Cup of Joe – March 31, 2023

“A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Donald Trump on Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges,” the New York Times reports.

“The felony indictment, filed under seal by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will likely be announced in the coming days. By then, prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, will have asked Mr. Trump to surrender and to face arraignment on charges that remain unknown for now.”

“As he awaits possible indictment by the Manhattan district attorney and remains under scrutiny in multiple other criminal investigations, former President Donald J. Trump has regularly railed against a justice system that he contends has been deployed against him by his political opponents,” the New York Times reports.

Said Trump: “The Biden regime’s weaponization of our system of justice is straight out of the Stalinist Russia horror show.”

“But as is often the case with Mr. Trump, his accusations — widely repeated by other Republicans — reflect his own pattern of conduct: his history of threatening or seeking to employ the expansive powers of the presidency to go after his enemies, real and perceived.”

Washington Post: “Still more than 10 months until the first caucuses of the GOP presidential nominating contest, the House Republican conference appears more and more as if it has taken sides with the former president — even though the 2024 race is considered an open primary with a couple of already declared candidates and several more getting ready to enter the race.”

“Trump has that way of making everything about him unusual and unprecedented, but these early moves by House GOP leaders would go against the normal patterns of keeping legislative machinations out of the presidential nominating process.”

“House Republicans who have said they will not vote to raise the national debt limit without deep spending cuts are backing away from their promise to balance the budget and struggling to unite their fractious majority behind a fiscal plan, paralyzing progress on talks to avert a catastrophic default as soon as this summer,” the New York Times reports.

“House Republicans are deemphasizing the importance of a GOP budget in the context of debt-ceiling talks, signaling their blueprint might not even be finalized until after the conference figures out its moves on raising the federal government’s borrowing limit,” The Hill reports.

“It’s a significant shift for the GOP that comes after hard-line lawmakers during the 15-ballot Speaker’s election demanded a budget showing sharp spending reductions for the upcoming 2024 fiscal year that would balance the budget in 10 years.”

Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of espionage, CNN reports.

New York Times: “The Federal Security Service, known by its Russian acronym FSB, said in a statement about Mr. Gershkovich that ‘on the instructions of the United States, he was collecting information about one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex, which constitute a state secret.” The FSB is a successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB.”

“Russian intelligence agencies worked with a Moscow-based defense contractor to strengthen their ability to launch cyberattacks, sow disinformation and surveil sections of the internet, according to thousands of pages of confidential corporate documents,” the Washington Post reports.

“The documents detail a suite of computer programs and databases that would allow Russia’s intelligence agencies and hacking groups to better find vulnerabilities, coordinate attacks and control online activity.”

“At first, the Russian pilots all thought it was a scam. But they agreed to go along with it anyway, especially after the initial payments came through,” Yahoo News reports.

“Last summer, a group of Ukrainian volunteers, working closely with their country’s intelligence service, apparently came close to persuading three Russian aviators who were in the midst of bombing Ukraine to defect with their warplanes in exchange for $1 million a piece.”

“What looked like a legitimate plan to switch sides proved anything but. None of the pilots defected in the end. There is strong evidence that most if not all of them were found out by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB.”

“House Republicans are set to approve a sprawling energy package that seeks to undo virtually all of President Joe Biden’s agenda to address climate change,” NBC News reports.

“The massive GOP bill up for a vote Thursday would sharply increase domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal, and ease permitting restrictions that delay pipelines, refineries and other projects. It also would boost production of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt that are used in products such as electric vehicles, computers and cellphones.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handpicked board overseeing Disney World’s government services is gearing up for a potential legal battle over a 30-year development agreement they say effectively renders them powerless to manage the entertainment giant’s future growth in Central Florida,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

“Ahead of an expected state takeover, the Walt Disney Co. quietly pushed through the pact and restrictive covenants that would tie the hands of future board members for decades.”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) got into a shouting match over gun violence just outside the House chamber.

Washington Post: “The AR-15 fires bullets at such a high velocity — often in a barrage of 30 or even 100 in rapid succession — that it can eviscerate multiple people in seconds. A single bullet lands with a shock wave intense enough to blow apart a skull and demolish vital organs. The impact is even more acute on the compact body of a small child.”

An important takeaway: “The carnage is rarely visible to the public.”

Donald Trump is asking advisers for “battle plans” to “attack Mexico” if he’s re-elected as president, Rolling Stone reports.

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s longtime former chief financial officer, is no longer being represented by his Trump Organization-funded attorneys,” Salon reports.

“A federal judge’s secret order on Tuesday requiring Mike Pence to testify about aspects of Donald Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election was also an unprecedented ruling about the vice presidency itself,” Politico reports.

“It is the first time in U.S. history that a federal judge has concluded that vice presidents — like presidents — are entitled to a form of immunity from prying investigators.”

“But unlike presidents, who draw all their power from the executive branch, vice presidents get their immunity from Congress… That’s because vice presidents — while commonly perceived as mere agents of the president — are constitutionally required to serve as president of the Senate.”

“Former president Jair Bolsonaro is expected to return to Brazil tomorrow for the first time since leaving office, aiming to revitalize the country’s far-right movement but facing the possibility of a ban from politics or even arrest,” the Financial Times reports.

Salt Lake Tribune: “The censure resolution on Thursday evening’s agenda levels several harsh criticisms of Romney. It accuses him of giving ‘aid and comfort to the Democratic party’ for voting to convict Trump during his first impeachment trial. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstructing Congress as part of a scheme to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. The resolution says the impeachment of Trump relied on ‘false charges.’”

“The proposal also says Romney ‘lent his support to a false liberal narrative’ when he voted to convict Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial.”

David Leonhardt: “Obamacare — the country’s largest expansion of health insurance since Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 — is still not as widely accepted as those programs. North Carolina became the 40th state to agree to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, which means that 10 states still have not, including two of the largest, Texas and Florida. In those states, more than 3.5 million adults lack health insurance as a result.”

“But the list of states signing up for the program seems to be moving in only one direction: It keeps growing.”

“Donald Trump continues to wield enormous power on Capitol Hill as House Republicans seek to curry favor with the former president, pursuing his fixations through their investigations and routinely updating him and his closest advisers on their progress,” CNN reports.

“A number of top House GOP lawmakers have disclosed in recent days their efforts to keep the former president informed on the pace and substance of their investigations. Lines of communication appear to go both ways. Not only are Trump, his aides and close allies regularly apprised of Republicans’ committee work, they also at times exert influence over it.”

“The constant, and sometimes direct, communication between Trump and the committees has emerged as a crucial method for Trump to shape Republicans’ priorities in their newly-won House majority. It also underscores the extraordinary sway an ex-president still holds over his party’s lawmakers and the deference many still afford him.”

Tom Nichols sums up his reaction to Donald Trump’s rally in Waco, Texas over the weekend:

“A former president, a man once entrusted with the Constitution’s Article II powers as our chief magistrate and the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world, an elected official who held our survival in his hands with the codes to our nuclear arsenal, considered it an honor to be serenaded by a group of violent insurrectionists who are sitting in jail for offenses against the government and people of the United States.”

Rich Lowry: “From the perspective of the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6 it was hard enough to believe that Donald Trump would survive the event, let alone make it a plank in a powerful comeback bid just a few years later.”

“But there was Trump in Waco, Texas, opening his inaugural rally of the 2024 campaign with a recording of the song ‘Justice for All’ that he performed with the J6 Prison Choir, with some scenes of Jan. 6 playing on the jumbotrons…”

“For Trump, a master at appropriating the catch lines and attacks of the other side, reversing the meaning of Jan. 6 would be his most audacious move yet… This is a huge mistake in every way, most importantly on the merits, but also on the politics.”

“A little-known conservative activist group led by Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, collected nearly $600,000 in anonymous donations to wage a cultural battle against the left over three years,” a Washington Post investigation found.

“The previously unreported donations to the fledgling group Crowdsourcers for Culture and Liberty were channeled through a right-wing think tank in Washington that agreed to serve as a funding conduit from 2019 until the start of last year.”

“The Post’s investigation sheds new light on the role money from donors who are not publicly identified has played in supporting Ginni Thomas’s political advocacy, long a source of controversy. The funding is the first example of anonymous donors backing her activism since she founded a conservative charity more than a decade ago.”

Ivanka Trump “no longer” has a professional relationship with her dad and is “through with politics,” People magazine reports.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) told state lawmakers in a letter last week that he was rescinding his predecessors’ policy of automatically restoring the voting rights of people with felony convictions, Bolts reports.

“Electricity generated from renewables surpassed coal in the United States for the first time in 2022,” the AP reports.

Associated Press: “Lawyers for some of the over 40 death row inmates say they’ve seen no meaningful changes to the Justice Department’s approach under Biden and Trump.”

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) told Newsmax that foreign adversaries don’t take the US seriously anymore because there are “too many men in our military and our administration wearing dresses and doing crazy things.”

NBC News: “A growing wave of public pension administrators, business groups and labor unions are sending a message to Republicans looking to curb so-called ‘woke’ investing: our money, our choice.”

China on Wednesday threatened retaliation if House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meets with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as she transits through the United States next week, saying it would be a “provocation,” NBC News reports.

The FDA said that Narcan, a prescription nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses, can now be sold over the counter, the New York Times reports.

“Defaults and vacancies are on the rise at high-end office buildings, in the latest sign that remote work and rising interest rates are spreading pain to more corners of the commercial real-estate market,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“CNN’s leadership is preaching patience even though thousands of viewers are abandoning the network during its attempted turnaround, with no indication yet whether it will be rewarded,” the AP reports.

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

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