Delaware

Cup of Joe – 6/14/22

Here’s how Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) opened the second public hearing of the January 6 Committee: “This morning we will tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election. And knew he lost an election. And as the result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy.”

Video of depositions from key Trump advisers — Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Jason Miller, Bill Stepien, Bill Barr, among others — made that very clear. As Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) stated: “The election fraud claims were false. Mr. Trump’s closest advisors knew it. Mr. Trump knew it.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) noted that Trump “rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night, and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani.”

Key Trump advisers, such as Barr and Stepien, acknowledged that everyone in the campaign understood the early election night returns would be positive for Trump but the situation would change as mail ballots were tallied in later days.

But as early as Election Night, Chris Stirewalt, who was heading the Fox News decision desk that night, testified that the chances of Trump winning in the coming days were essentially “none.” Even Stepien noted that in the days following there was a “5%, maybe 10%” chance Trump could win. It was “very, very, very bleak.”

Stepien testified two camps of advisers had emerged: one led by Giuliani that made false claims of fraud, and another which he characterized as “Team Normal.”

In riveting and damning testimony, Barr said it was “demoralizing” that Trump wasn’t listening: “If he really believes this stuff, he’s become detached from reality, if he really believes this stuff. There was never any interest in what the actual facts were.”

Barr added: “Before the election it was possible to talk sense to the president. And while you sometimes had to engage in a big wrestling match with him, it was possible to keep things on track. I felt that after the election… he wasn’t listening to advice from me.”

What’s made these hearings so powerful is that the story is told almost entirely by Trump allies through their videotaped depositions. If Trump is watching these hearings — and I’m sure he is — his head must be exploding.

Furthermore, it’s obvious to anyone watching that these hearings are not in the slightest bit “partisan.” They are a sober compilation of the factual record of Trump’s election defeat, in contrast with his lies and fantasies — fueled by a drunken Rudy Giuliani.

The second half of the public January 6 Committee hearing was just as damning as the first half. While the panel of live witnesses was useful, the committee’s use of videotaped testimony was the clear highlight. It allowed the committee to construct a narrative using the words from Donald Trump’s closest advisers.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr’s video testimony was particularly devastating. He called Donald Trump’s election lies “bullshit,” “completely bullshit,” “idiotic,” “stupid,” “complete nonsense,” “absolute rubbish,” “crazy stuff,” and “doing great great disservice to the country.”

But what strikes me after hearing from Barr and the other Trump “loyalists” is that nearly all of them stayed silent while Trump pushed his Big Lie about the election. Any one of them could have spoken up earlier. Not one of them did.

“When Donald Trump stepped to a podium Nov. 4, 2020, and declared himself the winner of the presidential election, millions of his supporters apparently believed him — but Trump’s own advisers and campaign operatives knew better,” Politico reports.

“The Jan. 6 select committee, in its second of six scheduled public hearings, plans to highlight Monday the corrosive effect of Trump’s lie — and his weeks pumping it up with the help of political allies, friendly media megaphones and members of Congress. Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in the weeks between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, a haul heavily influenced by those efforts to sow doubt about the results of the election.”

“Are you out of your effin’ mind? I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: Orderly transition.” — Former White House lawyer Eric Herschman, in videotaped testimony, describing what he told lawyer John Eastman on the day after January 6, 2021.

“The mayor was definitely intoxicated.”— Former Trump adviser Jason Miller, quoted by MSNBC, describing Rudy Giuliani on Election Night 2020.

“Members of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot said Sunday they have uncovered enough evidence for the Justice Department to consider an unprecedented criminal indictment against former President Donald Trump for seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election,” the AP reports.

“Lawmakers indicated that perhaps their most important audience member over the course of the hearings may be Attorney General Merrick Garland, who must decide whether his department can and should prosecute Trump. They left no doubt as to their own view whether the evidence is sufficient to proceed.”

“I am watching and I will be watching all of the hearings… and I can assure you that the January 6th prosecutors are watching all the hearings as well.” — Attorney General Merrick Garland, talking to reporters about the January 6 Committee hearings.

Robert Reich: “As I said, Cheney is a firm conservative and I have opposed many of her positions. But we are at an inflection point in this nation over a set of principles that transcend any particular positions or policies. If we cannot agree on the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law, we are no longer capable of self government.”

“The real battle in 2024 will not be between Democrats and Republicans. It will be between forces supporting democracy in America and those supporting authoritarianism. Trump is the de facto leader of the forces supporting authoritarianism. Liz Cheney has become the de facto leader of the forces supporting democracy.”

Josh Marshall: “There was quite a bit of subtle storytelling and repositioning going on through this morning’s testimony. Perhaps especially from Bill Barr. But there was one moment from Barr that struck me as revealing. During his testimony, Barr was describing the run-up to one visit to the White House when it was clear that Trump wasn’t going to acknowledge he had lost. Barr said that it was getting a bit “awkward.” That’s probably an understatement.

I don’t expect any big reevaluation from Trump diehards in the face of these hearings. But there’s one part of the proceedings that has more teeth than some may realize. You have this continuing theme of the old guy just not being able to face the facts and everyone else around him trying to humor him, not wanting to hurt his feelings, not wanting to get up his ire. But hovering over all these accounts is some version of Barr’s, ‘well, this is getting awkward.’ It makes Trump sound ridiculous.

We’ve talked about what “belief” does and doesn’t mean with a guy like Trump. So it’s not like Trump was going to need to accept some new reality, as though he actually thought he’d won. But the awkwardness is having to tell Trump “no” again. And then getting invited back for a meeting after you’ve already said “no” twice and then having to say “no” again. That really does sound awkward. Ridiculous, powerless, pathetic. Sad!

To many of us on Team Civic Democracy all of these after-the-fact claims ring a bit hollow. Maybe Stepien and Barr and all the rest knew this was BS. But we didn’t hear them going on TV and saying so or really doing anything to counteract the dangerous course of events. As Stepien put it, he just kind of receded to the background because any advice rooted in reality wasn’t welcome. Their actions were at best passive and self-protective.

That’s certainly my take. But there’s another way to look at it that is in some ways more damning. All the acolytes and retainers receding off into the background because no one wants to tell the old man its over. It’s a fairly pathetic look.”

The 20 Democratic and GOP senators who’ve been working on bipartisan legislation on gun control unveiled a framework for a deal on Sunday, though the language of the bill hasn’t been finalized yet.

What it includes:

  • Extra funding to states to help them pass red flag laws that would let law enforcement temporarily take away firearms from people deemed to be a threat to themselves and others
  • Enhanced background checks for buyers under 21
  • Extra funding for mental health services and school security
  • Crackdowns on gun trafficking, straw purchasing and convicted domestic abusers’ ability to buy firearms
  • What it doesn’t include:
  • Universal background checks
  • Increasing the minimum age required to buy AR-15-style rifles to 21 years old
  • Bans on semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines

The 10 Republicans who say they’re on board with the deal: Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mitt Romney (R-UT).

Politico: “Probably the best sign for the bipartisan accord on gun reforms is how congressional leaders responded to it over the weekend. This is the sort of moment where something can be easily quashed if desired. That didn’t happen.”

“In an indication of the political risks Republicans see in embracing even modest gun safety measures, none of the 10 who endorsed Sunday’s deal was facing voters this year,” the New York Times reports.

“The group included four Republican senators who are leaving Congress at the end of the year … and five who are not up for re-election for another four years.”

The only one up in 2024? Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).

Punchbowl News: “Think about this as well – Cornyn needed to show enough momentum to overcome a GOP filibuster, which is why having 10 solid Republican votes is such a big deal. Yet it also cuts the other way too. Cornyn has 10 solid votes. If you’re an undecided Republican, you can vote no and the bill will still pass.”

“Federal Reserve officials are beginning to signal that higher unemployment rates might be a necessary consequence of their efforts to damp inflation by raising interest rates,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“This marks a reversal from last year, when their policies provided strong economic stimulus aimed at spurring the labor market’s recovery from the pandemic’s damaging effects.”

“A string of troubling inflation reports in recent days is likely to lead Federal Reserve officials to consider surprising markets with a larger-than-expected 0.75-percentage-point interest rate increase at their meeting this week,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Federal Reserve officials have spent the past two months getting investors acclimatized to their plans to slow economic growth and combat inflation by raising interest rates in half-percentage-point increments until price pressures cool,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“This coming week’s policy meeting will show whether officials are still comfortable with that approach in light of reports Friday that inflation sizzled in May, hitting a new 40-year high, and that consumers’ longer-term inflation expectations rose to a new 14-year high. The survey measure is important to central bankers because they believe such expectations can be self-fulfilling.”

Bloomberg: “An increasing number of economists … say it may take an economic contraction and higher unemployment to bring inflation down to more tolerable levels, much less back to the Fed’s 2% price target.”

Washington Post: Inside Biden’s frustration with soaring prices.

“The U.K.’s annual rate of inflation jumped to a forty-year-high in April, the highest level recorded by an industrialized nation since the start of the global price surge last year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Day after day, Russia is pounding the Donbas region of Ukraine with relentless artillery and air raids, making slow but steady progress to seize the industrial heartland of its neighbor,” the AP reports.

“With the conflict now in its fourth month, it’s a high-stakes campaign that could dictate the course of the entire war.”

“If Russia prevails in the battle of Donbas, it will mean that Ukraine loses not only land but perhaps the bulk of its most capable military forces, opening the way for Moscow to grab more territory and dictate its terms to Kyiv. A Russian failure could lay the grounds for a Ukrainian counteroffensive — and possibly lead to political upheaval for the Kremlin.”

Wall Street Journal: “The war in Ukraine has turned into a grinding artillery contest where Russia is steadily gaining ground thanks to its overwhelming advantage in firepower.”

NBC News: “A half dozen current and former government officials briefed on the issue, and several outside experts, told NBC News there was no playbook and little agreement about how the U.S. would respond to a norm-shattering act of destruction that could obliterate a Ukrainian city, kill tens of thousands and send a cloud of nuclear fallout drifting over NATO countries in Western Europe.”

“This isn’t new to the Biden administration. In fact, when the Obama administration conducted a war game simulating Russian use of nuclear weapons in the Baltics, there were fundamental disagreements about how to react.”

“The Supreme Court issued five rulings today, but none were on the hot-button issues of guns or abortion rights,” Punchbowl News reports.

“Today’s decisions were lower-profile cases on double jeopardy, foreign arbitration proceedings, immigration detention and more.”

“The House is planning to vote tomorrow on a bill providing security to the families of Supreme Court justices… The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in May, will be amended to add protections for the families of Supreme Court employees,” Punchbowl News reports.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats had insisted on adding protections for employees’ families, an effort that Republicans resisted, leading to a weeks-long impasse.”

“Federal securities regulators have expanded their investigation into the planned merger between a blank check acquisition company and former President Trump’s social media business, known as Truth Social,” Axios reports.

“The SEC is investigating communications between the blank check company, called Digital World Acquisition Corp., and Trump. Of particular interest would be if the two sides negotiated prior to DWAC going public, which would have been illegal.”

“As Congress wrestles over gun control, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed into law a bill Monday that would arm more schoolteachers by reducing training requirements for staffers to carry guns on campus,” the Washington Post reports.

“Ohio already permits schoolteachers to be armed, but they need the permission of their school board and 700 hours of training as a peace officer. In the news conference Monday, DeWine said school staff who want to carry weapons will be required to have at least 24 hours of training.”

Bloomberg: “Amid all the gloom of 2022, the most unequal of the world’s leading economies has gotten less so. The poorest half of Americans—the much-discussed but largely powerless US working class—are in the strongest financial position in a generation.”

“The bottom 50%, generally households with net worth of $166,000 or less before the pandemic, now hold a bigger share of the nation’s wealth than they’ve had for 20 years, the Federal Reserve estimates. Their collective net worth, $3.73 trillion, has almost doubled in two years and is more than 10 times higher than in 2011, the nadir after the last recession.”

“Chinese military officials in recent months have repeatedly asserted that the Taiwan Strait isn’t international waters during meetings with US counterparts, generating concern within the Biden administration,” Bloomberg reports.

“The statement disputing the US view of international law has been delivered to the American government by Chinese officials on multiple occasions and at multiple levels… The US and key allies say much of the strait constitutes international waters, and they routinely send naval vessels through the waterway as part of freedom of navigation exercises.”

New York Times: “Nancy Mace and Tom Rice are the former president’s two targets for revenge on Tuesday. After a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, they were among those who blamed the president for the attack. Ms. Mace, just days into her first term, said that Mr. Trump’s false rhetoric about the presidential election being “stolen” had stoked the riot and threatened her life. Mr. Rice, whose district borders Ms. Mace’s to the north, immediately condemned Mr. Trump and joined nine other Republicans (but not Ms. Mace) in later voting for his impeachment.”

“Now, in the face of primary challenges backed by the former president, the two have taken starkly different approaches to political survival. Ms. Mace has taken the teeth out of her criticisms of Mr. Trump, seeking instead to discuss her conservative voting record and libertarian streak in policy discussions. Mr. Rice, instead, has dug in, defending his impeachment vote and further excoriating Mr. Trump in the process.”

“President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has for months consistently trailed in the polls ahead of the country’s crucial presidential race. And for months, he has consistently questioned its voting systems, warning that if he loses October’s election, it will most likely be thanks to a stolen vote,” the New York Times reports.

“Those claims were largely regarded as talk. But now, Mr. Bolsonaro has enlisted a new ally in his fight against the electoral process: the nation’s military.”

“The leaders of Brazil’s armed forces have suddenly begun raising similar doubts about the integrity of the elections, despite little evidence of past fraud, ratcheting up already high tensions over the stability of Latin America’s largest democracy and rattling a nation that suffered under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.”

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

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