Cup of Joe – January 12, 2023

“The chairman of the new Republican-led House Oversight Committee has issued a flurry of letters as part of the panel’s first formal steps toward a long-promised investigation targeting President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and social media companies that they allege sought to suppress negative stories about the president’s son that they claim could have impacted the 2020 presidential election,” ABC News reports.

CNN: House Oversight chairman seeks Biden family financial transaction data.

“House Republicans on Wednesday opened their long-promised investigation into President Joe Biden and his family, wielding the power of their majority to demand information from the Treasury Department and former Twitter executives as they lay the groundwork for public hearings,” the AP reports.

“Moving quickly after taking control of the House, Republicans are setting up a messy, politically explosive showdown with the White House that could delve deeply into the affairs of the president’s family and shape the contours of the 2024 race for the White House.”

Punchbowl News: “The House Republican Steering Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to begin filling out the roster for the chamber’s most important panels… The steering committee will debate the membership on the following panels: Appropriations, Ways and Means, Financial Services and Energy and Commerce.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy and GOP leaders are still working through committee ratios – how many Republicans and Democrats will serve on each panel. Then they’ll tell Democrats how many seats they get. The committee ratios essentially will be a reversal of the 117th Congress, when Democrats controlled the chamber by a similarly lean majority as Republicans have now.”

“Remember: McCarthy has promised to put more conservatives on ‘A’ committees than ever before. That will be something to watch in the coming days.”

“A divided House voted on Tuesday to launch a wide-ranging investigation into federal law enforcement and national security agencies, as Republicans promised to use their new power in Congress to scrutinize what they said was a concerted effort by the government to silence and punish conservatives at all levels, from protesters at school board meetings to former President Donald Trump,” the New York Times reports.

“On a party-line vote of 221 to 211 with all Democrats opposed, the House approved the formation of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which is to be chaired by Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a staunch ally of Mr. Trump.”

“I call it the McCarthy committee, and I’m not talking about Kevin; I’m talking about Joe. This committee is nothing more than a deranged ploy by the MAGA extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party and now want to use taxpayer money to push their far-right conspiracy nonsense.” — Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), quoted by the New York Times, on the new House investigative panel.

NBC News: “Under the newly adopted rule, any single member of the House could ‘offer a privileged resolution declaring the Office of Speaker vacant.’ The term ‘privileged’ here refers to a matter that has precedence over regular House business, meaning it is more urgent and must be brought to the House floor for a vote.”

“This is not confined to Republican members; Democrats could make the motion to vacate as well.”

“Procedural votes could be offered to slow down the motion, but when it does come to the floor, it would need only a simple majority of the House — or 218 members currently — to pass.”

“In theory, a small group of Republicans who want to force out the speaker could work with Democrats to reach the votes needed to remove the speaker.”

“The Federal Aviation Administration announced shortly before 9 a.m. Eastern that air traffic operations were resuming at airports across the United States, following an overnight outage of the agency’s Notice to Air Missions system, which provides safety information to flight crews,” the Washington Post reports.

“The FAA had previously ordered U.S. carriers to temporarily halt all domestic flight departures as it worked to fix the technical outage, which caused nationwide travel disruptions.”

The White House tweeted there “is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the President directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes.”

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is holding firm and told ABC News that he won’t resign, despite calls from local Republican party officials to do so for lying about his background.

Reps. Daniel Goldman (D-NY) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) “will file an official complaint on Tuesday asking the House Committee on Ethics to investigate Rep. George Santos (R-NY), the Republican who admitted to lying about his background,” the New York Times reports.

“The congressmen will request that the House committee explore whether Mr. Santos, a first-year lawmaker representing parts of Long Island and Queens, broke the law when he filed his required financial disclosures late and without key details about his finances.”

The House of Representatives passed a new set of rules to govern the chamber that will severely weaken the ability of the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate members of Congress for potential wrongdoing, Insider reports.

Said Rep. George Santos (R-NY): “I think it’s fantastic.”

The New York Young Republican Club offered its support to embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY), the Glen Head Herald reports. Said president Gavin Wax: “This is politics. Politics is about power. Democrats and the left understand this, and they circle the wagons against any of their controversial members, whether it’s for lying or other things. If he resigned, we would lose the seat. And we will lose the vote. Simple as that.”

Wax added that a lot of Santos’s fabrications are based on “kernels of truth.”

Joe Perticone: “Santos has already started hiring staff, including Rafaello Carone, an early twenty-something who in just the past two years has managed to work for Reps. Paul Gosar, Madison Cawthorn, and Greg Steube. Next for Santos is the issue of committee assignments, where he will have the most power during the 118th Congress.”

“A member on the House Republican Steering Committee told me everyone is likely to get committee assignments, including Santos.”

“When I asked Santos himself what committees he would like to serve on, he told me ‘I don’t know,’ adding, ‘Anything I can do to serve the American people I’d be very happy with.’”

Former Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) “reportedly didn’t hand over any of his office’s constituent casework to his successor, Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC), creating a mess for the freshman representative,” Insider reports.

“When a legislator departs Congress, they’re expected to pass along any casework and ongoing constituent services information to their successor in order to maintain guidance and leadership for their constituents. The deadline for signing over the database of information was December 23, 2022.”

Former Rep. Madison Cawthorn (D-NC) confirmed he has moved to Florida, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

“Rumblings of a potential move away from North Carolina, the state he represented in Congress, began to emerge as early as September when Hurricane Ian devastated Fort Myers, Florida. But Cawthorn never publicly confirmed his move until throwing his support for House speaker behind the nomination of Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida.”

Mona Charen: “Greene’s makeover didn’t start this week. She’s made stabs at resets before, even traveling to the Holocaust museum to introduce a few facts into the roiling stew of garbage between her ears. She denounced Nick Fuentes after Trump dined with him (but not Trump), and acknowledged that a plane really did hit the Pentagon on 9/11. She has sparred with Lauren Boebert, the pillow guy, and Alex Jones’s fans.”

“But this is not a case of a politician who misspeaks or commits a gaffe and must make amends. She has a disordered personality. As a grown adult, she chased a teenager who had survived the Parkland school shooting down the street, harassing and berating him. She is drawn to hatred as a moth to a flame. She is the poison that courses through the veins of parts of the right—the vicious, reality-challenged right. If she is to be normalized by the GOP, it is the party, not she, that is changed.”

“No sooner did McCarthy achieve election on Friday night than Greene rushed to his side. They posed for a grinning photo. It was his first act as speaker.”

Donald Trump urged House Republicans to stand firm ahead of the debt ceiling standoff: “With the ‘right’ negotiators, like all of those involved the other night (on both sides!) for speaker, it will be a beautiful and joyous thing for the people of our country to watch.”

James Carville: “After all this obsession, of all these years of him occupying the front part of your mind, when you think about it, you just wonder how fast it’s going to be before he goes to jail. He’s not going to be the Republican nominee at all. We saw what the post-Trump Republican Party looks like. Just go back and look at that Speaker’s race. This is not like, ‘Oh, thank God, Brent Scowcroft has walked back through the door and everything is going to be just like it was before.’ No, it’s not. That’s not going to happen.”

“And my Democratic friends and press friends are in a panic. I said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll probably get something crazy.’ Because Trump was good for business. He kept everybody on cable TV, everybody had a column they could write, everybody could start an organization. And there’s a lot of interest in keeping Trump around, but I don’t think the voters want him around much more. And I think increasingly Republican voters would like to have somebody new and younger.”

“The Biden administration will roll out additional measures during Tuesday’s North American Leaders’ Summit in a desperate bid to keep migrants from journeying to the US southern border,” CNN reports.

Politico: “Biden will be the first U.S. president to visit Mexico since Barack Obama in 2014… While Biden has met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly, he’s spent far less time with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which has only added to the feeling in Latin America of being snubbed by the United States. That has added another layer of pressure to this week’s long-awaited gathering.”

Deseret News: “Biden visits Mexico this week. Will he find a reliable partner, or a country in crisis?”

“Allen Weisselberg, one of former President Donald Trump’s most trusted and loyal employees, will face sentencing Tuesday after he pleaded guilty last year to 15 state crimes then testified against the Trump Organization this past fall,” ABC News reports.

“He was promised a sentence of five months in jail to be served on Rikers Island and five years’ probation in exchange for his testimony, and agreed to repay nearly $2 million in taxes owed.”

Weisselberg “is expected to be sent to New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail after being sentenced on Tuesday for helping engineer a 15-year tax fraud scheme at the former president’s real estate company,” Reuters reports.

“Donald Trump’s tax returns show he extended sweetheart loans to his three eldest children—Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric—saving them a small fortune while adding to the intrigue surrounding the former president’s tax maneuvers,” Forbes reports.

“The younger Trumps owed their father a collective $4.55 million and paid him roughly $50,000 in annual interest from 2015 to 2020… That figure suggests the heirs paid an overall interest rate of about 1.1%.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suspended a member of his ruling Conservative Party after MP Andrew Bridgen compared Covid-19 vaccinations to the Holocaust, Bloomberg reports.

“House Democrats will participate in all of the various special committee investigations being teed up by GOP leaders,” The Hill reports.  Said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA): “It is our intent to seat members on every select committee, every subcommittee that the leadership on the majority side advances.”

“President Biden said Tuesday he was surprised to learn classified documents were taken to his personal office after serving as vice president and does not know what is in the records as Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill call for more information about a discovery that has spurred a review by the Justice Department,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Biden: “I don’t know what’s in the documents. My lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were. I’ve turned over the boxes — they’ve turned over the boxes to the Archives. And we’re cooperating fully — cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be finished soon, and there will be more detail at that time.”

“The Justice Department is scrutinizing how both presidents came to have classified records after they left office. But there are major differences,” the New York Times reports.

New York Post: “While the case is drawing comparisons to the allegations that Trump held onto roughly 150 classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, the promptness of Biden’s attorneys sets the two cases apart, national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor Bradley Moss told the Post.”

Said Moss: “These two cases are similar in that both involve constitutional officers who were sloppy in how their staff relocated records after they left office: Mr. Biden in 2017 and Mr. Trump in 2021. The clear distinction so far, and we need to see all the details still, is that Mr. Biden’s team did the proper thing by immediately notifying security authorities and having the documents returned.”

“Comparatively, it took an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022 to recover boxes of classified documents from Trump’s office and a storage room at the Palm Beach resort after the Archives said it contacted Trump lawyers in an effort to retrieve documents taken when he left the White House the previous year.”

Said Moss: “Mr. Trump and his team delayed, obfuscated and at one point submitted a false statement to the FBI in an 18 month saga before the Mar-a-Lago raid.”

New York Times: “Still, whatever the legal questions, as a matter of political reality, the discovery will make the perception of the Justice Department potentially charging Mr. Trump over his handling of the documents more challenging. As a special counsel, Mr. Smith is handling that investigation, along with one into Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, under Mr. Garland’s supervision.”

“Moreover, the discovery will fuel the fires on Capitol Hill, where Republicans who have just taken the House majority were already planning multiple investigations of the Biden administration, including the decision to have the F.B.I. search Mar-a-Lago.”

New York Times: “While Mr. Trump tried to suggest a parallel, the circumstances of the Biden discovery as described appeared to be significantly different. Mr. Biden had neither been notified that he had official records nor been asked to return them, the White House said, and his team promptly revealed the discovery to the archives and returned them within a day.”

“By contrast, in 2021 the archives repeatedly asked Mr. Trump to turn over large numbers of documents it had determined were missing. He put the agency off for months, then allowed it to retrieve 15 boxes of material in early 2022, including scores of classified documents, but it was later discovered that he kept more.”

Philip Bump: “There’s no indication at this point either that the scale of information withheld from the government is as large or — more importantly — that Biden or his team endeavored to hide the documents from the Justice Department. There was no affidavit signed by Biden lawyers claiming that the closet at the Penn Biden Center no longer contained any classified documents before such documents were uncovered. There was no effort by Biden to argue publicly that he had given the government everything it wanted even though he hadn’t; in fact, there’s no indication the government was even looking for these documents in the first place.”

Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, writing in Foreign Affairs:

“The United States appears headed toward endemic regime instability. Such a scenario would be marked by frequent constitutional crises, including contested or stolen elections and severe conflict between presidents and Congress (such as impeachments and executive efforts to bypass Congress), the judiciary (such as efforts to purge or pack the courts), and state governments (such as intense battles over voting rights and the administration of elections).”

“The United States would likely shift back and forth between periods of dysfunctional democracy and periods of competitive authoritarian rule during which incumbents abuse state power, tolerate or encourage violent extremism, and tilt the electoral playing field against their rivals.”

“In this sense, American politics may come to resemble not Russia but its neighbor Ukraine, which has oscillated for decades between democracy and competitive authoritarianism, depending on which partisan forces controlled the executive. For the foreseeable future, U.S. presidential elections will involve not simply a choice between competing sets of policies but rather a more fundamental choice over whether the country will be democratic or authoritarian.”

CNN: “The dearth of nominees offered in southern states, notably where both U.S. senators are Republican, threatens to undercut Biden’s large-scale effort to counteract Trump’s effect on the federal judiciary, particularly to bolster civil rights and ensure voter protections.”

“The Biden team’s well-documented diversification of the courts — nominees have been overwhelmingly women and people of color, such as Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and offered professional diversity, including public defenders and civil rights lawyers — has withered when it comes to district courts in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas, where more than a dozen such court vacancies exist.”

“The Biden administration on Tuesday released a detailed plan that will make it easier for student-loan holders to wipe out their debts using income-driven repayment plans,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Income-driven repayment plans were designed to help lower earners borrow for college, but few have been able to use them effectively because of technical problems and onerous amounts of income-verification paperwork. If enacted, the proposed changes would provide qualifying borrowers with significantly more-generous options that could leave them debt-free sooner, while paying off only a fraction of their total loan balances.”

“Several of the nation’s largest urban mass-transit systems are at a crossroads, with ridership still depressed three years into the pandemic and federal aid running out,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“While offices have largely reopened and travel has resumed, many commuters are only coming in a few days a week. That shift has left subways, buses and commuter trains operating at well below capacity—particularly on Mondays and Fridays.”

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

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