Cup of Joe – February 27, 2023

President Biden will address the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Baltimore on Wednesday and visit his old Senate Democratic colleagues for a caucus lunch on Thursday. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets with Biden at the White House on Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken continues his focus on Russia and Ukraine with visits to the key nations of India, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown, which both challenge the President’s student debt relief plan.

The House will take up several bills related to cybersecurity this week, while the Senate considers several nominations, most notably a Foreign Relations hearing on ex-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s controversial nomination to be ambassador to India.

When Rep.-elect Jennifer McClellan (D-VA) takes office sometime this week, the House will return to its full 435 members, with 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is in danger of not making the runoff in Tuesday’s first round of Chicago’s mayoral election. An M3 Strategies poll last week had ex-Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas at 32%, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson 18%, Lightfoot 14%, and Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) 12%. Recounts and challenges are expected for the second slot for the April 4 runoff.

On Saturday, Marianne Williamson will declare her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination at an event in Washington.

“Republicans and Democrats are pressing for major legislation to counter rising threats from China, but mere weeks into the new Congress, a bipartisan consensus is at risk of dissipating amid disputes about what steps to take and a desire among many Republicans to wield the issue as a weapon against President Biden,” the New York Times reports.

“In the House and Senate, leading lawmakers in both parties have managed in an otherwise bitterly divided Congress to stay unified about the need to confront the dangers posed by China’s militarization, its deepening ties with Russia and its ever-expanding economic footprint.”

“But a rising chorus of Republican vitriol directed at Mr. Biden after a Chinese spy balloon flew over the United States this month upended that spirit — giving way to G.O.P. accusations that the president was “weak on China” — and suggested that the path ahead for any bipartisan action is exceedingly narrow.”

Rolling Stone: “In early 2018, the American national security apparatus was fixated on reports that North Korea was building nuclear weapons that could reach the U.S. or that Russia was plotting chemical weapons assassinations in Europe. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was busy targeting his idea of an enemy of the state: late night host Jimmy Kimmel.”

“The then-president, according to two former Trump administration officials, was so upset by Kimmel’s comedic jabs that he directed his White House staff to call up one of Disney’s top executives in Washington, D.C., to complain and demand action. (ABC, on which Jimmy Kimmel Live! has long aired, is owned by Disney.)”

“In at least two separate phone calls that occurred around the time Trump was finishing his first year in office, the White House conveyed the severity of his fury with Kimmel to Disney.”

“A federal judge has agreed to permit former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to take sworn testimony from former President Donald Trump for two hours as part of their long-running lawsuits related to Strzok’s firing in 2018 after Trump repeatedly and publicly pilloried the pair,” Politico reports.

“U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled on Thursday that Strzok and Page — whose text messages disparaging then-candidate Trump cast a pall over the FBI’s investigation of links between the Trump campaign and Russia — would also be allowed to depose FBI Director Christopher Wray for a similar two-hour period on a limited set of topics.”

New York Times: “No former president has ever confronted the barrage of legal threats that Mr. Trump now faces, all of which appear to be heading toward decision points by the authorities in coming months. Heightening the stakes, the inquiries have intensified just as Mr. Trump has started ramping up his third campaign for the White House.”

“Pro-Trump Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who has previously claimed he’s been a victim of racism in Hollywood and corporate America, went on a racist diatribe this week, labeling Black people as a ‘hate group’ and saying that White people should ‘get the hell away’ from them,” the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them, the Washington Post reports.

Said Adams: “Most of my income will be gone by next week. My reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed. You can’t come back from this, am I right? There’s no way you can come back from this.”

Vice News: “For the last five years, Deborah Sullivan has been at the forefront of the QAnon movement, fighting a non-existent Democratic cabal of elites running a child sex trafficking ring. As the self-described QAnon ‘Meme Queen’ she has produced more than 4,500 memes about the conspiracy, many of them focusing on former President Donald Trump, who she believes is secretly working to save the children.”

“But earlier this month, when Sullivan’s own son was convicted of repeatedly abusing his stepdaughter in Oklahoma City, her passion for ‘saving the children’ seems to disappear. Instead, she defended her son as ‘innocent,’ blasted the justice system as ‘crooked,’ and attacked the 12-year-old girl at the center of the case as ‘a horrible liar.’”

“Now she is appealing to her community of fellow Qanon believers to come to her aide, including a direct plea to Trump himself.”

“The special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump appears to have reached the advanced stages of his sweeping inquiry after a flurry of aggressive steps in recent weeks, some of which have set the stage for court fights that could take months to resolve,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The frenzy of subpoenas comes as Judge Beryl Howell’s seven-year term as chief judge of the D.C. district court enters its last month. In that post, she has presided over all grand-jury matters in Washington and repeatedly ruled for the Justice Department in closed-door disputes with Mr. Trump over executive privilege. “

“Multiple House committees are gaming out aggressive hearings on the Biden administration’s response to the toxic train wreck in Ohio — including how the government supervises giant rail companies,” Axios reports.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated in an interview set to be broadcast Sunday that Russia suspended its participation in the New START treaty not only because of U.S. nuclear capabilities but those of other NATO countries,” the AP reports.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis once strongly supported arming Ukraine to fight Russia, urging then-President Barack Obama to do so as a deterrent to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe – a position at odds with his statements this week questioning the United States’ involvement in the conflict,” CNN reports.

“As a conservative congressman, DeSantis, now a potential presidential hopeful, urged sending ‘defensive and offensive’ weapons to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 and even voted to refuse to fund a new missile defense treaty with Russia until they withdrew from Ukraine.”

“The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.”

“The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.”

“President Joe Biden’s aides have ruled out the creation of a legal defense fund to help pay for any personal legal fees in response to investigations, such as the special counsel probe into his handling of classified documents,” NBC News reports.

“The president’s advisers decided against establishing such a fund because of concerns about questions that could be raised if he did, including that doing so might generate political blowback or give the appearance there’s potential wrongdoing he needs to defend.”

“The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge rose last month at its fastest pace since June, an alarming sign that price pressures remain entrenched in the U.S. economy and could lead the Fed to keep raising interest rates well into this year,” the AP reports.

“The number of U.S. mass killings linked to extremism over the past decade was at least three times higher than the total from any other 10-year period since the 1970s, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League,” the AP reports.

A group of Republican lawmakers sent letters on Friday to Robert Bauer and Cristina Rodríguez — the two former co-chairs of the Supreme Court reform commission that released its final report in December 2021 — requesting documents and communications, Politico reports.

“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries have agreed to create a bipartisan task force that will establish a process to remove members from committees,” NBC News reports.

“A judge ordered Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) to turn over more than 2,000 phone records after ruling that they are not shielded under the Constitution,” Axios  reports.

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