April 15, 2024

Hello, Tax DaySmart Brevity™ count: 1,320 words ... 5 mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

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1 big thing: Border "nuclear option"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's road to a dramatic executive order to stem illegal border crossings — expected within weeks — has dragged out for months as he prepares for legal challenges, political backlash and enforcement shortages, Axios' Stef W. Kight and Hans Nichols report.

Why it matters: With Republicans making the border a top 2024 issue, Biden has been trying to find the right language to impose a crackdown without getting instantly shut down by courts — or facing open revolt by his progressive base.

  • Another big concern is that an executive order without the money to implement it wouldn't be effective.

If Biden pulls the trigger, he'd rely on the same section of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, 212(f), that former President Trump used against immigration — including his so-called Muslim ban.

  • A Biden administration official called that the "nuclear option" for the border.

🔎 Between the lines: To truly strengthen border security, Biden needs something only Congress can provide — money to hire more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and other reinforcements.

🧮 By the numbers: The average number of daily crossings is about half what it was during December's surge, according to recent internal government statistics obtained by Axios.

  • But crossings typically jump during the spring and summer, which could put more pressure on Biden to take action to lower numbers and avoid a new string of GOP attacks.

Flashback: Trump's executive actions on immigration faced constant litigation.

  • When he leveraged 212(f) to block illegal border crossings, a federal judge ultimately blocked the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing it.

🥊 Reality check: It's already against the law for asylum seekers and other immigrants to cross the southwest border anywhere other than the designated, legal entry points.

  • Biden already has used his executive power to automatically reject asylum seekers who cross the border illegally and do not first seek protections in a country they passed through.

The bottom line: Harsh executive policies do little to fix the U.S. immigration system's outdated infrastructure, cash-needy federal agencies and overwhelmed border officials.

2. 🇮🇱 Biden to Bibi: "Be careful"

Israel's war cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meets in Tel Aviv yesterday.
Israel's war cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meets in Tel Aviv yesterday. Photo: Israeli Government Press Office

The Biden administration is urging Israel — in private and in public — not to rush into a massive retaliation after the unprecedented Iranian attack on Saturday, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

  • Why it matters: The U.S. assessment is that Iran would retaliate against any significant, overt Israeli strike on Iranian soil with a new round of missile and drone attacks, a senior U.S. official said.

There's also a risk that efforts to defend Israel against more Iranian attacks wouldn't be as successful as the coordinated defense that intercepted nearly all of the drones and missiles Iran launched at Israel, the official added.

  • During a phone call on Saturday, President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he needs to think carefully and strategically about the danger of regional escalation if Israel retaliates, a senior U.S. official said in a call with reporters.
  • The Biden administration continued this conversation with the Israeli government yesterday and stressed that Israel needs to "be careful and strategic" with its response to the Iranian attack.

Iran's Supreme National Security Council said in a statement yesterday that no additional military action against Israel is currently on the agenda.

  • It warned that any continued Israeli action against Iran would receive "at least a ten-fold response," the statement said.

Keep reading.

3. 🕶️ Voters' rosy Trump memories

How voters say they remember the years during select administrations
Data: New York Times/Siena College poll of 1,059 registered voters (April 7-11. Margin of error: ±3.3 points.) Chart: Axios Visuals

Views of Donald Trump's presidency have become far more positive since the fall of 2020, according to a poll by The New York Times and Siena College.

  • Why it matters: Voters have taken up an especially sunny view of Trump's time in office on the economy — a pivotal issue for November's election.

Other issues where Trump's ratings improved include maintaining law & order, and his handling of the pandemic.

  • The poll found a big increase (9 points) in registered voters who believe he left the country better off.

🧮 By the numbers: Trump holds a wide advantage over Biden when voters are asked how they remember their presidencies.

  • 42% rate Trump's term as "mostly good for America," compared to 25% for Biden.
  • More voters (+11 points) view Trump as a "safe choice" than they did in 2016.

Reality check: Many still remember him as a divisive and chaotic leader.

  • Trump's polling on "unifying America" narrowly improved but remains low. Voters gave Biden better marks for his handling of race relations.

Keep reading (NYT gift link) ... Explore the data.

4. ⚖️ What Trump will see

Judge Juan Merchan's courtroom sits empty between proceedings in March.
Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

Above: Part 59 on the 15th floor of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, where jury selection for Donald Trump's historic criminal trial begins today.

  • NYC lingo: Part = courtroom.

More than 500 prospective jurors were sent notices to appear.

5. 🥽 Meta's VR for schools

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

If Meta has its way, students will tour faraway museums, walk among dinosaurs and view human intestines up close from the comfort of their classroom using Quest virtual reality headsets, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

  • The Facebook parent company announced plans this morning to try to make the Quest VR headset a central piece of school equipment.

Why it matters: As educators grapple with AI and other new tech tools, a deep-pocketed push to turn VR into a classroom staple raises new questions about the future of learning — and what's best for kids.

👓 Between the lines: Quest is the most popular VR platform ever, and it's doing reasonably well — but not achieving the kind of scale Meta is used to, Axios' Scott Rosenberg notes.

  • So the education strategy is a long-term growth effort, like Apple's in the 1980s, when it hit a wall with business adoption of Macs.

Keep reading.

6. 👢 Texas-sized chip investment

Samsung construction site near Austin
Construction at Samsung Austin Semiconductor plant in Taylor, Texas, in November. Photo: Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via Reuters

President Biden this morning announced $6.4 billion in grants to Samsung for the South Korean company to expand chip production in the Austin area.

  • Why it matters: The massive Biden-led investment in chip production aims to reduce dependence on China and Taiwan, and gives the administration a permanent legacy across the U.S.

The preliminary agreement with the Commerce Department "will unleash over $40 billion in investment from Samsung, and cement central Texas's role as a state-of-the-art semiconductor ecosystem, creating at least 21,500 jobs and leveraging up to $40 million in CHIPS funding to train and develop the local workforce," the White House announcement says.

The agreement includes an existing site in Austin and a new chip manufacturing hub nearby in Taylor, Texas.

  • "Aside from manufacturing chips, Samsung will now construct a research and development facility in Taylor as well as an advanced factory for packaging them, the final step before semiconductors can be used in electronic systems," the N.Y. Times reports.

7. ⛳ Scottie Scheffler's golf domination

Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning the Masters yesterday.
Scottie Scheffler celebrates after winning the Masters yesterday. Photo: Ashley Landis/AP

Scottie Scheffler's four-shot Masters win cemented the 27-year-old's status as the sport's best player:

  1. The Dallas lad closed with a 4-under 68 to claim his second Masters in three years.
  2. He's ranked No. 1 in the world by a margin not seen since Tiger Woods in his prime.
  3. He's won three of his last four tournaments. That one event Scheffler lost? He finished second.
  4. He hasn't played a round over par in nine tournaments this year.
Tiger Woods waves after his final round at the Masters.
Tiger Woods waves after his final round at this year's Masters. Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

Tiger, 48— battling a long list of injuries — closed out the tournament at 16 over. It's the worst 72-hole score of his professional career.

8. 🎥 1 film thing: "Civil War" tops box office

This image released by A24 shows a scene from "Civil War."
Photo: A24 via AP

"Civil War" — a dystopian action movie that envisions America at war with itself in the near future — became the No. 1 movie at the box office with a $25.7 million opening weekend.

  • Why it matters: Ticket sales were "largely fueled by Democrat and Liberal moviegoers," Deadline notes — citing movie theater exit polling.

Go deeper.

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