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Trump rocks the boat on TikTok and Ukraine

The House and Senate are in today. President Joe Biden is going to New Hampshire, part of a busy travel week for the president as his reelection campaign gears up. House Republicans are heading to their annual retreat at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Wednesday.

Congress averted a partial government shutdown after the Senate passed the $460 billion-plus FY2024 appropriations minibus package on Friday night. Biden signed it Saturday.

Now comes the really hard part — passing the second tranche of spending bills before the March 22 shutdown deadline. This next group of bills includes Defense, Labor-HHS and Homeland Security, among others. Homeland has proven to be a particularly big problem, with some lawmakers and aides suggesting that a short-term patch may be necessary.

Hill leaders, appropriators and the White House will be working this week to avert a shutdown. And to show how long this process has dragged on, Biden is unveiling his FY2025 budget proposal today.

But this morning, we’re going to focus on two issues — TikTok and Ukraine. Like a lot of things in Washington right now, former President Donald Trump has forced his way into the middle of both of these topics.

TikTok: The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed a bipartisan bill Thursday that would force the sale of TikTok by ByteDance, the company that owns it, or face a ban in the United States. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise wants it on the floor Wednesday. And Biden said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

But then Trump — who pushed repeatedly for a TikTok ban or sale to a U.S. company as president — waded in. Trump said on Truth Social “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business” — referring to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Two things to note:

1) Trump met recently with Jeff Yass, a hedge fund manager and huge GOP donor with a stake in TikTok worth more than $30 billion. Trump’s comments on TikTok came shortly after that.

Yass is a big financial backer of the conservative group Club for Growth, which was anti-Trump before recently turning pro-Trump. Yass has given $10 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund — the House GOP-aligned super PAC — this cycle, as well as another $250,000 to a joint leadership fund for Speaker Mike Johnson.

2) Politico reported this weekend that Kellyanne Conway, the former top Trump aide, “is being paid by the conservative Club for Growth to advocate for TikTok.” Conway — who isn’t registered as a TikTok lobbyist — called some members about Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi’s (D-Ill.) TikTok bill before Thursday’s markup, sources close to the issue said.

All this Trump-related activity has caused a big headache inside the House GOP leadership. Johnson, Scalise and GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik — a possible Trump VP pick — are all solidly behind the TikTok bill. Stefanik is a cosponsor. But if Trump is against it, can House Republicans move forward with it?

There have been some efforts by the GOP leadership to have Trump allies — especially in the national security realm — lobby Trump on the bill, which is slated to be voted on Wednesday.

Officially, House Republican leadership isn’t yet whipping the TikTok bill. The legislation is coming to the floor under suspension of the rules, which will require a two-thirds majority for passage.

Democrats have been concerned about a companion data transfer bill by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the chair and ranking member on Energy and Commerce. That legislation is expected to be brought up next week.

Yet even if the House passes the TikTok bill, there’s no guarantee about its fate in the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer isn’t committing to putting it on the floor just yet.

“I am talking with my chairs and caucus about the legislation,” Schumer said in a statement. “I will listen to their views on the bill and determine the best path.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) has said TikTok is a national security threat. However, Warner told us there are constitutional concerns about naming a single company in legislation. And at the committee’s annual worldwide threats hearing later today, Warner plans to name TikTok as an example of China’s “substantial investment power” to dominate key industries like social media.

Ukraine: On Friday, Johnson told us he had made no assurances to anyone that he’d put a Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan funding bill on the floor. Johnson also said he’d actively work against any and all discharge petitions to bring a bill to a vote.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) has been pushing a bipartisan Ukraine discharge petition to restart U.S. aid to Ukraine. The petition is eligible to get signatures. But Fitzpatrick hasn’t “turned on” the resolution yet, meaning no one can sign onto it. Johnson and Fitzpatrick met on Thursday.

We also want to note the reports in CNN and the New York Times about the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have ordered the use of a tactical nuclear weapon if Russian territory was seized by Ukrainian forces during their devastating counteroffensive in October 2022.

Biden commented on the issue at the time, and there was extensive planning by the National Security Council on how the United States should respond.

Top congressional officials were also brought into these discussions, according to Hill sources, another sign of how seriously this threat was being taken by Biden and senior White House officials.

— John Bresnahan, Jake Sherman and Andrew Desiderio

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.