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Cup of Joe – 4/28/22

David Ignatius: “Russian President Vladimir Putin protested to Kremlin visitors Monday that his adversaries were trying to ‘win on the battlefield’ and ‘destroy Russia from within.’ For once, he wasn’t just being paranoid.”

“Western resolve is hardening in the Ukraine war. For months, the Biden administration beseeched Putin to find an ‘exit ramp’ from the confrontation. Now, the United States’ openly stated goal is to help Ukraine beat Russia and to disable Putin’s war machine so that it won’t threaten neighbors in the future.”

“Infuriated by the West’s supply of arms and other support to help Ukraine resist invading Russian troops, Moscow on Tuesday took the fight to Europe’s economy, telling Poland and Bulgaria that it was halting supplies of natural gas, on which both countries and Europe in general are heavily dependent,” the New York Times reports.

“A decision by Russia’s energy behemoth Gazprom to cut off gas supplies to two countries that are both members of NATO and the European Union marks the first time that Moscow has directly and openly targeted Europe with its energy weapon. The move upends assurances by Moscow since the Soviet era that, no matter what the political climate, Russia could be counted on as a reliable supplier of natural gas.”

Washington Post: Russia accused of ‘gas blackmailing’ after cutting off Poland, Bulgaria.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said ceasefire negotiations in Ukraine were derailed by western “provocation” over “supposed massacres” by Russian forces in Bucha, the Times of London reports.

“The United States and Russia announced on Wednesday a prisoner swap that has freed Trevor Reed, a former Marine who was convicted on charges that his family said were bogus, in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced to a lengthy term in the United States on cocaine-trafficking charges,” the New York Times reports.

Soon after Twitter accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy the social media platform for $44 billion, Donald Trump told Fox News that he would not return to his once favorite social media platform even if Musk invited back. Instead, Trump claimed he would remain on his own platform, Truth Social, where he said he finally plans to post regularly.  Few believed Trump since he had 88 million followers on Twitter — an audience nearly impossible to replicate on his own platform.

But Trump does have financial handcuffs. The Trump Media and Technology Group, which signed an agreement to go public via a SPAC agreement with Digital World Acquisition Corporation, is currently trading at a value of $1.5 billion. If the deal is finalized, Trump will own 58% of the company — currently worth about $870 million on paper. If Trump were to reclaim his Twitter account, he would be boosting his company’s main competition.

Interestingly, the blank-check company planning to take Trump’s social network public filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission a copy of a Fox News report about Trump promising to stay on Truth Social. That’s because if Trump did return to Twitter, it would be a death blow to Truth Social and torpedo its stock price. And it would likely set off dozens of investor lawsuits.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that Donald Trump’s Twitter account should be reinstated, the HuffPost reports. Said Collins: “Although I obviously don’t agree with a lot of President Trump’s tweets, I do think he should have his account back. To me, it’s ironic that we allow Russian government sites to be on Twitter but we don’t allow President Trump.” Of course she believes that. And Twitter should ban all Russians everywhere from the platform.

Molly Ball: “This posture—the head-in-the-clouds futurist who is too fixated on his cosmic ambitions to engage with the grimy minutiae of governance—is a common affectation for Musk. But his stunning move to buy Twitter and take it private has made his views on politics, society and human discourse a matter of urgent concern.”

“The world’s richest man stands soon to control the world’s most influential media platform, a venture he claims to have undertaken not for profit but for the good of society. His non-answer to the question about the state of American democracy shows why his politics are so hard to pin down and his goals so widely misunderstood. It also helps explain why he wanted to buy Twitter.”

Matt Levine: “I guess it is worth saying that Elon Musk does not own Twitter Inc. He did not buy Twitter Inc. yesterday for $54.20 per share in cash. He did sign an agreement yesterday to buy Twitter for $54.20 in cash. That is a big step! It means that he probably will end up owning Twitter within a few months or so. (The deal ‘is expected to close in 2022’; it might take up to six months.) But he does not own it yet.”

The purchase of a social network would not normally be a political story. But Twitter is so intertwined in our politics — and in political news — that it might be one of the most important stories we’re following right now. The strangest thing to me is how Elon Musk has become such a villain to so many American liberals. His fame and fortune is built upon electric cars and space exploration — not exactly industries that trigger liberals.

But it’s equally odd how Republicans and conservative media figures have cheered Musk’s acquisition of Twitter as a victory for their side.

Here’s why:

  • Elon Musk’s political views are not easy to pinpoint. Since 2002, he has given about equally to both Democratic and Republican candidates — donating $227,050 to Democratic candidates and $229,700 to Republicans.
  • Of the presidential candidates he’s given campaign contributions, both were Democrats: Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2012, Mitt Romney actually criticized Tesla as a “loser” company propped up by Obama’s environmental policies. 
  • FEC filings show donations in Musk’s name totaling about $1,000 to the Republican National Committee, but the occupation listed is “special agent” and “Director CIA” and thus probably not from Musk.
  • The demographics of Twitter users actually looks much more like the Democratic party than the Republican party as they are younger, better-educated and more liberal.
  • Democrats who use Twitter are actually much more liberal than Democrats who don’t.

It’s far from clear what Musk actually plans to do with Twitter, other than promising “unlimited speech for all.” So it’s way too early to know what this might mean to American politics.

An audio recording shows that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) “feared in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack that several far-right members of Congress would incite violence against other lawmakers, identifying several by name as security risks in private conversations with party leaders,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. McCarthy talked to other congressional Republicans about wanting to rein in multiple hard-liners who were deeply involved in Donald Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 election and undermine the peaceful transfer of power.”

“McCarthy referred chiefly to two representatives, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Mo Brooks of Alabama, as endangering the security of other lawmakers and the Capitol complex.”

Playbook: ““How will this play within the GOP Conference? Not well — at least with some from the party’s right flank. As we mentioned last week when we first started following McCarthy’s ordeal, multiple House GOP sources told us that the remarks McCarthy made about his own members would likely be the most problematic in his race for speaker. And today, we’re bound to hear more from Trump allies who are unhappy about what they’ve heard.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted last night that McCarthy’s words were “the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”

“Kevin McCarthy is a puppet of the Democratic Party.” — Tucker Carlson, on his Fox News show. We don’t claim him.

“At a closed-door Republican conference meeting Wednesday, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy gave a full-throated defense of his recently leaked comments where he expressed concern about far-right House Republicans inciting violence in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection,” CNN reports.

“The California Republican said Wednesday that the effort was all part of an attempt to divide the GOP conference ahead of the midterms… McCarthy got a standing ovation.”

“McCarthy defended the remarks as saying they needed to discuss every scenario — and the tapes only included a portion of his comments and don’t have the full context.”

J. Michael Luttig, writing for CNN: “The Republicans’ mystifying claim to this day that Trump did, or would have, received more votes than Joe Biden in 2020 were it not for actual voting fraud, is but the shiny object that Republicans have tauntingly and disingenuously dangled before the American public for almost a year and a half now to distract attention from their far more ambitious objective.”

“That objective is not somehow to rescind the 2020 election, as they would have us believe. That’s constitutionally impossible. Trump’s and the Republicans’ far more ambitious objective is to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed in executing in 2020 and to overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again in the next quadrennial contest.”

“The last presidential election was a dry run for the next.”

Jonathan Chait: “No lawmaker in recent memory has inspired such fervent, bipartisan speculation as Madison Cawthorn. The young, right-wing first-term member of Congress has generated so many horrible news stories, ranging from the personal to the ideological, that observers have grown obsessed with locating the unifying thread that explains it all. Is he a secret Nazi? Some kind of sex weirdo? A compulsive liar?”

“These are all plausible theories. But I am increasingly drawn to a novel explanation of Cawthorn’s frenetic generation of terrible news stories: He has made a list of every major political scandal and is attempting to commit all of them.”

Politico: “Warren has often kept her head down during Joe Biden’s presidency, popping up strategically at times to try and move the needle on issues like student loan cancellation and labor issues. But the onetime presidential candidate is going all-out to try to push her party to emerge from a morass of bad polling and stalled priorities to change its trajectory before Election Day.”

Said Warren: “We’ve got nearly 200 days. If we don’t deliver, if we don’t get up off our rear ends and make it happen, we’re in real trouble.”

Deutsche Bank is now forecasting “a major recession,” CNN reports. “The problem, according to the bank, is that while inflation may be peaking, it will take a ‘long time’ before it gets back down to the Fed’s goal of 2%. That suggests the central bank will raise interest rates so aggressively that it hurts the economy.”

“We’re not a cult, we’re a coalition. If you’re a cult it’s very easy, you just take orders from the cult leader… Bend the knee to the cult leader and fall in line.” — Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), when asked about the need for consensus in the Democratic Party.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the United States is finally “out of the pandemic phase,” the Washington Post reports.

“While infections are still spreading — with an average of over 50,000 new cases per day as of Tuesday — the country is far from the peaks of the pandemic, when daily counts surpassed 1 million. Restrictions, too, are easing as many Americans appear to be putting the pandemic behind them.”

Said Fauci: “We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase.”

He added that the coronavirus will not be eradicated, but can be handled if its level of spread is kept “very low” and people are “intermittently” vaccinated.

Fauci will no longer be attending the White House Correspondents Association Dinner this Saturday, CNN reports. “Fauci had been invited to attend as a guest of ABC News and had planned on going… But he recently decided to abandon those plans and inform ABC that he would no longer attend because of an individual assessment of his own personal risk.”

Playbook: “The question on our minds now: Will President Biden go forward with his own plans to attend the dinner — disagreeing with his chief medical adviser in the process?” It might have something to do with this:

“Oklahoma GOP Chair John Bennett (R), who is running for Congress, said he wants to put Dr. Anthony Fauci in front of a firing squad ― and the crowd at a campaign event clapped and cheered,” the HuffPost reports.

Then he added: “And for the Secret Service, if they’re listening, I’m not advocating we kill Anthony Fauci… until he’s convicted of his crimes through a court.”

New York Times: “Anger and anxiety over the Shanghai lockdown, now in its fourth week, has posed a rare challenge for China’s powerful propaganda apparatus, which is central to the Communist Party’s ability to stifle dissent.”

“As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country, officials have defended their use of widespread, heavy-handed lockdowns. They have pushed a triumphalist narrative of their Covid response, which says that only the Chinese government had the will to confront, and hold back, the virus.”

“But among a populace with growing evidence of the costs of that approach, an alternate story — of rage, frustration and despair — is finding an audience. The anger, if not contained, could pose the biggest political test for China’s leadership since the outbreak began. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has staked his legitimacy on successful control of the pandemic, a message that has only been amplified ahead of this fall, when he is expected to claim an unprecedented third term.”

South China Morning Post: Shanghai’s Covid-19 cases drop for fourth day while Beijing logs record infections after mass tests.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t happy with the Biden administration’s handling of Title 42, the pandemic era policy that limited immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border,” Punchbowl News reports.

“House Democratic leaders worry that if reinstating Title 42 came up for a vote as part of a Ukraine aid package, Democrats wouldn’t have the votes to defeat it. Several top House Democrats vented about the administration’s handling of Title 42 during last night’s closed-door leadership meeting.“

“This, of course, would be a huge embarrassment for the Biden administration. The CDC has decision-making authority on invoking Title 42, but the White House pays the political price for this situation.”

“As Florida legislators were rushing through passage of a bill to repeal the special district that governs Walt Disney World last week, they failed to notice an obscure provision in state law that says the state could not do what legislators were doing — unless the district’s bond debt was paid off,” the Miami Herald reports.

“Disney, however, noticed and quietly sent a note to its investors to show that it was confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district operating the 39-square mile parcel it owned in two counties violated the ‘pledge’ the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal.”

“The result, Disney told its investors, is that it would continue to go about business as usual.”

“A Florida activist known for his tongue-in-cheek petitions to local government agencies has asked school districts in Florida to ban the Bible,” NPR reports.

“His petitions cited a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which lets parents object to educational materials. That bill came about after some parents complained about sexually explicit books being taught in Florida schools.”

“Twitter will be required to pay a termination fee of $1 billion under certain circumstances if it ends an agreement to be acquired by Elon Musk for $44 billion,” Bloomberg reports.

“Musk will also be subjected to the same fee if he ends the deal.”

“House Democrats on Wednesday will hold a hearing on Supreme Court ethics and the possibility of impeaching justices, a move that follows the revelation of controversial text messages from Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas,” The Hill reports.

William Saletan: “Either Trump is lying, or he’s trying to overthrow the government based on an impenetrable delusion. Take your pick.”

“Now we’re compiling similar evidence against Mark Meadows, who was Trump’s chief of staff during the election. He, too, knew Trump’s accusations were false. And instead of telling the truth, Meadows helped spread the lies.”

“Lawyers for the New York State Attorney General’s Office said they are nearly finished with their civil investigation into the Trump Organization, after taking steps to unravel the real estate company’s assets that they described as being as complex as a ‘Russian nesting doll,’” CNN reports.

“They still want to search two cell phones belonging to former President Donald Trump and the laptop and desktop of his longtime executive assistant Rhona Graff, but investigators told a judge this week they’re moving quickly.”

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said he should have rejected then-President Donald Trump’s proposed terms to build two new Air Force One aircraft after disclosing the company has lost $660 million transforming two 747 airliners into flying White Houses, Defense One reports.

Said Calhoun: “I’m just going to call a very unique moment, a very unique negotiation, a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn’t have taken. But we are where we are, and we’re going to deliver great airplanes.”

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) “is extending the taxpayer-funded contract of the former state Supreme Court justice leading a review of the 2020 election — a decision announced a day after former President Donald Trump sought to intimidate Vos by threatening a successful primary challenge if the review did not continue,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“A number of young and prominent Trump-appointed judges are writing their opinions with provocative language, diving into the culture wars in ways offering an audition for a future Supreme Court opening,” Axios reports.

“Most judges who are would-be justices try to avoid controversy, preserving themselves for a confirmation hearing. But with the specter of former President Trump mounting another run for office, their opinions may not only create opportunity but curry favor with the person who could fulfill their ambitions.”

Donald Trump nudged Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to speak up on his behalf about how great his golf game is, according to a new bookInsider reports.

“The Brooklyn Public Library is counteracting a ban on certain books by letting anyone in the US aged 13 to 21 apply for a digital library card. This gives teens and young adults, regardless of their location in the United States, access to the library’s entire ebook collection,” The Verge reports.

Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock (R), an ally of former President Donald Trump and the husband of Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, was removed from the House Republican caucus, the Detroit Free Press reports.  A spokesman did not provide an explanation, writing that “the caucus doesn’t discuss internal issues.” 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “offered a conspicuous non-endorsement on Tuesday when asked whether he has confidence in Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) ability to continue serving,” Politico reports.  Said Schumer: “I’ve had a good number of discussions with Sen. Feinstein, but I’m keeping them to myself.”

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

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