Cup of Joe – September 12, 2023

“Congress is poised this week to dive into an epic fight over spending, as the Senate for the first time in years puts appropriations bills on the floor for debate and Speaker Kevin McCarthy tries to find his way out of a complex funding tangle that could ultimately threaten his leadership post,” the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “Beginning with a simple resolution to keep agencies open, a bipartisan collection of senators wants to add its priorities to that bill. The group essentially is daring the divided House Republicans to oppose it and take the blame for shutting down the government if the Sept. 30 deadline has not been met.”

“These senators then expect to use their largely unified position as leverage to get their way in the more detailed agency funding outlines expected in the late fall, while also dominating the split House on negotiations over the annual Pentagon funding policy legislation.”

The Hill: GOP lawmaker urges House to pass spending bills to have “negotiating clout.”

Playbook: “Hanging over everything is a brewing challenge from the right to Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Conservative hardliners who only reluctantly backed him for speaker have spent weeks hearing from unhappy constituents back home — many who are itching for a funding fight and salivating over an impeachment of President Joe Biden.”

“And McCarthy’s plan for the fall — punting a funding fight into December while letting his committee chairs dig further into Biden — is not passing muster with his critics, some of whom are openly threatening a “motion to vacate” (i.e., to oust McCarthy) if he cuts a deal with Democrats to keep the government open.”

Punchbowl News: “We’ve gotten the sense from members of McCarthy’s leadership team over the past week that a government shutdown is quite possible — even likely. One senior House Republican lawmaker told us that there’s a 75% chance of a shutdown after federal agencies run out of money on Sept. 30.”

Over three-fourths of Americans think there should be a maximum age limit for elected officials, according to a CBS News/YouGov survey.

The Atlantic: “The long-hidden drafts of Condoleeza Rice’s remarks offer a portrait of a lost world — and some lessons for the present.”

“The latest Covid boosters are expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as early as Monday, arriving alongside the seasonal flu vaccine and shots to protect infants and older adults from R.S.V., a potentially lethal respiratory virus,” the New York Times reports.

Mark Meadows probably had the best case for removal of the Georgia RICO case from state to federal court. With the federal judge rejecting his argument, the remaining defendants, including Trump himself, face bleaker prospects of succeeding. But don’t get too ahead of yourself. The 11th Circuit and perhaps the Supreme Court will have the final word here.

We’re coming up on a month since U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon issued any meaningful orders or rulings in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Here’s what Cannon still hasn’t done:

  • Issued a protective order covering the handling of classified documents in the case.
  • Held Garcia hearings on the potential conflicts of interest facing two of the defense counsel in the case.

But it’s actually even a little worse than that: Cannon hasn’t even scheduled hearings on these matters yet, even though they’ve been pending in one form or another for weeks.

Cannon hasn’t held a hearing in the case since July 18. At that hearing she denied the government’s motion for a CIPA protective order and gave it a chance to re-up its motion, which the government did, later in July. The government in early August first raised the potential conflicts of interest for one of the defendants.

Not only has no hearing been scheduled for either matter, but Cannon took a hearing off the calendar instead. When she removed the Aug. 25 hearing date from the calendar, she cryptically said that a hearing on the CIPA protective order “will take place at a designated time and place,” but no hearing has been scheduled on the public docket since then.

One point in Cannon’s defense: The grand jury issued a superseding indictment in late July, adding a third defendant. So there was a need for the arraignment of the third defendant, and the government later raised its concerns about the conflicts of interest of the the third defendant’s lawyer, so the case itself hasn’t been static, even if Cannon has.

Just to give you some sense of everything that has happened since Cannon’s last substantive hearing in the case:

  • Special Counsel Jack Smith obtained a superseding indictment in the Mar-a-Lago case.
  • A DC grand jury indicted Donald Trump for his role in the run-up to Jan. 6.
  • Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis obtained a sweeping RICO indictment of 19 defendants, including Trump.

Meanwhile, the MAL case languishes. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see some movement in the MAL case this week, but the last few weeks of dithering shouldn’t escape your notice.

New York Times: “Mr. Tarrio recounted on Friday in a phone interview from jail, the prosecutors told him that they believed he had communicated in the run-up to the riot with President Donald J. Trump through at least three intermediaries.”

“The prosecutors, Mr. Tarrio said, offered him leniency if he could corroborate their theory.”

“Mr. Tarrio said he told them they were wrong. And the discussion with prosecutors — which took place in Miami, Mr. Tarrio’s hometown — apparently went nowhere.”

As three high-profile California Democrats vie to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told NBC News that “he would not appoint any of them to the seat, should it become vacant sooner than expected.”

“That decision could be a blow to Rep. Barbara Lee, since her allies had reason to believe she was Newsom’s first choice to fill a potential vacancy. But that was before she entered the Senate race, where she is currently trailing in polls behind better-known and better-funded fellow Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter.”

“Donald Trump is conjuring his most foreboding vision yet of a possible second term, telling supporters in language resonant of the run-up to the January 6 mob attack on the US Capitol that they need to ‘fight like hell’ or they will lose their country,” CNN reports.

Said Trump, at a South Dakota rally: “I don’t think there’s ever been a darkness around our nation like there is now.”

“The Republican front-runner’s stark speech raised the prospect of a second presidency that would be even more extreme and challenging to the rule of law than his first. His view that the Oval Office confers unfettered powers suggests Trump would indulge in similar conduct as that for which he is awaiting trial, including intimidating local officials in an alleged bid to overturn his 2020 defeat.”

Politico: “Throughout August, nearly a dozen Cabinet and senior administration officials have made the long trek to the nation’s most northern state and the home of the Republican senator who has proven most likely to work with the president.”

“Alaska, while beautiful in the summer, is not exactly close to Washington D.C. But few senators are as critical to the Biden agenda as Murkowski. Her influence in the tightly controlled Senate has made her a magnet for top White House staff. And both she and her fellow Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, have used that newfound audience to their advantage, leaning on administration officials to take Alaska’s uniqueness seriously: far larger and far less populated than other states, with many communities that are not reachable by reliable internet, let alone roads.”

“X, Elon Musk’s social media platform formerly known as Twitter, appears to be attempting to limit its users’ access to The New York Times,” Semafor reports.

“Since late July, engagement on X posts linking to the New York Times has dropped dramatically. The drop in shares and other engagement on tweets with Times links is abrupt, and is not reflected in links to similar news organizations including CNN, the Washington Post, and the BBC.”

“The Biden administration’s push to check the power of the tech giants gets its first big test Tuesday in a Washington courtroom where the Department of Justice will kick off a case designed to curb Google’s dominance in online search,” Politico reports.

As the Supreme Court prepared to decide the Citizens United case that designated money as political speech, Ginni Thomas — wife of Justice Clarence Thomas — along with conservative activists quietly filed to create exactly the type of non-profit group that would benefit from the decision, Politico reports.

Thomas also had a rich backer: Harlan Crow, the billionaire who had helped Thomas and her husband in many ways, from funding luxury vacations to picking up tuition payments for their great-nephew.

Michael Bloomberg: “Think about it: We have a system that essentially allows an unlimited number of people to cross our borders, forbids them from working, offers them free housing, and grants them seven years of residency before ruling on whether they can legally stay. It would be hard to devise a more backward and self-defeating system.”

“We are a nation of immigrants because we are a land of opportunity. To deny immigrants the opportunity to work — and force them to rely on public handouts — is as anti-American as anything I can think of. It is harmful not only to the refugees, but to our country — especially at a time when so many businesses are facing labor shortages.”

“Critics who have latched onto Mayor Adams’s recent comments that the crisis will ‘destroy’ the city seem more concerned with his words — spoken in understandable frustration with Washington — than with the problem itself. Solving the crisis will not be easy, especially with a divided Congress. But ignoring it will only make it worse, while also elevating the political fortunes of xenophobes and eroding public support for immigration reform.”

Tara Palmeri: “Democratic knife-fighter David Brock is going on the offensive again, disseminating opposition research to various news outlets regarding the family members of various congressional Republicans—and not just the committee members who are investigating the president and his son, Hunter Biden.”

Said Brock: “Gloves are off, families are on. We’ve been looking into how the children of those same members may have benefited from their parents’ position. We’re not shy about going after the members.”

“President Biden has been unable to capitalize on a flurry of positive news — from an improving economy to encouraging developments in Ukraine to his top political rival’s legal troubles,” Axios reports.

“Biden’s inability to use the presidential bully pulpit effectively — a byproduct of his advanced age — has become a serious handicap as he seeks a second term.”

“It’s not the message, but the messenger. Biden, who was never a charismatic speaker in his political prime, is badly struggling to persuade the public of anything at age 80.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) repeatedly said Sunday that Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s one-person blockade of military nominations was “paralyzing” the Defense Department, Politico reports.

Said McCaul: “To hold up the top brass from being promoted and lower brass, I think, is paralyzing our Department of Defense.”

“Joe Biden publicly shook hands with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit Saturday — after the president sustained a backlash last year for fist-bumping the crown prince, who U.S. intelligence believes ordered the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” Politico reports.

“President Biden landed in Vietnam on Sunday for a state visit to celebrate a new upgrade in relations with Vietnam, despite concerns about the country’s recent authoritarian crackdown and a report that the country is secretly in pursuit of an arms deal with Russia,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Biden’s trip to Hanoi, which includes a news conference scheduled for Sunday, is centered on signing a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ with the Vietnamese, a symbolic but significant status long coveted by the United States. Since taking office, Mr. Biden has sought to enhance relations with several Southeast Asian nations because of their tactical value as a bulwark against rising Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Financial Times: “Vietnam will upgrade its relationship with the US to its highest level, matching that with China and bringing the communist country and former foe closer into Washington’s orbit in the face of Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the region.”

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

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