Cup of Joe – June 7, 2023

Donald Trump’s lawyers were spotted by CBS News entering the Justice Department,  as the special counsel is moving toward a charging decision in the classified documents case.

“Trump’s lawyers are expected to raise concerns about how prosecutors have handled attorney-client questions during the grand jury but there is no sign the special counsel is going to waver from how he and his team have handled the crime-fraud exception.”

Washington Post: “It is not unusual for lawyers for high-profile defendants to seek an audience with senior Justice Department officials toward the end of a federal criminal investigation.”

Trump on Truth Social: “Reports are the Marxist Special Prosecutor, DOJ, & FBI, want to Indict me on the BOXES HOAX, despite all of the wrongdoing that they have done for SEVEN YEARS, including SPYING ON MY CAMPAIGN.”

“An employee at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence drained the resort’s swimming pool last October and ended up flooding a room where computer servers containing surveillance video logs were kept,” CNN reports.

“While it’s unclear if the room was intentionally flooded or if it happened by mistake, the incident occurred amid a series of events that federal prosecutors found suspicious.”

“At least one witness has been asked by prosecutors about the flooded server room as part of the federal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents.”

New reporting yesterday emerged that Smith has been running a federal grand jury in Florida under the radar in tandem with the DC federal grand jury where most of the action in the Mar-a-Lago case has been.

The reporting was somewhat threadbare, but here’s what’s been pieced together:

WSJ: “In recent days, Smith’s prosecutors have also sought testimony related to the documents probe before a grand jury in southern Florida, in what some people familiar with the process said appeared to be an effort to tie up several loose ends.”

WaPo: “In addition, testimony from at least one witness related to the documents probe has also been sought by Smith’s investigators before a federal grand jury in southern Florida, a jurisdiction that includes Mar-a-Lago, a person familiar with the investigation said.”

NYT: “Prosecutors are expected to question a new witness in front of a federal grand jury sitting in Florida later this week, according to people familiar with the matter. At least one other witness has already appeared before the Florida grand jury, which is separate from the one that has been sitting for months in Washington. It is not clear why a second grand jury is taking testimony in Florida.”

Why a Florida grand jury?

Legal commentators were quick to note the venue issue. Will Smith be able to make his case in DC, which nearly everyone considers a more favorable venue for prosecutors than South Florida, or will he be forced to proceed on Trump’s home turf? I won’t get into the complicated legal analysis, but it requires analyzing a complex interconnected series of factors, including the underlying conduct, where it occurred, which defendant is charged, and the laws being charged.

“Hard-right Republicans, still angry with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s handling of the debt ceiling bill last week, sunk a GOP procedural vote Tuesday in a show of strength in a razor-thin majority,” the Washington Post reports.

“In a surprise rebuke for McCarthy (R-CA) and the rest of GOP leadership, the Republican-led House failed to pass the rule for consideration of several bills this week. Eleven Republicans broke with their party to vote with Democrats, and the rule fell short on a 206-220 vote — the first rule vote to fail since November 2002.”

“House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) changed his vote to ‘no’ at the last minute so the GOP could revisit the vote, which plunged this week’s GOP legislation in limbo.”

Politico: “The move was entirely unexpected by senior Republicans.”

“We took down the rule because we’re frustrated at the way this place is operating.” — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), quoted by Axios, on today’s rebellion by far-right lawmakers against the House Republican leadership.

Tim Alberta’s devastating profile of CNN CEO Chris Licht confirms most of the suspicions about the cable news net’s lurch to the center.

“CNN Chief Executive Chris Licht apologized to staff on a morning editorial call, saying news about his management of the network was overshadowing its journalistic achievements,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Licht’s remarks came after an unflattering profile of him in the Atlantic was published on Friday.”

Vanity Fair: “The words are the first from Licht to be made public since the piece was unveiled. Thanks to a rich vein of unfettered access provided over months, the piece detailed the executive’s struggles — and some of his insecurities — during his first year on the job at the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed news outlet.”

Semafor: “Last year, CNN commissioned a survey examining viewer trust and the places where CNN was succeeding and falling short with viewers across the ideological spectrum. According to a partial copy of the report, which hasn’t been revealed before, CNN’s coverage of Covid-19 was the third leading cause of distrust in the network behind liberal bias and ‘the Chris Cuomo situation.’”

“Survey respondents of all ideological stripes criticized the network’s “overly dramatic and sensational” and “dire” reporting, the report said.”

Jeff Asher: “Official crime statistics are only released after a substantial delay, so for nearly a decade I’ve collected and compiled big-city crime data as a way to assemble a more real-time picture of national murder trends. And this spring, I’ve found something that I’ve never seen before and that probably has not happened in decades: strong evidence of a sharp and broad decline in the nation’s murder rate.”

“The United States may be experiencing one of the largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded, according to my preliminary data. It is still early in the year and the trend could change over the second half of the year, but data from a sufficiently large sample of big cities have typically been a good predictor of the year-end national change in murder, even after only five months.”

“The Kremlin said a purported radio address by President Vladimir Putin heard on Monday on Russian stations in regions bordering Ukraine was fake and the result of a hack,” Reuters reports.

The Economist: “For months a guessing game has played out in military circles worldwide: where and when would Ukraine conduct its counter-offensive? Most expected it to come through Zaporizhia province, in the south of the country, perhaps directed at the city of Melitopol, with the aim of cutting the ‘land bridge’ seized by Russian troops at the start of the war that connects occupied Crimea with Russia itself. Western officials had expected the offensive to begin two weeks ago, and some were getting impatient.”

“On June 4th—two days before the anniversary of D-Day, the start of the liberation of Europe from the Nazis—Ukrainian forces launched what Russia’s defence ministry called a ‘large-scale’ assault on five axes in the south-east of Donetsk province, in eastern Ukraine. Some of them may indeed threaten the land bridge; others were further to the north. Western officials tell The Economist that this does in fact mark the start of the offensive, with attacks also under way on other parts of the front. Yet the cream of Ukraine’s forces has not yet appeared on the battlefield.”

“A critical dam and hydroelectric power plant along the front line in southern Ukraine was destroyed on Tuesday, putting thousands of people at risk of flooding and raising questions about safety at a nuclear plant upstream,” the New York Times reports.

“It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack on the Kakhovka dam and electric plant, which lies along the Dnipro River and is under Russian control.”

Washington Post: “A dramatic drop in the dam’s reservoir could lead to an ecological disaster and stop the cooling of nuclear reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, 75 miles to the northeast… The plant is under Russian control.”

“The feud between the mercenaries of the Kremlin-connected Wagner Group and the ordinary Russian army appears to be escalating, amid reports of exchanges of friendly fire,” Politico reports.

“Russian soldiers shot at Wagner paramilitaries near Bakhmut — the eastern Ukrainian town which has seen brutal attritional battles for territory — destroying a truck, the mercenary group claimed Sunday evening.”

“In response, Wagner claimed to have detained the commander of the Russian army’s 72nd brigade, on Monday releasing a video of him appearing to confess to giving the order to fire on the mercenaries’ vehicle, claiming he did so while drunk because he personally disliked the group.”

Cathy Young: “What’s behind the Kremlin crony’s self-reinvention as a quasi-dissident and a possible contender for Putin’s job? Here, opinions differ wildly. Some think that Prigozhin is a talented psychopath; others that he’s crazy like a fox. Some say he is nothing more than Putin’s loyal attack dog, a useful weapon for bullying the generals and defense officials and keeping them under control.”

“Others believe the attack dog is off the leash and snapping at his former master—either because Prigozhin is in disfavor and fighting for his life, or because the growing instability in Russia is enabling him to claim power in his own right, or because he has powerful backers who are using him in a game of their own.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy told us Monday that a supplemental spending package for Ukraine is ‘not going anywhere’ in the House, essentially putting the brakes on any immediate plan to send more money to Kyiv — or get around new spending caps,” Punchbowl News reports.

“McCarthy signaled any additional aid for Ukraine would have to come as part of the annual appropriations process within the Pentagon’s $886 billion in discretionary spending, as agreed to under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the bipartisan legislation that ended the debt-limit showdown.”

“McCarthy’s comments set the stage for a consequential Senate-vs.-House fight centered on Ukraine funding, an issue that has already bitterly divided the GOP.”

“For now, McCarthy’s pronouncement is a blow to defense hawks in both parties, but especially in the Senate. A group of GOP senators held up the debt-limit bill last week until they got assurances from Senate leaders that the chamber would take up a separate funding bill for Ukraine and other defense needs.”

“A crude joke that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) used to mock what he said was then-2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ‘small hands’ will be the centerpiece of a Supreme Court ruling on whether a California lawyer can trademark the phrase ‘Trump too small,’” NBC News reports.

“The court on Monday agreed to consider whether Steve Elster could register the trademark for the phrase — a double-entendre meant to insinuate a correspondingly small penis — amid government claims that it would require the written approval of Trump himself.”

“The case will be argued and decided in the court’s next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2024.”

In an incident that has many of the hallmarks of cabin depressurization, a wayward private plane flew through restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon, forcing fighter jets from Joint Base Andrews and two other military bases to scramble to intercept it. The pilot of the plane was non-responsive, and it eventually crashed in rural Virginia. President Biden was playing golf at Andrews around the time of the incident. A Florida businessman listed as owner of the plane told news outlets that his daughter and granddaughter were among those aboard. The wreckage of the plane was found late Sunday. There were no survivors.

“Twitter’s U.S. advertising revenue for the five weeks from April 1 to the first week of May was $88 million, down 59 percent from a year earlier,” the New York Times reports.

“Twitter’s ad sales staff is concerned that advertisers may be spooked by a rise in hate speech and pornography on the social network, as well as more ads featuring online gambling and marijuana products.”

“Elon Musk said Monday that Twitter revenue has been cut in half since he took ownership of the company,” the Daily Beast reports. “More than half of Twitter’s top advertisers suspended ads this winter, but this is the first time Musk has publicly acknowledged the extent of the damage.”

Washington Post: “This year alone, 195 new bills were introduced in dozens of state legislatures, seeking to require that an expanding list of products be PFAS-free.”

“Until the EPA and other federal agencies do set stricter policies on PFAS use in products and start levying fines to violators, some lawmakers say, state laws are the only recourse.”

“The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, alleging the overseas company operated an illegal exchange in the U.S.” the Wall Street Journal reports.

From Tim Alberta’s very long, must-read piece on CNN in The Atlantic: “At the least, even absent some official agreement, it seemed obvious that CNN leaders had been contorting the coverage to keep Trump happy—perhaps to prevent him from walking offstage. At one point during the pregame show, when the words sexual abuse appeared on the CNN chyron, one of Licht’s lieutenants phoned the control room. His instructions stunned everyone who overheard them: The chyron needed to come down immediately.”

Alberta adds via Twitter: “Cannot overstate how shocked/shaken CNN staffers were at the time of this episode, and how irate others have been as the story spread. Justifiably so. If this decision was indeed made to appease the Trump team—to keep him from quitting the town hall—it is an absolute scandal.”

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken will allow members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to view a classified diplomatic cable after a months-long standoff between GOP lawmakers and the State Department over the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the Washington Post reports.

“House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said he will begin the process of holding FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress, despite viewing and being briefed by bureau officials on the subpoenaed document alleging Joe Biden was involved in a criminal bribery scheme on Capitol Hill Monday,” Fox News reports.

Jonathan Chait: “During Trump’s first term, violations of democratic norms came in sudden dramatic bursts attracting wide news coverage, and these efforts were often undone by a lack of planning and haphazard execution. January 6 is the most vivid example. The episode dramatized Trump’s desire and determination to secure an unelected second term, but the coup attempt lacked the firepower to pull it off.”

“Since Trump left office, the Republican Party’s anti-democratic turn has accelerated, but it has taken place quietly and deliberately with little drama or media attention. It has had the benefit of planning and the formation of a partywide consensus. And it is more insidious than anything a reelected Trump could come up with in a fit of pique.”

“A Texas sheriff’s department has recommended that the district attorney in Bexar County bring criminal charges over the first iteration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ so-called migrant relocation program,” the Miami Herald reports.

“Those flights last September sent 49 asylum seekers, most of them Venezuelans, from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.”

The operation “allegedly lured migrants onto the flights with false promises of jobs and opportunities on the other end.”

On the same day a Texas sheriff recommended criminal charges for the first round of DeSantis migrant flights, another round of flights from Texas to California continued, prompting threats of criminal prosecution there, too, from angry state officials who are accusing DeSantis of being behind this stunt. For his part, DeSantis isn’t claiming responsibility or denying his involvement.

“A former intelligence official turned whistleblower has given Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General extensive classified information about deeply covert programs that he says possess retrieved intact and partially intact craft of non-human origin,” The Debrief reports.

“President Joe Biden is set to convene his Cabinet Tuesday, bringing his top lieutenants together to discuss a wide range of topics for the first Cabinet meeting since he declared his candidacy for reelection and days after Congress passed a bipartisan bill to avert a catastrophic default,” CNN reports.

“The White House on Tuesday is launching a website to map and track tens of thousands of infrastructure projects and private manufacturing investments, an effort by the administration to show the positive impact of its policies on the U.S. economy to a skeptical public,” the AP reports.

“The site,, documents roughly 32,000 infrastructure projects and more than $470 billion worth of investments in the production of electric vehicles, batteries, computer chips, biotech, clean energy and other sectors.”

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

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