What Now?! – 2/23/2021

“The Supreme Court cleared the way for a New York prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, dealing a massive loss to Trump who has fiercely fought to shield his financial papers from prosecutors,” CNN reports.

“The documents will be subject to grand jury secrecy rules that restrict their public release.”

CNBC: “The decision, the second time the nation’s highest court has weighed in on the matter, was announced in an order with no noted dissents. The news further imperils the ex-president, who is facing investigations in New York and elsewhere.”

Jonathan Chait: “Donald Trump’s yearslong quest to prevent the public, Congress, or law-enforcement officials from seeing his tax statements came to a resounding end with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.”

“Trump’s response bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides. It is meandering, filled with run-on sentences, gratuitous insults, and exclamation points.”

“The statement does contain one unambiguously true point: ‘This is something which has never happened to a president before.’ That’s correct, because every president for the past several decades has voluntarily released his financial information. Only Trump refused.”

New York Times: “When President Biden nominated Judge Garland last month to be attorney general, the news conjured up his ordeal in 2016 as President Barack Obama’s thwarted nominee to the Supreme Court. But Judge Garland’s experience prosecuting domestic terrorism cases in the 1990s was the formative work of his career, from the nuances of federal statutes down to the feeling of broken glass crunching beneath his dress shoes.”

“The man has now met the moment. At his Senate confirmation hearings starting on Monday, he will almost certainly be asked about the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that the United States faces a growing threat from ‘violent domestic extremists’ and that the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol may not have been an isolated episode.”

Politico: Garland to stress law enforcement experience at confirmation hearing.

Attorney General Nominee Merrick Garland isn’t shying away from criticizing the Trump administration in his confirmation hearing. Said Garland, on family separation policy at the Mexican border: “I think that the policy was shameful. I can’t imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children.”

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Merrick Garland “is a good pick to lead the Department of Justice,” Bloomberg reports.

“The comment from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who called Garland well-qualified, was an early indication that Garland will receive bipartisan support when the nomination reaches the Senate floor.”

In 2016, Grassley blocked Garland from even having a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee following Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Jonathan Bernstein: “Congress returns Monday from a one-week recess it should never have taken. Although the Democratic leadership in both chambers is somewhat at fault, I’ll put the bulk of the blame at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. For the most part, President Joe Biden has done a pretty good job at balancing his promise to return to normal with his promise to enact an ambitious Democratic agenda, but this time he leaned toward normal. It was a mistake, and he should learn from it.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will not vote to confirm President Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, Axios reports.

Playbook: “Tanden’s best hope for confirmation now lies with finding support from Mitt Romney (R-UT) or Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). There are two reasons they might step forward. Tanden is close to White House chief of staff Ron Klain and her defeat would be seen not just as a defeat for President Joe Biden but as a personal rebuke to Klain. If Biden and Klain want to go all-out to save Tanden, they could offer Romney or Murkowski or — less likely — another Republican something significant in return.”

“But the more intriguing motive for Romney or Murkowski to back Tanden has to do with the internal dynamics of the 50-50 Senate, where there’s a budding competition among centrists for primacy. If Tanden is defeated, Manchin will get credit for it.”

Yeah, nice theory. It was immediately shot out of the water later Monday morning when Sen. Romney announced that he too will oppose Neera Tanden to lead the White House Budget Office, dealing a decisive blow to her hopes of confirmation, Politico reports. So now Tanden will need three Republican votes to get back to 50. I have trouble seeing where they come from.

Adam Serwer: “Ideally in a democracy, when politicians govern poorly, the voters punish them for it. Real life is obviously more complicated, and politicians who fail at their duties aren’t held accountable for all sorts of reasons.”

“But in the contemporary Republican Party, governance has taken a back seat to waging the culture war. Whether you are a competent public official who serves your constituents well matters less than your ability to illustrate your contempt for the rival party’s constituency in word and deed.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal of Pennsylvania’s mail-ballot deadline extension in the 2020 election, declining to take up a Republican attempt to severely limit courts’ ability to oversee how elections are run,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“It also denies a Republican attempt to significantly shift the election law landscape by essentially shutting out courts from making changes to election procedures. The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to decide how elections are run, but that has in the past been understood to mean the normal legislative process, including sign-off from governors and judicial review of the law.”

Rick Hasen has more analysis of the decision.

Justice Clarence Thomas issued a startling opinion in which he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election by questioning the security of mail voting, Slate reports. “Thomas drew heavily from a 2012 New York Times article focusing on Florida’s mail voting regime, which focused on a handful of fraudulent schemes involving mail ballots. The justice also pointed to a Republican operative’s criminal attempt to steal an election in North Carolina using mail ballots. In reality, this kind of voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and its few perpetrators have been caught and prosecuted.”

“In a strikingly cynical move, the justice argued that laws curtailing mail voting may be justified without proof of fraud to prevent ‘the appearance of corruption.’ He drew this standard from the campaign finance context, in which the court has upheld limits on political spending to bolster public confidence that lawmakers are not corrupt.”

USA Today: Dissent by Clarence Thomas draws fire for revisiting baseless Trump election fraud claims.

“One of the largest makers of voting machines in the U.S. on Monday sued a prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump, alleging that the businessman had defamed the company with false accusations that it had rigged the 2020 election for Joe Biden,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Dominion Voting Systems sued Mike Lindell, chief executive of Minnesota-based MyPillow Inc., and his company in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking more than $1.3 billion in damages.”

Washington Post: “Critics have charged that the Abbott administration’s response to the storm has at times resembled the government failures after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.”

“The anger was palpable, with petitions circulating online demanding the resignations of Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).”

“In explaining his disastrous Cancún trip, Sen. Ted Cruz failed to mention his college roommate also was along for the visit,” Axios reports. “Cruz invited David Panton, his longtime friend and former roommate at Princeton and Harvard Law, to join the family getaway.”

HuffPost notes Cruz’s already-flimsy excuse for jetting off to Cancun while his state suffered from one of its worst disasters continues to fall apart. 

“Sen. Ted Cruz is being mocked for posting pictures of himself loading water bottles into a vehicle as he seeks to repair the political damage from jetting off to Cancun for a family vacation during the winter storms that devastated Texas,” Insider reports.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) delivered a pointed rebuke of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) following his much-criticized trip to Cancun, Mexico, as a winter disaster rocked Texas last week, CNN reports.

Said McCaul: “Look, when a crisis hits my state, I’m there. I’m not going to go on some vacation.”

“While millions of Texans languished in their homes last week without heat, many of them racking up astronomical electricity bills, the state official in charge of consumer protection left to take an out-of-state trip,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) left the state during the middle of the power outage crisis to meet with a fellow attorney general in Utah for a ‘previously planned meeting.’ Hs wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton (R), was also on the trip.”

“At 1:09 p.m. on Jan. 6, minutes after protesters had burst through the barricades around the U.S. Capitol and began using the steel debris to assault the officers standing guard, the chief of the Capitol Police made a desperate call for backup. It took nearly two hours for officials to approve the deployment of the National Guard,” the New York Times reports.

“New details about what transpired over those 115 minutes on that dark, violent day — revealed in interviews and documents — tell a story of how chaotic decision-making among political and military leaders burned precious time as the rioting at the Capitol spiraled out of control.”

“Communication breakdowns, inaction and confusion over who had authority to call for the National Guard delayed a deployment of hundreds of troops who might have helped quell the violence that raged for hours.”

“Within hours of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, the FBI began securing thousands of phone and electronic records connected to people at the scene of the rioting — including some related to members of Congress, raising potentially thorny legal questions,” The Intercept reports.

“Using special emergency powers and other measures, the FBI has collected reams of private cellphone data and communications that go beyond the videos that rioters shared widely on social media.”

“It sounded so ambitious at first blush: 100 million vaccination shots in 100 days,” the AP reports.

“Now, one month into his presidency, Joe Biden is on a glide path to attain that goal and pitching well beyond it to the far more ambitious and daunting mission of vaccinating all eligible adults against the coronavirus by the end of the summer.”

Byron York: “For the rioters who are alleged to have committed serious criminal acts, more information is coming out in court papers filed in the Justice Department cases against them. And now, specifically, there is a new indictment against nine people who are said to be members or associates of the Oath Keepers militia. It’s a revealing document…”

“The indictment shows what they were saying to each other on social media in the days and weeks before the riot. Read together, their social media posts suggest people living in a kind of fantasy world in which they could take the Capitol, while carefully obeying Washington, D.C.’s strict gun control laws and carrying no firearms, change the course of U.S. history, and then head home.”

“Senior House lawmakers are battling over the contours of a panel inspired by the 9/11 Commission to investigate the deadly Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, with Republicans demanding equal representation,” Politico reports.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Republican counterparts have already traded one offer each but still remain at odds over several issues including membership on the proposed commission, according to multiple sources familiar with the talks. Pelosi, who’s vowed to quickly take up legislation creating the commission, proposed tilting the panel in favor of Democrats, with her party getting to pick seven of the members while Republican leaders choose four additional appointees.”

“In his first post-presidential appearance, Donald Trump plans to send the message next weekend that he is Republicans’ ‘presumptive 2024 nominee’ with a vise grip on the party’s base,” Axios reports.

A longtime adviser called Trump’s speech a “show of force.”

“Conservatives know they likely don’t have the votes to block President Joe Biden’s pick to run HHS, Xavier Becerra. But they’re launching new ad blitzes and pressure campaigns targeting Senate Democrats up for reelection and others they believe can be swayed, aiming to make a vote to confirm him a political liability,” Politico reports.

“Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who has led Republican opposition to Becerra in the chamber, is spending tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds on digital ads starting this week… urging voters to pressure Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) to vote against Becerra.”

Associated Press: “President Joe Biden’s White House is giving its support to studying reparations for Black Americans, boosting Democratic lawmakers who are renewing efforts to create a commission on the issue amid the stark racial disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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