President Biden’s plea for Americans’ patience during a rare sit-down interview on Thursday won’t remedy the nation’s inflationary pressures, diminish the odds of a recession or calm voters’ bewilderment that two gallons of gasoline and a small steak now cost them about the same.
Faced with tighter budgets and record high inflation, families can skip the steak, but most can’t bike or stroll to their jobs in corporate offices, hotels, restaurants and manufacturing plants. Affording gasoline, milk, rent and groceries are near-term problems no matter how forward-thinking Americans are about what caused a dramatic surge in prices and why the president and Congress cannot fix it.
The president’s advice to the country during a 30-minute interview with The Associated Press: “Be confident, because I am confident we’re better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century. That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact.”
Rejecting his critics’ claim that his pandemic spending policies backed by congressional Democrats set the stage for today’s inflation, the president said he understands that Americans “are really down” because of COVID-19 in general. But the government’s efforts to help eligible workers with stimulus checks when businesses were locked down were not to blame, he said.
Furthermore, a recession is “not inevitable,” Biden continued, ignoring economists and market analysts who predicted this week that a recession may have already begun or is almost certainly ahead.
“They shouldn’t believe a warning. They should just say: ‘Let’s see. Let’s see, which is correct?’ And from my perspective, you talked about a recession. First of all, it’s not inevitable. Secondly, we’re in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation.” — President Biden (The Hill).
Transcript of Biden’s interview HERE.
AP’s takeaways from the interview HERE.
Predecessors also found the economy to be a political tripwire. “We still have a long way to go,” former President Jimmy Carter told New York voters more than a year before he lost his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan, who campaigned with the optimism of a Republican challenger. “I will not ever use inflation as a means to wring out our economy and make the poor and the unemployed suffer,” Carter assured his audience.
Former President George H.W. Bush, who had been told privately by his advisers in the summer of 1992 that a nascent recovery would not be felt by the time voters cast their ballots in November, was asked by a reporter whether he accepted blame for the economic downturn.
His answer was yes that summer, and he touted proposals that relied on Congress and appeared legislatively out of reach at the time.
“I’ll accept my share of the responsibility for this long recession, and so will the Congress,” Bush said at a news conference. “But the question isn’t blame. The question is what you do about it. I’ve proposed tonight: Let’s move on the balanced budget amendment. Let’s move on my growth initiatives that would stimulate investment, like cutting the capital gains, moving on the investment allowance that speeds up depreciation, first-time credit for homebuyers. This is all good and valuable stuff that would speed this economy up.”
Then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton defeated Bush five months later with a plurality of the popular vote and an Electoral College tally of 370 to 168.
▪ The Hill: Exxon Mobil, Chevron push back against Biden’s blame of the petroleum industry for rising oil prices.
▪ The Hill: Five ways the Fed’s interest rate hikes will impact Americans.
▪ The Hill and CNBC: Stocks closed Thursday with steep losses a day after the Federal Reserve announced a three-quarter percentage point interest rate hike. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 741 points by the closing bell Thursday, falling 2.4 percent and below 30,000 points for the first time since 2020. The S&P 500 index closed with a loss of 3.3 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite plunged to a loss of 4.1 percent.
© Associated Press / Keith Srakocic | Fombell, Pa., retail meat market on June 16.
▪ The Hill: A look at the past three recessions.
▪ Rewind to 1980: The late Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, explained (14-minute video) why inflation is a “disease.”
▪ The Hill: Monthly car payments in May averaged $712 per month, a new record high, according to a report.
▪ The Hill: White House staff turnover marks the halfway point of Biden’s term.
LEADING THE DAY
The Senate this week was unable to put a bow on gun violence legislation in the form of legislative text as negotiators failed to nail down final details of the bill, likely delaying a final vote on the proposal until after the July 4 recess.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reportedly walked out on discussions on Thursday after hours of meetings with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), saying that while he is not abandoning talks, there are issues in reaching the finish line.
“We’re not ready to release any smoke, so we don’t have a deal yet. … It’s fish or cut bait,” Cornyn told reporters, adding that he was returning to Texas for the weekend. “I don’t know what they have in mind, but I’m through talking.”
Chief among the issues is the lack of finalized language related to closing the so-called “boyfriend” loophole — which allows authorities to block abusive spouses from purchasing guns, but not unmarried partners — and incentivizing red flag laws, a cornerstone of the initial framework.
However, other members of the foursome projected more optimism. According to Murphy and Tillis, legislative text for a bill could be finalized in the coming days, with an agreement not far off.
“To land a deal like this is difficult. It comes with a lot of emotions. It comes with political risk to both sides. But we’re close enough that we should be able to get there,” said Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator. “You can tell we’re at a pretty critical stage in the negotiation, so I’m not going to share anything that jeopardizes our ability to land it,” he added.
After next week, both chambers of Congress are in recess for two weeks.
© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Wednesday.
▪ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Gun safety bill bogs down on details.
▪ The Washington Post: Gun talks will continue after Senate negotiators miss Thursday deadline.
▪ The Associated Press: GOP, Democratic Senate bargainers divided over gun deal details.
▪ CNN: Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocks on Biden pick to lead Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
▪ The Hill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): Social spending and climate package is “alive.”
Meanwhile, the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol held its third hearing on Thursday, focusing on the pressure exerted by former President Trump and his allies against former Vice President Mike Pence and unveiling that John Eastman, the lawyer advising Trump at the time, asked for a pardon.
The hearing featured two figures with Pence ties: Greg Jacob, the ex-VP’s former general counsel, and J. Michael Luttig, an informal adviser to Pence who aided him through the Jan. 6 situation.
According to Jacob’s closed-door deposition to the panel, he recalled Eastman admitting to Trump two days before the riots that their plans would violate the Electoral Count Act. Adding to that, Eastman wrote to Rudy Giuliani seeking a pardon for his actions.
“I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works,” Eastman said in an email to the former New York City mayor.
As The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Rebecca Beitsch write, the hearing essentially pitted the two former running mates against each other, lauding Pence for being “unwavering” despite the onslaught of criticism Trump and his backers directed at him.
▪ Brett Samuels, The Hill: Eastman takes verbal beating during Jan. 6 hearing.
▪ The Hill: Five takeaways: Jan. 6 panel bears down on Pence pressure campaign.
▪ The Washington Post: Jan. 6 committee reveals new details about Pence’s terrifying day.
▪ The Hill: Luttig testifies Pence would have led “revolution within a constitutional crisis” by following Trump order.
The committee also made waves early on Thursday as it called upon Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, to testify after it emerged that she traded emails with Eastman. The panel had long held off calling on testimony from the longtime conservative activist (The Associated Press).
However, Ginni Thomas indicated that she is ready to sit down with the committee.
“I can’t wait to clear up misconceptions. I look forward to talking to them,” Thomas told the Daily Caller.
The panel also found itself in a public dispute with the Department of Justice, who accused it of failing to share its more than 1,000 witness transcripts as it weighs criminal indictments for a number of individuals, including members of the Proud Boys.
“The Select Committee’s failure to grant the Department access to these transcripts complicates the Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol,” the DOJ wrote in a letter dated Wednesday and signed by Criminal Division chief Kenneth Polite Jr., National Security Division head Matthew Olsen and Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
The trio of officials added that it is “critical” for the Jan. 6 committee to deliver prosecutors “copies of the transcripts of all its witness interviews.”
Panel Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) indicated that the priority right now are the public hearings and that cooperation with the DOJ will come eventually (Politico).
▪ The New York Times: Eastman says email with Virginia Thomas was innocuous.
▪ John Kruzel, The Hill: Post-Watergate reforms may frame DOJ decision over prosecuting Trump.
▪ The Hill: Senate passes bill expanding care for veterans exposed to toxins.
▪ The Hill: Senators eye $45 billion boost to Biden defense budget.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Ukraine’s request to join the European Union may inch forward today with a recommendation from the EU’s executive arm. The European Commission’s endorsement, while a tentative step for Ukraine on a path that could take decades to complete, would send a strong sign of European solidarity and further test the EU’s united front against Russia (The Associated Press).
NATO defense ministers on Thursday discussed ways to bolster forces and deterrence along the military alliance’s eastern borders to dissuade Russia from planning further aggression. The Russian invasion has led allies to rethink strategies, to be discussed at a NATO summit next week in Madrid (The Associated Press).
“This will mean more NATO forward-deployed combat formations, to strengthen our battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance, more air, sea and cyber defenses, as well as prepositioned equipment and weapons stockpiles,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after Thursday’s meeting (transcript of his Q&A HERE).
U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that the trajectory of the war in Ukraine is untenable and are discussing whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should temper his hard-line public position that no territory will ever be ceded to Russia as part of an agreement to end the war, according to seven current U.S. officials, former U.S. officials and European officials (NBC News).
The New York Times: Seeking to overcome tensions with Kyiv, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany backed away from Moscow diplomacy, at least for now.
*** THIS JUST IN *** The British government today ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face spying charges. The decision is a big moment in Assange’s years-long battle to avoid facing trial in the U.S. — although not necessarily the end of the tale. Assange has 14 days to appeal (The Associated Press). WikiLeaks, calling the decision “a dark day for press freedom” in a statement on Twitter, said Assange, who faces a possible 175-year sentence, will appeal.
■ The objective reality of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, by Graeme Wood, staff writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3Ok70UT
■ The ripple effect of the Ukraine war is “a potential mass starvation event,” by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3tDjEGU
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 1 p.m. for a pro forma session.
The Senate convenes at 8:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 7:30 a.m. Biden will host a forum on energy and climate at 8:30 a.m. The president and first lady Jill Biden will depart the White House at 11 a.m. to spend the weekend at their home in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Vice President Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and other officials will travel to Pittsburgh to discuss the administration’s work to remove and replace lead pipes during remarks at 1:15 p.m. Harris and Emhoff will then stop at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia to meet with workers involved in delivering supplies of baby formula from abroad.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet at 11 a.m. with Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall at the State Department. This evening, the secretary will speak during a Pride reception at the department.
The first lady at 10 a.m. will deliver remarks at the National Parent Teacher Association 125th Anniversary Convention at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., before returning to the White House to fly to Delaware.
The Golden State Warriors became champions once again by defeating the Boston Celtics, 103-90, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night to nab their fourth championship in eight years. Stephen Curry led the way once again with 34 points (including six three-pointers), seven rebounds and seven assists en route to his first NBA Finals MVP award. The Warriors win comes on the heels of a difficult stretch for the franchise, having missed the playoffs in the last two seasons due to scores of injuries (ESPN).
➤ POX & PANDEMIC
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that Florida will not dedicate any state resources to vaccinating young children against COVID-19. Speaking at a press conference, DeSantis argued that infants and toddlers “are at practically zero risk of anything with COVID,” adding that the state will recommend against those kids receiving the vaccine (The Hill).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,012,647. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 265, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
© Associated Press | AP file photo / Former President Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974, and departed the White House for the final time.
And finally … 👏👏👏 It’s U.S. Open weekend at Brookline, Mass., so it’s apropos to give all of our Morning Report quizzers a long, extended golf clap for their knowledge of Watergate 50 years down the road.
Here are those who went 4/4 this week: Richard Baznik, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Amanda Fisher, John van Santen, Lou Tisler, Jude Todd, Robert Bradley, John Ciorciari, Stanley Wasser, Pam Manges and Harry Strulovici.
They knew that President Nixon’s White House press secretary dismissed the incident as “a third-rate burglary attempt” days after it took place.
The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. Corruption was not one.
Former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans, on our quiz list, avoided prison time as a Nixon associate and was fined $5,000 for campaign finance violations.
Finally, in the movie “All The President’s Men,” Robert Redford, who bought the film rights to the book in 1974, initially thought of Al Pacino to portray journalist Carl Bernstein.