Cup of Joe – June 28, 2023

CNN has obtained the audio recording of the 2021 meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, where former President Donald Trump discusses holding secret documents he did not declassify.

It’s everything you could have imagined, plus a little more. The cavalier tone, the cheap and tawdry pettiness, the jocular atmosphere, the fawning supplicants eager to be used by Trump, Trump’s own disingenuousness. And all of it built on the faulty premise that if the Pentagon had produced a war plan contingency for Iran then that proved that Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Milley was in fact a supporter of military action against Iran.

The audio recording, a central element of the indictment against Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, was made by a Trump aide in the course of Trump being interview for a Mark Meadows autobiography, a comedic touch if ever there was one. Do listen though. The audio pops more than a transcript or isolated quotations:

Josh Marshall: “I’m certainly not willing to exonerate Trump of eventual plans to share or sell or profit, literally or figuratively for disclosing the contents of these documents to others. I just resist those theories because they’re too literal, too limited. The conversation caught on tape here captures a lot of why he held on to this stuff.

It meant he still had juice, had secrets he could hold over people. He could reward people or punish them.

Here clearly Trump is still hung up that Joint Chiefs Chair Milley said he was afraid Trump would launch a war with Iran as a distraction in the final days of his presidency. But in fact, claims Trump, it was Milley who wanted to go to war with Iran. And Trump’s got the highly classified war plans to prove it.

Now, the factual premise here is silly. The U.S. maintains war plans for wars with lots of countries. And not just the obvious ones. I remember hearing once that the U.S. maintained plans on the shelves for invasions of Canada and the UK well into the 20th century. Whether that particular anecdote is accurate, the general point is: of course we have plans for a war with Iran. I bet we have several — one for a strike to destroy the nuclear research infrastructure, probably another to destroy the Iranian military and a big one for invading and occupying the country. If that’s what Trump is referring to that means nothing about what Milley wanted to do. But the point is that Trump thinks it does. And he thinks this is a big gotcha against Milley.

There are so many people Trump is mad at or wants to get back at I wouldn’t even have remembered that this is one of his grievances. But clearly it is. It’s another chit. Something he’s got over Milley. For Trump it’s all about how he can help you or hurt you. In his mind these documents give him juice. That’s why he wants them. It’s power. And in his mind they’re really his anyway, just like the whole U.S. government was and, he hopes, could be again in less than two years.

“Speaking as a Watergate historian, there’s nowhere on thousands of hours of Nixon tapes where Nixon makes any comment as clear, as clearly illegal, and as clearly self-aware as this Trump tape.”— Garrett Graff, on Twitter, on the audio tapes of Donald Trump showing classified documents to people without security clearances.

Former President Donald Trump’s longtime aide, Walt Nauta, could not be arraigned yesterday as scheduled after his lawyer told the judge that Nauta could not get to Florida due to travel issues, ABC News reports. Nauta still has not retained local counsel.

“US District Judge Aileen Cannon ruled on Monday that special counsel Jack Smith cannot file under seal the names of 84 potential witnesses who may offer incriminating testimony after former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents,” Insider reports.

“The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a legal theory that would have radically reshaped how federal elections are conducted by giving state legislatures largely unchecked power to set all sorts of rules for federal elections and to draw congressional maps warped by partisan gerrymandering,” the New York Times reports

The vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

The Constitution, Roberts wrote, “does not exempt state legislatures from the ordinary constraints imposed by state law.”

Washington Post: “Under the theory advanced by North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders, but rejected by the court, state lawmakers throughout the country would have had exclusive authority to structure federal elections, subject only to intervention by Congress.”

Rick Hasen: “But make no mistake. This gives the U.S. Supreme Court the ultimate say over the meaning of state law in the midst of an election dispute. This is a bad, but not awful, result.”  I am not sure I agree with Hasen here.  But he is the elections law expert.  

Greg Sargent: “The aim [to expunge Trump’s impeachments] appears to be to allow Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee in next year’s election, to claim that despite the events we all witnessed, he was never impeached at all. That lie can then become part of the fake historical record he sells to his supporters.”

Punchbowl News: “To start with, Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and David Valadao (R-CA) both voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection. Taking up this resolution would put them in a very difficult political predicament, to say the least.”

“Then there are a host of Republican lawmakers in districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020. To these vulnerable GOP lawmakers, such theatrics open them up to a no-win scenario. If they vote to expunge, the Republicans will look like they’re involved in some Trump-centric score settling. If they oppose the measure, they risk coming under heavy criticism by Trump loyalists.”

“Some Republican moderates have already voiced displeasure publicly with the expungement push, dismissing it as a waste of time.”

The effort to “expunge” Donald Trump’s two impeachments won the support of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Said McCarthy to reporters: “I think it is appropriate, just as I thought before, that you should expunge it, because it never should have gone through.” That has legal scholars across the ideological spectrum scratching their heads.

Here’s liberal Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe on Twitter: “Trump’s two impeachments can’t be ‘expunged’ any more than his term as president can be. Erasing the past isn’t a thing; it’s a fantasy, like erasing reality or making yesterday disappear.”

Likewise, conservative George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley is quoted by Reuters: “It is not like a constitutional DUI. Once you are impeached, you are impeached.”

But the Republican moves go deeper than just trying to “expunge” the two impeachments. They are trying to gaslight Americans on the fact that Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Here’s the text of Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-NY) resolution:

Whereas prior to considering and voting on the Impeachment Resolution, Democratic leadership in the House made no effort to understand the rationale behind the widespread mistrust harbored by American voters in the wake of the 2020 Presidential election;

Whereas President Trump won 18 of the 19 bellwether counties across the country that have predicted the winner of every Presidential election since 1980;

Whereas President Trump received approximately 10,100,000 more votes than in the 2016 Presidential election, making President Trump the first incumbent President in 132 years, since Grover Cleveland’s failed bid for reelection in 1888, to have increased his vote from his initial election and seemingly still not won reelection in the subsequent cycle;

Stefanik is arguing that Trump’s lies about winning the election justified his stoking of the January 6 insurrection. Even George Orwell would be amazed.

Financial Times: “Two days after the Kremlin struck a deal to end Wagner’s armed uprising, the truce is teetering on the edge, with growing questions in Russia over whether the bargain will hold.”

“The Kremlin has seized billions of roubles in cash and gold bars from Prigozhin, squeezing Wagner’s finances. But some fervent loyalists of President Vladimir Putin are proposing even more unforgiving solutions.”

Said Andrei Gurulyov, a prominent pro-war MP: “I am fiercely convinced that in wartime, traitors must be shot. Whatever fairy tales they tell you, the only way out for Prigozhin is a bullet in the head.”

“With palpable anger, President Vladimir Putin of Russia made his first public comments since a paramilitary revolt was called off on Saturday, saying in a five-minute speech that the uprising led by Yevgeny Prigozhin — who he did not mention by name — failed because ‘the entire Russian society united and rallied everyone,” the New York Times reports.

Said Putin: “They wanted Russians to fight each other. They rubbed their hands, dreaming of taking revenge for their failures at the front and during the so-called counteroffensive. But they miscalculated.”

Josh Marshall: “Prigozhin doesn’t seem to be slinking off into obscurity or through a helpfully open window, though the latter could certainly happen at any moment. In fact, he released a message today in which he continued to make the case for his one-day mutiny and actually in a way upped the ante.

In today’s message he played up the speed and organization of Wagner’s drive both to Rostov and Moscow and said, paraphrasing, wouldn’t it have been great if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had been handled that well? We could have wrapped the place up in a week.

It remains simply remarkable that this guy launched what can fairly be seen as a Caesar-like invasion of his own country and is not only still alive but actually on social media explaining how it was actually completely awesome.

Even as an outsider to Russian politics it’s very hard to see how this isn’t a pretty big problem for Putin’s rule. It is also striking to me how little we’ve seen of Putin. For someone who’s rule has been rooted so greatly in heroic imagery of his physical person, I find it surprising he would remain so relatively invisible at such a moment.”

New York Times: “Three weeks into a counteroffensive critical to Ukraine’s prospects against Russia, its army is encountering an array of vexing challenges that complicate its plans, even as it wields sophisticated new Western-provided weapons.”

“Not least is a vast swath of minefields protecting Russia’s defensive line, forming a killing field for Ukrainian troops advancing on the open steppe of the south.”

“The United States plans to announce as soon as Tuesday a new military aid package for Ukraine worth up to $500 million, keeping up U.S. resolve to help Ukraine against Russia as Moscow deals with a mutiny by some of its soldiers,” Reuters reports.

“President Biden’s Labor secretary nominee appears to have reached a dead end in the Senate,” The Hill reports. “Almost four months after the White House rolled out Julie Su’s nomination in February, Democratic leadership is not shaking up their strategy, even as they’ve made little progress getting her across the finish line.”

“Stephen Miller, one of Donald Trump’s top immigration advisers, advocated using U.S. predator drones in 2018 to blow up migrant boats full of unarmed civilians, according to an upcoming book by a former administration official,” Rolling Stone reports.

“In a passage reviewed by Rolling Stone, former Trump Department of Homeland Security appointee Miles Taylor writes about an April 2018 conversation in which Miller allegedly advocated an attack on a migrant ship headed for the United States. Miller, Taylor writes, argued for the potential mass killing of civilians by suggesting they were not protected under the U.S. Constitution because they were in international waters.”

“Rolling Stone has reviewed written documentation from during the Trump administration that supports Taylor’s claim. Taylor’s account, however, is contested, both by Miller and by another person present.”

“The Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear arguments in a tax law case that could yield billions of dollars for large corporations, block Democrats’ proposals to tax wealthy Americans and upend longstanding chunks of the tax code,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The court, in an unsigned order, said it would decide a case that asks whether people and companies have to receive, or realize, income for it to be taxed under the 16th Amendment. Arguments will happen in the court term that starts in October.”

Indicted Rep. George Santos (R-NY) told CBS New York that his House Republican colleagues want to use him for notoriety.

Said Santos: “Look, it’s about, you know, you wash my hand, I wash your hand. I support your bill. You support my bill. A lot of people come to me for support for co-sponsorships because they know it’ll get attention and they’re trying to get their bill notoriety. Right?”

He added: “Now it’s a conversation point. So I need to use that to my advantage, because that’s the best way I can represent my district.”

Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) on Monday challenged Teamsters President Sean O’Brien to a physical fight in response to some tweets calling the senator a “clown and fraud,” the HuffPost reports.

Tweeted Mullin: “An attention-seeking union Teamster boss is trying to be punchy after our Senate hearing. Okay, I accept your challenge. MMA fight for charity of our choice. Sept 30th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ll give you 3 days to accept.”

“The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for lawsuits brought by more than 100 men who say they were abused by a medical doctor at The Ohio State University to go forward,” CNN reports.

South Dakota state Rep. Joe Donnell (R) said on a radio show that Mount Rushmore was a demonic portal spreading communism across the country.  Said Donnell: “Even Donald Trump’s landing in the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore on July 4, when the governor Kristi Noem put the message out that fireworks are returning to South Dakota, that was a prophetic word.” 

He added: “And I kinda got the feeling that what we’re really dealing with in that portal was communism. That witchcraft altar and those things that are happening in the Black Hills; what we’re really dealing with is communism; it’s the ideology and all the demonic entities and spirits behind that.”

Fox News host Jesse Watters accused former President Barack Obama of “never really looking at things from an American perspective,” the HuffPost reports.  Said Watters: “He’s always speaking to the world. Even when he’s speaking to us, he’s appealing to the world.”

In a new book, the Trump ally and potential running mate Kari Lake blows a “birther” racist dog whistle to supporters, claiming Barack Obama had a “mysterious past” when he ran for president – but does not mention that she donated to Obama in 2008 and reportedly campaigned for him door-to-door, The Guardian reports.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) warned “socialists and communists not to travel to Florida.” He added: “They are not welcome in the Sunshine State.”

ProPublica: “Disastrous test scores increasingly show how steep a toll the COVID-19 era exacted on students, particularly minorities. Schools are grappling with how to catch up, and the experience of one city shows how intractable the obstacles are.”

“The social media giant Meta has confirmed that it will end access to news on its social media sites for all Canadian users before Bill C-18, the Online News Act, comes into force,” the CBC reports.  “The law will force tech giants like Meta and Google to pay news outlets for posting their journalism on their platforms.”

A new Senate report faults the FBI and Department of Homeland Security for failing to “fully and accurately assess” intelligence on threats leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, the Washington Post reports.

“What we’ve done in our politics is create a situation where we’re electing idiots.”— Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), quoted by CNN.

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

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