Cup of Joe – 2/26/22

“President Biden will nominate federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, a historic choice that fulfills the president’s pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “In Jackson, 51, Mr. Biden selected a liberal-leaning jurist who earned a measure of Republican support when he nominated her to the influential federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., last summer.”

When Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to a federal appeals court seat last year, she was backed by 50 Democratic senators and even got three votes from Republicans: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

But that doesn’t mean any of them will vote for her now. Graham immediately signaled he will fight against Jackson’s nomination, since she’s the choice of “the radical Left.”

Collins told reporters she could oppose Biden’s nominee if the process if the timetable is compressed: “There is no need for any rush. We can take our time, have hearings, go through the process—which is a very important one. It is a lifetime appointment, after all.”

And even Murkowski said this vote could be different, telling the Washington Post: “It is at a level that commands its own evaluation, separate and above everything that we have considered to date.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) objected to the timing of President Biden’s announcement of a Supreme Court nominee on Friday, the HuffPost reports.

Said Blackburn: “President Biden’s announcement just days after an unprovoked full scale invasion by Russia is extremely inappropriate. Once again, Biden is putting the demands of the radical progressive left ahead of what is best for our nation.”

Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R) praised President Biden’s nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, The Hill reports. Said Ryan: “Janna and I are incredibly happy for Ketanji and her entire family. Our politics may differ, but my praise for Ketanji’s intellect, for her character, and for her integrity, is unequivocal.”

New York Times: “With the identity of Mr. Biden’s choice now known, Senate Democrats and Republicans and their allied interest groups will begin making their competing cases on Judge Jackson in the hope of quickly establishing a portrait of her in the public’s mind.”

“Democrats have set early April as a goal for winning Senate confirmation, with plans to convene Judiciary Committee hearings toward the end of March.”

“The president of the National Fraternal Order Of Police, one of the largest law enforcement labor organizations, backed the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court,” Politico reports.

“It’s notable a police group would back a Democratic pick, especially an organization that previously endorsed former President Donald Trump. It’s an added surprise that the law enforcement group would throw their support behind a nominee that previously served as a public defender.”

“The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, was under bombardment on Friday morning, with missile strikes and a rocket crashing into a residential building as the second day of Russia’s military offensive pressed closer to the heart of the government,” the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “The city was jolted by pre-dawn explosions as the Biden administration cautioned lawmakers that the city could soon fall.”

Wall Street Journal: “Ukrainian forces said they were preparing to blow up bridges that lead into Kyiv from the north and the northwest.”

Russia has launched more than 200 ballistic and cruise missiles as part of its attack on Ukraine, with some impacting civilian centers, according to a Pentagon official’s background briefing with reporters Friday.  The briefing was described by several reporters in attendance. Here’s what else the unnamed official leading the briefing said, according to details shared by Pentagon reporters from The Washington PostReutersCNBC, and Aviation Week

  • Russia has not yet established air superiority. 
  • Russia has not yet taken any population centers.
  • There are indications of an amphibious assault to the west of Mariupol, a city on the Black Sea.
  • Roughly ⅓ of the Russian troops previously amassed along Ukraine’s border are now in the country.
  • Russian momentum in this “initial phase” has slowed, but this may change.
  • Russia is not moving as quickly on Kyiv as expected.
  • Ukrainian command and control is intact. 

Russia signaled that it was open to talks with the Ukrainian government, but it was unclear what the conditions were, the New York Times reports.  The Russian offer came on the heels of a comment by Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky that he was ready to discuss “neutral status” for his country.  Zelensky addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, saying: “There are fights all over the country. Let’s sit down.”

Ukrainian soldiers who died defending an island in the Black Sea from an air and sea bombardment reportedly told an officer on board a Russian navy warship to “go fuck yourself” when asked to surrender, The Guardian reports.  All 13 Ukrainian soldiers were killed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told EU leaders “this might be the last time you see me alive” during a video conference on Thursday night, Axios  reports.  The video call took place before the EU decided on a new series of sanctions against Russia.

The European Union plans to freeze assets of Russian President Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, the Washington Post reports.

Zelensky said in a short video that Russian saboteurs had entered Kyiv and that he was “target No. 1” for Russian forces, followed by his family.  He added: “They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of the state.”

“As Russian forces head toward Kyiv with what the Pentagon described as an apparent aim of ‘decapitating’ the Ukrainian government, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered an additional 7,000 troops to Europe as the continent faced the biggest land war since World War II,” the New York Times reports.

“Pope Francis went to the Russian embassy to the Holy See on Friday to relay his concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Moscow’s ambassador, in an unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol,” Reuters reports.

Wall Street Journal: “In invading his smaller neighbor, Mr. Putin now faces a breakdown in Moscow’s ties with the West, which will slap sanctions on Russia aimed at inflicting deep pain on its economy.”

“Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which have already sent fresh military equipment and forces to its eastern members in recent weeks, have found new unity in deterring Russia.”

“Mr. Putin, in power since 1999, now runs the risk of a prolonged conflict in Ukraine that could be akin to the Soviet Union’s disastrous 1980s war in Afghanistan—something that could ultimately stir dissent at home.”

“Shocked Russians turned out by the thousands Thursday to decry their country’s invasion of Ukraine as emotional calls for protests grew on social media,” the AP reports.  “Some 1,745 people in 54 Russian cities were detained, at least 957 of them in Moscow.”

“Vladimir Putin has launched an unprovoked ground war in a neighboring country after only the most perfunctory attempt to convince his own people, and with no groundswell of support behind him,” Axios reports.

“That’s a dangerous proposition for any leader, even an autocrat as entrenched as Putin. But while some experts believe high casualties or sanctions-induced economic distress could destabilize Putin’s regime, others contend that a quick victory would solidify his historic legacy in many Russians’ eyes.”

New York Times: “For most of his 22-year rule, Vladimir Putin presented an aura of calm determination at home — of an ability to astutely manage risk to navigate the world’s biggest country through treacherous shoals.”

“His attack on Ukraine negated that image, and revealed him as an altogether different leader: one dragging the nuclear superpower he helms into a war with no foreseeable conclusion, one that by all appearances will end Russia’s attempts over its three post-Soviet decades to find a place in a peaceful world order.”

New York Times: “In another rambling speech full of festering historical grievances and accusations of a relentless Western plot against his country, Mr. Putin reminded the world on Thursday that Russia ‘remains one of the most powerful nuclear states’ with ‘a certain advantage in several cutting-edge weapons.’”

“In effect, Mr. Putin’s speech, intended to justify the invasion, seemed to come closer to threatening nuclear war than any statement from a major world leader in recent decades. His immediate purpose was obvious: to head off any possible Western military move by making clear he would not hesitate to escalate.”

“Leading Republicans on Thursday assailed Russia for plunging Europe into its first major land war in decades — isolating former president Donald Trump, the de facto standard-bearer of their party, in his praise for the country’s authoritarian leader,” the Washington Post reports.

“From Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, prominent GOP voices, including some close Trump loyalists, vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a severe price for ordering a military offensive against Ukraine, even as the party sought to blame President Biden for the crisis. Meanwhile, Republican leaders strained to articulate an alternative policy to counter Russia’s revanchist campaign — at once insisting on more severe measures and opposing the deployment of U.S. forces, which Biden has said is not an option.”

New York Times: Trump praises Putin, putting GOP leaders in a bind.

“In the final days before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Russian state media used footage of Donald Trump, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Fox News personality Tucker Carlson to bolster Putin’s image,” Grid reports.

“A Grid review of a half-dozen Russian state media outlets found at least a dozen examples of government channels resharing complimentary remarks by the three men.”

Daily Beast: Trump pals beg him to stop kissing Putin’s ass.

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly told CNN he is shocked that his old boss, Donald Trump, praised Russian president Vladimir Putin.  Said Kelly: “Disbelief. Putin is a tyrant. He’s a murderer. He has attacked an innocent country whose only crime is that they want to be free and democratic, and they’re working in that direction and have been working in that direction.”

Former President Trump is privately pushing Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) to challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate majority leader, Politico reports.

“The Florida governor-turned-senator is navigating some treacherous terrain — and we’re not talking about the Senate landscape. He’s trying to balance working with the GOP’s two most powerful figures in McConnell and Trump, who also happen to despise each other.”

The January 6 rioter who famously carried Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the Capitol rotunda will spend 75 days in prison, Politico reports.

Roger Stone sued to keep his AT&T phone records from the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, CNN reports.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump, Jr., is currently being interviewed by the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, CNN reports.

Annie Howell, who pleaded guilty to breaching the Capitol on January 6 revealed she has met with the House select committee probing the attack four times — and described extensive ties with the Pennsylvania Republican Party, Politico reports.

For the first time ever, the NATO Response Force has been activated as a defensive measure in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, CNN reports.

NATO released a statement, readable in full here. Here are some key pull quotes:

  • “The world will hold Russia, as well as Belarus, accountable for their actions.”
  • “At the invitation of the Secretary General, we were joined today by Finland, Sweden and the European Union.”
  • “We will continue to provide political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend itself and call on others to do the same.”
  • “In light of Russia’s actions, we will draw all the necessary consequences for NATO’s deterrence and defence posture.”
  • “We have deployed defensive land and air forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, and maritime assets across the NATO area.”
  • “We have activated NATO’s defence plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure Alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces.”
  • “We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the Alliance.”

“Western and US intelligence officials are paying close attention for any signs of potential Russian activity in the western Balkans, according to a source familiar with the intelligence, although so far, they have seen nothing out of the ordinary,” CNN reports. “The attention hints at lingering Western concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions could be greater than Ukraine.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry fired off a threat on Friday warning of “serious military and political repercussions” if Finland were to join NATO. The agency’s spokesperson included Sweden when she repeated the threat during a press conference.

Russia’s threat came after Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told the Finnish Parliament that the government was prepared to join NATO “should our national security demand it.” However, it’s still far from a given that Finland will reverse its long-held stance on staying out of the alliance.

President Biden warned that if Russia launches cyberattacks on American companies and critical infrastructure as part of its hybrid war campaign against Ukraine, “we are prepared to respond,” USA Today reports.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Mark Warner told Axios he’s “deeply concerned cyberattacks launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin could morph into a broader war that draws in NATO nations — including the United States.”

Some 70% of Americans will be able to remove their masks indoors, including inside schools, under new guidance to be released by the CDC today, ABC News reports.

The CDC “will soon loosen its mask guidelines by weighing metrics such as hospital capacity and coronavirus admissions, rather than simply looking at case counts, so more people can feel comfortable going maskless in indoor public spaces,” the Washington Post reports.

“The change comes weeks after numerous states, including those led by Democratic governors, announced plans to lift mandates as omicron cases drop sharply. But states have long been pressing the agency for better guidelines to inform their decisions to ease restrictions.”

“Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) has asked his investigations chief to oversee the ongoing probe into former president Donald Trump and his business practices, a day after the abrupt resignations of two veteran attorneys who had been leading the case,” the Washington Post reports.

“A House committee on Friday expanded its investigation into former President Donald Trump’s destruction and removal of White House documents, demanding more information about classified material found at Mr. Trump’s property in Florida and reports that aides had discovered documents in a White House toilet during his time in office,” the New York Times reports.

The Washington Post has a deep dive into how President Biden and his advisers tried to stop Russia from invading Ukraine.

“For months, Biden and his team operated on two tracks: one of open diplomacy and one of grim realpolitik — working to counter an unpredictable geopolitical foe who many suspected had already made up his mind to invade Russia’s neighbor to the west.”

Washington Post: “Early in the Russia-Ukraine standoff, the Biden administration took a calculated risk: Rather than merely warn about the possibility of a Russian invasion, it foreshadowed and even repeatedly predicted one — and in a rather unprecedented way. It talked openly about the intelligence behind that, declassifying some of it, in hopes that it would rally the West and prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from building a pretext for the invasion.”

“That risky strategy has now paid dividends following Russia’s actual invasion, rendering both its denials about the impending invasion and its claims about the root cause significantly undercut.”

“Over three months, senior Biden administration officials held half a dozen urgent meetings with top Chinese officials in which the Americans presented intelligence showing Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine and beseeched the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade,“ the New York Times reports.

“Each time, the Chinese officials, including the foreign minister and the ambassador to the United States, rebuffed the Americans, saying they did not think an invasion was in the works. After one diplomatic exchange in December, U.S. officials got intelligence showing Beijing had shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord — and that China would not try to impede Russian plans and actions.”

Wall Street Journal: “Chinese leader Xi Jinping told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call Friday that he supported Russia and Ukraine resolving their differences through talks, saying that Beijing would decide its stance on Ukraine based on the merits of the issue.”

“Russia’s audacious military mobilization in and around Ukraine is the first major skirmish of a new order in international politics, with three major powers jostling for position in ways that threaten America’s primacy,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The challenges are different than those the U.S. and its network of alliances faced in the Cold War. Russia and China have built a thriving partnership based in part on a shared interest in diminishing U.S. power. Unlike the Sino-Soviet bloc of the 1950s, Russia is a critical gas supplier to Europe, while China isn’t an impoverished, war-ravaged partner but the world’s manufacturing powerhouse with an expanding military.”

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creates a new wrench in the gears of the global economy that will simultaneously worsen inflation pressures and damage growth prospects,” Axios reports.  “That makes it a stagflationary shock, essentially making things worse on all economic fronts at once.”

“Inflationary forces are mounting rapidly across financial markets, adding to challenges for investors as Russia’s military action in Ukraine compounds the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” Bloomberg reports.

Derek Thompson: “What once seemed like a hot take is becoming a stone-cold reality: For tens of millions of knowledge-economy workers, the office is never coming all the way back. The implications—for work, cities, and the geography of labor—will be fascinating.”

“In the past few months, I’ve noticed that tech, media, and finance companies have basically stopped talking about their full return-to-office plans.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “blasted the indictment of more than a dozen Austin police officers for alleged excessive force during the May 2020 racial justice protests — and dangled the possibility of pardons for them,” the Texas Tribune reports.

Two Republican state legislators in Kentucky have apologized after using the phrase “Jew them down” in reference to bargaining for a lower price on a state lease agreement, the Lexington Herald Leader reports.  The phrase “Jew down” is an anti-Semitic expression that “plays into the trope of Jews as greedy money handlers who are unwilling to part with their earnings.”

Tevi Troy notes that President Biden’s science adviser Eric Lander — who resigned for mistreating subordinates — “isn’t the first difficult boss in White House history.”

“Working for the president attracts Type A personalities and puts them into a pressure cooker environment. Almost every day, White House staff face high stress, long hours, and intense media scrutiny. And always looming in the background is the potential that your decisions and actions will end up in the history books. As a result, it is perhaps not surprising that some of the most famous White House aides in history have been less than kind to their staffs.”

New York Times: “If Republicans win the majority this fall, Mr. McCarthy will need the support of the whole party, including the big donors who fund it, a dwindling number of center-right traditionalists and a larger group of quiet conservatives.”

“But he will also need the smaller but more powerful faction of extremist members who are aligned with Mr. Trump and want to define their party in his image. They are skeptical of the brand of mainstream Republicanism that propelled Mr. McCarthy’s rise; some are openly hostile to it.”

“So Mr. McCarthy has been engaging in a series of political contortions to try to secure a foothold in a party that has shifted under his feet, catering to a group that may ultimately be his undoing. In doing so, he has both empowered the hard-right fringe and tethered his fate to it, helping to solidify its dominance in today’s Republican Party.”

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

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