Cup of Joe – 3/22/22

Four days of confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson began Monday with opening statements from Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, NPR reports.  Then “the other 20 members of the committee will also give statements, and the day will conclude with Jackson delivering her opening statement, lasting 10 minutes.”

When Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) wields the gavel at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, kicking off Monday, he said, “it will be one of the most important assignments I have ever had,” the Chicago Sun Times reports.

CNN: “Like most every other nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson has been participating behind closed doors in so-called ‘moot court’ sessions to prepare for her upcoming hearings.”

“Republicans are intensifying their attacks on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson after weeks of publicly reserving judgment on President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, ahead of historic hearings on the first Black woman to be put forward as a justice,” the New York Times reports.

We’ve already gotten a pretty good idea of how Republican senators plan to oppose Jackson’s appointment, even though it’s all but guaranteed that she’ll be confirmed:

  • QAnon-lite accusations that she’s soft on crime
  • Critical race theory (which definitely has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a Black woman, of course)
  • Is she really qualified for the job? Are we sure her being a Black woman isn’t the only reason she was nominated?

The Supreme Court announced on Sunday that Justice Clarence Thomas was admitted to Sibley Memorial Hospital in D.C. over “flu-like symptoms” on Friday, and has been diagnosed with an infection.

Thomas’ symptoms are abating amid treatment with antibiotics, according to the Supreme Court, and he’s expected to be released from the hospital today or tomorrow.

Punchbowl News: “GOP Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ted Cruz (T-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) are all on the Judiciary Committee, and they’re all considered possible Republican presidential hopefuls in 2024. That means they’ll use this week’s confirmation hearings to try to garner national attention.”

“There won’t be any questioning of Jackson today; that begins tomorrow and will last into Wednesday.”

Playbook: “With war raging in Ukraine and President Joe Biden headed to Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency NATO summit (more on both of these topics below), Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s four-day hearing marathon, which starts today at 11 a.m., may well be below-the-fold news. It’s not just outside events dampening the suspense: With her confirmation all but assured and the balance of the court not in play, the likelihood of major surprises is pretty low.”

“While that bodes well for Jackson’s prospects, it’s not necessarily good for the administration politically. The near-certainty of seating the first Black woman on the high court would normally be the closest thing to a slam-dunk, attention-grabbing victory the White House could ask for. No red flags have been raised about Jackson’s record that would jeopardize her prospects, and a new WSJ poll shows a majority of Americans think she is qualified for the high court.”

“But these aren’t normal times. The White House is on course to notch the win, but the media’s gaze is largely elsewhere.”

The Washington Post has a live blog covering the hearings.

Charlie Sykes offers a reminder that Supreme Court nominations were not always partisan fights.

“Once upon a time, conservative Antonin Scalia was confirmed by the senate on a 98-0 vote; RBG was confirmed 96-3. The justice that Judge Jackson will replace, Stephen Breyer was confirmed by a margin of 87-9.”

“The first woman on the Court, Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed by the senate 99-0. The first African-American on the Court, Thurgood Marshall received 69 votes when he was confirmed in 1967.”

The Note: Confirmation hearings test the vanishing middle.

The justice will miss some oral arguments because he won’t be participating in them remotely, the Supreme Court said. He’ll consider and discuss the cases based on briefs, transcripts and audio of the hearings instead.

“You can mediate, but cannot mediate between good and evil.”  — Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to Israeli lawmakers.

The President will be traveling to Warsaw, Poland on Friday to hold a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda to discuss Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“Ukrainian officials have refused the Russian military’s demands to lay down their arms in Mariupol in exchange for the safe passage of civilians out of the southeastern port city on Monday morning,” Axios reports.

Financial Times: “People are now so hungry they are killing stray dogs for food.”

“Dmytro, a businessman who left the city on Tuesday, said friends told him they resorted to this desperate measure in the past few days after their supplies ran out.”

Said Dmytro: “You hear the words but it’s impossible to really take them in, to believe this is happening. It is hell on earth.”

“Once one of Ukraine’s most important ports, Mariupol is now a charnel house, a city of ghosts. For more than two weeks it has been subjected to a Russian bombardment of such intensity that it has turned whole neighborhoods into piles of smoldering rubble.”

Financial Times: “Kyiv says it has lost 1,300 troops compared with an estimated 7,000 killed, wounded or imprisoned for Russia, according to US estimates. But western officials and analysts said the Ukrainian losses were likely far higher: most agreed that an equivalent loss rate to Russia was plausible, equating to about 10 per cent of Ukraine’s troops.”

New York Times: “The invasion has galvanized the population, fostering a unity that few had felt before; spawning enthusiasm for volunteering and solidarity for the men fighting, but also a stubborn refusal to be cowed by the invader.”

“Ten million people – more than a quarter of the population – have now fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion,” the South China Morning Post reports.

Tom Friedman: “So, there you have the question of the hour: Will the pressure on NATO countries from all the refugees that Putin’s war machine is creating — more and more each day — trump the pressure being created on his stalled army on the ground in Ukraine and on his economy back home — more and more each day?”

“The answer to that question should determine when and how this war ends — whether with a clear winner and loser or, maybe more likely, with some kind dirty compromise tilted for or against Putin.”

“I say ‘maybe’ because Putin may feel he cannot tolerate any kind of draw or dirty compromise. He may feel that anything other than a total victory is a humiliation that would undermine his authoritarian grip on power. In that case, he could opt for a plan C — which, I am guessing, would involve air or rocket attacks on Ukrainian military supply lines across the border in Poland.”

“After Russian forces failed to secure a quick victory over Ukraine, senior U.S. officials see signs the Kremlin is shifting to a new strategy to secure key territorial objectives while seeking leverage to compel the Ukrainian government to accept neutrality between Russia and the West,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The U.S. and its allies had widely interpreted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial objectives to include the seizure of Kyiv in a matter of days, and the replacement of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government with a pro-Russian regime.”

“None of that has come to pass. A senior U.S. official said indications suggest more than three weeks of grueling combat—in which Ukraine has put up fierce resistance to Russian forces—has prompted Mr. Putin to adjust his tactics.”

“Russia spent years trying to wean itself off imported goods to fortify its economy against Western sanctions,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “Now, the impact of sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it clear that Moscow’s efforts didn’t work. Russia’s continued dependence on imports means it is facing a painful economic readjustment.”

“He’s self-isolating his economy. Russia is now on the fast track to a 1980s-style Soviet living standard. It’s looking into an economic abyss, and that is the result of Putin’s choices and I can see from his reaction that’s where it’s headed.”  — Deputy national security advisor Daleep Singh, on 60 Minutes.

Foreign Affairs: “Our research suggests that Russia may have stashed tens of billions of dollars in reserve assets in opaque offshore accounts, where it holds dollar-denominated securities beyond the reach of international sanctions and asset freezes. We see indications, in fact, that across two different periods—one in mid-2018 and the other late last year, as Russia built up troops on the Ukrainian border—Russia may have secluded up to $80 billion in Treasury securities offshore.”

“Russia’s total offshore dollar holdings, of course, could be higher still. And there are signs, too, that Russia may have moved some of its dollars with help from a foreign government.”

“Recriminations and finger-pointing have begun within Russia’s spy and defense agencies, as the campaign that Moscow expected to culminate in a lightning seizure of Ukraine’s capital has instead turned into a costly and embarrassing morass,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The blame game, which includes the detention of at least one senior Russian intelligence official, doesn’t appear to pose any immediate threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s iron grip on power, but the U.S. officials are watching the machinations closely.”

“The official, in an interview, also said bickering had broken out between the FSB and the Russian Ministry of Defense, two of the principal government units responsible for the preparation of the Feb. 24 invasion.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mistress Alina Kabayeva faces expulsion from Switzerland, where she is likely hiding with her children,” the Odessa Journal reports.

Russia told the U.S. ambassador that ties between the two countries were on the verge of being severed, Reuters reports.

“The former diplomats and defense officials who visited the U.S. Naval Observatory in early 2015 were seeking a receptive audience — and they found one in Vice President Joe Biden. Russia had taken over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea the previous year and fueled a bloody separatist uprising in the country’s east, and the officials urgently wanted President Barack Obama to send Ukraine advanced antitank missiles, called Javelins,” the Washington Post reports.

“Sure enough, Obama rejected the request, fearing that providing lethal aid to Ukraine would escalate tensions with Russia.”

“Now Biden, as president, is finally doing what he could not do then. He has provided Ukraine with more than $2 billion in security assistance since the start of his administration, including small arms, body armor and other munitions — including, of course, Javelins.”

“Germany said it had sealed a long-term agreement with Qatar for the supply of liquefied natural gas as Berlin seeks alternative energy suppliers to Russia,” the Financial Times reports.

“Poland will formally submit a proposal for a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine at the next NATO summit,” Reuters reports.

“The U.S. is sending some of the Soviet-made air defense equipment it secretly acquired decades ago to bolster the Ukrainian military as it seeks to fend off Russian air and missile attacks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The systems, which one U.S. official said include the SA-8, are decades old and were obtained by the U.S. so it could examine the technology used by the Russian military and which Moscow has exported around the world.”

A member of the team that planned the pro-Trump Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse that preceded the Capitol attack told Rolling Stone that he overhead rally organizer Kylie Kremer’s call on speakerphone between then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson in which they discussed plans for a march to the Capitol.

The plan was to “direct the people down there and make it look like they went down there on their own,” the rally team member told Rolling Stone.

The team member said he told the House Jan. 6 Committee about the conversation.

“The Biden administration has transferred a significant number of Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia within the past month, fulfilling Riyadh’s urgent request for a resupply amid sharp tensions in the relationship ,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The transfers sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia is adequately supplied with the defensive munitions it needs to fend off drone and missile attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.”

“Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff and a national campaign spokesperson were involved in efforts to encourage the president’s supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” Rolling Stone reports.   “That’s according to a person who says he overheard a key planning conversation between top Trump officials and the organizers of the Jan. 6 rally on the White House Ellipse — and has since testified to House investigators about the phone call.”

Former President Donald Trump praised himself, saying he kept the United States out of war during the four years he was in office, Insider reports.  Said Trump: “It was my personality that kept us out of war. I was the only president in four decades who did not get America into any conflicts, except I totally defeated ISIS.”

Ashley Biden’s diary — kept as she recovered from addiction — was passed around at a Donald Trump fundraiser in September 2020 at the home of a Trump donor who ultimately helped steer it to Project Veritas, the New York Times reports.  New information about the case suggests that the effort to make the diary public reached deeper into Trump’s circle than previously known.

“New York’s ethics commission passed a motion late Friday again ordering former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties,” the Albany Times Union reports.  “And this time, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics is taking a near-certain legal battle with Cuomo into its own hands.”

“Israel believes that a new nuclear agreement between Iran and the powers is a done deal that will be signed within a few weeks, if not days,” Haaretz reports.

“The impression in the political and defense establishment is that the Biden administration is anxious to sign the deal and end the nuclear saga, at least as far as America is concerned, both to stop Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities and in order to focus on more important and urgent issues, chiefly competition with China and the war in Ukraine.”

“Israeli officials admit that their ability to influence Washington’s positions in the negotiations has been negligible in light of President Joe Biden’s desire to reach a deal quickly. The White House paid little attention to Israeli reservations, and U.S. negotiators declined to harden their positions in response to Israeli arguments.”

John Harwood: “Russia’s assault on Ukraine has united America’s political parties, as war abroad often does. It’s more surprising to see diminishing conflict on a hot-button domestic issue — but recent developments at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue tell that story on health care.”

“More specifically, they show that the Affordable Care Act, signed into law 12 years ago this week, keeps growing more deeply embedded in American life.”

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

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