Cup of Joe – September 16, 2022

President Biden announced a tentative agreement with rail worker unions and railroad companies early Thursday morning to prevent what would’ve been an economically disastrous nationwide strike. Train companies like Amtrak had already started prepping to shut down services ahead of the deadline on Friday at 12:01 a.m.

Labor Secretary Martin Walsh spearheaded the negotiations on behalf of the White House.

New York Times: “The agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote, which is a standard procedure in labor talks. While the vote is tallied, workers have agreed not to strike.”

News from this book so far:

  • “Former President Donald Trump’s top general feared he would authorize a strike on Iran as his presidency ended. His intelligence chief wondered what Russia had on him. A billionaire friend convinced him to try buying Greenland. A half-dozen top officials considered resigning en masse,” CNN reports.
  • “Even his wife, first lady Melania Trump, was ‘rattled by the coronavirus and convinced that Trump was screwing up,’ according to a forthcoming book from New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker and New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser set to publish on Tuesday.”
  • “Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff secretly bought a book in which 27 mental health professionals warned that the president was psychologically unfit for the job, then used it as a guide in his attempts to cope with Trump’s irrational behavior,” The Guardian reports. “The book Kelly bought, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, was a bestseller in 2017.”
  • “If you don’t support John McCain’s funeral, when you die, the public will come to your grave and piss on it.” — White House chief of staff John Kelly, quoted in the new book The Divider, telling Donald Trump he had to lower the flag when Sen. John McCain died.
  • “President Trump once offered what he considered ‘a great deal’ to Jordan’s King Abdullah II: control of the West Bank, whose Palestinian population long sought to topple the monarchy,” the Washington Post reports.
  • If Donald Trump runs for president again, he said that he would not pick Nikki Haley, his United Nations ambassador, as a running mate because she had a “complexion problem,” the New York Times reports.

The New York Times reviews The Divider by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

“Squeezing the tumultuous events of the long national fever dream that was the Donald Trump presidency between two covers — even two covers placed far apart, as is the case with this 752-page anvil — would tax the skills of the nimblest journalist. Yet the husband-and-wife team of Baker and Glasser pull it off with assurance. It’s all here: the culture wars and the corruption, the demagogy and the autocrat-love, the palace intrigue and the public tweets, the pandemic and the impeachments (plural).”

“To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.”

David Corn, author of the new book American Psychosis, had a really good conversation with Charlie Sykes and makes the point that Donald Trump was not some “Black Swan event” for a Republican party that has flirted with the crazies for decades.

“The Senate will delay voting on a measure to protect same-sex marriage until after November’s midterm elections as Republican support for the measure remains uncertain,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “The decision to do so came as a relief to Republicans, the vast majority of whom oppose the measure and were worried that voting against it so close to the elections would alienate voters. It spared Republican senators in difficult re-election races a fraught choice between casting a vote that would anger the party’s conservative base and one that would sour independent voters.”

“Democrats returned to Washington after an unexpectedly upbeat summer with a clear objective: Don’t screw it up,” Politico reports.

“Seeing their majority as back in play less than two months before the midterms, members of the famously fractious House Democratic caucus are now urging each other to stay unified and ignore distractions in their final month of legislating before the election.”

“Two migrant buses from Del Rio, Texas, arrived near Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning,” Fox News reports. “Between 75 and 100 people who were picked up in Eagle Pass, Texas, were sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “followed through on his promise to drop off illegal immigrants in progressive states, sending two planes full of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday,” Fox News reports.

Jonathan Chait: “Last night, DeSantis pulled off the stunt. He lured a couple dozen immigrants onto a pair of planes and flew it to Martha’s Vineyard, where he deposited them onto an unprepared island. He then handed the story to Fox News, a network that has coordinated closely with him and predictably gloated over his latest triumph.”

“The conceit of Abbott’s stunt is that his state is so overwhelmed with illegal immigrants he needs to send them to the place that is supposedly causing their arrival. DeSantis, not having a land border with Mexico, had no such pretext. Instead, he had to find immigrants in Texas and, essentially, kidnap them for his own use.”

“To acquire the bait for his stunt, DeSantis apparently deployed staff into Texas to mislead the targets.”

Josh Marshall: “It’s a given that this new GOP governor (with presidential ambitions) tactic of shipping migrants and asylum-seekers to symbolic “liberal” parts of the country as a sort of “own-the-libs” performance art is gross, degrading and the kind of thing that awful people do. That’s a given. But I’m very curious about this latest stunt by Ron DeSantis. First of all, Martha’s Vineyard? Again, it’s using these scared and generally helpless people as a stunt guffaw. But is this legal? In some cases migrants might be perfectly happy to be transported from Texas to New York. Maybe they have relatives there. Maybe the social climate seems more inviting. Who knows? But there’s news coming out today that these people shipped to Martha’s Vineyard were told they were being sent to Massachusetts to get special job permits.

Immigrants and refugees, as we know, have very few rights. And even more the rights they do have are seldom enforced or vindicated. But if you transport someone across state lines under false pretenses that can certainly edge up against laws about kidnapping or trafficking. All the more if you’re using coercion.

Obviously the immigration service can transport people, incarcerate them, do all sorts of things. But that’s ICE, which whether we like it or not has various statutory powers to do these things. But these stunts aren’t ICE, even if ICE may be looking the other way. This is the political machinery of the state of Florida and they’re using private transport. So I’m curious if this is even legal.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) got his name trending on Thursday after sending two charter planes of Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, drawing outrage from his critics and applause from his supporters — but the use of taxpayer funds for the trip might have violated state law.

Donald Trump told Hugh Hewitt that he declassified all the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago and that he doesn’t fear a criminal indictment.

Said Trump: “I can’t imagine being indicted. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

He added: “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it. And as you know, if a thing like that happened, I would have no prohibition against running. You know that.”

Trump also claimed he had no involvement in a plot to put forward alternate electors in Georgia.

Politico: “Trump’s allies and aides have been left angry and a bit shaken this week over the Department of Justice’s issuance of some 40 subpoenas targeting people in Trump’s inner orbit over their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and their connections to events on Jan. 6. Cell phones were confiscated from at least four people. A few trusted text chains among Trump vets were ignited with speculation about shoes soon to drop, while others went quiet.”

“Gone, for most in Trump World, was the bravado that this probe too would pass and that the 45th president would emerge stronger. Instead, there was growing anxiety about what could be next, as well as fears that those in the inner circle may flip on their friends to save themselves.”

“There is speculation that the scope of those targeted is much larger, with some close to Trump suggesting that the number of subpoenas issued is between 50 and 75. There is, in addition, growing fear that the very people who are being tasked to help deflect some of the legal heat that Trump is under for a variety of investigations — chief among them, his handling of classified material at his home in Mar-a-Lago — could potentially be in legal trouble themselves.”

“Donald Trump’s outside spending arm has paid $3 million to cover attorney Chris Kise’s legal work representing the former president,” Politico reports. “The $3 million paid by Save America PAC is a significant sum, and comes as Trump faces a number of federal and state probes that will require substantial legal help.”

Andrea Bernstein: “It’s true that Trump likes to collect shiny objects, like the framed Time magazine cover that was stowed, according to the U.S. Justice Department, alongside documents marked top secret. It’s true, as The Associated Press reported, that Trump has a ‘penchant for collecting’ items that demonstrate his connection to famous people, like Shaquille O’Neal’s giant shoe, which he kept in his office in New York’s Trump Tower.”

“But I’ve covered Trump and his business for decades, and there’s something else people around him have told me over and over again: Trump knows the value of hoarding sensitive, secret information and wielding it regularly and precisely for his own ends.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) new 15-week national abortion ban is backfiring among conservatives to the point where some are apparently starting to suspect he flopped on purpose.

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, for example, has a question: “Why is Lindsey Graham, 25 days from ballots going out, galloping in” – Kirk took a moment to gallop as a demonstration – “and saying we need a federal abortion ban?”

“That feels like election interference,” he declared with a straight face.

“Two of the highest-profile Republicans in the Senate are publicly defying Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on high-stakes issues vital to the GOP’s chances of retaking the majority next year,” Axios reports.

“GOP senators and party strategists declined to blame McConnell for the antics of Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). They see the ‘freelancing’ — as one source close to the leader described it — as a sign of the Senate as an institution breaking down under modern incentive structures.”

Josh Marshall: “What really surprises me though is Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ted Bud who’s running for a Senate seat in North Carolina.

Unlike Graham and Pence, these two are facing an election. Given the tilt of Florida and North Carolina I expect them both to win. But they’re both in real races. 538 has North Carolina dead even and Rubio up by 4 points. These are real races. As I said, if I had to bet I’d put money on each Republican. But these are races that are in serious contention and I think Democrats Beasley and Demings have a real shot.

Is there something they see that you and I don’t? I don’t think so. I know what my eyes see and I’m seconded in this by what Mitch McConnell and most of his caucus clearly see. It is really up to Democrats to push the abortion issue into the highest salience possible since the public somewhere between decisively and overwhelmingly support their position.”

“The chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Wednesday that the panel has received ‘thousands of exhibits’ from Secret Service agents in response to its July subpoena of the agency,” Axios reports.

“Thompson said the the materials consist ‘primarily’ of texts from agents on Jan. 5 and 6, but declined to go into further detail because the committee is still reviewing them.”

“Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department’s investigation into events surrounding January 6, 2021, making him the highest-ranking Trump official known to have responded to a subpoena in the federal investigation,” CNN reports.

“Meadows turned over the same materials he provided to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, one source said, meeting the obligations of the Justice Department subpoena, which has not been previously reported.”

“The Justice Department is investigating felony violations of false statements, conspiracy and obstruction as part of its January 6, 2021, probe that led to a recent search of former Trump administration official Jeffrey Clark’s home, according to an account of the criminal investigation made public Wednesday in a separate proceeding,” CNN reports.

“Clark’s legal team wrote that on June 20 ‘approximately a dozen armed agents of the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General executed a criminal search warrant at Mr. Clark’s home at around 7 a.m. and seized his electronic devices’ as part of an investigation into violations of laws concerning false statements, conspiracy and obstruction.”

China’s President Xi Jinping met with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Axios reports.

“Xi is aiming to bolster his standing as a geopolitical statesman in his first trip outside China since early in the Covid-19 pandemic before October’s Communist Party leaders’ meeting, when he’s expected to secure a third term in office.”

“A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away,” the New York Times reports.

“Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed set of trusts and nonprofit organizations. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.”

Edward Luce: “‘The storm is coming,’ according to Donald Trump in his latest nod to QAnon, the far-right conspiracy hive. Nobody will be less delighted about that than Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, whose party’s chances of regaining Congress are waning by the day. Midterm elections are normally a referendum on the party in power, which ought to be bad news for Joe Biden’s Democrats. But history is an increasingly useless guide. There is nothing normal about today’s US politics.”

“If, as McConnell dreads, this November’s elections are turning into a referendum on Trump rather than Biden, the party chiefly has itself to blame. This is especially true of the Senate, where a batch of Trump-endorsed candidates is befouling Republican hopes of the one-seat net gain it needs. The libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel has also played a role. His bets on controversial figures such as Arizona’s Blake Masters have made McConnell’s task harder.”

The New York attorney general’s office has rebuffed an offer from Donald Trump’s lawyers to settle a contentious civil investigation into the former president and his family real estate business, setting the stage for a lawsuit that would accuse Mr. Trump of fraud, the New York Times reports.

“The attorney general, Letitia James, is also considering suing at least one of Mr. Trump’s adult children, the people said. Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., have all been senior executives at Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.”

“In confidential court documents, former President Donald Trump tried to squirm his way out of taking a trip to the New York Attorney General’s office last month, telling a judge that the Secret Service had security concerns about the AG’s office,” the Daily Beast reports.

“Reached on Tuesday, the Secret Service was caught by surprise by the allegations and had not been made aware of any perceived security threat—or court filings detailing them.”

“The Biden administration is planning to nominate Lynne Tracy, a career diplomat, as the next ambassador to Russia,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“If her nomination is formally announced and confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Tracy, currently the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, would replace John Sullivan, who was appointed under the Trump administration and left this month.”

“President Biden has appointed more new federal judges than former President Trump had at the same point in his term, and there are more still to come,” Axios reports.

“President Biden’s nominee to serve as the first Black woman judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals failed to win confirmation in the Senate Tuesday after two Democratic senators missed the vote: Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL),” The Hill reports.

“The failed confirmation vote could delay the start of the debate on the Respect for Marriage Act, which was expected to begin at the end of this week, if Schumer decides to bring Freeman back to the floor quickly.”

“The favorite to be Italy’s next prime minister has rocketed almost from out of nowhere,” the Washington Post reports.

“Her party, until recently, was on the fringes. She was overlooked for years by Italy’s male-dominated political class. She is an unmarried mother with a heavy Roman accent, always casual and blunt, gesturing with hands to the sky, lambasting ‘woke ideology’ and cancel culture.”

“By any account, Giorgia Meloni’s rise is astonishing. In a matter of weeks, if all goes as expected, she stands to become Italy’s first female leader. She’s also set a benchmark for a far-right politician in Western Europe, earning a level of power that’s been out of reach for her counterparts in Germany and France, and doing so even after the forces propelling nationalism on the continent — a migration backlash and Euroskepticism — have waned.”

“Sweden’s right-wing parties combined to win a remarkable, if slim, election victory on Wednesday, buoyed by surging support for a far-right nationalist party, the Sweden Democrats, an electoral convulsion expected to shake national politics and likely end eight years of rule by the center-left,” the New York Times reports.

Text messages show that former former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) helped retired NFL player Brett Favre secure welfare funds for his $5 million volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Today reports.

Bryant has denied any involvement with the project, which has emerged as the centerpiece of a massive criminal scandal in which prominent officials misspent or stole millions in welfare funds intended for the nation’s poorest residents.

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

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