Cup of Joe – January 13, 2023

“Senior House Republicans plan to introduce legislation Thursday to ban federal employees from pressuring internet platforms to suppress lawful speech, in one of their first steps to advance a central initiative of the newly empowered GOP leadership,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The bill addresses what its supporters claim to be efforts by the Biden administration to influence content on social-media platforms, including attempts to block speech on Covid-19 vaccines that runs counter to White House policy. It would bar federal employees from ordering or advocating for ‘the removal or suppression of lawful speech’ from internet platforms.”

Another fever dream addressed.

Politico: “Nearly a full week after McCarthy’s battle played out in extraordinarily public fashion, lawmakers in his conference are still striving to learn details of what’s been promised and to whom.”

“The way Republicans tell it, President Biden has been complicit in a long-running scheme to profit from his position in public life through shady dealings around the world engineered by his son, Hunter Biden,” the New York Times reports.

“Taking a first step in their long-promised investigation, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday demanded information about the Bidens’ banking transactions from the Treasury Department. And in an earlier report on the Bidens intended to lay the groundwork for hearings they plan to hold, they said they had evidence ‘demonstrating deliberate, repeated deception of the American people, abuse of the executive branch for personal gain, use of government power to obstruct the investigation’ and more.”

“The real Hunter Biden story is complex and very different in important ways from the narrative promoted by Republicans — but troubling in its own way.”

The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives has Washington and Wall Street bracing for a revival of brinkmanship over the nation’s statutory debt limit, raising fears that the fragile U.S. economy could be rattled by a calamitous self-inflicted wound,” the New York Times reports.

“For years, Republicans have sought to tie spending cuts or other concessions from Democrats to their votes to lift the borrowing cap, even if it means eroding the world’s faith that the United States will always pay its bills. Now, back in control of a chamber of Congress, Republicans are poised once again to leverage the debt limit to make fiscal demands of President Biden.”

Julia Ioffe: “Most of this will play out, just like the Speaker’s battle, inside the Republican conference. It will pit traditional Republican hawks against MAGA Republicans who think, as the Hill Republican told me, that ‘support to non-Americans, the people who don’t have a little American flag next to their name, is a waste of tax-payer dollars,’ and it will all be adjudicated by a Speaker who believes in nothing but burnishing his own resumé.”

“Consider this: there’s a number being bandied about in Washington these days, $75 billion. That’s the number that McCarthy has promised to slash off the Pentagon budget this year because that’s the number by which the Pentagon budget increased last year. But guess what? The reason it increased by that much in 2022 was because of a concession Democrats made to Republicans, who wanted more defense spending, not less. As they say about our lovely Mid-Atlantic, if you don’t like the weather, wait half an hour.”

“After witnessing the chaos that engulfed House Republicans last week, GOP senators were claiming vindication for passing the massive FY 2023 omnibus bill before the chamber changed hands,” Punchbowl News reports.

“But Senate Republicans are already fretting about this year’s deadlines for must-pass legislation such as government funding and raising the debt ceiling — and they’re much less sanguine about the prospects for a grand bargain on immigration and the border.”

“U.S. inflation slowed to 6.5% in December, marking the sixth straight monthly deceleration since a mid-2022 peak,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

A month before George Santos was elected to Congress, one of his large donors received a call asking him to consider making another sizable contribution,” the New York Times reports.

“The request came from a Republican loyalist calling on behalf of RedStone Strategies, which was described in an email to the donor as an ‘independent expenditure’ group that was supporting Mr. Santos’s bid to flip a Democratic House seat in New York… The donor came through: Days later, on Oct. 21, he sent $25,000 to a Wells Fargo Bank account belonging to RedStone Strategies.”

“Three months later, Mr. Santos is now in Congress, but where the donor’s money went is unclear. The Federal Election Commission said it had no evidence that RedStone Strategies was registered as a political group, and there do not appear to be any records documenting its donors, contributions or spending.”

I would not be surprised to see an indictment before too long.

“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday said he would not urge embattled Republican Rep. George Santos to resign from Congress, hours after local GOP officials tore into the New York legislator and pushed him to step down,” CNBC reports.

Said McCarthy: “Look, the voters decide. That’s what his decision is to make. The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern, he has to go through the Ethics Committee, let him move through that.”

When Rep. George Santos (R-NY) “first expressed interest in running for a suburban New York City House seat in 2020, the Nassau County Republican Committee sent him a standard vetting questionnaire and asked to see his qualifications,” the New York Times reports.

“The resume Mr. Santos handed over was impressive, particularly for a political neophyte…”

“If the Nassau Republicans had dug into any of the claims, they would probably have found that much of Mr. Santos’s account was baldly fabricated. Instead, without another candidate interested in the race, they made a critical mistake: They took Mr. Santos’s word and offered their full backing, re-upping in 2022 to help deliver him to victory.”

“George Santos allegedly told a Republican official he was a star on the volleyball team in college,” the Washington Post reports.

“The problem with that anecdote? The freshman GOP lawmaker from New York never attended the college for which he claimed to have played.”

“Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who has admitted to fabricating key details of his biography, received payments as recently as April 2021 from a financial services company accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a ‘classic Ponzi scheme,’ according to a court-appointed lawyer reviewing the firm’s assets,” the Washington Post reports.

“Santos did not divulge any income from the company, Florida-based Harbor City Capital, on a financial disclosure form required of all federal candidates.”

“Mere moments after pretty much the entire elected Republican class in his district called for his resignation, embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) picked a fight with retired Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL),” Politico reports.

When Kinzinger tweeted that Santos should resign, Santos replied: “Go on CNN and cry about it.”

“The Pentagon is planning to bring Ukrainian troops to the United States for training on the Patriot missile defense system,” the Washington Post reports.  “The training will occur at Fort Sill, which spans about 145 square miles southwest of Oklahoma City, and could begin as soon as this month… The base is home to both basic Patriot missile defense training and field artillery training for U.S. troops.”

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its 11th month, U.S. and Ukrainian officials say that Russia’s artillery fire is down dramatically from its wartime high, in some places by as much as 75 percent, CNN reports.

Russian president Vladimir Putin “appeared to briefly lose it on Wednesday while meeting with government officials,” the Daily Beast reports.

“The breaking point came when Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov publicly corrected Putin after he complained that some enterprises had not yet secured contracts for the construction of new aircraft this year—a formidable task given the country has been cut off from many Western imports crucial to construction.”

“Russia has replaced its military chief in Ukraine with a Kremlin insider, dashing calls from Moscow ultranationalists for a radical overhaul of the leadership overseeing the flagging invasion,” the New York Times reports.

“An American Navy veteran who has been detained in Russia for nearly a year was released from Russian custody on Thursday, after months of negotiations spearheaded by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson,” CNN reports.

“One week after the federal government made it easier to get abortion pills, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Tuesday that women in Alabama who use those pills to end pregnancies could be prosecuted,” reports.

“That’s despite wording in Alabama’s new Human Life Protection Act that criminalizes abortion providers and prevents its use against the people receiving abortions. Instead, the attorney general’s office said Alabama could rely on an older law, one initially designed to protect children from meth lab fumes.”

“The White House said on Thursday that President Biden’s team discovered a second set of classified documents from his time as vice president at a storage space in the garage of his home in Wilmington, Del.,” the New York Times reports.

“The revelation on Wednesday that another batch had been found at a second location associated with Mr. Biden left unclear where the documents had been recovered. It was the second such disclosure this week, but did not answer fundamental questions about the contents of the documents, who packed them and whether the president or his top advisers had read them after he left office.”

Merrick Garland announced Thursday that he has appointed Robert Hur, a former U.S. attorney from Maryland, as special counsel to investigate President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents.

Garland’s announcement came one day after the news, first reported by NBC, that a second batch of classified documents had been found. 

“Gov. Glenn Youngkin headlined a rally on Saturday outside the red-brick City Hall here, urging voters to back a fellow Virginia Republican in a special election for State Senate,” the New York Times reports.

“It was part of a broader effort by the governor to use the 2023 session of the Virginia legislature to bolster his conservative credentials and agenda as he tests a possible presidential run in 2024.”

“But Tuesday’s election was a bust for Mr. Youngkin and Virginia Beach Republicans: Mr. Adams was narrowly defeated, Democrats flipped the Republican-held seat he was seeking and one of the governor’s prominent right-wing initiatives — a 15-week abortion ban — seemed all but doomed as Democrats expanded their narrow majority in the upper chamber of the General Assembly.”

“A Virginia bill would deem a pregnant person’s fetus a passenger in a car, thereby allowing the vehicle to use the car pool lane on highways,” NBC News reports.

“Reproductive rights activists say the legislation amounts to a thinly veiled attempt by anti-abortion Republican lawmakers to further curtail abortion rights by advancing so-called personhood laws that seek to protect the rights of the unborn through unconventional avenues.”

“We learned nothing from the midterms if this is how we’re going to operate in the first week. Millions of women across the board were angry over overturning Roe v. Wade. I represent a district that the vast majority of people, men and women alike, did not agree with it.”  — Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), quoted by Politico.

“Lawmakers, including many close allies of the oil and gas industry, are simmering — boiling over, even — about the prospect of losing their beloved gas stoves,” the HuffPost reports.

Said Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX): “I’ll never give up my gas stove. If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands.”

“The growing outrage stems from comments that Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission… In an interview with Bloomberg, he floated regulating or banning new gas stoves amid mounting research that the appliances emit harmful pollutants indoors, posing risks to human health.”

However, CNN reports President Biden does not support a ban on gas stoves.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can use video of then-President Donald Trump telling the far-right group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in the trial against several of the group’s leaders charged with seditious conspiracy, CNN reports.

District Judge Timothy Kelly said that the former president’s comments showed “an additional motive to advocate for Mr. Trump and engage in the charged conspiracy” to keep Trump in power.

Amanda Carpenter: “The January 6th security lag—the fact that it took more than three hours for the National Guard to arrive on Capitol Hill and secure the grounds—can largely be attributed to three factors: Washington bureaucracy, a backlash to the militarized response to Lafayette Square in June 2020, and concerns over how Trump might use the military for his political purposes.”

“It is evidence that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. I have no doubt that that tragic day in January of 2021 in this country played some role in sowing the seeds of what’s taking place in Brazil.”— Mike Pence, in an interview with CBS News, on the storming of the Congress in Brazil.

“The Biden administration is under growing pressure from leftists in Latin America as well as U.S. lawmakers to expel Jair Bolsonaro from a post-presidential retreat in Florida following his supporters’ brazen attack on Brazil’s capital over the weekend,” the AP reports.

“But the far-right ex-president may pre-empt any plans for such a stinging rebuke. On Tuesday, he told a Brazilian media outlet that he would push up his return home, originally scheduled for late January, after being hospitalized with abdominal pains stemming from a 2018 stabbing.”

Said Bolsonaro: “I came to spend some time away with my family but these weren’t calm days. First, there was this sad episode in Brazil and then my hospitalization.”

“A senior judge on Brazil’s supreme court ordered the arrest of two top security officials in the capital on Tuesday, days after backers of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the congress, presidential palace and supreme court in the apparent hope of overthrowing the government,” the Washington Post reports.

Wall Street Journal: Brazilian investigators home in on people suspected of riot financing.

Guga Chacra, a Brazilian political commentator, quoted by the New York Times:

“If there was no Trump, there would be no Bolsonaro in Brazil. And if there was no invasion of the Capitol, there wouldn’t have been the invasion we saw yesterday. Bolsonarismo tries to copy Trumpism, and Bolsonaro supporters in Brazil try to copy what Trump supporters do in the United States.”

Wired: “After Iranian lawmakers suggested last year that face recognition should be used to police hijab law, the head of an Iranian government agency that enforces morality law said in a September interview that the technology would be used ‘to identify inappropriate and unusual movements,’ including ‘failure to observe hijab laws.’”

“Individuals could be identified by checking faces against a national identity database to levy fines and make arrests.”

Axios: “[Biden’s] early ’23 moves — Sunday’s visit to the U.S.-Mexico border and his appearance with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to promote the infrastructure law — gave a crystal-clear contrast with the GOP’s chaotic speaker fight.”

“Voters sent a clear message in the midterms that they value bipartisanship, rejecting extreme candidates. Republicans accommodated the far right, with often disastrous results.”

Associated Press: “Having vanquished both a Donald Trump-backed Republican challenger and Democratic star Stacey Abrams to win reelection, [Georgia Governor Brian] Kemp is looking to expand his influence in his second term, free from the caricature of the gun-toting, pickup-driving, migrant-catching country boy that emerged during his first campaign for governor.”

“A new vision of Kemp steering his party toward a non-Trumpian conservatism made its debut in his November victory speech after it became clear that he had defeated Abrams by a much larger margin in their rematch than he had in their tight 2018 matchup.”

New York Times: “Even as Mr. Smith pushes toward his goal of moving expeditiously, he faces headwinds that other special counsels have not. The challenges are unique to investigating Mr. Trump at a time when newly empowered House Republicans have established a committee responsible for investigating the investigators who they insist are targeting their party and the former president for political purposes.”

“His job only became more challenging this week after the disclosure that lawyers for President Biden had discovered a small trove of classified documents at a private office, which could force Attorney General Merrick B. Garland into appointing a second special counsel.”

Prosecutors are now mulling a Trump charging decision by this summer.

“A wide-ranging subpoena sent to Trump campaign officials last month shows new areas of investigative interest as part of the Justice Department’s extensive Jan. 6 criminal probe and lawyers say a grand jury focused on the day’s events and related fundraising has increased its activities in recent months,” the Washington Post reports.

“One part of the four-page legal document asks recipients to reveal if anyone other than themselves are paying for legal representation — and if so, to provide a copy of the retention agreement for that legal work.”

“At points in the past half-century, many U.S. antisemitism experts thought this country could be aging out of it, that hostility and prejudice against Jews were fading in part because younger Americans held more accepting views than did older ones,” the Washington Post reports.

“But a survey released Thursday shows how widely held such beliefs are in the United States today, including among younger Americans. The research by the Anti-Defamation League includes rare detail about the particular nature of antisemitism, how it centers on tropes of Jews as clannish, conspiratorial and holders of power.”

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

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