Cup of Joe – July 11, 2023

President Biden will be in Europe all week. On Monday he met with King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London. He will then attend the NATO summit in Lithuania and travel on to Finland for the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit.

The Senate returns Monday, with the Judiciary Committee holding a hearing on pending nominations. The House is back on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Iowa General Assembly begins a special session called by Gov. Kim Reynolds for the consideration of restrictions on abortion.

On Wednesday, National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard will address the Economic Club of New York about President Biden’s economic agenda.

The 15th annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game, in which a bipartisan team of female members of both chambers faces a team of women who work in political media, takes place Wednesday night.

The National Governors Association annual meeting begins on Thursday in Atlantic City. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) will succeed New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) as chair.

On Friday, the Family Leader Foundation, an Iowa conservative organization, will host its annual leadership summit in Des Moines. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Mike Pence, Ramaswamy, and Tim Scott will all speak. Donald Trump has been invited but has yet to respond.

Larry Elder, Kennedy, and Ramaswamy will all speak at the libertarian Free State Project Porcupine Freedom Festival in New Hampshire this week. Kennedy campaign manager Dennis Kucinich will also speak.

“The Kremlin’s spokesman says Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin days after a short-lived rebellion by the mercenary chief and his private army,” the AP reports.

“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the three-hour meeting took place June 29 and also involved commanders from the military company Prigozhin founded.”

“It seems to me that the sole desire to bring the war to an end is beautiful. But this desire should be based on some real-life experience. Well, it looks as if Donald Trump had already these 24 hours once in his time. We were at war, not a full-scale war, but we were at war, and as I assume, he had that time at his disposal, but he must have had some other priorities.”— Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, talking to ABC News about Donald Trump’s claim he could end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours.

An anti-Putin paramilitary group reportedly has plans to conduct another cross-border raid into Russia amid disarray inside the Kremlin, The Guardian reports.

Said a spokesperson for the group: “There will be a further surprise in the next month or so.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, where the House GOP’s assault on the rule of law and on an independent Justice Department will continue.

The committee itself says it will use the Wray hearing to “examine the politicization of the nation’s preeminent law enforcement agency under the direction of FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland.”

To give you a flavor of the right-wing attack plan here, check out the conservative Washington Examiner’s “Seven unanswered questions ahead of FBI Director Wray’s testimony”:

  • Why did the FBI withhold the FD-1023 from Congress? 
  • Why did the FBI’s Washington field office conduct the raid of Mar-a-Lago, in a break from standard practice?
  • Why did the FBI limit the number of witnesses who IRS investigators could contact during the Hunter Biden investigation?
  • What has the FBI done to investigate attacks on anti-abortion centers and churches?
  • Are agents who worked on the Russia investigation still at the FBI?
  • How closely has the FBI worked with social media companies to censor speech?
  • Has Merrick Garland ever asked you to stand down on an investigative step?

“When Merrick Garland was nominated to the US supreme court by Barack Obama, Republicans refused to grant him a hearing. Now that Garland is the top law enforcement official in America, the party seems ready to give him one after all – an impeachment hearing,” The Guardian reports.

“Republicans on Capitol Hill are moving up a gear in a wide-ranging assault on the justice department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that would have been unthinkable before the rise of Donald Trump. The party that for half a century claimed the mantle of law and order has, critics say, become a cult of personality intent on discrediting and dismantling institutions that get in Trump’s way.”

Building on the recent ground-breaking work by ProPublica, the NYT added to the picture of the most senior justice on the Supreme Court with a Sunday piece titled: “Where Clarence Thomas Entered an Elite Circle and Opened a Door to the Court.”

The revelations in the latest piece may not be has glaringly problematic as ProPublica’s recent batch of Clarence Thomas stories, but in a way it paints a darker picture. Thomas has been accepting free stuff since well before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court:

  • Bahama vacation: “A former girlfriend said in an interview that ‘a buddy’ of Justice Thomas had paid for their vacation in the Bahamas in the mid-1980s, when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. … In the mid-1980s, divorced and with custody of his son, Justice Thomas dated a woman named Lillian McEwen. In an interview, she remembered the Bahamas vacation, at a house with a caretaker and a car. She never knew the identity of the ‘buddy’ footing the bill but understood it to be a professional contact because that was how the justice referred to such people, she said.”
  • Wedding reception: “A longtime friend said he had paid for the justice’s 1987 wedding reception. … Not long after Ms. McEwen and Justice Thomas broke up, he met Virginia Lamp, known as Ginni. They married in 1987; Armstrong Williams, a close friend from Justice Thomas’s earliest days in Washington who is now a conservative commentator, said in an interview that he paid for their wedding reception.”

The bulk of the NYT piece is focused on Thomas’ affiliation with something called the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which offered mutual access between Thomas and “extraordinarily wealthy, largely conservative members who lionized him and all that he had achieved.” That led to additional freebies of the kind ProPublica has previously documented. But again, Thomas’ willingness to accept such largesse appears to well pre-date his ascension to the high court.

 “Chief Justice John Roberts has fought an increasingly losing battle over the past seven years at keeping the Supreme Court out of the political arena, with pleas that have fallen largely on deaf ears,” the Washington Post reports.

“Instead of his nonpolitical vision for the nine men and women in black robes, all signs point toward a new normal in which partisans will use the justices as pawns in their elections.”

“After decades of advantage for Republicans on the issue, recent elections have shown a growing margin for Democrats that could prove critical in close elections. In addition, conservative voters are showing signs of being politically satiated and losing interest in the courts as a voting issue.”

ABC News: Americans’ beliefs about politicization of Supreme Court differ widely based on political affiliation.

“A brewing battle over how to fund the federal government is poised to escalate this week when Congress returns from a two-week recess,” NBC News reports.

“The House Republican majority is on a collision course with the Senate as appropriators in both chambers advance conflicting versions of a sweeping package, which must become law by Sept. 30 to prevent a government shutdown.”

“Unlike the House, Senate leaders have moved on a bipartisan path and key senators say they intend to reassert themselves after taking a back seat in the recent debt ceiling negotiations.”

Washington Post: Congress returns with lots to do but little time to do it.

Punchbowl News: “Note — there are just 12 legislative days left until the August recess starts, and congressional leaders have a huge agenda, especially on FY2024 spending bills.”

Wall Street Journal: “Top of mind on Capitol Hill as lawmakers return from recess this week are the annual spending bills to keep the government open, which must be enacted by the time the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.”

“Other priorities include legislation authorizing military programs, updating agriculture and food-aid policy and keeping the country’s airports running, all of which must also be enacted by the new fiscal year, although Congress can also agree to temporarily extend current programs.”

“Threads, the Twitter rival launched last Wednesday by Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. has achieved 100 million sign-ups,” Marketwatch reports.

Elon Musk asked for a “literal dick measuring contest” with Mark Zuckerberg as the two tech titans battle over their social media empires.

“House Republicans will return to Washington this week amid rising tensions between GOP leaders and hard-line conservatives, a dynamic highlighted by the House Freedom Caucus taking a vote to oust Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA),” The Hill reports.

“The apparent purge marks a stunning development for Greene, a conservative icon and close ally of former President Trump who has also, more recently, cozied up to House GOP leaders at the expense of her standing among her own hard-line colleagues.”

Playbook: “With House Republicans divided over impeachment for members of the Biden administration, some in the GOP ranks are considering a possible alternative: simply zeroing out their salaries.”

“The tool that some members, mostly conservatives, are eying is the Holman Rule, an obscure and controversial power that allows lawmakers to reduce the salaries of — and effectively fire — specific federal employees.”

“Using the Holman Rule wouldn’t necessarily mean Republicans would skip impeachment. Far from it: One GOP source told us the two tools are not mutually exclusive and that proceedings against Garland could start in the Judiciary Committee as soon as this month.”

 “In public, President Biden likes to whisper to make a point. In private, he’s prone to yelling,” Axios reports.

“Behind closed doors, Biden has such a quick-trigger temper that some aides try to avoid meeting alone with him. Some take a colleague, almost as a shield against a solo blast.”

“The president’s admonitions include: ‘God dammit, how the fuck don’t you know this?!,’ ‘Don’t fucking bullshit me!’ and ‘Get the fuck out of here!’ — according to current and former Biden aides who have witnessed and been on the receiving end of such outbursts.”

“The private eruptions paint a more complicated picture of Biden as a manager and president than his carefully cultivated image as a kindly uncle who loves Aviator sunglasses and ice cream.”

New York Times: “The two men — the American president and the British king — waited decades for their dream jobs, projecting a sense of normalcy and unity when they finally reached their thrones. They both prefer to ditch executive palaces for their respective retreats. And they share a passion for confronting threats to the environment.”

“The men, the 80-year-old President Biden and the 74-year-old King Charles III, are also united by their challenges. They both face a public increasingly dubious of their institutions. And they both battle skepticism over whether they are the right people to lead the increasingly diverse groups over which they preside.”

“Tensions within the Michigan Republican Party evolved into a physical altercation that drew police Saturday to the GOP’s state committee meeting at a hotel in Clare,” the Detroit News reports.

“As Michigan Republicans have been openly feuding over the party’s direction and the leadership approach of new Chairwoman Kristina Karamo, some were frustrated that the beginning of Saturday’s special meeting at the Doherty Hotel was limited to only members of the state committee.”

“There has long been an expectation that the American President will use the power of the office—and the big white house and the large two-tone plane that comes with it—to do the work of governing the country, and not as props to advance personal political goals,” Time reports.

“Donald Trump blew through those expectations. He rolled Air Force One up to stump speeches at airports while running for reelection. He displayed no concern as members of his administration repeatedly engaged in blatantly partisan activity in the course of their work. And most famously, he moved the Republican National Convention to the backyard of the White House in August 2020, accepting his party’s nomination with the iconic columns of the mansion’s South Portico behind him.”

“In the two and a half years President Joe Biden has been in office, he’s worked to reset the guardrails against such abuses of power. Biden has told aides he doesn’t want to ever be seen using the White House to further his reelection.”

“Record immigration to affluent countries is sparking bigger backlashes across the world, boosting populist parties and putting pressure on governments to tighten policies to stem the migration wave,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Many places, including Canada and parts of Europe and Asia, have been encouraging more migrants to come to help alleviate labor shortages and offset demographic declines.”

“But the jump in arrivals, along with increases in illegal immigration to the U.S. and Europe, is making more voters uneasy. The influx since the end of the pandemic is altering societies, with many people blaming immigrants for increases in crime and higher housing costs.”

New York Times: Collapse of Dutch government highlights Europe’s new migration politics.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), a conservative firebrand who has railed against childrens’ access to gender transition treatments, has a non-binary half-sibling, Time reports.

New York Times: “The unusual scenes of relative calm flow from a flurry of actions the Biden administration has taken… But it is also the result of tough steps Mexico has taken to discourage migrants from massing along the border, including transporting them to places deep in the country’s interior.”

“AT&T, Verizon and other telecom giants have left behind a sprawling network of cables covered in toxic lead that stretches across the U.S., under the water, in the soil and on poles overhead,”  the Wall Street Journal reports.  “As the lead degrades, it is ending up in places where Americans live, work and play.”

Politico: “Republicans who lead the House Financial Services Committee plan to spend the next few weeks holding hearings and voting on bills designed to send a clear signal: Corporations, in particular big investment managers, should think twice about integrating climate and social goals into their business plans.”

Larry Kudlow, Donald Trump’s former top economic adviser, railed on Fox News that President Biden is plotting to force Americans to drink “plant-based beer.”  Um, beer is already plant-based.  Larry, look up what barley is. 

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

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