Cup of Joe – September 2, 2023

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is ‘medically clear’ to continue with his schedule, the attending physician to Congress said Thursday, a day after McConnell suffered his second public incident of freezing up in five weeks, prompting questions about his health that his aides have declined to address,” the Washington Post reports.

Punchbowl News: “Inside McConnell’s circle, there are doubts about how long he will last as the top Senate Republican, the position he’s held since 2006.”

They note that “with Congress facing a turbulent fall session, including a potential government shutdown, the timing couldn’t be worse.”

Said one GOP aide to Politico: “If we’re going to stick with him, he kinda owes it to us to tell us what’s going on.”

“A handful of GOP senators is weighing whether to force a fraught internal debate about their leadership’s future after Mitch McConnell’s second public freeze-up in a month,” Politico reports.

“Some rank-and-file Republicans have discussed the possibility of a broader conversation once senators return to Washington next week… Party leadership is not currently involved in those discussions, and nothing has been decided yet, this person added.”

Bloomberg: “It remains uncertain when any vote would happen. But speculation has intensified after McConnell, the cold-eyed tactician who has set the record as the longest-serving Senate leader, paused for 30 seconds Wednesday when taking questions from reporters, the second time he has frozen publicly since late July. The incidents came after he was out of the Senate for several weeks this spring following a fall.”

“McConnell has said little publicly about his health and has not broached the subject of stepping down as GOP leader, a post he has held since 2007. Senators and GOP aides are reluctant to publicly discuss his future, or any race to succeed him. He isn’t up for re-election until 2026 and Senate leaders are selected the start of each two-year Congress.”

“On the surface, there’s relatively little to distinguish the trio of potential successors. All hail from red states. Thune is 62, Cornyn and Barrasso 71. They each came to the Senate during the George W. Bush administration. They all hold or have held key leadership posts. They have similar temperaments and are generally well-liked within the conference. And for a party that has changed dramatically in the era of Donald Trump, they all represent throwbacks to an earlier era of Republicanism.”

Jack Shafer: Why is nobody doing anything about Mitch McConnell?

“When a group of employees resigned in protest from conservative activist group CPAC last year, the organization’s power couple—Matt Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes—felt it was time for a new beginning,” the Daily Beast reports.

“As part of the reset, the Schlapps turned to a priest to evict satanic spirits from the D.C. offices.”

“Donald Trump entered a plea of not guilty to charges alleging he participated in a vast criminal conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia and waived his right to an in-person arraignment hearing in the matter,” the Washington Post reports.

“The written plea was filed Thursday by Steve Sadow, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who was tapped Aug. 24 to lead the former president’s Georgia-based legal team. The filing means Trump won’t return to Atlanta on Wednesday, where Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the proceedings, has scheduled a series of arraignment hearings for Trump and the 18 co-defendants in the sprawling criminal racketeering case.”

Donald Trump has formally moved to sever his racketeering case from his defendants seeking a speedy trial in Georgia, saying it would violate his rights to a fair trial.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she wants all of the defendants tried together, and she asked the judge to set an Oct. 23 trial date for everyone.

“A Fulton County judge on Thursday said that all court proceedings in the election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants will be live streamed and televised,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“The proceedings — especially those involving Trump himself — are expected to attract international attention.”

Georgia state Sen. Colton Moore (R) told Steve Bannon that he plans to push the legislature to defund Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis’ prosecution of Donald Trump, arguing she threatens to ignite a “civil war.”

Said Moore: “I told one senator… we’ve got to put our heads together and figure this out. We need to be taking action right now. Because if we don’t, our constituencies are gonna be fighting it in the streets. Do you want a civil war? I don’t want a civil war. I don’t want to have to draw my rifle. I want to make this problem go away with my legislative means of doing so.”

“In a remarkable press conference, Gov. Brian Kemp squashed the idea of a special legislative session pushed by former President Donald Trump and his allies to oust Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after she charged them with a vast conspiracy to reverse his 2020 defeat,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“And the governor on Thursday also dismissed talk of backing efforts to reprimand Willis, either through legislative hearings that seek to slash state funding to her office or a newly empowered panel that can sanction wayward prosecutors or remove them from office.”

Said Kemp: “The bottom line is that in the state of Georgia as long as I’m governor, we’re going to follow the law and the Constitution, regardless of who it helps and harms politically. Over the last few years, some inside and outside of this building may have forgotten that. But I can assure you that I have not.”

“Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reported three 2022 trips on the private jet of a Texas billionaire in a financial disclosure form released Thursday, and for the first time detailed the businessman’s purchase of three properties from the justice’s family years earlier,” the Washington Post reports.

“Thomas also acknowledged prior mistakes and omissions in past reports, involving bank accounts, a life insurance policy and the name of his wife’s real estate company.”

“Some of Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the sprawling election subversion case in Georgia are trying all sorts of ways to fund their mounting legal bills – yet the costs of the 2020 election fallout may quickly exceed their abilities to pay,” CNN reports.

“Trump has covered the legal bills of aides, advisers and employees during the House select committee’s probe into January 6, 2021, and federal investigations, including his two co-defendants in the classified documents case, Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, both of whom work for the former president.”

“But there is no sign yet that Trump intends to do so for any of his co-defendants in the Georgia case, which alleges that he and others engaged in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the state’s 2020 election results. In fact, Trump has publicly distanced himself from them, telling Newsmax he doesn’t know ‘a lot of these people.’”

A new Dear Colleague letter from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer shows his plan to “drive a wedge between House and Senate Republicans” on government funding, Politico reports.

“The chamber passed all 12 approps bills out of committee on a bipartisan basis, he boasts — drawing an implicit contrast to the House, where Kevin McCarthy has broken faith on his spending caps deal with President Joe Biden, and is instead pushing partisan proposals that don’t have a prayer of becoming law.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) announced what it would take to win her vote to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.

The demands includes passing an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, defunding his “weaponization of government,” eliminating funding for Covid-related mandates and cutting off new aid for Ukraine.

“The White House on Thursday urged Congress to adopt a short-term measure to fund the federal government, a move meant to buy time for lawmakers to craft a broader spending deal and avert a shutdown at the end of September,” the Washington Post reports.

“For the second time this year, the United States finds itself barreling toward a crisis: Unless Congress acts, the government will run out of money on Sept. 30, triggering a shutdown that jeopardizes countless federal programs on which millions of Americans rely.”

NBC News: “The White House has stood up a war room of two dozen lawyers, legislative aides and communications staffers to lead an aggressive response to a likely Republican impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.”

“The effort, as described by eight people familiar with the plans, has been taking shape for months in the White House counsel’s office as part of the response to Republican-led House investigations. Biden’s aides and allies say they are preparing to vigorously push back against an impeachment inquiry and present it as an evidence-free partisan sham that shows a GOP penchant for chaos…”

“Biden aides have looked to 1998, when the House impeached President Bill Clinton, as a model for how to mount an effective defense — and make the GOP pay a political price for overreaching — said a source familiar with the strategy. … If Republicans follow through with threats of an impeachment inquiry in the coming weeks or months, the White House plans to try to present a split-screen in which the president is focused on economic issues that affect people’s lives.”

“The Biden administration on Thursday proposed the broadest expansion of firearms background checks in decades, leveraging a provision of the bipartisan gun control law passed last year that requires thousands of unlicensed firearms brokers to register as federally licensed dealers,” the New York Times reports.

Miami Herald: “While DeSantis responded to the natural disaster in ways the public has long expected its government officials to act — holding press conferences and offering apolitical directions about managing its impact — Trump ignored the storm for days, instead posting a litany of insults aimed at his political adversaries while highlighting positive poll numbers for his campaign.”

“By the time Trump mentioned Hurricane Idalia in a Wednesday afternoon post, he had already posted more than 140 times on Truth Social since Monday on a multitude of subjects.”

Politico: “This week, DeSantis fielded multiple questions from the press about Florida’s property insurance crisis, as well as criticism from Trump, who took to Truth Social to accuse DeSantis of giving ‘up the store’ with the insurance reforms he made.”

“It’s one of the iconic images of the American presidency: the commander in chief, standing and waving to the cameras from the top of the stairs leading into Air Force One,” NPR reports.

“But recently, President Biden has been avoiding climbing up the sometimes-wobbly 18-foot staircase that is trucked over to the plane’s upper door. More often than not, he is using a much shorter and sturdier set of stairs that fold out from the belly of the plane.”

“Biden, 80, has stumbled on the tall stairs more than once. The short stairs have the distinct advantage of moving most of Biden’s ascent into Air Force One out of public view. But for those who have noticed the shift, it also draws attention to one of Biden’s greatest political liabilities as he seeks reelection: his age.”

“The Biden administration is pressing Saudi Arabia to identify which elements of its security forces are alleged to have slaughtered migrants along the kingdom’s border with Yemen, a step that would mark an advance toward determining responsibility for the reported abuses and help the United States establish if it has provided weapons or training to those units,” the Washington Post reports.

“Riyadh has categorically denied the allegations in last week’s explosive report from Human Rights Watch, which described widespread killing, maiming and abuse of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers by Saudi government forces positioned along the border.”

Washington Post: “Santos has rarely discussed his life in Brazil, where he spent significant time during his formative early-adult years. But a close examination of that past, including a review of court records and interviews with 25 Brazilian family members, former friends and acquaintances, helps bring into focus what amounts to the unpublished first chapter of the George Santos story.”

“Hints of the scandals to come — allegations of serial fabrication; a congressional ethics inquiry; U.S. federal charges of fraud, money laundering, theft and false statements — are sprinkled throughout his time in Brazil. Santos, who is due back in New York federal court in September, was known as an enigma, masked by multiple identities and apparently tall tales.”

“Many who remembered him said he was charming and funny, but they found it difficult to believe much of what he said. He often appeared to want others to think he was far richer, more successful, better connected than he was.”

“In a sworn deposition from this past April, former President Donald Trump told New York officials that he was too busy ‘saving millions of lives’ as president to run his company, let alone commit business fraud, a transcript released Wednesday revealed,” Insider reports.

Said Trump: “I was very busy. I was — I considered this the most important job in the world, saving millions of lives. I think you would have nuclear holocaust if I didn’t deal with North Korea. I think you would have a nuclear war, if I weren’t elected. And I think you might have a nuclear war now if you want to know the truth.”

“Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys leader convicted of seditious conspiracy who the government says ‘served as an instigator and leader’ during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison on Thursday,” NBC News reports.

“The government sought 33 years for Biggs, an Army veteran who sustained a head injury in Iraq and then served as a correspondent for the conspiracy website Infowars.”

“I know it is the tendency of political leaders to self-preen, but the truth is that while some GOP House work has made positive reforms — it isn’t good enough. Not even close, actually. We are going to have to seize the initiative and make some changes.”— Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), responding to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on X.

The era of deepfakes is upon us, Axios reports. “To create a personalized avatar, customers have to send HeyGen a two-minute video of themselves speaking into a camera (your smartphone is fine) — along with another video giving consent for the company to do its thing. HeyGen returns a digital avatar that you can use to generate videos by typing the words you want to speak into a text box.”

Operatives for Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives are urging their members to call a paid family leave proposal by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “summer break for adults,” according to a talking-points memo obtained by The Messenger.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) “signed an executive order narrowing the definition of male and female to be based solely on biological sex,” the Omaha World Herald reports.

“How dare lowlife prosecutor deranged Jack Smith…break into my former Twitter account without informing me…What could he possibly find out that is not already known?”— Donald Trump, in a video posted yesterday.

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

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