Cup of Joe – March 16, 2023

 “The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, according to people familiar with the matter, after the California lender was taken over by regulators last week amid a historic run on its deposits,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“U.S. prosecutors were investigating Signature Bank’s work with crypto clients before regulators suddenly seized the lender this past weekend,” Bloomberg reports.

“Justice Department investigators in Washington and Manhattan were examining whether the New York bank took sufficient steps to detect potential money laundering by clients — such as scrutinizing people opening accounts and monitoring transactions for signs of criminality, the people said. The Securities and Exchange Commission also was taking a look, two people said, asking not to be named because the inquiries are confidential.”

Politico: “The swift and forceful action to rescue depositors at the two failed midsize lenders rewrote crucial banking guardrails in ways that could reverberate for years.”

“And it almost didn’t happen. President Joe Biden began the weekend highly skeptical of anything that could be labeled a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

“After nearly a week of tumult, the specter of a billowing crisis over the banking industry appeared to ease, at least for the moment, as pressure began to lift on the midsize and regional lenders most in peril,” the New York Times reports.

“Though the financial world was suddenly glued to news of banks that only the most obsessive observers would have earlier heard of, none of their chief executives would agree to be interviewed. Some sent out mass notes to customers that side stepped the most pressing questions of the moment: How much money was being withdrawn this week, and what was the plan if the outflows pressed on?”

Politico: “The current Senate Democratic discord is especially acute because the caucus had the numbers to block the 2018 effort — but under heavy pressure to cut a deal to help community banks in an election year, 17 of them supported it.”

“The collapse of two banks with roughly $300 billion in total assets over the past week has animated those internal divisions among Democratic senators, who usually pride themselves on policy unity.”

“Several Democrats said they want to see either repeal of the 2018 legislation or other tougher laws. But at the moment there is no apparent solution that would get 51 Democratic votes, much less the 60 senators needed to vault a filibuster.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is dismissing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” and says protecting the European nation is not a vital U.S. interest, firmly putting the potential presidential candidate on the side of Donald Trump and at odds with top congressional Republicans, the Washington Post reports.

New York Post editorial slams Gov. Ron DeSantis for “dodging the challenge” when it comes to the war In Ukraine.

“Well, I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what the goal is. Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor. So I’m not sure. … I mean, I can’t compare that to something else he did or has said over the last few years, because he doesn’t deal with it every day. But I will say to you that in terms of my view of the overall issue is I think there’s nuance, because foreign policy is about nuance.”— Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), quoted by Politico, criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on the Ukraine war.

“Republican justices look ready to use their new majority on the North Carolina’s state Supreme Court to tear up the state’s congressional maps, and the new ones would likely favor the GOP up and down the ballot,” Politico reports.

“The Tar Heel state’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday about a case surrounding the power to set the state’s internal political boundaries. A previous iteration of the state Supreme Court ruled that the congressional lines drawn by GOP lawmakers were an illegal partisan gerrymander, and during the 2022 midterms a court-ordered congressional map that resulted in an even split in the state’s congressional delegation ended up being used.”

Politico: “Republicans are readying to plow ahead with ambitious gerrymandering despite previous reprimands from state courts — now that they’ve elected judges who are less likely to thwart their plans. The first test of this strategy comes Tuesday when North Carolina’s GOP-dominated state Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether its previous Democratic majority erred.”

“President Biden is seeking to have a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease tensions that flared following last month’s discovery of a Chinese spy balloon over sensitive U.S. military sites and unusually blunt criticism by Xi this month of the United States,” the Washington Post reports.

The FBI has said it can find no records related to former President Donald Trump’s assertions in November that he “sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys” to stop “ballot theft” in Florida during the 2018 election, NBC News reports.

Tom Nichols: “A former vice president of the United States identified a sitting president as a mortal danger. In another time, it would have been the Story of the Century. Instead, it was the Kerfuffle of the Week, and it is already dissolving away in the new media cycle.”

Daily Beast: “The timing of the invitation means jurors have likely heard much of what prosecutors know about the way Trump orchestrated a hush money scheme to keep the world from knowing about his illicit sexual affair with the porn star Stormy Daniels—which spared his 2016 presidential campaign potentially devastating embarrassment.”

“The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, now led by Alvin Bragg Jr., last week offered Trump the chance to explain himself to the grand jury. But the deal notably came with strings attached, said one of his defense lawyers, Joe Tacopina; Trump could only talk to the grand jury if he first waived immunity for anything he says.”

The fact that the person ostensibly coordinating all of the lawyers defending Donald Trump across multiple investigations has himself had his phone seized by the FBI remains almost unbelievable to me.

The NYT keeps shining a bright line on Boris Epshteyn’s complicated role in Trumpland: “Mr. Epshteyn speaks with Mr. Trump several times a day and makes it known that he does so, according to interviews with Trump associates and other Republicans. He has recommended, helped hire and negotiated pay for several lawyers working for Mr. Trump on civil litigation and the federal and local criminal investigations swirling around him.

The – shall we say “complicated”? – background of Epshteyn is unlike that of any other aide to a former president in recent memory: “A cryptocurrency with which he is involved has drawn scrutiny from federal prosecutors. And he has twice been arrested over personal altercations, leading in one case to an agreement to attend anger management classes and in another to a guilty plea for disorderly conduct.

For our purposes, it was the FBI’s seizure of Epshteyn’s phone back in September as part of the Jan. 6 investigation that makes him of most immediate interest. This is a fascinating bit of reporting: “After the search last summer of Mar-a-Lago by F.B.I. agents looking for classified documents still in Mr. Trump’s possession, Mr. Epshteyn retroactively changed his agreement with the political action committee. The agreement, which had been primarily for communications strategy, was updated to include legal work, and to say it covered legal work since the spring of last year, a campaign official said. His monthly retainer doubled to $30,000.

But he dropped a separate effort to have Mr. Trump sign a letter retroactively designating him as a lawyer for Mr. Trump personally, dating to March of last year, soon after Mr. Trump’s post-presidency handling of classified documents became an issue. The letter specifically stated that their communications would be covered by attorney-client privilege, multiple people familiar with the request said.

The internal backbiting in Trumpland over Epshteyn role is of less immediate interest. That being said, Steve Bannon had some touching words about him: “Boris is a pair of heavy hands — he’s not Louis Brandeis.” 

“Nearly two years after President Joe Biden tapped him to become U.S. ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti faces his final confirmation hurdle on Wednesday. And it’s uncertain whether he’ll clear it,” Politico reports.

“The Senate is set for a critical vote on advancing the former Los Angeles mayor’s nomination that caps off months of limbo for Garcetti. While he was once seen on a glide path to New Delhi, his nomination stalled as questions swirled around his handling of harassment and assault allegations lodged against his former top aide in California.”

“Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire with business ties to Steve Bannon, has been arrested on federal charges out of New York,” ABC News reports.

“Wengui owned the 152-foot-long yacht Lady May on which Bannon was arrested in August 2020.”

“Guo and Bannon have been under investigation in connection with GTV Media Group, which the Securities and Exchange Commission previously accused of violating securities laws.”

Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks (R) said that corporate sustainability standards, known as ESG, are part of “Satan’s plan,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Minnesota State Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R) said he was voting against a bill to provide free breakfast and lunch for school students in part because he’d never encountered anyone in the state who was hungry, NBC News reports.

Said Drazkowski: “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry.”

“A federal judge will hear arguments Wednesday in a high-stakes court case that could threaten access to medication abortion and blunt the authority of U.S. drug regulators,” the AP reports.

President Biden has criticized anti-trans legislation as “just cruel,” singling out recent developments in Florida in particular as “close to sinful” and suggesting that the federal government needs to legislate to protect transgender rights nationally, the Washington Post reports.

Said Biden: “What’s going on in Florida is, as my mother would say, close to sinful. I mean, it’s just terrible what they’re doing.”

The White House released a memo Wednesday morning calling on congressional Republicans to release a budget and “decide what their values are” when it comes to gun policy, CBS News reports.

Said the memo: “Republicans in Congress refuse to pass an assault weapons ban, instead allowing police to continue to be outgunned on our streets.”

“House Oversight Chairman James Comer said in a statement Tuesday the US Treasury Department will allow him to review certain bank activity reports related to members of the Biden family and their business partners,” CNN reports.

Said Comer: “After two months of dragging their feet, the Treasury Department is finally providing us with access to the suspicious activity reports for the Biden family and their associates’ business transactions.”

New York Post: “It’s Washington’s newest guessing game: Who is the unnamed Biden family member who got proceeds from a $3 million wire to Hunter Biden associate John ‘Rob’ Walker weeks after Joe Biden left the vice presidency in 2017?”

“House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) first revealed Monday that bank records obtained via subpoena implicate a ‘new Biden family member’ in the panel’s probe of the first son’s alleged influence-peddling scheme.”

“Comer is expected to reveal the person’s name at some point, but has not yet announced specific plans to do so, leaving the door open to speculation about who else could have been on the receiving end.”

Aaron Blake: “In a way, of course, election denial has always truly been about vibes. Trump-aligned election lawsuits consistently failed when subjected to scrutiny. The lawyers behind them often admitted that they didn’t have proof of the widespread voter fraud that Trump claimed — and often that they weren’t even alleging fraud. They instead focused on supposed “irregularities” and process issues. Right-wing media outlets repeatedly backed down when facing legal pressure, which has now culminated in Fox News facing legal jeopardy in a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems. We’ve learned recently in that case that many at Fox News privately acknowledged the evidence was bunk, even as they decided airing such claims credulously was best for business.”

“But it’s still significant that Republican election deniers now increasingly admit their side hasn’t produced the goods. There’s seemingly been enough manufactured smoke out there for them to convince themselves they can pinpoint where the fire was. And it’s no fun to admit to yourself — or a pollster — that your belief isn’t actually based upon anything tangible.”

“Yet that’s where we’ve wound up: Two-thirds of GOP-leaning voters admit there’s no “solid evidence” that the 2020 election was stolen, but nearly as many still believe it was.

“Absences in the Senate are becoming an issue for Democrats, leaving them with a fragile majority,” The Hill reports.

“Senate Democrats have been without Sens. John Fetterman and Dianne Feinstein in recent weeks, creating a 49-49 split in the chamber that has forced members of the conference to only bring up votes that they know have bipartisan support and caused problems at the committee level.”

“It was a mundane, unanimously supported bill on liquor taxation that saw state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh take to the mic on the Nebraska Legislature floor last week. She offered her support, then spent the next three days discussing everything but the bill, including her favorite Girl Scout cookies, Omaha’s best doughnuts and the plot of the animated movie Madagascar,” the AP reports.

“She also spent that time railing against an unrelated bill that would outlaw gender-affirming therapies for those 18 and younger. It was the advancement of that bill out of committee that led Cavanaugh to promise three weeks ago to filibuster every bill that comes before the Legislature this year — even the ones she supports.”

Said Cavanaugh: “If this Legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful — painful for everyone. I will burn the session to the ground over this bill.”

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

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