Cup of Joe – August 3, 2022

Biden announced on Monday evening that he had ordered an airstrike killing al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, on Saturday in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Key analysis: “What Ayman al-Zawahiri’s killing means for al-Qaeda” – The Washington Post

Here’s a list of other al-Qaeda and ISIS leaders who’ve been killed in U.S. raids or airstrikes.

statement from the Taliban condemned the operation.

New York Times: “The early-morning strike in the heart of downtown Kabul over the weekend capped a 21-year manhunt for an Egyptian radical who more than anyone besides Bin Laden was deemed responsible for the deadliest foreign attack on the United States in modern times and never gave up targeting Americans. … Often seen sitting by Bin Laden’s side with his gray beard and fierce scowl, al-Zawahri, 71, never achieved the same global notoriety as the terrorist mastermind but was widely considered the intellectual force behind Al Qaeda.”

Associated Press: “His family, supported by the Haqqani Taliban network, had taken up residence in the home after the Taliban regained control of the country last year, following the withdrawal of U.S. forces after nearly 20 years of combat that had been intended, in part, to keep al-Qaida from regaining a base of operations in Afghanistan.”

CNN: “Throughout the months-long effort to plan this weekend’s strike, Biden repeatedly tasked his officials with ensuring civilians — including members of Zawahiri’s family — weren’t killed. None were, according to the White House.”

CNN: “The US drone strike that killed Zawahiri on his balcony in downtown Kabul was the product of months of highly secret planning by Biden and a tight circle of his senior advisers. Among the preparations was a small-scale model of Zawahiri’s safe house, constructed by intelligence officials and placed inside the White House Situation Room for Biden to examine as he debated his options.”

“For Biden, the opportunity to take out the world’s most wanted terrorist, one of the masterminds of the September, 11, 2001, attacks, was fraught with the risk of accidentally killing civilians in the Afghan capital — just as a US drone strike did 11 months ago during the chaotic US military withdrawal from the country.”

Jeff Greenfield: “The killing of Ayman al-Zawahri — bin Laden’s successor and the co-architect of the horrific 9/11 attacks — will be just one of many stories on the news, along with the Kentucky floods, the monkeypox virus, the coming slate of primaries… The relative second-tier status of this story — yes, it will be big news for a few days, but nothing like the bin Laden killing — may serve to obscure both a clear achievement and a deeply important question…”

“For all the likelihood that Biden will get a (deserved) bump in his approval ratings, as Biden and Trump did when bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were killed, that specter of a terrorist sanctuary may limit that advantage.”

“If you think this drone strike has stopped the threat to our homeland coming from Afghanistan, you have missed a lot of history. To the Biden Administration: congratulations on this operation, but your overall strategy of abandoning Afghanistan is going to come back to haunt America because Afghanistan is again going to be a safe haven for radical Islam. Batten down the hatches — go on the offensive.”  — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), on Twitter.

“Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) says he is exchanging materials with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to help her better understand the broad tax reform and climate bill he negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and says he is open to her suggestions as Democrats seek 50 votes to put the bill on the floor,” The Hill reports.

“Manchin finally got a chance to speak to Sinema after lunch Tuesday, when she was scheduled to preside over the chamber.”

“Senate Democrats are growing more anxious over maverick Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) five-day silence on a sweeping proposal to reform the tax code, tackle climate change and reduce the federal deficit,” The Hill reports.

“The political network backed by billionaire Charles Koch launched an ad blitz targeting Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to get the moderate Democrats to block a massive spending-and-tax package that’s advancing in the Senate,” CNBC reports.

“The bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, promises to raise $739 billion in new revenue — mostly by setting a minimum corporate tax rate and making changes to Medicare drug pricing — to help pay for $433 billion in climate and health initiatives.”

“Senate Democrats will probably start a climactic series of votes on their party-line energy, tax and health care bill this week with very little public indication of where Kyrsten Sinema stands. They’re willing to risk it,” Politico reports.

“While all of Washington waits on the Arizona Democrat, her previous treatment of high-profile issues shows she’s unlikely to make any statement about how she sees the deal written by Sen. Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — at least until it’s on the floor. If the past is prologue, she’ll also be a wild card on amendments that Republicans may offer in a bid to alter the bill on the Senate floor during votes later this week.”

William Saletan: “Manchin’s word games, on their face, are risibly transparent. Investment is spending, closing loopholes is raising taxes, and the Inflation Reduction Act is mostly a reassembly of ideas from Build Back Better. But Manchin’s tour of the talk shows did move one pivotal player: Joe Manchin. Now that he has forcefully defended the new bill, it will be that much harder for him to withdraw his support, as he did in negotiations over BBB. The salesman has closed the deal with himself.”

“A side agreement reached between Democratic leadership and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) as part of their broader deal on an economic package would overhaul the nation’s process for approving new energy projects, aiming to significantly expedite building across the country by removing bureaucratic obstacles,” the Washington Post reports.

“To win Manchin’s support for the climate, energy, and health care package, Democratic leaders agreed to attempt to advance separate legislation on expediting energy projects. These changes would fall outside the bounds of the Senate budget procedure the party is using to pass its budget bill, making it impossible for Democrats to approve that as part of their reconciliation bill. The new agreement would need GOP support before it could be signed into law.”

“The Democrats’ agreement would set new two-year limits, or maximum timelines, for environmental reviews for ‘major’ projects…. It would also aim to streamline the government process for deciding approvals by centralizing decision-making with one lead agency, the summary adds. The bill would also approve the Mountain Valley pipeline, which would transport Appalachian shale gas about 300 miles from West Virginia to Virginia and is a key priority of Manchin’s.”

“Sen. Joe Manchin is on the verge of giving Democrats a long awaited energy, tax and health care law. Republicans will get a chance to serve their revenge cold in two years,” Politico reports.

“In a potential 2024 race, the West Virginia Democrat would face his state’s conservative voters for what Republicans are already hoping to turn into a referendum on Manchin’s party-line deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.”

“Senate Democrats and Republicans have reached an agreement to pass legislation expanding benefits for veterans who are suffering illnesses due to toxic exposures, with a vote on the measure expected Tuesday evening,” The Hill reports.

“A broadly supported bill to expand medical care eligibility for millions of veterans who may have been exposed to toxins from burning pits of trash on U.S. military bases has become ensnared in a partisan fight over spending, leaving its fate uncertain after a large group of Republicans pulled their support,” the New York Times reports.

“The legislation, which would be one of the largest expansions of veterans benefits in history, had been expected to easily pass the Senate last week after receiving an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House. An earlier version passed the Senate in June on a lopsided vote, with 34 Republicans voting in favor.”

“But Republicans abruptly withdrew their backing, with all but eight opposed to moving forward on it last week.”

Politico: “Senate Republicans are reversing course on a veterans health care bill, signaling they’ll now help it quickly move to President Joe Biden’s desk after weathering several days of intense criticism for delaying the legislation last week.”

The Senate is likely to delay a vote on legislation to codify same-sex marriage until September, according to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who says she also believes she has the support of at least 10 Republican senators to pass the bill, LBGTQ Nation reports.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrived in Taiwan late Tuesday, defying Chinese warnings against visiting the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its territory and setting the stage for a sharp escalation in tensions between China and the United States,” the Washington Post reports.

CNN: “Pelosi’s stop in Taipei is the first time that a US House speaker has visited Taiwan in 25 years. Her trip comes at a low point in US-China relations and despite warnings from the Biden administration against a stop in Taiwan.”

Meanwhile, Pelosi writes in the Washington Post why she made the visit.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to meet Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, in a controversial visit that has triggered concern about a possible military response from China,” the Financial Times reports.

Financial Times: “China is ratcheting up military activity around Taiwan ahead of Pelosi’s visit. Several Chinese fighter jets flew close to the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning, according to a Taiwanese official briefed on the developments, in a reminder to Taipei that Beijing’s air force could reach the island in a matter of minutes.”

“Military units across the People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theatre Command, which is in charge of the South China Sea and some Taiwan-related missions, have entered a status of high alert, according to military officials in two neighbouring countries.”

Reuters: U.S. Navy deploys four warships east of Taiwan as Pelosi heads to Taipei.

“The White House warned Monday that a potential visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) could prompt China to take significant inflammatory actions in response, and urged Beijing not to take advantage of the trip or see it as a pretext for provocation,” the Washington Post reports.

Said White House spokesman John Kirby: “China appears to be positioning itself to take further steps in the coming days and perhaps over longer time horizons. Nothing about this potential visit — which, oh, by the way, has precedent — would change the status quo.”

New York Times: “With tensions rising along with Ms. Pelosi’s travels across Asia, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the administration was concerned that China would potentially fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait, send warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone or stage large-scale naval or air activities that cross the median line in the middle of the strait.”

In a rare show of bipartisan unity, more than half of the U.S. Senate’s Republican members released a statement on Tuesday supporting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for defying Chinese threats and landing in Taiwan on an official visit.x

Tom Friedman: “I have a lot of respect for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But if she does go ahead with a visit to Taiwan this week, against President Biden’s wishes, she will be doing something that is utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible…”

“The timing could not be worse. Dear reader: The Ukraine war is not over. And privately, U.S. officials are a lot more concerned about Ukraine’s leadership than they are letting on. There is deep mistrust between the White House and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky — considerably more than has been reported…”

“It is a measure of our political dysfunction that a Democratic president cannot deter a Democratic House speaker from engaging in a diplomatic maneuver that his entire national security team — from the C.I.A. director to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs — deemed unwise.”

“The Biden administration filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Idaho for restricting access to abortion to patients who need lifesaving medical treatment, the first such Justice Department challenge since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer,” CNN reports.

“Idaho’s near-total abortion ban, which will take effect later this month, would make it illegal for patients who need an abortion in emergency medical situations, such as an ectopic pregnancy or other complications, from receiving potentially lifesaving treatment.”

A judge temporarily blocked Michigan prosecutors from enforcing the state’s 1931 abortion ban, a move requested from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legal team after a higher court’s ruling earlier in the day paved the way to potential charges for providers, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Georgia’s tax department announced taxpayers can claim embryos as dependents on their state taxes just weeks after an appeals court ruled to redefine “natural person” to include the unborn.

“The Biden administration on Thursday released guidance reiterating that free birth control is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act, regardless of what state a person might live in,” Axios reports.

“Exxon Mobil and Chevron, the two largest energy companies in the United States, said on Friday that profits rose to record levels in the second quarter as they continued to reap the benefits of soaring oil and gas prices,” the New York Times reports.

“The Great Resignation of 2021 has continued into 2022, with quit rates reaching levels last seen in the 1970s,” Pew Research reports.  “Although not all workers who leave a job are working in another job the next month, the majority of those switching employers are seeing it pay off in higher earnings.”

“President Biden named a veteran emergency response official on Tuesday to manage the U.S. government’s handling of the monkeypox outbreak as some of the nation’s largest states declare states of emergency,” the New York Times reports.

“The official, Robert Fenton, a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and twice its acting head, will serve as the White House monkeypox coordinator.”

“President Joe Biden continued to test positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday and will maintain his isolation procedures, but he is feeling well and does not have a fever,” Reuters reports.

“More than three dozen House Democrats are going after the Family Research Council’s tax-exempt status as a church as they look more broadly at how the Internal Revenue Service allows organizations to claim church status to avoid taxes,” Politico reports.

In a letter to the IRS, the lawmakers say the Family Research Council “claiming to be a church strains credulity: they do not hold religious services, do not have a congregation or affiliated congregations, and do not possess many of the other attributes of churches listed by the IRS.”

“The Defense Department wiped the phones of top departing DOD and Army officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol,” CNN reports.

The conventional wisdom is that “the cover up is often worse than the crime.” But what if the crime is so bad — such as seditious conspiracy against the United States of America — that it somehow justified the cover up for those involved?

We learned today that text messages sent and received by top Pentagon officials on January 6 were wiped from their government-issued phones. The text messages from that day — when a violent mob attempted to stop the counting of electoral votes at the U.S. Capitol — “were not preserved, and therefore could not be searched,” according to court filings. This is in addition to the text messages deleted from the phones of key officials in the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security. And that’s not to mention burning documents in the White House and everything else. It’s highly unlikely that any of this is a coincidence.

“Two influential House Democrats called on Monday for two officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog to testify to Congress about the agency’s handling of missing Secret Service text messages from the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, accusing their office of engaging in a cover-up,” the New York Times reports.

“It was the latest turn in a drama over what became of text messages sent and received by Secret Service agents around the time of the Capitol riot.”

“The Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog agency, which in February 2021 requested all Secret Service text messages sent around Jan. 6, 2021, the day of the Capitol riot, withdrew the request five months later,” NBC News reports.

Appear? It is treasonous.

“Two Arizona Republicans recruited by allies of former President Donald Trump to join an effort to keep him in office after he lost the 2020 election grew so concerned about the plan that they told lawyers working on it that they feared their actions could be seen as treason,” the New York Times reports.

“Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, and Kelly Townsend, a state senator, were both said to have expressed concerns to Mr. Trump’s lawyers in December 2020 about participating in a plan to sign on to a slate of electors claiming that Mr. Trump had won Arizona, even though Joe Biden had won the state.”

“The scheme was part of a broader bid — one of the longest running and most complicated that Mr. Trump undertook as he sought to cling to power after losing the 2020 presidential election — to falsely manufacture a victory for him by creating fake slates of electors in battleground states who would claim that he had been the true winner.”

“A Donald Trump fan from Texas who attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol while armed with a gun was sentenced to more than 7 years in prison on Monday after a judge denied the Justice Department’s request for a ‘terrorism enhancement’ that would have resulted in a lengthier prison sentence,” NBC News reports.

Just minutes after Guy Reffitt was sentenced to more than seven  years in prison for his role in the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, his daughter called for “life in prison” for Donald Trump.

“Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Trump White House aide who emerged as a star witness for the US House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, continued working on the former president’s behalf for nine weeks after he left office,” Insider reports.

“Hutchinson served as a ‘coordinator’ for Trump’s official, taxpayer-funded post-presidential office from about January 20, 2021, to April 1, 2021, earning an annualized salary of $90,000, the General Services Administration documents state.”

A retired Washington, DC, police officer who was part of Donald Trump’s motorcade on January 6, 2021, told CNN on that the then-President was adamant about going to the US Capitol as the riot unfolded.

Said Mark Robinson: “We’ve heard it several times while it was on the motorcade. I think during the speech, shortly thereafter, he had finished the speech, that the President was getting into the motorcade and he was upset. And he adamantly wanted to go to the Capitol.”

He added: “And even when we departed from the Ellipse it was repeated again. … It was a heated argument in the limo. And he wanted to definitely go to the Capitol.”

“A pro-Trump social media influencer who was convicted of disorderly and disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds for his actions on Jan. 6 is upset over the release of court filings this week that were supposed to be sealed and detail the assistance he provided to federal authorities investigating the Capitol siege,” NBC News reports.

“Documents detailing Brandon Straka’s cooperation were placed under seal when they were filed ahead of his January 2022 sentencing, but a coalition of media companies that includes NBC News filed a motion this week requesting they be unsealed.”

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

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