Cup of Joe – December 1, 2022

“President Joe Biden said Tuesday he hopes both parties’ lawmakers can work together to keep the government open, boost spending for Ukraine and avert a crippling rail strike,” the AP reports.

“But the Republicans’ pick to be the next House speaker shrugged off the sunny talk, serving notice that things are ‘going to be different’ once the GOP takes control of the chamber.”

“Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress vowed on Tuesday to pass legislation averting a nationwide rail strike, saying they agree with President Biden that a work stoppage just days before Christmas would disrupt shipping and deal a devastating blow to the nation’s economy,” the New York Times reports.

Playbook: “What they agreed on was something that appeared awfully iffy earlier this week: that the lame-duck Congress should negotiate and pass an omnibus appropriations bill in the coming weeks.”

“On the face of it, that seems a little unusual, especially since the alternatives could get everyone out of town a lot quicker. Government funding runs out on Dec. 16, and Congress could simply pass a continuing resolution to kick things into early next year when the new Congress, presumably with a Kevin McCarthy-led House, is sworn in. Or it could keep current agency funding levels mostly in place until the new fiscal year starts in October 2023 (and, let’s be honest, probably longer).”

“Several things are driving the five leaders to press forward with fraught negotiations over $1.5 trillion-plus in federal spending on a tight deadline. But we can’t help but note the one common factor that came up in conversations with all sides: Nobody trusts McCarthy to pass anything (not even McCarthy).“

“Senate Republicans want to leverage the next US debt limit increase to force cuts in projected federal spending and changes to Social Security and other entitlement programs,” Bloomberg reports.

“A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes of seditious conspiracy for leading a months-long plot to unleash political violence to prevent the inauguration of President Biden, culminating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol,” the Washington Post reports.

“The verdict in Rhodes’s case likely will be taken as a bellwether for two remaining Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trials set for December against five other Oath Keepers and leaders of the Proud Boys, including the longtime chairman Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio.”

“Both Rhodes and Tarrio are highly visible leaders of the alt-right or far-right anti-government movements, and were highlighted at hearings probing the attack earlier this year by the House Jan. 6 committee.”

A quick rundown of the coverage of the verdict in the seditious conspiracy trial of the Oath Keepers:

WaPo: “Rhodes and his co-defendants were the first accused of seditious conspiracy and the first to face trial and be convicted on any conspiracy charge to date in the massive Jan. 6 investigation.”

NYT: “The conviction of Mr. Rhodes underscored the seriousness and intensity of the effort by pro-Trump forces to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election, and was the highest-profile legal reckoning yet from a case related to Jan. 6.”

Politico: “Rhodes’ conviction is the most significant to emerge from the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when dozens of Oath Keepers joined the mob that stormed the building and chased Congress, as well as then-Vice President Mike Pence, into hiding.”

WSJ: “U.S. sedition laws, dating to the early days of the Civil War when President Lincoln and Congress sought to punish armed resistance to the Union, have been used sparingly and not always successfully over the past 160 years.”

Randall Eliason: “Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible.”

Elizabeth de la Vega: “Prosecutors view a guilty verdict on any serious charge against a defendant as a win of the entire case, even if a jury finds the def not guilty on other charges. Defs view it the same way because they know they are still likely to receive a prison sentence.”

Joyce Vance: “The result today gives DOJ a little bit of momentum … because it is clear that Stewart Rhodes is not the most culpable participant in the events on Jan. 6. There were people who were more accountable, people who had greater intent to interfere with the transfer of power and now DOJ can go about that business having won this case.”

With a jury yesterday finding two people guilty of seditious conspiracy, that establishes the fact that a conspiracy existed.  The verdicts are a big deal politically. They underline the gravity of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It was far from a “normal tourist visit” as some Republicans have ridiculously maintained. It was indeed an attempted insurrection.

The verdicts serve as a preview for the upcoming trial against Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and other members who were also charged with seditious conspiracy. And as the New York Times notes, the verdicts “could still result in scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests.”

Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs were the two Oath Keepers found guilty yesterday. We know both were in regular communication with key Donald Trump allies — Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Ali Alexander — after the 2020 presidential election. 

With the January 6 Committee nearly ready to “put their pens down” and issue their final report, the question to be answered is: What did the president know and when did he know it?

The seditious conspiracy trial of the Proud Boys is still scheduled to start in December, though the judge has proposed delaying the start by one week. The proposed new start date for jury selection in Washington, D.C., is Dec. 19.

“The Senate on Tuesday passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine marriage equality into federal law, granting protections to same-sex and interracial couples,” the Washington Post reports.

“The bill passed in a 61-36 vote. The bill includes a bipartisan amendment that clarifies protections for religious liberties, and will now return to the House for another vote before it can go to President Biden to sign into law.”

“The economy grew at an annual 2.9% pace in the third quarter, updated figures show, and the U.S. is on track to expand again in the waning months of 2022 despite growing worries of recession,” Marketwatch reports.

“Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell indicated the central bank is on track to raise interest rates by a half percentage point at its next meeting, stepping down from an unprecedented series of four 0.75-point rate rises aimed at combating high inflation,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was chosen to lead House Democrats next year, making the New Yorker the first Black person to lead a major political party in Congress and marking a generational shift following the departure of three longtime chiefs,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the new Democratic leader: “This is a moment of transition. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but are also looking forward to being able to do what’s necessary at this moment to advance the issues.”

“The strategy behind Hakeem Jeffries’ years long ascent to House Democratic leader, as his top allies see it, focused on making the outcome feel inevitable. And in the end, it did,” Politico reports.

“The New York Democrat culminated a remarkably frictionless climb of the party ladder on Wednesday, securing every vote and avoiding a single challenger. He became the highest-ranking Black congressional leader in U.S. history just 12 days after formally declaring his run.”

“That effortless appearance took work: Behind the scenes, House Democrats’ biggest power transfer in two decades was hardly a shoo-in. Democrats across the caucus said Jeffries — along with his top lieutenants, Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) — succeeded thanks to years of careful maneuvering to consolidate support from every influential bloc in the party.”

“Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) on Wednesday announced a bid to join the top tiers of Democratic leadership, challenging Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) for the No. 4 spot within the party brass in the next Congress,” The Hill reports. “The move, announced just hours before Democrats were set to vote on their next crop of leaders, came as a surprise.”  The vote for the No. 4 position, which Clyburn and Cicilline are seeking, is expected to come on Thursday.

“The Supreme Court legal counsel said there is no evidence that Justice Samuel Alito violated ethics standards, according to a letter on Monday in response to questions from congressional Democrats about allegations that Alito revealed the outcome of a 2014 decision before it was released,” CNN reports.

“The House Ways and Means Committee now has six years of Donald Trump’s federal tax returns, ending a yearslong pursuit by Democrats to dig into one of the former president’s most closely guarded personal details,” CNN reports.

“The Supreme Court declined last week to intervene after courts said the House had power to request the returns from the IRS.”

NBC News has the inside story of how a dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes turned into a political crisis for Donald Trump.

“The headline-grabbing attention on his guests — and therefore the subsequent fallout — were all but ensured by Trump before the dinner when he made a grand entrance at about 8 p.m. on Nov. 22 to meet his guests.”

“Trump made sure they sat at his specially reserved table on the patio, for all to see… But the dinner wasn’t the happy photo-op the president had planned.”

Jonathan Last: “Republican elites will not determine whether or not Donald Trump wins the nomination. They have little-to-no power to influence that outcome.”

“Trump is a populist. His power emanates from the voters. And Republican voters have spent the last seven years refusing to do what they were told. They want what they want…”

“The Republican party as currently constituted is a populist party. This brings certain advantages. For instance, the party has broadened its appeal to racial minorities by focusing on working-class voters.”

“It also comes with disadvantages. For instance, the party’s voters are anti-establishment—up to and including their party’s own establishment. So elites have less influence over the direction of the institution.”

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said there is no place in the Republican Party for anti-Semitism, more than a week after Donald Trump’s meeting with a white supremacist at his private resort, Reuters reports. Said McCarthy: “I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party.”

However, the New York Times reports McCarthy declined to criticize Trump directly.

Politico: “Trump aides stress that the former president continues to dominate in 2024 primary polling and he is no stranger to controversial news cycles. They note millions tuned in for his announcement and he has continued to fundraise and now sells 2024 merchandise on his website.”

“And they’re working to right the ship, with plans to formalize his surrogate operation, shift the focus to claims that the Biden administration has weaponized the justice system against Trump, and to accusations that Biden himself is not tough enough on China. They also plan to put Trump back in the spotlight with appearances and interviews — two things he has mostly avoided in the days since his campaign launch.”

Associated Press: Trump’s dinner disaster sparks new rules for his campaign.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted former President Donald Trump’s dinner with white supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, stating that anyone meeting with such an individual is “highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States,” Insider reports.

Donald Trump fired back at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling him “a loser for our nation and for the Republican Party,” while telling Fox News that he did not know White nationalist Nick Fuentes, and had he expressed his views during their “very quick dinner,” it “wouldn’t have been accepted.”

“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting… I voted to remove him from office twice… I don’t think he should be president of the United states. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.” — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), quoted by NBC News, on Donald Trump having dinner with Holocaust deniers.

Semafor: “Trump’s dinner party seemed to be going the way of prior Trump scandals over the holiday weekend — a lot of noise in the press, a handful of attention-getting condemnations from Republicans, but mostly silence within his party. On Monday, it became clear this wasn’t going to be another story that gets quietly swept under the rug.”

“Overall, it was the most widespread Republican rebuke Trump has received since January 6th. And it came just two weeks after the former president launched his reelection campaign, and three weeks after a disappointing midterm election that many Republicans blamed on Trump-backed candidates who voters perceived as extreme. Trump has made it through worse, and rank-and-file votes are the ultimate judge of his place in the party. But he also can’t afford to bleed support when Republicans have other options in a competitive primary.”

Philip Klein: “Donald Trump’s reckless dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes should be treated as a preview of what to expect were he to be given a second term. That is, what it would be like to have a Trump who is totally left to his own devices, with even fewer reasonable advisers around to try and contain his worst impulses.”

As Trump himself knows well, people don’t like a loser.

Financial Times: “Coronavirus vaccinations are one of Xi’s core challenges. According to the latest official data, a third of China’s 267 million people older than 60 have not received their third vaccine dose. The booster is required to attain high levels of protection against the Omicron variant.”

“A big problem lies in Chinese culture, which is more risk-averse than many other countries when it comes to diseases and vaccines…”

“While a relatively high vaccine hesitancy rate among China’s elderly population predates the pandemic, the problem has been exacerbated by official messaging about the dangers of Covid over the past two-and-a-half years.”

Katelyn Jetelina: “Covid-19 seems to be on the verge of exploding in China. They are reporting record-high numbers—nearly 40,000 new infections per day. The biggest concern is China’s incomplete immunity wall when faced with infections.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) “met with key members of his conference — including several right-wing detractors — as part of an intensifying effort to cobble together the votes he needs to become speaker,” Axios reports.

“McCarthy is at risk of a humiliating and potentially career-ending defeat with just five weeks until the Jan. 3 speaker election, as several members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus are still publicly vowing to deny him crucial votes.”

“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), one of his key allies in the Freedom Caucus, estimated that privately there ‘could be as many as 10’ no votes.”

Influential conservative talk show host Mark Levin gave Kevin McCarthy a boost in his quest to become speaker, roundly mocking members of the Freedom Caucus who have gone on record opposing McCarthy’s campaign for the gavel, Politico reports. Dubbing them the “five boneheads” and “five saboteurs,” he accused the group of “playing right into the hands of the Democrats.”

Levin got even more personal in lambasting the lawmakers, calling Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “utterly useless,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) a “phony conservative” and Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) a “moron.”

Knives Out isn’t just playing on screen this week: Conservatives are digging in against Kevin McCarthy before the conclusion of a closed-door fight over consolidating the House GOP leader’s power,” Politico reports.

“As House Republicans keep debating their rules for next year’s majority, the Freedom Caucus — home to several members seeking to derail McCarthy’s speakership bid — is pushing for institutional changes that they argue will restore power to rank-and-file members. Before that debate Wednesday, McCarthy allies likely will move to scrap or neuter some of the Freedom Caucus’ dozen or so proposals.”

Tara Palmeri looked at the five GOP lawmakers who have said they won’t vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker and found them all pretty firm in their opposition.  The perceived squishiest of them, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), said he would only vote for McCarthy under “extreme circumstances.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) warned his GOP skeptics in a Newsmax interview against opposing him for Speaker on the House floor.

Said McCarthy: “We have to speak as one voice. We will only be successful if we work together, or we’ll lose individually. This is very fragile — that we are the only stopgap for this Biden administration.”

He added: “And if we don’t do this right, the Democrats can take the majority. If we play games on the floor, the Democrats can end up picking who the Speaker is.”

“The EU has threatened Elon Musk’s Twitter with a European ban unless the billionaire abides by its strict rules on content moderation, setting up a regulatory battle over the future of the social network,” the Financial Times reports.

“Elon Musk has dramatically reduced the size of the Twitter Inc. team devoted to tackling child sexual exploitation on the platform, cutting the global team of experts in half and leaving behind an overwhelmed skeleton crew,” the Miami Herald reports.

David Weigel: “The age of de-platforming might be over, making way for Musk’s version of free speech. But it also comes at a moment when the Republican Party is more worried about the political consequences of its ties to extremism than almost any time since 2016. Donald Trump’s dinner with three men banned or suspended from Twitter under the old rules — rapper Ye, white supremacist podcaster Nick Fuentes, and Milo Yiannopoulos — reminds people of what Musk’s predecessors kept a lid on.”

Said strategist Melissa Ryan: “It’s going to suck for Republicans. Some of these guys are going to go hog wild as soon as they can.”

“South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ordered former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election in Georgia,” Politico reports.

A judge ruled that either Georgia Republican Party chairman David Shafer or 10 other Republicans who falsely purported to be presidential electors must find new lawyers for the criminal investigation of what happened after the 2020 presidential election, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Legal experts have said prosecutors may be trying to split up the electors’ representation in order to offer deals to some but not to others.

 “A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Monday said that Donald Trump doesn’t have ‘absolute immunity,’ as the former president claimed he should, in response to a lawsuit in its early stages related to Trump’s actions around the 2020 presidential election,” CNN reports.

“Civil rights groups have sued Trump for trying to disenfranchise voters. While Trump’s lawyers argue he can’t be held liable in civil lawsuits because of immunity around the presidency, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the DC District Court on Monday disagreed.”

Sam Bankman-Fried, who was once reportedly worth more than $25 billion, told Axios that he has only about $100,000 left. Said Bankman-Fried: “I don’t know. I had $100,000 in my bank account last I checked. It’s complicated. Basically everything I had was just tied up in the company.”

Politico: “Bankman-Fried’s unrelenting public campaign has crisis management specialists, public relations experts and even some lawmakers warning that refusing to stay quiet is unlikely to salvage his reputation — and that he’s putting himself in growing legal danger.”

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, revealed in a new interview that he donated “about the same amount of money” to both Democrats and Republicans, but that all his donations to Republicans was “dark money,” Semafor reports.  Bankman-Fried explained that he didn’t disclose the donations because “liberal” reporters would “freak the fuck out.”  He added: “I’ve been their third biggest Republican donor this year as well.”

Two of the wackiest right-wing conspiracists – Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman – have been sentenced in Ohio for illegal robocalls intended to intimidate Black voters from casting mail-in ballots in the 2020 presidential election.

Their punishment: They must spend 500 hours registering voters in low-income neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C., area.

“I think it’s a despicable thing that you guys have done,” the sentencing judge told the duo, described aptly by one commentator as “chronically unsuccessful political operatives.”

“Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller testified on Tuesday to a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, as part of the January 6, 2021, investigation, making him the first known witness to testify since the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations around the former president,” CNN reports.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis put his weight behind dozens of conservative school board candidates across Florida during the midterms. Now they’re in office — and are purging some educational leaders who enforced Covid-19 mandates,” Politico reports.

“New board members in two GOP-leaning counties essentially sacked their school superintendents over the span of one week. The ousters were spurred by how the superintendents carried out local policies like efforts to support the rights of parents, an issue inflamed by schools imposing student mask mandates last fall in defiance of DeSantis.”

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

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