we can make both sides happy.”

In Trump’s home state of Florida, abortion law in a month is expected to shift from 15 weeks to a ban after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. But Florida voters may get to decide on abortion rights with a November ballot initiative that requires 60 percent approval to pass. It would be a high bar.

The Hill’s Brett Samuels unpacks Trump’s options at a time when public opinion generally favors abortion access with some conditions, backs in vitro fertilization and does not divide easily along party lines.

Biden and Democrats are trying to mobilize voters by reminding them that Trump has repeatedly sought credit for ending Roe v. Wade, pointing to his conservative appointees to the Supreme Court who made a majority ruling possible.

“President Trump supports preserving life but has also made clear that he supports states’ rights, because he supports the voters’ right to make decisions for themselves,” his campaign said in a statement Monday.

ABC News: Trump keeps teasing an announcement on abortion “soon” but dodges on specifics.

The Hill: Abortion and marijuana will be on Florida’s November ballot, issues expected to mobilize young voters in Democrats’ favor.

Governor watch: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) reeled back a 3-year-old law that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of hard drugs after experts agreed that a statutory approach aimed at treatment proved to be ineffectively implemented and misinformed. … In Nebraska, Republican Gov. Jim Pillen called for the Legislature to reinstate a winner-take-all electoral system, but it rejected the proposed change last night (although the fight isn’t over). … California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) this week said the state will assist law enforcement to battle rising crime in Oakland, Calif., using 500 newly installed surveillance cameras.


2024 ROUNDUP:

▪ Nevada Democrat Sen. Jacky Rosen’s race for reelection shifted from “lean Democrat” to “toss-up,” The Cook Political Report announced Wednesday, explaining “a combination of a newer electorate that Rosen must win over, Biden’s lagging numbers and the unique post-COVID economic hangover in Nevada make this race a Toss Up.” Upshot: The hurdles look higher for Democrats campaigning to hold the Senate majority next year.

▪ House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.) endorsed a convicted Capitol rioter in his primary challenge against a sitting House Republican.

▪ Trump has rallied supporters by referring to convicted rioters who attacked the Capitol in 2021 as “patriots” and “hostages.” Without mentioning the former president, a federal judge Wednesday, while sentencing a defiant Jan. 6 attacker, said, “This cannot become normal. … We cannot condone the normalization of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.”

▪ Univision taped an interview with Biden for broadcast Tuesday, The White House said, confirming a recent Vanity Fair report. The Spanish-language outlet also interviewed the president’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez.

▪ Defying the unwritten one-president-at-a-time rule while the Biden administration is negotiating with the Saudis, Trump recently spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, The New York Times reported. The subject of the conversation is not known.


ELSEWHERE

© The Associated Press / Santiago Billy | Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on March 21.

CONGRESS

HOUSE DEMOCRATS, including some of Israel’s staunchest allies, are critical of Israel’s military operations in Gaza after a recent strike killed seven WCK workers (The Hill).

Democratic lawmakers have been quick to urge letting more humanitarian aid into Gaza to help Palestinians. But it’s a minority of the party to date who have publicly bucked Israel’s war with Hamas, the government’s long- or short-term strategies in the region or continued sales of U.S. fighter jets and arms to Israel.

“The killing of seven World Central Kitchen workers delivering deeply needed food aid in Gaza is an outrage,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the former Speaker, said in a statement. “The government of Israel must allow the flow of life-saving aid to innocent families in Gaza and ensure safe passage for those delivering the aid. Hunger cannot be a weapon of war. We must share our food and our humanity.”

For Biden, pushback is close to home: The New York Times: The first lady urged an end to the Gaza conflict during a private discussion with the president, he recounted at a closed-door meeting this week with Muslim community leaders. “Stop it, stop it now,” she told her husband, according to Biden’s anecdote overheard by a guest. … During the Tuesday meeting at the White House with Muslim Americans, Palestinian American doctor Thaer Ahmad from Chicago, who has volunteered in Gaza, protested by giving the president a letter and photo from an orphaned 8-year-old girl in Rafah and walked out, The Associated Press reports.

UKRAINE ASSISTANCE: The only U.S. lawmaker born in Ukraine, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), is now skeptical of more aid (The Wall Street Journal).

IMPEACHMENT: Senate aides say they expect Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to immediately dismiss the impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas after the House impeachment managers present them next week. Schumer is expected to schedule a vote to dismiss or table the impeachment charges, a Senate GOP aidetold The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.

Another option is to refer the matter to a special evidentiary committee, but Senate Democrats worry that option might validate House Republicans’ two counts against Mayorkas, which they view as spurious. 


TRUMP WORLD

NEW YORK JUDGE Juan Merchan rejected Trump’s presidential immunity claims in his hush money case Wednesday, saying the former president waited too long to raise the defense. Merchan’s ruling removes another pathway for Trump to delay his upcoming hush money trial, which on April 15 is slated to become the first criminal trial of a former president (The Hill).

As prosecutors urged Merchan to reject Trump’s bid for a delay Wednesday, they argued the former president was gunning for a delay because of pre-trial publicity, as he “has constantly stoked and encouraged such publicity.” Trump’s “own incessant rhetoric is generating significant publicity, and it would be perverse to reward defendant with an adjournment based on media attention he is actively seeking,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) office said (NBC News).

The Hill: Two brothers pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday for their roles in a $22 million insider trading scheme connected to the company that took Trump’s social media company public.


OPINION

■ Our northern Gaza family will feed our neighbors — until we can’t, by Mahmoud Almadhoun, guest essayist, The Washington Post.

■ The new census racial categories “erase” Afro Latinos, Tanya Katerí Hernández, opinion contributor, The Hill.


THE CLOSER

© The Associated Press / John Minchillo | Tyler Hanson watched the sun moments before the total eclipse in August 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.

Take Our Morning Report Quiz

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the upcoming solar eclipse, we’re eager for some smart guesses about high-in-the-sky phenomena.

Be sure to email your responses to [email protected] and [email protected] — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

What moon phase is required for any solar eclipse to occur?

  1. New moon
  2. Waxing gibbous
  3. Full moon
  4. Waning crescent

After April 8, how many years does the continental U.S. have to wait until the next total solar eclipse?

  1. 6 years
  2. 20 years
  3. 50 years
  4. 2 years

What are comets made of?

  1. Ice coated with dark organic material
  2. Burning space rock
  3. Asteroid chunks
  4. Parts of far-away planets

Which of these planets is not visible to the naked eye during the month of April?

  1. Mercury
  2. Venus
  3. Uranus
  4. Mars

Tags

Alejandro Mayorkas


Alvin Bragg


Benjamin Netanyahu


Bob Good


Chuck Schumer


Donald Trump


Gavin Newsom


Jacky Rosen


Jens Stoltenberg


Jerome Powell


Jill Biden


Jim Pillen


Joe Biden


Jose Andres


Julie Chavez Rodriguez


Kamala Harris


Mohammed bin Salman


Nancy Pelosi


Tim Scott


tina kotek


Victoria Spartz


Volodymyr Zelensky


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