10 Things in Politics: Cruz facing backlash after Cancun trip

10 Things in Politics: Cruz facing backlash after Cancun trip

February 19, 2021

Good morning! Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. I’m Brent Griffiths. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox each day.

Send your tips and thoughts to [email protected] or tweet me @BrentGriffiths.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Heidi Cruz’s texts appear to undercut Sen. Ted Cruz’s explanation for going to Cancun.
  • There’s a bigger purpose to Joe Biden’s ice cream tweets.
  • Australia’s Prime Minister is livid over Facebook’s move to ban news.

1. NOW THAT’S A TALE SPIN: A series of text messages appear to contradict Sen. Ted Cruz’s explanation for his trip to Cancun, Mexico, which he abruptly returned from amid scathing criticism as his state continues to struggle with winter storms.

The Texas Republican pinned it to his daughters’ request for a vacation during a school break. But my colleagues obtained text messages that appear to show Heidi Cruz, the senator’s wife, taking an active role in planning the getaway.

Read the messages yourself here.

Cruz himself now says the trip was a “mistake”: He said that he initially was going to stay through Saturday, but started having second thoughts from “the moment I sat down on the plane.”

  • The tide has turned: As CNN uncovered, Cruz once mocked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for going to a beach after shutting down all beaches in the state. 

The side-eyes of Texas are upon him:

  •  “[W]e expect leadership and perhaps a little solidarity from a man whose re-election campaign heavily rested on claims of his compassion and advocacy for suffering Texans after Hurricane Harvey,” wrote the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board.
  • “He spent just one night out of the country – not long enough for a sunburn, but plenty of time to get blistered,” the Dallas Morning News’s Todd J. Gillman writes.

The situation remains dire in Texas: The good news is that power continues to be restored to millions of homes. But more than 13 million Texans are facing water disruptions, replacing one struggle with another. “We’re moving from third-world to second-world status right now,” state Rep. Jon Rosenthal told CNN.

  • As bad as things are, it could have been even worse: The state’s grid was ‘seconds and minutes’ away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months,” the Texas Tribune reports.

2. It’s 3 a.m. and … Biden’s not tweeting: Say goodbye to covfefe. The White House is clear that this administration will not make personnel moves via tweet. But there’s still a lot you can discern about its message from its social presence. Rob Flaherty, director of the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy, told Insider that Biden “really cares a lot about is presenting information to people in ways that are accessible to them and ways that aren’t jargony.” That includes his favorite ice cream flavor.

  • Biden’s dogs on the ‘gram?: Champ and Major, Biden’s pets, may join your pandemic pups on Instagram. It’s still TBD, Flaherty mal-tesed my colleagues.

3. Red rover, red rover send proof of life on Mars on over: NASA’s $3 billion Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars, beginning what could be a decade-long effort to bring the first samples of Martian rock back to earth. There have been previous Mars missions, but this is the first one to search for possible signs of previous life. Read more about “Percy’s” 300-million-mile journey from Florida.

See the images Perseverance has already sent back from Mars.

4. US offers to restart talks with Iran: The Biden administration began its path to restoring the Iran nuclear deal, offering to join a new round of negotiations with Tehran. Per The New York Times, Iran is likely to accept the offer, but may not want to directly involve the US.

  • Meanwhile, US-Saudi relations could reach new lows: The Biden administration is expected to release an unclassified summary of intelligence showing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post reports. It could come as soon as next week.

5. The top things for your calendar, all times Eastern:

  • 11:45 a.m.: Dr. Anthony Fauci and other members of the White House’s pandemic team hold a news conference.
  • 3:10 p.m.: Biden speaks at a Pfizer manufacturing plant in Michigan where workers produce one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

6. Washington moves of the week: The White House announced dozens of healthcare hires in advance of Xavier Becerra confirmation hearing to become HHS secretary.

They include Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, nominated for administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. On Capitol Hill, Annaliese Davis is moving up in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office to senior communication advisor. Elsewhere in Washington, Walter Shaub has joined the Project On Government Oversight, where he’ll be in charge of a new ethics and accountability program. And outside the Beltway, Jason Cabel Roe is now executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.

Read the our complete, exclusive list of D.C. hirings .

  • Want to see your name here too?: We’ve put together tips on how to work on the Hill, get a gig working in Washington at large, or land in the Biden administration. And don’t forget when you make your move to share your news with us!

7. Congress grilled CEOs over the GameStop “meme stock” saga: Lawmakers zeroed in on Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev due to the trading app’s critical role in the explosion of GameStop’s value. Tenev said it was “unacceptable” to halt trading in some stocks and expressed remorse to the family of a user who died by suicide in June 2020 after believing he lost $730,000. More on what we learned from the hearing.

8. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen echoed Biden’s large stimulus pitch: “I think the price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big,” Yellen told CNBC. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to vote on Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan by the end of next week.

9. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed Facebook’s “arrogant” move to ban news content in the country. Facebook made this ban amid an ongoing battle over legislation that would require tech giants to pay news companies for their content. More on its “nuclear option.”

10. Not all of WandaVision has been spoiled: Some of you *ahem* need to better mind your stone — errr manners. Regardless, actor Paul Bettany, who plays Vision in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in the Disney Plus show, says there is a major character that hasn’t yet been revealed.

One last thing.

Today’s trivia question: In light of the first dogs’ possible Instagram accounts, who is the only first pet to have “written” a Times best-seller? Email your response and a suggested question to me at [email protected]

  • Yesterday’s answer: Democratic Sen. Alan MacGregor Cranston of California ran the 100-yard dash in college, and when he was 55 years old set a world record in the event for seniors. He ran for his party’s presidential nomination in 1984, just four years before Biden’s first White House run.

That’s all, have a great weekend!

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