Cup of Joe – 4/9/22

“A Russian missile attack on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk killed 50, including 5 children, and injured dozens more people trying to flee the eastern Donbas region, as Moscow focuses its attention on a renewed offensive there,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The missles recovered at the scene had a phrase painted on them in Russian. “For the Children.”

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has admitted a “significant” loss of Russian troops since the invasion of Ukraine began, telling Sky News their deaths are a “tragedy.”  But he denied that Russia had anything to do with the atrocities in Bucha.

“The name of this city is already synonymous with the month-long carnage that Russian soldiers perpetrated here,” the Washington Post reports.

“But the scale of the killings and the depravity with which they were committed are only just becoming apparent as police, local officials and regular citizens start the grim task of clearing Bucha of the hundreds of corpses decomposing on streets and in parks, apartment buildings and other locations.”

“As a team from the district prosecutor’s office moved slowly through Bucha on Wednesday, investigators uncovered evidence of torture before death, beheading and dismemberment, and the intentional burning of corpses.”

The Russian ruble has surged all the way back to where it was before Russia invaded Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

“What’s become clear is that despite an incredibly wide-ranging package of sanctions on the Russian government and its oligarchs, and an exodus of foreign businesses, the actions are largely toothless if foreigners keep guzzling Russian oil and natural gas — supporting the ruble by stocking Putin’s coffers. Even as Russia remains mostly cut off otherwise from the global economy, Bloomberg Economics expects the country will earn nearly $321 billion from energy exports this year, up more than a third from 2021.”

“The rapid ruble recovery gives Putin a major victory back in Russia, where many people fixate on the currency’s ups and downs, even as his military gets bogged down in Ukraine and outrage mounts across the globe over atrocities it’s committed.”

Washington Post: “The 37-minute scramble to clarify Biden’s nine-word gaffe, details of which have not been previously reported, illustrates the singular role Biden has played during Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine — at times emotional and freewheeling, at other times carefully choreographed and deliberate, but frequently a central player in helping to marshal the West’s response to Russia.”

“As the war enters its seventh week Thursday, Biden has left his distinct imprint on the crisis — in ways both intentional and not, and in ways that have both clarified and complicated the situation.”

“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. But we’ve made it. We’ve made it. All of us.”  — Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, quoted by USA Today.

Punchbowl News: “Jackson was the ideal candidate for Schumer, Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin and Senate Democrats – extraordinarily well qualified and thoroughly vetted, having already been confirmed by the Senate three times, including her appointment last summer to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Although there were some ugly moments during her confirmation hearings in the Judiciary Committee – and we guarantee those won’t be forgotten by Democrats anytime soon – the whole process went smoothly overall. Schumer and the White House wanted no surprises, and there weren’t any.”

“It was just six weeks from the time Biden formally nominated Jackson to Thursday’s vote. That’s very fast for a Supreme Court confirmation by historical standards.”

Few things illustrated our partisan divide more than Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) standing alone on the GOP side of the aisle celebrating Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.

New York Times: “As applause echoed from the marbled walls, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, turned his back and slowly walked out, as did most of the few Republicans remaining on the floor, leaving half of the chamber empty as the other half celebrated in a stark reflection of the partisan divide.”

“Jurors found two men accused by the government of plotting to kidnap and hurt Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer not guilty and failed to reach unanimous verdicts against two others,” the Detroit News reports.

“The four men faced kidnapping conspiracy charges, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Three faced multiple charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.”

Detroit Free Press: “In a case that highlighted the growth of violent extremism in America, the jury spent three weeks listening to testimony about how four-like minded men bonded over social media, vented about the government controlling their lives, and then came together through a group called the Wolverine Watchmen – a self-proclaimed Michigan militia that wanted to spark a second Civil War, and use the Whitmer kidnap as a starting point.”

“A leader of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty on Friday to two felony charges in one of the most prominent criminal cases against an organized far-right group that participated in the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021,” CNN reports.

“Charles Donohoe, 34, is the first person in the Proud Boys leadership to plead guilty and to assist the Justice Department’s investigation against the pro-Donald Trump group.”

In a newly filed statement of offense, prosecutors said that Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe — who took a plea deal earlier today — “understood that the purpose of the rally in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, was to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote,” the Washington Post reports.

Key passage: “Donohoe was aware that members of MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol. Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power. Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.”

Donohoe has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

“Two days after the 2020 presidential election, as votes were still being tallied, Donald Trump’s eldest son texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that ‘we have operational control’ to ensure his father would get a second term, with Republican majorities in the US Senate and swing state legislatures,” CNN reports.

“In the text, which has not been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. lays out ideas for keeping his father in power by subverting the Electoral College process.”

Said Trump Jr.: “It’s very simple. We have multiple paths. We control them all.”

“The text from Trump Jr. is revealing on a number of levels. It shows how those closest to the former President were already exchanging ideas for how to overturn the election months before the January 6 insurrection — and before all the votes were even counted. It would be another two days before major news outlets declared Joe Biden the winner on November 7.”

On Wednesday, FBI agents arrested Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36, for impersonating federal agents. Prosecutors said the men passed themselves off as agents of a phony Homeland Security department and offered gifts to U.S. Secret Service officers, including iPhones, surveillance equipment, drones, a penthouse apartment, and more. The Associated Press reports one of the agents who was offered gifts worked on Dr. Jill Biden’s security detail. 

Today, prosecutors are releasing additional information about what was discovered in a search of the suspects’ residence—and it is nothing short of shocking. This case is about to get much, much bigger.

The Washington Post reports one of the men told investigators he has ties to Pakistani intelligence and both men have visas showing travel to Iran and Pakistan.  Federal prosecutors detailed the new findings from their residence, and it would seem that a massive plot was underway.

Investigators searching the apartments of the 2 men who allegedly posed as DHS agents say they found a loaded Glock 19, disassembled long guns, sniper spotting equipment, ammunition, handcuffs, radios, body armor, a surveillance drone and several servers. Agents also found a binder with a list of all the names of people who lived in their apartment building, many of whom were law enforcement.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) has had enough with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) putting holds on Defense and State Department nominees until Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin resigns.

Said Schatz: “That’s not a serious request. People used to come to me during the Trump administration all the time. ‘Do you think Trump should resign? Do you think Tillerson should resign?’ Of course I think all the people I disagree with should quit their jobs and be replaced with people I love. Of course I think they should all resign. That’s not how this world works. That is not a reasonable request from a United States senator that until the secretary of defense quits his job, I’m going to block all of his nominees. That’s preposterous.”

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) was listed as a “special guest” with the white nationalist American Populist Union at an event on April 20, a date popular among Neo-Nazis: Hitler’s birthday, the Arizona Mirror reports.  But Gosar’s campaign now says he isn’t attending and it doesn’t know how he was listed as a guest of honor, even though Gosar promoted his scheduled appearance on social media.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was interviewed by Jonathan Swan:

SWAN: So, moral red lines, where do you draw them?

McCONNELL: Um, I am perfectly comfortable with the way I have conducted my political career and I’d be happy to respond to any specificity to the term… what was it?

SWAN: Moral red lines.

McCONNELL: Well, I am very comfortable with my moral red lines.

Tim Miller: “The best part of this exchange is that McConnell seems to be genuinely befuddled that one might expect him to have a moral red line. He literally can’t come up with anything. Acts as if that’s a gotcha question. Because for him it is, since he has none.”

New York Times: “As France votes on Sunday, polls are predicting that this election will be a rematch of the previous one, pitting Ms. Le Pen against President Emmanuel Macron in a second-round showdown. But that does not mean that precisely the same Ms. Le Pen is running.”

“Ms. Le Pen has revamped her image since the last election five years ago. She has pragmatically abandoned certain ideas that had alienated mainstream voters. She has held on to others that certify her far-right credentials. And she has shifted emphasis toward pocketbook issues.”

“But as important, she has self-consciously sanded the rough edges off her persona in an effort to make herself appear more presidential and voter-friendly.”

Politico: “There is growing concern within President Joe Biden’s administration about the narrowing polls in the French presidential election that show a tight race between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen.”

“A possible victory by Le Pen, a Putin sympathizer, could destabilize the Western coalition against Moscow, upending France’s role as a leading European power and potentially giving other NATO leaders cold feet about staying in the alliance, according to three senior administration officials not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.”

Clearly sick of being pushed on the criminal investigation into the Trump Organization that he seemed to have unraveled, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg put out a somewhat irritated announcement on Thursday clarifying that the probe is still going on.

Two leading prosecutors in the investigation quit out of frustration in February when Bragg decided not to seek an indictment against Trump. One of the prosecutors wrote in his resignation letter that the former president was guilty of “numerous felony violations,” and argued that Bragg’s decision “will doom any future prospects” of Trump being prosecuted for the alleged crimes the investigators uncovered.

Although Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg told CNN an indictment against Donald Trump could still come, the Daily Beast reports “yet another prosecutor appears to have been pulled back from the case, according to knowledgeable sources who say it could be further proof of the probe’s failure.”

“And sources now seem to think Trump dodging an indictment is inevitable.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) asked a state judge to hold Trump in contempt yesterday, saying the former president has refused to give her the documents she requested eight times in her civil investigation into the Trump Organization.

James also requested that the judge slap Trump with a $10,000 fine every day until he hands over the documents.

Trump’s legal team called James’ request “baseless” and (predictably) complained that the  investigation was a “witch hunt.”

“Federal authorities are in the preliminary stages of investigating the handling of classified material found at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home after he left office,“ the New York Times reports.

“The effort, led by the F.B.I., stems from the discovery of classified information in 15 boxes that contained documents, mementos, gifts and letters that had been taken from the White House at the end of Mr. Trump’s term in apparent violation of the requirements for turning over all presidential records to the National Archives.”

“President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against Covid-19 was uhpheld Thursday by a federal appeals court,” the AP reports.   “In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court and ordered dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the mandate.”

“The White House told federal agencies Thursday to hold off on reinstating a coronavirus vaccination mandate for millions of employees, hours after an appeals court rejected an earlier injunction that had blocked the executive order,” the Washington Post reports.

“It’s not clear when the agencies might begin enforcing the mandate, which makes unvaccinated federal employees subject to discipline up to and including firing — unless they qualify for an exemption on medical or religious grounds or have such a request under consideration.”

“Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging her state’s 1931 law banning abortion — the latest move in a flurry of state activity preparing for the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade in a few months,” Politico reports.   “The Michigan law bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy, with an exception for the health of a woman but not for cases of rape or incest. It has remained on the books for decades despite the 1973 Roe decision rendering it unenforceable and establishing the right to abortion nationally.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) “will not defend the state in a lawsuit filed Thursday by Planned Parenthood of Michigan, saying she agrees with the suit’s assertion that a 1931 state law that bans most abortions in the state is unconstitutional,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

Said Nessel: “This law is dangerous. This law effectively strips women of their dignity and bodily autonomy, and in some cases, of their lives. I will not enforce it, and neither will I defend it. I will take no part of driving women back into the dark ages and the back alleys.”

“The 1931 law makes providing an abortion a felony unless done so to protect the life of the pregnant person. However, it has not been enforceable since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the federal Constitution bars state bans on abortion.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to visit Taiwan, according to media reports, a landmark display of American support that triggered a diplomatic protest from Beijing, Bloomberg reports.

Pelosi was critical of now-White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain during the 2020 presidential campaign, suggesting he doesn’t “know about anything,” Punchbowl News reports.

New excerpts from This Will Not Pass, via Punchbowl News: “The experience of begging for support was wearing on her… Pelosi was the only Democrat in the chamber — the only Democrat alive — who had already served as Speaker, who had shown she could do the legislative arithmetic and twist the necessary arms to get things done. And yet her fellow Democrats were making her grovel. ‘At this point in my life, I don’t need this,’ she vented.”

“Her victory in holding onto the speakership, ‘seemed like a joyless one.’ Pelosi expressed “her frustration with unusual vehemence that day, discussing her political future in a way she rarely did around colleagues. ‘You couldn’t pay me a billion dollars to run for Speaker again,’ Pelosi said.”

“As conservative states enacted stringent abortion bans in recent decades, there was one threshold they were loath to cross: Abortion was nearly always allowed in cases of rape or incest,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “It was a veneer of acceptance embraced by every GOP president from Reagan to Trump, and even the strongest abortion foes, that a woman should not be required to carry a rapist’s child. Not anymore.”

National Review: “Disney’s copyright on its signature Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse — from the 1928 short film of the same name — is set to expire on January 1, 2024… In the past, both the company and legislature have sprung into action to keep the depiction out of the public domain. This time, it might be more difficult to secure such an extension.”

“With a 1984 deadline looming, Gerald Ford signed the Copyright Act of 1976 in no small part thanks to the efforts of Disney’s lobbyists. That pushed Disney’s singular claim to Mickey out to 2003. Always one step ahead, lobbyists for Disney secured a second extension… It passed through both chambers of Congress on voice votes.”

“There is little chance that a third extension will pass so smoothly, as several prominent Republicans, who will in all likelihood find themselves in the majority in both houses of Congress after the midterms, tell National Review that they would oppose such a measure.”

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

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