Cup of Joe – June 15, 2023

New York Times: “All told, the day encapsulated the remarkable numbness to the extraordinary that has defined the Trump era. The former president entered federal court as a criminal defendant, and now faces hundreds of years in prison. The Republican front-runner’s early 2024 calendar now includes not only key caucuses and primaries but court dates. His rivals are at times contorting themselves while discussing his alleged crimes; one circulated a petition on Tuesday demanding they all promise to pardon him.”

“Mr. Trump’s appearance in a Miami courtroom was a humiliating moment for a New York businessman with a 40-year history of engaging in gamesmanship with prosecutors and regulators, viewing most every interaction as a transaction or something he could bluster his way through…”

“But that grandeur — and legal insulation — had vanished on Tuesday. Instead, Mr. Trump’s team tried to create the sense of a man still in power. In Bedminster, he spoke with the white columns of the main house of his New Jersey golf club behind him. The indictment became another backdrop for the ongoing Trump Show.”

New York Times: “Visibly deflated after pleading not guilty for the second time in three months, his dry and low-energy resuscitation of his legal defense — even inflected with the usual references to Marxists, Communists and fascists — pleased his advisers but drew a relatively muted response from a crowd that had minutes earlier craned their phones for a shot of his motorcade.”

“I had every right to have these documents.”— Donald Trump, quoted by Bloomberg, essentially admitting to the criminal charges against him.

“I think it’s going great… we have a rigged country.”— Donald Trump, quoted by the Miami Herald, at a restaurant after his arraignment on federal criminal charges.

“There were no cameras in the Miami courthouse where Donald Trump turned himself in on Tuesday, leaving cable news stuck cycling through legal analysts as not much happened outside,” Semafor reports.

“So Trump gave them something to watch: After pleading ‘not guilty’ to 37 felony counts, he made a surprise visit to famed Cuban restaurant Versailles. Supporters took pictures with him, prayed over him, and even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for his 77th (‘some birthday,’ he joked).”

On CNN, Jake Tapper asked the network to cut away: “He’s trying to turn it into a spectacle and into a campaign ad.”

New York Times: “Like Mr. Trump’s trip to a Manhattan courthouse, the six major broadcast and cable news networks all used overhead shots to show Mr. Trump’s motorcade making the roughly 20-minute trip to downtown Miami, where the former president was arraigned.”

“The wall-to-wall coverage represented yet another day in which Mr. Trump dominated the airwaves.”

“It’s long been Republican orthodoxy that no matter what Donald Trump does, the GOP base will stick with him. After his last indictment in New York, the party rallied around him,” NBC News reports. “But this time, privately, Republicans aren’t so sure.”

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) on whether he would support Trump if convicted: “I’d just have to read the conviction, but no, honestly, on the surface, I wouldn’t. That doesn’t look good.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE): “I just think it’s obvious what the president did was wrong. I just think the emperor has no clothes, and we need to have Republicans stand up and say that, because come around after the primary … the other party’s going to be saying this.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX): “It’s very problematic. There’s a reason I’m not commenting on it.”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said that he would not support Donald Trump’s bid for a second term if he was found guilty of the charges leveled against him by the Department of Justice, telling CNN that he “won’t support a convicted felon for the White House.”

Aaron Blake has more reaction.

Ron Brownstein: “The Republican response to Donald Trump’s latest criminal indictment offers a clear test of the famous saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and hoping for a different result…”

“By refusing to confront Trump or his enraged defenders more directly, the Republicans who want the party to move beyond him in 2024 may be stitching their own straitjacket. The nearly indivisible GOP defense of Trump has once again created a situation in which a controversy that is weakening Trump with the broader electorate is strengthening his position inside the GOP coalition.”

“Republicans who have leaped to former president Donald Trump’s defense over his handling of classified documents are using his indictment to escalate attacks against what they say is a politicized and ‘weaponized’ Department of Justice and a corrupt FBI,” the Washington Post reports.

“They are discussing a wide range of ideas, from funding cuts to investigating the DOJ’s investigation. And in the Senate, one is blocking votes on most DOJ nominees because of Trump’s indictment.”

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) announced that he would place a hold on all appointments to the Justice Department “until Merrick Garland stops using his agency to harass Joe Biden’s political opponents.”

A federal judge will allow E. Jean Carroll to amend her original defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump to include comments he made at a CNN town hall, CNN reports.

“Carroll, a former magazine columnist, asked the judge for permission to amend the initial November 2019 lawsuit so she could try to seek additional punitive damages after Trump repeated statements a federal jury found to be defamatory.”

New York Times: “The parties will begin a slow but steady rhythm of status conferences, meeting every couple of months in court as the government starts to provide evidence to the defense through what is known as the discovery process. That evidence will help Mr. Trump’s lawyers decide what motions they plan to file in attacking the charges against him.”

“Mr. Trump will also have to finalize the members of his legal team… For now, Mr. Trump will lean heavily on the New York lawyer who appeared with him at the arraignment, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche is also defending Mr. Trump against criminal charges in state court in Manhattan stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star…”

“The one unusual aspect of Mr. Trump’s case will be its pacing.”

New York Magazine: “In January of last year, in response to a subpoena, Trump returned 197 classified documents to the federal government. Despite his willfully retaining those documents for months, the federal indictment released last week does not charge Trump in connection with any of them — which is to say, the DOJ gave Trump a pass on 197 potential counts of willful retention of national defense information.”

“Instead, it charged him with only 31 counts corresponding with the number of highly classified documents Trump knowingly withheld from the government in January 2022 and the FBI later obtained.”

Marcy Wheeler notes prosecutors also recommended extraordinarily lenient conditions for Trump’s pre-trial release from custody.

On Tuesday night, as Fox News aired footage of both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, the onscreen text read “wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested,” Insider reports.

Playbook: “The splinter faction of House conservatives furious over the recent debt ceiling deal won a major concession this week when Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to write next year’s spending bills well underneath the caps he negotiated with President Joe Biden.”

“But the hardliners’ demands don’t end there, we’re told. They’re eyeing an additional piece of payback: a bigger presence on the House Appropriations Committee.”

“A coveted vacancy on the panel will come open in mid-September, when Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) resigns due to his wife’s health issues. Several of the conservative rebels have expressed interest in stepping into the slot, and they raised that interest with McCarthy in a recent meeting…”

“Even if the group doesn’t lay claim to the seat, you can expect them to exert outsize influence as the Sept. 30 spending deadline approaches.”

“Some House members are proposing that House Republicans try to bypass the right-wing hardliners in their conference,” Axios reports.

“Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), a prominent member of several centrist and bipartisan groups, floated doing an end-run around the right by soliciting Democratic votes to pass procedural measures typically passed along party lines.”

Said Bacon: “We’re going to have to have Democrats vote on rule votes. I would rather pass meaningful legislation that can get through the Senate and leave the 11 to the side. They can raise holy hell by themselves.”

“After hardline House conservatives aggravated GOP leaders by halting the chamber floor in protest, the Freedom Caucus — which most of the agitators call home — is growing in numbers,” Politico reports.

“The Trump-aligned bloc admitted two new members this week: Reps. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) and Eric Burlison (R-MO). Their admittance, confirmed by two Republicans who spoke on condition of anonymity, shows that while some in the Freedom Caucus may be sparking blowback with their rebellion against GOP leaders, the group is also expanding its reach.”

“It has long been an axiom of the House majority: Vote against a piece of legislation put forth by your party if you absolutely must, but never, ever vote against the ‘rule’ to bring that legislation to the floor,” the New York Times reports.

“Until the last few weeks, that standard had held for more than two decades. But now, about a dozen rebellious House Republicans have decided to leverage their badly needed votes on the routine procedural measures to win policy concessions, breaking the longstanding code of party discipline and threatening the traditional operation of the House.”

Punchbowl News: “There are 108 days until government funding runs out. And the way things are looking right now, Congress is in for an incredibly difficult appropriations season with a government shutdown possible this fall.”

“The evidence for a high-stakes showdown abounds. At the urging of House conservatives, Speaker Kevin McCarthy is allowing GOP appropriators to write spending bills at FY2022 levels, which is far below the levels set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. This will put the House on a collision course with the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House, who want to stick to the budget caps laid out in the debt-limit deal.”

Daily Beast: Kevin McCarthy’s success now sets up his final failure later.

“Donald Trump faced down the most serious threat to his personal liberty and political future like just another day on the campaign trail — waving to fans, giving a thumbs up, swinging by a storied eatery, soliciting donations and planning a spirited speech to supporters at one of his properties,” the Washington Post reports.

“The almost celebratory display on Tuesday, clashing with the more typical sobriety of court proceedings, highlighted Trump’s instinct to face down federal charges with the same bluster he marshaled against previous threats to his business and candidacy, and to project strength for his supporters, constructing an alternate reality where he is not in deepening legal jeopardy.”

Said former Trump chief of staff John Kelly: “He’s scared shitless. This is the way he compensates for that. He gives people the appearance he doesn’t care by doing this. For the first time in his life, it looks like he’s being held accountable. Up until this point in his life, it’s like, I’m not going to pay you, take me to court. He’s never been held accountable before.”

Wall Street Journal: “The Pentagon has urged that the Abrams tanks the U.S. is providing Ukraine be armed with depleted-uranium rounds, which are regularly used by the U.S. Army and are highly effective against Russian tanks.”

“Fired at a high rate of speed, the rounds are capable of penetrating the frontal armor of a Russian tank from a distance.”

“The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency warned the Ukrainian government not to attack the Nord Stream gas pipelines last summer after it obtained detailed information about a Ukrainian plot to destroy a main energy connection between Russia and Europe,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“President Joe Biden and his top aides have taken a vow of silence on the federal indictment of his predecessor, Donald Trump — and have explicitly ordered the national Democratic Party and his reelection campaign to do the same,” Politico reports.

“That directive was issued in recent days after Trump was hit with federal charges for his handling of classified documents after he left the White House.”

New York Times: “The satisfaction is nearly universal, but comes with a queasy aftertaste: Democrats are relishing the possibility that Donald J. Trump will get his comeuppance at last. But when the mocking laughter fades, in its place remains a much more lasting anxiety. What will this do to the country?”

“While President Biden and his top allies have largely stayed silent about Mr. Trump’s indictment, rank-and-file Democrats were far more eager to talk, responding with a mix of jubilation and deep apprehension about how the federal prosecution of a former president and current White House candidate could convulse American politics.”

Former Watergate attorney John Dean told CNN that Trump body man Walt Nauta should cooperate with the government against the former president.  Said Dean: “I’d suggest he do a plea deal. He’s facing 20 years — it’s overwhelming evidence and looks like beyond a reasonable doubt almost off of the material that is raised in the indictment — and I don’t know how he can win this. So, he could strike a good deal and help put it away for the government. I don’t know why he got himself involved this way.”

“Former President Donald Trump and his personal aide, Walt Nauta, were ordered by a federal magistrate judge on Tuesday to not discuss their criminal case, even though the two work closely and see each other practically every day,” the New York Times reports.

“Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, who oversaw the hearing, said that any discussions related to the case must go through their lawyers. Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta have been charged with conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of dozens of classified documents after he left office.”

“The restrictions — which do not apply to other topics of conversation — are common for co-defendants in a criminal matter, but they could be particularly challenging to uphold given that Mr. Nauta’s job is to follow the former president through his days, attending to various needs.”

Members of Fulton County Sheriff’s office went to Miami on Tuesday to help prepare in case former President Donald Trump is charged in Georgia later this summer, WSB-TV reports.

Washington Post: “Trump’s choice of Georgia to deliver his first public speech after federal prosecutors announced charges on Thursday related to his alleged retention of classified documents after leaving the White House seemed fitting, because it is widely expected to be a deciding state in the presidential contest next year — and it is also likely to be the next setting for the ongoing battle between the former president and law enforcement.”

“Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, is expected to announce a charging decision in early August after more than two years of investigation into Trump’s attempt to reverse his defeat in the Peach State.”

Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann: “Even before last Thursday’s indictment in United States v. Donald Trump, public speculation swirled about whether the former president had taken classified documents not just to  Mar-a-Lago but also to his residence and golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The indictment answered that question with a bang while presenting a new puzzle about why Trump isn’t facing even steeper charges.”

“According to the Justice Department and a taped recording of the former president, Trump took classified records from Mar-a-Lago to Bedminster, where he showed off the contents of such records to others. The indictment alleges that Trump showed a map to a political ally and also showed a writer and a publisher a secret military plan to attack Iran. These two episodes were arguably the most egregious allegations of criminal wrongdoing mentioned in the indictment; they allege not just the improper retention of our nation’s most highly classified information, but the intentional communication of such information.”

“But these two allegations raise a question: Why did Special Counsel Jack Smith charge Trump with illegal retention of classified documents but not with dissemination of such materials? And is that decision final, or could dissemination charges still be in the works?”

Lawfare: “A murmur travels down the row in which I am seated as members of the media spot the man who has played a role in bringing the famously braggadocious former president to this courtroom: Special Counsel Jack Smith. He is perched in the front row of the gallery on the left side of the room, behind the table where his colleagues from the Justice Department are seated for the arraignment.”

“Sporting a characteristically steely expression, Smith appears to be pointedly staring at Trump as we await the judge’s entrance.”

CBS News: “Smith closely watched Trump as Trump exited slowly at the end. He watched Trump glance at reporters sitting in the back. Smith never broke his stare at Trump.”

“One of the most senior members of the US Senate has accused President Biden of accepting a $5 million bribe from the Ukrainian energy company that employed his son,” the Times of London reports.

“Chuck Grassley, 89, made a speech on the floor of the upper house on Monday claiming that 17 audio recordings had been made by an executive at Burisma, who said the payment had been made to the president, along with another for the same amount to Hunter Biden.”

Said Grassley: “The foreign national who allegedly bribed Joe and Hunter Biden allegedly has audio recordings of his conversations with them—17 such recordings.”

NBC News: “Nevada GOP Chair Michael McDonald, a close Trump political ally, as well as Jim DeGraffenreid, the state party’s vice chair, were spotted by NBC News entering the room where the Jan. 6 jury is meeting at the Washington federal courthouse Tuesday.”

“Both McDonald and DeGraffenreid served as so-called fake electors, slates of electors who in most cases signed certification documents purporting that Trump had won in their states even though he had lost.”

“Senate Democrats on Tuesday confirmed Jared Bernstein as the White House’s chief economist, despite opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Republicans,” Politico reports.

“After Manchin revealed he would vote against Bernstein earlier Tuesday, Senate Democrats had a brief scare over whether Vice President Kamala Harris would be needed to break a tie on his confirmation. But the absence of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) allowed the liberal-leaning economist to make it through without her help.”

The marvel of the moment for me is how Joe Biden can simultaneously be:

  • A doddering old man but also running the most corrupt crime family in the history of the universe;
  • Barely able to stay upright on his own two feet but an evil genius who has orchestrated a vast conspiracy with the Deep State to take down his chief political rival;
  • Inept and bungling but somehow managed to defeat the incumbent MAGA president, haul the United States into Marxism, and seize dictatorial powers.

This Biden guy is pretty amazing when you think about it.

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

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