Cup of Joe – 6/29/21

“Mitch McConnell is pressuring President Joe Biden and congressional Democratic leaders to further weaken the link between a bipartisan infrastructure deal and a bigger liberal-leaning spending bill, warning Monday that Biden’s party wants to ‘hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process,’” Politico reports.

“McConnell’s gambit raises fresh doubts about whether the Senate minority leader will ultimately support the package negotiated by five of his rank-and-file members.”

Said McConnell: “Unless Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi walk back their threats, then President Biden’s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture.”

Josh Marshall: “Thanks to Mitch McConnell for confirming how he suckered most of the big DC publications with the faux drama over President Biden’s ‘veto threat’. The word from the bigs over the weekend was that yes, all knew that Democrats were proceeding with the two bills in tandem, that the two were linked. It was just that Biden made this too clear by saying he would not sign the bipartisan mini-bill if only that one came to his desk.  […] McConnell is helpfully clarifying that in fact he is objecting to what everyone knew in advance and that even he spoke about numerous times on the record.

McConnell is now insisting that Democrats commit to not passing a reconciliation bill or making any commitments within the Democratic caucus – between Democrats – to do both as the cost of Republicans sticking with the bipartisan mini-bill. In other words, he is confirming that the whole ‘linkage’ freakout was no more than pretextual nonsense used with the aim of using the mini-bill as a wedge not to find common ground where the two parties could but to sabotage the rest of the President’s agenda.

These worthies, with generous hearts, stepped forward to take McConnell’s claims of being stunned, hoodwinked, done dirty at face value and now he repays them like this. You hate to see it.

“Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has become a pivotal player in the multi-trillion-dollar negotiations that will shape the Democrats’ electoral prospects, Joe Biden’s presidency and the future of the country,” Axios reports.

“White House legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell said the president was grateful Warner effectively argued against one proposed solution: raising the gas tax.”

“Let me be clear: There will not be a bipartisan infrastructure deal without a reconciliation bill that substantially improves the lives of working families and combats the existential threat of climate change. No reconciliation bill, no deal. We need transformative change NOW.”  — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on Twitter.

Michael Wolff’s new book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, is excerpted by New York magazine:

“By dawn on January 6, the crowd of great unwashed was building, with the various organizers of the various events each pulling in larger-than-expected numbers. From the perspective of the White House, the protest was still just background noise, a tailgate party before the main event: Vice-President Mike Pence counting, and they hoped rejecting, the electors representing the final tally of the November vote. That would begin at 1 p.m.”

“The remaining group of aides around the president that morning in the White House was down to Mark Meadows, the chief of staff; Eric Herschmann, one of Trump’s on-call lawyers; and Dan Scavino, his social-media alter ego, with Jason Miller, Justin Clark, Alex Cannon, and Tim Murtaugh, the last employees from the campaign, either working from home or, in the case of Clark, heading to a Republican National Committee winter meeting in Florida. All of them had woken up with something close to the same thought: How is it going to play when the vice-president fails to make the move the president is counting on him to make? And make no mistake: Each fully understood Mike Pence was not going to make that move.”

Axios has a passage from the forthcoming book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election, from the Situation Room during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. Trump had announced he had put Joint Chiefs chairman Mark Milley “in charge.”

TRUMP: I said you’re in fucking in charge!

MILLEY: Well, I’m not in charge!

TRUMP: You can’t fucking talk to me like that!

MILLEY: Goddamnit. There’s a room full of lawyers here. Will someone inform him of my legal responsibilities?

BARR: He’s right, Mr. President. The general is right.

“The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the issue of whether the nation’s schools must allow students to use the bathroom that match their gender identities,” NBC News reports.

“Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said the Supreme Court should have taken the case.”

Mother Jones: “During a December 1 deposition — in which she swore to tell the truth — Ivanka Trump, the eldest daughter of Donald Trump who was an executive at the Trump Organization before becoming a White House adviser to her father, was asked if she had any ‘involvement in the process of planning the inauguration.’ She replied, ‘I really didn’t have an involvement.’”

“Ivanka testified that if her ‘opinion was solicited’ regarding an inauguration event, she ‘would give feedback to my father or to anyone who asked my perspective or opinion.’ And that was as far as her participation went. But this wasn’t accurate, according to the documents, which indicate she was part of the decision-making for various aspects of the inauguration, including even the menus for events. One email chain shows that Ivanka Trump was directly involved in the planning of at least one proposed event for the inauguration.”

The homicide rate is rising across the United States, and the summer — typically when murder rates increase — has only just begun.  President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a series of new measures last week to respond to this rising crime wave.

And Republicans are gearing up to portray the nation’s cities as overrun by crime in an effort to blame Democrats before the 2022 midterms.  So what’s happening?

A chart from the New York Times offers some clues. New gun purchases soared at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic early last year.  Not surprisingly, most violent crimes are committed by people with guns.

So while it’s true that violent crime is up, non-violent crime is actually down, according to criminal justice expert Ronald Wright on NPR:  “Homicides are up. Nonviolent crimes are down. And then violent crimes that are not homicides are close to steady — in some places, up a couple of percent, in a couple of other places, down a few percent.”

Wright suggests we have more of a gun problem in this country than a crime problem, and it’s gotten worse because of the surge in pandemic gun sales:  “We have a larger group of people who purchased firearms during the pandemic. It’s not just the usual sales that ebb and flow. But we do have a larger group of people holding firearms. And lots of the crime increase that we’re seeing, particularly in homicide, is gun related. And it’s not just the usual people buying guns because they’re anxious about the, you know, political state of the nation. But this was an increase in the number of people buying, not just the number of guns. So this wasn’t just people adding to their existing stockpile of guns. But this was new gun owners coming on.”

The political problem, of course, is that Republicans will blame Democrats in the midterm elections for the rising crime rate.  But if the crime problem is really a gun problem, is it really fair to punish Democrats? After all, Republicans are not only blocking new gun laws — they’re expanding access to guns around the country.

“The United States carried out airstrikes early Monday morning in Iraq and Syria against two Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said had conducted drone strikes against American personnel in Iraq in recent weeks,” the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “At least five drone attacks on U.S. personnel have occurred in the region this year.”

“Donald Trump issued a lengthy and rambling statement late Sunday attacking two of his staunchest allies during his one term in office,” the HuffPost reports.

“Trump called former attorney general Bill Barr and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ‘spineless RINOs’ after Barr told The Atlantic that Trump’s constant claims of election fraud were ‘bullshit.’ Barr also told the magazine that McConnell urged him to “inject some reality” into Trump as he repeated debunked claims of election fraud and baseless conspiracy theories last winter.”

Trump further lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), incensed by a forthcoming book that reports McConnell urged former Attorney General William Barr to push back on Trump’s falsehoods after November’s election, The Hill reports.

Said Trump: “Had Mitch McConnell fought for the Presidency like he should have, there would right now be Presidential Vetoes on all of the phased Legislation that he has proven to be incapable of stopping.”

He added: “He never fought for the White House and blew it for the Country. Too bad I backed him in Kentucky, he would have been primaried and lost!”

“The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna set off a persistent immune reaction in the body that may protect against the coronavirus for years,” the New York Times reports.

“The findings add to growing evidence that most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms — which is not guaranteed.”

“People who recovered from Covid-19 before being vaccinated may not need boosters even if the virus does make a significant transformation.”

“The Internal Revenue Service is hiring thousands of new auditors as it gears up for a potentially massive tax-enforcement push if Congress is able to pass an infrastructure plan that includes $40 billion to expand audits on the wealthy,” Bloomberg reports.

“The IRS small business and criminal investigations divisions are adding thousands of new tax enforcement employees as the agency seeks to rebuild the roughly 17,000 audit staff lost in the past decade, officials said Friday.”

“Prosecutors in New York have given former president Donald Trump’s attorneys a deadline of Monday afternoon to make any final arguments as to why the Trump Organization should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings,” the Washington Post reports.

“That deadline is a strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — now working together, after each has spent more than two years investigating Trump’s business — are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.”

Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg is reportedly facing charges in what observers believe is a means of pressuring him to flip on former President Donald Trump, the HuffPost reports.

But so far, he hasn’t ― and former Trump Organization executive Barbara Res told CNN she’s surprised.

Said Res: “Trump has something on him, I would imagine. That’s the only thing I can think of.”

Hayes Brown: “The first tea party marches and protests began in 2009, just months after the election of the first Black president. But the conservative activists pulling the strings behind the supposed grassroots revolution went to great lengths to assure the media and American public broadly that this uprising wasn’t about President Barack Obama’s race — it was about his policies.”

“But that was back when America was still in the afterglow of Obama’s history-making inauguration, with many Americans convinced that we were now in a post-racial society.”

“Fast forward to 2021 and the same people who were organizing and mobilizing the tea party’s forces are still calling the shots in the MAGA movement’s attempted return to power. The only difference is there’s no need to pretend that this isn’t about race. In fact, the grievances of white conservatives are now front and center, making the current hyperfocus on ‘critical race theory’ more honest than the tea party ever was.”

Politico: “Over the last three months, Republicans and affiliated groups and committees have spent nearly $2.5 million trying to paint Biden and his priorities in a negative light. That’s more than three times what they’ve spent on Facebook ads targeting other leading Democrats… and issues like socialism, fake news, and ‘defund the police’ combined.”

“But there has not been a consistent theme to the anti-Biden spots. The attack lines getting pushed most on the right go after Biden’s massive infrastructure push, his call for raising taxes, dark money groups that support his agenda, his position on guns and the rise of gun violence in U.S. cities, according to Bully Pulpit’s analysis.”

“Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices, said Monday that because of the hodgepodge of federal policies on marijuana, federal laws against its sale or cultivation may no longer make sense,” NBC News reports.

Wrote Thomas as the Supreme Court declined to hear a case related to a marijuana business: “The federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana.”

Wall Street Journal: “U.S. households added $13.5 trillion in wealth last year, according to the Federal Reserve, the biggest increase in records going back three decades. Many Americans of all stripes paid off credit-card debt, saved more and refinanced into cheaper mortgages. That challenged the conventions of previous economic downturns. In 2008, for example, U.S. households lost $8 trillion.”

Axios: “Americans with limited options to spend during the pandemic saved more than usual. And while it’s unclear how this money will be spent, everyone agrees this is awesome for the economy.”

“Wells Fargo estimates $2.4 trillion in excess savings has been accumulated by consumers since the beginning of the pandemic. And consumer spending accounts for about 68% of GDP.”

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

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