Cup of Joe – September 6, 2023

“The finger-pointing among Donald Trump’s inner circle has begun,” Politico  reports.

“And as his four criminal cases march toward trials, some of his aides, allies and co-defendants are pointing at the former president.”

“In court documents and hearings, lawyers for people in Trump’s orbit — both high-level advisers and lesser known associates — are starting to reveal glimmers of a tried-and-true strategy in cases with many defendants: Portray yourself as a hapless pawn while piling blame on the apparent kingpin.”

Tuesday is the latest “do or die” deadline for Digital World Acquisition Corp., the blank check acquisition company seeking to take Donald Trump’s social media company public, Axios reports.

“With former president Donald Trump now accused of 91 felonies in four historic indictments, the legal woes of his erstwhile senior trade adviser, Peter Navarro, have been reduced to a prosecutorial sideshow,” the Washington Post reports.

“Yet the 74-year-old economist, still a loud proponent of the ‘stolen election’ falsehoods of his ex-boss, remains noteworthy in this sense: After right-wing provocateur Stephen K. Bannon was convicted last summer of contempt of Congress, Navarro on Tuesday is set to become the second top official in Trump’s White House to face a criminal trial related to a scheme to undo President Biden’s 2020 victory at the polls.”

“Special counsel Jack Smith is still pursuing his investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election a month after indicting Donald Trump for orchestrating a broad conspiracy to remain in power, a widening of the probe that raises the possibility others could still face legal peril,” CNN reports.

“Questions asked of two recent witnesses indicate Smith is focusing on how money raised off baseless claims of voter fraud was used to fund attempts to breach voting equipment in several states won by Joe Biden.”

“In both interviews, prosecutors have focused their questions on the role of former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.”

The White House is out with a new memo attacking House Republicans over fentanyl policy: “House Republicans have a stark choice to make: will they honor their word, meet their responsibility to avoid a shutdown, and act on life and death priorities like fighting the fentanyl crisis?”

Playbook: “This is a familiar playbook used by both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as a GOP-controlled House careened towards a shutdown that was eventually blamed on Republicans: emphasize popular spending programs that will be sabotaged by a failure to pass annual spending laws.”

“The White House’s choice of fentanyl as the issue to highlight is a clever bit of political jujitsu, as it’s one of the most discussed issues among Republicans, especially on the 2024 campaign trail, where Biden is often blamed for not doing enough to ease the fentanyl crisis.”

“For nearly a decade, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been at the center of many of the nation’s most politically charged cases. The Republican also has been under a constant cloud of scandal, which will grow darker when impeachment proceedings against him begin this week,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Paxton is set to go on trial Tuesday in the Texas Senate on articles of impeachment approved by the state’s Republican-controlled House, which alleged he engaged in years of misconduct, including accepting bribes and using his office to help a political donor. Paxton, who is suspended while facing trial, has said the House allegations are without evidence and called the proceedings an illegal effort to overturn the will of Texas voters.”

Politico: “While West Wing advisers believe independent and swing voters will ultimately turn against GOP leaders for using impeachment as political payback against the president, they also are bracing for a time-consuming, draining probe — one that could create negative headlines and has the potential for unexpected outcomes.”

“And that’s not the only political hot spot they are gearing up to confront.”

“Biden aides are also preparing for another looming fight with Republicans over government funding. They believe that standoff will also turn to their favor — especially if it results in a government shutdown. But here, too, there is consternation. Biden aides expressed concern about the damage an extended shutdown could do to the economy and the public’s psyche, especially as Biden struggles to convince voters that the nation’s economic outlook is improving.”

Playbook: “There are scoops on almost every page of the book, but we wouldn’t measure it solely on the basis of these newsy nuggets (though we will get to some of them in a moment). Foer’s more important contribution is deepening our understanding of Biden, both psychologically and ideologically.”

“We’ve read every Biden book, and Foer’s is by far the best study of Biden since Richard Ben Cramer’s What it Takes.”

Politico: “After the Trump gold rush for the book industry of the last few years, the Biden era has, so far, been a bust. And that’s not just the case for mainstream journalists accustomed to chronicling the presidency in book form. Conservative readers don’t appear all that interested in reading hundreds of pages about a president they think is senile.”

“The United Auto Workers union and the three Detroit automakers have less than two weeks to negotiate a new labor contract, and a strike of some sort seems increasingly likely,” the New York Times reports.

“The union’s president, Shawn Fain, has primed rank-and-file members to be prepared to walk off the job if the union’s long list of demands for improved wages and benefits are not met.”

“A strike against one of the companies, especially a prolonged stoppage, could send an economic jolt through several Midwestern states and crimp the profits of General Motors, Ford Motor or Stellantis. G.M. workers walked out for 40 days in 2019 before reaching an agreement.”

“A strike against all three — a step the union has never taken but one Mr. Fain has said he is willing to call for this year — could have a noticeable impact on the broader U.S. economy.”

“President Joe Biden said on Monday that he did not think workers at the nation’s three large automakers were likely to go on strike, despite a looming contract deadline later this month,” Reuters reports.

Said Biden: “I’m not worried about a strike. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

President Biden stepped up attacks on “the last guy” Donald Trump in a Labor Day speech that touted his strong record of creating jobs, the New York Daily News reports.

Said Biden: “The guy who held this job before me was just one of two presidents in history … who left office with fewer jobs in America than when he got elected to office. By the way, you know who the other one was? Herbert Hoover.”

“Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, plans to travel to Russia this month to meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss the possibility of supplying Russia with more weaponry for its war in Ukraine and other military cooperation,” the New York Times reports.

“In a rare foray from his country, Mr. Kim would travel from Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, probably by armored train, to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Coast of Russia, where he would meet with Mr. Putin, the officials said. Mr. Kim could possibly go to Moscow, though that is not certain.”

“Mr. Putin wants Mr. Kim to agree to send Russia artillery shells and antitank missiles, and Mr. Kim would like Russia to provide North Korea with advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, the officials said. Mr. Kim is also seeking food aid for his impoverished nation.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that a landmark deal allowing Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea amid the war won’t be restored until the West meets Moscow’s demands on its own agricultural exports,” the AP reports.

“A top Russian general detained in the aftermath of the mutiny by the mercenary tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin has been released,“ the New York Times reports.

“The general, Sergei Surovikin, who was seen as an ally of Mr. Prigozhin’s and earned the nickname ‘General Armageddon’ for his brutal tactics in Syria, vanished from public view in June after the mercenary leader and members of his Wagner outfit moved against the Russian military leadership.”

“American officials say the general had advance word of the uprising, and hours after it began, the Russian authorities released a video in which an uncomfortable-looking General Surovikin is shown calling on the Wagner fighters to stand down.”

“Authorities in Russia arrested a mathematician on terrorism charges Monday after he had just completed a prison sentence for hooliganism, the latest step in a years-long Kremlin crackdown on political opponents,” the AP reports.

“The removal of Ukraine’s minister of defense after a flurry of reports of graft and financial mismanagement in his department underscores a pivotal challenge for President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime leadership: stamping out the corruption that had been widespread in Ukraine for years,” the New York Times reports.

“Official corruption was a topic that had been mostly taboo throughout the first year of the war, as Ukrainians rallied around their government in a fight for national survival. But Mr. Zelensky’s announcement Sunday night that he was replacing the defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, elevated the issue to the highest level of Ukrainian politics.”

“Elon Musk threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League on Monday after blaming the nonprofit for an advertising revenue slump on X since he led a takeover of the platform formerly known as Twitter,” Axios reports.

“Musk accused the ADL in a post on X of ‘trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic’ after it reported a spike in hate speech on the platform following the reinstatement of banned accounts there.”

“Chinese nationals, sometimes posing as tourists, have accessed military bases and other sensitive sites in the U.S. as many as 100 times in recent years,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The incidents, which U.S. officials describe as a form of espionage, appear designed to test security practices at U.S. military installations and other federal sites. Officials familiar with the practice say the individuals are typically Chinese nationals pressed into service and required to report back to the Chinese government.”

 “Wisconsin Republicans, after a string of losses in hotly contested statewide races, are taking steps toward sidelining the state’s nonpartisan elections chief and undercutting the new liberal majority on the state Supreme Court,” CNN reports.

“Their actions – an escalation of bitter, partisan feuds that have rankled the state government in one of the nation’s most important swing states for years – raise questions about how the 2024 election will be run there and who will set the rules.”

“Some central Florida lawmakers said they were considering ‘all legislative, legal and executive options available’ to stop business owners in a small town from voluntarily displaying rainbow decals in their windows indicating that they are ‘safe place’ for LGBTQ+ people who feel threatened,” the AP reports.

Politico: “Step back and look at a map of life expectancy across the country and the geographic patterns are as dramatic as they are obvious. If you live pretty much anywhere in the contiguous U.S., you can expect to live more than 78 years, unless you’re in the Deep South or the sprawling region I call Greater Appalachia, a region that stretches from southwestern Pennsylvania to the Ozarks and the Hill Country of Texas. Those two regions — which include all or parts of 16 deep red states and a majority of the House Republican caucus — have a life expectancy of 77, more than four and a half years lower than on the blue-leaning Pacific coastal plain.”

“In the smaller, redder regional culture of New France (in southern Louisiana) the gap is just short of six years. So large are the regional gaps that the poorest set of counties in predominantly blue Yankee Northeast actually have higher life expectancies than the wealthiest ones in the Deep South. At a population level, a difference of five years is like the gap separating the U.S. from decidedly unwealthy Mongolia, Belarus or Libya, and six years gets you to impoverished El Salvador and Egypt.”

“It’s as if we are living in different countries. Because in a very real historical and political sense, we are.”

First lady Jill Biden tested positive for Covid-19 Monday, CNN reports. President Biden tested negative and will continue to test at regular intervals.

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

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