Cup of Joe – July 12, 2023

“Turkey’s president gave his approval for Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the alliance’s secretary general said, paving the way for NATO to complete a historic expansion launched in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The last-minute solution to the deadlock allows NATO to enter the summit having ironed out major differences, projecting unity in the face of Russian aggression.”

This is a major and very consequential win for President Biden.

Previously, “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Monday that the European Union should open the way for Turkey to join the bloc before Turkey allows Sweden to join NATO, adding a surprising new condition that could further stall the military alliance’s efforts to expand,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Erdogan’s latest demand came a day before the opening of NATO’s two-day annual summit, where leaders, including President Biden, had hoped to secure unanimous approval from member states to allow Sweden to become the 32nd member.”

But it seems Erdogan dropped that demand when Biden agreed to “move ahead with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in consultation with Congress, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday, a day after Ankara gave a green light for Sweden to join NATO,” Reuters reports.

“President Joe Biden is planning to hold two high-profile bilateral meetings during the NATO summit this week, finding time to sit down one-on-one with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky,” Politico  reports. “The sessions will come on the sidelines of the two-gathering of transatlantic allies this week.”

Washington Post: How the Biden administration sealed the Sweden deal with Erdogan.

NATO leaders agreed Tuesday to allow Ukraine to join “when allies agree and conditions are met,” hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted the organization’s failure to set a timetable for his country as “absurd,” the AP reports.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN  that Ukrainian NATO membership “in the immediate future isn’t likely because that would put NATO at war with Russia.”

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky scolded NATO for not setting a clear timeline on his country’s bid to join the military alliance, even as its chief, Jens Stoltenberg said he will push for a fast-track process for Kyiv,” Bloomberg reports.

A series of pre-trial developments in the Mar-a-Lago case culminated in a late-night filing in which former President Donald Trump sought to have his trial postponed indefinitely.

Some of the filing is the usual defense counsel performative moaning and groaning and sighing heavily about all the work involved and the inherent advantages prosecutors have over them because they’ve long had access to the evidence, blah blah blah. To that end, Trump wants U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to:

  • withdraw her order for an August 2023 trial;
  • reject DOJ’s proposal for a December 2023 trial; and
  • postpone indefinitely even setting a trial date.

But there’s more than the usual slow-rolling going on here. And it matters to the big question of whether Cannon can and will keep the Mar-a-Lago case on track for a trial before the 2024 presidential election.

Trump’s claims in this regard are remarkable:

  • He’s too busy running for president to be put on trial.
  • He’s too busy with other criminal and civil trials to add this one to the calendar.
  • He’s still trying to make the case about the Presidential Records Act (it’s not).
  • “There is no ongoing threat to national security interests nor any concern regarding continued criminal activity.”
  • You can’t find an impartial jury in the midst of a presidential election.

The overall thrust of the filing by Trump is that a trial before the election is not advisable, though it stops short of saying so explicitly. The ball in now in Cannon’s court. More on that in a moment.

Trump’s late-night filing came after a day of maneuvering by the defense team to delay and drag out the proceedings. In this respect, Trump co-defendant Walt Nauta is a stalking horse for Trump.

Nauta’s protracted effort to find local counsel in Florida delayed his arraignment in mostly insignificant ways (though all the delays eventually add up), but Nauta is now using the fact that he has new counsel as justification for delaying the initial pre-trial hearing in the case, scheduled for July 14. Nauta raised all kinds of other objections to holding the pre-trial hearing this week, including one of his lawyer’s involvement in an ongoing trial back in DC.

In a filing later in the day, defense attorneys said they reached an agreement with DOJ that the pre-trial hearing can be pushed to July 18, when Woodward is not in trial. Judge Cannon still must sign off on that agreement, but it looks likely to be resolved with minimal additional delay.

All eyes are on U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon to see if she plays ball with Trump’s delay tactics or takes steps to keep the case on track. The first thing we should expect from Cannon is a ruling on whether to move the pretrial hearing and if so to when.

The bigger question is what she will do about the trial date: DOJ wants an aggressive December 2023 trial, and Trump wants no trial date. Not just where she lands but how she gets there could be crucial in determining whether this case goes to trial before the presidential election.

“The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s classified documents trial is taking steps that could stock the jury box with the former president’s supporters,” the Daily Beast reports.“

U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon has set the upcoming trial to open on Aug. 14 at her tiny satellite courthouse in the northern reaches of her district, which stretches from the tropical Florida Keys to the citrus groves halfway up the state.”

“That decision means Trump’s jurors are set to be drawn from the most brightly red corner of a vast court district, plucked from a community that leans heavily Republican—instead of the highly populous and more Democratic urban areas further south.”

“The selection of two Fulton County grand juries will be made Tuesday, with one of the panels expected to decide whether to hand up an indictment for alleged criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“One set of jurors is likely to be asked to bring formal charges against former President Donald Trump and other well-known political and legal figures. In a letter to county officials almost two months ago, District Attorney Fani Willis indicated the indictment could be obtained at some point between July 31 and Aug. 18.”

“Federal grand jurors probing Donald Trump’s attempts to stop the transfer of presidential power after his 2020 election loss have heard testimony from dozens of witnesses in a wide-ranging investigation that has examined the former president’s conduct spanning the time from before Election Day through the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol,” NBC News reports.

And they’re meeting again today.

“Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) lengthy blockade of senior military promotions is becoming a major national story as the Marine Corps is now without a Senate-confirmed commandant for the first time in a century,” Punchbowl News reports.

“And the issue is only going to become more acute across the U.S. military establishment as a new Joint Chiefs chair and top-level posts in the Army, Navy and Air Force are scheduled to come open soon.”

“But Tuberville said he has no intention of backing down over Defense Department policy of covering service members’ travel expenses when seeking out-of-state abortions and other forms of reproductive care. Tuberville insists he’s not under any pressure from GOP colleagues to cave.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) was interviewed by Kaitlin Collins on CNN:

TUBERVILLE: My opinion of a white nationalist… it’s an American. If that white nationalist is a racist, I’m totally against them.

COLLINS: White nationalist is racist.

TUBERVILLE: That’s your opinion.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Tuesday told ABC News that white nationalists shouldn’t all be labeled as “racist” while also insisting he opposes racism — tripling-down on controversial comments that have drawn criticism from Democratic leaders and head-scratching from some of Tuberville’s Republican colleagues.

“I’m not sure exactly what he was trying to say there. But I would just say there’s no place for white nationalism in our party.”— Sen. John Thune (R-SD), quoted by Punchbowl News, responding to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) refusal to admit white nationalism was racist.

“David Weiss, the U.S. attorney from Delaware overseeing the federal criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, is denying allegations from an IRS whistleblower that he sought special counsel status but was blocked by senior Justice Department officials,” Punchbowl News reports.

“Weiss’ statement, made in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), appears to undermine one of the major claims made by the whistleblower, Gary Shapley. Shapley told House Ways and Means Committee investigators that Weiss reportedly informed IRS and FBI agents during an Oct. 7, 2022, meeting that he sought special counsel status but was denied.”

“Rudy Giuliani is negotiating a possible resolution in his ongoing court dispute with former Georgia election workers Wandrea ‘Shaye’ Moss and Ruby Freeman, after they accused him of defaming them following the 2020 election and already won nearly $90,000 from him for attorneys’ fees,” CNN reports.

“The lawsuit from Moss and her mother, Freeman, presents a significant risk to Giuliani financially.”

“A New York judge has ordered Steve Bannon to pay his former attorneys nearly $500,000 in unpaid legal fees for work on various legal matters, including his fight against a subpoena by the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack,” CNN reports.

“The law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP sued Bannon in February alleging he failed to pay his legal bills for work the lawyers did for him on the congressional investigation as well as criminal investigations into his efforts to crowdfund a wall along the southern US border.”

“Republicans have a new idea for how to take Washington politics out of the FBI: Take the FBI out of Washington and send it to Huntsville, Ala.,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has accused the bureau of overzealously investigating former President Donald Trump and his allies, wants to strip the bureau of funding for a new headquarters, people familiar with the matter said, unless it relocates to the midsize Alabama city a 700-mile drive from the nation’s capital.”

“The Huntsville proposal, which Jordan plans to attach to coming appropriations bills, is unlikely to become law but marks Republicans’ latest effort to force changes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It comes as the bureau is inching closer to moving from its current headquarters, a brutalist, concrete behemoth blocks from the White House, to the city’s suburbs.”

New York Times: “Asian Americans were at the center of the Supreme Court decision against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. In both cases, the plaintiffs said that high-achieving Asian American applicants lost out to less academically qualified students. In Harvard’s case, Asian Americans were docked on a personal rating, according to the lawsuit, launching a painful conversation about racial stereotyping in admissions.”

“But in the days following the court’s ruling, interviews with some two dozen Asian American students revealed that for most of them — no matter their views on affirmative action — the decision was unlikely to assuage doubts about the fairness of college admissions.”

CBS News: “While the draw of the American presidency transcends administrations for many world leaders, Mr. Biden’s mix of old-school politicking and familial flair with his counterparts forms the backbone of his foreign policy in a way that is unique among recent U.S. leaders. Diplomats and foreign policy experts suggest this personal and nostalgic approach is not only distinctive but also strategic, enhancing U.S. credibility and moral authority, especially in the wake of the Trump administration.”

“Honed over decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president, the president’s personal appeal has emerged as one of his strongest assets on the world stage, allowing him to smooth ruffled feathers and lead a coalition of allies that has managed to remain remarkably united in its response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

“The National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill setting Pentagon priorities and policies, has been signed into law 60 years straight. But this year, it’s looking shakier than ever before,” Politico reports.

“At issue is whether the House will take up hard-right floor amendments this week that could decimate the broad, bipartisan support the bill won last month in the House Armed Services Committee — and lawmakers are deeply worried that partisan battles could break the six-decade streak.”

Punchbowl News: “It’s the latest sign of the difficulties that McCarthy and senior Republicans will face as they attempt to muscle through FY2024 funding bills and other high-profile legislation with only GOP votes. The NDAA is usually done on a bipartisan basis, but facing heavy criticism from the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives, McCarthy is under pressure to give on a number of high-profile issues touching defense policy.”

“Yet the further House Republicans move to the right on any of these proposals, the more valuable every GOP vote becomes due to their razor-thin, four-vote margin. And that just means more trouble for moderate House Republicans already chafing at conservative domination of these policy debates.”

“More than 20 U.S. House Republican hardliners warned Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday that they will try to block their party’s fiscal 2024 appropriations bills unless spending levels are cut below levels that McCarthy and Democratic President Joe Biden agreed to in May,” Reuters reports.

“The hardliners, including members of the House Freedom Caucus, also called on McCarthy to delay appropriations votes in the House of Representatives until all 12 government funding bills have been finalized and can be subjected to a side-by-side review.”

“The threat comes in the face of a looming showdown between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate, potentially complicating efforts to avoid a government shutdown after the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.”

“Iowa’s abortion laws are poised to change quickly and dramatically as state lawmakers gather at the state Capitol Tuesday for a special session to restrict the procedure,” the Des Moines Register reports.

“For colleges and libraries seeking a boldfaced name for a guest lecturer, few come bigger than Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice who rose from poverty in the Bronx to the nation’s highest court,” the AP reports.

“She has benefited, too — from schools’ purchases of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the books she has written over the years.”

“Sotomayor’s staff has often prodded public institutions that have hosted the justice to buy her memoir or children’s books, works that have earned her at least $3.7 million since she joined the court in 2009.”

“Polls released last night show that, were elections held in Israel now, the current coalition would not have the Knesset majority needed to build a government,” Haaretz reports.  “According to the polls from the Kan public broadcaster and Channel 12 News, the coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would garner 54 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, compared to the 64 they currently have.”

“Support for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party government has plummeted to its lowest level since coming to power in late 2021, with political in-fighting and faltering efforts on the clean-energy transition dragging on voter sentiment in Europe’s largest economy,” Bloomberg reports.  “Public dissatisfaction with Scholz’s Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats has peaked at an all-time high of 70%.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday he would leave politics after the next election, following his government’s collapse last Friday, Politico reports.

New York Times: “On Tuesday, the Utah Supreme Court will consider whether to wade into the increasingly pitched nationwide battle over partisan gerrymanders. The justices will decide whether the state’s courts can hear a lawsuit challenging the House map, or whether partisan maps are a political issue beyond their jurisdiction.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court considered the same question in 2019 and decided that the maps were beyond its purview. But voting rights advocates say Utah’s Constitution offers a stronger case than the federal one for reining in political maps.”

Salt Lake Tribune: “The plaintiffs in the case — The League of Women Voters, Mormon Women for Ethical Government and a number of Utah residents — argue that the Legislature intentionally drew the congressional districts to split Salt Lake County into four parts in order to dilute the vote of the most liberal part of the state.”

“Florida Republican Governor and 2024 presidential contender Ron DeSantis quietly rejected hundreds of millions of dollars in federal energy funding, as the Biden administration touts the benefits of its marquee climate law on the campaign trail in battleground states,” Bloomberg reports.

“The funding, totaling about $377 million, included hundreds of millions of dollars for energy-efficiency rebates and electrification as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as money from the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that became law in 2021.”

“Business bankruptcies are surging around the world, in some countries reaching volumes not seen since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis,” Bloomberg reports.  “It’s likely just the start of a wave of corporate defaults: A decade of cheap money instilled a false sense of invincibility in business executives and private equity managers who forgot that bust normally follows boom.”

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

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