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EXCLUSIVE: Hakeem Jeffries on the women who lead his inner circle
Plus: Speaker McCarthy promises action on TikTok and reaction to Ro Khanna’s decision not to run for Senate.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your weekday morning guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Monday, March 27.
Jeffries on his women-led senior staff: “When women succeed, America succeeds”
In January, as House Republicans spent five days finessing the votes they needed to elect Kevin McCarthy as the speaker, Democrats proceeded with less fanfare — on all 15 ballots, every member united around Hakeem Jeffries, who would ultimately become the first Black person to lead a party caucus in either chamber of Congress.
But what received less attention was something equally noteworthy: The key departments in his office responsible for shaping the party’s agenda and message as House Democrats toil in the minority for the next two years, are all be led by women.
In an exclusive interview at the US Capitol on Friday to mark Women’s History Month, Jeffries told Supercreator that he was intentional about assembling a staff that reflects the American people, which includes gender diversity.
“We believe as Democrats that when women succeed, America succeed,” Jeffries said. “And it just so happens, in every single position as it relates to a variety of different departments, including chief of staff, that the best person happens to have been a woman.”
Multiple sources — from Democratic aides, reporters and outside advisors who regularly interact with the senior staff — described Jeffries’ inner circle to Supercreator as crafted in his image: professional, laser-focused on the unsexy behind-the-scenes work of building robust coalitions within an increasingly diverse party, and reluctant to say or do anything that would attract attention away from McCarthy and his motley crew of far-right conservatives and moderate pragmatists.
Jeffries was clear in our interview that he didn’t hire women to meet a quota or pander to the electorate.
“It’s also the case that in every single instance, we made a determination as to who was the right person for the job, it was a woman who clearly stood out,” he said. “And that’s a wonderful thing. And it’s evidence that if you just give everyone an opportunity — regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of region — the best will emerge. And oftentimes, that’s going to be a woman.”
Jeffries’ office declined to make a member of the staff available for an interview.
House Democrats are vocal about the fact that part of their motivation to win back the majority is because it would likely make Jeffries the first Black speaker in US history. But two sources close to Jeffries said that beyond individual accolades, a Democratic majority would enable the leader to put forward legislation, from paid leave to reproductive rights to child care to gun safety, that empowers women to thrive at work and in their lives.
For now, Jeffries, known for his fierce message discipline, preferred to concentrate on uplifting the women on his staff and in his life — not his political future.
“As far as I’m concerned, every month is Women’s History Month,” he said. “We all have women in our lives, starting with our moms, who are responsible for who we are.”
Related: “The dual education of Hakeem Jeffries” (Nicholas Fandos / NYT)
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McCarthy promises House action against TikTok
Speaker McCarthy on Sunday morning announced that the House will take up legislation against TikTok after the tech company’s CEO failed to inspire confidence among Democrats and Republicans that it could protect consumer data from the Chinese government.
McCarthy didn’t mention when the House would consider legislation or if it would ultimately ban the app. Congress is out for a two-week recess after this week.
Leader Jeffries told Supercreator on Friday that he hadn’t had the opportunity to review all of the testimony from the hearing, but acknowledged the national security, privacy and consumer protection concerns related to the app.
“I look forward to continuing to engage with all of the members of the House Democratic Caucus and hopefully Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on appropriate measures that can be taken to address these serious issues,” he said while adding that top Democrats on a variety of committees discussed the issue in a meeting earlier that day.
And while most members who have publicly spoken on the issue said they preferred either a total ban or broader legislation that established a national privacy standard for all social apps, the top House Republican on the Energy & Commerce Committee who chaired last week’s hearing made the case for both on Sunday.
“We need to address the immediate threat that TikTok poses because it is ultimately the Chinese threat, the Chinese Communist Party accessing data. We need a national data privacy standard also,” Cathy McMorris Rogers said to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “We need to ensure that individuals have the right to be alerted if their information, their personal data is being accessed or transferred to another country like China. We need to protect kids, and we have the strongest protections for kids in the privacy proposal that we have been working on to protect anyone under the age of 17.”
Freshman House progressives dispute GOP claims of J6 inmate mistreatment
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia on Friday led a tour of a DC jail where defendants accused and convicted of crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection are being held to observe the inmates’ conditions, which she and other House Republicans have called inhumane.
But for two first-term House progressives — Democratic Reps. Jasmine Crockett of Texas and Robert Garcia of California — the visit was a distraction from the broader racial and socioeconomic disparities in the US criminal justice system.
What’s more, the Democrats, who serve on the House Oversight Committee, say these tours are part of a broader campaign to rewrite the history of the Capitol riot and recast the almost 1,000 people who have been charged and arrested for crimes related to the attack as patriotic heroes.
Crockett, a former public defender and civil rights attorney, said in a statement released after the visit that the conditions which the January 6th detainees are living under are an order of magnitude better than those her clients faced back in Texas.
“There are detainees sitting in cells in Texas right now with no [air conditioning] in the summer, no heat in the winter, begging for Congress to give them the kind of attention today’s visit is getting,” she added. “Without any attempts to widen this investigation to address systemic abuse and racism in our nation’s prisons, this visit was nothing more than a political stunt. And that’s a shame, because the issue of prison reform deserves real, bipartisan action.”
I’m told that while House Democrats felt there were more than enough reasons not to participate in the tour, phones and staff were prohibited from the jail so Crockett and Garcia felt a responsibility to provide a counter-message of the tour that challenged Greene’s characterizations.
There’s also an increasing frustration among Democrats that Republicans talk tough on crime but when given the chance to pass legislation that invests resources in community policing and gun violence prevention programs, GOP members vote against it.
When asked by Supercreator on Friday, Leader Jeffries said he looked forward to hearing about what came from the members’ visit.
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. He’ll also host the Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Summit this afternoon.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: The president will travel to North Carolina and visit a semiconductor manufacturer as part of the White House’s Investing in America tour.
Wednesday: President Biden will participate in the Summit for Democracy Virtual Leaders plenary and host President Alberto Fernández of Argentina for a bilateral meeting at the White House. He will also host a reception in the East Room celebrating Greek Independence Day.
Friday: The president will meet with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology before traveling to Wilmington, Delaware for the weekend.
Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia in Africa. During her first full day in Ghana, she will participate in a bilateral meeting with President Nana Akufo-Addo. Harris will then visit Vibrate studio, a community recording studio for young creatives in Accra before a state banquet hosted by President Akufo-Addo and First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden this afternoon will speak at the National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference in Washington, DC.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is with the vice president in Africa. He will join the actors of the Ghanaian television series You Only Live Once (YOLO) for a town hall to discuss women’s empowerment, health, and combating peer pressure. Emhoff will then join the Minister of Youth and Sports Mustapha Ussif of Ghana for the first-all girls Jr. NBA basketball clinic before joining Supreme Court Justice Nene Amegatcher, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice Diana Asonaba Dapaah, and Court of Appeal Justice Afia Asare-Botwe at a legal aid panel hosted by Ghana’s Legal Aid Commission. He will also speak after the event. After the panel, the second gentleman will attend the state banquet with Vice President Harris.
The House is in this afternoon and will take votes scheduled for this evening.
The Senate is in this afternoon and will vote to end debate on a bill to repeal the authorizations for the use of military force against Iraq.
Khanna bypasses Senate, endorses Lee for DiFi’s seat
Speculation emerged on Saturday night when Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna teased an announcement of big news the next day that he would declare his candidacy for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat.
Instead, Khanna revealed that he planned to remain in the House and endorse Rep. Barbara Lee to replace the 89-year-old Feinstein.
“I have concluded that, despite a lot of enthusiasm from Bernie [Sanders] folks, the best place, the most exciting place, action place for me to serve as a progressive is in the House of Representatives,” he said to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And I’m honored to be co-chairing Barbara Lee’s campaign for the Senate and endorsing her today. We need a strong anti-war senator, and she will play that role.”
Lee is one of three other members of Congress vying for the seat in the deep-blue state.
Khanna said he respects Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, but described Lee as an independent voice who voted against the war in Afghanistan and stood up strongly against the war in Iraq and to stop the war in Yemen.
“We don't have a single African-American woman in the United States Senate. She would fill that role,” he said. “She will be the only candidate from Northern California, and she's going to, I think, consolidate a lot of progressives. The other two are formidable candidates, but I think Barbara Lee is going to be very, very strong.”
Lee is polling behind Schiff and Porter so it’s to be determined if California voters will ultimately share Khanna’s outlook. And statewide operatives Supercreator spoke to were less interested in discussing the impact of his endorsement and more curious about why the rising star decided not to seize this moment.
I’m told that since Lee, who would be 78 years old when she began her Senate term, is positioning herself as a bridge candidate between generations. If that’s the case, Khanna could run in 2030 after Lee serves one term. But if one of her opponents wins, the seat may not be open again for decades. And remember: President Joe Biden was seen as a transitional candidate who is now gearing up to run for re-election with questions of his age hovering.
The race is also expected to be unsparing for the candidates who share many policy similarities and will have to differentiate themselves through their lived experiences and legislative records. A source who lives in California texted me that their friend received a threatening letter for endorsing Porter over Lee. Perhaps Khanna didn’t want any part of it this time around.