Cup of Joe – November 26, 2022

Donald Trump dined with rapper Kanye West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week, Axios reports.

“Trump’s direct engagement with a man labeled a ‘white supremacist’ by the Justice Department, one week after declaring his 2024 candidacy, is likely to draw renewed outrage over the former president’s embrace of extremists.”

Trump is now trying to back away from the dinner: “This past week, Kanye West called me to have dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Shortly thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up with three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about. We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. They then left for the airport.”

“This is a fucking nightmare. If people are looking at DeSantis to run against Trump, here’s another reason why.” — A Trump adviser, talking to NBC News, about Donald Trump dining with a white nationalist.

Donald Trump also apparently spent last night amplifying QAnon memes on Truth Social.

Kanye West said in a video that Donald Trump started “screaming” at him during dinner at Mar-a-Lago and told the rapper he would lose if he were to run for president in 2024. Said West: “When Trump started basically screaming at me at the table telling me I was going to lose, I mean has that ever worked for anyone in history?”

He added: “I’m like whoa hold on, hold on, hold on. You’re talking to Ye.”

Jeff Greenfield: “If you are one of those obsessed with following the next presidential election, you will consume the weekly or daily or hourly polls, even though you know they have a collective half-life of an ice cream cone in Saudi Arabia. You’ll watch every debate, no matter how early, in search of the fatal gaffe or resonant sound bite.”

“But if you really want to know whether Donald Trump is ascendant or in free fall, you might do better to focus on what might seem like a recipe for narcolepsy: the Republican Party’s delegate-selection process across the 50-plus states, territories and commonwealths. Over the next year and a half, there will be no better clue to the strength and weaknesses of Trump and his competitors.”

“Why? Well, for one thing, the way that delegates are chosen by state primaries, conventions and caucuses are far more important than a dozen debates and tens of millions of campaign dollars. And how the GOP state parties decide how their convention delegates are selected may also tell you whether these state parties are out to hobble the former president — or put him on a glide path to another nomination.”

“In a matter of hours Tuesday, former President Donald Trump suffered humiliating defeats in courtrooms across the country that put him on track to have his personal taxes exposed, see his company dismantled, face a trial for an alleged rape, and confront the unencumbered power of the Department of Justice,” the Daily Beast reports.

“It was setback after setback for the former president, who would have struggled to keep up with all the bad news hour by hour—just as journalists struggled to keep track of all the updates and court appearances on Tuesday.”

Donald Trump ripped the Supreme Court on Wednesday, a day after it rejected his emergency appeal seeking to shield his tax returns from House Democrats.

Said Trump: “Why would anybody be surprised that the Supreme Court has ruled against me, they always do! It is unprecedented to be handing over Tax Returns, & it creates terrible precedent for future Presidents. Has Joe Biden paid taxes on all of the money he made illegally from Hunter & beyond.”

He added: “The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body, with our Country paying the price. They refused to even look at the Election Hoax of 2020. Shame on them!”

“Donald Trump on Tuesday asked a federal court in Florida to provide him and his lawyers with a complete version of the sworn statement that federal investigators used to obtain a search warrant for his Florida property in August,” Reuters reports.

Here are some sample headlines from the Mar-a-Lago oral arguments, which went disastrously for Trump:

  • NYT: Court Appears Ready to End Special Master Review in Trump Files Inquiry
  • WaPo: Appeals panel grills Trump lawyer over FBI search of Mar-a-Lago
  • CNN: Appeals court is dubious of Trump’s arguments for special master review of Mar-a-Lago search
  • Bloomberg: Trump Faces Skeptical Appeals Court in Mar-a-Lago Document Fight With DOJ

Former U.S. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal: “My god, in the Trump Special Master appeal, I don’t think I’ve ever heard an oral argument go worse for a litigant. … They are demolishing Trump’s lawyer. It’s not close.”

Former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman: “Trumps lawyer got beaten up pretty badly. He lurched at the end for a whole new argument about a general warrant, and the court called him out on it.”

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene: “A hot bench & not a very receptive one for Trump in Atlanta just now. In 40 minutes of argument, all 3 judges seemed inclined to rule against him.”

Law professor Orin Kerr: “From what I can tell, the idea of creating special rules for former Presidents to help them think of new arguments they can make to challenge the government when they are under criminal investigation does not seem to have a lot of legs in the 11th Circuit today.”

It’s almost always a mistake to take what judges say in oral arguments literally, but in this case the thrust of the judges’ questions was unmistakeable:

  • “I don’t think it’s necessarily the fault of the government if someone has intermingled classified documents and all kinds of other personal property.”
  • “Do you think that ‘raid’ is the right term for execution of a warrant?”
  • “Do you think it’s rare that the target of a warrant thinks the government is overreaching?”
  • “Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant.” 
  • “If you can’t establish that it was unlawful, then what are we doing here?”

“Three weeks before the midterm elections, Kevin McCarthy enraged the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus after the GOP leader publicly suggested he has yet to see any impeachable offenses committed by the Biden administration,” CNN reports.

“Hardline Republicans – who have been agitating to impeach President Joe Biden or a member of his Cabinet – sounded off on McCarthy in a group chat and expressed deep concern over his comments.”

“But two weeks after the elections, where Republicans underperformed and won a slimmer-than-expected majority that has put McCarthy’s House speaker bid at risk, McCarthy struck a different tone: he called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, accused him of lying to the American public and not enforcing immigration laws, and threatened to launch an impeachment inquiry if he doesn’t step aside.”

Josh Marshall: “Kevin McCarthy should be flexing his muscles and preparing to take control of the House. But he’s in the midst of something between an extended job interview and a Reality TV feats-of-strength contest. Yesterday McCarthy traveled to the border to demand that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas resign or face impeachment in the GOP House. The bill of particulars is essentially that he hasn’t pursued a Trump line on border security issues. This comes after McCarthy announced a growing list of House Democrats he’ll strip of all committee assignments and a string of other promises. Then there’s investigating Tony Fauci, Hunter Biden and what House GOP leaders now routinely call “The Biden Crime Family.” In other words, Kevin McCarthy, before even taking up the Speaker’s gavel, has been reduced to taking a kind of Fox News guest/MAGA influencer performance art tour with a series of shrill and over-the-top demands to coax a dozen or so members of the Freedom Caucus to allow him to become Speaker.

The Freedom Caucus, which has called the shots in the GOP House since 2011, has told Kevin McCarthy he’s got to dance and he’s dancing.”

Ron Brownstein: “Two months before taking power, the new House Republican majority has signaled that its investigative agenda will channel the preoccupations of the former president and his die-hard base of supporters. But it has set this course immediately after a midterm election in which voters outside the core conservative states sent an unmistakable signal of their own by repeatedly rejecting Trump-backed candidates in high-profile senate and gubernatorial races. That contrast captures why the GOP’s plans for aggressive investigations of President Joe Biden may present as much political risk for the investigators as it does for the targets.”

“House Republicans and their allies are confident that the investigations will weaken Biden in advance of the 2024 presidential election.”

“But the new majority’s focus on airing echo-chamber conservative obsessions risks further stamping the GOP as the party of Trump precisely as more Republican leaders and donors insist the recent election results demonstrate the need to move beyond him.”

“When the history of American hardship is written in some distant decade, two recent events may capture the whipsaw forces of the age,” the New York Times reports.

“Child poverty fell to a record low. And the program that did the most to reduce it vanished.”

“The story of that temporary program — technically, a tax-credit expansion but more plainly a series of monthly checks to most families with children — was extraordinary in every way. A guaranteed income in a country long resistant to one, the expanded child tax credit emerged from obscurity to win support from most of the Democratic Party, aided millions of low- and middle-income families during the pandemic and helped cut child poverty nearly in half.”

“Then it died, as President Biden’s efforts to preserve it drew unified Republican opposition and the defection of a crucial Senate Democrat. Critics called the monthly payments of up to $300 per child an expensive welfare scheme that would deter parents from working by providing cash aid regardless of whether they had jobs.”

“Half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers appear to no longer be advertising on the website,” NPR reports.  “A report from Media Matters for America states that these 50 advertisers have spent almost $2 billion on Twitter ads since 2020 and more than $750 million just in 2022.”

“Elon Musk plans to reinstate nearly all previously banned Twitter accounts — to the alarm of activists and online trust and safety experts,” the Washington Post reports.

“After posting a Twitter poll asking, ‘Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?’ in which 72.4 percent of the respondents voted yes, Musk declared, ‘Amnesty begins next week.’”

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried owns a stake in Twitter that’s worth — or was worth — about $100 million, Semafor reports. Bankman-Fried had started accumulating a stake in Twitter early this year with an eye toward acquiring the social network himself.

“President Joe Biden said on Thursday that his administration was involved in negotiations to avert a looming U.S. railroad strike that could shut down supply chains across the country but added that he has not directly engaged on the matter yet,” Reuters reports.

“After wins in this year’s elections, Democrats say they hope to use newfound power in Midwestern states to pass legislation aimed at protecting abortion access and enacting new gun-control measures, while the incoming Republican governor in Nevada seeks to expand school choice,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The two parties are building out their agendas in the midst of a reshuffling of power in several states. Democrats flipped the state Senate in Minnesota and both legislative chambers in Michigan, meaning members of the party will have full control of government because the states have Democratic governors. Democrats won control of the Pennsylvania House, further dividing government in that state, while gaining control of the governorships in Arizona, Maryland and Massachusetts.”

Washington Post: “As House Republicans prepare to launch an onslaught of oversight investigations next year, the White House is planning to distinguish between inquiries they deem legitimate and others they view as politically, not legislatively, motivated — with an eye toward minimizing their cooperation with probes they consider improper.”

“White House officials caution that their decisions about cooperation will ultimately hinge on the nature of the investigations, but their preparations, which have been underway for months, hinge on such a split strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, but far less likely to engage with Republicans’ investigations into Hunter Biden, the president’s son, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.”

“The Justice Department is seeking to question former Vice President Mike Pence as a witness in connection with its criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election,“ the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Pence, according to people familiar with his thinking, is open to considering the request, recognizing that the Justice Department’s criminal investigation is different from the inquiry by the House Jan. 6 committee, whose overtures he has flatly rejected.”

“Complicating the situation is whether Mr. Trump would try to invoke executive privilege to stop him or limit his testimony, a step that he has taken with limited success so far with other former officials.”

This has the potential to dramatically escalate the investigation into Trump. Pence’s memoir is essentially a roadmap for prosecutors.

“The Georgia Supreme Court Wednesday reinstated the state’s ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy,” the AP reports.

“The high court put a lower court ruling overturning the ban on hold while it considers an appeal.”

“Residents of China’s capital were emptying supermarket shelves and overwhelming delivery apps Friday as the city government ordered accelerated construction of COVID-19 quarantine centers and field hospitals,” the AP reports.

“Uncertainty and scattered, unconfirmed reports of a lockdown on at least some Beijing districts have fueled the demand for food and other supplies, something not seen in the city for months.”

9Daily cases of COVID-19 across the country are hitting records, with 32,695 reported Friday. Of those, 1,860 were in Beijing, the majority of them asymptomatic.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) sought a pause in executions and ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s capital punishment system Monday after an unprecedented third failed lethal injection, the AP reports.

A lawsuit filed by former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) against Esquire magazine and reporter Ryan Lizza has apparently backfired as the discovery process has uncovered his hiring of undocumented immigrants at a family farm, Tech Dirt reports.

“Republicans in the state Assembly have exiled one of their own members who campaigned against Speaker Robin Vos and promoted false claims about the 2020 election,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“GOP caucus members voted to bar Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who leads the Assembly elections committee, from meeting with them in private, citing a loss of trust, according to a letter first obtained by to Brandtjen from Assembly Caucus chairman Rep. Rob Summerfield dated Nov. 11.”

The Bulwark: “Billy Corben’s new documentary, God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty, presents the pool attendant Granda’s account of his ménage à trois with Falwell and Falwell’s wife, Becki, both of whom have rejected his version of the events.”

“The main outline of the narrative will be familiar to anyone who followed the Falwell saga as it unfolded, but new footage and materials deepen the picture while making the Falwells’ denials even harder to believe.”

“A Donald Trump fan who was convicted on all counts after telling jurors that he thought he was ‘following presidential orders’ when he stole a liquor bottle and a coat rack from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was sentenced to three years in federal prison on Friday,” NBC News reports.

“Dustin Thompson, a college-educated Ohio man who testified that he believed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, was convicted on six charges in April after he told jurors he was seeking Trump’s ‘respect’ and ‘approval’ on Jan. 6.”

A defeated Republican candidate for the South Dakota House of Representatives was arrested Sunday for allegedly committing second-degree rape, the Rapid City Journal reports.  He was beaten in the election by the incumbent, his mother.

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

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