Cup of Joe – August 17, 2022

Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart scheduled a hearing for Thursday at 1 p.m. to determine whether to unseal the affidavit underpinning the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago last week.

Playbook: “Several news outlets have requested to make it public, while the Justice Department argued in a Monday filing that doing so could compromise its criminal investigation. In addition to the media’s push for the affidavit, many Republicans have called for it to be released amid the conservative backlash to the FBI search.”

Donald Trump also weighed in: “I call for the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit pertaining to this horrible and shocking BREAK-IN.”

“The Justice Department intends to unseal additional documents connected to the FBI search at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate but is urging a federal court to maintain the secrecy of the sworn affidavit describing the basis for the search,” Politico reports.

“The DOJ is particularly concerned that the release of details from the affidavit might harm ongoing efforts to interview witnesses, given the threats to federal agents in wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.”

“Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, the White House counsel and his deputy under President Donald Trump, were interviewed by the FBI in connection with boxes of sensitive documents that were stored at Mr. Trump’s residence in Florida after he left office,” the New York Times reports.

Key detail: “On June 3, counterintelligence officials with the Justice Department’s national security division went to Mar-a-Lago to collect remaining documents with classified markings. At that point, at least one Trump lawyer signed a statement saying material with the classified markings had been returned… But officials then used a subpoena to obtain surveillance footage of the hallway outside a storage room at Mar-a-Lago and saw something that alarmed them.”

The FBI has returned three passports belonging to former President Donald Trump that federal agents seized during their search for classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last week, NBC News reports.

Related from Marcy Wheeler: How Trump’s search worked, with nifty graphic.

Daily Beast: “That’s because of the way Trump while president tweeted many promises to declassify documents, then retreated and used the Department of Justice to vigorously defend the sanctity of the way the government classifies documents. He has essentially trapped himself, as he now faces an FBI investigation into whether he put the American people’s security at risk by mishandling government secrets and potentially violating the Espionage Act.”

“Essentially, Trump’s freewheeling style on Twitter forced the administration to take a harder stance on just what it means to declassify a document—forcing the government to emphasize the rigorous, multi-step nature of the bureaucratic process. He can’t now say it merely takes a wave of his hand.”

“Attorney General Merrick Garland deliberated for weeks over whether to approve the application for a warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, people familiar with the matter said, a sign of his cautious approach that will be tested over coming months,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Garland now faces a more momentous decision that will further sharpen an already unprecedented and politically fraught situation: whether to pursue charges against Mr. Trump or any of his allies over their handling of the records at issue and their interactions with Justice Department officials seeking to retrieve them.”

Administration sources tell ABC News “the amount and the sensitivity of confidential, secret and top-secret documents allegedly discovered in the Mar-a-Lago search raise critical national security questions that must be urgently addressed.”

“Those officials say law enforcement and security officials must now try to track the chain of custody of the material and try to determine if any of the material was compromised.”

Marcy Wheeler: “DOJ only needs to identify a single classified document to charge the former President under the Espionage Act. And given the way that Trump is ginning up outrage and attacks on FBI agents (which the government cited in explaining the need to keep the affidavit sealed), charging him with a single count indictment describing (hypothetically) the nuclear codes might be a good way to shut everyone up. They could use that to offer Trump a plea deal to lesser charges while they catalog other documents that each could bear a separate 10-year sentence.”

“If they’ve already singled out Trump’s passports, they surely are processing the stolen classified documents that could expose Trump to years in prison.”

“And Trump’s still at the manufactured outrage stage of his defense.”

Punchbowl News: “Anyone reading the news or watching TV this August would think Donald Trump – rather than Biden – won the presidency in November 2020.”

“Trump is everywhere. The FBI’s search of Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago last week – still the biggest story in the country – is just one facet of this apparently eternal Trump-centric news cycle. Stories that you don’t think are about Trump… are actually about Trump. Political reporters are back to tweeting about Trump statements made on Trump’s own social media network and writing about his travel schedule.”

“A Pennsylvania man has been arrested and charged with threatening the FBI after the agency’s Mar-a-Lago search, allegedly posting on the right-wing social media platform Gab that all FBI employees deserve to die,” Axios reports.

Philip Bump: “This expansion of the Trumpworld legal universe pales in comparison to last week’s dramatic development, of course: the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. But it’s a reminder of the scale of alleged and proven criminal conduct that has surrounded Trump since he first announced his candidacy in June 2015…”

“That leaves us with 14 figures from Trumpworld — including the president — who have been charged with crimes, are the subjects of investigation, have been convicted or pleaded guilty and/or have been pardoned by the former president.”

“President Biden signed into law sweeping legislation to lower prescription drug prices, boost the renewable energy sector and impose new taxes on large corporations,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The Democrat-backed package is one of Mr. Biden’s most consequential accomplishments since taking office, the latest in a string of legislative victories that the president’s aides hope will improve his standing heading into November’s midterm election. Republicans have criticized the measure, casting it as government overreach and arguing that it would do little to tamp down high inflation, despite its name, the Inflation Reduction Act.”

Said Biden: “Let me say from the start: With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost.”

David Leonhardt: “Describing Congress as dysfunctional seems unobjectionable, even clichéd. I’ve done it myself this summer. Yet as the current session enters its final months, the description feels off. The 117th Congress has been strikingly functional.”

“On a bipartisan basis, it has passed bills to build roads and other infrastructure; tighten gun safety; expand health care for veterans; protect victims of sexual misconduct; overhaul the Postal Service; support Ukraine’s war effort; and respond to China’s growing aggressiveness.”

“Just as important, the majority party (the Democrats) didn’t give a complete veto to the minority party. On a few major issues, Democrats decided that taking action was too important. They passed the most significant response to climate change in the country’s history. They also increased access to medical care for middle- and lower-income Americans and enacted programs that softened the blow from the pandemic.”

The Washington Post has a must-read piece on how the U.S. struggled to convince European allies — and Ukraine itself — that Russia was preparing an invasion.

“The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.”

“Much more radical than Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) told ABC News he is “optimistic” about the United States bringing imprisoned Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back from Russia through a prisoner exchange.

A Louisiana mother has a week to make an unthinkable decision — carry her baby to term even though she says doctors tell her it will not survive or find another state where she can have an abortion, WAFB reports.

Said the woman: “It was an abnormal ultrasound, and they noticed the top of the baby’s head was missing and the skull was missing, the top of the skull was missing.”

She added: “It’s hard knowing that… you know I’m carrying it to bury it.”

A Florida appeals court affirmed an order prohibiting a parentless 16-year-old from terminating her pregnancy on the grounds that she has not proven that she is “sufficiently mature” to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy, Slate reports.

Jonathan Chait: “Obviously, the weirdest thing about this trust heuristic is that it assumes the more credible party to this dispute is serial lawbreaker and pathological liar Donald Trump rather than the lifelong Republican he appointed to lead the agency. But the deeper and more twisted belief system being expressed by Trump’s allies is the premise that the FBI has engaged in a pattern of political bias against their party since the Clinton saga.”

“The truth is just the opposite: The FBI has often bent over backward to placate Republicans only to be met with distrust when its results fail to conform to their most paranoid fantasies.”

David Frum: “If anything, the latest Trump scandal has strengthened Trump’s hold, not only on his core support, but on the broader GOP. A friend tightly connected to major GOP donors wrote me over the weekend about this.”

“My friend’s observation: ‘Among the Republicans I know and have polled, a majority of them were for DeSantis and now all for Trump, almost no matter what comes out. Maybe that doesn’t hold, but maybe it shockingly does. I don’t see in fact how anyone other than Liz Cheney can even announce against Trump much less defeat him. It’s just pointless. Unless all charges are dropped, in which case Trump looks vindicated.’”

“This political reality clarifies many mysteries, including why Gov. DeSantis has been so outspoken on Trump’s behalf.”

Tom Nichols: “I spoke with one of the original Never Trumpers over the weekend, a man who has lost friends and family because of his opposition to Trump, and he told me that one of the most unsettling things to him is that these same pro-Trump family and friends now say that they believe that Trump broke the law—but that they don’t care.”

“They see Trump and his crusade—their crusade against evil, the drama that gives their lives meaning—as more important than the law.”

“The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog, who is under criticism for his handling of an investigation into missing Secret Service text messages around the time of the Capitol attack, is refusing to cooperate with congressional demands, even blocking his employees from testifying before Congress,” the New York Times reports.

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, is expected to plead guilty to a massive tax fraud scheme that was uncovered in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into Weisselberg and the Trump Organization (which was also indicted over the scheme), according to NBC News.

But Weisselberg still refuses to cooperate with the district attorney’s criminal investigation into Trump and isn’t expected to implicate anyone in the Trump family in his guilty plea, according to the New York Times.

The Trump Organization won’t be pleading guilty with Weisselberg, the Times reports.

The exact terms of Weisselberg’s reported plea deal are unknown, but the executive’s plea could be entered as soon as Thursday.

“For the first time since leaving office, former president Donald Trump has started getting specific about what he would do if he wins a second term in the White House,” the Washington Post reports.

“The pitches he’s made onstage over the past month in speeches from D.C. to Dallas to Las Vegas are a stark contrast from ordinary stump speeches. He promises a break from American history if elected, with a federal government stacked with loyalists and unleashed to harm his perceived enemies.”

“There has never been a potential candidate like Trump: a defeated former president whose followers attacked the Capitol, who still insists he never lost, and who openly pledges revenge on those he views as having wronged him.”

“U.S. gasoline prices continue to fall, and they could keep falling, raising the possibility of gas below $3 a gallon in much of the country before the end of the year,” CNN reports.

“Former President Donald Trump’s media and technology company must turn over information about ex-Congressman Devin Nunes’ employment as its chief executive officer,” Reuters reports.

“The ruling stems from a $75 million defamation lawsuit brought by Nunes, a former Republican U.S. Congressman from California, against Hearst Magazine Media Inc and journalist Ryan Lizza.”

CNBC: “Business advocacy groups lobbied hard against the 15% minimum tax rate for large corporations that just passed Congress as part of the the Inflation Reduction Act, saying it was “terrible policy” that would reduce economic growth and make America ‘poorer.’”

“Wall Street analysts, however, say the legislation won’t dramatically affect company earnings or their future investments.”

“Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon end more than two years of self-imposed in-person diplomatic isolation as he travels to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a month after President Joe Biden’s strained visit to Jeddah,” Politico reports.

“The Xi trip has not been confirmed, but an unnamed Saudi source said it may occur as early as this week.”

Everyone… all crypto is a scam. All of it.

Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to five additional ministries while Australia’s prime minister, The Guardian reports.  “Between March 2020 and May 2021, Morrison appointed himself to the health, finance, industry, science, energy and resources, home affairs and treasury portfolios without the public’s knowledge, and in some cases, without alerting the existing minister.”

“Germany plans to postpone the closure of the country’s last three nuclear power plants as it braces for a possible shortage of energy this winter after Russia throttled gas supplies to the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“First lady Jill Biden has tested positive for Covid-19 while on vacation with President Biden and other family members in South Carolina,” The Hill reports.

“Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) warned potential job seekers against applying for new positions at the Internal Revenue Service, vowing that Republicans will move to rescind new federal funding for the agency if they retake control of Congress next year,” the HuffPost reports.

The FBI arrested former one-term Rep. T.J. Cox (D-CA) on dozens of charges related to financial fraud, Politico reports. A statement from the Justice Department said the former congressman was charged with “15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud.”

“Amazon has accused the US Federal Trade Commission of harassing its top executives, including founder Jeff Bezos and chief executive Andy Jassy, as part of a probe into the ecommerce group’s Prime membership scheme,” the Financial Times reports.

“Border Patrol agents have made about 1.82 million arrests at the southern border in the government’s fiscal year that began in October, new figures published Monday show, the second year under the Biden administration that arrests hit an record,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

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

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