Cup of Joe – November 19, 2022

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will appoint a special counsel to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against former President Donald Trump, CNBC reports.

New York Times: “The appointment of a special counsel was a way for the Justice Department to insulate its investigations against Mr. Trump from political considerations. While special counsels can be fired from their positions, the process is much more arduous than removing ordinary prosecutors from a case.”

“Special counsels are semi-independent prosecutors who by Justice Department regulations can be appointed for high-level investigations when there can be a conflict of interest, or the appearance of it. They exercise greater day-to-day autonomy than regular United States attorneys, but are ultimately still subject to the control of the attorney general.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigations into Donald Trump, The Hill reports.

Smith would take the helm of two investigations, one into the mishandling of sensitive government records at Mar-a-Lago, as well as aspects of its investigation into Jan. 6. covering “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power.”

CNN: Who is Jack Smith?

Donald Trump blasted the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel to take over investigations related to presidential records and Jan. 6, telling Fox News he “won’t partake in it” and calling it “the worst politicization of justice in our country.”

Said Trump: “I have been going through this for six years — for six years I have been going through this, and I am not going to go through it anymore. And I hope the Republicans have the courage to fight this.”

He added: “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”

And more: “Hunter Biden is a criminal many times over and nothing happens to him. Joe Biden is a criminal many times over — and nothing happens to them.”

Politico: “The president must now find a way to work with GOP lawmakers to get things done. Rather than driving the economic policy agenda on Capitol Hill, Biden will be along for the ride — forced to grapple with issues that Republicans care about, or else settle for gridlock.”

“That means he’ll have to seek common ground with the GOP on issues from standing up to China to reining in Big Tech. Yet even with a potential recession looming, he’ll confront stiff Republican resistance to more federal spending — as well as threats to slash Medicare and Social Security benefits.”

“Republican lawmakers, who will be in the House majority come January, are pressing party leaders to send a message to big financial firms: Stop appeasing the left with ‘woke’ business practices, keep financing fossil fuels and cut ties with China. Republicans will have committee gavels and subpoena powers to back that up,” Politico reports.

“GOP lawmakers are singling out major asset managers and their Washington trade groups as targets because of climate investing practices they see as hostile to oil, gas and coal. Some Republicans want to continue hauling in big bank CEOs to publicly testify — a tradition established by liberal Democrats. GOP senators are already demanding that law firms preserve documents related to how they advise clients on environmental and social initiatives, signaling a potential investigation. Wall Street firms and Washington lobbyists are preparing for subpoenas.”

Here’s what Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) is about to find out: A simple majority and a governing majority are not the same thing. That’s assuming McCarthy can even wrangle the 218 votes he needs to be elected Speaker on January 3 — not a sure thing at this point. As The Hotline noted earlier, any House majority less than 225 would be a headache for McCarthy. Anything less than 221 could be downright ungovernable.

Republicans are now projected to end up with 222 seats, while the Democrats will have 213. That’s the same margin that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has had over the last two years. But — as I suspect we will be hearing a lot in the coming months — Kevin McCarthy is no Nancy Pelosi.

The last two Republican speakers — John Boehner and Paul Ryan — could not even find the votes in their unruly caucus to prevent a government shutdown. Both men needed Pelosi to deliver enough Democrats to get funding bills through the House. McCarthy doesn’t have anywhere near the goodwill that Boehner and Ryan had in dealing with the Democrats.

“When Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her retirement from congressional leadership on Thursday, the House chamber was packed with Democratic lawmakers in anticipation of the announcement from an icon of American politics,” NBC News reports.

“The Republican side of the chamber was largely empty. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is eyeing the speaker’s job after his party captured the majority, was nowhere to be seen.”

Asked why he skipped her speech, McCarthy said: “I had meetings. But normally the others would do it during votes. I wish she could have done that — could have been there.”

Hundreds of Twitter’s remaining employees have resigned ahead of Elon Musk’s “extremely hardcore” cultural reset of the company, The Verge reports.

“Twitter had roughly 2,900 remaining employees before the deadline Thursday, thanks to Musk unceremoniously laying off about half of the 7,500-person workforce when he took over and the resignations that followed. Remaining and departing Twitter employees told The Verge that, given the scale of the resignations this week, they expect the platform to start breaking soon.”

Fortune Magazine said up to 75% of Musk’s employees had decided to abandon the company.

The New York Times reports Musk frantically tried to retain top talent in hastily arranged Zooms.

Said a former Twitter employee to the Washington Post: “I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers. There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”

Amanda Carpenter: “Trump—who dragged his party to midterm losses in 2018, lost the White House in 2020 to the oldest man ever to have the job, incited an insurrectionist mob into attacking the U.S. Capitol, was impeached twice, and contributed to yet another GOP midterm flop last week—sneered and grimaced through his announcement. He slow-read prepared remarks in a monotone, digressing to riff on whatever non sequitur popped into his mind.”

“Maybe Trump’s spirits were low because he read the terrible press coverage running up to his announcement and could see the faces in the crowd, which were nothing close to the assembly of GOP elite he commanded in rallies past. The biggest bold-faced names spotted in the crowd were a grifter’s row of deplorables and has-beens: Roger Stone, Madison Cawthorn, Mike Lindell, and Dick Morris.”

“Not all of his friends have abandoned him, but the harsh media reaction to former President Donald Trump’s announcement that he’s seeking the top office again illustrates that if he wants his old job back, he has a lot of convincing to do,” the AP reports.

Billionaire and GOP megadonor Ronald Lauder won’t help finance Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign for president, CNBC reports.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that former President Donald Trump is unfit for office, and he does not want him to run for president in 2024, The Hill reports.

New York Times: “Within hours of Donald Trump announcing his third presidential bid on Tuesday, some of his former aides, donors and staunchest allies are shunning his attempt to recapture the White House, an early sign that he may face difficulty winning the support of a Republican Party still reeling from unexpected midterm losses.”

“While Mr. Trump has long faced opposition from the establishment and elite quarters of his party, this round of criticism was new in its raw bluntness, plainly out in the open by Wednesday and focused on reminding voters that the Trump era in Republican politics has led to the opposite of the endless winning Mr. Trump once promised.”

“A televangelist who served as a spiritual adviser to Donald Trump said the former president has the tendency to act ‘like a little elementary schoolchild’ and suggests that Trump’s focus on minor spats was preventing progress on larger goals, the Washington Post reports.

Said James Robison: “If Mr. Trump can’t stop his little petty issues, how does he expect people to stop major issues?”

“Former president Donald Trump has told associates and advisers that he wants his third White House bid to resemble the first, limiting himself to a small, improvisational operation and positioning himself as an upstart outsider,” the Washington Post reports.

“But his official campaign announcement on Tuesday echoed his original 2015 launch in other ways that are less to his favor — lacking the advantages of incumbency and a unified party at his back.”

“Republican leaders in Washington and around the country are openly blaming Trump for leading the party to its third consecutive electoral letdown. A conservative press that cheered his presidency reprised the hostile tone many right-leaning outlets took when he first appeared on the political scene in 2015. And an emboldened array of potential 2024 competitors for the nomination have stepped forward to suggest an alternative future for the party, even if they are not formally joining Trump in the race yet.”

George Conway: “He was always going to run. Absent incarceration or interment, and perhaps only the latter, he inevitably would seek the presidency again. His narcissism, his megalomania, his delicate yet illimitable ego, would have it no other way.”

“Donald Trump craves the power. Even more, he craves the attention. And more than ever — after an unprecedented two impeachments, a humiliating reelection defeat that he can’t even admit, and amid multiple criminal investigations and civil suits — he seeks vengeance.”

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was heavily criticized last spring when he pushed Republican lawmakers to adopt congressional maps that were much more friendly to the GOP,” Politico reports.

“Republican lawmakers were initially reluctant to go along with the governor and GOP legislative leaders even punished rank-and-file members for siding with DeSantis. But Republicans in Florida and nationally are now praising the governor for strong-arming his own party to approve his congressional maps, which netted Florida Republicans four additional congressional seats on Election Day and essentially helped the GOP win the tiny House majority.”

Politico: “The trouble for Donald Trump is that the Trump of today is not the Trump of 7½ years back, and neither is Ron DeSantis now the same as Jen Bush was then. In the estimation of aides and advisers to all three men and dozens of insiders, analysts and operatives from Florida to Washington and beyond, DeSantis is arguably stronger than he’s ever been, while Trump is arguably weaker than he’s ever been.”

“In a preview of the intra-party battle ahead, far-right House Republicans, led by MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vowed Thursday to fight against Ukraine aid,” CNN reports.

Washington Post: “While many Republicans have privately expressed skepticism that McCarthy and a Republican-led House would cut off aid all together, one senior GOP aide said funding for Ukraine could become a sort of litmus test as far-right factions of the party assert their policy priorities.”

“Republicans taking control of influential committees, such as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who is poised to preside over the House Foreign Affairs Committee, are likely to face the delicate task of having to accommodate isolationists and hawks within their party.”

“A Republican political strategist was convicted of illegally helping a Russian businessman contribute to Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016,” the Washington Post reports.

“Jesse Benton, 44, was pardoned by Trump in 2020 for a different campaign finance crime, months before he was indicted again on six counts related to facilitating an illegal foreign campaign donation. He was found guilty Thursday on all six counts.”

“The Republican Party is plunging into an identity crisis after its November red wave dissolved,” CNN reports. “And while almost everyone with power and influence in the GOP agrees it’s a mess, no one can agree on how to fix it. Or whether Donald Trump should be involved.”

David Frum: “Over the months between now and voting day in 2024, Trump will likely face legal jeopardy, criminal and civil. Many in the Republican world hope that those jeopardies will eliminate Trump for them. But when the jeopardies arrive, will they rally to Trump’s defense? That’s what they did when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago for stolen government documents. Trump’s Republican allies endorsed his false claims to be a victim of state persecution then—and pushed their party to protect the ex-president from the law he had willfully violated. If they repeat that performance, they’ll make Trump a martyr all the way to the nomination.”

“If they yearn for Trump’s legal troubles to disqualify him, they will have to signal to their supporters that those legal troubles are fair and legitimate, not acts of political persecution by the Biden administration or the New York attorney general. And if Republican leaders won’t stand up for the law, against Trump, they will back themselves into standing up for Trump, against the law. They got a lot of practice siding with Trump against the law from 2015 to 2022, and that practice has brought them to their present predicament. If they want to escape their predicament, they must change their practice.”

 “Rudy Giuliani, an attorney and adviser to former President Donald Trump, won’t face criminal charges over his work on issues related to Ukraine,“ Politico reports.  “The investigation of Giuliani grabbed headlines last May when the FBI raided the former New York mayor’s home and office, carrying out a court-ordered search warrant seeking evidence of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

Ron Brownstein: “In Democratic-leaning and swing states, voters last week delivered an unmistakable cry of resistance to the restrictive Republican social agenda symbolized by the drive to ban abortion.”

“But in red states where Republicans have actually imposed that agenda over the past two years, GOP governors cruised to reelection without any discernible backlash.”

“That sharp contrast underscored the depth of the divide between red and blue America and points toward the further partitioning of the nation into divergent, and increasingly hostile, blocs living under fundamentally different rules for civil rights and liberties. Last week’s results could simultaneously embolden red state Republicans to continue advancing the militantly conservative social agenda they have pursued since 2021 on abortion and other issues like voting and book bans – while also making clear that such an agenda is electorally untenable outside of those core GOP states.”

Jonathan Last: “So again, lots of factors were at play. Including one that doesn’t get talked about much: excess Covid deaths. There’s been an ongoing study of the Republican resistance to the Covid vaccines and the preliminary findings suggest that post-vaccine, Republicans accounted for about 80 percent more of the excess deaths than Democrats. Part of this is because of vaccine hesitancy; part of it is because of the age profile of voters.”

“I’m not going to burden you with the math here, but if you want to read up on it, the data is quite striking, all the way to the county level.”

“To take just one example: between January 2021 and this month, 9,400 people in Nevada died of Covid. The data suggests that the majority of these people would have been Republican voters. Keep that number in mind.”

Midway through a white nationalist’s conference in Orlando last month, Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers (R) drew applause calling for gruesome violence against “traitors” after excoriating critics of the “honorable” Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and proponents of the “bioweapon” coronavirus vaccine, the Washington Post reports.

Said Rogers: “We need to build more gallows.” She added that such a deadly fate would “make an example of these traitors who’ve betrayed our country.”

New York Times: “The election actually provided models for both parties in the states. For Republicans, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s smashing re-election victory in Florida should offer real hope. Mr. DeSantis not only defeated his Democratic opponent by 20 points but also won Mr. Trump’s own vote in Florida while Mr. Trump was calling him names — which is roughly the magic act that the party’s next leader will need to pull off.”

“For Democrats, an analogous figure may be Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, who also won a huge re-election victory. Mr. Polis’s biography and disposition are a good fit for the party’s activist base, but his style of governance is decidedly centrist, which is the mix Democrats will need to compete against a post-Trump G.O.P.”

David Ignatius: “The Biden administration has granted legal immunity to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a protection that even President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t offer.”

“For critics of MBS, as the Saudi leader is known, the immunity decision is a slap in the face. It will likely rouse new protests in Congress and among human rights activists that the Biden administration is accommodating Mohammed for reasons of realpolitik — and compromising its values in the process.”

“Donald Trump’s longtime finance chief choked up on the witness stand Thursday, saying he betrayed the Trump family’s trust by scheming to dodge taxes on $1.7 million in company-paid perks, including a Manhattan apartment and luxury cars,” the AP reports.

Said Allen Weisselberg: “It was my own personal greed that led to this case.”

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

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