Cup of Joe – March 29, 2023

“The former publisher of The National Enquirer testified on Monday before the Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence about Donald Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star,“ the New York Times reports.

“The publisher, David Pecker, also testified in January, soon after the grand jury was impaneled by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. The grand jury has heard from at least nine witnesses — including Mr. Pecker, who has gone in twice — and is expected to vote on an indictment soon.”

“Mr. Pecker, who was seen leaving the building where the grand jury sits at about 3:30 Monday afternoon, was a key player in the hush-money episode.”

Washington Post: “Saturday’s speech by the early polling leader for the Republican nomination shows how Trump is seeking to adapt the stolen election myth, continually absorbing new allegations when old ones are debunked or obsolete — from supposed foreign plots to tamper with voting machines to alleged manipulation of social media and now potential prosecution.”

“The latest version also underscores Trump’s continued determination to elevate conspiracy theories with inflammatory rhetoric that has already inspired violence by his supporters, which he continues to downplay or defend.”

“Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, was under an FBI counterintelligence inquiry into allegations about her connections in her home country of Czechoslovakia in the 1990s,” according to excerpts from her FBI file obtained by Bloomberg.

The “soft ban” of Donald Trump at Fox News came to an end Monday night as the former president made an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, NBC News reports.  He used it to lash out at the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.  Trump called the hush money probe “a new way of cheating in elections.”

Three children and three adults were killed yesterday when an alleged shooter entered a private Christian elementary school in Nashville and opened fire. Police fatally shot the suspect, who is believed to have previously been a student at the school.

New reports overnight suggest the alleged shooter intentionally targeted the elementary school, left behind writings and may have planned to attack a second location. Police believe at least two of the weapons used during the attack were obtained legally. One was an AR-style rifle.

These are the names of the six victims, the three children were all just nine years old: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney; Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61, who all worked at the school.

The Tennessean has extensive coverage of the horrific mass shooting at a Nashville elementary school.

CNN: “The incident is the 19th shooting at a school or university so far this year in which at least one person was wounded, according to a CNN tally. Last week, two faculty members were shot and wounded by a student at a high school in Denver, and the student was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

With six victims, Monday’s attack is the deadliest school shooting since the heinous attack in Uvalde, Texas, last May that left 21 people dead.”

In the wake of the tragedy in his district, photos of Rep. Andrew Ogles’ (R-TN) family Christmas card glorifying guns have resurfaced.

“We are sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those lost,” Ogles said in a statement without addressing criticism about the photo. “As a father of three, I am utterly heartbroken by this senseless act of violence. I am closely monitoring the situation and working with local officials.”

Rex Huppke of USA Today and his thoughts on yet another mass shooting at a school yesterday:

“But, but, but … the Second Amendment,” some will scream, like a myopic, zombified Greek chorus.

Hang your Second Amendment. It’s Monday in America, there has been yet another school shooting. Children are dead. The students who weren’t shot are forever changed by the trauma, and plenty more people across the country will be killed by gunfire in the days to come because, as I wrote a few words earlier, it’s Monday in America, and we have a whole damn week to go.

“Thoughts and prayers! Don’t politicize this!” the people will crow.

Nuts to that. The thoughts-and-prayers, it’s-too-soon-to-talk-about-it ship sailed several hundred mass shootings ago. I’m mad now.

And I’m not waiting for permission to tweet or write or holler about how reckless, how ridiculous, how bloody twisted it is that we inhabit a country where people treat the tool used to murder other people in schools, in churches, in malls, at concerts, in movie theaters, on street corners and in their homes as a sacred possession that must not be regulated, that should be protected as an icon of America, like a bald eagle that spits lead.”

“I’m for everything, I’ve said that from the beginning.”— Gov. Ron DeSantis,  speaking about “constitutional carry” and rolling back gun regulations.

“The House Judiciary Committee is postponing its planned markup of a gun rights resolution in the wake of Monday’s school shooting in Nashville, which left six dead including three children,” Punchbowl News reports.

“House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) accused Democrats of politicizing the tragedy in his decision to delay the hearing, which had been scheduled for Tuesday.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would delay a controversial overhaul of the country’s justice system until after the Knesset’s Passover break.

“Out of a sense of national responsibility, out of a will to prevent a rupture among our people, I have decided to pause the second and third readings of the bill,” he told the legislature on Monday.

Earlier on Monday, far-right coalition partner and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a statement that he had Netanyahu’s “commitment that the legislation will be brought to the Knesset for approval in the next session if no agreements are reached during the recess.”

The decision to delay the legislation comes after months of protests, including a major nationwide strike on Monday after Netanyahu fired his defense minister for opposing the plans.

Gvir had previously threatened to resign in the legislation was paused.

“Civil unrest broke out in parts of Israel Sunday night after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister for criticizing the government’s divisive judicial overhaul, prompting protesters to surge into the streets, universities to shut their doors, and union leaders to hint of a looming general strike,” the New York Times reports.

New York Times: “In the 48 hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly delayed his effort to overhaul the Israeli judiciary, his government was bombarded by warnings from the Biden administration that he was imperiling Israel’s reputation as the true democracy at the heart of the Middle East.”

Washington Post: As Israel erupts, Biden faces politically volatile pressures.

Josh Marshall: “As expected, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a pause to the judicial reform package in order to allow time for negotiations with the opposition. The two main parliamentary opposition leaders, Lapid and Gantz, cautiously accepted the offer and praised the move, as did the country’s largely ceremonial President who offered to host the negotiations.

Polls out today show that the public opposes the package (for a mix of principled and pragmatic reasons) by a substantial margin. They also predict the right-wing bloc would lose a substantial number of seats in a new election. But there is no new election. One doesn’t have to be held for years. And those numbers, which can’t be a surprise, will only steel the members of the coalition since if the government falls it will likely be bad for all of them.

As noted this morning, this is pretty transparently a stalling tactic. While there are versions of reform that parties outside the coalition can accept or even welcome, it’s very hard to see how they can accept what the extremist parties in Netanyahu’s camp demand. Netanyahu’s aim here is to calm the waters and hope that the protests lose steam — then return and pass the legislation once the protests have lost momentum and coherence. It’s difficult to imagine Lapid and Gantz are as open-minded about these negotiations as their statements suggest. They likely believe that the gravity of the crisis is so great they have no choice but to accept the offer to talk.

The bigger question is whether these two are really in a position to negotiate at all.

It’s difficult to capture the full scale of the protests and their durability. They’ve garnered the support of a broad swathe of Israeli society and they’ve escalated to include a kind of soft strike by some Israeli army reservists — again, totally unheard of. Have they become a coherent and potent enough political movement that it’s really the protestors who are and will determine how this plays out? I don’t think I would know if I were there on the ground and I certainly don’t know from thousands of miles away. But that’s really the question. Has this ongoing crisis and the scale of the protests created a new political reality operating outside of parliamentary politics or not?”

Patrick Kingsley of The New York Times asserts that Israeli right-wing coalition efforts to overhaul the judiciary is the toughest test that PM Netanyahu has ever encountered.

“Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to triangulate allowed him in 2020 to forge landmark diplomatic agreements — without ceding any land to the Palestinians — with three Arab countries that had long forsworn ties with Israel until the creation of a Palestinian state. He framed the first of those deals, with the United Arab Emirates, as a quid pro quo for suspending a plan to annex part of the occupied West Bank, a plan that some analysts questioned whether he had ever really intended to enact.

His odds-defying skills allowed him to enter power for the first time in 1996, defeating Shimon Peres after overcoming a 20-point deficit in the polls. And his ability to bounce back returned him to power, first in 2009 and then again late last year, despite the corruption trial.

But there was a sense on Monday that, this time, Mr. Netanyahu had no easy exit ramp from the crisis in which he has enmeshed himself, his government and his country. He has bought himself some time. But in a zero-sum game between his opponents in the streets and his allies in power, that may only last so long.

If after the April recess Mr. Netanyahu waters down — let alone cancels — the judicial overhaul, he risks an irrevocable break with the far-right parties that give him a majority in Parliament.”

B.Michael of Haaretz says that it seems as if Israel’s right-wing government has brought the circus to town.

“…Once upon a time, many years ago, there were ragtag traveling circuses, with melancholy animals, dejected clowns, paunchy acrobats and Indian snake charmers with Polish accents. And they often had a special carriage or tent with them with a variety of bizarre acts to amaze the children.

And you, Lord, wandered among all these circuses and collected all the special exhibits from them – the bearded lady, the biggest dwarf, the two-headed calf, the stuttering ventriloquist, the elderly mermaid, the boy who was raised by wolves, and the fakir who lies on a bed of nails and then eats the nails. You gathered all of these together, and you brought them to us, to be our fully-fully right-wing government. […]

Zero in foreign policy. Two zeros in domestic policy. Three zeroes in addressing any civil issue whatsoever. Driving down the currency, rattling the stock market, a lifeless parliament, a zombie party, criminal coalition partners. Legislation of two despicable bills for the sole purpose of saving one criminal defendant and one convict. And, of course, a stubborn attempt to crush the justice system and erect a genuine dictatorship on its ruins. An attempt that is still ongoing.

All of this in just three short months of a fully-fully right-wing government. Three months of mounting insanity, boundless arrogance, incredible clumsiness and blatant racism.”

New York Times: “During the ride-along patrols held before these congressional excursions, Republicans have struggled to produce visual evidence of the crisis.”

“Yet the lack of physical proof has not deterred Republicans from laying blame for the country’s border challenges squarely at the feet of Mr. Mayorkas, who is expected to field more Republican attacks when he testifies on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Kalefa Sanneh asks how Christian is Christian Nationalism?  Let me spoil it for you: Not at all: “Many Americans who advocate it have little interest in religion and an aversion to American culture as it currently exists.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court won’t review a congressional redistricting law enacted by the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature that some voters and Democrats saw as political gerrymandering,” the AP reports.

“The nation’s highest court said Monday without explaination that it won’t hear an appeal of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling from May 2022 that partisan gerrymandering does not violate the state constitution.”

Donald Trump’s weekend campaign stop in Waco, Texas was one for the books, particularly his decision to run the tapes honoring those who have been convicted or charged for actions related to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. The Trump campaign used the video to help raise money for the families of people jailed over their role in the attack, many of whom Trump and his allies in Congress like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have repeatedly referred to as patriotic or political prisoners over the last two years.

In the video, which was used as the opener for rally in Waco over the weekend, Trump was featured standing with his hand on his heart, citing the pledge of allegiance.

It was all a bridge too far for some of his sometimes-serious allies in the Senate. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) all made a point of speaking out against the move this week.

“I think the best thing for President Trump to do is to focus on the problems people are facing today. There is no way you’re going to convince the American people that Jan. 6 was anything less than a horrible day,” Graham told HuffPost, arguing that Trump’s suggestion that the attack was “a walk through the park is offensive to me. It’s not reality. It was one of the worst days in American history, and it needs to be viewed that way.”

“I never have seen somebody successfully get elected to office running on something that happened in the past…. I think people want a positive vision for the future,” Cornyn told HuffPost. He made similar remarks to NBC News: “I just frankly don’t understand this, you know, retrospective look,” he said. “When it comes to running for president or any other office, people don’t want you to relitigate all your grievances in the past. They want to know what your vision for the future is. And so I don’t think it’s a formula for success.”

“I was disappointed to see the way that he utilized clips of that day. That was a bad day for this country,” Rounds told HuffPost. “What happened on that day was as close to an attempted insurrection as we’ve seen in a very long time, and I don’t think any of us should be proud of that day.”

Stephen Collinson: “Donald Trump is igniting his White House bid at a moment of unprecedented peril in the criminal investigations against him – a confluence that could send America into a new political and legal collision.”

“Trump’s wild rhetoric at his first official 2024 campaign rally Saturday previewed the divisive national moment ahead should he be indicted in any of multiple criminal probes. As he whipped up a demagogic fervor in Waco, Texas, to try to secure a new presidency dedicated to “retribution,” Trump’s extremism – laced with suggestions of violence – left no doubt he would be willing to take the country to a dark place to save himself.”

Reuters: Trump casts 2024 contest in apocalyptic terms, slams prosecutors.

From a New York Post  editorial: “He hasn’t changed in the slightest.”  “There is no shame.”  “After riling up rioters, cheering for a coup, and agreeing that his vice president needed to be hanged, he’s back to making violent threats against fellow Americans.”

Elaine Godfrey: “After six years, the former president’s rallies still have summer-camp vibes—at least at first. At last night’s event in Waco, Texas—the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign—Trump’s thousands of supporters seemed delighted simply to be together at the Waco airport hangar, wearing their ultra maga T-shirts and drinking lemonade in the hot sun. Sure, the vendors ran out of water at one point, and there was no shade to speak of, but nobody really complained. They were too busy singing along to the Village People and bonding with new friends over their shared interests (justice, freedom, theories about a ruling Deep State cabal).”

“But the sunny mood of Trump’s supporters contrasted with his 2024 campaign message, which is different this time around—darker, more vengeful, and, if such a thing is possible, even more self-absorbed.”

“Senate Republicans announced on Monday they will introduce a resolution to overturn President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan,” The Hill reports.

“House Republicans plan to deliver a subpoena to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday for classified cables related to the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, marking an unprecedented effort to force the release of sensitive documents to Congress,” the AP reports.

Washington Monthly: “How a mild-mannered law professor became the architect of a scheme to overturn a presidential election.”

Anne Soy of BBC News writes about the significance of Vice President Kamala Harris’s diplomacy on the African continent this week.

“This flurry of visits by top figures in the US administration reflects a growing awareness that the US needs to deepen its engagement with the continent. This all comes in the face of growing competition from other global powers, especially China and Russia. […]

Ghana, with its focus on strengthening ties with the African diaspora as well as a record of several peaceful democratic transfers of power, provides an ideal launchpad for Ms Harris.

Her trip, according to an official statement, is intended to “build on” December’s US-Africa summit in Washington where President Joe Biden said the US was “all in on Africa’s future”.

But it is that future, boosted by a youthful and growing population as well as the continent’s immense natural resources, that have attracted a lot of other powerful nations vying for influence.”

Angelique Chrisafis of the Guardian reports from Paris that protests over pension reform in France are continuing, intensifying, and now including other issues such as environmental reform and police brutality.

“The protest movement against raising the age from 62 to 64 is the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term, with the strikes on Tuesday expected to affect refineries, bin collections, rail transport, air travel and schools. Authorities in Paris and several cities are braced for clashes between police and protesters.

The crisis has intensified because of controversy over policing tactics, with lawyers complaining of arbitrary arrests, injuries and heavy-handedness during crowd control.

A 30-year-old man was fighting for his life in a coma on Monday after anti-government feeling spread beyond the issue of pensions to environmental demonstrations at the weekend in the west of France – spurred by the impact of new water storage facilities for crop irrigation.

The man suffered head trauma during clashes between protesters and police. An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances.”

Anti-abortion groups like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America are planning to pressure all of the Republicans who dare to toss their hat into the GOP primary election next year to sign a pledge to support a federal 15-week abortion ban. 

“If any GOP primary candidate fails to summon the moral courage to endorse a 15-week gestational minimum standard, then they don’t deserve to be the president of the United States,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA Pro-Life America, told the Washington Post.

While the activists may be trying to coalesce the Republican Party behind a unified stance on the issue ahead 2024 after their decades-long effort to get Roe v. Wade overturned was finally successful – the plan could be a misfire. If you remember, in the weeks and months leading up to the general election last year, many of the longshot, Trump-endorsed Republicans not-so-subtly engaged in a whiplashy pivot for the general. Many (Blake Masters was perhaps the most shameless about it) publicly softened their stance on abortion policy, with some scrubbing their campaign websites of their previous extreme beliefs and some even publicly walking back where they stood on federal bans or gestational-focused policy. 

Signing a pledge might make that pivot to the general more difficult for the winning Republican who will be attempting to pull support from President Biden, or whoever the Democratic nominee is. Reminder: the majority of Americans support abortion access

A Florida school district banned the showing of a film about Ruby Bridges — the young girl who became a civil rights icon by wading through a White mob to integrate an elementary school in the South in 1960, the Weekly Challenger reports.

Reports indicate that, once again, a single parent provoked the district’s action toward censorship, and the district failed to follow the process when petitioned.

“A former senior producer for Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartiromo is offering herself as a star witness for Dominion Voting System’s $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network,” NPR reports.

“Abby Grossberg, the former producer, makes the offer in amended lawsuits filed in federal court in New York and state court in Delaware, where the Dominion case is playing out. Fox fired Grossberg last week after she sued the network for allegedly pressuring her to lie under oath and downplay claims of misogyny.”

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

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