Cup of Joe – June 14, 2023

“Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in federal court in Miami on Tuesday to criminal charges that he risked disclosure of defense secrets and obstructed the government’s efforts to reclaim classified documents he took with him upon leaving office,” the New York Times reports.

“Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner whose efforts to cling to power after his defeat shook American democracy, arrived at a Florida courthouse to face federal criminal charges that he illegally retained defense secrets and obstructed justice,” the New York Times reports.

“His appearance will include an arraignment during which Mr. Trump will enter a plea; he is expected to plead not guilty.”

Just before arriving at the courthouse, Trump posted to Truth Social: “ONE OF THE SADDEST DAYS IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY.”

CNN: “Trump will be asked to fill out forms, providing his name, social security number and address. His fingerprints will be taken digitally — not with ink. But no mugshot will be taken… The US Marshals do not take DNA as part of this process.”

Miami Herald: “Reporters and TV crews outnumbered supporters of former President Donald Trump outside the courthouse, where he is set to appear later Tuesday to respond to a 37-count indictment accusing him of keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.”

“Trump is scheduled to arrive in downtown Miami around 3 p.m., but press — and fans — had already staked out their spots.”

New York Times: “National television networks are teeing up wall-to-wall arraignment coverage. CBS, ABC and NBC will all cut into their afternoon programming and go into special report mode at some point after 2 p.m.”

New York Times: “While no one knows precisely how Mr. Trump will go about attacking the most serious charges he has faced, his options for using the legal system to delay the case, turn it into a political circus or paint himself as a victim of federal prosecutors are numerous and varied.”

“Even before his indictment, Mr. Trump, his allies and his lawyers had hinted at some of the arguments they could raise.”

“They include asserting that Mr. Trump had a right to take the documents from the White House and that he had declassified them before leaving office. They could accuse the prosecutors of misconduct or try to show that he was a victim of selective prosecution. And they could seek to have potentially damning evidence excluded from the trial or try to force the government to disclose classified material that it wants to keep secret.”

“But all of those claims could be difficult to sustain in court.”

Within hours of the federal indictment of Donald Trump being unsealed by the Justice Department, an interesting defense popped up among the former president’s staunchest defenders.

The argument: At least Donald Trump isn’t a spy.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page phrased it this way: “However cavalier he was with classified files, Mr. Trump did not accept a bribe or betray secrets to Russia. The FBI recovered the missing documents when it raided Mar-a-Lago, so presumably there are no more secret attack plans for Mr. Trump to show off.”

Fox News host Mark Levin said the same on his show: “There’s not one syllable of evidence in here, that any information under the Espionage Act was passed to any spies, to any enemies, to any foreign countries — not one.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) floated the same argument on ABC News: “Espionage charges are absolutely ridiculous. Whether you like Trump or not, he did not commit espionage. He did not disseminate, leak or provide information to a foreign power or to a news organization to damage this country. He is not a spy. He’s overcharged.”

As Aaron Blake notes, the fact that Trump’s allies are setting the bar at “at least Trump isn’t a spy” would seem to reinforce how much trouble he’s in.

“Southern Florida’s federal courts are known as a ‘rocket docket’ for their speedy trials, but former President Trump’s legal team is likely to unleash a flurry of motions and challenges to delay his criminal trial there,” Axios reports.

“The moves could push the trial back, a few months at a time, as Trump’s team challenges how prosecutors gathered evidence in the classified documents case.”

Semafor: “As the country digested the Donald Trump indictment over the weekend, two clear takeaways emerged. Legally, his path to avoiding conviction has never been narrower. Politically, his path to the nomination looks wider than ever.”

Washington Post: “Notably, however, the indictment does not charge Trump with the illegal retention of any of the 197 documents he returned to the archives.”

“That shows that if Trump had simply returned all the classified documents he had, he probably never would have been charged with any crimes.”

Donald Trump promised on Truth Social to appoint a “real special prosecutor” to indict President Biden in retaliation for special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump.

“Donald Trump is expected to be represented at his first court appearance to face federal criminal charges for retaining national security materials and obstruction of justice by two of his existing lawyers, after struggling to recruit a local Florida lawyer willing to join his legal defense team,” The Guardian reports.

“The lawyers making an appearance with Trump on Tuesday will be the top former federal prosecutor Todd Blanche and the former Florida solicitor general Chris Kise.”

Playbook: “Eventually Trump will find representation, and the legal assault on special counsel Jack Smith’s case will begin. While much of the reaction the past few days has focused on the strength of the indictment and the evidence Smith has amassed, a skilled defense will inevitably unearth new facts and new interpretations of the narrative described by the government.”

Rolling Stone: “Right up until the day Donald Trump’s federal indictment was unsealed, the legal team tasked with defending him was engaged in petty internal feuds — including fights over TV appearances, accusations of disloyalty, and even a so-called ‘coup,’ three people familiar with the situation, as well as others on or close to Trump’s legal defense.”

“The clashes were dramatic enough that Friday, hours before Trump’s federal indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents probe was unsealed, top lawyers John Rowley and Jim Trusty abruptly resigned. The resignations followed last month’s departure of Tim Parlatore, another Trump attorney who decided he’d seen enough of the internal turmoil.”

“Donald Trump spent the day before his historic appearance in federal court scrambling to find a qualified Florida lawyer willing to join his defense team as he faces the Justice Department’s first prosecution of a former president,” the Washington Post reports.

“After touching down in Miami on Monday, Trump spent the afternoon interviewing prospective lawyers and meeting with his legal team, along with other top advisers, to discuss the case, in which he is accused of mishandling classified documents and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.”

“Several prominent Florida attorneys declined to take Trump on as a client after two of the key lawyers handling the documents matter — Jim Trusty and John Rowley — resigned last week.”

“When former President Donald Trump posted to his Truth Social platform on Friday, ‘SEE YOU IN MIAMI ON TUESDAY!!!,’ the call eerily echoed the tweets with which he summoned his supporters to Washington, D.C., in the lead-up to Jan. 6, 2021. Then, Trump’s tweet helped to draw tens of thousands to the nation’s capital,” NPR reports.

“For some, it was interpreted as an invitation to plan and engage in collective violence. But extremism researchers say that this time around, they are not seeing signs of similar, large-scale and detailed planning around Trump’s expected courthouse appearance.”

Matthew Yglesias: “Trump has managed to convince huge numbers of conservatives that all of his negative attributes are actually positive because they signal ruthlessness, and ruthlessness is what Republicans need.”

Jonathan Chait: “In recent years, the Republican Party’s long rightward march on policy has ground to a halt, and it has instead radicalized on a different dimension: ruthlessness. Attributing their political travails to weakness, Republicans converged on the belief that their only chance to pull back from the precipice of final defeat is to discard their scruples. A willingness to do or say anything to win was the essence of Trump’s appeal, an amorality some Republicans embraced gleefully and others reluctantly.”

“President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s debt deal should have made this fall’s incoming funding fight easier. Instead, the opposite has happened,” Politico reports.

“Congressional spending leaders who — in theory — could have used the spending cuts outlined in the bipartisan debt agreement now find themselves in a more onerous position as various factions on the Hill push to shirk the terms of the Biden-McCarthy deal. And senior lawmakers have only a narrow window to write a dozen spending bills that can pass both chambers, facing a tight time crunch less than four months before government funding runs out.”

“Several different groups of lawmakers are trying to revisit the debt deal’s funding caps. House conservatives, accusing McCarthy of backtracking on secret promises and cutting a bum deal with Biden, shut down the floor last week as they made the case for steeper slashes than the duo agreed to. Senate Republicans are searching for a way around the budget caps as well, to add cash for the Pentagon and Ukraine. And Democrats are looking for ways to ensure that priorities like disaster aid and immigration programs don’t get short shrift.”

“House conservatives said Monday that they’re ready to end their blockade of the House floor — at least temporarily — while they continue discussions with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) about ways to grant the hardliners more power and curb deficit spending in future funding packages,” The Hill reports.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told ABC News the House Freedom Caucus is renegotiating its “power-sharing agreement” with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He noted it will be “in writing” and released publicly.

But McCarthy cast doubt on that: “I don’t know that there’s anything in writing here. The only thing we agreed to do is – we’ll sit down and talk.” Gaetz also told Roll Call that if there’s no progress, “perhaps we’ll be back here next week.”

“House Republicans sparred in what members described as a ‘fiery’ closed-door conference meeting on Tuesday, with mainstream GOP lawmakers blasting a group of 11 conservatives for the blockade of floor action last week,” Axios reports.

“Moderates took to the mics to slam the 11 members who froze the floor, arguing that a small group does not speak for the entirety of the conference and blasted their calls for a renegotiated speaker’s agreement.”

Freshman Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) was “screaming at the mics” about the floor shutdown, “dropping multiple F bombs” and telling the room “he’s introducing bills to save lives and it’s not shit that gets on Fox News.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was asked about the indictment of Donald Trump for having classified documents scattered across Mar-a-Lago:

REPORTER: Was that a good look for the former president to have boxes in a bathroom?

McCARTHY: I don’t know, is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time? A bathroom door locks.

“I think the chances of a guilty verdict are fairly high, and the chances of real jail time are pretty high.”— Former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in a GB News interview.

“Their efforts to defend this man are truly beyond anything that I ever thought possible in this country. It is so profoundly disturbing.”— Hillary Clinton, quoted by The Messenger, on Republicans defending Donald Trump after more than 70 criminal indictments.

“Well, the most damning piece of evidence to me is the audiotape. I mean, you want to talk about consciousness of guilt? You want to talk about knowledge and intent? I mean, those are the darlings of a prosecutor’s nursery, and that came from President Trump’s own mouth.”— Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), on Fox News.

“Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and his deputies are steering clear of defending former President Trump from felony charges brought by the Justice Department, signaling a deep split within the GOP over how to handle the former president’s legal problems,” The Hill reports.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is launching an investigation into the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger, Politico reports.

“The Ohio Supreme Court handed a limited victory to opponents of State Issue 1 on Monday by ordering Republican state officials to rewrite ballot language summarizing the measure’s effects,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

“The decision, issued by the four Republicans who hold a majority on the seven-member court, orders the Ohio Ballot Board to fix errors in the ballot language, including one that incorrectly described a new minimum number of voter signatures that amendment campaigns must collect from each Ohio county to qualify for the ballot.”

The Atlantic looks into how Lara Logan went from a respected 60 Minutes correspondent to someone who trades in conspiracy theories that even far-right media disavow. 

“The State Department said Monday that U.S. officials were able to attend the Saturday arraignment of an American who was detained in Russia, but they are working to determine whether it is a case of wrongful detention,” NBC News reports.  At this point, if you are an American, why are you in Russia?   If you are in Russia in the summer of 2023, your loyalties are suspect.  Russia is a genocidal enemy of the United States.

“A bipartisan group of American lawmakers has asked the Biden administration to punish South Africa for what it sees as the country’s support of Russia’s war in Ukraine by moving a major trade conference scheduled to be held in South Africa this year to another country,” the New York Times reports.

“Federal prosecutors are seeking 14 years in federal prison for a violent Jan. 6 rioter who his lawyers say ‘idolized’ Donald Trump and thought of the former president as the ‘father figure’ he never had,” NBC News reports.

“Daniel ‘D.J.’ Rodriquez pleaded guilty in February, admitting that he battled law enforcement officers on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6 and tased former D.C. Metropolitan Police officer Mike Fanone in the neck before storming the building and smashing out a window.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) pledged again to “re-Constitutionalize” the federal government in an interview with Hugh Hewitt.

Said DeSantis: “Our founders created three branches of government. They did not create a fourth branch, an administrative state that is unaccountable to the electorate. And yet, that’s what’s developed over many, many decades. A lot of the most important policies that are decided, what kind of car you can drive, what kind of energy you can use, are decided not even by your elected representatives, but by nameless, faceless bureaucrats in the bowels of Washington, D.C. So we are going to be revoking all of those Biden policies through the bureaucracy.”

He added: “And that means, of course, a new director of the FBI, cleaning house in all those agencies, and using the full scope of Article II power to bring the bureaucracy to heel. I don’t buy this idea that the president cannot remove a ‘career’ person. When they’re abusing power, and they’re going outside of what is appropriate, they absolutely should be terminated, and terminated swiftly. So we’re going to be doing that. I think we’re going to do it in a big way.”

There are obviously more important things on Donald Trump’s mind these days.

But it’s important not to overlook his claim made in Georgia over the weekend that he was responsible for raising oil prices.

Trump said he got onto a “three-way call” with Vladimir Putin and “the king of Saudi Arabia” — perhaps meaning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — to urge them to cut oil production and drive up oil prices.

Said Trump: “I had to save the oil companies. They were all going to go bust.”

It’s a bizarre thing to brag about during a presidential campaign, but Trump may be preoccupied with more pressing matters.

CNBC: “The consumer price index, which measures changes in a multitude of goods and services, increased just 0.1% for the month, bringing the annual level down to 4%.”

“That 12-month increase was the smallest since March 2021, when inflation was just beginning to rise to what would become the highest in 41 years.”

“As Beijing and Washington move gingerly toward restoring high-level exchanges, Xi Jinping is stepping up his effort to gird China for conflict,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Since late last month, the Chinese leader has twice urged the nation to prepare for what he described as extreme scenarios or conditions—trotting out a phraseology implying the possibilities of escalating tensions as the competition between the U.S. and China intensifies.”

An Associated Press analysis found that fraudsters potentially stole more than $280 billion in Covid-19 relief funding; another $123 billion was wasted or misspent.  Combined, the loss represents 10% of the $4.2 trillion the U.S. government has so far disbursed in Covid relief aid.

“The Israeli government told the Biden administration it intends to announce later this month the building and planning of thousands of new housing units in the settlements in the occupied West Bank,” Axios reports.

“The Supreme Court declined to review North Carolina’s decision to stop issuing specialty license plates with the Confederate flag,” CBS News reports.

NBC News: “Jean-Pierre violated a law intended to prevent federal employees from using their offices to influence elections when she repeatedly referred to ‘mega MAGA Republicans’ in the run-up to the 2022 midterms.”

After more than three years, the federal government’s pandemic-related suspension of student loan payments and interest is officially coming to an end, Politico reports.

RNC member Harmeet Dhillon helms a non-profit that appears to have directed more than $1.3 million into her law firm, The Guardian reports.

Two Rhode Island officials’ behavior during an official visit to Philadelphia was so “bizarre, offensive, and unprofessional” that two separate investigations are probing the trip: “a criminal one, led by the Rhode Island state police, and a human resources one within the governor’s office,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

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

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