12:30 Report — Israel-Hamas hostage deal appears close
It’s Tuesday, Nov. 21. Good afternoon! It’s a quiet week in the nation’s capital, with the House and Senate out of town, and President Biden preparing to head out this evening for the Thanksgiving holiday. Here’s what’s coming up today:
Hamas and Israel appear to be nearing an agreement that will allow for the release of more hostages who were abducted Oct. 7
Officials predict travel troubles ahead as millions head out for Thanksgiving.
Voters go to the polls today in Utah’s special election
I’m Elizabeth Crisp, filling in for Cate, with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on X, formerly Twitter: @elizabethcrisp. Did someone forward this newsletter to you? Sign up here.
🦃 Tuesday Trivia: Who was the first president to celebrate Thanksgiving outside the U.S.? Email me your best guess: email@example.com. And check back tomorrow for the answer!
💬 Talk of the Morning
A deal in the works for release of Hamas hostages:
Officials on both sides of the war are expressing optimism about ongoing talks for an arrangement that would facilitate the release of more hostages taken captive during the Hamas militant group’s initial Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement posted on Telegram that the two sides “are close to reaching a truce agreement.”
That sentiment was later echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who will meet with his military advisers this evening to hammer out a possible deal.
“We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying more, even at this moment,” Netanyahu said. “But I hope there will be good news soon.”
About 240 people have been held captive by Hamas for more than 40 days, with Israel bombing Gaza and vowing to defeat Hamas for its early October attack.
Israel, with the U.S.’s backing, has rejected calls for a cease-fire despite
a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and thousands of civilian deaths.
The Biden administration had signaled Monday that a breakthrough on securing the release of hostages could happen soon.
“President Biden and the team here [are] doing everything we can to help get the hostages that Hamas took, get them released, including young children and, of course, Americans that are in that pool,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
“We believe we’re closer than we’ve ever been, so we’re hopeful. But there’s still work to be done,” he continued. “And nothing is done until it’s all done. So we’re gonna keep working on this.” (The Hill)
⛈️ Travel troubles
Severe storms threaten to upend Thanksgiving travel plans:
Thanksgiving travelers beware: Severe storms and possible snow could threaten your plans.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned that two major storm systems will bring rain, thunderstorms and “wintry” weather across the South and East Coast.
“Be sure to remain weather aware this week and check weather.gov for local forecasts before traveling,” the NWS wrote.
➤ IT’S SURE TO BE A BUSY ONE:
Millions of people are expected to travel in record numbers in the coming days.
The Transportation Security Administration expects 2.6 million air passengers today and another 2.7 million on Wednesday. Sunday will be the busiest travel day, with an estimated 2.9 million passengers — a record and dramatic rebound from the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
AAA is predicting that 55.4 million people will travel a minimum of 50 miles between Wednesday and Sunday.
Check on it: Monitor the FAA’s airport conditions here.
🗳 In Congress
Utah voters head to the polls:
It’s election day in Utah, where voters will decide who will fill the only vacant seat in Congress.
The reliably red district is expected to be an easy win for Republicans, but politicos will be watching for any interesting trends.
Six-term Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) resigned from Congress in September due to his wife’s health following a stroke last year.
Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe is facing Republican Celeste Maloy, a former Stewart staffer, in the special election to finish the term.
The Hill’s Julia Mueller breaks down the race here.
Follow The Hill’s coverage with Decision Desk HQ tonight at TheHill.com.
⚖️ Trump legal update
Former WH aide: Lifting gag order could put witnesses at risk:
A former White House aide, who became a star witness in the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol, says she fears for witnesses’ safety if former President Trump’s gag order is lifted.
“The American people should not ever have to live in fear of retribution from a president of the United States, or a former president of the United States,” Cassidy Hutchinson told MSNBC’s Jen Psaki this week.
“A president is here and is elected to protect the people, not to incite violence on those people,” she added.
Trump, who faces 91 criminal charges in four separate indictments, is facing gag orders in multiple cases after attacking judges and court staff in social media posts.
A three-judge panel heard arguments on Monday challenging the order in the federal election subversion case and is expected to render a decision. (The Hill)
Mike Johnson hangs out with Trump at Mar-a-Lago after endorsement:
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) met with former President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Monday, just days after endorsing Trump’s 2024 reelection bid.
The move comes as Johnson navigates his new leadership role, after the chamber ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who has also made several Mar-a-Lago trips.
Trump remains the GOP front-runner in the primary race, despite his legal troubles.
Johnson, once a Trump skeptic, became a key ally of the former president in his impeachment battles and amid his alleged attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
He’s now the highest-ranking Republican to back Trump’s bid for a second term.
“He had a phenomenal first term,” Johnson said in a CNBC interview last week. “His first two years, as you all know, we brought about the greatest economic numbers in the history of the world, not just the country, because his policies work. And I’m all in for President Trump.”
Trump dubbed Johnson “MAGA Mike” after he was voted speaker in October. (The Hill)
Senate Democrats are pushing back against the notion that President Biden’s weak poll numbers mean he should step aside, rather than seek reelection. (The Hill)
🐝 Internet Buzz
🤎 It’s National Gingerbread Cookie Day for those who are ready to get into the holiday spirit.
🕊️ The White House has draped a black sash atop the portrait of Rosalynn Carter to memorialize her following her death.
🧵 President Biden and Vice President Harris have joined Threads, the fledgling social media platform developed by Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.
🗓 On The Agenda
The House and Senate are out. President Biden is in Washington, D.C., but will be heading to Nantucket, Mass., this evening. Vice President Harris is in Los Angeles. (all times Eastern)
10:15 a.m.: Biden received the Presidential Daily Briefing.
11 a.m.: Biden began a meeting about fentanyl.
5:10 p.m.: Biden and the first lady will depart the White House ahead of their trip to Nantucket for Thanksgiving.
👋 And Finally…
Check out this video of a baby flamingo figuring out how to move its big legs and little wings …