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Cup of Joe – 2/15/22

Washington Post: “The high-stakes diplomacy over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine is set to continue this week, as European and U.S. leaders race to defuse an escalating standoff that officials warn could lead to a barrage of Russian missile and bomb attacks on Ukraine within days.”

“German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv on Monday and Moscow on Tuesday, after weekend talks between President Biden and President Vladimir Putin of Russia — and separate discussions between the Russian leader and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron — again failed to yield a diplomatic breakthrough.”

Associated Press: “U.S. officials have warned that Russia could attack this week. Moscow denies it has any such plans but has massed well over 130,000 troops near Ukraine and, in the U.S. view, has built up enough firepower to launch an attack on short notice.”

Financial Times: Putin leaves the West guessing.

BBC: “Ukraine has called for a meeting with Russia and other members of a key European security group over the escalating tensions on its border. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had ignored formal requests to explain the build-up of troops. He said the next step was requesting a meeting within the next 48 hours for transparency about Russia’s plans.”

“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday suggested to President Vladimir Putin that Moscow continue along the diplomatic path in its efforts to extract security guarantees from the West, as tensions soar over Ukraine,” Reuters reports.

“Lavrov told Putin the United States had put forward concrete proposals on reducing military risks, but said responses from the European Union and NATO military alliance had not been satisfactory.”

Reuters: “Russia could invade Ukraine at any time and might create a surprise pretext for an attack, the United States said on Sunday, as it reaffirmed a pledge to defend ‘every inch’ of NATO territory.”

The United States is closing the US Embassy in Kyiv and “temporarily relocating” the small number of remaining diplomatic personnel in the country to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, “due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces,” CNN reports.

Wall Street Journal: “As part of the move, the State Department ordered the destruction of networking equipment and computer workstations and the dismantling of the embassy telephone system… Those moves render the Kyiv embassy inoperable as a diplomatic facility.”

David Ignatius: “The world will be watching in horror if Russia invades Ukraine this week — but just watching. Ukraine will fight alone, as Russian tanks roll across the flat, frozen terrain; precision bombs destroy key targets near Kyiv and other cities; and the country becomes a killing field unlike anything Europe has seen since 1945.“

“Russian President Vladimir Putin will quickly win the initial, tactical phase of this war, if it comes. The vast army that Russia has arrayed along Ukraine’s borders could probably seize the capital of Kyiv in several days and control the country in little more than a week, U.S. officials believe.”

“But then Putin’s real battle would begin — as Russia and its Ukrainian proxies try to stabilize a country whose people largely detest them.”

“U.S. and European officials are finalizing an extensive package of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine that targets major Russian banks, but does not include banning Russia from the SWIFT financial system,” Reuters reports. “The sanctions on the table also include export controls on components produced by Russia for the tech and weapons sectors, and sanctions against specific Russian oligarchs.”

“The threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is shaking up a fragile global oil market, pushing prices closer to $100 a barrel as traders calculate that supplies will struggle to cushion the effect from any significant disruption in Russian fossil fuel exports,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Demand for oil has outpaced production growth as economies slowly rebound from the worst of the pandemic, leaving the market with a small buffer to mitigate an oil-supply shock.”

The Economist: “Over the past week The Economist has spoken to a wide range of diplomats, journalists, officials, economists and businesspeople in Russia. Few of them expected their country to go to war, and none of them wished for it. To a man and woman, they seem petrified by the consequences of such a step, were it to happen.”

“Geopolitical tension is already hurting the Russian economy, with risk premiums reflected in bonds, stocks and currency markets.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said that he has been informed that Russia will attack on Wednesday, CNN reports. But he was being sarcastic. The former comedian was trying to make a point, but perhaps he should not use his former comedic skills right about now.

“Russia has moved some long-range artillery and rocket launchers into firing position, threatening Ukraine,” CBS News reports.

“Some Russian units have left their assembly areas — the bumper-to-bumper formations seen in satellite photos — and are beginning to move into ‘attack positions’… This movement marks a change since Sunday, when some of the units had left the assembly areas but had not yet taken what could be viewed as attack positions.”

“President Joe Biden had zeroed in on a pair of finalists for his first Supreme Court pick when there were rumors last year that Justice Stephen Breyer would retire. But since the upcoming retirement was announced late last month, it has come with the rise of a third candidate, one with ready-made bipartisan support that has complicated the decision,” the AP reports.

“For Biden, it’s a tantalizing prospect. The president believes he was elected to try to bring the country together following the yawning and rancorous political divide that grew during the Trump administration and especially following the Capitol insurrection in January 2021.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) predicted that if President Joe Biden were to nominate South Carolina federal judge Michelle Childs to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, Childs would likely win more than 10 Republican votes in the Senate, CNBC reports.

More from the AP: Lindsey Graham becomes early player to watch in Supreme Court drama.

“The Ambassador Bridge reopened late Sunday, nearly a week after demonstrators opposed to pandemic restrictions brought daily commercial traffic across the important trade link between Canada and the United States to a halt,” the Globe and Mail reports.

CBC: “The bridge sees hundreds of millions of dollars in imports and exports cross it each day, and politicians on both sides of the border decried the economic impact of the protest.”

The blockade is still going on in other areas of Ottawa more than two weeks after it began. Ontario premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency on Friday over the protesters’ “illegal occupation” of Ottawa.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has told his caucus he will invoke the never-before-used Emergencies Act to give the federal government extra powers to handle anti-vaccine mandate protests across the country,” the CBC reports.

The Emergencies Act defines a national emergency as a temporary “urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it.”

“Experts say the U.S. needs clearer, more defined standards that will help the public understand when it’s safe to relax Covid restrictions — and when it might be necessary to bring them back,” Axios reports.

“Experts compare this need to a weather forecast or air-quality warnings: People are more willing to accept inconveniences if they understand the reasons why.”

Helen Branswell: “Two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s easy to lament all that has come to pass. The devastating losses. The upending of what we regarded as normal ways of life. The sheer relentlessness of it all.”

“But let’s stop for a moment and consider something else that may have escaped you: You have witnessed — and you are a beneficiary of — a freaking miracle. That miracle is the development, testing, manufacturing, and global distribution of Covid vaccines.”

Playbook: Republicans are baffled but grateful that Biden still doesn’t have a good answer to spiraling inflation.”

“Several of them pointed to the president’s interview over the weekend with Lester Holt: When the NBC anchor pressed Biden about his prediction last year that inflation would be ‘temporary,’ Biden called him a ‘wiseguy’ in response.”

Financial Times: “Stockpiles of some of the global economy’s most important commodities are at historically low levels, as booming demand and supply shortages threaten to fuel inflationary pressures around the world.”

Washington Post: “While inflation is rising everywhere, price hikes are particularly devastating to lower-income households with already tight budgets. Nearly all their expenses go to necessities — food, energy, housing — which have seen some of the largest increases at different points over the past year.”

“Of the 10 categories with the highest levels of pandemic inflation analyzed by The Washington Post, lower earners spent a greater share of their total spending on most of them, from natural gas to beef.”

“Donald Trump’s longtime accounting firm abruptly cut ties with his family business last week amid ongoing criminal and civil investigations into whether Mr. Trump illegally inflated the value of his assets,” the New York Times reports.

“The accounting firm notified the company of its decision and disclosed that it could no longer stand behind annual financial statements it prepared… The letter instructed the Trump Organization to essentially retract the documents, known as statements of financial condition, from 2011 to 2020.”

Daily Beast: “The bombshell move by Mazars USA was revealed in court filings in New York on Monday.”

A judge on Monday indicated he will dismiss Sarah Palin’s libel case against the New York Times, saying she had not met the legal standard showing that the newspaper acted with “actual malice” in publishing a 2017 editorial that included an inaccurate claim about her, the Washington Post reports.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to make it extremely clear that her party doesn’t want anything to do with the “Defund the Police” civil rights movement championed by Black progressives like Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). 

Defunding the police is “not the position of the Democratic Party, with all due respect to Cori Bush,” Pelosi told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, adding that “community safety to protect and defend in every way is our oath of office.” Biden has similarly rejected the movement.

Said Pelosi: “Make no mistake, community safety is our responsibility. I quote one of my colleagues from New York, Ritchie Torres, a brand new member of Congress way on the left, saying that ‘defund the police’ is dead. That causes a concern with a few in our caucus. But public safety is our responsibility.”

That’s definitely going to stop Republicans from putting out attack ads claiming Democrats want to defund the police and antifa your neighborhoods, so thanks Cori and others for creating the worst polling slogan in the history of politics.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), who suffered a stroke earlier this month, tweeted that he plans to return to work in “just a few short weeks.”

Said Luján: “I’m proud to report then I’ll be back on the floor of the United States Senate in just a few short weeks to vote on important legislation, and to consider a Supreme Court nominee.”

Luján said he was “doing well” and will soon be discharged to an in-patient facility to recover from his surgery.

The senator had decompressive surgery to ease swelling in his brain, according to one of the doctors who’s treating him at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Washington Post: “Luján is not on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so his absence would not affect the committee’s ability to vet the nominee and hold confirmation hearings, which probably would take at least two weeks after the announcement.”

These new CNN and Washington Post reports detail how the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had to turn the screws on Trump to get him to hand over the 15 boxes of records–some of which were marked as classified–that he’d improperly taken to his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

NARA reportedly warned the ex-president that if he didn’t surrender the documents, the agency would tell the Justice Department and Congress about the issue.

It was reported last week that NARA has asked the DOJ to investigate both Trump taking the records and his habit of ripping up official documents in violation of the Presidential Records Act, but it’s unclear if the DOJ has done so.

The National Archive’s efforts to take back the records reportedly began in the summer. The agency didn’t begin receiving the documents until last month, and officials are still searching for more.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was told about Trump’s habit of tearing up documents as it investigated the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to CNN.

“I thought it was a terrible thing when she ripped up the speech. First of all, it’s an official document. You’re not allowed. It’s illegal what she did. She broke the law.”  — President Donald Trump, talking to reporters on February 7, 2020, the day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped his speech after the State of the Union address.

“Attorney John Eastman, a close ally of Donald Trump amid his effort to subvert the 2020 election, has attempted to shield more than 10,000 pages of emails and counting from congressional investigators, citing attorney client or attorney work-product privileges,” Politico reports.

“The staggering total comes amid a court-ordered review by Eastman of more than 94,000 pages of emails the Jan. 6 select committee has subpoenaed from Eastman’s former employer, Chapman University.”

“Three Republican senators are calling on the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero to commit to not certifying the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution, as ERA advocates demand Ferriero publish the amendment before he retires,” CNN reports.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) told The View that “we have to recognize” the possibility of a civil war, adding, “I don’t think it’s too far of a bridge to think that’s a possibility.”

He added: “We’re identifying now by our race, by our ethnic group, we’re separating ourselves and we live in different realities And I think we have to warn and talk about it so that we can recognize that and fight hard against it and put our country over our parties because our survival actually matters.”

Politico: “Cuomo is designing a plan to vindicate himself, the former aides and his attorney say, over what he views as a politically driven report by state Attorney General Letitia James that corroborated claims he sexually harassed 11 women.”

“What form that comeback takes has been a subject of intense intrigue in New York for weeks. His moves, which have already included a public declaration that he regrets resigning from office, come days ahead of the state Democratic convention in Manhattan, where Cuomo is likely to be a topic of the day despite being nowhere near the event.”

Former RNC chair Marc Racicot released a scathing letter to his successor, Ronna McDaniel:

“Although it is ever so neat and tidy to blame the defeat of the former president on the existence of decisive and widespread fraud, there is not even a scintilla of evidence, anywhere, to support such piffle.”

“The former president didn’t experience defeat in 2020 because of fraud. The truth is quite the opposite. The defeat of the former president is explained by the fact that legions of responsible citizens, part of that Great Middle of America, voted the way they did because they embraced the very fidelity to their country and its Constitution that the RNC claims to embrace in its Party Platform.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) told Fox News that he agrees with a Donald Trump statement in which the former president suggests Democrat operatives tied to the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign should have been executed.

Trump said that the actions of the Clinton operatives, as described by a Fox News report, “should be subject to criminal prosecution,” and at other times in U.S. history, “this crime would have been punishable by death.”

Said Jordan: “I think is right on target. This is truly unprecedented, truly something that has never happened in the history of our great country.”

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

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