Cup of Joe – 4/1/22

“The criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory,” the Washington Post reports.

“In the past two months, a federal grand jury in Washington has issued subpoena requests to some officials in former president Donald Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding and executing the Jan. 6 rally.”

“The development shows the degree to which the Justice Department investigation — which already involves more defendants than any other criminal prosecution in the nation’s history — has moved further beyond the storming of the Capitol to examine events preceding the attack.”

“Federal prosecutors have substantially widened their Jan. 6 investigation to examine the possible culpability of a broad range of figures involved in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” the New York Times reports.

“The investigation now encompasses the possible involvement of other government officials in Mr. Trump’s attempts to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory and the push by some Trump allies to promote slates of fake electors”

CNN: January 6 committee member says panel is “triangulating” to get “fulsome picture” of Trump’s actions.

Aaron Blake: “From the moment we learned the extent of the 7.5-hour gap in White House records of President Trump’s phone calls on Jan. 6, 2021, the question has been: How did this happen? Could it just be sloppy record-keeping — that so happened to overlap with the most critical and problematic portion of that day (that is, the insurrection)? Could Trump have used burner phones? Or could someone even have engaged in Watergate-style tampering?”

“The answer isn’t just a matter of curiosity; it could matter legally. Coverups, after all, can be used to prove criminal intent. And the Jan. 6 investigation is trending in that direction, with some recent validation.”

“All of the above-mentioned options are viable, given what we know so far.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia’s invasion has reached a “turning point,” as Russian forces launch attacks in the Donbas region of Ukraine while bombarding Kyiv and other key cities, Axios reports.

“Zelensky said during his televised address that he had spoken with President Biden about Ukrainian forces needing more military help, as he noted there’s an ‘ongoing negotiation process’ with Russian officials but added ‘these are still words.’”

“President Biden is considering a plan to release one million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for as long as 180 days, a move that would add a large amount of oil to the global market,” the New York Times reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “signed a decree ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army as part of Russia’s annual spring draft, but the defence ministry said the call-up had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine,” Reuters  reports.

“The head of Britain’s GCHQ spy service says new intelligence shows some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have refused to carry out orders, sabotaged their own equipment and accidentally shot down one of their own aircraft,” the Canberra Times reports.

Time: “If the United States and its Western partners can ramp up—and sustain—military assistance to Ukraine for the long term, Moscow may eventually lose the war—a virtually unthinkable outcome several weeks ago. Economic and diplomatic steps are important, but military aid is the linchpin…”

“Examples of weapons and systems that Ukraine needs include anti-tank weapons systems, armed drones, surface-to-air missile systems, and anti-ship missiles. Ukraine could also use additional S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems to target Russian aircraft, which could be provided by Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Greece. The U.S. and NATO should also provide fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, and other higher-end platforms if Russia continues to escalate the war.”

“Half of Russia’s 20 richest people have not been sanctioned over its war in Ukraine, leaving a group of super-rich, powerful billionaires free to operate around the world without legal restriction,” Bloomberg reports.

“In total, tycoons worth a total of least $200 billion before the war started have been hit by sanctions. Yet the list of who’s blocked –and who’s not – reveals a patchwork pattern of cross-border penalties that has spared many Russians with business interests in key global markets.”

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause their economies to contract this year by about 10% and 20%, respectively, the region’s leading development bank said Thursday in one of the most in-depth economic assessments to date of the war’s impact on the two countries,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said the slump in Russia would likely turn into a long period of stagnation while neighboring economies would rebound next year as long as a sustainable cease-fire is secured over the coming months.”

Associated Press: Russia’s ruble rebound raises questions of sanctions’ impact.

The head of French military intelligence, Gen Eric Vidaud, is losing his job after failing to predict Russia’s war in Ukraine, the BBC reports. He should have listened to Biden, who was right all along.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly singled out British prime minister Boris Johnson for praise, this week calling him “a leader who is helping more” and “an example” for other leaders, the Daily Mail reports. The two leaders talk almost every day.

However, the verdict on French president Emmanuel Macron was particularly scathing, with France accused of being hesitant in sending weapons “because they are afraid of Russia.”

“On any given day, he’s an embarrassment.” — Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), quoted by CNN on Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC).

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) admitted suggestions that his colleagues have done cocaine and invited him to orgies were “exaggerated” in a tense meeting with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Axios reports.

Said McCarthy: “I just told him he’s lost my trust, he’s gonna have to earn it back, and I laid out everything I find is unbecoming. And, you can’t just say ‘You can’t do this again.’ I mean, he’s, he’s got a lot of members very upset.”

He added: “It’s just frustrating. There’s no evidence behind his statements. And when I sit down with him… I told him you can’t make statements like that, as a member of Congress, that affects everybody else and the country as a whole.”

“In the era of Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party — when making falsehoods about an election isn’t disqualifying, when heckling a president at the State of the Union is no big deal, when attending an event tied to white supremacists doesn’t lead to exile — it may still be possible for a hard-right member of Congress to go too far,” the New York Times reports.

“That is the object lesson of Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, the House’s youngest member, whose bid for a second term is in jeopardy after a series of incendiary statements and personal foibles have soured many former supporters.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that he will vote against confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson “based upon her record of judicial activism, flawed sentencing methodology regarding child pornography cases, and a belief that Judge Jackson will not be deterred by the plain meaning of the law when it comes to liberal causes.”

Of course, Jackson’s record was essentially the same when Graham supported her less than a year ago.

“An inflation gauge that is closely monitored by the Federal Reserve jumped 6.4% in February compared with a year ago, with sharply higher prices for food, gasoline and other necessities squeezing Americans’ finances,” the AP reports.

Inflation will mean the average U.S. household has to spend an extra $5,200 this year ($433 per month) compared to last year for the same consumption basket, according estimates by Bloomberg Economics.

U.S. home prices shows signs of becoming “unhinged from fundamentals” like they did in the housing bubble that preceded the 2008 crash, Bloomberg reports.  The Dallas Fed has a post on this that is worth reading.

“The Biden administration is expected to lift a pandemic-related public health order this week that has restricted immigration for the past two years, a change that could more than double what is already a historic number of migrants surging into the United States from Mexico,” the New York Times reports.

“The change is to take effect in late May and should restore the right of migrants to request asylum once they are in the United States, just as they did before the pandemic.”

“Even with the rule in place, the administration has struggled to manage a record spike in illegal migration along the border with Mexico, which Republicans have cast as out of control since President Biden took office.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Yahoo News that comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) about his marriage illustrates a plan to “divide and demonize and demoralize.”

Said Buttigieg: “The reason you hear somebody like that making nonsensical, literally nonsensical comments like that — I don’t know what you’d do with an electric vehicle in any bathroom — they don’t want to talk about what we’re actually working on.”

He added: “So they’re going to keep tripling down on anything that can divide and demonize and demoralize, and through that capture attention.”

Anne Applebaum: “Europeans and Americans alike believed that they had created a set of rules that would preserve peace not only on their own continents, but eventually in the whole world. This liberal world order relied on the mantra of ‘Never again.’ Never again would there be genocide. Never again would large nations erase smaller nations from the map. Never again would we be taken in by dictators who used the language of mass murder. At least in Europe, we would know how to react when we heard it.”

“But while we were happily living under the illusion that ‘Never again’ meant something real, the leaders of Russia, owners of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, were reconstructing an army and a propaganda machine designed to facilitate mass murder, as well as a mafia state controlled by a tiny number of men and bearing no resemblance to Western capitalism.”

“Georgia lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that would change the process for removing books from schools due to parent complaints about obscenity,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) neatly packaged his party’s top targets in their war on civil rights on Wednesday, during which he signed the following into law:

A sweeping abortion ban that prohibits the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest, only medical emergencies.

More voting restrictions that require all Arizonians to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote in both state and federal elections.

Two bans targeting transgender youth. One forbids access to gender-affirming care for people under 18, the other bars female transgender students from participating in women and girls’ school sports teams.

The results of a new clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveal that ivermectin, the anti-parasitic drug generally given to horses, doesn’t work as effective treatment for COVID-19.

“The anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, which has surged in popularity as an alternative treatment for Covid-19 despite a lack of strong research to back it up, showed no sign of alleviating the disease, according to results of a large clinical trial published on Wednesday,” the New York Times reports.

“Ivermectin’s popularity continued to climb in the pandemic’s second year. The podcaster Joe Rogan promoted it repeatedly on his shows. In a single week in August, U.S. insurance companies spent $2.4 million paying for ivermectin treatments.”

Philip Bump: “The effect of encouraging people to rely on ivermectin was the same as asking them to rely on wishing upon a star: Some would live and might credit ivermectin for their survival. But that was simply coincidental. Those who might have lived had they been vaccinated were not around to instruct people that ivermectin didn’t work.”

“This was the central problem. People believed this. That includes some legislators, certainly; just because you see something as politically useful doesn’t mean you are doing so cynically. Using a large platform to amplify claims about an unproven treatment, though, would have the predictable effect of people taking it seriously.”

“Those convinced that the drug worked — hearing it from trusted politicians or podcast hosts — saw conspiracy.”

The Guardian: “Emmanuel Macron, after sweeping to power in 2017 promising to transform France with a new brand of politics that was neither left nor right, is polling at about 27% in the first round, followed by Le Pen on about 17%. Le Pen is gaining ground after campaigning hard on France’s cost of living crisis.”

“But if Macron faces Le Pen in the final round runoff on 24 April, the result is predicted to be much closer than when he won five years ago with 66%, with one poll this week putting Macron at 53% to Le Pen’s 47%.”

“Hungary’s election race is neck and neck after Viktor Orban was hit by claims that Russian spies have ‘practically unlimited access’ to the foreign ministry,” the Times of London reports.

“The Hungarian prime minister is seeking a fourth term in office, but his poll lead has been eroded amid widespread criticism of his refusal to take sides against Putin following Russia’s invasion.”

“CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims,” the Washington Post reports.

“But a top network executive seemed to lay the groundwork for the decision in a staff meeting earlier this month, when he said the network needed to hire more Republicans to prepare for a ‘likely’ Democratic midterm wipeout.”

Aaron Rupar: “There’s nothing wrong with an outlet like CBS trying to balance its stable of commentators. It’s rare that a single perspective gives the right answer on every question of tax policy, budget priorities, or foreign policy, and often those questions are of fundamental belief, rather than the simple fact of the matter. Conservative voices can represent a valid perspective in those conversations.”

“But lying and bad faith isn’t a side — it’s toxic to the constructive exchanges of ideas and information you’d hope major media outlets would try to encourage.”

Fox News announced that it has hired Caitlyn Jenner, the former athlete and reality TV star, as a Fox News contributor.   Said Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott: “Caitlyn’s story is an inspiration to us all.”

“David Weil’s bid to head the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division was dealt a fatal blow Wednesday, after a trio of Senate Democrats voted against moving forward on his nomination,” Politico reports.

“Weil, now the first Biden nominee to fail on the Senate floor, has faced heated opposition from Republicans and business groups dating back to his prior stint in the position for the Obama administration, meaning that he’d have likely needed unified Democratic support.”

“NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, returned to Earth from the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that touched down in Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning,” Axios reports.

“The landing, which concludes Vande Hei’s NASA record-breaking 355 consecutive days in space, comes as U.S. and Russia’s relationship in space has become significantly damaged over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.”

“The Biden administration on Thursday announced several measures intended to make federal forms of identification, applications for federal programs and travel documents more inclusive for Americans who identify as transgender or nonbinary, or who otherwise do not conform to traditional gender roles,” the New York Times reports.

“One long-awaited change will give Americans the option of indicating their gender with an ‘X’ on passports starting April 11.”

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

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