Cup of Joe – September 22, 2022

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced a lawsuit against Donald Trump, his company and three of his adult children over widespread fraud claims involving false financial statements related to the company.

The lawsuit will seek at least $250 million in penalties.

New York Times: “The 220-page lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, lays out in new and startling detail how, according to Ms. James, Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements were a compendium of lies. The statements, yearly records that include the company’s estimated value of his holdings and debts, wildly inflated the worth of nearly every one of his marquee properties — from Mar-a-Lago in Florida to Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, according to the lawsuit.”

If you’re currently at Mar-a-Lago, watch out for flying ketchup. The lawsuit filed against Donald Trump and three of his adult children this morning is serious. The complaint shows that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars “to unjustly enrich himself, to cheat the system.”

When forced to testify at a deposition last month, Trump refused to answer questions 440 times. When Trump’s lawyers attempted to settle the case last week, the New York attrorney general refused. What makes this serious for Trump is that he is on the hook for these allegations if proven true. He personally signed off on financial statements provided to banks to obtain loans attesting to their accuracy.

From the complaint: “Each year from 2011 to 2016, Mr. Trump and Mr. Weisselberg would meet to review and approve the final Statement. When asked questions about those meetings under oath, both men invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination and refused to answer.

When asked under oath if he continued to review and approve the Statements after becoming President of the United States in 2017, Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to answer.”

This is not a situation where Trump can plausibly blame underlings. While many have assumed it would be a criminal case that took down Trump, it may an accounting fraud that finally gets him.

New York Times: “A new batch of Mr. Trump’s legal woes in the headlines is certain to be unwelcome news for the Republican Party, which has steadily distanced itself from the former president’s tangles with the Justice Department over the classified documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago after his presidency ended.”

“And those headlines are something of a political gift to Democrats, who have been desperate to tie Republican candidates up and down the ballot to a former president who remains deeply unpopular among the public at large.”

“But Mr. Trump and his allies are clearly hoping they can deflect whatever political fallout Ms. James’s lawsuit inspires by drawing on past legal battles — all of which, so far, the longtime real estate baron has survived with the agility of an alley cat.”

The ex-president’s efforts to game the DOJ’s investigation into the documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago don’t seem to be going the way he hoped: TPM’s Josh Kovensky reports that U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, the judge Trump chose to be the special master in the case, expressed skepticism toward the Trump legal team’s claims during the hearing yesterday. At one point, he even told one of the ex-president’s lawyers that “[y]ou can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

“Spending by Donald Trump’s Save America PAC surged in August to more than $6.3 million — its highest monthly total of the year — as the former President waged court battles over the FBI’s search of his waterfront Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida,” CNN reports.

“More than $3.8 million of that money — or more than $6 out of $10 spent by Trump’s leadership PAC last month — went to legal fees.”

“Texas’s Ken Paxton and 10 other GOP state attorneys general came to the defense of former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in his legal fight over documents the FBI seized last month, filing an amicus brief in a federal appellate court that argued the Biden administration could not be trusted,” the Washington Post reports.

“In a 21-page document that repeated numerous right-wing talking points but that experts said broke little new legal ground, the officials accused the Biden administration of ‘ransacking’ Mar-a-Lago.”

“The House on Wednesday took the first major step to respond to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, voting mostly along party lines to overhaul the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act, the law that former President Donald Trump tried to exploit that day to overturn his defeat,” the New York Times reports.

“The bill was the most significant legislative answer yet to the riot and the monthslong campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies to invalidate the 2020 presidential election, but it also underscored the lingering partisan divide over Jan. 6 and the former president’s continuing grip on his party.”

The Senate’s version of the bill, which came out in June, is moving at a way slower pace. It won’t get put to a vote until after the midterms.

House Jan. 6 Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) announced yesterday that the panel’s next hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. ET.

It’ll be the committee’s last hearing before it releases its report at the end of the year.

Thompson wouldn’t say what the subject of the hearing will be. However, the Democrat said the hearing will be an opportunity for the panel to use some of the “substantial footage” and “significant witness testimony” that hasn’t been revealed yet.

“The Jan. 6 select committee has obtained new information about Mike Pence’s activities during the pressure campaign by Donald Trump and his allies to subvert the 2020 election,” Politico reports.

The new information “could be a central part of the select committee’s Sept. 28 hearing — which is expected to further flesh out elements of Trump’s effort to cling to power after losing his reelection bid.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said that a fellow GOP House member called former President Donald Trump “the orange Jesus” on January 6, 2021, as Republicans gathered objections to 2020 election results, USA Today reports.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Republican governors’ efforts to transport migrants from the southern border to northern Democrat-led cities is showing “well-to-do blue enclaves” the reality of the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, The Hill reports.

Said McConnell: “These well-to-do blue enclaves are finally witnessing the smallest fraction of the challenges that open borders have forced on working-class communities all across our country.”

Venezuelan migrants flown to the upscale Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his transportation secretary Tuesday for engaging in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to relocate them, the AP reports.

Insider: Hungry migrants were lured with $10 McDonalds gift certificates to gain their trust and fly them to Martha’s Vineyard.

Bret Stephens: “The crisis at the border strains frontline communities to the breaking point. It strains faith in the rule of law. It makes a mockery of the legal immigration system, and the people who play by its exacting rules. And it makes a mockery of people like Vice President Harris and others making fools of themselves by trying to defend a visibly failed policy.”

“The crisis is a failure of liberalism, classic and contemporary. It calls into question the ability, or willingness, of a Democratic president to solve a basic law-and-order issue when it conflicts with progressive pieties. And it raises a more profound question of maintaining a civic identity in a country where too many people aren’t even citizens.”

Mona Charen: “We are fortunate that so many hard-working people want to come here. If we had our act together, we would reform our laws to take many more legal immigrants (who would begin the application process in their home countries) and hire more immigration judges to hear asylum claims while clarifying that only severe cases will be eligible for that status (not economic migrants). We are an aging population with a declining birth rate. Our national spirit needs the infusion of energy and dynamism that immigrants provide.”

“If our laws are clear, we can reduce the crush of hopefuls at the border. With more legal immigrants, our economy will thrive. Our tax receipts will increase. We’ll have the nurses, truckers, teachers, cooks, train conductors, and construction workers we desperately need. And we will be thanked and strengthened by people whose lives we save.

David Frum: “Trump’s border wall was a pretty dumb idea. But it did connect to reality. The border did exist, and it could be fortified. The cost might be extreme, the benefit negligible, but the construction job could be done.”

“The Carlson-DeSantis theory of immigration, however, does not describe anything that exists in this world. It’s a fantasy, born out of the reactionary imagination.”

“Maybe DeSantis knows that. Maybe not. At this point, what does it matter? He is campaigning as the man who will channel his party’s most brutish impulses. DeSantis is testing whether he can troll his way, Trump style, to its presidential nomination. But Trump’s one-term presidency showed the limitations of trying to troll your way through office.”

“Reality is real; it can be ignored on cable news but not from the White House. A great country cannot be governed by juvenile memes from hate-filled message boards.”

The Federal Reserve  on Wednesday raised benchmark interest rates by another three-quarters of a percentage point and indicated it will keep hiking well above the current level, CNBC reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “accelerated his war effort in Ukraine on Wednesday, announcing a new mobilization campaign that would call up roughly 300,000 additional soldiers while also directly challenging the West’s support for Ukraine with a veiled threat of using nuclear weapons,” the New York Times reports.

“In a rare videotaped address to the nation, Mr. Putin stopped short of declaring a full, national draft but instead called for a ‘partial mobilization’ of people with military experience.”

“The speech was an apparent attempt to reassert his authority over an increasingly chaotic war that has undermined his leadership both at home and on the global stage. It also escalated the tense showdown with Western nations that have bolstered Ukraine with weapons, money and intelligence that have contributed to Ukraine’s recent successes in reclaiming swaths of territory in the northeast.”

The Economist: Putin’s situation looks ever more desperate.

A former adviser to Vladimir Putin used a BBC radio interview to threaten the U.K. with nuclear annihilation.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told PBS News Hour that Russian President Vladimir Putin must return all land that Russia has occupied, including Crimea.

“Large numbers of Russians rushed to book one-way tickets out of the country while they still could Wednesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of military reservists for the war in Ukraine,” the AP reports.

“Flights filled up quickly and the prices of tickets for remaining connections sky-rocketed, apparently driven by fears that Russia’s borders could soon close or of a broader call-up that might send many Russian men of fighting age to the war’s front lines.”

President Biden “harshly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, telling the United Nation’s General Assembly that the unprovoked war directly violated the organization’s charter, and warning of escalating nuclear threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin,” CNBC reports.

Said Biden: “Let us speak plainly: a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations’ charter, no more important than the clear prohibition against countries taking the territory of their neighbor by force.”

House Democrats have reached a long-elusive agreement on a package of police and community safety bills, according to several of the top stakeholders, with plans for the lower chamber to vote Thursday to send the legislation to the Senate,” The Hill reports.

“The deal arrives after months of tense talks between moderate Democrats, who have been pushing for a vote on the pro-police package ahead of the midterm elections, and liberals leery of showering new funds on law enforcers without new safeguards for curbing police abuse.”

“A key group of House Democrats are nearing an agreement on a package of pro-policing bills — a huge pre-election priority for the party’s moderate wing,” Politico reports.

“Centrist Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) have been in intense talks this week, including a late-night huddle on the House floor, with top progressive Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on a contentious public safety package that leadership has had to punt twice over internal disputes. Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, who were part of initial negotiations with Gottheimer, have also been involved.”

William Saletan: “If you’re devoutly pro-life, it can be exhilarating to watch a politician flaunt his resolve to prohibit all abortions in every state. But if you’re pro-choice, it’s alarming. And if you’re McConnell, it’s a headache. McConnell just wants to make things easy on Republican senators and Senate candidates. He doesn’t want Ron Johnson, Mehmet Oz, Adam Laxalt, and other purple-state GOP nominees to be put on the spot about a federal ban.”

“Apparently, Graham does. In the interview, he exhorted pro-lifers to hold Republican lawmakers’ feet to the fire. Without using McConnell’s name, he called for a direct assault on McConnell’s position.”

Said Graham: “Here’s the question for the pro-life movement: Are you going to accept the Republican party who tells you Washington is out of business? I don’t think you will. I don’t think you should.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) condemned “revenge politics” as Republicans resist his efforts to speed up the permitting process for energy projects, The Hill reports.

Said Manchin: “I’m hearing that the Republican leadership is upset and they’re saying ‘we’re not going to give a victory to Joe Manchin’ — Joe Manchin’s not looking for a victory. We’ve got a good piece of legislation that’s extremely balanced and I think it’ll prove itself in time. The bottom line is, how much suffering and how much pain do you want to inflict on the American people for the time.”

“Newly released videos show allies of former President Donald Trump and contractors who were working on his behalf handling sensitive voting equipment in a rural Georgia county weeks after the 2020 election,” the New York Times reports.  “The footage, which was made public as part of long-running litigation over Georgia’s voting system, raises new questions about efforts by Trump affiliates in a number of swing states to gain access to and copy sensitive election software, with the help of friendly local election administrators.”

CNN: New footage confirms fake Trump elector spent hours inside Georgia elections office day it was breached.

“This summer, Donald Trump is taking something that began during his presidency to a whole new level. His dalliance with content connected to QAnon — the deranged pro-Trump conspiracy theory that features tales of powerful Democrats running a pedophilic secret society — has gone from a game of footsie to what appears to be an open embrace,” Rolling Stone reports. “But if you ask members of the ex-president’s inner orbit why this is happening now, you get a mix of responses, including abject confusion.”

People in Trump’s inner circle told Rolling Stone magazine that the reason the ex-president’s been blowing kisses to QAnon recently is fairly simple: It’s an opportunity for some good old-fashioned trolling (while basking in the adoration of QAnon supporters, naturally). Trump has privately said that he thinks QAnon memes are funny and that “it’s hilarious” to make the media “so mad” whenever he gives a shout-out to QAnon, a Trump ally said.

This is, of course, how his allies are explaining it. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Trump, who has trafficked in conspiracy theories in earnest, does believe in certain elements of QAnon.

Alex Shephard: “His Youngstown rally, even by the former president’s recent unhinged standards, hit operatic new heights of myopia, narcissism, and self-delusion. Much of the speech read like dark and gritty reboot of his 2016 address at the Republican National Convention…”

“Mostly, though, he just wanted to talk about himself. In a series of self-pitying screeds, he claimed that the ‘death penalty’ would be brought against him if he had ‘spied’ on campaigns the way he claims he was spied on during the 2016 election—yes, he’s still bringing up grievances from more than six years ago. He went on to characterize the seizure of highly classified documents that he’d been hoarding in his personal residence as an ‘unhinged persecution.’”

“But even this was just part of the build-up to what ended up being a full QAnon passion play, as the rally culminated with Trump fulminating—reciting a series of grievances over swelling strings. His followers, commanded to raise their fingers in salute, did so—resulting in a scene that looked like it was freshly plucked from Leni Riefenstahl’s back catalogue.”

Tom Nichols: “Saturday night’s Ohio rally was not a typical Trump carnival, and it was not just ridiculous—it was dangerous. His embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theorists represents a new expansion not only of Trump’s cult of personality, but of his threats to sow violence.”

“Despite his seeming inability to remember anything from one thought to the next, Trump has a kind of lizard-brain awareness of danger—only to himself, of course—that guides him when he’s faced with threats. His reflex in such situations is to do whatever it takes to survive, including bullying, lying, threatening, and allegedly breaking the law.”

“He is in political and legal jeopardy now, and he has decided to escalate his war against the rule of law, the American system of government, and the American people by embracing and potentially weaponizing QAnon.”

“The Biden administration and Republican opponents of mass student debt cancellation appear headed for a legal confrontation with hundreds of billions of dollars at stake just weeks before the November midterm elections,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“GOP state attorneys general, conservative groups and federal lawmakers are laying the groundwork to challenge President Biden’s executive action to cancel up to $20,000 of debt for most of the 40 million people with federal student loan debt. Would-be plaintiffs can’t take action until the administration makes a formal move toward cancellation, such as releasing an application for loan forgiveness or wiping out the balances of a first batch of borrowers.” 

“The Education Department has said it would unveil an application for borrowers to register their income and Pell Grant status, two factors that determine relief eligibility, by early October.”

“Just over half of passenger cars sold in the US will be electric vehicles by 2030, thanks in part to consumer incentives included in the $374 billion in new climate spending enacted by President Joe Biden,” Bloomberg reports.

“Mike Lindell, the My Pillow chief executive and ally to former President Donald Trump, is under U.S. federal investigation for identity theft and for conspiring to damage a protected computer connected to a suspected voting equipment security breach in Colorado,” Reuters reports.

A federal judge on Monday shot down MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s request to throw out voting tech firm Smartmatic’s defamation suit against him and MyPillow.

Politico: “If everyone who turns up to the United Nations General Assembly really cared about the things they say they care about, wouldn’t the world be a better place by now?”

“After decades of progress in reducing poverty and improving health outcomes, in recent years the world has started falling far behind in efforts to meet the 17 U.N. sustainable development goals (SDGs), agreed to by all governments in 2015. On some issues, including gender equality, the world is going backwards.”

“So what, then, is the point of 150 heads of state and government gathering in New York this week?”

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

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