Cup of Joe – March 2, 2023

New York Times: “Ever since Donald J. Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015, Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News Channel have struggled with how to handle the man and the movement they helped create.”

“For the most part, Mr. Murdoch has been wildly successful at striking the balance. Fox converted Mr. Trump’s mass following into loyal viewers who deliver Mr. Murdoch and his shareholders huge profits.”

“But the emails among the Murdochs and the senior leadership of their companies, along with depositions of both men as part of the case, revealed just how Fox and its leaders strained to push back against Mr. Trump when he began spreading unfounded claims about widespread election fraud.”

Amanda Carpenter: “Dominion must meet a high standard to win its $1.6 billion case. But the filings are already proving something significant, beyond the shadow of a doubt: that Fox casually and knowingly feeds its viewers lies.”

“Dominion has documented how their leading voices don’t believe what they say on the air. How they are afraid to tell you what they really think. Therein lies the peril of Fox’s pander-for-profit model.”

“We’re fed up with Democrat policies, we’re fed up with the woke ideology being shoved down our throat, and we’re tired of our children being brainwashed into these same ideas. We want our own safe space and we deserve it.” — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), on Fox News.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was in the midst of doing his usual anti-Ukraine schtick yesterday in a hearing on U.S. funding for its ally when he teed up what he clearly thought was going to be a gotcha moment. He ended up being the one who got got.

Laying what looked like a trap for one of the witnesses, Gaetz asked if a far-right group in Ukraine has access to U.S. weapons. The witness, under secretary of defense for policy Colin Kahl, was immediately wary and pressed Gaetz for any information he might have to support the question. Gaetz pounced, citing a “Global Times investigative report,” which he quickly moved to enter into the record. The committee chair, hearing no objections, ordered it entered into the record. The teeth of Gaetz’s trap thus closed … on his own leg.

Kahl, with impeccable almost casual timing, pointed out that he himself tends not to rely on Chinese propaganda. No, really. A befuddled Gaetz at first denied it was the Chinese Global Times, a well-known propaganda organ of the Chinese government, but was quickly forced to concede.

The WaPo’s Aaron Blake has a fuller rundown of the whole exchange, the backstory on the Global Times, and the underlying allegation. He also notes this: “Gaetz has promoted his question-and-answer period from the hearing on Twitter, while cutting off the video before the above exchange.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray conspicuously chose Fox News as his venue for publicly confirming for the first time the bureau’s classified assessment that COVID originated as a leak from the Chinese lab in Wuhan.

Previous reporting had already revealed that the FBI was the most aggressive component of the U.S. intel community in attributing COVID to a lab leak. It reportedly made its assessment with “medium confidence.”

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time, based on the new intelligence, the Department of Energy also assessed (with “low confidence”) that COVID came from a lab leak.

The intel community remains sharply divided in how it assesses the origins of COVID, with some components pointing toward natural origins for COVID, and others remaining undecided.

Politico: “Some GOP lawmakers hope a reported new assessment … will give new life to legislation that stalled last year — including bills to declassify intelligence about the pandemic, set up a 9/11-style nonpartisan commission to study the virus’ beginnings, and restrict data-sharing with Chinese scientists.”

“Others are calling for the White House to hold classified briefings on what they knew about Covid-19’s origins, when they knew it, and what led to the latest agency assessment. And still more hope to use the lab leak assessment as momentum for sanctions and investment restrictions on the world’s second-largest economy.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) shows how to confront GOP misinformation on COVID and China.

“The UK and European Union reached a new deal on Northern Ireland’s trading arrangements, aimed at ending years of often acrimonious wrangling and paving the way for warmer relations more than half a decade after Britons voted for Brexit,” Bloomberg reports.

New York Times: “The deal, which came after weeks of confidential talks, could avert a potential trade war between Britain and the European Union and open the door to the restoration of a devolved government in Northern Ireland. But it also comes with political risks for Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, opening him up to backlash from pro-Brexit hard-liners in his Conservative Party and pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland.”

Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is more advanced than previously known and “if they chose to cross that line,” Tehran would only need a “matter of weeks” to enrich uranium capable of powering a nuclear weapon, CBS News reports.

Iran could make enough fissile for one nuclear bomb in “about 12 days,” a top U.S. Defense Department official said on Tuesday, down from the estimated one year it would have taken while the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was in effect, Reuters  reports.

“A Peruvian prison built specifically to host disgraced former presidents will soon run out of space if former leader Alejandro Toledo is extradited from the US as expected,” Bloomberg reports.

“House Republicans are pumping the brakes on the release of Jan. 6 surveillance footage they’ve offered to Fox News host Tucker Carlson and going on offense against Democrats who have spent the past week slamming the move,” The Hill reports.

“Republican leaders are emphasizing that no clips will be broadcast without prior security clearance while accusing Democrats of neglecting the same precautions during the investigation by the House select committee last year — a charge the Democrats quickly rejected.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) defended his decision to give conservative TV host Tucker Carlson access to roughly 40,000 hours of security footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, telling reporters that the footage will soon be released broadly and that his office is taking measures to address concerns about security risks, the Washington Post reports.

Said McCarthy: “It almost seems like the press is jealous. And that’s interesting because every person in the press works off exclusives on certain things.”

“Republicans in Congress sharply questioned senior Pentagon officials on Tuesday about the tens of billions of dollars in military and other aid the United States has sent to Ukraine, casting fresh doubt on whether they would embrace future spending as Democrats pleaded for a cleareyed assessment of how much more money would be needed,” the New York Times reports.

“The exchanges at two House committee hearings, coming just days after the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, highlighted how concerns about the high cost of sending weapons to Kyiv have intensified on Capitol Hill. The growing doubts have threatened what has been a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of the aid, and could make it more difficult for the Biden administration to win congressional approval of funds to replenish its military assistance accounts. The funding inflection point could come as soon as this summer, months earlier than previously expected.”

“The legacy of the 118th Congress — even amid its high-profile divisions — is set to be defined by an unprecedented focus on the threat emanating from the Chinese government,” Axios reports.

“With President Biden wielding a veto and Republicans prioritizing sweeping investigations, China is the only issue positioned to pierce Capitol Hill’s bitter partisan bubble on a consistent — and meaningful — basis.”

“It’s a testament to just how far the bipartisan consensus on China has shifted over the past six years, as the relationship between the world’s two largest economies threatens to spiral into more direct confrontation.”

Dan Drezner: Where is the big China speech?

Sen. J.D. Vance’s (R-OH) call for a Paycheck Protection Program-style plan to help workers and businesses affected by the East Palestine train derailment is being greeted skeptically by Senate Republicans as they think about the best way to deliver aid to the community, The Hill reports.

Two more New York Republican members of Congress, Marc Molinaro and Anthony D’Esposito, are calling for the expulsion of serial fabulist Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from the House.

“The FBI has arrested a Donald Trump supporter who allegedly stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 while wearing the head of a panda costume,” NBC News reports.

“Months of disputes between Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents over how best to try to recover classified documents from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence led to a tense showdown near the end of July last year,” the Washington Post reports.

“Prosecutors argued that new evidence suggested Trump was knowingly concealing secret documents at his Palm Beach, Fla., home and urged the FBI to conduct a surprise raid at the property. But two senior FBI officials who would be in charge of leading the search resisted the plan as too combative and proposed instead to seek Trump’s permission to search his property.”

“Prosecutors ultimately prevailed in that dispute, one of several previously unreported clashes in a tense tug of war between two arms of the Justice Department over how aggressively to pursue a criminal investigation of a former president.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) blasted Attorney General Merrick Garland Tuesday for his “refusal” to appoint a special counsel in the government’s criminal investigation of first son Hunter Biden, the New York Post reports.

Said Jordan: “To date, you have declined to appoint a special counsel in this matter, despite appointing special counsels in other investigations. Your refusal to appoint a special counsel here is conspicuous in this context.”

Donald Trump put forth a proposal for “universal baseline tariffs on most foreign products” while revoking China’s “most favored nation” trade status.

“Donald Trump’s latest salvo in his trade war with China is raising hackles among fellow Republicans from farm states, a crucial voting bloc in the 2024 GOP primary,” Politico reports.

“The former and would-be future president pitched a new proposal Monday to overhaul the U.S. trading relationship with Beijing, part of a wave of anti-China rhetoric surging through Washington in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon flap earlier this month. But while there is consensus within the GOP on taking a tough line, many rural Republicans were quick to reject Trump’s calls to slap new tariffs on Chinese goods — since Beijing targeted the U.S. farm economy during the former president’s last trade war with China. The rare pushback, in public and private, presents an early break with some representatives for one of his key constituencies: rural Americans.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D–WV) told CNN he “will vote to rescind a controversial Washington, DC, crime law – which critics argue is soft on violent criminals – when it comes up for a vote in the Senate, likely next week.”

“Manchin becomes the first Democrat to publicly state support for the Republican legislation, which could be a politically fraught vote for Democrats, especially centrists like him who are up for reelection in red-leaning states.”

New York Times: “The White House has expressed its opposition, though officials have yet to issue a direct veto threat.”

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

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