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Good morning, friends. Welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ presidential election newsletter. This edition was written by Suzanne Bates, Deseret News’ politics editor, and Brigham Tomco, who covers state and federal election news. We’re filling in for Samuel Benson while he’s on vacation.

3 things to know

  • Donald Trump will headline the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominating convention later this month. Why is America’s third largest political party platforming its opponent? The Deseret News asked libertarian influencers on both sides of the debate. Read more here.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney and some congressional colleagues are taking on President Joe Biden’s electric vehicle mandates. This comes on the heels of new emission regulations finalized by the EPA that would require up to two-thirds of new cars and nearly 40% of trucks sold in the U.S. to be electrical vehicles in eight years. Read more here.
  • The Biden administration will cancel student loan debt or interest for millions of borrowers, despite a Supreme Court decision limiting some of Biden’s plans. Deseret News’ Jennifer Graham writes these loan forgiveness plans are projected to cost the country over $500 billion. Is Biden trying to curry favor with young voters? Read more here.

Biden, Trump speak out on campus protests

Student protests against the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas have rocked college campuses and dominated headlines for over two weeks. Entire buildings have been occupied, dozens of fights have broken out and thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators have been arrested. All the while, President Joe Biden has maintained a reserved distance from the subject. That changed on Thursday.

“Violent protest is not protected. Peaceful protest is,” Biden said from the White House in a previously unscheduled statement. “Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations, none of this is a peaceful protest. Threatening people, intimidating people, instilling fear in people is not peaceful protest; it’s against the law.”

Biden condemned the chaos created by campus protests and said, “There should be no place on any campus, no place in America, for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students.”

At the end of Thursday’s press conference, the president was asked whether the protests had caused him to reconsider the country’s policies toward the Gaza conflict. He was also asked whether he supported intervention by the National Guard. His response to both questions was a brisk “No.”

Biden has struggled to walk the tightrope between supporting America’s longtime ally Israel, while trying not to alienate younger and Muslim American voters. In addition to dividing Democrats in Congress and across the country, the issue threatens to be an electoral liability in swing states, particularly Michigan, which is home to the country’s largest population of Muslim Americans in the city of Dearborn.

Former President Donald Trump has taken advantage of Biden’s reticence to weigh in, accusing him of being “definitely against Israel,” labeling protesters as “Hamas sympathizers” and calling Tuesday’s police crackdown at Columbia University “a beautiful thing to watch.”

Trump’s comments come as protesters, including at the University of Utah this week, continue to call for an immediate cease-fire on the part of Israel — which launched a war to eradicate Hamas after the terrorist group killed roughly 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, while taking hundreds of hostages. Many of the rallies also involve protesters, paradoxically, call for an intifada, or armed uprising, by Palestinians. Students have also pressured university administrators to disclose and divest investments in defense contractors that manufacture weapons used by Israel.

According to an Economist/YouGov poll released Thursday evening, nearly half (47%) of American adults strongly or somewhat oppose the recent pro-Palestinian college protests. Just over a quarter (28%) strongly or somewhat support the protests and 24% are not sure. Support increases to 40% among those age 18-44, to 46% among Democrats and to 75% among Muslim Americans, the poll found.

Among all U.S. adults, twice as many Americans (33%) say the response by college administrators has not been harsh enough as say it has been too harsh (16%). One-fifth say the response has been about right and 31% are unsure. A Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday found 47% of registered voters believe universities should ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus and over three-quarters (76%) believe colleges should ask police to protect campuses from protester violence.

“People have to RESPECT LAW AND ORDER in this Country,” Trump posted Tuesday on Truth Social.

As college students head home for the summer, the protests may wind down. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken continues to try to broker a peace deal.

What we’re reading

If Trump wins the presidency again, who will be responsible? Certainly, he will deserve some credit; voters, of course, will have made the final call; but Susie Wiles — “The most feared and least known political operative in America” — will have played a key part, too. Here’s how a well-mannered grandmother, who said she likely won’t ever adapt to Trump’s brash style, became the former president’s most trusted adviser. The Most Feared and Least Known Political Operative in America (Michael Kruse, Politico Magazine)

In a rare in-depth interview, Trump told Time he had learned his lesson. In a second Trump administration, he said, he would act decisively to reshape the presidency and America’s role in the world: immediately firing uncomplying cabinet members, deporting millions of migrants and dealing out ultimatums to American allies abroad. And, unlike his first time in office, Trump would be bolstered by a party and think tanks ready to back his every move. How Far Trump Would Go (Eric Cortellessa, Time)

Should our “nation of immigrants” shut its borders? This was the subject of a recent debate moderated by The Free Press. The hour-and-a-half-long dialogue featured arguments made by longtime conservative commentator Ann Coulter and conservative opinion columnist Sohrab Ahmari in favor of greatly decreased immigration, and libertarian journalist Nick Gillespie and progressive news host Cenk Uygur in favor of open immigration policies. Should the U.S. Shut Its Borders? A Live Debate (Honestly, The Free Press)

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.