Cup of Joe – June 8, 2023

“The Department of Justice is preparing to ask a Washington, DC grand jury to indict former president Donald Trump for violating the Espionage Act and for obstruction of justice as soon as Thursday, adding further weight to the legal baggage facing Mr Trump as he campaigns for his party’s nomination in next year’s presidential election,” The Independent reports.

“The use of Section 793, which does not make reference to classified information, is understood to be a strategic decision by prosecutors that has been made to short-circuit Mr Trump’s ability to claim that he used his authority as president to declassify documents he removed from the White House and kept at his Palm Beach, Florida property long after his term expired on 20 January 2021.”

“Federal prosecutors formally informed Donald Trump’s lawyers last week that the former U.S. president is a target of the criminal investigation examining his retention of national security materials at his Mar-a-Lago resort and obstruction of justice,” The Guardian reports.

Trump responds on Truth Social: “No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target…”

Former prosecutor Andrew Weissmann: “A zillion stories about Trump case — but bottom line is he is getting charged and it will be in DC. And this week.”

Weissmann and Ryan Goodman offer a checklist for any MAL indictment.

“Taylor Budowich, who has worked as a spokesman for Donald Trump, has arrived at the federal courthouse in Miami to appear before a grand jury as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents,” CNN reports.

“Still aligned closely with the former president, Budowich now runs a super PAC backing Trump called MAGA, Inc.”

New York Times: “Among those who have appeared before the Washington grand jury in the past few months or have been subpoenaed by it, people familiar with the investigation said, are more than 20 members of Mr. Trump’s Secret Service security detail.”

A federal grand jury will meet this week in Florida to hear evidence in the special counsel’s investigation of Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, NBC News reports.  This is separate from the grand jury meeting in Washington, D.C.

“The latest twist in the inquiry into former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents is the surprise revelation that a previously unknown federal grand jury in Florida has recently started hearing testimony in the case,” the New York Times reports.

“The grand jury in Florida is separate from the one that has been sitting for months in Washington and has been the center of activity for prosecutors as they investigate whether Mr. Trump mishandled classified documents after leaving office or obstructed efforts to retrieve them. Among those who have appeared before the Washington grand jury in the past few months or have been subpoenaed by it, people familiar with the investigation said, are more than 20 members of Mr. Trump’s Secret Service security detail.”

“But there are indications that the Washington grand jury — located in the city’s federal courthouse — may have stopped hearing witness testimony in recent weeks.”

CNN: “It remains unclear why the special counsel is using a grand jury in southern Florida after months of relying on grand juries in Washington, DC, to help gather evidence and witness testimony in the classified documents case.”

“Mark Meadows, the final White House chief of staff under President Donald Trump and a potentially key figure in inquiries related to Mr. Trump, has testified before a federal grand jury hearing evidence in the investigations being led by the special counsel’s office,“ the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Meadows is a figure in both of the two distinct lines of inquiry being pursued by the special counsel appointed to oversee the Justice Department’s scrutiny of Mr. Trump, Jack Smith.”

Meadows is a potential target in the Jan. 6 investigation, and he was one of Trump’s representatives to the National Archives, which could be relevant in the Mar-a-Lago probe. Either way, Meadows is a key witness in both investigations.

The NYT first reported yesterday that Meadows has now testified to the grand jury, though it wasn’t clear in which probe. ABC News later reported that Meadows testified in both the Jan. 6 and the MAL probes.

At some level this isn’t surprising. News outlets had pieced together from fragments of public records that a federal judge back in March had ordered Meadows to testify to the grand jury in the Jan. 6 probe, and the DC Circuit affirmed that order in April.

Still, the fact of Meadows testimony in both investigations has to strike fear in Trump World, where Meadows’ recent low profile has raised fears that he’s cooperating with Smith, which would pose a serious threat to Trump.

Meadows attorney George Terwilliger, a real attorney with subject-matter expertise who is a former No. 2 at DOJ, issued the following statement: “Without commenting on whether or not Mr. Meadows has testified before the grand jury or in any other proceeding, Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so.”

I guess where Meadows is not legally obligated to tell the truth, all bets are off?

“After insisting on spending cuts and deficit reduction in a debt-ceiling deal that came together just before the U.S. breached its borrowing limit, House Republicans are turning to tax cuts,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Republicans hope to push a bill through the House Ways and Means Committee as soon as this month that would revive expired business tax breaks and possibly make changes for individuals.”

“The GOP bill likely won’t become law, but it could be the first step toward bipartisan negotiations this year. And it would set the stage for a larger tax-cut package Republicans are expected to push in 2025, when Trump-era breaks for individuals are scheduled to expire.”

Punchbowl News: “The GOP, which saw a big rift between a small pack of conservatives and the rest of the conference last week over the debt-limit bill, had a relatively calm meeting this morning in the Capitol. The conservatives, who were talking about removing Speaker Kevin McCarthy, were all but silent, except for Rep. Bob Good (R-VA).”

“Good stood up in a closed House Republican Conference meeting and upbraided McCarthy for how he handled the debt-limit deal. He also asked McCarthy what spending level Republicans would peg appropriations bills to. One member said Good “vented” in the meeting.”

“The realities of the current House Republican Conference — and the knotty institutional issues facing the GOP leadership — are screaming back into full view this week, providing a neat encapsulation of what Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s team will need to contend with for the rest of the 118th Congress,” Punchbowl News reports.

“The GOP conference has once again devolved into nasty internecine conflict between hardline conservatives and everyone else. This split calls into question how Republicans can ever coalesce around their agenda or even whether they can govern at all over the coming six months.”

“This is all fallout from the endgame for the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and comes despite pleas from McCarthy to focus on the ‘next play’ now that the debt-limit crisis has ended.”

“House Republican leadership could hold another vote to advance legislation Wednesday after an extraordinary conservative revolt blocked the bills from moving to the floor one day earlier — but it is still unclear if there is enough support to move the measures forward,” The Hill reports.

“A federal judge Tuesday granted media organizations’ requests to unseal the names of the people who cosigned Rep. George Santos’s (R-NY) $500,000 bond in his criminal fraud case,” The Hill reports.

“The order is a blow to Santos, whose attorney Monday asked a judge to keep the names of the bond cosigners sealed.”

“Indicted Rep. George Santos’ attorney has filed a letter asking the judge overseeing the New York Republican’s case to keep the names of the people who put up his $500,000 bond sealed,” CNN reports. Said lawyer Joseph Murray: “My client would rather surrender to pretrial detainment than subject these suretors to what will inevitably come.”

Chris Licht, the embattled head of CNN, will be leaving the company, Puck  reports.

New York Times: “Mr. Licht’s short tenure at CNN was marked by one controversy after another, culminating in his exit on Wednesday. He got off to a bumpy start even before his first day when he shuttered the CNN+ streaming service at the request of its network’s new owners, who were concerned it was losing too much money. The cuts resulted in scores of layoffs, which didn’t endear staffers to the new boss.”

Oliver Darcy: “In the wake of The Atlantic‘s explosive story, I’ve spoken with dozens of staffers across the company. There are a wide range of emotions coursing through the halls of CNN. Some staffers are frustrated. Others are angry. Many are sad about the awful state of affairs that has taken hold of an organization they love.”

“There is one near-universal sentiment, however, that has been communicated to me: Licht has lost the room.”

Ben Smith: “Licht’s departure is on its surface a management debacle and a reminder that you can’t run a television network if you can’t keep your key asset, the high-profile on-air talent, happy. And now it’s a hard management crisis to fix, because WarnerDiscovery chief David Zaslav has been half-running the place all along, and I’m not sure who will want to half-run it with him now.”

“But it’s also a strategic debacle in which cheap talk about shifting CNN from anti-Trump confrontation toward an imagined center simply didn’t find an audience.”

“And the most obvious explanation is the one that people in media have been saying so long we’ve stopped believing it: Cable news is in a broad, secular decline. Even the best managers and executives won’t be able to reverse that.”

“The PGA Tour agreed to merge with rival LIV Golf, which is backed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, an entity controlled by the Saudi crown prince,” CNBC reports.

“The surprising deal on Tuesday ending a civil war in the world of professional golf stands to produce benefits for former President Donald Trump’s family business by increasing the prospect of major tournaments continuing to be played at Trump-owned courses in the United States and perhaps abroad,” the New York Times reports.

“The outcome is the latest example of how the close relationship between Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and Saudi Arabia, whose sovereign wealth fund is the force behind the upheaval in the golf world, has proved beneficial to both sides even as it has prompted intense ethical scrutiny and political criticism.”

AP: “A federal judge temporarily blocked portions of a new Florida law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that bans transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers, saying in a Tuesday ruling that gender identity is real and the state has no rational basis for denying patients treatment.”

Wall Street Journal: “Drone strikes inside Russia are now a near-daily occurrence. Those in Moscow have had limited military impact. But, along with hits on refineries and airfields, ground incursions in the southern Belgorod region and assassinations of several prominent Russian war supporters, the attacks have caused a psychological shift.”

“Fifteen months after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, expecting a quick victory, the war has come to the heart of Russia. The country’s elites, who believed themselves safe as the invasion campaign rumbled far away, are rattled.”

“Three months before saboteurs bombed the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, the Biden administration learned from a close ally that the Ukrainian military had planned a covert attack on the undersea network, using a small team of divers who reported directly to the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces,” the Washington Post reports.

“Details about the plan, which have not been previously reported, were collected by a European intelligence service and shared with the CIA in June 2022. They provide some of the most specific evidence to date linking the government of Ukraine to the eventual attack in the Baltic Sea, which U.S. and Western officials have called a brazen and dangerous act of sabotage on Europe’s energy infrastructure.”

“The nation’s first religious charter school was approved in Oklahoma on Monday, handing a victory to Christian conservatives, but opening the door to a constitutional battle over whether taxpayer dollars can directly fund religious schools,” the New York Times reports.

“The online school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, would be run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa, with religious teachings embedded in the curriculum, including in math and reading. Yet as a charter school — a type of public school that is independently managed — it would be funded by taxpayer dollars.”

Republicans pummeled Democrats on crime during the 2022 midterm elections, spending roughly $50 million crime-related ads. But the issue may be losing its salience as the parties prepare for the 2024 cycle.

The Atlantic notes the murder rate is falling: “Murder is down about 12 percent year-to-date in more than 90 cities that have released data for 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022. Big cities tend to slightly amplify the national trend—a 5 percent decline in murder rates in big cities would likely translate to a smaller decline nationally.

But even so, the drop shown in the preliminary data is astonishing.”

And a report from Third Way finds that the murder rates are actually higher in red states than blue ones. Republicans have tried to force Democrats into difficult votes over the issue, but it may no longer be as powerful as it was during last year’s midterms.

“After days of silence, officials in Florida confirmed on Tuesday that the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis had orchestrated two recent charter flights that carried groups of migrants from New Mexico to Sacramento,” the New York Times reports.

“The flights had generated an immediate outcry from leaders in California, who promised to initiate criminal and civil investigations, saying that the migrants had been deceived into boarding the planes.”

“Gov. Gavin Newsom took his feud with Gov. Ron DeSantis to new heights on Monday, seemingly threatening him with kidnapping charges after California officials say South American migrants were sent to Sacramento by the state of Florida as a political stunt,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Newsom cited state kidnapping laws in a tweet to the Florida governor and Republican presidential hopeful, whom he called a ‘small, pathetic man.’”

Meanwhile, the New York Times notes DeSantis has been unusually silent about the charges. 

A Josh Kovensky joint on how the GOP plays the long game on its biggest canards, mistruths, and deceptions – and how that’s coming home to roost now with its current faux scandal of the month. You have to understand how this works to effectively combat it.

“House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, a top Trump ally, is calling on the Justice Department to provide lawmakers with internal documents laying out the scope of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents found last year at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida,” NBC News reports.

“Jordan and his allies in Congress are demanding documents from and meetings with leading academics who study disinformation, increasing pressure on a group they accuse of colluding with government officials to suppress conservative speech,” the Washington Post reports.

“The targeted researchers study the online spread of disinformation, including falsehoods that have been accelerated by former president and candidate Donald Trump and other Republican politicians.”

“A schism is opening between Congress’ two top Republican leaders over how much to hike defense spending and future aid to Ukraine,” Politico reports.

“One day after Speaker Kevin McCarthy came out against exceeding the spending caps set by his debt-limit deal with President Joe Biden, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dug in to insist that more must be done to support the nation’s defense interests.”

“McConnell took to the floor to call the Biden administration’s defense budget, whose levels the bipartisan debt deal matched, ‘simply insufficient given the major challenges that our nation faces.’ He cited ‘growing threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorists emboldened by America’s retreat from Afghanistan.’”

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients has been phoning members of President Biden’s Cabinet to tell them that if they plan to leave the administration they should do so in the “next few months,” Axios reports.

“Biden’s Cabinet will play a key role in his re-election campaign, as he contrasts his accomplishments with what’s likely to be a nasty fight among GOP contenders. And Biden’s team wants to avoid confirmation battles in an election year.”

Donald Trump celebrated North Korea’s appointment to the World Health Organization, Fox News reports.

“More than 25,000 women are expected to participate in a sit-in at the Colorado state Capitol Monday, calling on Gov. Jared Polis (D) to sign an executive order to ban guns and implement a system to buy them back,” ABC News reports.

“Donald Trump told a judge Monday night that he could not have defamed E. Jean Carroll by denying her decades-old rape accusation because a jury had found him liable only for sexually abusing her,” the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “Fellow judges have accused Pauline Newman of misconduct, saying she can no longer do her job even if she’s appointed for life. The country’s oldest active federal judge won’t go.”

“Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who was one of the most damaging spies in American history, was found dead in his prison cell Monday morning,” CBS News reports.

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

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