Cup of Joe – 2/19/22

“President Biden held another round of urgent talks with European leaders on Friday afternoon as the United States and its allies continued to warn that Russia was poised to invade Ukraine and trigger the largest conflict on the continent since World War II,” the New York Times reports.

Said Biden: “We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, the coming days. We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.”

Washington Post: “The remarks amounted to some of the most specific and definitive comments Biden has used to describe his interpretation of Russia’s intentions.”

“Russia announced massive drills of its nuclear forces Friday amid soaring East-West tensions, as the U.S. issued some of its starkest, most detailed warnings yet about how a Russian invasion of Ukraine might unfold,” the AP reports.

The Moscow Times reports Putin will personally oversee the drills.

“U.S. officials have obtained intelligence that Russia’s announced military pullback from Ukraine’s border was a deliberate ruse to mislead the United States and other world powers,” the Washington Post reports.

“The souring optimism that it would be possible to avoid conflict came just days after a flicker of hope, when Russian leaders signaled they would begin to draw down the more than 150,000 troops they have massed at Ukraine’s border. That announcement was accompanied by Kremlin-produced videos of what they claimed were tanks and other heavy equipment leaving border areas by rail car. U.S. officials now believe it was an effort to mask Russia’s true intentions in the region.”

“President Biden’s response to Russia’s military aggression along the border with Ukraine is testing whether his career-long reliance on alliance-building can help avert a potential catastrophe in Europe, and so far he has avoided the diplomatic mistakes that dogged his first year in office,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“European officials have praised Mr. Biden’s approach, a change from last year, when they faulted the administration’s chaotic handling of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.”

“President Biden will hold talks with other Western leaders Friday about the Ukraine crisis, as 11th-hour efforts to prevent a Russian attack continue against the grim backdrop of widespread shelling in eastern Ukraine and Moscow’s continued troop buildup at the border,” the Washington Post reports.

“The fear of an imminent assault rose Friday when the Russian-backed leader of a separatist-controlled area of eastern Ukraine said officials there were launching a mass evacuation of civilians into neighboring Russia, citing the threat of military action by Ukrainian troops.”

New York Times: “The United States said on Friday that Russia had likely amassed as many as 190,000 troops near the borders of Ukraine and inside the separatist regions in the country’s east, significantly raising its estimate of Moscow’s troop buildup as the Biden administration tries to persuade the world of the imminent threat of an invasion.”

The Guardian: The crisis that brought the west together.

Wall Street Journal: “Russia has taken steps to buffer itself against the economic blow that sanctions could impose. The country has trimmed its budget, beefed up foreign exchange reserves and sought to diversify its trade portfolio to become less dependent on the EU for export revenues.”

The Economist: “In recent conversations with The Economist businesspeople, diplomats, economists and government officials in Moscow revealed that they could barely fathom the ruinous consequences a war would bring to Russia—consequences which would go far beyond specific sanctions. Imports of high-tech desiderata would disappear, firms would lose their value, access to much of the rest of the world would become fraught, any veneer of respectability would be stripped away.”

Atlantic Council: Why Putin won’t invade Ukraine.

A judge ruled that Donald Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., “must answer questions under oath in New York state’s civil investigation into his business practices,” the AP reports.

“The ruling is almost certain to be appealed, but if upheld it could force the former president into a tough decision about whether to answer questions, or stay silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.”

New York Times: “The inquiry by the attorney general, Letitia James, and a parallel criminal investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney are examining whether Mr. Trump improperly inflated the value of his assets to receive favorable loans.”

Trump and his two children have to testify within 21 days, the judge ordered.

They also have to comply with James’ subpoenas, the judge said, and Trump has to hand over the documents within 14 days.

“The Senate on Thursday approved a measure to fund the federal government through March 11, marking the final legislative step toward preventing a shutdown that would have occurred by the end of the week,” the Washington Post reports.

“The measure now heads to President Biden’s desk, where his signature will give lawmakers about three more weeks to reach the sort of longer-term deal that has eluded them for months — a tricky debate that some hope will pave the way for billions of dollars in new coronavirus aid.”

Wall Street Journal: “With daily new Covid-19 cases falling, restrictions easing and the strongest consumer finances in recent history, Americans are finally emerging from the pandemic eager to splurge on everything from travel and sports events to restaurants, cruises and theme parks, executives say.”

Associated Press: “About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, there have been nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall and many more infections have never been reported. One influential model uses those factors and others to estimate that 73% of Americans are, for now, immune to omicron, the dominant variant, and that could rise to 80% by mid-March.”

“Police have arrested two organizers of a three-week protest against pandemic restrictions and set up a perimeter around downtown Ottawa with almost 100 checkpoints to try to bring an end to the blockade, warning demonstrators who remained that ‘action is imminent,’” the Globe and Mail reports.

“Despite the warnings, many protesters continued to defy demands that they leave the country’s capital.”

CBC: “Interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell issued a stark warning to protesters saying officers are ready to end what he calls the illegal occupation of Ottawa’s downtown core that has lasted three weeks.”

“For decades, politicians have talked about the U.S. achieving energy independence, a seemingly elusive goal of producing enough fuels to avoid relying on the rest of the world to fill up gas tanks and keep electricity flowing,” Axios reports.

“It’s elusive no more. The U.S. produced more petroleum than it consumed in 2020, and the numbers were essentially in balance in 2021.”

As cities try to cut natural gas from new homes, Republicans and the gas lobby are quashing the effort by passing preemption laws to prohibit cities from taking climate action and electrifying their buildings, CNN reports.

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that he wants the Senate to confirm President Biden’s forthcoming Supreme Court nominee by the start of a two-week April break, signaling he wants the president to move faster than his end-of-the-month deadline,” The Hill reports.

Said Durbin: “I’d like to get this done before the Easter break because that adds two weeks to the process, and I think we can do it… We would like to complete it on the floor before we break for Easter, and that’s April the 9th.”

“As Democrats look fearfully toward the midterm elections, many of the party’s candidates, strategists and voters are recoiling from some of the left-wing proposals that gained prominence during the Trump administration,” the Washington Post reports.

“While they helped channel widespread anger with the former president’s rhetoric and policies while he was in office, many Democrats now see them as too extreme and harmful to Democratic prospects this fall. Others who opposed them previously are speaking up more emphatically. The result is a growing backlash against more-liberal officeholders, challengers and plans.”

Washington Post: “Harris is leading the American delegation to the Munich Security Conference, a high-profile annual gathering with big stakes for the Biden presidency, Harris’s political future — and a continent shadowed by one of the gravest military threats since World War II.”

“While Russian President Vladimir Putin masses 150,000 Russian troops on the Ukraine border, Harris will be holding a series of meetings with European leaders and delivering an address to hundreds of officials. It’s a pivotal moment for a vice president with little foreign policy experience, one who has presidential ambitions but no long-term connection to President Biden.”

Politico: “President Joe Biden’s cabinet members and public health experts say they are running out of money to battle Covid-19 and need tens of billions more dollars to continue vaccination, testing and medicine distribution efforts at home and abroad.”

“But the push for a Covid supplemental bill, which would ride alongside the package to fund the government through September that Congress is trying to pass by mid-March, is encountering bipartisan resistance.”

“GOP lawmakers argue more spending will exacerbate inflation and that the worst of the pandemic is in the past. And even Democrats who support the additional public health funds worry the effort could derail the fragile negotiations on the core bill to fund the government by injecting partisan disagreements about how to address the pandemic into discussions over funding the military and federal agencies.”

“President Biden is shifting his message on inflation to show he understands Americans’ economic woes, in the midst of mounting public frustration over rising prices and after pleas from worried Democrats to change his tune,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The new approach comes as Democrats have grown increasingly anxious about the political fallout from rising prices ahead of what are expected to be challenging midterm elections.”

“White House chief of staff Ron Klain promised Senate Democrats that President Biden will deliver an uplifting and inspiring State of the Union address that will highlight his efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to rising costs,” The Hill reports.

“John Durham, the Trump-era special counsel scrutinizing the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, distanced himself on Thursday from false reports by right-wing news outlets that a motion he recently filed said Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid to spy on Trump White House servers,” the New York Times reports.

After almost a week of Fox News and Trump goons going to town on his court filing, special counsel John Durham filed a defensive response on Thursday to accusations that he’d purposefully omitted and misrepresented facts in his filing to feed into MAGAland’s conspiracy theories about the Clinton campaign.

It’s not his fault Fox et al. used his report to spread a fake narrative, Durham insisted. “If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information,” he sniffed.

Trump had latched onto Durham’s filing to somehow make it about the 2020 election. The case has nothing to do with the 2020 election.

By the way, even conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt thinks the right-wing media is overdoing it with the Durham thing.

“Maryland lawmakers want to make sure the quickly deleted text messages used by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his staff are retained as public records,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

“The Republican governor and his team have used the messaging app Wickr, which allows users to automatically delete messages, potentially skirting state open records laws. That raised concern among lawmakers and good-government advocates that public business was being conducted in a way that’s not transparent.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) blasted the media by claiming his press coverage is skewed because of a lack of racial diversity, Mediaite reports.

Said Adams: “I’m a Black man that’s the mayor but my story is being interpreted by people who don’t look like me. We got to be honest about that. How many Blacks are in the editorial boards? How many Blacks determine how these stories are being written?”

He added: “If this is how this is going to be, I’m just going to come in and do my announcements and bounce. Why am I even answering these questions?”

“A House committee urged a federal agency Thursday to consider terminating the lease on a Washington, D.C., hotel held by former President Donald Trump and his business,” CNBC reports.

“The House Committee on Oversight and Reform cited accounting firm Mazars’ recent announcement that it is dropping the Trump Organization as a client and stating that a decade of the company’s financial statements cannot be relied on as accurate.”

“Former President Donald Trump spent $375,000 raised from his followers for rent at his financially troubled Manhattan skyscraper last year ― even though his political committees have no presence in the building,” the HuffPost reports.

Said one former Trump aide: “It’s a huge scam. I can’t believe his base lets him get away with it.”

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

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