Cup of Joe – 6/22/22

The fourth public hearing of the January 6 Committee focused on Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure and intimidate state and local officials. Said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the panel’s chairman: “Pressuring public servants into betraying their oaths was a fundamental part of the playbook.” Then Thompson made clear the threat to democracy hasn’t receded: “We can’t just look backward… because the danger has not gone away.” 

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) turned the focus directly on Trump himself, explaining that the former president “had a direct and personal role in this effort.” Trump did this even after being told repeatedly by key aides that there was no serious fraud in the 2020 election. Cheney added: “The point is this: Donald Trump didn’t care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them, he made no effort to stop them; he went forward with his fake allegations anyway.”

The case presented by the panel against Trump was devastating. The combination of compelling live witnesses and videotaped testimony — including recordings of phone calls by Trump’s lawyers and Trump himself — made exceptionally clear that Trump was directly involved in trying to overturn the election.

One important takeaway: If not for public servants like Arizona Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) — who told Trump he refused to break his oath of office — Trump’s scheme might have worked.  And another: It’s absolutely mind boggling how many hours public servants expended — while being paid by taxpayers — in this illegal attempt to undermine the election. The bottom line of today’s hearing was nicely summarized by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who led the bulk of the questioning: “The system held — but barely.” 

Of the four public hearings of the January 6 Committee, I found this one to be the most compelling. Nearly every moment was jaw dropping.  With reports that Trump has grown irritated by these hearings, he attempted to discredit one witness, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R), just before today’s testimony began. Trump accused Bowers of being a “RINO” and falsely claiming that Bowers had once told him that “the election was rigged and that I won Arizona.”

Fortunately for the truth, Bowers proved to be one of the most compelling witnesses to testify before Congress in many years. The other witnesses were also excellent.

Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling painstakingly debunked some of the conspiracy theories that followed Joe Biden’s election victory in the state — most of them pushed by Trump himself. But despite overwhelming evidence the theories weren’t true, Sterling testified that it was hard to get people to believe him.

Said Sterling: “It was kind of like a shovel trying to empty the ocean. It was frustrating. I even have family members who I had to argue with about some of these things, and I would show them things, and the problem you have is you’re getting to people’s hearts.” He added: “Once you get past the heart, the facts don’t matter as much.”

Georgia election worker Shaye Moss, recounted the abuse that she and her mother, Ruby Freeman, received from Trump supporters. Rudy Giuliani compared Moss to “a low-level drug dealer.” Trump himself falsely accused Freeman of being “a professional vote scammer and hustler.” Moss recounted the death threats and unending harassment they received. Freeman was even told by the FBI to leave her home for two months because they feared for her safety.

Former President Donald Trump called into Newsmax to defend attendees of his now-infamous Jan. 6, 2021 rally that turned into a riot at the Capitol.  Said Trump: “It was the largest group I think that I’ve ever seen or made a speech to. I’ve never seen anything like it and there they were well behaved. So many, so many people. Nobody ever talks about that.”

“With the Justice Department and Jan. 6 committee taking a close look at Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, he and his cronies could certainly use a fall guy, and it looks like they’ve found their patsy: right-wing lawyer John Eastman,” Rolling Stone reports.

“Eastman worked for Trump as the attorney devised legal strategies to overturn the election to keep the outgoing president in power. But, in recent weeks, Trump has confided to those close to him that he sees no reason to publicly defend Eastman.”

“The ex-president is also deeply annoyed with Eastman and all the negative ‘attention’ and media coverage that the lawyer’s work has brought Trump and his inner sanctum, including during the ongoing Jan. 6 hearings on Capitol Hill.”

Entirely predictable, but Trump better hope Eastman doesn’t flip.

“The House select committee investigating Jan. 6 sent a subpoena last week to Alex Holder, a documentary filmmaker who was granted extensive access to President Donald Trump and his inner circle, and who shot interviews with the then-president both before and after Jan. 6,” Politico reports.

“The existence of this footage is previously unreported.”

Donald Trump’s team was “blindsided” by news that the January 6 Committee has subpoenaed footage from a documentary filmmaker who was following Trump and his inner circle throughout the 2020 presidential campaign and until Joe Biden’s inauguration, Rolling Stone reports.

Robert Costa reports that Trump campaign folks “recall a film crew coming to HQ at least once. They also remember it being odd because campaign’s legal team seemed surprised, as if it was an unvetted project. … The campaign’s lawyers were like, ‘Huh, what is this? What’s going on today?’ Saw it as another side project from the family/Trump confidants.”

Maggie Haberman notes “a very small group of people had knowledge of this documentary project, and a lot of Trump advisers were surprised to see it existed this morning. … Senior campaign officials were unaware of the project.”

“Donald Trump is growing increasingly irritated with the House panel investigating the January 6, 2021, riot as it lifts the curtain on some of its findings with public hearings that have garnered gavel-to-gavel cable coverage – much to the annoyance of the TV-obsessed former President,” CNN reports.

“Tucked away at his Bedminster golf club, Trump has spent the past week venting his frustrations ​to nearly anyone who will listen.”

“Trump has also publicly and privately lashed out at former Vice President Mike Pence, whose chief of staff Marc Short and ​former top White House lawyer Greg Jacob have ​both been featured prominently in the select committee hearings, put​ting an unflattering spotlight on ​the pressure campaign ​Trump directed at Pence and others as he desperately attempted to stay in power.”

“A top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) attempted to arrange a handoff of false, pro-Trump electors from the senator to Mike Pence just minutes before the then-vice president began to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021,” Politico reports.

“The aide, Sean Riley, told Pence’s legislative director Chris Hodgson that Johnson wanted to hand Pence lists of the fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin for Pence to introduce during the counting of electoral votes that certified Joe Biden’s win.”

The January 6 Committee met today to explore how Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to try to overturn an election to remain in power. That story by itself is particularly troubling for the future of our democracy. But it’s only the backdrop for several days of particularly dark political news.

Here’s what happened since the beginning of the weekend:

As First Read notes, this grim news is coming exclusively from Republicans. There is no parallel on the Democratic side. What’s worse is that there has been no outcry in response to this news from any prominent Republicans.

“The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Maine may not exclude religious schools from a state tuition program,” the New York Times reports.

“The decision, from a court that has grown exceptionally receptive to claims from religious people and groups in a variety of settings, was the latest in a series of rulings requiring the government to aid religious institutions on the same terms as other private organizations.”

“The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal justices in dissent.”

Washington Post: “The case involves an unusual program in a small state that affects only a few thousand students. But it could have greater implications as the more conservative court relaxes the constitutional line between church and state.”

“The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Virginia man who is seeking to challenge one of his convictions for using a firearm in an attempted robbery,” CNN reports.

“In a 7-2 decision Tuesday, the court decided that a conviction for attempted robbery under the federal Hobbs Act does not fit the definition of a ‘crime of violence,’ and therefore does not trigger an enhanced sentence when a firearm is used.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the “court has 17 cases remaining from this term on which it still has to issue opinions, a process it normally concludes by early July.” That includes a decision on gun safety laws in New York and the repeal of all reproductive rights of half the population of the United States.

The Texas Tribune obtained documents and, crucially, police bodycam transcripts and surveillance footage of law enforcement’s botched response to the Uvalde elementary mass shooting.

Some of the Tribune’s biggest findings include: Security footage showing that the cops didn’t try to open the doors to the classrooms where the shooter opened fire, there was a Halligan (a tool used by firefighters to bust through doors) available on-site that was never used and law enforcement had plenty of firepowers and defense equipment to deal with the shooter.

The senators working on a historic, though modest, gun reform bill are expected to file the text for the legislation today. The talks had hit a snag when Republicans tried to force the issue of abortion in the negotiations, according to Punchbowl.

Punchbowl News: “The bipartisan group of senators working on a gun-control bill – led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) – is expected to file the legislative text today. They were expected to file it Monday, however, so we’ll wait and see what happens.”

“Senate Democratic leaders are hoping to pass the bill this week, before the Senate leaves town for a planned two-week recess. Without any time agreements to speed up the process, a final vote could slide into the weekend. So the sooner this gets filed, the better for supporters of the bill.”

Washington Post: Negotiators expected to release gun bill text today.

“A tentative deal in the Senate that would toughen federal gun laws and provide billions of dollars in new money to prevent future mass shootings moved closer to reality Tuesday after negotiators settled key disagreements that had delayed the drafting of a bill, putting it on a glide path to be passed into law by the end of the month,” the Washington Post reports.

“The breakthrough came more than a week after 20 senators — 10 from each party — signed on to a framework agreement that coupled modest new gun restrictions with as much as $20 billion of new federal funding for mental health programs and school security upgrades.”

“Hours after former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens released a video saying he would hunt members of the Republican party who he considered not conservative enough, the Republican floor leader of the Missouri state Senate said he had contacted law enforcement,” the Kansas City Star reports.

“The campaign video posted Monday showed Greitens with a shotgun while he talked about hunting for RINOs.”

Missouri state Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R) tweeted on Monday that he’d been in contact with the Missouri Highway Patrol in response to Senate candidate Eric Greitens’ campaign ad touting “hunting permits” for “RINOs” (“Republicans in Name Only”).  Rowden jabbed at the allegations of domestic abuse against the candidate, saying that someone with Greitens’ record “should probably steer clear of this rhetoric.”

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) “hit the conservative talk radio circuit Tuesday, arguing that a campaign video showing him storming a house with soldiers in search of ‘Republicans in name only’ was intended to be a humorous metaphor,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Said Greitens: “I don’t think there is a real person in Missouri who thinks about it literally. Not one. What you’re seeing is a tremendous amount of faux outrage from leftists and RINOs.”

“President Joe Biden said Monday he hopes to decide soon whether to support a temporary pause in the federal gasoline tax and is nearing a decision on student loan relief as he looks to ease the burden of high prices on Americans,” CNN reports.  A decision on the gas tax holiday is expected by the end of the week.

“Construction projects across the U.S. are running short on labor just as $1 trillion in federal infrastructure money starts to kick in, leading companies to get creative in their quest to attract and retain workers,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Historically low U.S. unemployment, the economic rebound from Covid-19 and about $600 billion in transportation-specific funding expected from the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law have combined to exacerbate existing employee shortages in the construction industry.”

Foreign Affairs: “The war, the logic goes, will sap public support for the Kremlin as losses mount and sanctions destroy the Russian economy. Cut off from access to Western goods, markets, and culture, both elites and ordinary Russians will grow increasingly fed up with Putin, perhaps taking to the streets to demand a better future. Eventually, Putin and his regime may be shunted aside in either a coup or a wave of mass protests.”

“This thinking is based on a faulty reading of history. The Soviet Union did not collapse for the reasons Westerners like to point to: a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, military pressure from the United States and Europe, nationalistic tensions in its constituent republics, and the siren song of democracy. In reality, it was misguided Soviet economic policies and a series of political missteps by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that caused the country to self-destruct. And Putin has learned a great deal from the Soviet collapse, managing to avoid the financial chaos that doomed the Soviet state despite intense sanctions.”

“Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced visit to Ukraine Tuesday for a meeting with Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to discuss the continuing effort to identify and apprehend suspected war criminals,” USA Today reports.

“The Nobel Peace Prize that Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov was auctioning off to raise money for Ukrainian child refugees sold Monday night for $103.5 million, shattering the old record for a Nobel,” the AP reports.

The Kremlin’s chief spokesman told NBC News that two American fighters who went missing in Ukraine were “soldiers of fortune,” and had been taken into custody.  The spokesman also claimed the two men were not protected by Geneva Conventions as prisoners of war.

“Palaces, yachts and vineyards reportedly provided to Vladimir Putin by friends and oligarchs can now be linked to what appears to be an informal network holding assets worth more than $4.5bn,” The Guardian reports.

“A digital paper trail appears to suggest that an array of holiday homes and other assets reportedly used by the Russian president, which according to available records belong to or have been owned by separate individuals, companies and charities, are linked through a common email domain name,”

“Seven staff members from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert were arrested for allegedly trespassing in a Capitol Hill building on Thursday night, authorities have said. All seven were each charged with unlawful entry,” The Guardian reports.  “The employees, including Robert Smigel, the voice behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, were found by US Capitol police officers inside the Longworth House Office Building, which houses offices for members of the House of Representatives.”

Ah, Triumph. I think this might be my favorite sketch of his (warning, some adult language and situations in the video below, plus crude humor).

The Navy has terminated about a dozen officers over the last several months due to a “loss of confidence” in their ability to command, NBC News reports.

Ron Brownstein: “It may be cold comfort as a stormy midterm election approaches, but House Democrats have achieved a modern milestone in this legislative session that crystallizes a fundamental transformation in how Congress operates.”

“Working with a razor-thin majority, House Democrats have recorded the highest level of party unity in floor votes that either party has reached in at least 50 years.”

“House Democrats have passed legislation on virtually every element of their party’s priority list – from the sweeping Build Back Better investment and social welfare package to bills setting a national floor for voting and abortion rights to major gun control proposals, legalization for big groups of undocumented immigrants and ambitious police reform – with dissenting votes from no more than two of their members and often opposition from only one or none.”

“AARP, the advocacy group for Americans over fifty, is launching new cable and broadcast TV ads in West Virginia urging centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to support a budget reconciliation bill that includes a major prescription drug savings policy,” NBC News reports.

“The Biden administration will ban the use of land mines by the United States across most of the globe, in a decision that reverses Trump-era rules allowing greater employment of the weapons that are blamed for killing thousands of civilians a year — the majority of them children,” the Washington Post reports.

“Israel is intensifying its campaign to thwart Iran’s nuclear, missile and drone programs with a series of covert operations targeting a broader range of key targets,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“French president Emmanuel Macron’s loss of his government majority in the National Assembly in Sunday’s election has triggered immediate challenges from far left and far right MPs who say they will block his attempts to legislate and to reform the state pension system,” the Financial Times reports.

“For over a decade Marine Le Pen’s success in pushing her far-right party into France’s political mainstream has revolved around one key yardstick — the presidential election race which she has entered and lost three times while increasing her score with every campaign,” the Financial Times reports.

“Now her Rassemblement National movement has made a breakthrough in the National Assembly. It has increased its number of seats tenfold to 89 after legislative elections, far eclipsing the far-right movement’s previous best return with 35 seats in 1986 and placing the party and Le Pen at the heart of day-to-day politics in France.”

“While still 200 seats from a majority needed to control the 577-strong assembly, the strong result confounded expectations even within Le Pen’s own party, which has tended to fare poorly in the two-round legislative ballot system, and gives it a bigger voice to influence the agenda on issues such as immigration or security.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed two abortion bills into law Tuesday that ban most abortions in the state and criminalize providers who perform the procedure, ABC News reports.

Three self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens” — individuals who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the U.S. government — were arrested in California after authorities discovered weapons in their possession, including “an improvised military-grade explosive device,” NBC News reports.

“The most talked-about article in the British newspapers last weekend was one that featured juicy allegations of love, ambition and thwarted corruption at the pinnacle of the British government. Then it vanished abruptly from the pages of The Times of London in the early hours of Saturday,” the New York Times reports.

“Two days later, the circumstances of its disappearance remain cloaked in mystery.”

“The article reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when he was the foreign secretary in 2018, proposed appointing his mistress at the time, Carrie Symonds, as his chief of staff, with a salary of $122,000. Ms. Symonds married Mr. Johnson in 2021, but in 2018, he was still married to his previous wife, Marina.”

The Daily Mail posted a version of the report on its website only to delete it a few hours later.

“I hope he has recovered because as you know, he fell off his bicycle. No, I’m serious. I hope he’s okay. Fell off a bicycle. I make this pledge to you today — I will never, ever ride a bicycle.” — Donald Trump, quoted by Business Standard.  We know, Donald, and you look it. 

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

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