Cup of Joe – April 8, 2023

New York Times: “A federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary ruling invalidating the Food and Drug Administration’s 23-year-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, an unprecedented order that — if it stands through court challenges — could make it harder for patients to get abortions in states where abortion is legal, not just in those trying to restrict it.

Less than an hour later, another federal judge in Washington state issued a ruling that directly contradicted the Texas decision, ordering the F.D.A. to make no changes to the availability of mifepristone.”

The conflicting orders by two federal judges appear to create a legal standoff likely to escalate to the Supreme Court. The drug will continue to be available at least in the short-term since the Texas judge stayed his own order for seven days to give the F.D.A. time to ask an appeals court to intervene.

The Texas order, by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who has written critically about Roe v. Wade, is an initial ruling in a case that could result in the most consequential abortion decision since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.”

The ruling does not go into effect for seven days, giving the Biden administration time to appeal to stay the order. And given the conflicting court orders, this will immediately go the Supreme Court.

Washington Post: “In a competing opinion late Friday, a federal judge in Washington state ruled in a separate case involving mifepristone that the drug is safe and effective. U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice ordered the Food and Drug Administration to preserve ‘the status quo’ and retain access in the 17 states — along with D.C. — that are behind the lawsuit seeking to protect medication abortion.”

“It seems inevitable the issue will move to the Supreme Court, and the dueling opinions and appeals could make that sooner rather than later.”

“Ten days after a shooter unloaded 152 rounds at a Nashville school and killed six people, Tennessee House Republicans on Thursday voted to eject Rep. Justin Jones, from the General Assembly for breaking House rules and mounting a gun-reform protest on the chamber’s floor,” the Tennessean reports.

Politico: “Yesterday, we watched in real time as a procedural issue in a state legislature blossomed into a national flashpoint on guns, free speech, race and democracy itself. Both lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, are Black men in their 20s. House Republicans opted not to boot a third Democrat who took part in the demonstration, state Rep. Glorida Johnson. Johnson is a white woman in her 60s.

Asked to explain the difference in the outcomes, Johnson was blunt: “It might have to do with the color of our skin.” (Republican legislators justified the discrepancy by explaining that unlike Jones or Pearson, Johnson didn’t use a bullhorn.) 

President Biden slammed the move in a statement last night: “Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent. Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be impeached after a bombshell report revealed that he’s been taking luxury trips paid for by a Republican megadonor for decades and not disclosing them, the HuffPost reports. Said Ocasio-Cortez: “This is beyond party or partisanship. This degree of corruption is shocking — almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached.”

“Barring some dramatic change, this is what the Roberts court will be known for: rank corruption, erosion of democracy, and the stripping of human rights,” she continued.

A new ProPublica investigation found that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted generous gifts from Harlan Crow –– a billionaire and major Republican donor –– in the form of luxurious vacations on private jets, yachts, and resorts  for more than 20 years, including a nine-day adventure in Indonesia on a yacht staffed with attendants and a private chef, as well as visits to Crow’s exclusive “all-male” retreat in California, his Texas ranch, and his private resort in the Adirondacks.

And Thomas disclosed none of it. While the gifts themselves are permissible, shockingly, ProPublica notes that Thomas’s failure to disclose them violates a law passed after Watergate that applies to justices, judges, members of Congress, and other federal officials.

This is hardly the first of the couple’s ethical entanglements. Ginni Thomas was intimately involved in attempts to overturn the 2020 election, as revealed in texts with numerous officials, including Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. In January 2022, her husband was the only justice to vote against ordering the release of the paper trail of such communications.

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported that same month that Ginni Thomas “has held leadership positions at conservative pressure groups that have either been involved in cases before the Court or have had members engaged in such cases.” The following month, The New York Times Magazine described “the extent to which Justice Thomas flouted judicial-ethics guidance by participating in events hosted by conservative organizations with matters before the court.”

Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little, has signed a law banning people from helping others access abortions.

The bill, which became law Wednesday, would ban any adult from taking a minor out of state to get an abortion or abortion medication without their parents’ consent. The measure originally said this would constitute human trafficking but was later amended to use the phrase “abortion trafficking.”

Anyone who helps a minor obtain an abortion out of state could face up to five years in prison. The bill also changed existing law to say that the person who impregnated the minor, even if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, can sue over the abortion. The new law makes no exceptions for minors who are in abusive households, and it does not clarify whether both parents need to consent to the abortion or just one.

If a local prosecutor declines to take the case, the law says, the Republican state attorney general can take the case instead.

Idaho Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat, warned last week that the bill is “unnecessary and unneeded and further shackles young girls who are in trouble, and then it harms the parents’ friends, the relatives, etc., who are trying to help her.”

“The Biden administration on Thursday waded into the highly charged debate over transgender athletes, announcing a proposed rule change under Title IX that would prohibit schools from ‘categorically’ banning transgender students from athletic teams that are consistent with their gender identities, the New York Times reports.

“But the proposal would also offer flexibility to K-12 schools and universities to limit the participation of transgender students when including them could undermine ‘fairness in competition’ or potentially lead to sports-related injuries. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding.”

“The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to immediately reinstate a West Virginia law barring transgender athletes from playing on female sports teams from middle school through college,” the Washington Post reports.

“The 2021 law was challenged by 12-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson, who wants to remain on her middle school girls’ track team. It has largely been on hold since its passage, and an appeals court is reviewing its constitutionality.”

ABC News has a good summary of the three “catch and kill” claims made in the indictment filed against Donald Trump this week.

Dennis Aftergut: “One way to evaluate the strength of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s evidence against Donald Trump is to envision how a prosecutor would present the case in his opening statement to a jury. Judge for yourself from this hypothetical opening, drawn from the indictment, the accompanying statement of facts, and Bragg’s Tuesday press conference.”

“The much-awaited charges against Donald Trump show Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg plans to largely rest on campaign laws to prosecute the former president for obscuring his reimbursement of hush money payments,” The Hill reports.

“But sprinkled into charging documents and public statements from Bragg are references to tax law violations — a sign New York prosecutors may be hedging their bets by bringing a broader case against the former president.”

“Stormy Daniels, the adult film star at the center of the criminal case against Donald Trump, said she does not think the former president should go to prison if convicted of concealing hush money payments he made to her,” Reuters reports.

Said Daniels: “I don’t think that his crimes against me are worthy of incarceration. I feel like the other things that he has done, if he is found guilty, absolutely.”

Nonetheless, the Washington Post reports Daniels says she looks forward to testifying in Trump case.

Washington Post: “The unprecedented scenes of former president Donald Trump’s arraignment in New York and his furious response afterward fascinated the Chinese internet Wednesday, with some seizing the chance to slam U.S. democracy and many more simply binge-watching a ‘premium show without paywall.’”

“Chinese state media — which generally likes to play up problems in the United States, from school shootings through Black Lives Matter protests to political mayhem that makes democracy look messy — also prominently featured news of the extraordinary 34 felony charges against Trump, who spearheaded a trade war with China during his four years in office.”

Wall Street Journal: “Michael Cohen may be the only witness who can directly connect Mr. Trump to aspects of the alleged accounting fraud. But David Pecker could speak to a broader hush-money scheme to suppress articles that threatened Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy and buttress Mr. Cohen’s claims that Mr. Trump was at the center of all of it, legal experts said.”

The judge overseeing the legal proceedings for former President Trump in the hush-money payment case and his family have received multiple threats since Trump’s arrest on Tuesday, NBC News reports.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s chickens are coming home to roost. Under pressure from Biden and a rapidly approaching debt limit deadline, Republicans are struggling to unite behind a fiscal blueprint. Instead of owning up to failure, McCarthy appears to be looking for a scapegoat. Behind the scenes, he’s been trash-talking his own GOP colleagues, according to a blockbuster story by NYT’s Jonathan Swan and Annie Karni yesterday.

  • McCarthy has “no confidence” in Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), whose TV appearances he mocks as “unhelpful,” and whom he regards “as incompetent, according to more than half a dozen people familiar with his thinking.”
  • House Majority Leader STEVE SCALISE comes in for special scorn: “McCarthy has told colleagues and allies that he cannot rely on Mr. Scalise, describing the majority leader as ineffective, checked out and reluctant to take a position on anything.”

Politico: “McCarthy never forgave Scalise for an incident years ago when the Louisiana Republican refused to rule out challenging McCarthy for GOP leader. And he feels that Scalise didn’t do enough to help him win the gavel this year.

As for Arrington, the Texas Republican privately floated Scalise for speaker when McCarthy was unable to lock down the votes for himself in January. We’re told that McCarthy allies won’t forget this anytime soon.

McCarthy’s issues with Arrington have been apparent for a while. Several weeks ago, when Arrington suggested Republicans wouldn’t introduce a budget until May, McCarthy pushed back and said they’d do so in April — leaving Arrington’s staff scrambling to clean up the mess.

Something similar happened when Arrington told reporters that Republicans were finalizing a debt ceiling offer of sorts, what he dubbed a “deal sheet,” for Biden. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” McCarthy quipped when asked about Arrington’s comments. […]

“He made a bunch of promises during the speaker race that were always untenable, but he made them anyway,” one senior Republican aide told us. “At a certain point, a lot of that stuff is going to collide, and he’s getting nervous and looking for others to blame.”

“The US, Germany and Hungary are resisting efforts from countries such as Poland and the Baltic states to offer Kyiv deeper ties with Nato and clear statements of support for its future membership,” the Financial Times reports.

“Classified war documents detailing secret American and NATO plans for building up the Ukrainian military ahead of a planned offensive against Russia were posted this week on social media channels,“ the New York Times reports.

“The Pentagon is investigating who may have been behind the leak of the documents, which appeared on Twitter and on Telegram, a platform with more than half a billion users that is widely available in Russia.”

NBC News: “A growing body of evidence suggests Russian forces are systematically stealing art and cultural artifacts from Ukraine on a scale not seen in Europe since the Nazi plunder of World War II, according to researchers and experts documenting the damage.”

“The theft includes precious Scythian gold jewelry dating to the fourth century B.C., ancient coins and thousands of paintings from museums and private collections, researchers said. Some art and cultural sites have been severely damaged and destroyed, including centuries-old Orthodox Christian churches, libraries and paintings by one of Ukraine’s most beloved artists, Maria Prymachenko, whose work was hailed by Pablo Picasso as an ‘artistic miracle.’”

“Chinese President Xi Jinping showed no sign of changing his position over Russia’s war on Ukraine after talks Thursday with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron,” Politico reports.

“More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability, according to a long-awaited state report released Wednesday that revealed the scope of abuse spanning 80 years and accused church leaders of decades of coverups,” Politico reports.

Wall Street Journal: “Some TikTok leaders are concerned that the Montana bill, if passed, could lead to a domino effect in which other states eventually follow suit. … And that, in turn, could give momentum to politicians in Washington pushing for a nationwide ban.”

“Nonfarm payrolls rose about in line with expectations in March as the labor market showed increased signs of slowing,” CNBC reports.

“The unemployment rate ticked lower to 3.5%, against expectations that it would hold at 3.6%, with the decrease coming as labor force participation increased to its highest level since before the Covid pandemic.”

“President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday laid the blame on his predecessor, President Donald Trump, for the deadly and chaotic 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan that brought about some of the darkest moments of Biden’s presidency,” the AP reports.

“It does acknowledge that the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan should have started sooner, but blames the delays on the Afghan government and military, and on U.S. military and intelligence community assessments.”

Ron Brownstein: “Trump’s ability to surmount this latest tumult continues one of the defining patterns of his political career. Each time Trump has shattered a norm or engaged in behavior once unimaginable for a national leader—such as his praise of neo-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election result and instigating the January 6 insurrection—most Republican elected officials and voters have found ways to excuse his actions and continue supporting him.”

“Trump’s latest revival has dispirited his Republican critics, who believed that the party’s discouraging results in November’s election had finally created a pathway to forcing him aside. Now those critics find themselves in the worst of both worlds, facing signs that Trump’s legal troubles could simultaneously increase his odds of winning the GOP nomination and reduce his chances of winning the general election.”

Los Angeles Times: “The vice president has always been more comfortable talking about policy than about her identity. She believes that understanding history — including personal history — requires context that can’t be jammed into a sound bite. And as a multiracial woman in the United States, a country that has traditionally viewed race through a binary lens, she has refused to define herself by the family heritage that made her election to office historic.”

“As vice president, she has not made an effort to travel to her mother’s home city of Chennai, in India, and has never mentioned plans of visiting Jamaica, her father’s native country.”

“But in Africa — a continent rich in symbolism for the first Black female vice president and one that 3 million people of Indian descent call home — she had freely spoken of her identity, not only as a product of the African diaspora, but also a descendant of her Indian ancestors who lived there.”

Axios: “Despite some overjoyed reactions, many Democrats don’t want to risk further emboldening Trump or his GOP allies by adding oxygen to an already explosive criminal case.”

“Some also worry that weighing in too heavily only serves to fuel GOP allegations that the case is politically motivated.”

Washington Post: “Trump’s legal troubles have helped him raise millions for his presidential campaign and boosted his polling in the GOP primary battle, but many Democrats believe the ultimate impact of the legal travails will ultimately damage Trump if he once again wins the Republican nomination.”

“Former President Trump — now a criminal defendant — has consolidated control over the House GOP, scrambling the majority’s agenda and cementing his status as the true power behind the gavel,” Axios reports.

“Trump’s allies had already ensured that the central themes of his 2024 campaign — victimhood and vengeance — would permeate the House GOP’s priorities. Trump’s indictment has kicked that dynamic into overdrive — unnerving some vulnerable Republicans in the process.”

“A bipartisan congressional delegation arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, a day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy defied China by meeting with the island’s president,” NBC News reports.

Former Michigan Speaker Rick Johnson (R) “admitted to taking more than $110,000 in bribes to help businesses get medical marijuana licenses, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court,” CNN reports.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is set to speak in front of a joint session of the US Congress in late April when he visits Washington, Bloomberg reports.

French government minister Marlene Schiappa has come under fire from members of her own party after appearing on the front cover of Playboy magazine, CNN reports.

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

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