Cup of Joe – 7/27/22

The Washington Post with the long awaited bombshell last night: “The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states, the people said. Some of the questions focused directly on the extent of Trump’s involvement in the fake-elector effort led by his outside lawyers,including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, these people said.

In addition, Justice Department investigators in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter. That effort isanother indicator of how expansive the Jan. 6 probe had become, well before the high-profile, televised House hearings in June and July on the subject.”

“Attorney General Merrick Garland left open the possibility that former President Donald Trump could be prosecuted in connection with inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection,” NBC News reports.

Said Garland: “Look, we pursue justice without fear or favor… We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding Jan. 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable. That’s what we do.”

He added: “I’ll say again that we will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer — legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.”

“Previously undisclosed emails provide an inside look at the increasingly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to President Donald Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack, including acknowledgments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as ‘fake.’” the New York Times reports.

“The dozens of emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers and close associates of Mr. Trump show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim — with no basis — to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battleground states that he had lost.”

Marc Short, who served as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, confirmed in an interview with ABC News last night that he testified under subpoena in front of a federal grand jury in the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. ABC NewsNBC News and Politico had reported earlier on Monday that Short testified last week.

Greg Jacob, Pence’s former legal counsel, also testified to a federal grand jury last week, according to ABC News, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

What the prosecutors focused on, according to the Wall Street Journal:

  • A meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 4 last year when then-Trump legal adviser John Eastman tried to pressure Pence into disrupting the electoral vote count
  • Ex-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who tried to rope Pence into the fake Trump elector scheme

“Marc Short would be the highest-ranking Trump White House official known to have appeared before the grand jury.” This shows the Justice Department investigation reaching into the Trump White House in a way not previously known.

“If the mob had gotten closer to the vice president, I do think there would have been a massacre in the Capitol that day.” — Ex-Pence chief of staff Marc Short, quoted by ABC News, on the January 6 Capitol riot.

A Fulton County judge on Monday ruled to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her office from questioning Georgia state Sen. Burt Jones (R), one of Trump’s sham electors and who is also the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, in her investigation into Trump’s election interference.

What this means: A whole new team of prosecutors chosen by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia will decide whether to subpoena or bring charges against Jones. The judge agreed with Jones’ argument that Willis was politically biased because she had hosted a fundraiser for Jones’ Democratic rival last month.

11 other fake Trump electors similarly tried to get Willis disqualified in their cases, but the judge rejected their bids. Like Jones, those electors (and all the others, 16 in total) are now being criminally investigated for their roles in the sham elector scheme.

House Jan. 6 Committee member Elaine Luria (D-VA) on Monday posted a video with more material on Trump’s unwillingness to condemn the Capitol attackers. The video included a draft of Trump’s Jan. 7 address showing parts that the then-president had crossed out, and if you had any doubts that Trump’s self-identification as America’s “President of law and order” was, uh, bullshit, seeing him striking out the following lines about holding his violent supporters accountable to the law might convince you:

“I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must send a clear message-not with mercy but with JUSTICE. Legal consequences must be swift and firm.” – A full paragraph Trump refused to say

Trump also changed “And if you broke the law, you belong in jail” to a vaguer “And if you broke the law, you will pay.” And he got rid of the line telling the violent insurrectionists that “you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement.”

A judge in Atlanta said on Monday that she will reject Rep. Jody Hice’s (R-GA) motion to quash the subpoena from the special grand jury in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Trump election meddling investigation.

“Grand jury subpoenas issued last month to two Arizona state lawmakers show the breadth of the criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington into efforts by supporters of Donald Trump to use ‘false electors’ to try to undo Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory,” the Washington Post reports.

Fresh from a double contempt of Congress conviction linked to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Steve Bannon is now calling on “4,000 shock troops” to “deconstruct” the federal government “brick by brick,” the HuffPost reports.

“Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) testified against Former President Donald Trump,” WJCL reports. “Kemp’s testimony comes as a Fulton County Grand Jury continues to investigate whether Trump or others illegally tried to interfere in the 2020 election.”

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff and security officials aren’t ruling out plans for her to visit Taiwan in early August on a trip that has already stoked more US-China tensions,” Bloomberg reports.

“No final decision has been made about stopping in Taiwan during a trip to Asia next month, according to a person familiar with the details, but if it happens it would come within days of an expected call between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Beijing has been warning Pelosi not to be the first sitting speaker since Newt Gingrich to visit the self-governing island, which it considers part of its territory.”

“The Biden administration has grown increasingly anxious this summer about China’s statements and actions regarding Taiwan, with some officials fearing that Chinese leaders might try to move against the self-governing island over the next year and a half — perhaps by trying to cut off access to all or part of the Taiwan Strait, through which U.S. naval ships regularly pass,” the Washington Post reports.

“The internal worries have sharpened in recent days, as the administration quietly works to try to dissuade House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from going through with a proposed visit to Taiwan next month.”

“National security officials are quietly working to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the risks her potential trip to Taiwan could pose during a highly sensitive moment between the self-governing island and China,” CNN reports.

“Sources familiar with the speaker’s plans say she is planning to visit in the coming weeks as part of a broader trip to Asia and has invited both Democrats and Republicans to accompany her. If she goes, she would be the first House speaker to visit in a quarter century.”

Associated Press: Growing number in GOP back Pelosi on possible Taiwan trip.

“Speaker Pelosi should go to Taiwan and President Biden should make it abundantly clear to Chairman Xi that there’s not a damn thing the Chinese Communist Party can do about it.”— Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), quoted by Politico.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) doubled-down on his weekend comments on abortion rights protesters in an interview with Olivia Iverson:

IVERSON: You’re suggesting that these women at these abortion rallies are ugly and overweight?


IVERSON: What do you say to people who think those comments are offensive?

GAETZ: Be offended.

“I’m actually surprised that Florida law enforcement still allows him to speak to teenage conferences like that.” — Marc Short, when asked by CNN about Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) comments at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit.

“President Joe Biden castigated his predecessor Monday for failing to respond to the January 6, 2021, insurrection, contrasting Donald Trump’s lack of action with the heroics of police officers responding to the Capitol riot,” CNN reports.

Said Biden: “And for three hours, the defeated former President of the United States watched it all happen as he sat in the comfort of the private dining room next to the Oval Office. While he was doing that, brave law enforcement officers were subject to the medieval hell for three hours, dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage.”

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), one of the 157 House Republicans who voted against a bill to enshrine the right to same-sex marriage into federal law (aka the Respect for Marriage Act) last week, went to his gay son’s wedding on Friday.

Thompson and his wife were “thrilled to attend and celebrate” their son’s marriage and are “very happy to welcome their new son-in-law into their family,” the GOP lawmaker’s spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

Thompson voted against the marriage equality bill because, according to his spokesperson a day after the vote, the legislation was “nothing more than an election-year messaging stunt for Democrats in Congress who have failed to address historic inflation and out of control prices at gas pumps and grocery stores.”

President Biden’s symptoms from Covid-19 “have now almost completely resolved” as he nears the end of his Paxlovid treatment, the New York Times reports.

After four days of being treated for COVID-19, the President told reporters during a virtual press conference on Monday that he’s “feeling great.” And earlier in the day, White House physician Kevin O’Connor reported that Biden’s symptoms “have now almost completely resolved.”

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both announced on Monday that they had tested positive for COVID-19.

(In his tweet, Manchin said that he was experiencing only mild symptoms and would “continue to work remotely to serve West Virginians,” and if you check the responses, you’ll see that Twitter critics had, well, a lot to say about the last three words there.)

What’s at stake?

Washington Post: “The first major prescription drug legislation in nearly 20 years. More than $50 billion to subsidize computer chip manufacturing and research. A bill that would enshrine protection for same-sex marriage.”

“After a turbulent stretch in which much of President Biden’s legislative agenda seemed to be foundering, the president and his party may be on the cusp of significant wins in Congress that the White House hopes will provide at least a modest political boost.”

Politico: Time is not on Democrats’ side.

“Russia will pull out of the International Space Station after 2024 and focus on building its own orbiting outpost, the country’s new space chief said Tuesday amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over the fighting in Ukraine,” the AP reports.

“Russian state-owned energy producer Gazprom said natural-gas exports through the vital Nord Stream pipeline to Germany would drop to about a fifth of the pipe’s capacity, blaming problems with a turbine and raising new questions about Europe’s ability to sock away enough gas for the winter,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Washington Post: “German officials are especially worried about gas supplies for winter and have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using gas as leverage against Western countries backing Ukraine.”

“New, untested abortion bans have made doctors unsure about treating some pregnancy complications, which has led to life-threatening delays and trapped families in a limbo of grief and helplessness,” NPR reports.

“Indiana lawmakers are reconvening on Monday to consider more restrictions on abortion, the first state to hold a special session with the goal of potentially curtailing abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month,” CNN reports.

Economist Nouriel Roubini said the US is facing a deep recession as interest rates rise and the economy is burdened by high debt loads, calling those expecting a shallow downturn “delusional,” Bloomberg reports.

Said Roubini: “There are many reasons why we are going to have a severe recession and a severe debt and financial crisis. The idea that this is going to be short and shallow is totally delusional.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walking on stage at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit over the weekend is truly something.  The audience erupted after he proclaimed: “I’m Ted Cruz and my pronoun is kiss my ass.”

“Contrary to popular belief, I have never been an escort for Senator Ted Cruz.” — Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), at a conservative conference over the weekend, raising more questions than she answered.

A new CNN documentary traced the money trail between a small group of Texas billionaires and the state’s far-right political shift — and discovered how two billionaires gave about two-thirds of the Super PAC funding that backed Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) 2016 presidential campaign.

“China tried to build a network of informants inside the Federal Reserve system, at one point threatening to imprison a Fed economist during a trip to Shanghai unless he agreed to provide nonpublic economic data,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The investigation by Republican staff members of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that over a decade Fed employees were offered contracts with Chinese talent recruitment programs, which often include cash payments, and asked to provide information on the U.S. economy, interest rate changes and policies.”

“In the case of the economist, the report said, Chinese officials in 2019 detained and tried to coerce him to share data and information on U.S. government policies, including on tariffs while the U.S. and China were in the midst of a trade war.”

CNN: Federal Reserve and Senate Republicans spar over allegations of Chinese influence.

Max Boot: “I wish I could say that such a scenario is implausible, but it is all too realistic. I used to be an optimist about America’s future. Not anymore. There’s a good reason that so many people I know are acquiring foreign passports and talking about moving somewhere else: The prognosis is grim.”

“As political scientist Brian Klaas just wrote in the Atlantic, given that the GOP has become ‘authoritarian to its core,’ there are two main ways to save America: Either reform the Republican Party or ensure that it never wields power again. But a MAGA-fied GOP is likely to gain control of at least one chamber of Congress in the fall and could win complete power in 2024.”

“We seem to be sleepwalking to disaster. If we don’t wake up in time, we could lose our democracy. Just because we’ve avoided a breakdown in the past doesn’t mean we will stave it off in the future.”

Ron Brownstein: “Red states, supported by Republican-appointed judges, are engaging in a multi-front offensive to seize control of national policy even while Democrats hold the White House and nominally control both the House and Senate.”

“The red states are moving social policy sharply to the right within their borders on issues from abortion to LGBTQ rights and classroom censorship, while simultaneously working to hobble the ability of either the federal government or their own largest metro areas to set a different course.”

Associated Press: “Trump will address the America First Policy Institute’s two-day America First Agenda Summit as some advisers urge him to spend more time talking about his vision for the future and less time relitigating the 2020 election as he prepares to announce an expected 2024 White House campaign.”

“As Donald Trump considers when to announce his candidacy for president in 2024, he faces a costly quandary,” Bloomberg reports.  “As head of the Save America political action committee, he controls $103 million, making him the Republican Party kingmaker. Once he declares a run — moving from kingmaker to possible king — federal law puts the money beyond his reach.”

“When he announces, he’s limited to taking just $5,000 of his leadership PAC money for his campaign committee, which would begin with a starting balance of zero.”

Jack Shafer: “Murdoch has no friends. He has no loyalties. He has no principles. And never has. His support of politicians has always been transactional and extractive. Now entering the final days of his political career, Trump is expendable, making the Post’s and Journal’s twin discoveries in the same moment of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution a convenient cover story for the orange man.”

“Murdoch has always been a political cad, swooning and then dumping his political partners when a better-looking one comes along. Murdoch’s next fling looks to be Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Fox News has slathered with positive attention in recent months.”

Former Rep. Stephen Buyer (R-IN) has been charged with insider trading, CNBC reports.

Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo will give his first television interview since being fired from the network.

“A far-right internet personality who goes by the name ‘Baked Alaska’ has agreed to plead guilty to unlawfully protesting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 — after abandoning a plea agreement in May during a hearing in which he proclaimed he was ‘innocent,’” CNN reports.

“Myanmar’s military junta has executed four pro-democracy activists, carrying out its first death sentences in more than three decades and defying international appeals for restraint,” the Washington Post reports.

“The deaths of the activists, including two of the most prominent leaders of the resistance, sent shock waves through the country Monday and was seen as the junta’s latest attempt to instill terror since violently seizing power last year.”

Boris Johnson has told a former treasurer campaigning to keep him in office that he “does not want to resign” as Prime Minister and wishes he could “wipe away” his departure, The Telegraph reports.  Said Lord Cruddas: “There was no ambiguity in Boris’s views. He definitely does not want to resign. He wants to carry on and he believes that, with the membership behind him, he can.”

“The Biden administration is weighing whether to declare the nation’s monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and also plans to name a White House coordinator to oversee the response as officials attempt to keep the virus from becoming entrenched in the United States,” the Washington Post reports.

“While the new cases have been overwhelmingly in the gay and bisexual community, experts warn the virus is likely to spread to other groups.”

Time: The best way to slow the spread of monkeypox.

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

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