Cup of Joe – August 23, 2023

“The Biden administration officially launched the new income-driven student loan repayment plan for borrowers Tuesday, ahead of repayments restarting this fall,” The Hill reports.

“For most people with federal student loans, the Supreme Court dashed their dreams of debt relief. Still, some borrowers are beginning to have their balances wiped away,” Bloomberg reports. “The US Department of Education recently began forgiving $39 billion in student debt for more than 800,000 borrowers that enrolled in income-driven repayment plans and had made monthly payments for at least 20 years.”

Josh Marshall: “I wanted to highlight what now seems to be the likely government shutdown this fall. We’ve had shutdowns before and by the standards of recent Republican high-wire acts and hostage taking events they’re relatively minor affairs. What is notable about this round of it is that there isn’t really any big budgetary impasse it’s over. We did that during the debt ceiling drama back in May. At some level it’s House Republicans wanting to re-litigate the fight they believe – reasonably enough – that they lost. But even that doesn’t capture the dimensions of it because that agreement has terms that apply to this kind of situation. Kevin McCarthy made them release their hostage.

The tell is in what House Republicans and really the House Freedom Caucus is demanding. Yes, they’re demanding more cuts they know they’re not going to get (and which House Republicans already agreed they’re not getting.) They are also now demanding de facto control of the Justice Department and an end to the prosecutions of Donald Trump (“unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department”) and the Department of Defense (because of “the Left’s cancerous woke policies”). Of course, they’re never going to get these. It’s not even totally clear it would be constitutional for them to get these things.

The issue is really to keep the federal government locked in drama even after this tiny minority of the House has lost the fight at hand. The upping the ante is a sign of weakness rather than strength since they effectively have no more cudgel to wield against the White House or the Democrats or the Senate. The cudgel is just a messaging exercising – weaponization of the Justice Department. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer doesn’t want a shutdown but his comments make it clear that if that’s what Republicans want well, fine … go ahead. And that’s not much of a cudgel. At heart this is a battle within the Republican party, the on-going revolt of the Republican far right at its nominal leadership.

The Wire China offers an in-depth primer on Hunter Biden’s complex dealings in China going back to 2013 but finds no evidence any of these deals benefited his father.

“House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) issued subpoenas to four investigators from the FBI and IRS involved in the tax crimes investigation of Hunter Biden, the president’s son,” The Hill reports.

“The four officials, Jordan and Smith say, were either present at or had direct knowledge of an Oct. 7, 2022, meeting highlighted by an IRS whistleblower who previously told Congress that prosecutors slow-walked the probe.”

“House Republicans on Monday subpoenaed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, seeking information about a program that allows citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis,” The Hill reports.

Donald Trump plans to turn himself in and be processed at the Fulton County jail in Georgia on Thursday, CNN reports.

CNN: “The spectacle of him being booked at an Atlanta jail – which he said would take place on Thursday – will once again underscore the outlandish circumstances of a former and possibly future president facing multiple criminal trials. Trump’s arrival, sure to whip up a media circus, will trample any breakout moments by his adversaries in the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee Wednesday night. Trump is snubbing an event that he is working hard to overshadow, even wielding the theatrics of his own processing as a criminal defendant in a case that alleges he and 18 others tried to steal the 2020 election.”

“Trump has turned his humiliations from a previous trio of indictments into grist for his campaign theme that he’s a victim of political persecution. But his treatment in Georgia, which could include mug shots and fingerprints like anyone else accused of a serious crime, will underscore how the fourth case is different – and in ways that could eventually imperil him. This is also the first time his release conditions have included a cash bond.”

Playbook: “Between the surrender and his interview with Tucker Carlson (which will air online on Wednesday as counterprogramming to Fox News’ presidential debate), the goal is to cut off other Republicans’ hopes of a post-debate earned media bump.”

Donald Trump lashed out at Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis in a bizarre post on Truth Social.

Wrote Trump: “The failed District Attorney of Fulton County (Atlanta), Fani Willis, insisted on a $200,000 Bond from me. I assume, therefore, that she thought I was a ‘flight’ risk – I’d fly far away, maybe to Russia, Russia, Russia, share a gold domed suite with Vladimir, never to be seen or heard from again.”

He added: “Would I be able to take my very ‘understated’ airplane with the gold TRUMP affixed for all to see. Probably not, I’d be much better off flying commercial – I’m sure nobody would recognize me!”

Scott Hall, one of Donald Trump’s 18 co-defendants, “has turned himself in to the Fulton County jail,” CNN reports.

“Hall, who works as a bail bondsman in Atlanta, was charged by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis with crimes related to his alleged involvement in the Coffee County, Georgia, voting systems breach.”

“Hall was given an inmate identification number on Tuesday and is currently detained.”

“John Eastman, the conservative attorney who pushed a plan to keep Donald Trump in power, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday on charges in the Georgia case alleging an illegal plot to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss,” the AP reports.

“Former Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer said attorneys for former President Donald Trump, his campaign and the local GOP were responsible for urging him to assemble a slate of false presidential electors that are now at the heart of a sprawling racketeering case,” Politico reports.

“Shafer is among the 18 defendants indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, alongside Trump as part of a conspiracy to subvert the 2020 election.”

Vanity Fair: “Rudy Giuliani claimed that he has cold, hard evidence proving the 2020 election was stolen, which will in turn show that he and Trump were right to contest Joe Biden’s win and are thus innocent of all charges against them. Why didn’t Rudy mention any of this evidence at the time or in the years since? Well, he didn’t have it way back then, and he didn’t have it just before he was charged by Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, but he’s got it now.”

Said Giuliani: “There are things we didn’t present then, because over the next couple years, a lot of people did a lot of work and have been able to produced more witnesses, and what I would call ‘scientific evidence’ that I would say is very persuasive.”

“The possibility of Donald Trump’s mug shot being taken and released when he surrenders at a Georgia jail has his devoted fans and ardent detractors nearly equally excited,” Semafor reports.

“This would be the first mug shot of the former U.S. president to exist, despite having turned himself in to authorities on criminal charges on three previous occasions.”

“Vendors on Etsy that cater to both crowds told Semafor they are already preparing designs for new mug shot-themed apparel, and are expecting a crush of demand.”

“The Justice Department pushed back Monday on former president Donald Trump’s claims that he cannot be ready to go to trial in January on charges that he illegally sought to subvert the results of the 2020 election,” the Washington Post reports.

“U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan is expected to set a trial date at a hearing Aug. 28. If prosecutors get their way, Trump will face two federal criminal trials before the 2024 presidential race, in which he is the leading Republican contender.”

“A coalition of media organizations… is asking the federal court in Washington, DC, to give more transparency into the legal fight over a search warrant special counsel Jack Smith obtained for materials from former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account,” CNN reports.

“The news outlets are asking for the court to unseal the materials that prosecutors filed when applying in January for the warrant, which was sought as part of Smith’s 2020 election subversion investigation.”

“This winter, after receiving a subpoena from a grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Mark Meadows commenced a delicate dance with federal prosecutors,” the New York Times reports.

“He had no choice but to show up and, eventually, to testify. Yet Mr. Meadows — Mr. Trump’s final White House chief of staff — initially declined to answer certain questions, sticking to his former boss’s position that they were shielded by executive privilege.”

“But when prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, challenged Mr. Trump’s executive privilege claims before a judge, Mr. Meadows pivoted. Even though he risked enraging Mr. Trump, he decided to trust Mr. Smith’s team, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Meadows quietly arranged to talk with them not only about the steps the former president took to stay in office, but also about his handling of classified documents after he left.”

A flagship Russian long-range bomber has been destroyed in a Ukrainian drone strike, the BBC reports.

The United States is urging Americans in Belarus to leave the country “immediately,” citing spillover risks from the war in Ukraine, including a buildup of Russian troops in Belarus, the Washington Post reports.

“Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin posted his first video address since leading a short-lived mutiny in late June, appearing in a social media clip which he suggested was shot in Africa,” Reuters reports.

“Ukraine’s grinding counteroffensive is struggling to break through entrenched Russian defenses in large part because it has too many troops, including some of its best combat units, in the wrong places,” the New York Times reports.

“The main goal of the counteroffensive is to cut off Russian supply lines in southern Ukraine by severing the so-called land bridge between Russia and the occupied Crimean Peninsula. But instead of focusing on that, Ukrainian commanders have divided troops and firepower roughly equally between the east and the south.”

“A Russian robotic spacecraft that was headed to the lunar surface has crashed into the moon, Russia’s space agency said on Sunday, citing the results of a preliminary investigation a day after it lost contact with the vehicle,” the New York Times reports.

“A federal indictment and one in Georgia charging Donald Trump with lying about the 2020 election to overturn President Joe Biden’s win have done nothing to slow the geyser of election falsehoods flowing from the former president and his supporters,” the AP reports.

“Several Republican lawmakers are seeking ways to sanction Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after she brought criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and 18 allies,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“Trump backers are going after Willis using a new state law approved by Gov. Brian Kemp that creates a state commission with power to sanction or oust prosecutors found to be neglecting their duties or responsible for an array of other violations.”

A rare, flesh-eating bacteria found has killed five people in the Tampa Bay area this year — and 25 other cases have been reported, WESH reports.

“Candidates are eager to run in competitive House seats in New York next year. There’s just one problem: They have no clear sense of where to campaign,” Politico reports.

“The interminable legal fight over redistricting in New York will likely leave both parties unclear which races will be competitive until sometime next spring. And more immediately, in an era where serious congressional campaigns start well ahead of election years, the uncertainty is keeping some potential candidates from declaring their intentions.”

“A rebellious campaign within the California Republican Party to break away from its historic opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage is dividing the party weeks before planned appearances by former President Trump and other GOP White House hopeful,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“A proposed platform overhaul, which could be voted on at the state GOP’s fall convention in Anaheim, is a remarkable break from conservative dogma in the state that nurtured Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.”

Sidney Blumenthal: “The trials are a continuous spectacle, featuring an all-star cast in far-flung locations. Political reporters are barely heard from, while legal analysts fill the airwaves. Every twist and turn, every motion, every argument is the breathless lead story. Everyone, from prosecutors to co-conspirators, named and unnamed, indicted and unindicted, are characters in Trump’s new reality show – part violent action movie (the insurrection), part sleazy porn flick (Stormy Daniels), part conspiracy thriller (Mar-a-Lago), and part mafia drama (the fake elector racket).”

“But the Trump trials are more than his means; they are his ends. The trials are not the sideshow, but the heart and soul of Trump’s campaign. They have become his essential fundraising tool to finance his defense, his platform for whipping up his followers into a constant state of excitement, and his instrument for dominating the media to make himself the center of attention and blot out coverage of anyone else.”

“The trials are the message. They are the drama around which Trump plays his role as the unjustly accused victim, whose rights are trampled and who is the martyr for his oppressed ‘deplorables.’ He is taking the slings and arrows for them. The narcissist is the self-sacrificing saint. The criminal is the angel. The liar is the truth-teller.”

“China is playing an increasingly important role in propping up Russia’s economy and helping boost its war effort, with recent trade data showing Beijing providing a range of goods, including some with potential military applications such as microchips and trench-digging excavators,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“China has become the principal source of many of the goods and components Russia’s sanctions-hit economy needs, while also giving Moscow a buyer for its oil and gas. The growing economic relationship is a central piece of the efforts by the two countries to unite against what their leaders describe as Western efforts to contain them.”

“President Joe Biden has tapped Ed Siskel, the former White House attorney who helped manage the Obama White House’s response to the Benghazi and Solyndra investigations, to serve as his next White House counsel,” CNN reports.

“Siskel will step into the role next month, the White House said, as Biden is charging into a reelection battle and at a time when the various judicial and congressional investigations circling around the president, his family and his administration are entering a critical stage.”

“Even in the face of growing personal legal peril, Donald Trump summoned his top economic advisers to his private golf club in New Jersey for a two-hour dinner last Wednesday night to map out a trade-focused economic plan for his presidential bid,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump and top aides — including former senior White House officials Larry Kudlow and Brooke Rollins, as well as outside advisers Stephen Moore and former House speaker Newt Gingrich — spent the dinner discussing how Trump could attack President Biden in the 2024 election on the economy, amid a recent spate of positive economic news that has buoyed Biden’s fortunes.”

“Among the ideas they discussed was Trump’s plan to enact a ‘universal baseline tariff’ on virtually all imports to the United States.”

“Tucker Carlson’s interview with Donald Trump is shaping up as a well-timed branding exercise for the new company the former Fox News host is launching,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Carlson taped an interview with Trump several days ago and plans to stream it on X, formerly known as Twitter, without ads, people familiar with the situation said. Its release is expected to coincide with Wednesday’s first Republican presidential debate on Fox News.”

A January 6 rioter who was armed with a concealed weapon as he led a mob that overran police on the steps of the Capitol was sentenced to seven years in federal prison Wednesday, NBC News reports.

Oddsmakers are offering bets on how much Donald Trump will weigh at his booking at the Fulton County jail on Thursday, the Daily Mail reports. One bookmaker has set the over/under on Trump’s weight at 273.5 pounds and 77% of gamblers have taken the over.

“Researchers are racing to determine whether a highly mutated coronavirus variant that has popped up in three continents will be a global concern — or much ado about nothing,” Nature reports.

MSNBC has seen a boost in primetime ratings this summer, thanks in large part to its coverage of the slew of indictments against Donald Trump, Axios reports.

Fortune: “X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, is planning a major change in how news articles appear on the service, stripping out the headline and other text so that tweets with links display only an article’s lead image.”

A 66-year-old woman was shot and killed Friday in Cedar Glen, California, allegedly by a man who objected to the LGBTQ+ Pride flag she was flying in front of the clothing store she owned.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in Chile that it was imperative for the United States to declassify documents that could shed light on Washington’s involvement in the South American country’s 1973 coup, NBC News reports.

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

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