Cup of Joe – June 27, 2023

“The short-lived mutiny in Russia by the Wagner paramilitary group is confronting the West with a fresh reminder of a long-held fear: chaos in the world’s largest nuclear power,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“U.S. officials said Sunday that they haven’t detected any irregular activity or changes in alert levels with Russia’s nuclear forces.”

“Russian intelligence services threatened to harm the families of Wagner leaders before Yevgeny Prigozhin called off his advance on Moscow,” The Telegraph reports.

“Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group who mounted a brief uprising against Russia’s military command over the weekend, broke a long period of silence on Monday to deny, once more, that he had any intention of seizing power with his march on Moscow,” the New York Times reports.

Daily Beast: Russian state television anchors aghast that Putin didn’t kill Prigozhin.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin’s whereabouts remain unknown following the short-lived rebellion from the Wagner mercenary group,” the BBC reports.

“There has been speculation that the Russian leader fled Moscow during the crisis after his presidential jets were tracked leaving the city.”

President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, a day after Russian mercenary forces reversed their plans to march on Moscow, Politico reports.

“Biden said Monday that the United States was not involved in the aborted weekend rebellion in Russia led by the leader of the mercenary Wagner group,” CNBC reports.  Said Biden: “We made clear we are not involved, we had nothing to do with it, this was part of a struggle within the Russian system.”

“I don’t think we’ve seen the final act.”— Secretary of State Antony Blinken, quoted by Reuters, after an aborted mutiny in Russia by forces led by Yevgeny Prigozhin.

“They immediately blurted out such vulgar things it would make any mother cry. The conversation was hard, and as I was told, masculine.”— Belarus spokesman Vadim Gigin, quoted by the New York Times, on the conversation between Belarus president Victor Lukashenko and Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

With the Mar-a-Lago indictments secured, it’s time to check back in on Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of the higher-ups in the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

A spate of new reporting over the last 72 hours suggests Smith’s Jan. 6 probe remains quite active even as his office handles the MAL case. Immunity deals are big deal and suggest a willingness to sacrifice convictions of mid-level wrongdoers in favor of securing evidence against top-tier culprits:

CNN: “Special counsel Jack Smith has compelled at least two Republican fake electors to testify to a federal grand jury in Washington in recent weeks by giving them limited immunity, part of a current push by federal prosecutors to swiftly nail down evidence in the sprawling criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.”

NYT: “Michael Roman, a top official in former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 campaign, is in discussions with the office of the special counsel Jack Smith that could soon lead to Mr. Roman voluntarily answering questions about a plan to create slates of pro-Trump electors in key swing states that were won by Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to a person familiar with the matter.”

Both CNN and the NYT report that the pace of activities by the Jan. 6 grand jury has picked up in recent days, after a period of relative quiescence. CNN puts a finer point on it, noting that Smith’s office isn’t giving witnesses a chance to postpone their testimony:

Prosecutors have played hardball with some of the witnesses in recent weeks, refusing to grant extensions to grand jury subpoenas for testimony and demanding they comply before the end of this month, sources said. In the situations where prosecutors have given witnesses immunity, the special counsel’s office arrived at the courthouse in Washington ready to compel their testimony after the witnesses indicated they would decline to answer questions under the Fifth Amendment, the sources added.

A caveat that the dribs and drabs that emerges from counsel for defendants and witnesses aren’t necessarily a good reflection of where the case actually stands – and that while it may appear from some vantage points that the probe slowed then quickened, that may not be the same impression from every vantage point.

“A group of news organizations asked a federal court Monday to reveal the special counsel’s list of 84 witnesses who are prohibited from speaking with former President Donald Trump about the facts of his criminal classified documents case,” CNBC reports.

“About half a dozen Secret Service agents have testified before the grand jury that will decide whether or not to indict former President Donald Trump for his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and efforts to interfere in the peaceful transfer of the presidency,” NBC News reports.

“Roughly five or six agents have appeared, the sources said, in compliance with subpoenas they received. It is not known what the agents’ proximity to Trump was on Jan. 6 or what information they may have provided to the grand jury.”

“Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the events of Jan. 6 is separate from his probe that led to Trump’s recent indictment in Florida for the handling of classified documents. Sources told NBC News that about 24 Secret Service agents appeared before the grand jury that considered that case in Washington before the case moved to Florida.”

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to open an impeachment inquiry into Attorney General Merrick Garland if House Republicans don’t get what they consider satisfactory answers from the Justice Department on the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son,” Punchbowl News reports.

“Allegations made by IRS whistleblowers — that senior Justice Department officials meddled in U.S. Attorney David Weiss’ investigation into tax and gun cases involving Hunter Biden — have incensed Hill Republicans.”

Just a reminder: Garland left the Trump-appointed prosecutor handling the case in place, gave him full charging authority, and arguably gave him more autonomy than a special counsel.

“Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the Justice Department’s five-year investigation of Hunter Biden on Friday, forcefully rebutting claims promoted by House Republicans that he blocked federal prosecutors in Delaware from expanding the inquiry to encompass a greater range of crimes,” the New York Times reports.

The Wall Street Journal “reviewed more than a hundred federal court dockets and interviewed almost a dozen former federal prosecutors to see whether the deal struck with Hunter Biden was different than it would have been for anyone else.”

On the gun charge: “In looking at a sample of more than 100 federal cases involving the same charge, few had facts directly analogous to Hunter Biden’s case. Most of the time prosecutors seek to use the charge in situations where they have other concerns about the defendant.”

On the tax charge: “Former tax prosecutors said the Hunter Biden case likely presented the Justice Department with several challenges that cut in favor of negotiating a plea deal rather than taking the case to trial.”

Bloomberg: “A conservative supermajority is remaking U.S. laws on the environment, health and firearms, even as public confidence declines and ethical questions grow.”

“The Supreme Court is set to hand down key decisions this week on student debt relief, affirmative action and federal election laws as it enters the last week of its summer session with 10 cases pending,” The Hill reports.

“The court has given no indication it will break its norm of finishing decisions by the end of June, and the next batch is slated to be released Tuesday morning.”

“The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a dispute over whether individual Democratic members of Congress can pursue a lawsuit seeking government documents related to the former Trump International Hotel in Washington,” NBC News reports.  “The move came after the Democratic lawmakers voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit, which the Biden administration was defending.”  This is routine.  If a case is moot, because it was dismissed in a lower court while on appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will not rule on it. 

“Jesse Watters will be the new host of Fox News’s 8 p.m. hour, succeeding ousted star anchor Tucker Carlson, one of several prime-time changes the network announced on Monday,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Laura Ingraham will shift earlier in the evening to the 7 p.m. hour, while late-night host Greg Gutfeld will move up an hour to 10 p.m.”

“Whoever is in the White House in 2025 will quickly face a series of legislative deadlines with impossible price tags: $3.6 trillion in tax cuts and $350 billion in Affordable Care Act subsidies are expiring — and that’s after the debt limit will need to be addressed again,” Axios reports.

“The deadlines could force political horse-trading of epic proportions. Alternatively, gridlock or alarm over the nation’s debt may lead to Americans seeing higher taxes and fewer benefits.”   That is easy.  Let the tax cuts expire, raise them back to Clinton levels on incomes over $250,000 and pass new ACA subsidies.

“It’s only June, and already Congress is threatening to ruin New Year’s Eve,” Politico reports.

“With just over three months until the next shutdown deadline, the two parties are nowhere near a bipartisan deal to fund the government by the start of the new fiscal year. So top lawmakers are predicting that Congress will revert back to its worn-out habit: punting until the holiday season. It’s a classic forcing mechanism when members are particularly eager to escape the Capitol dome.”

“Republicans expect a ‘spicy’ fight over renewing defense spending to play out directly on the House floor, rather than getting buried in the drone of committee hearings,” Axios reports.

“The bill made it out of the House Armed Services’ markup with relatively little tension during proceedings, but Republicans on the panel saved some of the most controversial amendments for the floor vote.”

Rolling Stone: “Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News laid bare how the network communicated behind the scenes about broadcasting 2020 election misinformation, ultimately leading the network to fork over a massive settlement.”

“Newsmax could be next, as voting technology company Smartmatic has subpoenaed several of the right-wing cable network’s current and former employees for work and personal correspondence.”

“Top Congressional leaders are calling on the CIA and the State Department to brief Congress amid growing concerns that China is building a spy facility in Cuba,” Scripps News reports.

“It comes as tensions continue to rise over China and its plans to increase its operations in Cuba, which is located just 90 miles from the continental United States.”

New York Times: “Greek voters on Sunday overwhelmingly re-elected the conservative New Democracy party, preliminary results showed, setting the stage for its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to strengthen his grip on power with an absolute majority and what he called a ‘strong mandate’ for the foreseeable future.”

“With his landslide victory, voters appeared to have overlooked past his government’s ties to a series of scandals and embrace his promise of continued economic stability and prosperity.”

A new Times/YouGov poll finds the UK’s Labour party is extending its lead over the ruling Conservatives, 47% to 22%, with the Liberal Democrats at 11% and the Greens at 8%.

Detroit Free Press: “In an hourlong speech, Trump repeated false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, once more cast the criminal charges and ongoing investigations he faces as a ‘witch hunt,’ blasted efforts to support the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles as a ‘maniacal push’ by Democrats that will ‘decimate’ jobs in Michigan and mocked his GOP primary opponent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

Said Trump: “We’re going to finish what we started and we will make America great again. This is the final battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state.”

Bloomberg:  “Rudy Giuliani was ordered to pay the attorney fees of two Georgia election workers suing him for defamation, after a judge found he failed to comply with his obligations to turn over evidence in the case.

US District Judge Beryl Howell entered an order on Friday directing Giuliani to cover what it cost the lawyers for Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss to pursue their successful motion to compel him to produce information.”

Former federal Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig in the NYT: “If the indictment of Mr. Trump on Espionage Act charges — not to mention his now almost certain indictment for conspiring to obstruct Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as the president on Jan. 6 — fails to shake the Republican Party from its moribund political senses, then it is beyond saving itself. Nor ought it be saved.

“President Biden on Monday is set to announce more than $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access nationwide, commencing the federal push to help an estimated 8.5 million families and small businesses finally take advantage of modern-day connectivity,” the Washington Post report.

“The unprecedented cycle of global interest-rate increases is entering its most challenging stretch as inflation threatens to become entrenched,” Bloomberg reports.

“While policymakers have raised borrowing costs aggressively to tame consumer prices, the easing in inflation pressures seen so far has primarily been due to supply chains recovering and commodity costs falling.”

 “The Marine Corps is on track to be led by an acting commandant for the first time in 164 years as senators leave town for two weeks with no end in sight to a standoff over military confirmations,” reports.

“A Colorado man linked to the far-right Three Percenters movement got sentenced on Friday to four years in federal prison for assaulting police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” The Messenger reports.

New York Times on the Golden Age of Medicine: “We may be on the cusp of an era of astonishing innovation — the limits of which aren’t even clear yet.”

“Cocaine demand and supply are booming worldwide and methamphetamine trafficking is expanding beyond established markets, including in Afghanistan where the drug is now being produced,” Reuters reports.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) suggested that she is being spied on via her television. Tweeted Greene: “Last night in my DC residence, the television turned on by itself and the screen showed someone’s laptop trying to connect to the TV.”

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

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