Cup of Joe – January 17, 2023

Playbook: “Amid the debt ceiling standoffs of 2011 and 2013, and warnings of global economic catastrophe, a novel proposal gained traction on the right: Rather than defaulting on bond obligations and sparking a broader calamity in the markets, the federal government could, once the ceiling is reached, simply pick and choose which bills to pay.”

“Such ‘debt prioritization’ schemes never went anywhere. Democrats branded their proponents ‘default deniers’ and firmly opposed their efforts. The standoffs were resolved, and the notion of favoring bondholders first was forgotten by all but a devoted band of conservative budget hawks.”

“Now what’s old is new again.”

“House Republicans are preparing a plan telling the Treasury Department what to do if Congress and the White House don’t agree to lift the nation’s debt limit later this year, underscoring the brinkmanship newly empowered conservatives will bring to the high-stakes negotiations over averting a U.S. default,” the Washington Post reports.

“The plan, which was previously unreported, was part of the private deal reached this month to resolve the standoff between House conservatives and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over the election of House speaker. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a leading conservative who helped broker the deal, told The Washington Post that McCarthy agreed to pass a payment prioritization plan by the end of the first quarter of the year.”

Charlie Cook: “Even in the most tranquil moments in American history, a president of one party facing a divided Congress is rarely a marriage made in heaven. But the chemistry in this situation, in which a relatively united Democratic Party narrowly controls the Senate while Republicans are at war with each other in the House, is particularly toxic.”

“Not since the turbulent period before the Civil War through Reconstruction has Congress been as bitterly divided and less able to deliver on what the country needs.”

“While it may be premature to declare that McCarthy traded away all the position’s power in order to gain the prestigious title, hold the gavel, and inhabit the speaker’s suite of offices in the Capitol Building, it would be hard to refute that today.”

“House Republicans are gearing up for a tense intraparty fight, with factions ready to face off over where and how deeply to propose cutting federal spending, a central pledge in the midterm campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Republicans have said they are determined to cut spending despite Democrats’ objections. But first they have to produce their own plan, pitting Republicans who want to protect military spending against those who see such expenditures as fair game in any negotiations alongside cuts to domestic programs.”

“George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman from New York who lied about his biography, has deeper ties than previously known to a businessman who cultivated close links with a onetime Trump confidant and who is cousins with a sanctioned Russian oligarch,” the Washington Post reports.

“Andrew Intrater and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos’ main campaign committee and tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him.”

“While Intrater is a U.S. citizen, his company, the investment firm Columbus Nova, has historically had extensive ties to the business interests of his Russian cousin, billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.”

Santos appeared at a 2021 Stop the Steal rally just one day before the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. And, according to a former friend and roommate, he was wearing a stolen Burberry scarf as he gave his speech, the Daily Beast reports.

“Embattled Rep. George Santos persuaded at least one person to make a six-figure investment in a Florida-based company that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission later said was a Ponzi scheme,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“I put myself through college and got an MBA from NYU and I have zero debt. I hate looking at youth today and seeing them sitting on their behinds and acting like, ‘Ugh, this is so hard.’”— Santos, on a 2020 podcast, before admitting he never graduated from New York University or, in fact, any college or university.

“Campaign committees tied to Rep. George Santos (R-NY) paid tens of thousands of dollars to newly formed companies with opaque histories and meager track records of working for other candidates,” Newsday reports.

“Election law and campaign finance experts said the lack of public information about such companies and their leaders — and the lack of detail describing the work they performed — could raise questions about whether Santos paid inflated rates for unnecessary services performed by friends and allies, or possibly diverted campaign donations for his own use.”

Washington Post: “In July 2020, a small Florida-based investment firm announced that a man named George Devolder had been hired as its New York regional director.”

Said the company founder in a news release at the time: “When we had the opportunity to welcome him to our team, I was delighted. He’s a perfect fit.”

“Devolder is now better known as George Santos, the 34-year-old freshman Republican congressman from New York’s 3rd Congressional District who brazenly lied to voters about key details of his biography. And the company for which he was ‘a perfect fit,’ Harbor City Capital, is no longer in operation. Its assets were frozen in 2021, when the Securities and Exchange Commission accused it of running a ‘classic Ponzi scheme’ that had defrauded investors of millions of dollars.”

Santos introduced himself as “Anthony Devolder” during a Q&A session at a 2019 “Walk Away LGBT” event in NYC, a resurfaced video of the event shows, the New York Post reports.

“Concerns over Rep. George Santos’ backstory became louder over the summer and into the fall campaign season, and issues surrounding the recently elected Republican congressman from New York had not been a secret,” CNN reports.

“When it became clearer that Santos had a chance at winning his New York district, people talked more about how his backstory didn’t add up.”

“There was trepidation among consultants, donors and other Republicans – including those in Washington – that what Santos was saying about himself wasn’t accurate and that his biography didn’t line up, the source said. There had also been an expectation that some kind of major story would drop in the press before the election…But that story never came.”

“In late 2021, as he prepared to make a second run for a suburban New York City House seat, George Santos gave permission for his campaign to commission a routine background study on him,” the New York Times reports.

“Campaigns frequently rely on this kind of research, known as vulnerability studies, to identify anything problematic that an opponent might seize on. But when the report came back on Mr. Santos, the findings by a Washington research firm were far more startling, suggesting a pattern of deception that cut to the heart of the image he had cultivated as a wealthy financier.”

“Some of Mr. Santos’s own vendors were so alarmed after seeing the study in late November 2021 that they urged him to drop out of the race, and warned that he could risk public humiliation by continuing. When Mr. Santos disputed key findings and vowed to continue running, members of the campaign team quit.”

Punchbowl News: “Biden’s fellow Democrats were offering only tepid support for his handling of the classified-documents scandal. Some are even calling for the release of more information after White House lawyer Richard Sauber on Saturday disclosed the existence of additional classified materials at the president’s Delaware home.”

“After a brutal public struggle last week for Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans, GOP committee chairs can now focus on Biden and the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Hur. It’s a major political gift for Republicans, who’ve wasted no time going all in.”

CNN: “As senior White House advisers took stock of five days of stunning twists and turns, they maintained it would serve as a roadmap for their path ahead, despite the spotlight of an investigation that is largely out of their control. They repeated the view that the investigation will ultimately show Biden’s lawyers took the proper steps when the classified documents were discovered.”

Jonathan Chait: “As many people have very neutrally pointed out, the news that President Biden held on to classified documents is pure manna for Trump’s defenders. It gives them a set of facts to work with that, if examined without any of the important context, can be spun to the willfully credulous as evidence that these men have committed similar crimes.”

“But Trump is not potentially facing charges because he improperly took classified documents. It’s because when the government found out about the documents, he refused to give them back and — allegedly — took steps to hide them from the FBI. This is not a small twist on the same crime. It is the crime.”

“The Biden people, they may be making a big mistake. They’ve done a wonderful job being cooperative with the government, and they’ve done it by the book. I don’t think sitting there hunkering down now, just acting like it’s not out there is a good strategy. They’re going to get creamed doing that.” — David Gergen, on CNN, about how the White House is reacting to classified documents found in President Biden’s home and private office.

CNN: “As Biden was busy keeping busy, however, his office was shutting down. Aides scrambled to pack up his workspaces in the West Wing, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and at his official residence, the Naval Observatory.

“Those competing objectives – to use his office until the final minutes even as it was obliged to shut down – made for a muddled and hurried process that left aides packing boxes of documents and papers late into the night, even as more material kept arriving.”

“Exactly how a small batch of classified documents ended up in boxes of Biden’s personal effects remains an open question.”

Wall Street Journal: Before Biden left the White House as Vice President, a scramble to pack documents.

Josh Marshall: “To state the obvious succinctly: we are the political system. We shouldn’t be afraid of stating clearly and loudly what happened here. Indeed, much of the press momentum behind this story is driven by Democratic sheepishness about it. Republican elected officials are going to town on it while Democrats try to avoid eye contact. That’s embarrassing. One instance here is at most administrative sloppiness; the other is willful theft of government documents, refusal to return them, claims to own US government documents, on-going obstruction of government attempts to retrieve the documents. Any of these Democratic elected officials should be spending whatever microphone time they have on this reiterating the gravity of Trump’s offenses.”

Tara Palmeri reports the special counsel appointed to investigate President Biden’s handling of classified documents before becoming president is “as tough as they come,” according to a former colleague.  Said the person: “He should scare the shit out of people.”

Dan Balz: “Biden, Trump cases aren’t alike. The political system doesn’t care.”

“House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and GOP Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) have begun a probe into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents,” Punchbowl News reports.

“It’s the latest effort from House Republicans eager to investigate how documents with classified markings from the 2010s ended up stored in Biden’s home garage and in a Biden-affiliated think tank in D.C.”

Key takeaway: “It seems likely that this matter will end up with GOP lawmakers issuing a subpoena and the matter heading to federal court. Basically a replay of what Democrats did with the Trump White House.”

“The White House counsel’s office says there are no visitors logs that track guests who come and go at President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware,” CNN reports.

“House Republicans have been demanding that the White House turn over all information related to misplaced classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president, including any visitors logs to Biden’s private residence and who might have had access to his private office in Washington, DC, where the first batch of documents were discovered in early November.”

Financial Times: “The depth of Brazil’s divisions were exposed by an opinion poll published by Atlas Intelligence this week. Some 38 percent of Brazilians said the storming of the government buildings was partly or wholly justified, almost 40 percent said they did not believe Lula had really won the presidential election and 36.8 per cent favoured military intervention to invalidate the result.”

Brazil’s former Justice Minister Anderson Torres, who was in charge of public security in Brasilia during the invasion of government buildings a week ago, was arrested in Brasilia on Saturday on suspicion of “omission” and “connivance,” Reuters reports.

“A Brazilian Supreme Court justice on Friday authorized including former president Jair Bolsonaro in its investigation of who incited the Jan. 8 riot in the nation’s capital, as part of a broader crackdown to hold responsible parties to account,” the AP reports.

“According to the text of his ruling, Justice Alexandre de Moraes granted the request from the prosecutor-general’s office, which cited a video Bolsonaro posted on Facebook two days after the riot. The video claimed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wasn’t voted into office, but rather was chosen by the Supreme Court and Brazil’s electoral authority.”

Renato Mariotti: “Based on what we know now, Biden’s sloppy retention of a smattering of classified documents looks more like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inadvertent retention of classified material on a private email server than former President Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal to return hundreds of classified documents to the DOJ despite repeated demands from federal officials.”

“Trump is under investigation for willful retention of classified records because he ignored direct requests from national archives officials, a grand jury subpoena and even a personal visit from DOJ’s top counterintelligence official. The FBI seized the documents pursuant to a search warrant only after they discovered that Trump’s attorneys lied to them and that documents had been moved inside Mar-a-Lago after their visit.”

“If you or I possessed top secret information in our home, the feds wouldn’t ask for it politely or even issue a subpoena.”

Donald Trump’s argument that a New York law allowing older sex-assault claims violated his constitutional rights was rejected by a judge as “absurd,”  Bloomberg  reports.

Trump claimed that E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of sexual assault, said that “rape was sexy” and “indicated that she loved it” when he was deposed in connection to her defamation lawsuit in October, Insider reports. Said Trump: “She actually indicated that she loved it. Okay? She loved it until the commercial break. In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

Trump was misrepresenting comments Carroll made about why she doesn’t like to use the word rape in a 2019 interview.

From the transcript of the deposition of Donald Trump in E. Jean Carroll’s libel lawsuit:

LAWYER: I want to focus on the very last sentence, which says: “Now, like everyone else, she gets paid by a radical, left-leaning publisher to say bad and untrue things.”

TRUMP: Yeah.

LAWYER: Do you know who her publisher was?

TRUMP: No. I just heard it was a publisher that did some very bad books on us.

LAWYER: I’ll represent to you her publisher was Harper Collins.

TRUMP: Yeah. And they haven’t been great.

LAWYER: Do you know who published your son-in-law, Jared Kushner’s book?

TRUMP: Could be, but they published some very bad ones too.

“I will sue her after this is over, and that’s the thing I really look forward to doing. And I’ll sue you too because this is—how many cases do you have? Many, many cases. I will be suing you also, but I’ll be suing her very strongly as soon as this case ends. But I’ll be suing you also.”— Donald Trump, in a deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against him, to her lawyer.

“Rep. James Comer, the Republican House’s incoming Oversight and Accountability Committee chair, failed to clearly articulate why the newly discovered classified documents found in President Joe Biden’s home and former personal office were worth the committee investigating but not the classified documents found at former president Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort,” Rolling Stone reports.

Asked CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Do you only care about classified documents being mishandled when Democrats do the mishandling?”

Comer’s answer was not reassuring.

Just last November, Comer said that investigating Trump’s mishandling of classified documents is “not a priority” for him.

“President Joe Biden on Monday criticized Republican attempts to limit how educators discuss race and systemic discrimination in schools, arguing that teaching these topics isn’t about being ‘woke’ but about acknowledging history,” the HuffPost reports.

Said Biden: “The idea that we’re supposed to remain silent on the abuses of the past, as if they didn’t occur? That’s not being woke, that’s being honest. That’s talking about history.”

Reuters: “Gearing up for an expected announcement in the weeks ahead that he will run for a second, four-year term in 2024, Biden offered the sketches of an initial pitch to voters at an MLK breakfast organized by civil rights advocate Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.”

NBC News: “On Monday, Belarus and Russia began joint military exercises, adding to fears that Moscow will use its ally to launch a new ground offensive, as it did the invasion in February. Air force drills will be held until Feb. 1 using all of Belarus’ military air fields and joint army exercises involving a ‘mechanized brigade subdivision,’ the Belarusian defense ministry said.”

Wall Street Journal: “With Russia announcing a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of soldiers in October and switching its economy to a war footing, time could be on Moscow’s side.”

“So far, neither the U.S. nor Europe has made the adjustments, especially in military production, that are necessary for sustaining Ukraine in a war that could potentially drag on for several years. Neither are they immune to pain from further energy shocks.”

Associated Press: Rifts in Russian military command seen amid Ukraine fighting.

“British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday promised to provide tanks and artillery system to Ukraine amid renewed missile attacks by Moscow targeting the Ukrainian capital and other cities,” the AP reports.

The Atlantic: “Supreme Court justices often get cross with lawyers arguing cases before them. But six months after the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the justices are betraying signs of impatience and frustration with one another—sometimes bordering on disrespect.”

“The Supreme Court agreed Friday to rule on extending federal civil rights law to protect workers who seek to take time off for religious observance,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The justices voted to hear an appeal from a former U.S. postal worker and evangelical Christian who was disciplined and eventually quit because he refused to deliver packages on Sundays.”

“Supreme Court investigators probing the May leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade have narrowed their inquiry to a small number of suspects including law clerks, but officials have yet to conclusively identify the alleged culprit,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Washington Post: “Over the past year, [Republican North Carolina Senator Tom] Tillis has muscled his way to the heart of nearly every major bipartisan effort to emerge from the evenly-divided Senate, taking a lead role in negotiating legislation on hot-button issues including gay rights, guns and immigration — all without drawing much attention to himself.”

“It’s a politically tricky trifecta that few Republicans — many fearing primary challenges from the right — would want to touch. But Tillis’s willingness to find compromise despite the political blowback is desperately needed, his colleagues say, as a wave of retirements has taken many more bipartisan-minded lawmakers out of the chamber just as it needs to find a way to compromise with a narrow and fractious House Republican majority that barely managed to elect a speaker earlier this month.”

Playbook: “As he navigates the tricky politics of divided government during a likely reelection campaign, there is one relationship President Joe Biden must attend to above all others: the one he has with Chuck Schumer.”

“No one in Congress is more important to the White House’s continued success on federal judges and other nominees than the Democratic Senate majority leader. Conversely, it’s easy to see the major pitfalls of the next two years — from government shutdowns to debt ceiling standoffs — turning into outright calamities if both men are not on the same page.”

“When some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential figures gathered at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last year, sessions on climate change drew high-level discussions on topics such as carbon financing and sustainable food systems,” the AP reports.

“But an entirely different narrative played out on the internet, where social media users claimed leaders wanted to force the population to eat insects instead of meat in the name of saving the environment.”

“The annual event in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos, which opens Monday, has increasingly become a target of bizarre claims from a growing chorus of commentators who believe the forum involves a group of elites manipulating global events for their own benefit.”

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

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