Cup of Joe – September 14, 2023

Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he is directing House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

The House will not vote to open the inquiry, something McCarthy had indicated the chamber would do.

Washington Post: “The inquiry would center on whether Biden benefited from his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings, among other issues, McCarthy said.”

Josh Marshall: “Predictably, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, trying to avoid a shutdown and hold on to his Speakership, has now endorsed an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. But I wanted to flag how the inside DC sheets manage to carry water for House Republicans even when they are notionally highlighting the oddity of a full blown impeachment inquiry based on literally nothing.

Note this graf in a morning newsletter from Punchbowl… “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.”

It’s true that they haven’t uncovered “any direct evidence”. But stating it like that is profoundly deceptive. They haven’t uncovered any evidence at all. I’m curious what the Punchbowl editorial team would say if asked what evidence they’re referring to.

It’s worth remembering that we’re four years into this ‘investigation’. Not only are all of President Biden’s tax records public. His son’s finances have been under scrutiny by a US Attorney for years. Any money channeled back to Hunter’s father would jump out immediately. The lack of any evidence for any involvement or benefit to the President is quite striking. But again, this is like classic both sidesism. The statement is clearly meant to suggest that there’s evidence just no slamdunk evidence. In fact, there’s literally none.”

“The evidence suggests Hunter Biden is guilty of unethical and/or illegal behavior. The evidence suggests Joe Biden is guilty of absolutely nothing more than being a father.”— Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), quoted by Politico.

“Centrist House Republicans aren’t upset that Speaker Kevin McCarthy reversed himself on holding a vote to formally launch the GOP’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden,” Politico reports. “Some are even relieved.”

Politico: “The start of an inquiry also reflects how quickly impeachment has been downgraded from an ultra-rare proceeding to a political weapon in Congress: House Republicans have yet to turn up a smoking gun that would substantiate high crimes and misdemeanors or link the president to money Hunter Biden received in Ukraine and China. The GOP argues that the inquiry will give the panels more opportunity to dig deeper into the matter.”

“Some Democrats reacted by rubbing their hands at the prospect of McCarthy forcing his swing-seat incumbents into a vulnerable position if Republicans overplay their hand. But this is nonetheless a major move against Biden that could make him more vulnerable politically and put Hunter’s struggles front and center.”

“It’s a tale as old as time, or at least January 2023, all in all: The hard right prevails, McCarthy goes back on his word to hold on to power, moderates roll over, and the whole thing is likely headed nowhere in the Senate.”

“The White House’s oversight and investigations war room finally got the battle on Tuesday that they’d been arming themselves for,” CNBC reports.

“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s announcement that he has directed GOP led House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden was the long anticipated retribution that White House aides had been waiting for, after House Democrats twice impeached Donald Trump during his one term in office.”

“Ever since Republicans retook the House majority last year, the White House has been building a team of legal experts and spokespeople to counter the congressional inquirie launched into the president and his son, Hunter Biden.”

Politico: “In January 2020, the Donald Trump-led Justice Department formally declared that impeachment inquiries by the House are invalid unless the chamber takes formal votes to authorize them.”

“That opinion — issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — came in response to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump without initially holding a vote for it.”

“Not only is it still on the books, it is binding on the current administration as it responds to Tuesday’s announcement by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to authorize an impeachment inquiry into Biden, again without a vote.”

Financial Times: “Most Democrats and even some Republicans say the case for opening an impeachment inquiry may be among the weakest ever against a sitting president. While federal prosecutors believe they have found enough to indict Hunter Biden in a tax and firearms case this month, no evidence has yet been presented to show wrongdoing by the president in any of his son’s other business affairs.”

“Yet the Speaker’s move may be as much about preservation of his own political power as the merits of the case.”

Even former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who launched Bill Clinton’s impeachment 25 years ago, warned that if Republicans “go too fast, it could backfire.”

“Just before the 2020 election, Joe Biden and his campaign said his son Hunter hadn’t made money from China — and that Biden hadn’t met one of Hunter’s Ukrainian business associates while he was vice president, except for maybe a brief hello,” Axios reports.“Both of those claims were false, according to recent sworn testimony by Hunter Biden and his business partner, Devon Archer.”

“House Republican leaders now have zeroed in on those two denials by Joe Biden in 2020 to help justify an impeachment inquiry into the president.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “ramped up his threats to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s grip on the gavel,” Politico reports.

Said Gaetz, on the House floor: “I rise today to serve notice: Mr. Speaker, you are out of compliance with the agreement that allowed you to assume this role. The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate, total compliance or remove you pursuant to a motion to vacate the chair.”

Playbook: “For weeks, McCarthy’s inner circle privately talked about an impeachment inquiry as a sort of break-glass emergency measure that could mollify the right if the spending showdown went sideways.”

“Turns out that was wishful thinking. Just minutes after he announced the inquiry, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) went to the House floor to make the case for McCarthy’s potential removal, vowing to start ‘every single day in Congress with the prayer, the pledge and the motion to vacate’ if he doesn’t do the right’s bidding, and he isn’t alone.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) threatened Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on the House with “motion to vacate vote,” but actually removing him would require a majority of the House.

Since McCarthy can probably count on the support of 200 or more Republicans — out of the 222 members in his caucus — that would mean nearly all Democrats would need vote to oust McCarthy.

One Democratic lawmaker splashed cold water on the idea, Axios reports, calling McCarthy “the devil you know.” Another anonymous House Democrat predicted “some” Democrats may support a motion to vacate, but “most won’t.”

But that was before McCarthy directed three House Committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. If Republicans try to remove McCarthy from the speakership, it seems much less likely that Democrats would support him.

As Punchbowl News reports: “There was a period of time after the debt-limit deal when some Democrats privately signaled they’d back McCarthy if GOP hardliners tried to oust him for “doing the right thing,” as Democratic aides put it to us.

That changes with the launching of an impeachment inquiry into Biden. And McCarthy’s actions will have far-reaching implications for his relationship with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

McCarthy may spend most of this month trying to hang on to his job.

Punchbowl News: “McCarthy is pulled in one direction by the right of his conference, and another by the center. He’s often left trying to find a sweet spot in between the two.”

“The reality for the 58-year-old, nine-term McCarthy is that once he opens an impeachment inquiry, it’s almost guaranteed that House Republicans will impeach Biden. Remember, a sizable number of Republicans were ready to impeach before the inquiry even began. And once the House has begun the process, not impeaching Biden will look like a validation of the president to many rank-and-file lawmakers. That may be too much for McCarthy to control.”

Playbook: “Opening an inquiry then failing to follow through would be a major political boon to Biden — essentially, a tacit admission by the GOP that he’s innocent. And we wouldn’t be surprised if McCarthy uses that argument to squeeze moderates who currently see no evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors to back impeachment later on.”

Politico: The Biden impeachment’s known unknowns.

“Members of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus marked their return to Washington on Tuesday by digging in on their calls for policy conditions on a stopgap measure to fund the government past a Sept. 30 shutdown deadline,” The Hill reports.

“The demands come as right-wing frustration is building with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over how he has handled spending matters.”

“Donald Trump has been weighing in behind the scenes in support of the House GOP push to impeach President Joe Biden,” Politico reports.

“The former president has been speaking weekly with House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, who was the first member of Republican leadership to come out in support of impeachment.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told the New York Times that she had dinner with Donald Trump over the weekend and laid out her impeachment strategy, telling the former president she wanted the inquiry to be “long and excruciatingly painful for Joe Biden.”

Jonathan Chait: “That House Republicans are now launching an impeachment inquiry over this very same charge seems not exactly coincidental. It is also not a surprise that Trump has been privately urging House Republicans to impeach Biden.”

“What has transformed this longstanding desire into an actual impeachment investigation is not any investigative finding, but simply an impatience by Trump and his supporters to get on with it.”

Said Trump: “Either impeach the bum, or fade into oblivion. They did it to us!”

“Yet the fact that Republicans have been threatening a revenge impeachment against the next Democratic president literally since Trump’s first impeachment has been oddly absent from news coverage.”

David Weigel reviews The Last Politician by Franklin Foer.

“Foer’s book, the most far-reaching study of the Biden White House so far, presents an aging president who’s nonetheless fully engaged in the job, stumbling more when he loses his temper — blurting out Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s private negotiating position, telling a Democrat who resists the Build Back Better package that she’s ‘the opposition’ — than when he loses his train of thought.”

“But this story is so distant from most coverage of Biden, especially on the right, that it reads like alternate history. To many voters, Biden is presented as too frail to carry out even basic duties, leaving his aides to secretly run the country in his stead. In the first books to document his presidency, the picture is of a leader who sounds shaky in public, but is the dominant force in his White House.”

“Inflation picked up in August as gasoline prices jumped, but underlying price pressures stayed mostly mild,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New York Times: “The increases in headline and core inflation were slightly above consensus forecasts and now become a political headache for President Biden, who has been celebrating falling price growth.”

“Surging inflation gobbled up household income gains last year, making 2022 the third straight year in which Americans saw their living standards eroded by rising prices and pandemic disruptions,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Americans’ inflation-adjusted median household income fell to $74,580 in 2022, declining 2.3% from the 2021 estimate of $76,330, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. The amount has dropped 4.7% since its peak in 2019.”

“Poverty increased sharply last year in the United States, particularly among children, as living costs rose and federal programs that provided aid to families during the pandemic were allowed to expire,” the New York Times reports.

“The poverty rate rose to 12.4 percent in 2022 from 7.8 percent in 2021, the largest one-year jump on record, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. Poverty among children more than doubled, to 12.4 percent, from a record low of 5.2 percent the year before.”

“Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is refusing to back down from his decision to hold up more than 300 non-political military promotions, despite growing pressure from Senate Republican colleagues and leaders,” The Hill reports.

“Fellow Republican senators have criticized Tuberville’s strategy as a ‘mistake,’ and urged him to narrow his holds to Biden nominees who make policy decision and allow stalled non-political military personnel to continue advancing in their careers.”

“President Biden and Republicans are gearing up for a hyperbolic election-year battle over extending the 2017 law that lowered taxes for individuals and businesses. Ignore the noise. Most of the fight is already over, and tax cuts are winning again,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The core individual tax provisions of the 2017 law, which Republicans pushed through Congress and then-president Donald Trump signed, are scheduled to expire after 2025. That means lawmakers will have to revisit the tax cuts shortly after the election, no matter who wins control of Congress and the White House. Biden calls the law an expensive failure and an unjustified giveaway to the wealthy, while Republicans promise to extend all of the tax cuts, which they see as an unqualified economic success.”

“The reality: Even if Biden is re-elected, most of the 2017 law isn’t going away. In his budget, Biden has already proposed extending Trump’s tax cuts for almost all households, and he has promised to avoid raising taxes on anyone making under $400,000.”

“Mark Meadows, a former aide to Donald Trump who was charged in Georgia with trying to overturn the former U.S. president’s 2020 election loss, has appealed a judge’s ruling denying his bid to move the case to federal court,” Reuters reports.

“A liberal group filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block former President Donald Trump from the 2024 presidential ballot in Minnesota, the second major lawsuit in two weeks that hopes to invoke the 14th Amendment’s arcane ‘insurrectionist ban,’” CNN reports.

“A Republican election lawyer with ties to three of former president Donald Trump’s GOP primary opponents has joined a crowded field of individuals and groups exploring whether the former president can be kept off the ballot for his role in fomenting the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” the Washington Post reports.

“Jason Torchinsky, a partner with the Virginia law firm Holtzman Vogel, has in recent days initiated conversations about the idea of trying to disqualify Trump with a range of figures, including a Democratic secretary of state, fellow election lawyers and a retired federal judge who has helped lead the push to question Trump’s eligibility.”

“The judge presiding over the criminal case against Donald Trump in Manhattan signaled that he could be open to changing the date of the trial — now set for March 2024 — in light of the handful of other potential trials the former president now faces,” the New York Times reports.

“But in a letter sent to Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the judge, Juan M. Merchan, said he would wait until February to have that discussion, given Mr. Trump’s ‘rapidly evolving trial schedule.’”

“The United Auto Workers union plans to hold targeted strikes at certain U.S. auto factories if it can’t reach new labor deals with Detroit automakers by late Thursday, an unusual strategy that could broadly disrupt assembly-line production,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Politico: Democratic lawmakers rev rhetoric amid UAW strike threat.

“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed support for Russia’s ‘just fight’ during a summit with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that the U.S. warned could lead to a deal to supply ammunition for Moscow’s war in Ukraine,” the AP reports.

“After touring launch pads with Putin at a remote space base in Russia’s Far East, Kim expressed ‘full and unconditional support’ and said Pyongyang will always stand with Moscow on the ‘anti-imperialist’ front.”

Wall Street Journal: “To complete the deal [with regard to Trump’s Twitter knockoff Truth Social], Trump Media needs regulators to approve financial statements documenting its recent business performance. That is normally a routine part of a public offering, but Trump Media hasn’t disclosed many details about its business in the two years since the merger was first announced.”

“The company and the SPAC also need to persuade hedge funds not to pull committed investments, despite delays that led to a retreat in Digital World’s shares.”

“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D., N.Y.) office says she isn’t married,” the Washington Free Beacon reports.

“But she has described her fiancé, Riley Roberts, as her ‘spouse’ in forms filed with the House Ethics Committee in 2023, which has a strict definition of that term—’someone to whom you are legally married.’”

“Taken at face value, four legal filings submitted to the House Ethics Committee pertaining to AOC’s overseas travels in 2022 and 2023 suggest the pair have been legally married at least since Jan. 13, 2023. If that is the case, the ‘Squad’ member can no longer leverage the so-called boyfriend loophole to evade public disclosure of his finances. While lawmakers are required to disclose financial information about their spouses, live-in romantic partners and fiancés are exempt from the rule.”

“Nearly fifty years after the fall of Saigon, the United States agreed to help build up Vietnam’s defense capabilities, a tacit acknowledgement that China poses a greater geopolitical challenge today to both nations than they do to each other,” CNBC reports.

“A backup plane and spare parts are en route to India for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is stranded along with his country’s delegation at the Group of 20 summit after the plane they arrived on broke down,” Bloomberg reports.

“Colombian cocaine output surged to a record last year, with the drug flooding into new markets and fueling violence across the planet,” Bloomberg reports.

“Former president George W. Bush was recently surprised to realize he was served by Wagner mercenary group boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin during a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin years ago,” the Washington Post reports. Bush said he didn’t recall meeting Prigozhin but quipped: “All I know is I survived.”

“The new Cold War is a business opportunity, and Mexico looks better placed than almost any other country to seize it,” Bloomberg reports. “US-China tensions are rewiring global trade, as the US seeks to reduce supply-chain reliance on geopolitical rivals and also source imports from closer to home. Mexico appeals on both counts—which is one reason it’s just overtaken China as the biggest supplier of goods to the giant customer next door.”

Let the record show that Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) used the words “dildo,” “cock,” and “strap-on” at a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Daily Beast reports. The video is especially cringeworthy.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) deep-red Bakersfield district the “murder capital of California,” Politico reports. He added’ “Two and a half times the murder rate of Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.”

“The FBI agent overseeing the investigation into Hunter Biden disputed whistleblower claims that the prosecutor in charge of the probe was stymied by the Justice Department,” the Washington Post reports.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will go to China next month to meet with officials on climate change, Politico reports. Said Newsom: “You better believe I coordinated with the White House.”

“Here I am sitting in my first Freedom Caucus meeting, as my head explodes, thinking, ‘How did these individuals get elected?’ The old saying is, ‘It takes you six weeks to figure out how did all these other people around me get elected.’ Well, it took me six minutes. It was incredible to me to listen to that.”— Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), quoted by the HuffPost.

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

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