Cup of Joe – July 26, 2023

“Special counsel Jack Smith’s office has asked former US officials about a February 2020 Oval Office meeting where then-President Donald Trump praised improvements to the security of US elections,” CNN reports.

“In the meeting with senior US officials and White House staff, Trump touted his administration’s work to expand the use of paper ballots and support security audits of vote tallies.”

“Trump was so encouraged by federal efforts to protect election systems that he suggested the FBI and Department of Homeland Security hold a press conference to take credit for the work.”

Former Trump DOJ official Richard Donoghue has been interviewed in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 probe.

Bernie Kerik, a key ally of Donald Trump, “has turned over thousands of documents to special counsel Jack Smith related to efforts to find supposed voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election – including materials that haven’t been previously disclosed to investigators looking into events surrounding January 6, 2021,” CNN reports.

“The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia in recent weeks has weighed several potential statutes under which to charge, including solicitation to commit election fraud and conspiracy to commit election fraud,” The Guardian reports.

“The move by the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, to identify a list of potential charges marks a major juncture in the criminal investigation and suggests prosecutors are on course to ask a grand jury to return indictments next month.”

“Among the state election law charges that prosecutors were examining: criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and conspiracy to commit election fraud, as well as solicitation of a public or political officer to fail to perform their duties and solicitation to destroy, deface or remove ballots.”

Donald Trump raged at Attorney General Merrick Garland and “deranged” Special Counsel Jack Smith last night accusing them of “prosecutorial misconduct” and “election interference.” Said Trump: “It will only get worse. We must stop these monsters from further destroying our country.”

A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds evidence that Republican-leaning counties in Ohio and Florida have had significantly higher Covid-19 death rates than Democratic-leaning counties.

“When Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, launched his attempted mutiny on the morning of June 24, Vladimir Putin was paralyzed and unable to act decisively, according to Ukrainian and other security officials in Europe. No orders were issued for most of the day, the officials said,” the Washington Post reports.

“The Russian president had been warned by the Russian security services at least two or three days ahead of time that Prigozhin was preparing a possible rebellion… Steps were taken to boost security at several strategic facilities, including the Kremlin, where staffing in the presidential guard was increased and more weapons were handed out, but otherwise no actions were taken.”

“China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, has been removed from office after disappearing from public view 30 days ago, abruptly ending the career of a diplomat who leaped to the top as one of President Xi Jinping’s most trusted rising stars,” the New York Times reports.

“The official decision that Mr. Qin had been replaced — and his spot taken by the former foreign minister, Wang Yi — capped weeks of speculation about his fate.”

“Uncertainty over the path of inflation later this summer makes it hard to predict the Federal Reserve’s next steps following a likely quarter-percentage point increase in interest rates this week,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Some Fed policy makers and economists are concerned that the easing in inflation will be temporary. They see inflation’s slowdown as long overdue after the fading of pandemic-related shocks that pushed up rents and the prices of transportation and cars. And they worry underlying price pressures could persist, requiring the Fed to lift rates higher and hold them there for longer.”

Chicago Tribune: “In June, the national share of employed women ages 25-54, considered prime working age, hit 75.3%, the highest recorded since the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey started reporting the numbers in 1948.”

“The share of women 25-54 working or looking for work also hit a new high of 77.8% in June, the third straight month it beat the previous record of 77.3% from 2000.”

Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset—the country’s parliament—voted on Monday to strip its Supreme Court of power, limiting the body’s ability to strike down government actions, effectively completing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial coup. Netanyahu sat through the votes just hours after leaving the hospital for an emergency implantation of a pacemaker, and took calls from other officials like Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who attempted to broker a last-minute compromise to no avail. As the parliamentary session proceeded, chants of “Shame!” echoed from demonstrators outside as well as opposition members inside the building. President Biden and other democratic leaders had called on Netanyahu not to move forward with the vote, but it was of no consequence. 

Israel has no constitution, and therefore no expressly-written democratic guardrails. The country has a Supreme Court, but its judges are not elected, they are appointed by a nine-member Judicial Selection Committee, and the number of justices is set by the Knesset. And now that Netanyahu has stripped the Supreme Court of its power to act as a check on the Knesset (and a check on him, in particular) his ultra right-wing government is unencumbered to pass sweeping, regressive legislation at will. 

The 2023 Israeli Democracy Index showed that anti-democratic trends in Israel have only grown in popularity. Around half of Jewish Israelis agree that “Jewish citizens of Israel should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens” up from 27 percent just five years ago, and those who agree with that statement lean overwhelmingly to the right. For decades, when asked whether Israel should be a democracy first or a Jewish state first, the majority of Jewish Israelis answered that both elements should be held equally. Now, 43 percent of Jewish Israelis say that it should be first a Jewish state and a democracy second, a trend again driven by right-wing Israelis. 

But the majority of Israelis know that the Supreme Court is essential to the country’s democracy. Almost 56 percent of citizens support the Supreme Court’s authority to rescind Knesset-passed laws if those laws are “found to be contrary to the principles of democracy.” Among Arab Israelis, support for the Supreme Court is even higher, with 87 percent in favor of judicial review. Thousands of volunteer reservists for the Israeli military said they would not report for duty if the government continued with the judicial overhaul. Demonstrations against the coup have been ongoing for months, but hit a fever pitch today. Before the vote even began, protestors chained themselves to posts and blocked the road outside parliament. By Monday evening, thousands of Israelis had taken to the streets across the country, blocking highways and resisting police intervention. Police dragged protesters across the pavement and cleared others using water cannons. As of Monday night, Israeli police reported that at least 19 people had been arrested.

“We are going into a civil war now.”— Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on Channel 4 News, as huge protests have flooded the streets in Israel over judicial overhaul.

One year old, the Inflation Reduction Act is already turbocharging clean energy technology. “The IRA is America’s most significant response to climate change, after decades of lobbying by oil, gas and coal interests stalled action, while carbon emissions climbed, creating a hotter, more dangerous world. Nearly 80 major clean energy manufacturing facilities have been announced, an investment equal to the previous seven years combined.” (Associated Press)

Axios: “From Pennsylvania to Washington to Alabama, 17 states saw jobless rates hit new record lows or hold at a previously notched low in June.”

“That group includes New Hampshire and South Dakota. Both are tied for lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 1.8% in June, both ticking down from 1.9%.”

“The strong labor market conditions may be politically awkward for red-state politicians who are touting big job gains and have also criticized the state of the economy under the Biden administration.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “will not be ordering floating barriers to be removed from the Rio Grande, in defiance of the U.S. Department of Justice,” CNN reports. Said Abbott: “Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused… Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.”

Of the 16 examples provided by Florida’s Department of Education of how slavery was purported to have “benefited” Black people, nearly half were people who were likely never enslaved at all, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The examples were supposed to justify the state’s new policies on teaching about slavery in the United States.

Another good point from Jonathan Last: “Slavery began in Jamestown in 1619 and wasn’t abolished until 1865. So that’s 246 years—a quarter of a millennium—in which generation after generation after generation of slaves wasn’t able to ‘parlay’ their good fortune at having been enslaved into professional advancement later in life.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a Fox News interview that the House’s investigation into business dealings by Biden family members is “rising to level of impeachment inquiry,” Axios reports.

McCarthy said such a probe would provide the House “the strongest power to get the rest of the knowledge and information needed.”

“A group of Senate Armed Services Democrats is pressing Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to intervene to help end Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s holdup of nearly 300 senior military promotions,” Politico reports.

“The push by eight senators in a letter Monday to McConnell comes as time is running out to resolve the blockade before Congress leaves for its extended summer recess, ensuring more vacancies in top military posts.”

“President Joe Biden is tapping Shuwanza Goff — a veteran congressional aide who also served as his main point of contact to the House at the start of the administration — as his new director of legislative affairs, making her the first Black woman to be the White House’s chief emissary to Capitol Hill,” the AP reports.

“Former President Donald Trump is coming to Erie Saturday for a campaign rally, and the city is hoping he will stay around long enough to pay the nearly $40,000 it says he owes from the last time he held an event there,” the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports.

“Actually, Erie Mayor Joe Schember said that because the city has yet to receive the $35,129 it says Trump owes it from his 2018 rally, it will attempt to get the former president to pay in advance this time for Saturday’s 6 p.m. rally at Erie Insurance Arena.”

“House Democrats are preparing to file a censure resolution targeting a Republican lawmaker for the second week in a row, this time against far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA),” the Washington Post reports.

“Aides say they can bring up the privileged resolution at any time — and possibly as early as this week — if the Republican majority fails to reprimand Greene and force Republicans to vote on the punishment.”

“Democrats kicked Greene off her committees in the last Congress for antisemitic and violent remarks but did not censure her.” 

“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s goal for this week is to finish up the annual defense policy bill within 48 hours — between today and Thursday afternoon. This will be an extremely heavy lift, with several additional amendment votes likely on tap,” Punchbowl News reports.

“It could result in the Senate staying in town past its usual Thursday afternoon getaway votes, or punting until they come back from the summer recess in September — though party leaders really want to finish this up before the August break kicks off.”

“U.S. attorney David Weiss, who has led the Hunter Biden criminal probe, has offered to testify at a public congressional hearing this fall,“ CNN reports.

“House Republicans have demanded that Weiss – a Donald Trump appointee – answer questions about allegations from two IRS whistleblowers that the tax investigation was tainted by political interference.”

“The new letter from the Justice Department proposes several dates in September and October when Weiss would be willing to testify… Notably, those dates are all long after Hunter Biden’s scheduled guilty plea, which is set to take place Wednesday.”

Insider obtained internal documents from Hunter Biden’s gallery showing that a single buyer purchased $875,000 of his art.  The documents do not indicate the buyer’s identity.

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

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