Cup of Joe – February 25, 2023

“Federal prosecutors have asked the chief judge in Washington, D.C.’s federal court to compel former Vice President Mike Pence to comply with a grand jury subpoena and testify as a witness in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol,” CBS News reports.

“The motion to compel Pence’s testimony — filed in secret to Chief Judge Beryl Howell in recent days — came after lawyers for former President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege in response to Pence’s subpoena.”

“In a stern rebuke of former Vice President Mike Pence, the conservative former judge who advised Pence on how to handle the January 6, 2021, election certification vote is now warning of both the legal and political consequences of Pence’s plan to fight the grand jury subpoena by special counsel Jack Smith,” CNN reports.

Writes former Judge J. Michael Luttig in the New York Times: “We can expect the federal courts to make short shrift of this ‘Hail Mary’ claim and Mr. Pence doesn’t have a chance in the world of winning his case in any federal court and avoiding testifying before the grand jury.”

“The Justice Department wants to know how a box containing a handful of classified records scattered among copies of presidential schedules turned up at Mar-a-Lago late last year, well after several rounds of searches of the property by federal agents and aides to former President Donald Trump,” CNN reports.

“Investigators working for special counsel Jack Smith in recent weeks have interviewed a Trump aide who copied classified materials found in the box using her phone to put them onto a laptop. After a voluntary interview with the aide, prosecutors subpoenaed the password to the laptop, which she provided.”

“People familiar with the Trump legal team’s efforts to locate documents describe a confusing chain of events that delayed discovery of the box, including having its contents uploaded to the cloud, emailed to a Trump employee, and moved to an offsite location before finally ending up back at a Mar-a-Lago bridal suite that is now Trump’s office – the very place that the FBI had searched just weeks earlier.”

“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen directly confronted senior Russian officials during a meeting of finance ministers of the Group of 20 nations on Friday, calling it a ‘moral imperative’ to end the war in Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“Her condemnation of the war was a rare direct interaction between American and Russian officials and occurred on the anniversary of a conflict that has divided the world and roiled the global economy. The United States has pledged to deliver more aid to Ukraine and to level more sanctions on Russia.”

“The Pentagon announced a new package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine on Friday, marking the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion with a $2 billion commitment to send more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones into the fight,” the AP reports.

Playbook: “But political reality is going to set in later this year, with a Republican House already warning that it won’t keep signing ‘blank checks’ to Ukraine. Yes, there’s a sense among folks in the White House and Capitol Hill that it’s mostly bluster, at least for now, but the question continues to take on a partisan flavor.”

“China called Friday for urgent peace talks as it released its plan to end the war in Ukraine, but Western powers quickly rebuffed the proposals while warning against Beijing’s closening ties to Moscow,” AFP reports.

Josh Rogin: “By providing Ukraine with just enough weaponry to fight to a medium-boil stalemate, the Biden approach is seen by many Ukrainians as an intentional strategy to nudge Ukraine toward negotiations. Ukrainian officials maintain that talks are possible only when Putin feels more pressure.”

“The first thing you will hear from any Ukrainian is “Thank you.” Ukrainians are not ungrateful or greedy — they are trying to survive. But their desperation is increasing. ‘As long as it takes’ must not become an excuse for a lack of urgency. By next year’s anniversary, there might not be a Ukraine to save.”

New York Times: “After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, President Biden reflected privately on his long-distance conversations with President Volodymyr Zelensky. He did not know the man well — and might never get to. It was chilling, several people remember him observing grimly, to think that he might be talking with a dead man.”

“Mr. Biden was hardly the only one to assume that Mr. Zelensky might not survive the Russian onslaught, given the target the Kremlin had put on his back. But the American president was happy to be proved wrong — and surprised to discover, like the rest of the world, that Mr. Zelensky was more than a former comedian and tougher than anyone imagined.”

“By the time Mr. Biden made a dramatic unannounced visit to wartime Kyiv this week, the two had grown close enough to greet each other with the easy familiarity of old friends.”

A new Fox News poll found that 50% surveyed said the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine “as long as it takes to win” while 46% polled said the timeline should be limited.

Donald Trump claimed on a radio show this morning that he could end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours.  The solution is to “get people in a room, knock heads and get it done.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Joe Biden a $12,000 pen and decorative writing set at their first presidential summit in Geneva in 2021 during a momentary thaw in relations that ended with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine eight months later,” Bloomberg reports.

“The writing set was the most expensive gift Biden received from a foreign leader that year.”

FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried was hit with four new criminal charges on Thursday in a superseding indictment in New York federal court, CNBC reports.

A source familar with the new counts said that SBF, as he is popularly known, could face an additional 40 years in prison if convicted in the case.

“Embattled cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried directed tens of millions of dollars of illegal campaign contributions to elected officials, prosecutors alleged in a new superseding indictment unsealed Thursday in a Manhattan federal court,” NBC News reports.

“Bankman-Fried became one of the biggest Democratic donors in the country during last year’s midterm elections, with a net worth estimated at one point to be greater than $20 billion and dreams of spending up to $1 billion on the 2024 presidential contest.”

“But Bankman-Fried’s political giving was not all it seemed… The indictment accuses Bankman-Fried of directing at least 300 illegal campaign donations, totaling up to $100 million, to both Democrats and Republicans through two other unnamed FTX executives that acted as ‘straw donors’ to hide the true source of the funds.”

“Carlos Watson, the founder of the troubled digital start-up Ozy Media, was arrested and charged with fraud by federal investigators,” the New York Times reports.

“Prosecutors said in a court document dated Wednesday that Mr. Watson had ‘engaged in a scheme to defraud Ozy’s potential investors, potential acquirers, lenders and potential lenders’ by misrepresenting the company’s audience numbers and financial results. The court filing about Mr. Watson’s arrest was dated Thursday.”

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) told Semafor that he doesn’t see a circumstance in which he casts a vote to lift the U.S. debt limit in order to reauthorize the federal government’s ability to pay its bills.

He’s opposed raising it since first elected to the House in 2018.

Said Burchett: “I’ve made commitments and I’ve run on fiscal responsibility. I didn’t fold the last time under Trump and I don’t expect to fold under Biden.”

Kate Riga on how the biggest Social Security cutters — Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, etc — are out there doing their thing even as elected Republicans are in high dudgeon over the mere suggestion that the GOP has been trying to undermine Social Security since its inception.

“The disclosure of emails and texts in which Fox News executives and personalities disparaged the same election conspiracies being floated on their shows has greatly increased the chances that a defamation case against the network will succeed,” the Washington Post reports.

“Dominion Voting Systems included dozens of messages sent internally by Fox co-founder Rupert Murdoch and on-air stars such as Tucker Carlson in a brief made public last week in support of the voting technology company’s $1.6 billion lawsuit against the network. Dominion claims it was damaged in the months after the 2020 election after Fox repeatedly aired false statements that it was part of a conspiracy to fraudulently elect Joe Biden.”

“Dominion said the emails and texts show that Fox’s hosts and executives knew the claims being peddled by then-president Donald Trump’s lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell weren’t true — some employees privately described them as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘mind blowingly nuts’— but Fox kept airing them to keep its audience from changing channels.”

Charlie Sykes: “By now, we know that the GOP is losing the culture war over abortion. Polls continue to show strong opposition to the kind of sweeping bans that are passing in red state legislatures.”

“But what about the trans issue? Why is Donald Trump doubling down on draconian proposals which would prohibit federal agencies from promoting ‘the concept of sex and gender transition at any age’ and mandate that the government recognize “male and female,” as assigned at birth, as the only genders…”

“Trump knows that the trans issue excites his base — especially the Christian Right.”

David Byler: “And some of his anti-trans positions might prove popular with elements of the wider electorate, which has recently become less open to transgender rights.”

“Tennessee lawmakers [debated] on Thursday whether to restrict drag performances in public or in front of children, one of more than a dozen bills limiting drag advanced by Republican politicians in at least 15 states in recent months,” Reuters reports.

 “House Republicans had hoped to pass a narrow border security bill within the first two weeks of their new majority, notching an easy win and delivering on a key campaign promise in the process,” CNN reports.

“But a three-page bill from conservative Texas Rep. Chip Roy has run into fierce opposition from moderates, forcing GOP leaders back to the drawing board and exposing deep divisions in the party along the way.”

 “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ broken relationship with the mainstream media could get even worse,” Politico reports.

“At the governor’s urging, Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature is pushing to weaken state laws that have long protected journalists against defamation suits and frivolous lawsuits.”

 “Doctors and advocates are urging people to pre-order and stockpile abortion pills while they still can in the face of a looming court decision that could wipe out access to the drugs nationwide,” Politico reports.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CNN that he and his Chinese counterpart have not spoken for a “couple of months,” with Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe refusing to take a call in the wake of the US shootdown of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.

“Well, the strange thing about hearing that from Senator Rubio is that the last time I had gotten a communication from him about railroad regulation was when he had signed a letter asking us to weaken our inspection practices.” — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, on MSNBC, defending himself from criticism by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

 “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a nonprofit entity that it controlled have been fined $5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission over accusations that the religious institution failed to properly disclose its investment holdings,” NBC News reports.

In an order released Tuesday, the SEC alleged that the church illicitly hid its investments and their management behind multiple shell companies from 1997 to 2019. In doing so, it failed to disclose the size of the church’s equity portfolio to the SEC and the public.”

“The largest-ever trial of the four-day work week found that most UK companies participating are not returning to the five-day standard, and a third are ready to make that change permanent,” Bloomberg reports.

“The study involved 61 organizations and about 2,900 workers who voluntarily adopted truncated work weeks from June to December 2022. Only three organizations decided to pause the experiment, and two are still considering shorter hours, data released Tuesday showed. The rest were convinced by revenue gains, drops in turnover and lower levels of worker burnout that four is the new five when it comes to work days.”

“U.S. ethics officials in recent years have warned one-third of the Energy Department’s senior officials that they or their families owned stocks related to the agency’s work, reminding them not to violate federal conflict-of-interest rules,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Most held on to the stocks, a Wall Street Journal analysis of officials’ financial disclosures from 2017 through 2021 shows.”

“The more than 300 agency officials who received such warnings include nearly six dozen who held stocks of major energy companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Minnesota earlier this week became the latest state to restore voting rights to ex-felons once they are released from prison. Democrats around the US have been pushing to reduce or eliminate restrictions on voting, in particular fighting to extend voting rights to people on parole or probation. Many Republicans have been pushing back, arguing that rights shouldn’t be restored until all the terms of a sentence have been fulfilled, and perhaps not even then.”

“Some Republicans also might worry that expanding the voter pool will cost them at the polls. It turns out that any potential effects on election outcomes is small. But disenfranchising ex-felons is indefensible in a democracy.”

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

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