Cup of Joe – February 11, 2023

“Former Vice President Mike Pence has been subpoenaed by the special counsel overseeing probes into former President Donald Trump,” ABC News reports.  “It’s not immediately clear what information the subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith is seeking, but it follows months of negotiations between federal prosecutors and Pence’s legal team.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence was subpoenaed last night by special counsel Jack Smith to testify in his dual probe of Donald Trump’s role in the January 6 riots at the Capitol and the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

It’s an indication that Smith’s investigation is nearing its final stages.  Since many of Pence’s top staffers have already testified months ago — either before the grand jury or before the January 6th Committee — Pence is probably one of the last witnesses. It’s also likely that Pence knows more about the plan to disrupt the electoral vote count than he does about the classified documents taken from the White House.

Some have assumed that Pence will fight the subpoena, but as former prosecutor Renatto Mariotti points out, witnesses who want to testify often ask for grand jury subpoenas so they can say they were compelled to testify.  It’s even possible that it was Pence’s legal team that leaked news of the subpoena. If Pence doesn’t fight the subpoena, it’s safe to assume he’s a voluntary witness. And that should really worry Donald Trump.

The FBI is currently conducting a search of former Vice President Mike Pence’s home in Indiana, CNN reports.

Federal investigators found one additional document with classified markings during a search of former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home on Friday, The Hill reports.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) denied that any “reprisal” or “animus” played a role in his decision to remove Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) from the Commerce Committee, The Hill reports.

Said McConnell: “He had a temporary assignment on the committee, the way we do things, for two years. He could have traded in one of his permanent committees for Commerce and stayed on it.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.) said in an interview that a proposed initiative to sunset Social Security and Medicare was not a “Republican plan,” but one proposed and supported only by fellow Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), The Hill reports. Said McConnell: “Unfortunately, that was the Scott plan, that’s not a Republican plan. So it’s clearly the Rick Scott plan, it is not the Republican plan.”

He added: “And that’s the view of the Speaker of the House as well.”

“This is a bad idea. I think it will be a challenge for him to deal with this in his own reelection in Florida, a state with more elderly people than any other state in America.”— Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), quoted by the AP, slamming Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) plan to sunset all laws, including Social Security and Medicare.

“The Pentagon is urging Congress to resume funding a pair of top-secret programs in Ukraine suspended ahead of Russia’s invasion last year,” the Washington Post reports.

“If approved, the move would allow American Special Operations troops to employ Ukrainian operatives to observe Russian military movements and counter disinformation.”

“The Biden administration is preparing to ask Congress for the largest Pentagon budget in history, according to the Defense Department’s chief financial officer, as partisan squabbling over the debt ceiling raises the specter of deep cuts to the military’s funding plans,” Politico reports.

“President Joe Biden and his team are fanning out across the country to tout the climate-change-fighting, job-creating, money-saving benefits coming from Democrats’ landmark Inflation Reduction Act,” Politico reports.

“The problem? Most Americans have probably heard more about Republican complaints that Biden is coming for their gas stoves.”

Playbook: “We heard a new term this week used inside the West Wing to describe President Joe Biden’s top five aides: ‘the quint.’ The term refers to Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti, Anita Dunn, Bruce Reed and Jen O’Malley Dillon.”

“Kate Bedingfield, a top adviser for President Biden since 2015, will step down as White House communications director later this month,” NBC News reports. “And Ben LaBolt, a veteran of the Obama administration who worked on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, will step into the role.”

CNN: “Bedingfield had previously announced last summer that she would leave the administration, but later reversed her decision, remaining in the post for several more months.”

Following Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s announcement of a $2 billion loan for battery recycling in Nevada, Politico reports Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) praised the “science lesson” she gave and then asked her: “Did you actually understand this science or did you just memorize that?”

The crowd was silent.

Granholm, a Harvard Law graduate, later tweeted: “Big words can be intimidating, I understand. All the Governor needs to know is that $2 BILLION and thousands of good-paying jobs are coming to Nevada thanks to @POTUS.”

“The Pentagon downed an unidentified object over Alaska on Friday at the order of President Biden,” the New York Times reports.“It was not confirmed if the object was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.”

“Since the spy balloon saga started, China has tried to play down the incident, maintaining that the United States is overreacting and that the vessel is mainly for gathering meteorological data,” the New York Times reports.

“But as American alarm and accusations have mounted about a broad surveillance program by Beijing, that strategy is increasingly coming under strain, forcing China into an awkward, at times self-contradictory position. Beijing is also starting to adopt a more confrontational tone, further raising the specter of escalation.”

Garrett Graff: “Based on the reporting and odd comments of the last few days, with the Pentagon saying that the balloons transited the US before, including during the Trump administration, and Trump officials vociferously denying any such transits, I think it’s fairly easy to read between the lines: The balloons did transit the US before, including during the Trump administration, but without the US detecting them. Somehow—most likely either through so-called ‘signals intelligence intercepts’ by the NSA or from human intelligence sources through the CIA, the US learned about the Chinese balloon program and instructed the Pentagon to be alert for future transits.”

“The Chinese balloon program seems the rough equivalent of the U-2 spy plane missions of the early 1960s—important surveillance and intelligence missions that carried on according to their own bureaucratic schedule, seeming with little higher-up attention.”

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) said in an interview that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) consoled him after his tense exchange this week with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) but Sinema’s office says she never spoke to Santos, NBC News reports.

Santos claimed that after Romney lashed out at him ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Sinema told the congressman to “hang in there, buddy” as she was walking by.

He added that she “was very polite, very kindhearted,” unlike Romney, who he claims has “always had prejudice towards minorities.”

But Sinema’s spokesperson said that never happened, calling Santos’ comment “a lie.”

The Washington Post questions several aspects of freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s (R-FL) life story, from her religious and ethnic identity to her impoverished upbringing.

Specifically, Luna’s claim that she grew up poor and isolated, with her father in and out of prison, was not supported by prison records or by relatives interviewed. And her story of enduring a traumatizing “home invasion” was also undercut by police records.

Wall Street Journal: “The Treasury’s spending on interest on the debt is up 41% to $198 billion in the first four months of this fiscal year compared with $140 billion in the same period last year, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate of spending through January.”

“Paying more for interest on the debt has been among the government’s largest spending increases so far this year, the CBO said.”

After feeling lightheaded, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) was admitted the hospital yesterday and stayed overnight for observation.

Washington Post: “Fetterman declined to be interviewed for this story. But aides and confidantes describe his introduction to the Senate as a difficult period, filled with unfamiliar duties that are taxing for someone still in recovery: meetings with constituents, attending caucus and committee meetings, appearing in public at White House events and at the State of the Union address, as well as making appearances in Pennsylvania. The most evident disability is a neurological condition that impairs his hearing…”

“It has been less than a year since the stroke transformed him from someone with a large stature that suggested machismo — a central part of his political identity — into a physically altered version of himself, and he is frustrated at times that he is not yet back to the man he once was. He has had to come to terms with the fact that he may have set himself back permanently by not taking the recommended amount of rest during the campaign. And he continues to push himself in ways that people close to him worry are detrimental.”

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed support for privatizing Medicare and Social Security during his first campaign for Congress in 2012, giving political rivals who have pledged to protect the programs an opening to attack him ahead of DeSantis’ expected run for president in 2024,” CNN reports.

Foreign Affairs: “Since the start of the crisis [in Iran], hard-liners have tightened their grip on the reins of power. This faction opposes engagement with the West and does not wish to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. At home, it favors isolationism and tight control of the social and political spheres. Abroad, it favors aggressive regional policies and increasing collaboration with Russia.”

“Far from chastened by the protests, in other words, the regime that is now emerging from the initial phase of the unrest is even more intransigent and potentially aggressive than ever before.”

“The two highest-ranking Republican leaders in the U.S. House are going to war with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the new Congress takes shape,” CNBC reports.

“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republican House Majority Leader Steve Scalise both refuse to meet with the the Chamber after the lobbying group endorsed a handful of Democrats in the last two elections, clearly making an enemy of two of the most powerful leaders in Congress.”

David Frum: “A generation ago, politicians invested great effort in appearing agreeable: Ronald Reagan’s warm chuckle, Bill Clinton’s down-home charm, George W. Bush’s smiling affability. By contrast, Donald Trump delighted in name-calling, rudeness, and open disdain. Not even his supporters would have described Trump as an agreeable person. Yet he made it to the White House all the same—in part because of this trollish style of politics, which has encouraged others to emulate him.”

“Has our hyper-polarized era changed the old rules of politics?”

“A federal appeals court said on Wednesday that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison can pursue his investigation into Republican online fundraising giant WinRed over an allegedly deceptive marketing scheme that bilked unwitting donors out of untold amounts of cash,” the Daily Beast reports.

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

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