Cup of Joe – March 17, 2023

“In a matter of days, a grand jury in Manhattan could turn the 2024 campaign on its head by making Donald Trump the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges,” Axios reports.

“The state investigation into Trump’s alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 may be the tip of the spear when it comes to the many legal threats bearing down on the former president — the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination.”

“An Atlanta-based prosecutor is close to a charging decision in her investigation of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.”

“Special counsel Jack Smith is tightening the screws in his federal probes of Trump’s role in Jan. 6 and his handling of classified information.”

“Donald Trump’s legal team recently urged the Manhattan district attorney’s office not to indict the former president over his role in paying hush money to a porn star, arguing that the payments would have been made irrespective of his 2016 presidential candidacy,” The Guardian reports.

“The lawyer who represented the Trump team at the meeting with the district attorney’s office, Susan Necheles, also argued that campaign funds had not been used for the payments to the porn star, known as Stormy Daniels, and were therefore not a violation of campaign finance laws.”

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen began his grand jury testimony Monday, appears to have skipped Tuesday, and completed it Wednesday, a total of some five hours of testimony.

The porn actress at the center of the hush money scheme met with prosecutors in Manhattan Wednesday, but did not testify to the grand jury. Her testimony, for what it’s worth, isn’t considered central to the case.

With Michael Cohen’s grand jury testimony completed and prosecutors having met with Stormy Daniels, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation appears wrapped up. When can we expect indictments? If Bragg is going to indict, it could come at any time now. Stay tuned.

Still nothing from Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis, but the AJC has a new exclusive based on interviews with five members of the special grand jury that investigated Trump’s 2020 election interference in the state.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Five of the 23 special grand jurors recounted what it was like to be a pivotal — but anonymous — part of one of the most momentous criminal investigations in U.S. history; one which could lead to indictments of former President Donald Trump and his allies.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told an Atlanta-area grand jury last year that Donald Trump was so detached from reality after losing the 2020 election that he would have believed aliens arrived on Earth and stole Republican ballots, the Daily Beast reports.

Fulton County investigators have an audio recording of a phone call that former President Donald Trump made to the Georgia House speaker to push for a special session to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

It’s the third audio recording of Trump’s phone calls to Georgia officials that is known to exist.

Politico: “Top Republicans have zeroed in on the failed bank’s stances on sustainability and diversity as proof that its management team cared more about promoting a progressive agenda than safeguarding the more than $150 billion its customers had placed in uninsured deposits.”

“Now, after Biden officials took unprecedented steps to rescue the thousands of high-tech startups that held accounts, far-right activists and GOP luminaries are ripping into the Northern California institution’s embrace of cultural lightning rods such as workplace inclusion and climate consciousness.”

Politico: “The three banks that suddenly collapsed in the last week served the digital asset industry, and their downfall has stoked concern that crypto will be walled off from traditional finance in the U.S. Regulators including the Federal Reserve have been cautioning lenders for months about the risks of dealing in digital assets.”

“To crypto critics, those warnings sound prescient in the wake of the seizure of Silvergate Capital, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank by the government. To crypto executives, they sound like trouble.”

“Credit Suisse, the 166-year-old institution that was once an emblem of Swiss pride, is fighting for its life after investors, fearing that the bank would run out of money, dumped its stock and sent the price of insuring its debt against a default skyrocketing,” the New York Times reports.

“After the close of trading in Europe, Switzerland’s central bank, the Swiss National Bank, said it would step in and provide support to Credit Suisse ‘if necessary.’”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “said on Wednesday that the United States would continue to conduct surveillance flights after an American reconnaissance drone was struck by a Russian warplane and downed over the Black Sea,” the New York Times reports.

Said Austin: “Make no mistake, the United States will continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows.”

“Three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence said the highest levels of the Kremlin approved the aggressive actions of Russian military fighter jets against a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday,” NBC News reports.

“The Russian jets dropped jet fuel on the MQ-9 Reaper, an unprecedented action, and two of the officials said the intelligence suggests the intent seemed to be to throw the drone off course or disable its surveillance capabilities.”

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested Wednesday that his country may soon ratify Finland’s application to join NATO, allowing for the possibility of the country joining the military alliance separately from Sweden,” the AP reports.

 “Surprised to hear that Donald Trump is apparently claiming that my late sister Diana wanted to ‘kiss his arse.’ The one time she mentioned him to me—when he was using her good name to sell some real estate in New York—she clearly viewed him as worse than an anal fissure.” — Earl Charles Spencer, on Twitter, on what Princess Diana really thought of Donald Trump.

“Former Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti won a Senate vote on Wednesday to become President Biden’s ambassador to India, winning the support of 7 Republican senators to help him win a majority,” the Axios reports.

Los Angeles Times: “Ultimately, Biden’s unflinching loyalty to Eric Garcetti probably saved the former mayor’s confirmation. By refusing to abandon his ally … and by allowing an important ambassadorship to sit vacant for a record amount of time, Biden created an unlikely standoff with Senate Democrats.”

 “What did Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN) do with tens of thousands of dollars meant for a children’s burial garden?,” WTVF reports.

“It’s a story that goes far beyond questions about Ogles’ inflated resume. It’s a story that stems from a personal tragedy — the stillborn death of a child whose photo Ogles sometimes posts on his political social media — and a GoFundMe that allowed Ogles to rake in tens of thousands of dollars for what was supposed to be a children’s burial garden.”

“Yet, what makes it a story is the fact that there is no burial garden, no one knows where their donations went, and Ogles refuses to say what he did with the money.”

Aaron Blake is still sifting through all the evidence made public by Dominion Voting Systems in its billion-dollar defamation suit against Fox News. He made a timeline!

Also from the Post: At center of Fox News lawsuit, Sidney Powell and a ‘wackadoodle’ email

The court hearing on mifepristone that U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk tried to keep secret until the last minute went off without a hitch yesterday in Amarillo. TPM alum Tierney Sneed was there.

Associated Press: “Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature unveiled a bill Wednesday that would create rape and incest exceptions to the state’s 1849 abortion ban and clarify when abortions that protect the health of the mother would be allowed, but would not return the same rights that were in place under Roe v. Wade.”

 “The Biden administration is demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stakes in the video-sharing app or face a possible U.S. ban of the app,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The move represents a major shift in policy on the part of the administration, which has been under fire from some Republicans who say it hasn’t taken a tough enough stance to address the perceived security threat from TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.”

U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors have found that roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium have gone missing from a Libyan site that is not under government control, Reuters reports.

 “China accused the United States on Thursday of spreading disinformation and suppressing TikTok following reports that the Biden administration was calling for its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the popular video-sharing app,” the AP reports.  “The U.S. has yet to present evidence that TikTok threatens its national security and was using the excuse of data security to abuse its power to suppress foreign companies.”

Good point from John Gruber: “Banning TikTok or forcing the CCP to sell it makes sense both on national security grounds and as tit-for-tat trade policy. China effectively imposes an infinite tariff on U.S. social networks — none of them are available there. The U.S., to date, has imposed a 0 percent tariff on TikTok.”

“At first glance, the flurry of real estate sales two blocks east of the U.S. Capitol appeared unremarkable in a city where such sales are common. In the span of a year, a seemingly unrelated gaggle of recently formed companies bought nine properties, all within steps of one another,” the Washington Post reports.

“But the sales were not coincidental. Unbeknown to most of the sellers, the limited liability companies making the purchases — a shopping spree that added up to $41 million — are connected to a conservative nonprofit led by Mark Meadows, who was chief of staff to President Donald Trump.“

“Republican lawmakers in Kentucky struggled to wrap up a bill restricting gender-affirming care for minors, as internal differences complicated their push to beat a Thursday deadline to complete the sweeping proposal denounced by some outside voices within their party,” the AP reports.

Sen. John Fetterman’s (D-PA) health is reportedly improving but he could remain hospitalized for up to two more weeks as doctors work to get his medication “exactly right,” the New York Post reports.

Associated Press: “A federal judge issued an arrest warrant on Monday for Roy McGrath, the one-time aide to former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, after McGrath failed to appear in court as his trial on federal fraud charges was set to begin.”

 “More than 1,000 additional people could still face charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, according to a letter to the DC federal court from the US attorney in Washington,” Bloomberg reports.

The pretrial wrangling in the contempt of Congress case against Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro grinds on, with an argument over executive privilege.

Marcy Wheeler with a closer look at the cryptocurrency scheme that Boris Epshteyn and Steve Bannon were both involved in and that the feds in the Southern District of New York are now investigating.

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

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