GOP senators, hopefuls fall in line with Trump’s abortion stance

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In today’s edition …  How Trump’s mug shot became a defiant and divisive 2024 symbol … U.S., Japan to announce military cooperation, joint NASA lunar mission … but first …

GOP senators, hopefuls fall in line with Trump’s abortion stance (with one exception)

GOP candidates running for Senate in swing states are largely embracing the states’ rights message on abortion that Donald Trump outlined yesterday.

The former president tried to defang the issue by neither endorsing nor explicitly ruling out a 15-week federal abortion ban, instead saying in a video message that states should determine their own abortion laws.

It’s the latest evolution of Republicans’ shifting position on abortion, as they have worked to find a message palatable for voters who have bucked Republican candidates’ antiabortion positions since Roe v. Wade was overturned nearly two years ago. 

Trump has adopted what the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been encouraging Republican candidates to do for months: avoid calling for a national abortion ban and support exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. That message has been received and adopted by most GOP Senate candidates who have softened previously strict antiabortion stances and moved away from backing a national ban. 

Arizona Republican candidate Kari Lake has shifted from her strict antiabortion stance, which led her to call abortion “execution” during her failed 2022 gubernatorial run. The state passed a 15-week ban, and advocates are pushing for a ballot initiative to codify abortion rights. 

  • “I agree with President Trump: do NOT support a federal abortion ban,” Lake tweeted yesterday. 

In Nevada, one of the least restrictive states in the country for abortion, Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown has also softened his position. 

Brown had opposed exceptions for rape and incest in the past but has since embraced them. As for a 20-week ban he backed in Texas, he has said he wouldn’t impose that in Nevada. He sat by his wife while she told NBC News about her abortion before they met in an attempt to show he had compassion and understanding of the complex issue. 

  • “Like President Trump, I am pro-life and believe the issue is now correctly left at the state level,” Brown said in a statement to The Early. 

In Michigan, former congressman Mike Rogers, the leading Republican candidate, backed near-total bans as a member of Congress. 

But Michigan voted in 2022 to codify abortion rights, and Rogers shifted shortly after he announced his campaign for Senate to say a national ban would interfere with Michigan’s law protecting abortion rights. 

In Pennsylvania, Republican Dave McCormick backed abortion restrictions with few exceptions in his last campaign for Senate in 2022. He has since pulled back from supporting a national ban and embraced exemptions. His spokeswoman said McCormick agrees with Trump’s stance. 

In Florida, Republican Sen. Rick Scott, up for reelection, is on his heels after the state Supreme Court decided last week to allow a six-week ban to take effect in May.

  • Scott, who had said he would sign a six-week ban into law as governor, told us he plans to vote against a November ballot initiative in Florida that would overturn the state’s new ban. But he added that he thinks Trump is right that the issue should be left to the states and that he appreciated that Trump “talked about the importance of making sure contraception and IVF [are] legal.” (Trump hasn’t reacted to the Florida court’s decision.)

In Ohio, Republican Bernie Moreno supports a national abortion ban but also backs the idea that it should be decided by states.

“He’s comfortable with any path forward that ends elective, late term abortions with reasonable exceptions,” spokeswoman Reagan McCarthy said in a statement. 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who is up for reelection but has no serious Democratic challenger, backed the 15-week abortion ban bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in 2022 and still supports it. Now he says he backs Trump’s position.

  • “I support a 15-week ban, but that’s not going to pass,” Hawley told reporters. “Let’s just be realistic. That’s not going to get 60 votes here. Let’s let people decide. Let voters vote.”

With his video announcement yesterday that included no mention of a federal abortion ban, Trump bucked one camp of abortion opponents that had wanted him to back a 15-week ban — a group that included his former adviser Kellyanne Conway, Graham and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, our colleagues Josh Dawsey and Hannah Knowles report. Instead, he listened to other antiabortion advocates who wanted him to avoid being pinned down on a specific gestational limit that Congress wouldn’t be able to pass anyway.

Trump says he’s on the right side of politics. And he challenged Graham and others who disagreed.

  • “Many Good Republicans lost Elections because of this Issue, and people like Lindsey Graham, that are unrelenting, are handing Democrats their dream of the House, Senate, and perhaps even the Presidency,” Trump wrote on Truth Social yesterday, responding to Graham’s criticism that he “respectfully disagrees” that Trump didn’t back a 15-week national ban because fetuses “feel pain” at that stage of gestation. 

Democrats insist that kicking the issue to the states doesn’t take Republicans off the hook. They cite the plethora of instances when Republicans backed abortion bans, and even Trump has repeatedly taken credit for overturning Roe, including in his video announcing his position on states’ rights. 

The Biden campaign released its second ad on abortion in as many weeks. 

It’s an emotional, minute-long video of a couple showing the items they had for their baby before a miscarriage. The mom nearly died from sepsis, according to the ad, because a Texas hospital was unable to treat her miscarriage. “Donald Trump did this,” the words on the screen say. 

The House is back in session today. We’re watching to see whether Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) provides more clarity on his how he will address Ukraine. 

We’re also watching to see whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) moves forward with her motion to remove Johnson. 

And the House Rules Committee will meet to consider the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization legislation that has divided the Republican conference. We’re watching to see whether Johnson’s compromise to allow for a vote on a provision that would require a warrant when U.S. citizens are caught up in surveillance of foreigners passes out of the committee. (It’s worth noting that some Democrats concerned about civil liberties also want more guardrails around surveillance.)

Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale O. Adeyemo will testify before the Senate Banking Committee about countering illicit financing, terrorism and sanctions evasions. 

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) is on the Hill today as part of an in-person, multipronged lobbying effort to persuade members of Congress to fulfill Biden’s promise to fully pay to replace Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. “I want to be able to spend time with members of Congress to explain to them that in this moment, they have a responsibility — a patriotic responsibility — to make sure that we can get the bridge rebuilt,” Moore told our colleagues Erin Cox and Jacob Bogage.

U.S., Japan to announce military cooperation, joint NASA lunar mission

When Biden welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a state visit on Wednesday and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the first summit between the three world leaders on Thursday, it will be against the backdrop of China’s growing aggression in the South China Sea, a deepening relationship between Washington and Tokyo, and Japan’s growing presence on the world stage.

  • On the agenda: There are three things to watch this week, per our colleagues Ellen Nakashima and Jeanne Whalen. Biden and Kishida are expected to commit to modernizing their military alliance; outline a vision for an integrated air defense network that links Japanese, Australian and U.S. sensors; and announce that a Japanese astronaut will become the first non-American on a NASA mission to the moon.

“The summits are the latest display of the Biden administration’s efforts to deepen what it calls a ‘latticework’ of alliances and partnerships in the region — a clear signal to China,” Ellen and Jeanne write.

  • In a one-on-one interview with our colleague Michelle Lee, the 66-year-old prime minister of Japan expressed the importance of the state visit: “The world is now facing a historical turning point with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, and the security environment in East Asia,” Kishida said at his official residence in Tokyo ahead of the visit. “It is important to demonstrate to the world the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and how strong it is in today’s uncertain international society.”
  • “During the visit, I would also like to emphasize that the Japan-U.S. alliance is not a relationship that is formed solely between the leaders of the two countries, but also between the Congress, between governments, and many private companies, local governments, and so on,” Kishida told Michelle.

How Trump’s mug shot became a defiant and divisive 2024 symbol

Our colleagues Marianne LeVine, Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf take a look at how Trump’s mug shot from Fulton County, Ga., “has become an iconic image for the former president’s supporters.” Here’s an excerpt: 

To many of Trump’s supporters, “the mug shot has become a symbol of defiance — the same backlash to the prosecutions that Trump portrays as politicized, helping him consolidate support in the Republican primary,” our colleagues write. 

  • “They don T-shirts displaying Trump’s scowl. They’ve purchased mugs and can coolers from the Trump campaign promoting the photo. Some of the merchandise is rendered in the same colorized style as Barack Obama’s iconic HOPE emblem from 2008.” 
  • “Beyond the Trump campaign’s official swag, the mug shot has proliferated on beanies and trucker hats, gold coins, trading cards and souvenir $2 bills. There are mug shot buttons and shirts that say ‘WANTED for a second term’ and ‘WANTED by the FBI for Making America Great Again’ or ‘NOTORIOUS DJT.’”
  • “In December, collecttrumpcards.com, which sells Trump digital trading cards, promoted a ‘Mugshot Edition’ NFT set. A select group willing to buy 100 digital trading cards were offered limited edition physical trading cards, one with ‘a piece of President Trump’s Suit from the MugShot’ and another with ‘a piece of the Suit and Tie,’ the website said.”
  • “One attendee at the rally in Conway, S.C., added ‘Not Guilty’ to his shirt on his own. At the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington earlier this year, a Trump supporter on the mezzanine of the Gaylord National Resort lobby unfurled a giant mug shot banner, prompting a chant of ‘USA! USA!’ On March 7, Rep. Troy E. Nehls (R-Tex.) wore a mug shot T-shirt under a blazer and an American flag bow tie to the State of the Union address.”

Scenes from Monday’s solar eclipse

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