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Trump rains on Biden’s infrastructure parade

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President Biden’s motorcade rolled into the Cummins Power Generation Facility outside of Minneapolis on Monday, part of a nationwide tour to sell his administration’s initiatives to rebuild the nation’s road, bridges and other infrastructure.

But as Biden touted his administration’s rollout of nearly $1 trillion in improvements nationwide, attention focused instead on former President Trump as he made his way from Florida to New York City to be charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The biggest news arising from Biden’s trip in Fridley, Minn.? His response to a shouted question about Trump’s indictment.

Hello, my name is Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu. I cover national politics for the L.A. Times. Today we look at how Trump’s legal problems overshadowed Biden’s infrastructure tour and why in the long run, that may not be so bad for Biden.

Struggling to sell success

Obviously, the specter of a former American president surrendering to police is hard to compete with.

But as The Times has previously reported, the Biden administration was already struggling to sell its successes in passing the bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Last week, House Democrats met at the White House to discuss how to get that message to voters in advance of the 2024 election.

“This is a House effort to make sure that our communicators, our 213 Democrats in the House of Representatives, communicate to their districts, and to districts that we do not represent, what we have done, and what we are doing to make their lives better,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters at the West Wing after their meeting.

The three-week 20-state tour kicked off last week when Biden visited a semiconductor factory in Durham, N.C. On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Georgia to discuss the clean energy economy. The administration is bringing everyone including the Second Gentelman Doug Emhoff out on the road to spread the message.

But it remains to be seen whether the president’s accomplishments in the rather bland area of infrastructure will prove to be any competition to Trump’s ongoing corruption probes and partisan attacks.

On the other hand, even if Trump ends up overshadowing Biden, that may not be a split-screen that bothers Biden, who is expected to announce his reelection campaign soon. Infrastructure is a solidly moderate and bipartisan issue.

The latest from the campaign trail

— Aside from raising about $10 million after the indictment, the Trump campaign has also gotten a boost from its immediate detractors. The indictment has caused Trump’s opponents for the Republican nomination to coalesce around him. “When you get into political prosecutions like this, it’s more about revenge that it is about justice,” said Nikki Haley, who announced her bid in February. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to declare his candidacy and looks set to be his most formidable candidate, said the indictment represented “the weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda.” “It is un-American,” he added.

— The GOP is set for a crowded field as Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas, announced that he, too, would be running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. However, unlike the other declared candidates and likely contenders, he has broken away from leading Republicans who have rallied around Trump. Hutchinson, 72, called on Trump to step aside from the nomination as he fights his legal battles, saying in an ABC interview that “the office is more important than any individual person.” While others have tried to limit outright confrontation with Trump over worries it would alienate his devout MAGA followers, Hutchinson has been willing to openly criticize the former president.

The view from Washington

— Former Vice President Mike Pence declined to appeal a judge’s decision that he must testify as part of a Justice Department inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. Pence would not have to answer questions specifically about the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. On that day, Pence was on the Hill serving in his capacity as the Senate president and oversaw the election certification process.

— The Biden administration released a report Thursday that reviewed the chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. Much of the report lay the blame with the Trump administration, saying that Biden was “severely constrained” due to decisions taken before he took over in January 2021.

The view from California

— Vice President Kamala Harris explored her biracial identity in the most public way yet during her trip to three African countries. The U.S. embassy in Zambia had worked for a year to locate the house in which Harris had spent time as a child. In an exclusive interview with Times writer Courtney Subramanian, who traveled with Harris, she said “you don’t let people tell you who you are, you tell them who you are.”

— Gov. Gavin Newsom traveled to Sarasota, Fla., to speak with students of New College of Florida, a liberal arts college that his rival DeSantis seeks to convert into a conservative haven. The visit is part of Newsom’s Campaign for Democracy initiative aimed at supporting Democrats and progressive values, Times staff writer Susanne Rust reported.

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