Cup of Joe – 3/26/22

“The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 riot has in its possession more than two dozen text messages between former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas,” CNN reports.  “These text messages took place between early November 2020 and mid-January 2021.”

Washington Post: Virginia Thomas urged White House chief to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Thomas texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows a series of fanatical pro-Trump conspiracies about the 2020 election that read like the Facebook posts of your Great Aunt Doris, who isn’t allowed to come over for Thanksgiving anymore after buying five parakeets and naming them all “Ivanka” or “Jared.”

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” –Thomas to Meadows on Nov. 10, 2022 after Biden was projected the winner of the election

But unlike Great Aunt Doris, Thomas is the wife of one of the most powerful justices in the country, and these texts reveal how intimately tied she was in Trump’s efforts to steal the presidency, once again raising major concerns about Clarence Thomas’ proximity to a blatantly corrupt scheme to undo a free and fair election.

“Several of the country’s most respected legal scholars say that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must immediately recuse himself from any cases relating to the 2020 election and its aftermath, now that it has been revealed that his wife, Virginia Thomas, colluded extensively with a top White House adviser about overturning Joe Biden’s defeat of then President Donald Trump,” the New Yorker reports.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told CBS News that Justice Clarence Thomas should consider “voluntarily appearing” before January 6 Committee to resolve questions around his wife’s text messages with Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot said they will hold Trump loyalists Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress when the panel meets on Monday, The Hill reports.

Justice Clarence Thomas was discharged from the hospital earlier today, The Hill reports.

CNN: “The court’s public information officer did not say anything about Thomas’ condition when he was released and declined to offer any more details on his stay in the hospital.”

The President is leaving Brussels this morning after attending emergency meetings with NATO and G-7 allies to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and is flying to Rzeszów, Poland. That’s where he’ll meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda, and he’ll also go to the Polish-Ukrainian border to meet with troops and refugees.

President Biden was asked whether the U.S. has gathered specific intelligence that suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering deploying chemical weapons and whether the U.S. or NATO respond with military action if he did use them, ABC News reports.

Said Biden: “I’m not going to give you intelligence data, number one. Number two, we would respond. We would respond if he uses it, and the nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.”

Meanwhile, Axios reports that White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that he has tasked a special “Tiger Team” of experts to conduct contingency planning for the possibility that Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine or strikes NATO territory.

A Russian brigade commander has been killed deliberately by his own troops after his unit suffered many losses in Ukraine, Sky News reports.  Said a western official: “That just gives an insight into perhaps some of the morale challenges that Russian forces are having.”

“The latest Western intelligence reports and military analyses indicate that Russian forces remain stalled across much of the Ukrainian battlefield four weeks after the invasion began,” the New York Times reports.  “A report on Wednesday from British defense intelligence suggested that the battlefield in the north of the country has stayed largely static for days.”

“Ukraine’s military said on Thursday that it had destroyed a Russian ship at a port under Russian occupation in southern Ukraine, in what would be a success for the Ukrainians as they seek to keep Russia from reinforcing and resupplying its forces as they struggle to gain momentum,” the New York Times reports.  “Videos and photos reviewed by The New York Times confirmed that a Russian ship was on fire at the port.”

President Biden on Thursday said he believes Russia should be removed from the Group of 20, which consists of the world’s largest economies, The Hill reports.

The United States is expected to announce that it will open its doors for up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others, NBC News reports.

“The first deliveries of the $800 million in new military aid that US President Joe Biden is sending to Ukraine have started to arrive in country,” CNN reports.

“U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Russian military spy hackers were behind a cyberattack on a satellite broadband service that disrupted Ukraine’s military communications at the start of the war last month,” the Washington Post reports.

“Moscow signaled on Friday it was scaling back its ambitions in Ukraine to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists as Ukrainian forces went on the offensive to recapture towns on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv,” Reuters reports. 

“Biden administration officials are increasingly worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin may lash out dangerously as Russian troops find themselves bogged down in Ukraine and Western sanctions begin to bite,” Bloomberg reports.

“The internal assessment of senior officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, is that Putin’s tendency when boxed in is to escalate rather than back down. Their view is that the Russian leader’s choices could include the blanket bombing of Ukrainian cities or the use of chemical weapons — or even tactical nuclear weapons.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Friday “that he intends to support President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, essentially ensuring Jackson’s confirmation,” the Washington Post reports.  Manchin cited Jackson’s “exemplary” career and record and said that her various roles in the judicial system have provided her with “a unique perspective that will serve her well on our nation’s highest court.”

“Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are shooting down the idea of boycotting the panel’s vote on Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson,” The Hill reports.  Said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC): “There’s not going to be any boycott. There’s zero, not one iota chance that we would boycott.”

“The idea of a committee boycott, which has floated around Capitol Hill for weeks, was spun up after 10 Republicans sent Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the committee chairman, a request that he suspend the hearing until they could get pre-sentencing reports tied to Jackson’s child porn cases.”

“Republicans are rejecting the harshest tactics that could trap Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination indefinitely in the Senate Judiciary Committee — though they’re wrestling with how hard to fight it,” Politico reports. “While Democratic support alone is enough to get President Joe Biden’s high-court pick confirmed in the 50-50 Senate, unilateral GOP opposition would require the nation’s first Black female vice president to break a tie on the nation’s first Black female Supreme Court justice. Even a tied committee vote would force a procedural vote on the Senate floor, a rare occurrence for a high-court nominee.”

Representatives of the American Bar Association lauded the qualifications of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Thursday, saying everyone they interviewed used terms such as “brilliant,” “beyond reproach,” “impeccable” and “A-plus” to describe her, the Washington Post reports.

There are nine key senators to watch on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Politico reports: Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, Richard Burr, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinama.

Playbook: “Why this group? While Manchin and Sinema can pretty safely be counted as ‘yes’ votes for Dems, some of the Republicans are ‘torn between supporting Jackson’s historic nomination and voting no based on opposition to her judicial philosophy. A few in that group are retiring this year, freeing them from the potential political risks of backing her nomination, although a vote to confirm Jackson would roil the GOP primaries currently underway to replace them.’

Jonathan Bernstein: “The episode demonstrated an inelegant solution to a constitutional problem: that lifetime terms for federal judges can allow the past to rule the present. It’s OK, it seems to me, that judges are not elected, given that they’re nominated by elected presidents and confirmed by elected Senates. They are, in that sense, democratically chosen.”

“But the majorities that chose them can be five, 10, or even 30 or more years in the past. Justice Clarence Thomas was nominated by a president chosen in 1988 and defeated in 1992. He was confirmed by senators chosen in 1990, 1988 and 1986. By contrast, the majority that elected President Joe Biden in 2020 has no votes on the Supreme Court. Even if Congress passed a reform scheme to limit Supreme Court terms to 18 years so that each president would fill two vacancies per four-year term, it’s still not entirely clear why older majorities should dominate more recent ones.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) “was convicted on charges that he lied to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a foreign billionaire at a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser,” the AP reports.  “A federal jury deliberated about two hours before finding the nine-term Republican guilty of one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements.”

“Fortenberry showed no emotion as the verdict was read but the youngest of his five daughters in the front of the gallery began sobbing uncontrollably.”

Despite his guilty verdict on three felony counts, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) “does not have to give up his congressional seat,” the Omaha World-Herald reports.  “Federal law requires members of Congress to give up their seats only for crimes that are tied to treason.”

Politico: “Fortenberry faces a possible prison sentence of up to five years on each count, as well as fines.”

He vowed to appeal the verdict immediately. The nine-term Nebraska lawmaker didn’t say whether he plans on ending his reelection campaign.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) should resign from Congress, “hours after the Nebraska Republican was convicted of lying to the FBI over illegal campaign contributions,” Politico reports.

Said McCarthy: “I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign. I am going to discuss with him today. I think he had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal he can do that as a private citizen.”

Former President Trump is suing Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and several others over allegations that his 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia, The Hill reports.  The complaint alleges that Trump has suffered at least $24 million in damages.

CNN looks at Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and finds it is rife with “factual inaccuracies and some of the same grandiose or exaggerated false claims that Trump has made dozens of times,” largely rehashing “grievances that he has complained about for years.”

“It claims Democrats and government officials perpetrated a grab bag of offenses, from a racketeering conspiracy to a malicious prosecution, computer fraud and theft of secret internet data.”

New York Times: “The Fed has at times managed to raise interest rates to cool down demand and weaken inflation without meaningfully harming the economy — Mr. Powell highlighted examples in 1965, 1984 and 1994. But those instances came amid much lower inflation, and without the ongoing shocks of a global pandemic and a war in Ukraine.”

“The part Fed officials avoid saying out loud is that the central bank’s tools work by slowing down the economy, and weakening growth always comes with a risk of overdoing it. And while the Fed ushered in its first rate increase this month, some economists — and at least one Fed official — think the central bank was too slow to start taking its foot off the gas. Some warn that the delay increases the chance it might have to overcorrect as a result.”

“The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week fell to its lowest level in 52 years as the U.S. job market continues to show strength in the midst of rising costs and an ongoing virus pandemic,” the AP reports.  “Jobless claims fell by 28,000 to 187,000 for the week ending March 19, the lowest since September of 1969.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed in a speech the West was trying to “cancel” Russian culture, The Independent reports.   Said Putin: “They are now trying to cancel our country. I’m talking about the progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia.”  He is correct.  The fascist criminal state known as Russia shall be cancelled until such time as Putin and his entire government is replaced by a liberal democracy. 

Washington Post: “Nationwide, GOP lawmakers have filed nearly two hundred state bills this year that seek to erode protections for transgender and gay youth or to restrict discussion of LGBTQ topics in public schools.”

“The explosion of legislation is in part the culmination of efforts by a trio of conservative organizations, which are helping state legislators write and promote the bills.”

“The Arizona House voted Thursday to prohibit gender-reassignment surgery and was scheduled to vote later on a bill banning transgender athletes from playing on girls sports teams,” the AP reports.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed a bill into law “that eliminates the license requirement to carry a handgun in Indiana, despite initial opposition from the Holcomb-appointed head of state police due to safety concerns,” the Indianapolis Star reports.

Lev Parnas, who worked closely with Rudy Giuliani to get dirt on Joe Biden, pleaded guilty Friday to wire fraud in connection with a business scheme, Politico reports.

Parnas admitted that he deceived investors in the ironically-named business venture, “Fraud Guarantee,” which was ostensibly aimed at helping vet business opportunities for potential fraud.

Steve Bannon “is advancing a high-stakes – and arcane-sounding – defense as he battles the Justice Department in a case that could mean up to a year in federal prison and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted – but potentially defang congressional power should he prevail,” The Guardian reports.

“The all-or-nothing nature of the defense is characteristic of Bannon, a fierce defender and confidante of the former president even after he departed the White House seven months into the Trump administration after a turbulent tenure as his chief strategist.”

“Israel announced that it would host a summit meeting on Sunday and Monday with the top diplomats from the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco,” the New York Times reports.

“Unimaginable half a decade ago, the high-level meeting reflects the pace at which Middle Eastern norms and alliances have shifted since Israel sealed landmark diplomatic agreements with the U.A.E., Bahrain and Morocco in 2020.”

“Germany unveiled targets to rapidly cut dependence on Russian energy and the US set out plans to redirect gas to Europe as western allies stepped up efforts to reshape global energy markets and punish Moscow for the Ukraine war,” the Financial Times reports.

“Berlin vowed to all but wean itself off Russian gas by mid-2024 and said it aimed to become “virtually independent” of Russian oil by the end of this year.”

The Biden administration is considering authorizing “a second Covid-19 booster shot for older Americans within weeks, amid rising concern over a potential resurgence of cases… as a result of the spread of the Omicron subvariant, BA.2,” Politico reports.

Katherine Wu: “At this very moment, the United States, as a whole, remains in its legit pandemic lull. Coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations are lower than they’ve been since last summer. There’s now a nice, chonky gap between us and January’s Omicron peak.”

“And yet. Outbreaks have erupted across Asia. Massive swaths of Europe, including the United Kingdom—America’s best pandemic bellwether for much of 2021—are firmly in the grip of a more transmissible Omicron subvariant called BA.2 that’s been simmering stateside for months. Already, scattered spots throughout the U.S. look a shade foreboding.”

“Several states’ wastewater-surveillance sites are witnessing a rise in viral particles, which, in previous waves, has preceded increases in documented infections by several days. Many states’ case rates have now hit a plateau, and a handful are even beginning a slow march back up. The other Covid shoe seems poised to drop in the U.S. at some point, perhaps quite soon. When it does, it won’t be pretty.”

“The United States and European Union on Friday announced a new partnership to reduce the continent’s reliance on Russian energy, the start of a years-long initiative to further isolate Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine,” the AP reports.  “As part of the plan, the U.S. and other nations will increase liquified natural gas exports to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters this year, the White House said. Even larger shipments would be delivered in the future.”

“At the same time, they will try to keep their climate goals on track by powering gas infrastructure with clean energy and reducing methane leaks that can worsen global warming.”

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

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