IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden faces his next campus test over Gaza: From the Politics Desk

Plus, the biggest news Biden made this week, and it's Michael Cohen's turn to take the stand in the Trump trial.
Joe Biden speaking
President Joe Biden at Atlanta University Center Consortium on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in 2022.Kyle Mazza / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, campaign embed Nnamdi Egwuonwu reports on the tension at Morehouse College over Joe Biden's commencement address next week. Plus, "Meet the Press" moderator Kristen Welker previews her interview Sunday with Secretary of State Antony Bliken.

Sign up to receive this newsletter in your inbox every weekday here.

Morehouse faculty set to vote next week whether to award Biden an honorary degree

By Nnamdi Egwuonwu

ATLANTA — After feeling pressure for much of the spring from college students protesting his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, President Joe Biden will face a new test on campus next week. 

A group of Morehouse College faculty members are pushing to stop the school from conferring an honorary doctorate on Biden at its commencement ceremony on May 19. Morehouse President David Thomas met virtually with faculty members Wednesday to discuss the issue.

“A majority of the comments were opposed to an honorary degree, but there were a couple of very strong defenses,” a faculty member who was on the call said.

Do you have a news tip? Let us know

Those against the decision criticized Biden’s policies on policing and mass incarceration, his handling of the conflict in Gaza and his more recent comments around student protests. Those in favor of the honorary degree called attacks against Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza “unwarranted,” according to the person on the call.

Still, it’s unclear exactly how widespread the dissatisfaction is. Though Morehouse announced last month that Biden would be awarded an honorary doctorate, procedurally, faculty must still vote on it. That vote is scheduled to take place Thursday — three days before commencement — during a regularly scheduled faculty meeting, according to the faculty member.

In the run-up to Biden’s speech, some faculty members have also started circulating a letter to express their “collective dissent” against honoring Biden.

The objections underscore the frustrations with Biden on many college campuses, which have dealt with pro-Palestinian protests in recent weeks. Biden will also be the commencement speaker at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  

Read more →

The biggest news Biden made this week

By Kristen Welker

Biden made plenty of news this week in his interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett

He warned Israel he wouldn’t transfer offensive weapons if its military proceeds with a full-scale invasion of Rafah. He promised that Donald Trump won’t accept the outcome of the 2024 election. And he said Trump, if elected, would “wipe out” many of Biden’s policy achievements, including allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. 

But maybe the biggest news Biden made in that interview was his admission that the United States has supplied weapons that have killed civilians in Israel’s war against Hamas. 

Burnett: I know that you have paused, Mr. President, shipments of 2,000-pound U.S. bombs to Israel due to concern that they could be used in any offensive on Rafah. Have those bombs, those powerful 2,000-pound bombs, been used to kill civilians in Gaza?

Biden: Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers.

On the one hand, Biden’s admission is common sense: Israel’s campaign has killed thousands of civilians, and the U.S. is Israel’s largest arms supplier. 

On the other hand, it’s not every day that an American president admits that U.S.-supplied weapons have killed innocent civilians. 

And it raises a host of questions that I hope to explore on this Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” when I’ll talk to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I’ll also have interviews with Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

What is Biden’s red line?

Is the U.S. complicit in these civilian deaths, as Biden seemed to suggest? 

If so, why is the Biden administration still sending both offensive and defensive weaponry to Israel, as NBC News reported?

Or did Biden’s comments undermine Israel’s war against Hamas? (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country is prepared to act alone if the U.S. cuts off weapon supplies.)  

What does it mean for the negotiations to achieve a cease-fire? 

And — on top of it all — will the Israel-Hamas war be a top-tier issue for voters in November? 

Be sure to tune in for answers on Sunday.

Trump will face Michael Cohen in court as prosecution nears the end of its case

By Adam Reiss, Gary Grumbach, Jillian Frankel and Dareh Gregorian

Stormy Daniels is finished testifying, but another popular target of Donald Trump is scheduled to take the witness stand Monday in his criminal trial — his former lawyer Michael Cohen, multiple sources have told NBC News.

Both Daniels, an adult film actress, and Cohen, Trump’s onetime fixer, are outspoken critics of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and key witnesses in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s falsifying business records case. The former president has labeled them both “sleaze bags.”

The move to call Cohen comes as a prosecutor said at the end of court Friday that the DA’s office has only two witnesses remaining and could rest its case as soon as next week. Cohen’s testimony is expected to last several days.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked Judge Juan Merchan to bar Cohen from commenting publicly on the case since he’s about to take the stand. He noted that Cohen appeared on TikTok this week wearing a T-shirt showing Trump behind bars wearing an orange jumpsuit. 

Blanche had previously complained about Cohen posting on social media and doing interviews criticizing Trump during the trial. Cohen had slowed his frequent commentary after Merchan said he may exclude him from the gag order barring Trump from attacking witnesses in the case because of his commentary.

Steinglass said the DA’s office had previously asked Cohen to stop speaking. The judge directed the DA to tell Cohen that the judge was asking him to stop.

Trump fumed about the lack of a gag order for Cohen after the day’s proceedings wrapped. “Everybody can say whatever they want” but “I can’t say anything,” he told a group of reporters in a courthouse hallway. “It’s a disgrace.”

Read more from Day 15 of the Trump trial →

🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 🫏 Dems divided: Biden is facing a rash of new criticism from some lawmakers and voters in battleground states where his position on Israel carries the most political risk for his efforts to win re-election. Read more →
  • ⚖️ Plea deals: Two operatives tied to indicted Rep. Henry Cuellar, including the Texas Democrat’s former campaign manager, agreed to plea deals as part of the bribery case against the congressman. Read more →
  • ⏱️ Appeal fails: An appeals court upheld former Trump aide Steve Bannon’s conviction on two counts of contempt of Congress, but he’s unlikely to have to report to prison immediately. Read more →
  • 🏫 Debate reignited: A Virginia school board approved a proposal that will restore the names of Confederate military leaders to two public schools. Read more →
  • ✈️ Landing the plane: The Senate passed a bill late Thursday night reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, with measures boosting staff, accelerating refunds to customers and adding more flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Read more →
  • ☀️ Trump’s happy place: As he faces a mix of political, legal and financial headwinds, The Washington Post examines how Trump has built an “alternate reality” for himself at his Mar-a-Lago club. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

And if you’re a fan, please share with everyone and anyone. They can sign up here.