Delaware

Cup of Joe – September 8, 2022

“A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month,” the Washington Post reports.

We don’t know which foreign country; the Post’s sources wouldn’t say. But as TPM’s Josh Marshall points out, there are eight foreign nuclear powers: the UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

“Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs.”

“Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location.”

Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that an independent master should be appointed to review documents seized by the FBI at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was roundly criticized from lawyers across the political spectrum — from Neil Katyal to Bill Barr. The decision’s flaws are obvious to anyone. 

First, Trump is not president, so executive privilege does not apply to him, and the real president, Joe Biden, denied Trump’s claims.

Second, federal agents have already reviewed the files, so blocking the Justice Department from using them doesn’t really make sense.

Third, the decision is what law professor Stephen Vladeck told the New York Times was “an unprecedented intervention by a federal district judge into the middle of an ongoing federal criminal and national security investigation.”

As David Ignatius writes: “How can the U.S. government conduct a national-security damage assessment about possibly leaked classified documents if FBI criminal investigators can’t look at the documents or interview witnesses to figure out who might have had access to the material?”

But perhaps most important, Cannon went out of her way to declare that Trump should not be treated like any other citizen. That’s a direct affront to the rule of law, by a judge appointed by — you guessed it — Trump himself.

Politico: “In the days since the FBI search of Donald Trump’s home, GOP lawmakers and allies of the former president have offered increasingly strained responses when it comes to his possession of classified and top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.”

“While the vast majority of Republicans leaped to defend Trump after the FBI executed a search warrant on his Florida residence, the rapidly unfolding investigation — including revelations that he refused to turn over sensitive and top-secret records — has left all but Trump’s staunchest allies tangled in knots.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “A decision Monday by a federal judge granting former President Donald Trump’s request for an independent review of the FBI’s seizure of documents at Mar-a-Lago last month has prompted an unusually forceful backlash within the legal community. It isn’t just partisan analysts who are reacting with dismay; criticism of Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision has been widespread.”

“I’ll leave the specific ways that the decision fell short to legal specialists. But suffice to say there were a lot. The good news is that the judge’s decision has been so widely faulted that it could encourage media to resist the common temptation to hear out ‘both sides’ of the argument when one side is so evidently flawed.”

“The ruling also could motivate some Republican judges to shy away from hard-line decisions in order to avoid being labeled partisan — that is, nothing but apologists for their party and for Trump.”

Hillary Clinton tweeted that the “right is trying to make this about me again,” as Republicans try to compare how she was not charged over her use of a private email server and the ongoing probe into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents. Said Clinton: “I can’t believe we’re still talking about this, but my emails… The fact is that I had zero emails that were classified.”  She added: “I’m more tired of talking about this than anyone, but here we are.”

“The Justice Department faces partly conflicting goals as it weighs how to proceed in its inquiry into the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago following a legal ruling on Monday,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A federal judge in Florida ordered the appointment of a special master to review documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida resort and temporarily blocked the government from using the materials for a criminal investigation.”

“Prosecutors could appeal the order from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon—both to prevent it from serving as a basis for precedent and to try to have it overturned so the investigation can continue, but that potentially risks a long legal battle. Or they could acquiesce to the order in hope that a special master could swiftly review the core documents at issue, which could get the investigation moving again sooner.”

“I think that this order may be problematic, in that it allows the special master to review for executive privilege without really defining what that means. A special master doesn’t make legal decisions. A special master does sorting work… It’s really nonsensical to think that a former president can assert executive privilege against the executive branch. We have seen some courts recognize a residual privilege in a former president that can be requested and then asserted by the incumbent president, if he agrees, but only as to third parties, like Congress, when they’re asking for information.” — Former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade, quoted by PBS.

Donald Trump’s attacks on the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago took an unusual turn this morning when he bragged about his body.

Said Trump: “Not only did the FBI steal my Passports in the FBI Raid and Break-In of my home, Mar-a-Lago, but it has just been learned through court filings that they also improperly took my complete and highly confidential medical file and history, with all the bells and whistles (at least they’ll see that I’m very healthy, an absolutely perfect physical specimen!), plus personal Tax Records (Illegal to take), and lawyer/client/privileged information, a definite NO, NO.”

He concluded: “Days of the Soviet Union!”

Former Attorney General Bill Barr blasted a ruling by a judge to appoint a special master in the case involving Donald Trump’s improper retention of government documents.

Said Barr: “The opinion, I think, was wrong and I think the government should appeal it. It’s deeply flawed in a number of ways. I don’t think the appointment of a special master is going to hold up.”

Andrew Weissmann: “One of the most dispiriting aspects of the decision yesterday by Federal District Court Judge Aileen Cannon—which granted former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review the evidence seized from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI—is that it undermines the work of all the other judges who have tried to adhere to their oath to ‘administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and … faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent’ on the office.”

“Her ruling is untethered to the law and presents a skewed recitation of the facts. Her actions make the question ‘Who appointed the judge?’ a sadly relevant one in evaluating a judicial opinion.”

Daily Beast: “Trump got the judge he wanted in the Mar-a-Lago case: One he appointed. And she just gave him the first decision he wanted.”

“Trump is attacking law enforcement and yet again using language he knows will provoke violence. Only one group of Americans has a chance to diminish this danger — Republicans. If my fellow Republicans fail to step up to stop this, they will share the blame for all that follows.”— Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), on Twitter.

“Stephen Bannon is expected to surrender to state prosecutors on Thursday to face a new criminal indictment, weeks after he was convicted of contempt of Congress and nearly two years after he received a federal pardon from President Donald Trump in a federal fraud case,” the Washington Post reports.

“The precise details of the state case could not be confirmed Tuesday evening. But people familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sealed indictment, suggested the prosecution will likely mirror aspects of the federal case in which Bannon was pardoned.”

The new charges are related to Bannon’s “We Build the Wall” scam that federal prosecutors had indicted him for before Trump pardoned his former crony, according to CNN’s report. The Post similarly reports that the charges in the sealed indictment “will likely mirror aspects” of that federal case.

Bannon complained on Tuesday that New York “has now decided to pursue phony charges against me 60 days before the midterm election” in a statement to NBC News.

“I am never going to stop fighting. In fact, I have not yet begun to fight. They will have to kill me first.” — Steve Bannon, quoted by the Washington Post, on his expected indictment today in New York.

Axios: “Britain’s economy, rendered fragile and brittle by Brexit, has proved incapable of withstanding the twin scourges of the pandemic and energy price inflation. The result is a historic economic implosion.”

“The Bank of England predicts that inflation will hit 13% this quarter. GDP will also turn negative this quarter, the Bank says — and will then stay negative through every quarter of 2023. After that, in 2024 and onwards, growth is projected to be ‘very weak by historical standards.’”

President Joe Biden will deliver a speech on the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, aiming to draw attention to his administration’s efforts to halve the cancer death rate over the next 25 years, CNN reports.

“By the way, all right, God love you… Let him go. Let him go. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Let him go. Let him go. Look, everybody’s entitled to be an idiot.”  — President Biden, in response to a heckler at a Labor Day speech.

A judge struck down Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law, months after suspending it, the AP reports.

“A group of South Carolina senators voted Tuesday to remove exceptions for rape and incest from a proposed abortion ban with Democrats choosing not to vote in what appeared to be a strategy to try to prevent the bill from passing through the Legislature,” the AP reports.

“The 7-3 vote in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee involved all Republican men.”

CNN: “More than 140 Democrats from eight of the roughly dozen states with the most restrictive abortion laws voted in favor of the bans, and the vast majority of these state lawmakers were men. All but one of the laws would have passed with Republican votes alone, and a few were passed without a single vote from a Democratic lawmaker.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he would not support legislation codifying same-sex marriage while indicating he believes the Supreme Court case giving same-sex couples the right to marry was “wrongly decided,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Johnson said he put out his July statement saying he wouldn’t oppose the legislation to get the press “off my backs.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “said he will vote against a bill to codify same-sex marriage protections into federal law, ahead of a potential showdown in the Senate over one of the few remaining Democratic priorities expected to get a vote before the midterm elections,” the Texas Tribune reports.

Fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will vote against the legislation too, according to his office. Five Republican senators so far have said they support or are likely to support the bill:

  • Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Ron Johnson (R-WI)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Thom Tillis (R-NC)

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed back Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for the formal unveiling of their White House portraits.

As Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama return to the White House for a ceremony to unveil their official White House portraits, the Washington Post claims tensions linger with President Biden’s top aides.

“Beneath that jovial atmosphere, however, is long-simmering tension, and even some jealousy, between the circles around Obama and Biden — the two Democratic presidents of the past 15 years and the ones who bracketed what Democrats see as the disastrous tenure of Donald Trump.“

“Some Biden loyalists are resentful that Obama didn’t throw his weight behind Biden’s presidential aspirations, complaining that even now Obama’s team does not fully respect Biden. Obama loyalists are frustrated that Biden’s aides regularly boast of how they have avoided the mistakes of the Obama White House, such as failing to sufficiently tout the president’s accomplishments.”

“I personally have enough problems with the Republican Party having gone along with Trump — and I suppose I’ve done enough rethinking of some conservative dogmas — that I myself am unlikely to be returning to the Republican fold anytime soon. The fact is, I have not voted for a Republican since Trump became president.” — William Kristol, in an interview with the Washington Post.

A new Gallup poll finds at least half of American workers say they’re “quiet quitting” — performing only the tasks they’re required to, giving up on going “above and beyond.”  The proportion of “actively disengaged” workers is now at 18% — the highest it’s been in nearly a decade.

“Rarely has the payoff for switching jobs been greater than it is right now,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Labor shortages and inflation are lifting wages across the economy, particularly for workers changing employers. Those who recently left for a new employer netted an annual raise of about 8.5% as of July, up from 7.9% in June and the biggest median pay increase for job hoppers in more than 20 years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.”

“The gap in pay raises for job switchers versus those who stay put is also the widest it’s been in decades: People who kept at the same job reaped a median annual wage increase of 5.9% in July, a slightly smaller gain than workers reported the month before, the Fed data show.”

Derek Thompson: “The first fact was sadly unsurprising: The coronavirus pandemic killed so many people that U.S. life expectancy fell from roughly 79 in 2019 to 76 in 2021—the largest two-year decline in nearly a century. The drop was sharpest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, whose life expectancy fell to 65, close to the national average during World War II.”

“Life expectancy is perhaps the most important statistic on the planet, synthesizing a country’s scientific advances, policy errors, and social sins into a single number. The number is built on a weird hypothetical. The formula for life expectancy says: If Americans lived their entire life in one year—say, 2021—repeating it over and over again like an extended Groundhog Day experiment, how long would the typical person survive? It’s a useful exercise for the purpose of capturing one year’s conditions. But it imagines a life that nobody will ever live. U.S. life expectancy will almost certainly surge in 2022 and beyond, not only because the worst of the pandemic is over, but also because the disaster accelerated technology like mRNA vaccines that could raise life expectancy in future decades.”

“The second fact was perhaps more alarming: The U.S. fared worse in life expectancy than other high-income countries. While most of the developed world saw conditions improve in the second year of the pandemic, more Americans died of COVID after the introduction of the vaccines than before their invention.”

NPR: “The November 2020 email from an anguished Fox News news producer to colleagues sent up a flare amid a fusillade of false claims. The producer warned: Fox cannot let host Jeanine Pirro back on the air. She is pulling conspiracy theories from dark corners of the Web to justify then-President Donald Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen from him.”

“The producer’s email is among the voluminous correspondence acquired by Dominion’s attorneys as part of its discovery of evidence in a $1.6 billion defamation suit it filed against Fox News and its parent company.”

That email was one of materials that Dominion’s lawyers have obtained in the voting tech firm’s massive $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox. Imagine how many other gems they’ve gotten.

“Senate Republicans are signaling early resistance to attaching billions of dollars for Covid and monkeypox aid in a must-pass government funding bill, a troublesome sign for a White House that says vaccine money is rapidly running out,” Politico reports.

“In interviews Wednesday, GOP senators said they were skeptical of the Biden administration’s $22.4 billion request for Covid money, as well as its $4.5 billion request for combating monkeypox — citing unspent money and frustration with what they view as Democrats’ previous spending largesse.”

An upcoming book by New York Times reporter David Enrich includes an amazing story of Trump trying to stiff a lawyer (to whom he owed $2 million) by offering to give him a deed to a stallion that was supposedly worth $5 million instead.

However, the lawyer apparently refused to accept live animals as payment, telling Trump that “this isn’t the 1800s” and “you can’t pay me with a horse.”

“The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” the AP reports.

“The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies — including as police chiefs and sheriffs — and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.”

“It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August.”

“When President Joe Biden met with senior members of his administration on Tuesday, the 24 officials sitting around the table were identical to the ones Biden gathered 17 months ago for his first Cabinet meeting,” CNN reports.

“There has been zero turnover among the secretaries, administrators and directors that form the official Cabinet, a level of consistency representing a sharp departure from Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who had already lost three Cabinet officials at this point in his presidency.”

“Biden [urged] his Cabinet secretaries on Tuesday to ‘swiftly implement’ key legislation, seizing another opportunity to tout his administration’s legislative successes just two months before the midterm elections,” CNN reports.

“Tuesday’s meeting, the first time the Cabinet has assembled since March, comes as his administration moves to implement laws that were passed during the summer months, including bills aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor production and the climate, health care and tax bill.”

“A New Mexico judge on Tuesday disqualified Couy Griffin, a county commissioner who founded Cowboys for Trump, from serving in public office ever again because of his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot,” Axios reports.

“The judge ruled that Griffin is ‘barred for life’ from serving as an elected official, effective immediately, under the Fourteenth Amendment because he took part in the ‘insurrection after taking his oath.’”

Congrats, Cowboy MAGA Man, you’re the first public official to get ousted under that clause since 1869! Voters in Georgia and North Carolina had unsuccessfully tried to get Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) disqualified from office under the same clause.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) said election officials nationwide are most worried about “violence and disruption” as the midterm elections approach, The Hill reports.

New York Times: “One in five local election officials who responded to a survey earlier this year by the Brennan Center for Justice said that they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat unlikely’ to continue serving through 2024. The collective angst is a recurring theme at workshops and conferences attended by election officials, who say it is not unusual for them to exchange anecdotes about threatening messages or harassment at the grocery store.”

Also worth pointing out: “The discussions have turned at times to testing drop boxes — a focus of right-wing attacks on mail-in voting — to see if they can withstand being set on fire.”

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

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