Cup of Joe – September 13, 2023

“Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to tell House Republicans in a closed meeting this week that launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden is the “logical next step” in the GOP’s probes of the president and his son, Hunter Biden,” Punchbowl News reports.

“McCarthy and the House Republican leadership scheduled a closed-door session for Thursday morning so that members could get an update on the investigations led by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Oversight Committee Chair Jamie Comer (R-KY). McCarthy plans to say that the two chairs have uncovered enough information that necessitates the House formalizing the impeachment inquiry in order to obtain the Bidens’ bank records and other documents.”

“This is, of course, a huge step for McCarthy and House Republicans. The investigations haven’t uncovered any direct evidence that Biden personally profited off his son’s foreign work.”

An impeachment with no wrongdoing.  A impeachment launched in hopes of finding some evidence of wrongdoing that can justify its existence.  An impeachment inquiry designed to buy off Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s rabid and restless far-right flank so he can avoid a government shutdown that those same extremists are angling for.

It’s unchartered territory, but that’s where things stand as the House reconvenes today after a long summer recess. The stage is set for the rest of September, with government funding running out at the end of the month.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Monday he is “not at all” worried about removal threats from his right flank, Axios reports. In response to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), McCarthy called his bluff: “He should just go ahead and do it.”

“I’ve never seen a colleague make more empty threats — day in/day out than this guy. Gaetz folded like a cheap card table to make McCarthy speaker and will never — I repeat never — make a motion to remove McCarthy.”— Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), on X.

NBC News: “The issues — from government funding and aid for Ukraine to a potential impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden — are significant individual challenges. Taken together, they amount to a daunting Rubik’s Cube for McCarthy, who must align a host of competing interests. He has little time, a paper-thin majority and a Democratic-led Senate and White House that are ready to play legislative whack-a-mole against right-wing priorities.”

“Looming over the end-of-the-month deadline is that some right-leaning Republicans insist McCarthy’s job isn’t safe if they don’t get what they want.”

Semafor:”Congressional aides have begun talking about a shutdown as an inevitability, and there’s widespread doubt about whether McCarthy can evade one while still holding onto his job.”

“House dissidents say they’re serious this time,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“After putting Kevin McCarthy through 15 ballots to win the House speakership, a group of hard-line Republicans has wrestled with how aggressively to respond to what they call his failure to keep the promises he made. The dissidents shut down the floor in June to protest a debt-ceiling deal with President Biden. In July, the faction blocked a floor vote on one of 12 annual spending bills, complaining that GOP leaders had relied on gimmicks to reach McCarthy’s commitment to cut spending to fiscal 2022 levels.”

“Now, with government funding expiring on Oct. 1, hard-line Republicans returning to work this week are signaling they are ready to use tougher tactics to extract concessions. The expected face-off could lead to a government shutdown this fall, or even potentially trigger a vote on keeping McCarthy as speaker.”

Today’s House Rules Committee meeting, where members will debate the rule for the annual defense bill, will be a good gauge of where things stand between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and hardline conservatives in his caucus, Politico reports.

“Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said he’s worried bipartisan priorities have been getting caught in the crosshairs as Republicans aggressively push to rein in federal spending,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“The deeply conservative Friendswood Republican holds a distinction that separates him from several other caucus members: He is Congress’ top requester of earmarks this year at a time when many fellow conservatives have turned their backs on steering funds to local projects in their districts.”

“As Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) publicly floats a plan to team up with Democrats in an effort to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), some House Democrats say they’re not interested,” Axios reports.

“A single member can trigger a ‘motion to vacate‘ vote, but actually removing the speaker requires a majority of the House and would likely need substantial support from Democrats.”

Said Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH): “Most of us came here to govern and get things done, not indulge Matt Gaetz when he has one of his tantrums.”

“House Republicans are not only facing resistance from within their own ranks to impeach President Joe Biden, they’re also getting a cool reception from another key constituency: Senate Republicans,” CNN reports.

“The concerns raised from lawmakers across the Capitol – who would be the jury in an impeachment trial if it came to that – adds another layer of GOP opposition, and further exposes that Republicans are not unified in their pursuit of impeaching Biden.”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) called out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on MSNBC for her “absurd” devotion towards impeaching President Biden, claiming there is no evidence that Biden committed any wrongdoings.

Said Buck: “Marjorie filed impeachment articles of impeachment on President Biden before he was sworn into office more than two and a half years ago. The idea that she is now the expert on impeachment or that she is someone who should set the timing on impeachment is absurd.”

Buck “is just one of several House Republicans standing in the way of the right’s push to impeach President Joe Biden,” CNN reports. “Now, there is a serious effort underway to find a candidate to mount a primary challenge against Buck in his solidly red district in eastern Colorado… the latest sign of tension as the House GOP grapples with internal divisions over everything from its agenda to former President Donald Trump.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said that states “should consider seceding from the union” in response to President Biden’s border policies.

Los Angeles Times: “Impeachment is not popular in the 18 districts that Biden won in 2020 but that are currently held by House Republicans, according to an August poll commissioned by the Congressional Integrity Project, a Democratic-aligned nonprofit. Five of those vulnerable incumbents— John Duarte of Modesto, Young Kim of Orange County, David Valadao of Hanford, Michelle Steel of Seal Beach and Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita — represent California districts.”

“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia by private train to the strains of a military band on Tuesday for talks with President Vladimir Putin – amid warnings from Washington they should not trade weapons,” Reuters reports.

“The Biden administration is in active conversations about whether to send long-range missiles to Ukraine amid an intense campaign for the U.S. to transfer the weapon,” Politico reports.

“It’s unclear if a decision memo has reached President Joe Biden’s desk. The officials said a final call would be made with Ukraine’s input, but Washington and Kyiv aren’t engaged in discussions about an announcement or a rollout of Army Tactical Missile Systems.”

“Russian President Vadimir Putin praised Elon Musk as an outstanding person and talented businessman, just days after the chief executive officer of SpaceX acknowledged preventing Ukraine from using his company’s Starlink satellite network for an attack on Russian warships,” Bloomberg reports.

The Kremlin seeks the return of a covert operative serving a life sentence in Germany, possibly in exchange for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and others held by Russia, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“As an arms trafficker, he operated in some of the world’s most dangerous places, becoming one of the world’s most wanted men and earning the nickname ‘Merchant of Death,’ not to speak of a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. But now, nine months after returning to Russia in a prisoner exchange, Viktor A. Bout is reinventing himself — as a local politician,” the New York Times reports.

New York Times: “Republicans have cast Hunter’s troubles as a stew of nepotism and corruption, which the Biden administration denies. But there is no doubt that Hunter’s case is a drain, politically and emotionally, on his father and those who wish to see him re-elected.”

“The saga reflects the painful dynamics of the first family, shaped by intense ambition and deep loss, along with anger and guilt. It is the story of two very different if much-loved sons, and of a father holding tight to the one still with him.”

Alabama had asked the three-judge panel to stay its ruling while Alabama appeals to the Supreme Court – and was practically laughed out of court.  The Court ordered the state to enact a new map without delay.   Alabama brushed off the setback and immediately went to the Supreme Court for a stay. Ball in your court, SCOTUS.

In a NYT op-ed – “Alabama Has Put the Supreme Court’s Legitimacy on the Line” – Kate Shaw writes: “Facing a crisis in public confidence, the court should take the opportunity to regain some of its rapidly dwindling legitimacy by sending a clear message that even its ideological fellow travelers do not get a pass from abiding by its rulings.”

Frank Bruni: “To our intensifying discussion about whether President Biden has grown mentally fuzzy and too old for a second term, I’d like to add this question: How would we even notice Donald Trump’s lapse into incoherence, when derangement is essentially his brand?”

“Pretty much any interview he gives is a babble bonanza, and his recent lovefest with Tucker Carlson was no exception.”

 “Donald Trump threw down the gauntlet in a Sunday evening Truth Social rant, challenging a host of his perceived enemies—including Rupert Murdoch and the ‘heads’ of his Wall Street Journal newspaper—to the same mental acuity test that he supposedly ‘aced’ a few years back,” the Daily Beast reports.

“Trump was apparently angry about a WSJ poll which asked voters about his age and mental fortitude. ‘Where did that come from?’”

“As Donald Trump widens his lead over other Republican candidates in the GOP primary, the former president’s closest economic advisers are plotting an aggressive new set of tax cuts to push on the campaign trail and from the Oval Office if he wins a second term,” the Washington Post reports.

“Brazil’s leader has witdrawn his personal assurance that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be arrested if he attends next year’s Group of 20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, saying it would be up to the judiciary to decide,” Al Jazeera reports.

“President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also questioned Brazil’s membership in the United Nations war crimes court, saying on Monday ’emerging countries often sign things that are detrimental to them.’”

“Xi Jinping has placed the Communist Party—and himself—in greater command of China’s economy over the past decade. Now his centralization of power is delaying the country’s response to its worst economic slowdown in years,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Officials in charge of day-to-day economic affairs have been holding increasingly urgent meetings in recent months to discuss ways to address the deteriorating outlook.”

“Yet despite advice from leading Chinese economists to take bolder action, the people said, senior Chinese officials have been unable to roll out major stimulus or make significant policy changes because they don’t have sufficient authority to do so, with economic decision-making increasingly controlled by Xi himself.”

 “Two Georgia state election workers who won a defamation lawsuit against Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani are now requesting $104,256.50 in attorneys’ fees,” The Messenger reports.

Washington Post: “The [GOP] strategy [of attacking judges and the justice system] has been effective in shaping public opinion of the investigations after years of sustained broadsides against the judicial system by Trump and his top allies.”

“But the party’s blitz of attacks on prosecutors threatens to degrade an important precedent that protects prosecutorial independence and the ability to fairly root out wrongdoing without partisan influence or gain, according to legal experts.”

Austin American Statesman: “The [Ken Paxton Impeachment] trial [resumed this week] in the Texas Senate chamber, where, to this point, public turnout has been sparse for the state’s first impeachment trial of a statewide officeholder in more than 100 years. Based on the time remaining to present evidence for each side, it is possible the case could be turned over to the senator-jurors to deliberate by the end of the week.”

“The question before the 30 lawmakers — 18 Republicans and 12 Democrats — is whether Paxton abused his position as the state’s top lawyer in 2020 to provide favorable legal services to a campaign donor, Nate Paul.”

Politico: “McConnell confronted the moment in the way he knows best: by rallying his supporters to his side. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), one of McConnell’s top deputies, recalled the leader ringing him just minutes after the August freeze to say, dryly as ever, ‘I just had another one of those.’”

“It was a subtle acknowledgment that his health might become a fresh distraction from a man who’s sensitive about the topic. McConnell ultimately had to get more personal with his members to quell a possible political threat stemming from his freeze-ups, releasing a doctor’s letter that ruled out graver diagnoses and delivering a private presentation to his members on his health.”

“Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s family squabble over the extreme wealth left behind by her late husband, Richard Blum, was on full display in a San Francisco courtroom for the first time Monday, before a judge ordered private mediation that will drag into next year,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Katherine Feinstein, the senator’s daughter from a previous marriage who has power of attorney for her 90-year-old mother in legal matters, has argued her mother is owed millions in disbursements from Blum’s estate and needs the money now to cover medical bills. Blum’s trustees have said his estate is incredibly complex and tied up in investments, and they need more time to evaluate his assets, tax liabilities and debts before making substantial disbursements.”

“The bitter legal drama around Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s family finances might be resolved out of the limelight after weeks of embarrassing revelations,”  Politico reports. “A judge on Monday ordered the parties in a dispute over the estate of the senator’s late husband to resolve their differences through mediation — generally a private process that will keep further details about the family finances out of public view.”

 “The Biden administration has cleared the way for the release of five American citizens detained in Iran by issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6 billion in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of U.S. sanctions,” the AP reports.

“In addition, as part of the deal, the administration has agreed to release five Iranian citizens held in the United States.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said his government will decide how it will spend $6 billion in previously frozen funds due to be released under a prisoner exchange agreement with the United States, telling NBC News that the money “belongs to the Iranian people.”

But U.S. officials say Qatar’s central bank will oversee the funds and Iran will only be permitted to use the money for humanitarian purposes in accordance with U.S. sanctions.

“Lawyers for Donald Trump on Monday asked the federal judge presiding over his election subversion case in Washington to recuse herself, saying her past public statements about the former president call into question whether she can be fair,” the AP reports.

“The recusal motion from Trump’s lawyers takes aim at U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, a former assistant public defender who was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama. She has stood out as one of the toughest punishers of Jan. 6 defendants.”

Bloomberg: “The bar is high for litigants to successfully argue for a judge to recuse from a case. Chutkan in earlier hearings has said she would ensure Trump would receive the same rights as other defendants.”

“A former Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate is asking the state’s highest court to block Republican lawmakers from launching impeachment proceedings against a justice whose election in April flipped the court to liberal control, setting the stage for new electoral maps that could boost the number of legislative seats held by Democrats,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“Madison attorney Tim Burns, who ran for a seat on the court in 2018, filed a lawsuit Monday against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos arguing an impeachment of newly seated Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz would violate the constitutional rights of voters who supported her during the spring election.”

Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen told Bloomberg that she is “feeling very good” about the U.S. making a soft economic landing without a recession.

Wall Street Journal: “It is the first visible sign of progress on the wage issue since the sides began talks in earnest in July.”

A group of seven activists were arrested for unlawful entry on Monday morning after storming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office, the Daily Beast reports.

The U.S. approved updated Covid-19 vaccines Monday, hoping to rev up protection against the latest coronavirus strains and blunt any surge this fall and winter, the AP reports.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) “called for the removal of President Joe Biden from office via the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.  “Lee was responding to a Daily Mail article about a bizarre scene that unfolded during a rambling press conference following Biden’s landing in Vietnam.”

“Donald Trump likes to put his name on everything — except his taxpayer-funded, post-presidential office here on North Flagler Drive,” NBC News reports. “Trump’s website doesn’t list the address, which is about a 10-minute drive from his Mar-a-Lago club. The nameplate on the hallway wall is blank. There is no seal, official or unofficial, on the frosted-glass door. And the name Trump — a brand the former president estimates to be worth billions of dollars — is nowhere to be found.”

“It’s so hush-hush that his spokesman, Steven Cheung, claimed no knowledge of its existence.”

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

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