Cup of Joe – September 15, 2022

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is co-sponsoring a bill that would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks, “throwing support behind a measure that both aligns with his longstanding desire to restrict access to abortion and risks complicating his reelection bid less than two months before Election Day,” the Miami Herald reports.

“The legislation, if passed, would likely have little effect on Florida, which already bans abortions after 15 weeks.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence called for a national abortion ban in an interview with RealClearPolitics, saying that banning abortion “is profoundly more important than any short-term politics.”

Said Pence: “I welcome any and all efforts to advance the cause of life in state capitals or in the nation’s capital. And I have every confidence that the next Republican president, whoever that may be, will stand for the right to life. It is imperative that Republicans and conservatives resolve, here and now, that we will not shrink from the fight.”

A woman who was denied an abortion in Louisiana after her fetus was diagnosed with the fatal condition of having no skull traveled to New York to receive the procedure earlier this month, The Hill reports.

Playbook: “After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, most Republicans stuck to a simple message: The decision merely sent the issue back to the states; it was not a prelude to any national ban on abortion.”

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tossed all that out the window Tuesday, dropping a bill that would implement a nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy while allowing states to pass more restrictive laws. The immediate effect was to put fellow Republicans, who had already been on their heels over Roe’s reversal, straight onto their butts.”

Said one Democrat: “Graham’s stunt is a godsend and helps us remind voters Republicans want to ban abortion everywhere.”

NBC News: “By 51% to 32%, battleground state voters say Republicans are more extreme on abortion than Democrats, according to polling exclusively provided to NBC News by WPA Intelligence, a GOP political consulting firm. The poll showed 41% of likely voters surveyed said the Dobbs decision, which did away with constitutional protections for abortion, made them more likely to vote for a Democrat; 24% said it made them more likely to back Republicans.”

“Asked which group they identified with in the abortion debate, 54% said ‘Pro Choice,’ compared to 39% who identified as ‘Pro Life.’”

“Texas health officials have missed a key window to complete the state’s first major updated count of pregnancy related deaths in nearly a decade, saying the findings will now be released next summer,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Walter Shapiro: “It’s a beguiling fantasy: Mitch McConnell lies bolt awake at 3 o’clock in the morning staring disconsolately at the ceiling. If you listen closely, you can hear him mutter, ‘Merrick Garland. Damn Merrick Garland. I should have confirmed Merrick Garland.’”

“It’s hard to imagine McConnell has much self-awareness beneath his carapace of complete cynicism. The Senate minority leader obviously blames Donald Trump for the loss of two Georgia Senate seats and a majority in January 2021. But in the deep dark night of the soul, McConnell should point to his own folly as the GOP’s chances of retaking the Senate in 2022 dwindle to 29 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.”

“Vladimir Putin’s definitive quality as president — his refusal ever to back down — helped him project Russian global power for years. But amid repeated setbacks in a catastrophic war in Ukraine, his inflexible approach is looking more like his great flaw,” the Washington Post reports.

“As Russian forces fled in disarray in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region Saturday — dressing as civilians, stealing bicycles, abandoning tons of military equipment and ammunition — Putin sounded strikingly tone deaf as he opened a giant new Ferris wheel in Moscow. ‘There is nothing like that in Europe,’ he boasted via video-link.”

“Within hours, the Ferris wheel had broken down, and tickets had to be refunded. Repairing what’s broken about Putin’s war strategy and, by extension, his presidency and reputation, will be far harder.”

“Vladimir Putin’s chief envoy on Ukraine told the Russian leader as the war began that he had struck a provisional deal with Kyiv that would satisfy Russia’s demand that Ukraine stay out of NATO, but Putin rejected it and pressed ahead with his military campaign,” Reuters reports.

“The Ukrainian-born envoy, Dmitry Kozak, told Putin that he believed the deal he had hammered out removed the need for Russia to pursue a large-scale occupation of Ukraine, according to these sources. Kozak’s recommendation to Putin to adopt the deal is being reported by Reuters for the first time.”

“President Volodymyr Zelensky made a dramatic visit to newly recaptured Izium on Wednesday, raising the Ukrainian flag over the strategic city and underscoring the failure of Russia’s campaign in the northeast,” the New York Times reports.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson and his team were in Moscow this week and held meetings with Russian leadership, CNN reports.

Retired Gen. Ben Hodges, writing in The Telegraph: “It is becoming increasingly clear that Ukraine is going to win this war and that the Kremlin faces a historic crisis of confidence. Indeed, I now believe it is a genuine possibility that Vladimir Putin’s exposed weaknesses are so severe that we might be witnessing the beginning of the end – not only of his regime, but of the Russian Federation itself.”

“This vast empire encompassing more than 120 ethnic groups is on an unsustainable footing, and like that famous Hemingway quote, its collapse may be gradual at first but could quickly become a sudden, violent and uncontrollable event. If we fail to prepare for this possibility in the way that we failed to prepare for the collapse of the Soviet Union, it could introduce immense instability to our geopolitics.”

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell had his phone seized by the FBI while he was at a Hardee’s restaurant, the Daily Beast reports.

New York Times: “Mr. Lindell said that he had been in a drive-through line at a Hardee’s fast food restaurant in Mankato, Minn., on Tuesday afternoon, while returning with a friend from a duck-hunting trip in Iowa, when his vehicle was surrounded by several cars driven by federal agents. The agents presented him with a search and seizure warrant and interviewed him for about 15 minutes.”

The FBI confirmed to the Daily Beast and CNN that agents were “at that location executing a search warrant authorized by a federal judge.”

The seizure and subpoena were part of the FBI’s investigation into the election equipment security breach in Mesa County that was masterminded by indicted MAGA clerk Tina Peters, according to Lindell and the Daily Beast’s copy of the documents.

“When John Durham was assigned by the Justice Department in 2019 to examine the origins of the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, President Donald Trump and his supporters expressed a belief that the inquiry would prove that a ‘deep state’ conspiracy including top Obama-era officials had worked to sabotage him,” the New York Times reports.

“Now Mr. Durham appears to be winding down his three-year inquiry without anything close to the results Mr. Trump was seeking. The grand jury that Mr. Durham has recently used to hear evidence has expired, and while he could convene another, there are currently no plans to do so.”

CNN: “As he vowed to support the sweeping health care and energy bill this summer, Manchin won assurances from top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to advance a plan that would expedite the permitting and environmental review process for energy projects – including a major pipeline that would cross through his state of West Virginia. Schumer has vowed to include the White House-backed deal in legislation to keep government agencies afloat beyond September 30.”

“But an unlikely alliance is forming between progressives alarmed at the deal’s potential environmental impact and Senate Republicans still livid that Manchin cast the vote that ensured the health care and energy bill’s enactment into law. Now the GOP is in no mood to give Manchin a win he would undoubtedly tout ahead of a difficult 2024 reelection bid, as they criticize the proposed deal as too meager.”

“Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the lead Democratic sponsor of a bill that would codify same-sex marriage that faces a key procedural vote as soon as next week, said Wednesday she’s concerned midterm politics are complicating her ability to reach a deal on the legislation,” CNN reports.

Politico: “There isn’t much more time left before the election, though, with no guarantee a post-midterms vote would succeed. And most Senate Republicans don’t sound like they’re feeling political pressure to support legislation whose goals are broadly popular with the public. Republican leaders are not whipping against the bill, even as they remain somewhat dour on its prospects.”

William Saletan: “Over the next decade, it’s likely that support for gay marriage will continue to grow among Republicans, making it the clear majority position within the party. Trend data compiled from NBC/Journal polls show that since 2009, among Republican adults younger than 50, the percentage who favor ‘allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriages’ has more than doubled, from 25 percent to 55 percent.”

“As these younger Republicans replace their elders, who grew up in a different era, Republican politicians who oppose same-sex marriage will find themselves out of step even in primaries. And it will become increasingly awkward for Republican senators to explain not why they voted for the Respect for Marriage Act, but why they didn’t.”

“If Republicans flounder in their effort to recapture the U.S. Senate in 55 days, an inevitable blame game will commence over who’s most responsible for their midterm belly flop. GOP political professionals stand ready to point at Donald Trump, who deposited primary endorsements in six of the most competitive general election contests,” McClatchy reports.

“But the former president’s MAGA base will likely repel against such a judgment and reach for other scapegoats. And a relatively innocuous comment made by Mitch McConnell about candidate quality will hand Trump and his backers just enough ammunition to try and shift blame onto the Kentuckian, who remains unpopular with the Republican base across the country.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Republicans won’t blame a disappointing showing in November on either Trump for helping nominate weak candidates or the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. Instead, they will blame Mitch McConnell for cooperating too much with Senate Democrats…”

“But the scarier possibility is that many Republicans will learn nothing from defeat because they will simply assume that they were cheated.”

“President Joe Biden, who depended on mail-in votes to win office in 2020, unexpectedly flew Air Force One to his home state of Delaware on Tuesday to cast a primary election ballot in-person,” Bloomberg reports.

“He didn’t answer when asked why he hadn’t simply requested and retrned an absentee ballot. Delaware also offered in-person early voting on Saturday, when Biden was at his home in Wilmington.”

“President Joe Biden faces a narrowing window to avert a strike from freight railroad workers that could further strain supply chains and deliver a damaging blow to Democrats before the midterm elections,” USA Today reports.

“Transit systems across the country were on edge Wednesday amid the threat of a freight rail worker strike, making preparations ahead of possible travel disruptions that could affect hundreds of thousands of rail customers,” the Washington Post reports.  “Amtrak said it is canceling all of its long-distance trains starting Thursday.”

“Former President Donald Trump’s allies in Congress are planning to use congressional investigations to put the spotlight on one of his most prominent critics — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley — should Republicans take control of the House in November’s midterms,” NBC News reports.

“The plans include launching multiple lines of oversight that would position Republicans to grill Milley. They would cover the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, criticism that the military has become too ‘woke’ during Milley’s tenure, and questions about military readiness that would focus on how he’s spending his time.”

President Biden warned the remaining two years of his presidency will be tough if the Republican Party wins control of Congress in the midterm elections, the HuffPost reports.

Said Biden: “If we lose the House or lose the Senate, it’s going to be a really difficult two years. I’ll be spending more time with the veto pen than getting anything done.”

It hasn’t escaped the Justice Department’s notice that Trump’s lawyers are shying away from invoking in court the ex-president’s bold claim that he already declassified the documents the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump “does not actually assert—much less provide any evidence—that any of the seized records bearing classification markings have been declassified,” prosecutors wrote in their response to the Trump legal team’s request that Cannon continue to block investigators from using the seized materials in their probe.

The House Jan. 6 Committee held an in-person meeting yesterday to work out its next steps, but Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) signaled afterward that the discussion didn’t really lead to any concrete decisions.

The panel plans to hold its next hearing on Sept. 28 (as has already been reported), but that date is subject to change, Thompson told reporters.

The panel also hasn’t decided what the next hearing will be about, or whether to invite Trump and/or ex-Vice President Mike Pence to testify, according to Thompson.

“Three January 6, 2021, rioters involved in one of the most brutal assaults on police during the attack at the US Capitol were found guilty on Tuesday of several felonies following a bench trial before a federal judge,” CNN reports.

“Former President Trump called into a small rally held in support of January 6 prisoners at the DC Jail Tuesday,” the Washingtonian reports.

“He phoned Micki Witthoeft, whose daughter Ashli Babbitt was killed during the assault Trump supporters led on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.”

“Trump appeared to describe the imprisonment of January 6 suspects as ‘a terrible thing that has happened to a lot of people that are being treated very, very unfairly’ and complained about Michael Byrd, the US Capitol Police officer who shot Babbitt, appearing on television, which he said was a ‘disgrace.’”

Ken Starr, the independent counsel whose Whitewater investigation eventually led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, died at 76 yesterday. Starr’s family said that his death was caused by complications from surgery at a hospital in Houston, Texas.

“As I’m sure many can understand, my thoughts about Ken Starr bring up complicated feelings. But of more importance, is that i imagine it’s a painful loss for those who love him.” — Monica Lewinsky, quoted by the AP, on Ken Starr’s death.

Philip Bump: “All of the checks our culture has on misinformation work too slowly to be effective. Mark Twain’s well-worn adage about lies traveling halfway around the world was born in an era where getting halfway around the world took a few days. Now everything is faster, burrows deeper, spreads more widely than Twain could have imagined. But our processes for containing or counteracting false information haven’t changed much at all. It’s fighting the coronavirus with leeches.”

“It has been a particularly bad summer for some of the worst purveyors of misinformation polluting American politics.”

“When the U.S. House moved to allow lawmakers to vote remotely in May 2020, it was an important step toward preserving the functioning of government during a dangerous and uncertain pandemic,” the Daily Beast reports.

“More than two years later, the country has largely returned to a pre-COVID normal. Capitol Hill itself has even reopened its doors to visitors. And yet, remote voting remains in full effect—with lawmakers using the privilege more than ever.”

“The House is kicking off phase III of its reopening plan on Monday, which includes allowing tours of the floor, marking the chamber’s latest step toward normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the building to the public,” The Hill reports.

Former Vice President Mike Pence writes in a memoir — So Help Me God, out Nov. 15 — that when the Capitol was attacked while he was presiding over a joint session to certify the 2020 election results, “I was not afraid, but I was angry,” Axios reports.

Writes Pence:”I was angry at what I saw, how it desecrated the seat of our democracy and dishonored the patriotism of millions of our supporters, who would never do such a thing here or anywhere else.”

“Donald Trump will not pick Mike Pence as his running mate if he runs for the presidency again, according to an interview with the authors of a new book on his time in the White House,” The Guardian reports.  Said Trump: “It would be totally inappropriate. Mike committed political suicide.”

“A pair of centrist House lawmakers on Wednesday is rolling out a bill aimed at preventing stolen elections in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, mirroring bipartisan legislation in the Senate,” NBC News reports.

“Moderate Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Fred Upton (R-MI) are co-sponsoring the House legislation, known as the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, which would overhaul the antiquated 1887 Electoral Count Act.”

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

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