Cup of Joe – May 17, 2023

“President Biden will cut short an upcoming foreign trip, skipping planned stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia amid increasingly urgent talks between the White House and Congress over how to raise the government’s debt limit and avoid a potentially catastrophic default,” the Washington Post reports.

“Biden will still leave Wednesday to attend a Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, but will return to the United States on Sunday.”

“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has repeated her warning that the U.S. government could run out of money as early as June 1, and has shortened the potential buffer period to days, not weeks,” Axios reports.

“The outlines of a possible deal to raise the debt ceiling and limit spending are starting to emerge, but negotiators are far from an agreement as President Biden and top lawmakers are set to meet at the White House on Tuesday afternoon,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Punchbowl News: “Congressional leaders believe it will take up to 10 days to move any bipartisan agreement — if it happens — through the House and Senate. Remember: Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed when he took the gavel to give members 72 hours to review legislation. Party leaders need to unveil a deal to the rank and file, bring it to the Rules Committee and then to the floor. Surprisingly, there’s been no discussion in the leadership or during the negotiations about the floor process for any eventual deal. The GOP leadership has informally considered dividing the question — voting on the debt limit and cuts separately. But nothing has been decided yet.”

“The Senate, of course, needs a full week to process nearly any bill. It will be no different here.”

Hours before President Biden and congressional leaders meet at the White House once again to discuss the debt ceiling, it’s worth noting that reaching an agreement is just the first step. Any deal must also pass the Republican House and the Democratic Senate.

From the Associated Press: “Details of a potential budget deal remain politically daunting, and it’s not at all clear they go far enough to satisfy McCarthy’s hard-right faction in the House or would be acceptable to a sizable number of Democrats whose votes would almost certainly be needed to secure any final deal.”

That’s why Senate Republicans are quietly pushing their hard line House counterparts to “show some flexibility.” At the same time, Biden’s willingness to negotiate with Republicans is “causing mini panics among his base.”

Sensing a standoff, a group of centrist Democrats is even offering to backstop McCarthy — and help him save his job — if the hard right rebels. So while a deal is the starting point to avoid hitting the debt ceiling, getting it through both chambers isn’t going to be easy.

And lawmakers will need at least 10 days to get it done. 

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said “that tougher work requirements for social benefits won’t fly with members of his caucus, setting the stage for a drag-out fight with GOP leaders who are insisting on those provisions as a condition of raising the debt ceiling,” The Hill reports.

“That stipulation stands equal but opposite to the red line drawn by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Tuesday morning, when he told reporters that Republicans will insist on tougher work requirements as part of any agreement.”

“The White House recently gave congressional Republican leaders a list of proposals to reduce the deficit by closing tax loopholes during negotiations over the federal budget and the debt ceiling,” the Washington Post reports.

“But Republican negotiators rejected every item.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) warned her colleagues that lawmakers “who requested earmarks in the next tranche of annual spending bills should expect to see their funding requests slashed under the levels Republicans are seeking,” Politico reports.

“Five high-profile House Republicans who signed onto the no-earmarks pledge in 2021 have requested a combined 45 projects totaling $175.9 million in federal spending in the 2024 fiscal year,” The Messenger reports.

They include Reps. Lauren Boebert, Byron Donalds, Lance Gooden, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andy Harris.

A group of more than a dozen House Republicans is urging the Senate to cancel its upcoming recess in the absence of a debt ceiling bill, Axios reports.

Politico: “A small group of moderate Democratic lawmakers has quietly reassured its House GOP counterparts that it can help protect McCarthy’s gavel if his right flank revolts over a debt agreement.”

“If conservatives responded to a McCarthy-Biden deal by forcing a full House vote on ousting the California Republican, Democrats say they have enough members to help block it — keeping him in power.”

Politico: “What will the congressional GOP accept without revolting against its leaders? It’s all the more salient as some House conservatives talk about their opening bid as the floor — not the ceiling.”

“During bipartisan negotiations on the debt ceiling, there’s talk of a parallel budget deal that might set spending levels for several years, loosen energy permitting regulations, enact expanded work requirements for some aid programs and snatch back unused Covid aid. That’s a far cry from where House Republicans started last month, with a bill repealing Democratic initiatives and enacting blunt spending cuts.”

Jonathan Chait: “For a while, Obama’s perspective mostly carried the day. But as the new Republican-led House seeks to renew the effort to use the debt ceiling as a hostage, a revisionist interpretation has taken hold: This isn’t a new or dangerous tactic, it’s just how Congress operates…”

“This is all totally false. These arguments conflate negotiation, which is historically common in debt-ceiling bills, with extortion, which isn’t.”

“It is true that, historically, debt-ceiling bills have also been wrapped together with other measures. But what McCarthy is doing is not that. He is threatening to refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless President Biden grants him concessions. The parties are not engaged in “horse-trading,” because all the horses are being handed by one party to the other. They are only negotiating over the size and contours of the ransom payment.

“Special counsel John Durham has issued a long-awaited report that sharply criticizes the FBI for investigating the 2016 Trump campaign based on ‘raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence’ — a conclusion that may fuel rather than end partisan debate about politicization within the Justice Department and FBI,” the Washington Post reports.

“Durham was appointed in 2019 by President Donald Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, to re-examine how government agents hunted for possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to interfere in the presidential election. The report, coming almost four years to the day since Durham’s assignment began, will likely be derided by Democrats as the end of a partisan boondoggle, while Republicans will have to wrestle with a much-touted investigation that didn’t send a single person to jail.”

Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Trump once predicted that Mr. Durham’s probe would reveal the ‘crime of the century,’ a conspiracy among intelligence officials and law enforcement to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign. The probe’s findings have fallen far short of that expectation.”

Washington Post: “The report, coming almost four years to the day since Durham’s assignment began, will probably be derided by Democrats as the end of a partisan boondoggle. Republicans will have to wrestle with a much-touted investigation that has cost taxpayers more than $6.5 million and didn’t send a single person to jail, even though Trump once predicted that Durham would uncover the ‘crime of the century.’”

New York Times: “Mr. Durham’s 306-page report revealed little substantial new information about the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and it failed to produce the kinds of blockbuster revelations accusing the bureau of politically motivated misconduct that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies suggested Mr. Durham would uncover.”

Special Counsel John Durham got spun so many different ways by Bill Barr that by the time he released his 300-plus-page final report yesterday – after a four-year investigation that stretched longer than the Mueller investigation he was investigating – his reputation, dignity, and sense of proportion had all disappeared.

The problem with trying to hold Durham to account on the facts now is that it requires extensive knowledge of events that are now creeping from current affairs into the historical past: the run-up to the 2016 election, Russia’s meddling in the election, Trump’s many misdeeds in this arena before and after his inauguration, the Mueller investigation, the origins of the Durham probe, the many bogus conspiracy theories that gave rise to the Durham probe and that it unselfconsciously helped to reinforce.

It’s a lot. But let me zero in on what I think is the most glaring example of Durham’s bad faith, Bill Barr’s ratfuckery, and the politicization of the Justice Department under Trump.

Back in January, the New York Times did a commendable, ground-breaking bit of reporting on the Durham probe. Times reporter Charlie Savage more than any other mainstream report has had a very clear-eyed view of Durham and his mess of an investigation. One of the bombshells from that report was that Durham’s remit had secretly expanded to include an allegation of wrongdoing against  Trump: “Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.”

The guy investigating the investigators it turns out was also investigating the target of the original investigators. Big news!

But what does Durham’s final report, which under the rules and regs is supposed to explain his decisions to prosecute and to decline to prosecute, say about the Italian tip about Trump financial dealings, about his actions or decisions in that matter, about the ultimate conclusions he reached?

Bupkis! It’s not mentioned at all.

Here’s how Savage et al put it delicately in their story on the final report: “… Italian officials unexpectedly gave Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham a tip about suspected financial crimes linked to Mr. Trump. While the tip was unrelated to the Russia investigation, Mr. Barr had Mr. Durham investigate the matter rather than referring it to another prosecutor. Mr. Durham brought no charges.”

Mr. Durham’s report did not mention any of those matters. It looks all the world like Bill Barr used John Durham to bury an allegation of wrongdoing against then-President Trump. And it worked.

“The U.S. Secret Service is investigating how a man entered the home of President Biden’s national security adviser in the middle of the night roughly two weeks ago without being detected by agents guarding his house,” the Washington Post reports.

“The unknown man walked into Jake Sullivan’s home at about 3 a.m. one day in late April and Sullivan confronted the individual, instructing him to leave… There were no signs of forced entry at the home.”
“Sullivan has a round-the-clock Secret Service detail. But agents stationed outside the house were unaware that an intruder had gotten inside the home.”

A Virginia man whose father says he suffers from schizophrenia allegedly attacked two staffers in the district office of Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) with a metal baseball bat. Xuan Kha Tran Pham, 49, was charged with one count of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of malicious wounding in the suburban DC attack. There doesn’t appear to be any particular political motivation for the attack. “I think we are talking about real mental illness,” Connolly said.

“A doorbell video filmed a man allegedly chasing a woman with a baseball bat before he attacked two staffers from the office of Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly on Monday,” The Messenger reports.

“A woman who accused Rudy Giuliani of sexual harassment has filed a 70-page complaint in New York Supreme Court that is chock full of graphic allegations and personal text messages,” the Daily Beast reports.

Noelle Dunphy, a former employee of Rudy Giuliani, is suing him in New York state court for $10 million, claiming that he sexually assaulted and harassed her. And she says she has the receipts.

“A former aide to former Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani says he told her the ex-New York City mayor and then-president Donald Trump were offering to sell presidential pardons for $2 million apiece, according to court documents,” The Independent reports.

“A House Democrat introduced a resolution Tuesday afternoon to expel Rep. George Santos (R-NY),” CNN reports.

“The motion offered by freshman Democratic congressman Robert Garcia is privileged, so House GOP can have until Thursday to schedule the vote. It is not yet clear exactly when the vote will take place.”

“The move is expected to fail, but will put House Republicans on the record over the indicted congressman, who faces calls to resign from within his own party.”

“Nearly a week after CNN’s town hall with Donald Trump, CEO Chris Licht has acknowledged internally there are some things he wished the network had done differently,” CNBC reports.

“Licht continues to stand by the concept of the town hall, telling people both inside and outside of CNN that history will look kindly on the network’s decision to interview Trump in front of cheering supporters in a live town hall format.”

“But there are several production elements that he would have liked done in a different way.”

“Two days after the network pulled in more than 3.3 million viewers for its widely criticized town hall with former President Donald Trump, CNN found itself in fourth place among cable news networks in primetime,” the Daily Beast reports.

“Worse yet, it finished behind MAGA channel Newsmax, which until recently was barely nabbing a nightly audience of 100,000.”

“Three states, all with Republican supermajorities, are poised to debate and vote on abortion bans Tuesday, potentially further chipping away access to care across the country and creating an abortion desert across the South,” The 19th reports.  “All three bans would take effect upon being signed by their state’s governor.”

“A new report has identified dozens of examples in which medical providers say pregnant patients received care in the past year that deviated from care they would have received before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — a sign, researchers said, of a pattern of serious health complications triggered by abortion bans,” the Washington Post reports.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis disputed Donald Trump’s claim that many anti-abortion activists felt a new six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed “was too harsh,” The Messenger reports.  Said DeSantis: “Protecting an unborn child when there’s a detectable heartbeat is something that almost 99 percent of pro-lifers support.” He added: “I signed the bill, I was proud to do it. He won’t answer whether he’d sign it or not.”

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill into law Monday barring the state’s colleges and universities from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and limiting how race can be discussed in many courses,” the Washington Post reports.

 “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday he will send state law enforcement officers to the southern border in Texas, a tactical maneuver that will test how far the state will go to help enforce immigration law as the Republican governor prepares to launch a presidential campaign,” the Miami Herald reports.

“The governor’s office said hundreds of state troopers, police and national guard soldiers, plus boats and planes, are ready to head to the border as early as Wednesday.”

“The U.S. Virgin Islands issued a subpoena to Tesla CEO Elon Musk seeking documents as part of that government’s lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase over sex trafficking by the bank’s longtime customer Jeffrey Epstein,” CNBC reports.

Politico: “The Biden team’s awkward ambivalence reflects an uncomfortable reality. Yes, Erdoğan may be an illiberal ruler who has damaged his country’s democracy. But Turkey is also a strategically located NATO ally, and Russia’s war in Ukraine and ongoing strife in the Middle East means Washington can’t simply turn its back on the strongman.”

“Ukrainian air defenses thwarted an intense Russian air attack on Kyiv early Tuesday, shooting down all 18 missiles aimed at the capital,” the AP reports.

“Loud explosions boomed over Kyiv as the nighttime attack combined Russian missiles launched from the air, sea and land in an apparent attempt to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defenses. No casualties were reported as Western-supplied weapons helped fend off the assault.”

“The Central Intelligence Agency has launched a new effort to capitalize on what US intelligence officials believe is an “unprecedented” opportunity to convince Russians disaffected by the war in Ukraine and life in Russia to share their secrets, posting a slickly produced, cinematic recruitment video online on Monday,” CNN reports.

“Federal prosecutors in the Andrew Gillum corruption case are moving to dismiss charges against the former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee and his political mentor,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

“The acquittal, partial mistrial and outright dismissal marked a major defeat for the government and its long-running and costly Operation Capital Currency investigation, which saw undercover FBI agents posing as crooked developers descend on Tallahassee starting in 2015.”

“The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that could empower members of the House and Senate minority to compel the Executive Branch to cough up information to congressional investigators,” Politico reports.

“The justices agreed Monday to hear the case, which began with a Democrat-led effort in 2017 to obtain records related to former President Donald Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office building to operate his hotel. It has been winding through the courts ever since.”

Variety: “On April 26, Carlson spoke by phone with one of Fox Corp.’s eight board members, who told the host that his recent benching was a condition of Fox News’ settlement with Dominion Voting Systems.”

“The unnamed board member told Carlson that the condition does not appear in any of the settlement’s documents, and instead was a verbal agreement. If Fox didn’t comply, the settlement was off, Carlson was told. Dominion had plenty of leverage given that the $787.5 million deal to settle Dominion’s defamation suit against the network wouldn’t officially close until late-May.

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

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