Cup of Joe – April 6, 2023

Donald Trump once again attacked Judge Juan Merchan, despite Merchan’s request that everyone tied to the criminal case refrain from any comments that undermine the rule of law, Punchbowl News reports.

Trump called Merchan “a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris.”

He said Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg “should be prosecuted, or at a minimum, he should resign” for “illegally leaking vast amounts of grand jury information.”

He added: “This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election, and it should be dropped immediately. There is no case. No case!”

Donald Trump’s court drama “will run right into primary season,” Axios reports.

“Trump’s next Manhattan court date is Dec. 4, and prosecutors asked the judge to set a trial in January — the month before the Iowa caucuses.”

“Charges in two other probes targeting Trump — an election-interference investigation in Georgia, and the federal investigation of his handling of classified documents — are possible as early as summer, if prosecutors want to complete the trials before the 2024 election.”

“Trump could be facing a criminal trial — maybe more than one — just as the presidential campaign heats up.”

Politico: “In his life as a real estate mogul, aspirant socialite, game show host and former President of the United States, Donald Trump has posed for a lot of photographs. Clearly a fan of the camera, he’s even developed a trademark stance: a not-too-toothy grin, a thumbs up held at the waist, an almost full-body lean forward, leading with the chest in a way that seems to defy physics.”

“There’s one photo, though, that he’s apparently uninterested in taking. Thus far, despite Trump being charged with over 30 felony counts from the Manhattan DA related to alleged hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, his legal team has reportedly managed to block a mug shot.”

Vogue: “Stormy is not exactly eager to revisit the tale, but she’s canny enough to realize that if she doesn’t speak up, in the wake of the indictment, her silence will be filled by yet more chatter diminishing her as a fame-seeking, gold-digging porn star out to take down one of the world’s most powerful men.”

Playbook: “Even though we’ve all been living with this story since 2018, take a moment to appreciate the absurd tabloid nature of it all. This trial will have one of the most comical cast of characters imaginable.”

“Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his top deputies stayed silent Tuesday as former President Trump plead not guilty to 34 felony counts, signaling how far they have diverged from their former ally,” The Hill reports.

Stephen Collinson: “When Donald Trump officially becomes a criminal defendant on Tuesday, he’ll be subject to a legal system he can’t control.”

“Trump has long conjured political storms, alternative realities, legal imbroglios and media spectacles to blur the truth or discredit institutions that have constrained his rule-busting behavior. He’ll lose that ability when he steps before the court at his arraignment in a case related to a hush money payment to an adult film actress.”

“And there are increasing signs that this new reality – which will come with hefty financial commitments in legal fees and locks on Trump’s calendar – could be multiplied at a time when he’s already facing the intense demands of another White House bid.”

“Former President Donald Trump has been haunted by a number of election-interference meetings in Trump Tower, but the one that poses the biggest threat to him today still hasn’t gotten much attention,” the Daily Beast reports.

“It’s not the meeting where Trump’s campaign manager, son-in-law, and oldest adult child met with a Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it’s not the confab two months later between that same adult child—Donald Trump Jr.—and members of Middle East royalty, who were also offering election assistance.”

“This meeting came before all of that—in August 2015. The attendees were Trump, his self-described ‘fixer’ Michael Cohen, and David Pecker—the CEO of American Media Inc., parent company of the National Enquirer. The subject: silencing women who wanted to go public with damaging stories about the candidate. And it wasn’t just Stormy Daniels under discussion.”

A retired judge told Sky News that Secret Service agents would accompany Donald Trump if he goes to jail.

Said Joseph Cosgrove: “No matter where he goes, he will have secret service protection, which creates just this bizarre image Let’s assume the worst for Mr Trump: if he were sentenced to some sort of confinement, he would be confined with his secret service agents.”

Rick Hasen: “New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with falsifying business records through reimbursement payments to Cohen over a nondisclosure payment to Daniels. Such falsifications are misdemeanors.”

“In order to turn them into felonies under New York law, Trump has to have been found to have committed this offense in order to conceal or in furtherance of “other crime.” So in addition to proving the intent to commit false business records, the DA also will have to prove intent to commit—or concealment of—another crime. The indictment itself does not mention what the other crimes are.”

Ian Millhiser: The dubious legal theory at the heart of the Trump indictment, explained.

Ruth Marcus: “The Trump indictment is a dangerous leap on the highest of wires: Now, I’m really worried about the Trump indictment…”

“I’m not saying prosecutors will lose this case. They could well win, and I hope they do, because a failure to secure a conviction will only inflame Trump and his supporters in their claims that the criminal justice system is being weaponized against them. But the fears I had in the weeks leading up to the indictment about the strength of the case against Trump were in no way allayed by Tuesday’s developments.”

“The indictment and an accompanying recitation of the underlying facts offers almost nothing in the way of new evidence against Trump.”

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by Donald Trump hours before retirement, said yesterday’s indictment “landed like a dud… an unimpressive document,” Axios reports.

Said McCabe: “Boy, there’s really not much in here. Raises all kinds of questions about the legal theory behind this case. They’re gonna have a tough time, facing motions to dismiss.”

Charlie Sykes: “He is the only man in American presidential history who could pay off two porn stars, and orchestrate a criminal conspiracy to cover it up in the final crucial days of a presidential election, and have people think that it was ‘trivial.’”

“After seven years of pussy grabbing, mendacity, incitements, obstruction, shooting people in the middle of 5th Avenue, and an endless torrent of lies, the smart kids still look at the criminal charges and wonder if that’s all there is to it?”

Matt Lewis: “The 34 felony-count indictment was underwhelming, but Trump’s continued viability as a presidential candidate shows Americans no longer care about morality in their leaders.”

Mona Charen: “The indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is risky, but nothing about it undermines the rule of law. The risks are political and prudential. The Republicans, by contrast, are chest-deep in contempt for law.”

“We saw one political risk of Bragg’s indictment play out even before anyone had read the charges. Call it the Rally Round the Criminal effect. It has been evident for some time that Republicans thrill to imagined persecution. After the completely justified, arguably essential, search of Mar-a-Lago for stolen top secret documents, the GOP sprang to Trump’s defense in Pavlovian fashion. It wasn’t just that their knees jerked; it was the language they adopted, dipping autonomically into the extremist/incendiary vocabulary they’ve learned at Trump’s knee. It was ‘defund the FBI’ (per Marjorie Taylor Greene), and ‘impeach Merrick Garland’ (per Josh Hawley), and eliminate the ‘brownshirts of the FBI” (per Paul Gosar).”

Tennessee House Republicans on Monday initiated the process of expelling three Democratic lawmakers who joined protesters in demanding stricter gun laws following the Nashville mass shooting that left three young children and three adults dead.

Days after last week’s shooting, thousands of demonstrators flooded the Tennessee state Capitol to decry GOP lawmakers’ inaction in the face of deadly gun violence. Inside the House chamber, Democratic Reps. Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson took to the podium with a bullhorn and led demonstrators in chants supporting gun control legislation.

As The Tennessean reported, Tennessee House Republicans cast the trio’s actions as an “insurrection” and, at the end of Monday’s session, “introduced three expulsion resolutions” claiming that the three Democrats “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”

A vote on the resolutions is expected on Thursday. “Democrats will have little power to block expulsions,” The Tennessean noted.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators said in a statement that “this political retribution is unconstitutional and, in this moment, morally bankrupt.”

Two Florida Democratic leaders were among the protesters arrested late Monday during a demonstration against a proposed six-week abortion ban, which the Republican-controlled state Senate passed hours earlier.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book were handcuffed and detained along with roughly a dozen other protesters who gathered and sat down in a park near Tallahassee City Hall.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Fried, Book, and the other demonstrators “were taken away by police while sitting in a circle and singing ‘Lean on Me’ inside a barricaded area of a park that was closed at sunset.”

“They were warned by police that if they didn’t leave the area, they would be subject to arrest,” the newspaper continued. “As a large contingent of police approached, protesters yelled ‘shame, shame’ as everyone was cuffed and walked to the parking garage beneath City Hall and loaded into a Tallahassee Police Department van.”

The advocacy group Ruth’s List Florida condemned the arrests of peaceful demonstrators as “the latest disgraceful assault on our civil liberties.”

“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) arrived to protest former President Donald Trump’s arrest in front of a New York City court Tuesday — and left within a few minutes after counter-protesters drowned out her comments with whistles and boos,” Semafor reports.

“Greene’s comments could not be heard through her megaphone over the noise, and eyewitness reports and tweets from the scene showed the congresswoman leaving the area with her bodyguards.”

A federal appeals court denied Trump’s request to block his top aides from testifying about him to a grand jury investigating his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While it’s not clear which aides were covered by the court order, Trump recently lost an emergency bid to prevent advisors like Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, and Stephen Miller from answering questions. (Politico / CNN / Bloomberg)

Donald Trump is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him and two others by Sandra Garza, the longtime partner of fallen U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, Axios reports.

Dan Pfeiffer: “Tuesday was the perfect metaphor for the Republican Party in the Trump era. The former President and current frontrunner for the GOP nomination was arrested, fingerprinted, and arraigned like a common criminal. He endured the ignominy with false bravado and the full support of his party and its media apparatus. Later that night, Trump’s party lost yet another winnable election.”

CNN: “The right-wing network told the judge it ‘intends to make available’ these people to testify in-person. Fox will call these witnesses as part of their defense, but Dominion also wants to question them as part of their case.”

President Joe Biden touted efforts to boost U.S. manufacturing after touring a Cummins facility in Minnesota on Monday, as the company announced it will invest $1 billion in making cleaner engines,” CNBC reports.  “Cummins intends to invest the money in Indiana, North Carolina and New York, focusing on creating low-to-zero-carbon engines.”

The president of the United States spent four minutes on Tuesday talking to the American public about the possibilities and dangers of artificial intelligence. No, not that president. The one who actually occupies the Oval Office,” the New York Times reports.

“Americans could be forgiven if they momentarily forgot the most powerful person in the country. As helicopters and cameras followed every step of the Donald J. Trump legal drama in New York more than 200 miles to the north with white Ford Bronco-level intensity, President Biden faded into the background, ceding the stage to his defendant-predecessor.”

“He seemed content to do so, at least for now. The White House made no effort to compete for attention with the arrest of a former president.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “arrived in Washington as the ultimate Democratic disruptor. Four years into her House career, she’s embracing a new role: team player,” Politico reports. “The co-founder of the progressive “squad” — who rocketed to prominence with her willingness to take on party leaders when others on the left would not — is acquiring power via more traditional means now. She snagged a senior position on a plum committee, putting her in closer proximity to top House Democrats. At a recent party retreat, she coached fellow Democrats on how to up their communications game.”

“And after years of on-and-off sparring with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez is forging ties with new Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries — a fellow New Yorker whose centrist instincts aren’t always aligned with her own.”

“The closely watched effort by a club of Senate moderates to craft a bipartisan Social Security reform plan may be stalling out for the foreseeable future,” Semafor reports.

“Semafor previously reported that the group, which is led by Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, had eyed establishing a new investment fund to finance future benefits and gradually raising the retirement age to nearly 70, among other options. But King, an independent, is struggling to amass support from his Democratic colleagues, with whom he caucuses. That’s contributing to a holdup in releasing a bipartisan framework.”

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

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