Morning Report — Biden, Netanyahu at new crossroads

Demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel over the weekend and growing protests pretty much wherever President Biden travels these days underscore the unraveling alliance between two governments whose leaders claim to want the same thing.

PEACE. An end to bloodshed or at least a pause among hatreds. A humanitarian truce.

Tens of thousands of people in Tel Aviv, including families of hostages, on Saturday took to the streets to seek the removal of Netanyahu from power a day before the 74-year-old underwent emergency hernia surgery. Weekly protests in Israel have grown as the war drags on and anger at Netanyahu’s far-right government mounts. The demonstrations (video) were described as among the largest since the start of the war with Hamas in October.

In New York City last week, hundreds of anti-Israel protesters assailed Biden as a “war criminal” outside a high-dollar Democratic fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall. The voices of U.S. dissent follow the president wherever he reaches out to voters.

On Sunday night, the prime minister used a televised address to Israelis to vow to “destroy” Hamas and press ahead with a threatened ground offensive in Rafah. Netanyahu, before undergoing surgery, said he would do “everything” he could to free hostages held by Hamas. He said the Israeli army would move civilians from Rafah, the southern city in Gaza, ahead of its attacks.

BIDEN FACES a new moment of truth in the Middle East as Israel presses ahead with a promised military offensive in Rafah, The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in The Memo. The U.S. and Israel are expected to hold a virtual meeting today on the planned Rafah operation; an in-person meeting may occur later this week, AFP reports.

Netanyahu last week rejected Hamas’s bid for a permanent cease-fire as an unacceptable condition for hostage swaps, but he later gave the go-ahead Friday to resume talks, which got underway in Cairo. A spokesman for Hamas said the group had not sent a delegation there.

Biden, campaigning for a second term, is regularly met by small groups of protesters, placards and signs and even pointed questions among supporters and foes of Israel, Palestinian sympathizers or more generally younger advocates for peace and humanitarian help for those pinned down in Gaza.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the most senior Jewish elected official in the United States, is pressured on all sides as he tries to help Biden navigate political tripwires for Democrats as Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza heads into its sixth month, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports.

COMPLICATING the U.S. debate was Friday’s report that the administration quietly signed off on sending billions of dollars in 2,000-lb. bombs and fighter jets to Israel to use against Palestinians in Gaza. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that Israel was not getting all the weapons from the U.S. it requested.

The Wall Street Journal: A secret memorandum that expanded intelligence sharing with Israel after the Hamas attack in October has led to growing concerns in Washington about whether the information is contributing to civilian deaths. 

Asked about the U.S. commitment to furnish more weapons to Israel while trying at the same time to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza to respond to the attacks Israel wages with the weapons, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was critical of Netanyahu Sunday, adding the Biden administration possesses different types of “leverage,” including weapons supplies.

But his view, the senator told ABC’s “This Week,” is that “until the Netanyahu government allows more assistance into Gaza to help people who are literally starving to death, we should not be sending more bombs.”


▪ 🩺 Experts believe current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines may be too strict for the new RSV vaccine for infants, seen as a breakthrough preventative against respiratory syncytial virus.

▪ 🧸 Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D), the first woman elected to the Senate from Washington state and the first female president pro tempore of the Senate, used her gavel to win $1 billion in child care subsidies amid a spending freeze. “I thought, ‘Here is where we can finally really make a difference,’” she told The New York Times.

▪ 🏖 Americans just seem to want to get away, judging from Google flight searches and the most popular summer vacation destinations. Top five cities are London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome and New York. Beaches? Bali and Cancun make the list, as do locales that cater to families, such as U.S. national parks and theme parks.

📺  Sunday talk shows: The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge and its ramifications for supply chains, port traffic and the hefty price tag to rebuild the span are top of mind at the White House and in Congress, which returns to Washington in a week. Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott told “Fox News Sunday” the government must “come together” to back emergency federal funding for the port, but in the same breath he accused the administration of “playing politics.” Biden says he’ll visit the site of the catastrophe caused by the cargo ship Dali this week. Two workers escaped, two were killed and the collision that knocked the bridge into the Patapsco River left four men missing and presumed dead. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that lawmakers will likely be asked to supplement $60 million in emergency funds disbursed last week. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) described on “Fox News Sunday” the “massive impact” of the closed port on the U.S. economy. Wreckage removal began over the weekend, seen as essential to recovering the remains of the missing workers and reopening a safe channel to resume port traffic.


© The Associated Press / Frank Franklin II | Former President Trump in Massapequa Park, N.Y., last week.


WAR OF THE WORDS: Truth Social has become an integral part of former President Trump’s ability to communicate with his supporters, and even though not everyone is on his own social media platform, the media keeps up coverage of his steady drumbeat of missives. The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Brett Samuels write that Trump’s posts almost always translate to earned media and put his rivals on their heels.

Questions remain about whether the former president’s own platform can compete with the same kind of megaphone he enjoyed on Twitter before the social media site banned him from posting. Truth Social, which recently went public, defied expectations in its first week on the stock market. Shares of Trump Media & Technology Group rose as high as $79.38 in their first week on the market before settling near $62 Thursday, the last day of trading before Easter. The company’s market capitalization was roughly $8.4 billion as of Thursday, according to CNBC data. But the mismatch between Trump Media’s soaring stock value and the reality of its financials places it firmly in the “meme stock” category, experts told The Hill’s Julia Shapero.

AT THE SAME TIME, Democrats see Trump’s off-the-cuff posts — which can be riddled with untruths and spelling mistakes — as helpful to their cause.

“In a lot of ways, he shoots himself in the foot,” acknowledged one Republican strategist, who supports Trump. “He hasn’t learned that sometimes silence is the best response. But that’s not his style. He wants everyone to know he’s right, the media covers it and [the Trump campaign] see that as translating to votes.”

TRUMP TOOK TO SOCIAL MEDIA over the weekend to rail against Biden, who posted messages for both Easter Sunday, whose date changes annually, and Transgender Day of Visibility, which falls on March 31 each year. The attacks come on the heels of Trump announcing that he was selling $60 Bibles, which attracted criticism from Democrats and some religious leaders — including Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who is an ordained pastor.

In a Saturday statement, Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt claimed that declaring Transgender Day of Visibility on Easter Sunday was “blasphemous.”

A spokesperson for the president rejected the attacks from Trump and other Republicans, saying Biden, who is a practicing Catholic, “stands for bringing people together and upholding the dignity and freedoms of every American. Sadly, it’s unsurprising politicians are seeking to divide and weaken our country with cruel, hateful, and dishonest rhetoric (The Washington Post and ABC News).


▪ Voters will back Trump over Biden if the 2024 presidential election turns on “border security, public safety and high prices,” former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker predicted during an interview on NewsNation’s “The Hill Sunday.” “If the election is a referendum on those three things, Joe Biden loses. He loses big not only in Wisconsin and Michigan, but I think in all the battleground states,” he said.

▪ Democrats eager to see Biden reelected are calling for a more forceful offense against Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

▪ Experts, officials and observers are sounding alarms about the dangers deepfakes pose for 2024 as it gets easier to use artificial intelligence (AI) and spread synthetic content that could stoke disinformation in a critical election year.

▪ Trump is one of five candidates to have been a major party’s White House pick three times. Take a look back.

▪ Democrats are working to put abortion on ballots in key battleground states, hoping the issue of reproductive rights will boost their candidates in November.

▪ Democratic candidates now tout the Affordable Care Act, once unpopular with Americans — but no longer.

▪ Meet Michael Gottlieb, who’s part of a cadre of lawyers deploying defamation, one of the oldest areas of the law, against a tide of political disinformation.


🤡 Beware. It’s April Fool’s Day.

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

The Senate will hold a pro forma session at 10 a.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host the annual White House Easter Egg Roll at 10:25 a.m. on the South Lawn. 🥚

Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will participate in the Easter Egg Roll at the White House. 🐰

Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week plans to meet with counterparts in France and Belgium.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at noon.


© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Johnson (D-N.Y.) at the Capitol in October.


WHO’S TO BLAME for the GOP’s dwindling House majority? It depends on whom you ask, The Hill’s Mychael Schnell and Mike Lillis report. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) made waves this week when she pointed fingers at a pair of fellow Republican lawmakers who decided recently to quit Congress early, reducing the party’s already slim advantage down to a hairline one-vote margin.

Yet Greene declined to mention a third lawmaker: her close ally, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who resigned his seat in December after conservatives booted him from the Speakership two months earlier. McCarthy’s high-profile resignation has incensed some of the hardliners in the GOP conference who are accusing him of abandoning the party ahead of a high-stakes election cycle. The internal blame game has highlighted both the deep divisions in the House GOP and the miniscule majority that’s made it all but impossible for Republican leaders to unify the warring camps for the sake of passing the party’s policy priorities.

“After our former Speaker left us,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told reporters recently, “it kind of left us a little bit in the lurch.”

UKRAINE AID: Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on Sunday that he expects to move a package that includes aid for Ukraine when the House returns from recess and expects the package to include “some important innovations” (The Hill).

“Look, what we have to do in an era of divided government – historically, as we are – you got to build consensus. If we want to move a partisan measure, I got to have every single member, literally,” Johnson said. “And some things need to be bipartisan.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) on Sunday warned that “it’s possible” that Johnson could face a vote to oust him if he moves to pass Ukraine aid in the House (NBC News). Meanwhile, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) suggested he would consider voting to save Johnson from Greene’s motion to oust him if the House can secure funding for Ukraine and repairs for the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore (The Hill).

▪ The Hill: Advocates of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs are sounding the alarm after a key department on Capitol Hill was dissolved amid backlash to the movement.

▪ The Wall Street Journal: Some lawmakers who support a crackdown on TikTok worry that overly broad changes to a House bill by the Senate could significantly delay the effort or derail it permanently.



“EPOCH-MAKING SHIFT”: Defense spending has increased worldwide, up 9 percent this year, according to an annual report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The global price for defense spending has reached $2.2 trillion as the return of great power competition across the world has forced countries to adapt, writes The Hill’s Brad Dress. The change is everywhere on the map — but most evident in countries like Sweden and Japan as they make dramatic changes to meet rising threats from Russia and China.

“I don’t think we’re days away from World War III, but I do think that the world is becoming more unstable,” said Joseph Shelzi, an analyst at the Soufan Group, a global security and intelligence firm. “There’s a higher risk now, like peer adversaries engaging in high intensity conflict. We see that playing out now in Ukraine, and we see the possibility for that to play out in the streets of Taiwan.”

THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS in Haiti — sparked by gangs who have overrun the country and outmatched Haitian security forces — is fueled in part by a major flow of U.S. guns to the Caribbean nation, a longstanding problem that has only grown worse. U.S. guns have flooded Haiti for years, and the gangs running amok on the island are armed with some powerful American-made weapons. The Biden administration has worked to crack down on the issue, but it remains a glaring problem with hundreds of thousands of illegal guns expected to be circulating in Haiti, a nation with porous borders and little government security control (The Hill).

▪ Reuters: Iran tipped off Russia about the possibility of a major “terrorist operation” on its soil ahead of the concert hall massacre near Moscow last month.

▪ The Washington Post: In his Easter address, Pope Francis gave a solemn accounting of a world in crisis Sunday, renewing calls for a cease-fire in Gaza while drawing attention to other conflicts, from Ukraine to Haiti, heightened risks of famine, the threat of climate change and the plight of migrants.

▪ CNBC: Turkey’s opposition won a stunning victory across several major cities in the country’s local elections Sunday, dealing a severe blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party.

© The Associated Press / Odelyn Joseph | Haiti has been overtaken by gang violence, leading to instability and famine risk.


■ Biden’s order: Let there be electric trucks, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board.

■ The Child Tax Credit is still a good conservative idea worth defending, by Patrice Onwuka, opinion contributor, The Hill.


© The Associated Press / Evan Vucci | President Biden, pictured last year, is expected to play host at Monday’s White House Easter Egg Roll.

And finally … 🐣 Easter is past, but the annual White House Easter Egg Roll is today. Thousands of people who entered a free lottery beginning in February and snagged tickets are welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — come rain (86 percent chance) or shine.

The Bidens will host a family-focused event that got its historic start in 1878 under President Rutherford B. Hayes. This year’s theme continues the first lady’s focus on “EGGucation,” with help from the American Egg Board and costumed performers, animals and adorable tykes.

The last Easter Egg Roll held under inclement weather conditions was in 2022 and it attracted waves of timed-ticketholders beginning at 7 a.m., many undaunted and prepared with umbrellas, rain ponchos and plastic covers over baby strollers.

Today’s South Lawn garden party may look much the same.

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