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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Biden offensive

Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. Send tips | Subscribe here | Email Eli | Email Lauren When President JOE BIDEN asked the nation’s governors who had gathered privately in the East Room last week if they had any questions, GREG GIANFORTE stood up. The Montana Republican said he had a letter from himself and other GOP governors demanding additional measures to secure the border. TOM PEREZ, director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, tried to intercept the manila folder but the president brushed him away and started to read the letter, according to an official in the room. After digesting the gist, Biden shot back coolly that the things the governors wanted were all in the bipartisan border legislation that congressional Republicans refused to consider. The sharp rejoinder reflected a broader, attempted strategic shift from a president who has long projected a public image as a reconciliatory figure. There is a clear effort underway inside the White House to get into a more offensive posture on a range of subjects, with immigration being the most notable. After three years of largely tuning out the unceasing chorus of Republicans hammering him about the border, Biden is suddenly eager to lean in on the issue. The president and his team have used the GOP’s rejection of a bipartisan border compromise that provides funding for law enforcement, affected municipalities and tightening asylum policies as a campaign cudgel in recent weeks. And Rep. TOM SUOZZI’s victory in a special election in New York earlier this month after taking a more hawkish approach on immigration gave the White House more confidence about following suit. Biden’s hastily scheduled trip Thursday to Brownsville, Texas, reflects the administration’s efforts to turn around the politics of the issue — and an unwillingness to cede it to former President DONALD TRUMP, who is making his own visit to Eagle Pass, Texas, on Thursday. Opening her gaggle Monday with reporters aboard Air Force One, press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE teased that Biden planned to visit with Border Patrol agents to get a better sense of the situation on the ground. She also went out of her way to emphasize other topics where the administration is leaning in — like hammering Republicans for attempting to “shamelessly erase” their own records on abortion following an Alabama court ruling last week endangering in vitro fertility treatments. The abortion issue, in particular, is a central pillar of the president’s reelection effort. And both the White House and Biden campaign see the Alabama court ruling as an effective way to keep the public focused on the various consequences of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, according to a person familiar with the strategy. In the wider universe of Democrats concerned about Biden’s poll numbers and age, the president’s more forceful approach is likely a welcome and somewhat overdue development. But even a president has only so much control over the events that shape an election — such as a protracted war between Israel and Hamas. Still, the Biden team is trying now to shape events (and perceptions) as much as respond to them. They’re trumpeting an economy outperforming global competitors, attacking House Republicans for an impeachment effort that took a major hit last week when a key witness was indicted for lying in his testimony, and even hammering the New York Times in campaign memos and social media missives. The shift has been building since Biden’s Jan. 5 Valley Forge speech, an opening campaign salvo that mentioned Trump some 44 times. It continued Feb. 8 in Biden’s defiant evening press conference hitting back at the report from Special Counsel ROBERT HUR and his descriptions of the president as an “elderly” man with a “poor memory.” The president’s visible anger that night signaled he was done sitting idly by in the face of constant attacks. But it also showed the pitfalls that can come with a posture that requires, on occasion, more public appearances: the president called the leader of Egypt the president of Mexico. And despite the new, aggressive posture, there is little evidence as of yet that the public is being won over. Biden’s approval rating remains stagnant. Still, the White House may get more fodder this week when House Republicans must pass a bill to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. Biden is set to meet Tuesday at the White House with Speaker MIKE JOHNSON and other top congressional leaders. But he and aides are unlikely to ease up when it comes to hammering the GOP for shutdown brinkmanship or hypocrisy on border reforms or abortion. In a memo last week, deputy press secretary ANDREW BATES blasted Johnson for suggesting Biden was “appeasing Iran,” pointing out that the GOP’s “inaction” on Ukraine aid was “benefitting [Russian President Vladimir] PUTIN and the Ayatollah.” Jean-Pierre on Monday noted that several Republicans now decrying Alabama’s ban on IVF are sponsors of the Life Begins at Conception Act that, if passed, would throw the use of IVF into question nationwide. And the expectation is that the president will bring up the stalled border deal bill when he visits Texas on Thursday. “They’re finally getting aggressive on some of these issues, like going to the border, and that helps us down-ballot,” said one national Democratic strategist. “It’s what Suozzi did in New York. You don’t have to spout Republican talking points on the border. You just have to talk about the border, about immigration.” MESSAGE US — Are you ALYSSA CHARNEY, director for lands and climate-smart agriculture? We want to hear from you. And we’ll keep you anonymous! Email us at westwingtips@politico.com. Did someone forward this email to you? Subscribe here! SUBSCRIBE TO GLOBAL PLAYBOOK: Don’t miss out on POLITICO’s Global Playbook, the newsletter taking you inside pivotal discussions at the most influential gatherings in the world, including WEF in Davos, Milken Global in Beverly Hills, to UNGA in NYC and many more. Suzanne Lynch delivers the world’s elite and influential moments directly to you. Stay in the global loop. SUBSCRIBE NOW. POTUS PUZZLER Which president played the piano in a rendition of “happy birthday” for DUKE ELLINGTON after the musician was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom? (Answer at bottom.) THE OVAL THE LEAST HYPED LATE NIGHT INTERVIEW EVER: The White House, for much of the day, refused to confirm that Biden would be taping an interview with SETH MEYERS at 30 Rock during his Monday trip to the Big Apple, even after beefed up security around the building was evident. Likely due to security concerns, Meyers’ own tweet touting Monday night’s guests did not mention the president. But, as anticipated, the president’s motorcade rolled up to NBC’s studios after a campaign meeting. The White House eventually confirmed the interview was a “surprise” to help mark the show’s 10th anniversary — Biden, they noted, was a guest on the first episode a decade ago. Then, as is the case tonight, comedian AMY POEHLER was on with him. During a visit with Meyers to an ice cream shop near the studio, Biden told reporters he hoped a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could be in place by the end of the weekend. 600 DAYS LATER… Sweden is finally joining NATO after Hungary’s parliament ratified its accession, our STUART LAU reports from Budapest. The vote was 188-6, casting Hungarian Prime Minister VIKTOR ORBÁN’s defiance into even sharper relief. Orban had been under increasing pressure from Western leaders, including Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and national security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN, who said publicly that action by Hungary was overdue and suggested that Budapest was losing the trust of its NATO allies. It’s a win for an alliance trying to hold firm in defense of Ukraine and against Russia at a moment of growing precarity. WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: This survey from the National Association for Business Economics, an influential group of business economists who found that 2024 looks to be a much better year for the U.S. economy than forecasters initially predicted. The group “sharply revised upwards” its outlook, predicting a 2.2 percent growth in the economy this year, up from 1.3 percent in a November NABE survey. Jean-Pierre and deputy communications director HERBIE ZISKEND shared an Axios’ report of the survey. Assistant press secretary MICHAEL KIKUKAWA, meanwhile, shared an AP story on the survey, with an image of that one Bloomberg headline everyone at the White House has kept as a screenshot on their desktop for these very occasions. WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This trio of stories from CNN, NBC and WSJ about how the Michigan primary Tuesday could send a clear message to Biden on dissatisfaction with his approach to the Israel-Hamas war. Arab American Democrats in Michigan are leading an effort to vote “uncommitted” in tomorrow’s election, which organizers say could attract at least 10,000 people — and possibly mirror the 10,700-vote margin that delivered the state to Donald Trump in 2016. Activists note the effort will not derail the president of victory in the state, but they hope it will help persuade the president to embrace a ceasefire. THE BUREAUCRATS ILL, YES. BUT NO ‘ILL INTENT’: Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN had “no ill intent” in failing to disclose his cancer diagnosis or December hospitalization to the White House, the Pentagon concluded after a 30-day review of the matter. As our ALEXANDER WARD and LARA SELIGMAN reported Monday, when the report was unclassified, no staffers were faulted for the communications breakdown during what the report called “an unprecedented situation.” Lawmakers may deliver a harsher critique Thursday when Austin testifies on the matter before the House Armed Services Committee. SIMON SAYS, “SEND ME SOME MONEY”: In December, a district judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by SIMON ATEBA, who covers the White House for a mysterious site called Today News Africa, against Jean-Pierre for the revocation of his hard pass after a new White House policy required hard pass holders to also be accredited by Congress. On Monday, Ateba sent out an email blast soliciting financial contributions to the Center for American Liberty, a conservative legal group vowing to continue his fight. “The truth is, they don’t want people like me in the Briefing Room, because they don’t want real questions asked,” writes Ateba, who has berated Jean-Pierre for not calling on him and asked about her personal relationships and how she feels about sharing the podium with national security council spokesperson JOHN KIRBY. AGENDA SETTING TROUBLE BREWING: The president’s decision to pause new exports of U.S. natural gas is hitting a nerve with allies in Pennsylvania, our JOSH SIEGEL reports for Pro subscribers. Even as environmentalists praised the move, Biden allies argue it could hurt the energy-dense state that Biden will lean on this reelection. “We stand with the president, but on this issue we happen to disagree,” Sen. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-Pa.) said of his and the state’s senior Sen. BOB CASEY’s stance on the issue. “Natural gas is necessary right now. It’s a critical part of our nation’s energy stack.” LOW ON INK? After a nearly three-month delay in publication, a key Biden administration climate rule will see light, our ROBIN BRAVENDER reports. The rule, aimed at cutting back methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, was announced at last year’s international climate negotiations and will appear March 8 in the Federal Register. But for months, the government did not print the rule, meaning the clock hadn’t started for the regulation to take place, leaving many environmental activists on edge. Officials have offered little explanation for the delay, aside from noting the rule’s lengthy size of more than 1,600 pages. YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT DOUBLE COUPON DAY: The Federal Trade Commission on Monday filed a lawsuit to block a nearly $25 billion grocery merger between Kroger and Albertsons, our JOSH SISCO reports. In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court of Oregon, the FTC and attorneys general in eight states argued that the deal would “raise prices, lower quality, limit choices for shoppers and harm the companies’ workers,” Sisco writes. WHAT WE'RE READING A shutdown is approaching. Biden and Johnson’s lack of relationship isn’t helping (POLITICO’s Jennifer Haberkorn and Jonathan Lemire) As the Election Comes Into Focus, Pressure Builds in the West Wing (NYT’s Peter Baker) Zelenskyy says Ukraine needs weapons from allies to continue defense against Russia (NBC’s Richard Engel, Charlotte Gardiner, Leila Sackur and Mirna Alsharif) POTUS PUZZLER ANSWER On April 29, 1969, following the award ceremony, RICHARD NIXON told the audience that he had yet to play the piano in the White House. Then he noted it was Ellington’s birthday, so he asked everyone: “Would you all stand and sing ‘happy birthday’ to him — and please, in the key of G.” A CALL OUT! Do you think you have a harder trivia question? Send us your best one about the presidents, with a citation or sourcing, and we may feature it! For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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