Cup of Joe – April 20, 2023

The Fox settlement ranks as the second highest defamation award in U.S. legal history, behind only the Sandy Hook families’ $1 billion-plus in judgments against Alex Jones last year. It’s the largest ever U.S. defamation settlement (as opposed to judgment), at least that’s been publicly revealed.

The judge had already ruled that it was “CRYSTAL clear” that Fox aired false claims about Dominion. All the trial would have done was establish whether Fox acted knowingly or recklessly in doing so and how much Dominion’s damages should be.

Dominion marshaled extensive evidence of Fox’s wrongdoing and was able to inject that into the public sphere via its stupendous motion for summary judgment a few weeks ago.

A lot of the initial coverage yesterday suggested the settlement was a surprise development. It really wasn’t. Most cases settle. Yes, the size of the payout was astonishing and the circumstances were undoubtedly dramatic. And while settlement wasn’t a guaranteed outcome, it was an eminently plausible one, especially after the previous 48 hours where settlement talks had heated up as trial approached, which is super common in civil litigation. The delay of the start of the trial on Monday to try to resolve the case signaled that the settlement talks were serious.

The $787.5 million settlement came after the jury was selected but before opening statements, during a long pause in the courtroom proceedings that suggested settlement talks were continuing.

A mediator was brought in the help get the two sides over the finish line, the WSJ reports: “The parties engaged a mediator from dispute-resolution provider JAMS, Jerry Roscoe, who was on vacation in Romania and worked over the course of a day to bring about a deal Tuesday afternoon, according to a person familiar with the situation.”

The terms of the settlement do not require Fox News Fox to apologize or admit to wrongdoing on air. The closest Fox came to an admission was this weak sauce: “we acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false.”

Fox continues to traffic in ridiculously self-serving claptrap: “This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards.”

How much did the separate looming $2.7 billion defamation claim by Smartmatic USA constrain Fox’s ability to admit wrongdoing and apologize as part of the Dominion settlement?

Smartmatic’s claims in its New York state lawsuit aren’t the same as Dominion’s, but they closely mirror the fact pattern in the Dominion case.

“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign. Smartmatic will expose the rest,” an attorney for Smartmatic said in a statement after the Dominion settlement. Don’t forget that Dominion still has viable defamation cases pending against Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, and founder Patrick Byrne, and against Newsmax and OAN.

Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos told ABC News the settlement agreement between Fox News and his company amounted to a warning shot for other media companies that may spread falsehoods.

Said Poulos: “I think that it’s a big step forward in democracy if our system can send a signal that if media companies lie — whoever they are or whatever channel they’re on — and they do so knowingly, they will be prepared to pay a very high price.”

Charlie Sykes: “Maybe. But I can’t shake the feeling that even though Dominion has won the battle, the rest of us continue to lose the war.”

David French: “The settlement represents justice for Dominion but by no means does it cleanse Fox of its corruption. Liars must be fired. Viewers must be informed. The company must apologize.”

Harry Litman: “The money of course serves no public purpose. An apology would have been meaningful as part of national accounting for the Big Lie. That was a very big opportunity here, which now goes away. Not Dominion’s fault–it’s the adversary system for you– but a shame.”

Rick Hasen: “Not enough to save American democracy. But we never should have expected that a private defamation suit could have cured this country’s ongoing election panic anyways.”

Fox Corp shareholders are demanding company records that may show whether directors and executives properly oversaw Fox News’ coverage of Donald Trump’s election-rigging claims, Reuters reports.

“Fox News’s legal troubles related to the 2020 presidential election are far from over, despite its massive settlement with Dominion Voting Systems announced Tuesday afternoon,” the Washington Post reports.

“The media company also faces a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit filed by another voting technology company, Smartmatic, that alleges Fox broadcast lies that ‘decimated’ its business.”

Jonathan Last: “I would not blame Fox watchers for feeling used and disrespected by Fox. It’s clear that no one views Fox’s audience with greater contempt than the people who work at Fox. They believe that the people who watch their channel are foolish, irrational, and infantile. They believe that these people cannot grasp reality and that if they were confronted with reality, they would react with anger and petulance.”

“The people who run Fox believe that the people who watch Fox are dim, emotional, and unpatriotic bigots who must be coddled like particularly malevolent children.”

“And here’s the thing: Fox is right.”

“We know that they’re right because Fox’s audience hasn’t abandoned it even as the texts and emails from discovery piled up. Even as the network was forced to cough up one of the largest settlements in media history.”

“Access to a common abortion pill mifepristone will remain unchanged through at least Friday after the Supreme Court extended its brief pause until the end of the workweek,” The Hill reports.

“Abortion is back before the Supreme Court just 10 months after conservative justices said they were washing their hands of the issue,” Politico reports.

“The court is expected to rule by Wednesday on whether to allow an earlier decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to take effect, sharply limiting access to a commonly used abortion pill nationwide. The lower court ruling, which the Biden administration wants paused while the legal battle plays out, would prohibit telemedicine prescriptions, mail delivery and retail pharmacy dispensing of the drug.”

“The case now before the court undercuts one of the core arguments justices made when they overturned Roe v. Wade in June: that it’s not appropriate for ‘unelected members of this Court’ to ‘override the democratic process’ and set national abortion policy.”

Axios: GOP lawmakers urge Supreme Court to let abortion pill restrictions take effect.

President Biden slammed House Republicans for flirting with defaulting on the national debt, saying America is not “a deadbeat nation,” CNBC reports.

Said Biden: “”MAGA Republicans in Congress are threatening to default on the national debt, the debt that took 230 years to accumulate overall, unless we do what they say. They say they’re going to default unless I agree to all these wacko notions they have. Default. We’d be worse than totally irresponsible.”

“President Biden and Democratic leaders are standing firm in their insistence that Congress pass a stand-alone bill to raise the debt limit as House Republicans maneuver to pass legislation as early as next week that would force deep spending cuts and impose other conditions in exchange for their help in averting a catastrophic government default,” the Washington Post reports.

Nathan Tankus: Biden can steamroll Republicans on the debt ceiling.

Goldman Sachs now projects that the U.S. could reach its debt limit “in the first half of June.”

“While the data are still very preliminary, weak tax collections so far in April suggest an increased probability that the debt limit deadline will be reached in the first half of June. At this point we see a slightly greater chance that the deadline is in late July, but this could easily change to a base case of early June if tax receipts continue to undershoot.”

House Republicans promised before last year’s election that they would limit bills to a single subject and only move bills through regular order.

This was also a key concession made to Kevin McCarthy’s opponents during his prolonged bid to win the votes to become speaker.

But the debt limit bill currently being put together by McCarthy to lift the debt limit is not going through regular order. And it’s filled up with changes to energy policy and student loans.

We’ll see what else is in the bill when legislative text is released later today.

As Jake Sherman points out, “This bill is being crafted by the speaker. They said that wouldn’t happen either.”

This suggests that either McCarthy is a more powerful speaker than anyone predicted or that Republicans tossed their “principles” out of the window once they were in power.

Playbook has a “confidential discussion draft” of a debt ceiling proposal being circulated by the Problem Solvers Caucus.

“The bipartisan group of 64 House centrists is proposing to suspend the debt ceiling through the end of the year and, in the meantime, set up an ‘independent fiscal Commission’ to come up with a plan to confront the $31 trillion national debt. The commission’s policy recommendations would be due to Congress after the 2024 presidential election and would get a mandatory vote no later than February 2025.”

Punchbowl News: “The calendar is a huge challenge for the speaker and the rest of Washington. It’s April 19. The latest estimates from Goldman Sachs and other analysts is that the U.S. government could reach the default deadline by mid-June. And a discharge petition may be all but useless at this point. There simply isn’t enough time. In fact, the only debt-limit related bill in committee right now repeals the debt limit entirely.”

“McCarthy holds a pretty bad hand here. The debt limit battlefield isn’t a good one for Republicans. Plus, he’s dealing with a conference that’s unusually interested in picking ideological fights they can’t win. McCarthy is doing what he must internally, but that doesn’t resolve his larger problems.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) is “on the sidelines” in the debt ceiling negotiations, Punchbowl News reports.

“Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to allow people to carry concealed guns in the state without a permit, just as national attention has ramped up over gun violence in the wake of several mass shootings, including the killing last month of six people at a Tennessee school,” the AP reports.

“In the wake of a deadly school shooting last month, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee awarded final passage Tuesday to a proposal that would further protect gun and ammunition dealers, manufacturers and sellers against lawsuits,” the AP reports.

“The Senate’s 19-9 vote sends the bill to Republican Gov. Bill Lee, despite pushback from Democratic lawmakers saying their GOP counterparts are trying to shield gun companies just weeks after the Nashville school shooting that killed six people, including three 9-year-olds.”

“A county commissioner in far southeast Oklahoma who was apparently caught on tape discussing killing reporters and lynching Black people has resigned from office,” the AP reports.

“The Florida Board of Education has forbidden the teaching of gender identity and sexuality throughout all grades in K-12 public schools, extending a nearly year-old legislative ban on such lessons from kindergarten through third grade,” the Washington Post reports.

“Teachers who violate the ban could see their teaching licenses suspended or revoked, per the rule.”

New York Times: “Mr. DeSantis is set to return to the nation’s capital on Friday to address a conference for the conservative Heritage Foundation before traveling to Austin, Texas, for an event.”

“From there, he will travel abroad on a trade mission that the governor’s office has not publicly announced. The itinerary includes Tokyo, where he’s scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, before heading to Seoul, Tel Aviv and London, according to people with knowledge of the planning.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Tuesday made a rare return trip to Washington, where he served in the House before his run for governor, to mingle with about a dozen Republican lawmakers,” the New York Times reports.

“But his journey to Capitol Hill failed to spark much momentum in his expected presidential bid among Republicans in Congress, an important group for White House aspirants.”

Kent Stermon, the political donor behind the rapid rise of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), took his own life last year after he was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an underaged teen, the Daily Mail reports.

The girl’s family reportedly refused his “five-figure” hush money deal.

“Iranian authorities launched a fresh campaign to force women to wear a headscarf, or hijab, as the clerical establishment seeks to reassert its grip on power months after women’s rights protests morphed into a nationwide movement against the Islamic Republic,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“As part of the new campaign, which began Saturday, Iranian police said they would use surveillance tools to identify and prosecute women who didn’t wear the headscarf.”

“An Iranian government-linked hacking group previously known for its focus on reconnaissance has shifted to targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, potentially with the goal of launching destructive cyberattacks,” the Washington Post reports.

“Reports of Iranian schoolgirls being poisoned at school continue to stream in from across Iran, with over 1,000 students in more than 50 schools impacted so far, according to opposition reports this week,” the Jerusalem Post reports.

Financial Times: “Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in a hurry. Since he took office for a historic third term just over 100 days ago, the Brazilian leader has been desperate to stamp his mark on the presidency and undo the rightward shift that Latin America’s largest country took under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.”

“In his four-year term, Brazil will make 40 years of progress, says Lula, who has pledged to eradicate hunger, kick-start the economy and give Brazilians a reason for optimism after years of stagnation. But there have been few early signs of such a transformation.”

“Two men have been arrested on charges that they helped establish a secret police outpost in New York City on behalf of the Chinese government,” the AP reports.

“The United States Navy has sailed a warship through the Taiwan Strait in its first known transit since China carried out an encirclement exercise around self-ruled Taiwan,” Bloomberg reports.

“China is starting to target western interests in the country after five years of snowballing trade and technology restrictions spearheaded by the US under presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” the Financial Times reports.

“Over the past two months, Chinese officials have slapped new sanctions on US weapons companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, launched an investigation into US chipmaker Micron, raided US due diligence firm Mintz and apprehended local staff, detained a senior executive from Japan’s Astellas Pharma group and hit London-headquartered Deloitte with a record fine.”

“President Xi Jinping’s administration is now considering curbing western access to materials and technologies critical to the global car industry, according to a commerce ministry review.”

“The U.S. appears poised for a manufacturing boom as companies tap into Biden administration subsidies with pledges to spend tens of billions of dollars on new projects,” the Financial Times reports.

“The U.S. economy wobbled in the weeks following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, as consumers spent less, factories slowed their assembly lines and the nation’s bankers grew more cautious in making loans,” the Washington Post reports.

“If those trends continue, the recession that many analysts have predicted for much of the past year will finally arrive in the coming months.”

“But throughout the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the $26 trillion U.S. economy has defied the odds, minting new jobs at a remarkable pace and avoiding the oft-predicted downturn. Like a prizefighter absorbing a punch, it may yet recover its balance and persevere.”

“The question is, how long until she goes back? So if it’s three months, I don’t know, that becomes a really difficult question. If it’s a couple of weeks? I’m fine with it. I’m not going to pressure her one way or the other. But I think, you know, if it’s going to be months and months? My guess is that she will be her own harshest critic.” — Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), quoted by Politico, when asked about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) two-month absence from the U.S. Senate.

“President Joe Biden’s pick to be the next labor secretary, Julie Su, has yet to secure the support of key Democrats ahead of her nomination hearing on Thursday, suggesting she faces an uphill battle to confirmation by the Senate,” CNN reports.

“The tepid reception among some members of the president’s own party is part of a broader issue that’s emerged in recent months for the Biden administration. Despite a narrow majority in the Senate, Democrats have with more recent frequency failed to sign off on high-profile Biden appointees – torpedoing Phil Washington’s nomination to lead the Federal Aviation Administration as well as Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the Federal Communications Commission. If Su does not secure enough support from the Senate, she would be the highest-ranking Biden nominee so far to fail to be confirmed.”

“Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra violated a law that restricts political activities of federal employees when he advocated for the election of Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute event in the fall, the Office of Special Counsel has determined,” the Washington Post reports.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Mark Green (R-TN) “promised donors this month that he would produce an impeachment case against the Biden administration’s homeland security chief, Alejandro Mayorkas, saying that the secretary’s appearance before the panel this week would be the beginning of his demise,” the New York Times reports.

“He said the panel would deliver charges to the House Judiciary Committee, which handles impeachment proceedings.”

“A North Texas elections official who was lauded by top state officials — and his critics — as one of the best administrators in the field has submitted his resignation,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“Heider Garcia, who has been the elections director in Tarrant County since 2018, told county officials his last day will be June 23, after the county’s May 6 general election.”

“The resignation comes months after a newly elected county judge, the county’s top executive, took office. Tim O’Hare ran on a campaign that prioritized election integrity and frugal spending of tax dollars. Soon after he took office he debuted a county election integrity task force, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud.”

Donald Trump’s latest attempt to delay the start of E. Jean Carroll’s rape and defamation trial went nowhere. In short the judge said if now is a bad time to hold the trial just wait until you’re indicted in multiple other jurisdictions! I’m exaggerating only sightly.

Donald Trump posted to Truth Social that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “is being absolutely destroyed by Disney ” and called the governor’s move to punish the company nothing more than a “political stunt.”  Said Trump: “His original P.R. plan fizzled, so now he’s going back with a new one in order to save face.”

Associated Press on Biden moving to expand access to childcare: “The directives would be funded out of existing commitments… That likely means their impact would carry more of a symbolic weight compared with the Democratic president’s call in 2021 to provide more than $425 billion to expand child care, improve its affordability and boost wages for caregivers.”

Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — a key member of the House’s January 6 committee — will be out November 14 with Oath and Honor, a call to action and “urgent warning,” Axios reports.

Said Cheney: “The last two years have shown us once again that our constitutional republic is not self-sustaining. It survives only because of the courage and honor of individual Americans. When history looks back on this time, each elected official will have to answer the questions: Did we do our duty? Were we faithful to our oath of office?”

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

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