6 min read

Trump’s anti-pivot

Donald Trump tacks further to the right, Robert Hur testifies on Biden’s age, and more.
Trump’s anti-pivot
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Election Day is 238 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

1. Biden’s budget

If you were told — without knowing anything else about American politics — that “the president of the United States has released their annual budget,” it might sound like a big news event. But, in reality, presidential budget proposals are often meaningless: Congress holds the power of the purse, after all, and all the commander-in-chief can do is request things.

Still, presidential budgets can be revealing as political documents, similarly to last week’s State of the Union, which was more a political event than a policy speech. President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget request — which was released on Monday — sounded many of the same themes as the SOTU speech, including calls to raise taxes on billionaires, lower prescription drug costs, boost border security, and restore the expanded Child Tax Credit.

In total, the $7.266 trillion budget would increase defense spending by 1% and non-defense discretionary spending by 2.4%. “If the Biden budget became law, deficits could be pruned $3 trillion over a decade,” the Associated Press reports. “It would raise tax revenues by a total of $4.9 trillion over that period and use roughly $1.9 trillion to fund various programs, with the rest going to deficit reduction.”

As a matter of process, Biden’s request kicks off the FY2025 budget cycle — even though FY2024 spending has still yet to be finalized, more than five months into the fiscal year. Of the 12 FY2024 appropriations bills, six were signed into law last week; six more remain to be approved. By law, Biden’s FY2025 request was supposed to be submitted by the first Monday in February, a deadline presidents routinely miss — meaning next year’s budget process will, once again, start on a delay.

Graphic by the Congressional Research Service

2. Hur on the Hill

The big political event of the day will be former Special Counsel Robert Hur’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Hur recently released a 345-page report summarizing his 14-month investigation into President Biden’s handling of classified documents from his vice presidency. Hur decided that criminal charges were not warranted in the probe, explaining that he “uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen,” but not enough evidence to establish Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to the report, Biden kept documents and notebooks containing classified information in his Delaware garage, office, and basement — and read from some of them to a ghostwriter without security clearance — but Hur concluded that there was not evidence to prove that he did so knowingly in violation of the law.

While Democrats will likely use the hearing to compare those findings to former President Donald Trump’s own handling of classified documents — for which he currently faces criminal charges — the bigger fireworks from the hearing are likely to be related to the Hur report’s bombshell comments on Biden’s age. In the report, Hur wrote that one reason he declined to charge Biden was that “at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Per prepared testimony obtained by Politico, Hur will defend those comments in his testimony: “I needed to show my work,” he will say. The hearing comes as Biden’s team has taken several steps to try to rebut the concerns over his age intensified by the Hur report, including during last week’s State of the Union and with a new campaign ad. Hur, who left the Justice Department yesterday, will be testifying as a private citizen.

You can watch Hur’s testimony here at 10 a.m. ET:

Related: Transcript of Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur shows memory lapses — but also detailed exchanges (NBC)

3. No pivot

Donald Trump has all but clinched the Republican presidential nomination, but — unsurprisingly — he is showing no plans to pivot to the center as the general election looms. If anything, he is only growing more extreme. Here are four examples from the past few days:

  • Election denialism: “He has invoked the rhetoric [about the 2020 election being stolen] at each of the 43 rallies he has held since officially kicking off his campaign in November 2022, according to a Post analysis.” — WaPo
  • January 6th prisoners: “Former President Donald Trump has vowed that one of his first acts if re-elected to office will be to free those imprisoned in relation to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, whom he labeled as ‘hostages.’” — Fox
  • Praising dictators: “To Donald Trump, Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán is ‘fantastic,’ Chinese leader Xi Jinping is ‘brilliant,’ North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is ‘an OK guy,’ and, most alarmingly, he allegedly said Adolf Hitler ‘did some good things,’ a worldview that would reverse decades-old US foreign policy in a second term should he win November’s presidential election, multiple former senior advisers told CNN.” — CNN
  • Orbán meeting: “Former President Trump highlighted praise from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in social media posts Sunday night, shortly after President Biden criticized Trump for hosting the autocrat at Mar-a-Lago.” — The Hill

More news to know.

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge is stepping down. (House Agriculture Committee)

AP: US inflation up again in February in latest sign that price pressures remain elevated

Politico: If Israel invades Rafah, Biden will consider conditioning military aid to Israel

CNN: HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to leave Biden administration later this month

NBC: Republican National Committee senior staffers among employees terminated after Trump takeover

WaPo: Trump asked Elon Musk if he wanted to buy Truth Social

The day ahead.

Former Special Counsel Robert Hur will testify today. (Maryland governor’s office)

— President Biden will meet with Teamsters members at their headquarters as the union mulls its presidential endorsement. (Former President Trump also took a meeting at Teamsters HQ in January.) Later, Biden will meet with Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, and prime minister, Donald Tusk, to discuss Ukraine, NATO, and the 25th anniversary of Poland joining the alliance.

Vice President Harris will deliver remarks at a campaign event in Denver.

The Senate will hold vote to confirm three district judge nominees. The chamber will also vote to confirm former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) as the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Maloney lost re-election in 2022.

The House is scheduled to vote on the Utilizing Space Efficiently and Improving Technologies Act and a resolution denouncing the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Former Special Counsel Robert Hur will testify before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. ET.

Georgia, Mississippi, and Washington will hold their presidential primaries today. The contests could give both Trump and Biden enough delegates to formally clinch their presidential nominations.

Thanks for reading.

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