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Cup of Joe – October 28, 2022

“Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald Trump’s handling of national security documents want to question one of his confidants about a claim that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House,” the New York Times reports.

“That claim has hovered over the investigation since the confidant, Kash Patel; Mr. Trump himself; and other allies said publicly that Mr. Trump had declassified the documents while still president.”

“No evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump did so, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers have not repeated the claim in an ongoing court dispute with prosecutors over materials seized by the F.B.I. during a search of Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, in August.”

“A federal judge is considering whether to unseal secret court documents detailing Donald Trump’s effort to prevent former aides from providing testimony to a grand jury investigating efforts to subvert the 2020 election,” Politico reports.

“Attorneys for Donald Trump have accepted service of a subpoena issued by the Jan. 6 select committee demanding documents and testimony from the former president by next month,” Politico reports.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), a close ally of former President Donald Trump, has dropped his lawsuit against the Department of Justice requesting the return of all cell phone data seized by the FBI earlier this year, NBC News reports.

Perry’s lawyers filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the case, but did not provide an explanation for the move in the filing.

“Two people armed with handguns and wearing tactical military gear, balaclavas masking their face and the license plates on their cars covered, stood watch over a ballot drop box during early voting last week in Mesa, Arizona,” Bloomberg reports.

“This scene, reported by the Maricopa County Elections Department on Friday, is one that some elections officials and law enforcement fear might spread as believers in Donald Trump’s false claims that a second term as president was stolen from him through voter fraud amp up activity ahead of the Nov. 8 election.”

“A federal judge in Arizona said he hopes to decide by Friday whether to order members of a group to stop monitoring outdoor ballot drop boxes in the Phoenix area in an effort that has sparked allegations of voter intimidation,” the AP reports.

“Election Day is 12 days away. But in courtrooms across the country, efforts to sow doubt over the outcome have already begun,” the AP reports.

“More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year around the upcoming midterm elections. The suits, largely by Republicans, target rules over mail-in voting, early voting, voter access, voting machines, voting registration, the counting of mismarked absentee ballots and access for partisan poll watchers.”

“It’s the most litigation ever before an election and it’s likely a preview of a potentially contentious post-election landscape.”

“The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6% annual rate in the third quarter despite consumers slowing their spending. It contracted earlier in the year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New York Times: “Economic growth rebounded over the summer, the latest government data shows, but slowing consumer spending and a rapidly weakening housing market mean the report will do little to ease fears of a looming recession.”

“The share of US families struggling to pay everyday bills rose to a fresh record this month, underscoring the toll of inflation on budgets with only two weeks to go until the midterm elections,” Bloomberg reports.

“Almost 41% of households said it has been somewhat or very difficult to cover usual household expenses in the latest US Census Bureau household survey, the highest since the question was first asked in August 2020.”

Stan Greenberg: “The United States has been hit by four simultaneous global crises that have totally upended our politics, energy policies, and strategic worldview.”

“Democratic and Republican leaders here have barely accommodated their politics to these changes, but they will not be amused long by the chaos in the United Kingdom. It is very much part of the destructive waves hitting both our shores.”

“A recession warning tracked by Wall Street is growing louder, as another measure of the widely watched ‘yield curve’ signals that the United States is headed toward an economic slump,” the New York Times reports.

NPR: “New data released on Wednesday showed shelf stock rates for powdered infant formula was 87% last week… That compares to rates of 88-90% before the crisis began in February — and rates of 69% in the summer at the peak of the crisis, when almost a third of powdered infant formula was out of stock.”

“The good times continue at Shell. The London-based energy giant reported adjusted earnings for the third quarter of $9.45 billion, its second-highest profit on record and more than double the $4.1 billion it made in the same period a year earlier,” the New York Times reports.

“Shell is mainly benefiting from high oil and natural gas prices partly stoked by the war in Ukraine, as Russia squeezes gas flows to Europe.”

“President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday repeated Russia’s unsubstantiated warning that Ukraine was preparing to explode a so-called dirty bomb, as concerns rose in the West that the Kremlin was seeking a pretext to escalate its war in Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“After House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested last week that Republicans might pull back funding for Ukraine next year if they take the majority, the GOP leader has worked behind the scenes to reassure national security leaders in his conference that he wasn’t planning to abandon Ukraine aid and was just calling for greater oversight of any federal dollars,” CNN reports.

“McCarthy told key Republican national security committee members – some of whom reached out to McCarthy – that his comments that Ukraine wouldn’t get a ‘blank check’ in a Republican majority were being taken out of context.”

The Economist: “When Joe Biden evoked ‘Armageddon’ earlier this month, many thought the president overstated the danger of nuclear war with Russia.”

“Yet nervousness about escalation is now more palpable in Washington. The latest cause is Russia’s charge that Ukraine is planning to set off a ‘dirty bomb’—a conventional device that spreads radioactive dust—and blame Russia. America, Britain and France dismiss the claim as ‘transparently false.’ The matter is murky; and when it comes to nukes, the fog of war is troubling.”

“America is on the verge of the first truly parallel universe presidential campaign — where the parties speak to distinct groups of voters, in distinct media ecosystems, pushing distinct realities,” Axios reports.

“The days of appearing on the same media channels or even the same debate stage seem over. Forget traditional debates. Equal time on conventional TV. Or mainstream reporters pushing candidates from both parties. Instead, narrowcasting playbooks that have been road-tested in this year’s midterms will be deployed at scale.”

“The result: The right talking to the right … Left talking to the left… And the new silent majority — people who don’t marinate in tweets or cable news — left out like never before.”

Walter Shapiro: “The issues on the congressional ballot this year are momentous. But, for the most part, they are not what is being discussed by the candidates, highlighted in voice-of-doom TV ads and emphasized by the media.”

“To oversimplify a bit, the choice on the ballot in November — especially for the House — comes down to whether voters want to impeach Joe Biden or complete the investigation into Trump’s complicity in the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

The Economist: “Despite the best efforts of Democrats, these midterms do not look like being a referendum on the increasingly institutionalized anti-democratic tendencies of the right. With a few exceptions, after winning their primary contests most Republicans have de-emphasized the relitigation of the last election, as they seek to widen their appeal beyond the party base. They have more or less successfully defined the race as a referendum on Mr Biden’s leadership, crime, culture-war excess, education, inflation and immigration.”

“After a hopeful summer for Democrats in the wake of the Supreme Court’s unpopular ruling on abortion, the national environment has recently soured for the party in power, which now fears it may lose even the governorships of Oregon and New York. It is normal to see a backlash in midterm years. This time, though, it would come with an unfortunate side-effect: the continuing moral rotting of a previously grand old party.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “To be sure, House and Senate Democrats as a group are quite liberal. Even the most moderate among them are best thought of as moderate liberals; twenty years ago, and even ten years ago, there were more of those moderates, and they were closer to being moderate conservatives. The same is true on the Republican side. The gap between the least conservative Republicans and the least liberal Democrats has only continued to grow.”

“But the power of ideological outliers is very different between the parties. Ukraine is an excellent example. Mainstream liberal Democrats, as we’ve seen this week, are not afraid of disagreements with the House Progressive Caucus. Indeed, many of them appear to delight in contrasting themselves with those who are more liberal.”

“Mainstream Republicans, however, are terrified of any significant criticism from those who call themselves extreme conservatives — which allows those radicals to bully the rest of the party.”

Tom Barrack, a California billionaire and ally of Donald Trump, used his testimony at his U.S. federal trial to question Trump’s leadership on foreign policy, saying the former president was clueless about the dynamics in the Middle East, the Times of Israel reports.

Barrack testified that some of his clients in his private equity firm “were upset I was friends with the president.”

Trump, he added, was perceived as someone who “could not spell Middle East… It was a nightmare.”

Former Speaker Paul Ryan told Fox Business that Republicans have a much a better shot at winning the White House if the party does not nominate former President Donald Trump in 2024.

Said Ryan: “That new swing voter in American politics is the suburban voter, and it’s really clear the suburban voter doesn’t like Trump, but they like Republicans. So I think anybody not named Trump, I think is so much more likely to win the White House for us.”

New York Times: “American entrepreneurs have long mixed their business and political interests. But no one in recent memory has fused the two quite as completely as Mr. Lindell. In less than two years, the infomercial pitchman has transformed his company into an engine of the election denial movement, using his personal wealth and advertising dollars to propel the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.”

“In the process, Mr. Lindell has secured a platform for his conspiracy theories — and a devoted base of consumers culled from the believers.”

ProPublica has a deep dive on other funders of the election denial movement.

Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) “behind-the-scenes work to set himself up for a run for Democratic leader is far more intricate than previously reported,” according to Punchbowl News.

“Schiff held a September leadership planning meeting with several Democrats, including Reps. Eric Swalwell, Mike Thompson, Mark Takano, and Mike Quigley, among others. This is especially notable because Swalwell and Thompson are close allies of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

“Schiff is also very close to the speaker. But Pelosi hasn’t said what her plans are for after the election, much less made any public moves to endorse a successor. And it’s not clear what impact an endorsement would have, even from Pelosi.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told Steve Bannon that she hasn’t forgotten that some corporations halted donations to Republican lawmakers who didn’t vote to certify the 2020 presidential election.

Said Greene: “They stopped donating. All the lobbyists, all the big corporations stopped to a whole bunch of my Republican colleagues that they used to donate to. They said, ‘Oh, no. We can’t support you because of the big lie’ or whatever they want to call it.”

She added: “So, I want you to know – and this is something they should all know – that’s not going to be forgotten by a whole bunch of my Republican colleagues because that was really ridiculous and wrong.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “was met with roaring laughter from a crowd of Republican voters on Tuesday evening when he suggested that Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s ascension to chair of the House Judiciary Committee could result in a raft of suicides,” Insider reports.

Said Graham: “What’s the worst thing the Democratic Party wants to hear? Chairman Jim Jordan. There are gonna be people jumping off bridges in San Francisco by the thousands. You know, New York City, they may literally shut down.”

Alabama, Louisiana, Vermont, Oregon and Tennessee will vote in November to remove language in their state constitutions that allows those convicted of a crime to be punished with slavery and indentured servitude.

Colorado, Nebraska and Utah have already passed similar laws scrubbing slavery from the books–a trend that didn’t start until 2018.

Keep in mind that the removals won’t abolish the forced labor system in U.S. prisons in which prisoners are required to work for just 52 cents per hour on average nationally (and in some states, nothing at all).

“The longtime water superintendent for a small town in Vermont has resigned in protest after local officials ordered him to restore the town’s water to the state’s standard for fluoride levels—which he had been secretly and unilaterally lowering for years due to his own personal anti-fluoride beliefs,” Ars Technica reports.

“And his righteous, five-page resignation letter offered yet another bombshell in the small-town water scandal that has made national headlines in recent weeks. He asserted that he had been surreptitiously lowering the town’s fluoride levels for much longer than previously known—for over a decade rather than the nearly four years officials had previously disclosed.”

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

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