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Robinhood presents populist economic challenge to Biden White House: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein



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© Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images


Early in the Obama administration, with the economy still fragile from the financial crisis, former President Barack Obama famously told a group of bank CEOs that his White House was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

A longbow might a more appropriate analogy at the moment. It’s not yet clear where the target is — or whether there is one at all.



a hand holding a sign: This photo illustration shows the logos of video grame retail store GameStop and trading application Robinhood in a computer and on a mobile phone in Arlington, Va., Jan. 28, 2021.


© Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
This photo illustration shows the logos of video grame retail store GameStop and trading application Robinhood in a computer and on a mobile phone in Arlington, Va., Jan. 28, 2021.

Populist economic tensions aren’t new — but neither are they entirely understood by those in power. This week’s wild market gyrations in a few stocks, and Robinhood’s decision to limit trading on securities including GameStop, brought a range of new and more familiar storylines into uncomfortable focus for the new administration.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz found themselves agreeing for the moment — though Ocasio-Cortez served quick notice that she’s not welcoming that political ally at this time. Donald Trump Jr. jumped in on Twitter to call it an example of a “rigged system.”



Ted Cruz et al. posing for the camera: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz are shown in a composite file image.


© AP, FILE
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz are shown in a composite file image.

With promises of congressional scrutiny and calls for empowering Wall Street watchdogs, and without even a confirmation hearing for his SEC pick, it puts President Joe Biden and his new team in a potentially awkward middle ground in what could come across as a clear-cut issue on the left and the Trump-molded right.

Obama’s pitchfork line aside, a major progressive critique of the Obama-Biden years was that the administration never fully grasped the anger aimed at Wall Street. That came back in the Democratic primaries, in 2019 and 2020, long before Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders joined forces with Biden to defeat Trump.

This is a storyline that is bringing a measure of political unity — just nothing like what Biden envisioned.

Video: Biden administration confident about getting COVID bill passed (ABC News)

Biden administration confident about getting COVID bill passed

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The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

The question that’s likely to loom over Biden’s first few weeks in office continues to be whether the new administration can reconcile the president’s goal of opening most schools during his first 100 days, with the pandemic-era safety demands put forth by teachers’ unions.

Earlier this week, Biden said reopening schools is “complicated” and rejected placing blame on teachers’ unions for issues surrounding school closures. On Thursday, his press secretary, Jen Psaki, walked a similarly fine line in addressing both areas of concern by reiterating Biden’s mission to reopen schools, while establishing that health safety protocols should be a top priority across the nation’s various school settings.



Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on health care, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


© Evan Vucci/AP
President Joe Biden signs a series of executive orders on health care, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Psaki also downplayed a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that said it’s possible for students to return to rural Wisconsin schools where kids wore masks, were put into small groups and distanced from the teachers.

“The CDC hasn’t issued the formal recommendations or requirements on how all schools across the country can open. They did a report, as they do reports frequently, based on an area in Wisconsin. Important, interesting data — no doubt. But that is not reflective of every school district and community in the country,” she said.



Anthony S. Fauci wearing a suit and tie: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Jan. 21, 2021.


© Alex Brandon/AP
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Jan. 21, 2021.

In a town hall discussion with the American Federation of Teachers Thursday evening, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Biden is taking the matter very seriously but also noted that the goal of opening schools in the coming months may not be possible as it depends on future “mitigating circumstances.”

Fauci said the key to reopening schools would be deploying more rapid tests, vaccinating staff, specific safety guidance and providing schools the resources to make schools safer.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

After disputing the winner of the election up until its congressional certification on Jan. 6, through the use of court cases and audit demands, Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward is facing calls to audit her own re-election as chairwoman.

Ward narrowly won her second election as chair on Saturday night and her opponent Sergio Arellano, whom she defeated after the race went to a second ballot, is now asking state party officials to audit the results. He wrote in a Facebook post that “a number of state committeemen are raising concerns and reaching out to me to ask for an audit because only a candidate for party office can do so.” Arellano, who had support from establishment Republicans, said that the discrepancies in another member’s race propelled him to ask for the audit — and that he looks forward to the state party setting an example for how to run an election.



Kelli Ward talking on a cell phone: Dr. Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, holds a press conference in Phoenix.


© Ross D. Franklin/AP, FILE
Dr. Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, holds a press conference in Phoenix.

The state party’s 2021 meeting drew national attention after prominent members of the GOP, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the wife of the late Sen. John McCain, were censured by the party.

Rep. Paul Gosar, one of the strongest supporters of the “Stop the Steal” movement led by Republican activists, fired back at Arellano on Twitter, ironically saying that Ward and the state party had “moved on.” It’s yet another sign of the party’s battles with Trumpism — and how claims of election fraud have cemented themselves within the GOP.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Friday morning’s episode features Brown University School of Public Health dean Dr. Ashish Jha, who tells us how concerned we should be about the South African variant of the coronavirus, which was found for the first time in the U.S. The founder of Reddit’s WallStreetBets gives us his reaction to Robinhood temporarily suspending the purchase of GameStop stock. And Jamie Lareau from the Detroit Free Press explains why General Motors is setting an ambitious target to fully shift its fleet to zero-emission vehicles. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND

  • White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield will appear on ABC’s “The View.”
  • Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Jamie Harrison will appear on ABC News Live Prime.
  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. At 11 a.m. they will receive an economic briefing with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and at 12:30 p.m. they will have lunch. Biden will visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at 2:05 p.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a briefing at 10 a.m.
  • The March For Life begins at 12:50 p.m. with participants walking from the National Mall to the Supreme Court in Washington. A livestream begins at noon.
  • First lady Jill Biden will participate in a virtual conversation with military-connected students in the Military Children Education Coalition’s (MCEC) Student 2 Student peer mentoring program at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday on ABC’s “This Week:” The Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week’s politics with ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega, Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce, Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott and weekend White House Correspondent MaryAlice Parks.

Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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