10 Things in Politics: Mayor Pete’s trying to make DOT cool

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Good morning! Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. We have an incredible range of exclusive reporting from my colleagues today. I’m Brent Griffiths. Don’t miss the best of Insider’s political coverage! 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:


1. SECRETARY PETE’S HIGH HOPES: Pete Buttigieg is the only former 2020 rival in President Biden’s Cabinet besides Vice President Harris. He’s one of the youngest secretaries since RFK led the Justice Department. But if you think his future ambitions would flounder at the Transportation department then you haven’t been paying attention.

  • The Insider story: “Helping get an infrastructure deal through Congress and helping formulate that – that’s his biggest challenge. But with someone who raised $US100 ($130) million, and won the Iowa caucuses, just a little bit more than a year ago, his political future is always going to be something that’s lingering in the background …,” my colleague Adam Wren told me.

Buttigieg sat down with Adam (virtually) for a massive profile on the road ahead for the secretary

Some highlights:

  • You can also expect the viral Fox News hits to continue: Adam says the White House is giving wide latitude to Buttigieg as he does everything from appearing ob “Late Night With Seth Meyers” to talking to The Points Guy.
  • It’s all about Hoosier you know: Washington eyebrows raised after White House chief of staff Ron Klain retweeted a tweet (later deleted) touting a 2028 ticket of Harris and Buttigieg. As Adam points out, Klain is a fellow Hoosier who frequently travels back for the Indy 500.

In short, don’t dismiss what DOT will mean for his future: “He’ll meet every governor in the country, he’ll meet so many mayors that he maybe was not acquainted with before, he’ll do some foreign travel, and he’s going to meet some foreign leaders,” former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Insider of the future connections Buttigieg will forge.

Part of Buttigieg’s imprint is an overhaul of the department’s social media: Less staid, more memes.

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Here’s what else my colleagues found: 

  • Getting Biden’s infrastructure plan passed is the top priority: The Transportation secretary joined Biden for an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers on Thursday to discuss the topic.  
  • Buttigieg has also found a unique way to connect with career staffers: DOT staffers say they are excited for a high-profile boss. The former South Bend mayor is leaving voicemails to staff every Friday to serve as pep talks. 

Listen to a recent one here:

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Read the rest of the exclusive here.


2. Senate Democrats have moved forward on Biden’s $US1.9 ($2) trillion relief plan: The Senate will resume debate today on the stimulus plan after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin forced Senate clerks to spend nearly 11 hours reading the 628-page bill word for word. Another free-wheeling “vote-a-rama” is also in store.


3. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides covered up high nursing home death tolls: The New York Democrat’s advisors pressed officials to change a report last summer to hide the true count of COVID-19 related deaths at nursing homes, The Wall Street Journal first reported. Cuomo’s most senior aides, per The New York Times, were involved in the effort. The result was an undercount of nearly 4,000 deaths.


4. Here’s how much Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk would pay under a wealth tax: Bezos, the world’s richest person, would pay $US5.7 ($7) billion under the tax Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed. US billionaires would have paid a combined $US114 ($149) billion for 2020, according to the estimates of two tax groups. More on what the nation’s four richest people would pay.


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Pope Francis. VINCENZO PINTO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

5. Pope Francis is heading to Iraq for a historic visit: The Vatican says the trip is about showing solidarity with the dwindling number of Christians in the country as well as outreach to other religious communities. ABC News reports that Francis himself dismissed security concerns after renewed attacks in the region. One of his most important meetings will occur with the head of the Iraqi Shia community who was instrumental in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. More the importance of the three-day trip.


6. Washington moves of the week: Biden named TJ Ducklo’s replacement, and top former Trump communication aides found new jobs. Here are some of the biggest moves this week.

Tim Murtaugh, the former communications director for the Trump campaign, is joining the Heritage Foundation. Chris Meagher, a Buttigieg world alumnus, will be deputy press secretary replacing Ducklo. On Capitol Hill, Grisella Martinez is now chief of staff for Democratic Rep. Ruben of Arizona; Josh Marcus-Blank is communications director for Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. 

Read the rest of our exclusive list of DC hirings.


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

  • 8:30 a.m.: The Labor Department releases February’s jobs report.
  • 12:30 p.m.: Jen Psaki holds the White House’s daily news briefing.
  • 3:15 p.m.: Biden participates in a roundtable on his relief plan.

8. A Democratic congressman failed to disclose at least $US671,000 ($874,863) of stock transactions: Tom Malinowski of New Jersey could face a congressional investigation and fines for failing to disclose dozens of personal stock trades as required by law. Malinowski’s office told Insider, which noticed the missing trades, that he “very recently” filed all the missing information. More on our scoop here.


9. Biden’s chief of staff once praised Trump’s approach to chaos: Klain wrote a 2017 article touting Trump’s crisis playbook, but the current White House is following a very different approach. Democrats tell my colleagues that four years of Trump proved that no one should be looking to him for wisdom. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer offered “He did stuff and said stuff that nobody else … can get away with.”


10. News you can use, stop the spam robocalls: Billions of spam robocalls hit Americans every month. Why? Because they are incredibly profitable. Here’s why the government is struggling to stop them and how you can help yourself.


One last thing. 

Today’s trivia question: Today’s question comes from Kristy Aldridge. Where did the US Senate first meet before moving to Philadelphia and later the nation’s capital? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at [email protected].

  • Yesterday’s answer: In 1869, the then-Wyoming Territory granted full voting rights to women. It became a state 21 years later and women there have voted continuously longer than anywhere else in the country. But other states, especially Colorado, stake claims to suffrage history as well.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy your weekends! I’ll be watching the WandaVision finale.