Cup of Joe – 2/24/22

The Ukrainian interior ministry said in a statement that the Russian invasion has begun, the Wall Street Journal reports. Explosions were reported in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and other parts of the country.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister said on Twitter that Putin had “started a full-scale war against Ukraine” and had begun shelling civilian cities.

President Biden called Vladimir Putin’s move “an unprovoked, unjustified attack” in Ukraine, pledging further action against Russia.

The Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked Russia for military assistance to help fend off Ukrainian “aggression,” an announcement that immediately fueled fears that Moscow was offering up a pretext for war, just as the West had warned, the AP reports.

Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”

“The Biden administration is expected to announce on Wednesday that it will allow sanctions to move forward on the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, after blocking such sanctions last year using a national security waiver,” CNN reports.   “Sanctioning Nord Stream 2’s parent company, Nord Stream 2 AG — a registered Swiss firm whose parent company is the Russian gas giant Gazprom — is effectively a death knell to the project.”

The Hill reports Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has now lifted his hold on Biden’s State Department nominees now that the sanctions are moving forward.

“Australia, Canada and Japan said they would impose sanctions over the Ukraine crisis as more American allies add to efforts to punish Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin,” the New York Times reports.

“Their moves follow coordinated efforts by the United States, the European Union and Britain to penalize Russia for what President Biden called the start of an invasion of Ukraine.”

Washington Post: “Russia warned that Americans will fully feel the ‘consequences’ of U.S. sanctions on the Kremlin after it deployed troops into two pro-Moscow separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. The West is bracing for Russia to retaliate against the measures, which Moscow said would hurt global financial and energy markets.”

The Telegraph: “Putin has the means to cut off critical minerals and gases needed to sustain the West’s supply chain for semiconductor chips, upping the ante in the middle of a worldwide chip crunch. Furthermore, he could hobble the aerospace and armaments industry in the US and Europe by restricting supply of titanium, palladium, and other metals. If he controlled Ukraine, his control over key strategic minerals would be even more dominant, giving him leverage akin to Opec’s energy stranglehold in 1973.”

Bloomberg: “Instead of a sweeping package that crippled top Russian banks, cut its financial transactions off from the global economy, or personally singled out Vladimir Putin — the U.S. and its allies settled on a modest ‘first tranche’ of penalties. Markets responded with a shrug, underwhelmed by the tit-for-tat approach.”

New York Times: “Putin’s decision on Monday to press ahead with the troop movement suggests that he has concluded that the costs of new sanctions are tolerable, despite U.S. talk of ‘massive consequences’ for his country.”

Bret Stephens: “One advantage is the correlation of appetites: Putin wants Ukraine under his thumb much more than the West wants to keep Ukraine in its orbit, and he’s willing to pay a higher price to get it. Another advantage is the correlation of attention spans: Putin has methodically set his sights on returning Ukraine to his fold since at least 2004. For the West, Ukraine is another complex crisis of which it will eventually tire. A third advantage is the correlation of wills: Putin wants to change the geopolitical order of Europe and is prepared to take large risks to do it. The Biden administration wants to preserve a shaky and increasingly lifeless status quo. Fortune tends to favor the bold.”

“But Putin’s greatest advantage is self-belief. Serious historians may scoff at his elaborate historical theories about Ukraine’s nonexistence as a true state. But he believes it, or at least he makes a convincing show of it. What, really, does the West believe about Ukraine, other than that it would be a shame, and scary, if Putin were to swallow large chunks of it? Certainly nothing worth fighting for.”

“It’s stunning to see, in this day and age, a tyrant roll into a country. This is the same tyrant who attacked our democracy in 2016. This is the same tyrant who is opposed to democracy and wants to trivialize it, to downgrade it, in the eyes of the Russian people.” — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, quoted by The Hill, on Russian president Vladimir Putin.

New York Times: “This week, loud voices emerged urging President Biden to act forcefully to counter Russian aggression. But other lawmakers have used the crisis for partisan advantage, castigating the president and blaming the Biden administration for President Vladimir Putin’s assault on his neighbor.”

“Perhaps more telling is the relative quiescence, from both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, who are hobbled by divisions in their ranks and seemingly content to let the White House take the lead, the credit or the blame.”

Foreign Affairs: “The crisis in Ukraine is exposing the limits of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy. Beijing’s global aspirations are now clashing with its desire to remain selectively ambiguous and aloof. Although Chinese leaders may not recognize it, their country’s closer alignment with Russia is far from prudent.”

“The upsides of this move are notional and long-term: Russia might someday return the favor by supporting Chinese territorial aspirations or cooperating on revising the structures of global governance. The costs to China’s larger global strategy, however, are real and immediate.”

“Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has ordered the island’s armed and security forces to step up their surveillance, remain alert for military activity in the region and strengthen combat readiness as tensions between Russia and Ukraine mount,” the South China Morning Post reports.

“Former President Trump’s adulation of Putin today — including calling him a ‘genius’ — aids our enemies. Trump’s interests don’t seem to align with the interests of the United States of America.”  — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), on Twitter.

With Europe threatened by war and looking to the United States for leadership, Donald Trump — the de-facto leader of the Republican party — his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top GOP lawmakers are actively taking Russia’s side in the conflict. It not surprising after Trump spent years disparaging the U.S. intelligence community while praising Vladimir Putin.

And yet in a moment of great crisis when the world order that Americans fought for is threatened, Trump and key members of his party are defending Putin and helping to spread his propaganda. They’re being helped enormously by Fox News.

In doing so, GOP leaders are actively undermining the sanctions placed on Russia by President Biden. The message to Putin is clear: Wait out the sanctions because they won’t last past January 2025 if Trump can win the presidency again.

Throughout our history, this is the kind of moment where the political parties put aside their differences and united to oppose a threat to our common values. While Biden is not a perfect president, he’s been very successful in rallying the West in reaction to Russia. Sadly, that same unity has not been found at home.

“It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”    — Tucker Carlson, on his Fox News show.

The President has interviewed U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs of South Carolina, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, according to the Washington Post

It’s possible that Biden’s interviewed other potential candidates, just FYI.

Biden could announce his pick to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer as soon as this week, as TPM reporter Kate Riga notes.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) “has issued a new interpretation of state law that says certain types of medical care for transgender children are abuse, a dramatic change contrary to medical standards that if implemented could make Texas one of the most aggressive states in targeting trans youth access to health care,” the Dallas Morning News reports.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered the state child welfare agency to investigate reports of “gender-transitioning procedures” as child abuse, the Austin American Statesman reports.

Michael Beckley: “The international order is falling apart, and everyone seems to know how to fix it… What these and other visions of international order have in common is an assumption that global governance can be designed and imposed from the top down. With wise statesmanship and ample summitry, the international jungle can be tamed and cultivated. Conflicts of interest and historical hatreds can be negotiated away and replaced with win-win cooperation.”

“The history of international order, however, provides little reason for confidence in top-down, cooperative solutions. The strongest orders in modern history—from Westphalia in the seventeenth century to the liberal international order in the twentieth—were not inclusive organizations working for the greater good of humanity. Rather, they were alliances built by great powers to wage security competition against their main rivals. Fear and loathing of a shared enemy, not enlightened calls to make the world a better place, brought these orders together.”

William Galston: “Against this back­drop, the Russ­ian in­va­sion of Ukraine should trig­ger a cri­sis of Eu­ropean iden­tity. If force is a per­ma­nent fea­ture of in­ternational re­la­tions, the Eu­ropean Union must ei­ther take more re­spon­si­bil­ity for its own de­fense or ad­mit that it has sub­con­tracted this job to the U.S. in­def­i­nitely, along with some of the EU’s strate­gic in­de­pen­dence.”

“Several GOP-controlled states could ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy as soon as this week, passing bills modeled on a Mississippi law that the Supreme Court could soon deem constitutional,” Politico reports.  “But those same states aren’t taking restrictions as far as Texas, which bans all abortions after six weeks.”

“Legislators in Arizona, Florida, West Virginia and several other states advancing 15-week bans say they’re taking what they see as a politically and legally safer approach, even if it means the vast majority of abortions in their states could still take place.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) will deliver the GOP’s response to President Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) will deliver a formal response to President Biden’s State of the Union address on behalf of the Working Families Party, Politico reports. She is expected “to hammer moderate Democrats who have stymied Biden’s social spending and climate change package.”

Wall Street Journal: “For decades, Russia’s ultrarich have flocked to the city once dubbed Moscow-on-Thames, snapping up high-end houses, sending children to elite private schools and leveraging the capital’s status as a global financial hub.”

“London’s allure for oligarchs has faded in recent years amid increased hostility between the West and Moscow. However those oligarchs have left a long trail of property and family that still makes them a potential pressure point for the Russian government.”

“It is unclear how far the U.K. government will go to squeeze them amid fears it will damage the attractiveness of its financial center.”

Ivanka Trump is in talks with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol about the possibility of cooperating with the panel, the New York Times reports.

“Rudy Giuliani is expected to cooperate with the House select committee investigating January 6, and potentially reveal his contacts with Republican members of Congress involved in the former president’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” The Guardian reports.  “The move by Giuliani to appear before the panel – in a cooperation deal that could be agreed within weeks, according to two sources briefed on negotiations – could mark a breakthrough moment for the inquiry as it seeks to interview key members of Trump’s inner circle.”

Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade has written a “model prosecution memo” making the case for indicting Donald Trump based on his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.   She argues that the evidence “is sufficient to obtain and sustain convictions of charges for conspiracy to defraud the United States and for obstruction of an official proceeding.”

Matthew Dallek: Prosecuting Trump would set a risky precedent. Not prosecuting would be worse.

Daily Beast: “Since leaving office, former President Donald Trump has made no mystery of his desire to exact revenge on Mitch McConnell, by rallying pro-Trump senators to block McConnell from returning to his perch as majority leader. But the ex-president has been tight-lipped about who, exactly, he would want to back as McConnell’s prospective dethroner.”

“However, in private conversations with close associates over the past several months, at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere, Trump has batted around a handful of GOP senators’ names in his quest to stick it to the riot-averse ‘dumb son of a bitch’ McConnell. Since at least late last year, Trump has been asking a recurring question.”

“Do you think Lindsey could do it?” he has asked advisers.

The Defense Department’s getting ready for a potential trucker blockade a la Canada in the coming days, with security plans to be set in motion on Saturday ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1.

In addition to the 700 National Guard members, 50 large tactical vehicles will be used, the DC National Guard said on Tuesday.

Part of the safety mission is slated to continue until March 8, a week after Biden’s SOTU speech.

Maryland State Police troopers are already stationed at the staging areas, the department told FOX 5 on Tuesday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday that Biden officials are “monitoring this closely.”

The Supreme Court is taking up a case on religious discrimination that could pave the way for the conservative-leaning high court to establish that at least some businesses have a constitutional right to refuse to serve LBGTQ+ people on the basis of religion.

The case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, involves a web designer company in Colorado that refuses to create a wedding website for same-sex couples.

The former president’s company and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, asked a judge to throw out the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal tax fraud charges against them both yesterday.

The argument the lawyers for Trump and Weisselberg made here isn’t gonna shock you: That they’re both being targeted by the district attorney and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who’s assisting in the criminal case and is also pursuing a civil investigation into the Trump Organization, for political reasons.

Weisselberg’s lawyers also argued that their client is protected by a previous grant of immunity he received in 2018 in exchange for testimony against ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen. They argue that Weisselberg’s testimony against Cohen gave rise to the current case.

“The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into former President Donald Trump and his business practices abruptly resigned on Wednesday amid a monthlong pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, throwing the future of the high-stakes inquiry into serious doubt,” the New York Times reports.

“The prosecutors, Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Mr. Trump.”

“Time is running out for this grand jury, whose term is scheduled to expire in April.”

Meanwhile, the AP reports that lawyers for Trump’s longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, are asking a judge to throw out tax fraud charges against him, arguing New York prosecutors targeted him as punishment because he wouldn’t flip on the former president.

The euphoria felt by many in Pakistan over a Taliban victory in Kabul six months ago is subsiding. The government had hoped that a friendly — some would say proxy — regime in Kabul would ease its concerns about the Pakistani Taliban,” the New York Times reports.   “But instead, there has been a spike in terror attacks in recent months, which Pakistani officials say were planned by militants hiding inside Afghan territories.”

Firearm deaths have overtaken car crashes are the leading cause of death by trauma in the United States, CNN reports.

The Massachusetts State House reopened to the public on Tuesday after a nearly two-year closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Boston Globe reports.

“The IRS said that it would allow taxpayers to opt out of using facial recognition technology to gain access to their online accounts and would shift to an entirely different identity verification system next year as the agency tries to alleviate backlash over its use of biometric data,” the New York Times reports.

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

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