Cup of Joe – October 26, 2023

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) was elected Speaker of the House in a floor vote with every Republican falling behind the fourth-term lawmaker. He received 220 Republican votes.

Johnson is the least experienced speaker elected in 140 years.

NBC News: Five things to know about Mike Johnson.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) is in just his fourth term and would be the least experienced speaker elected in 140 years. He’s never served in a senior leadership position or as a full committee chair.

But he did help defend Donald Trump during his two impeachment trials in the Senate. 

And the New York Times called him “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections” after the 2020 election.

That’s because Johnson led the amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in four swing states. CNN reported at the time that Johnson sent an email from his personal account to every GOP lawmaker urging them to sign on.

When asked about this key resume point by reporters last night, Johnson said nothing but his Republican colleagues booed and yelled “shut up.”

Trump helped tank Rep. Tom Emmer’s (R-MN) candidacy yesterday, mainly over the veteran lawmaker’s vote to certify the 2020 presidential election results.

But with Johnson, Trump has the perfect partner for another attempt to steal an election. 

“The nation is depending upon your resolve. We must exhaust every available legal remedy to restore Americans’ trust in the fairness of our election system.”— Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), quoted by Bloomberg on November 7, 2020, urging Donald Trump to fight the election results.

“Democrats are already looking to newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) as a potential asset to damage Republicans in swing districts as the 2024 election approaches,” Axios reports.

“Johnson’s lack of national name recognition makes him a blank slate among voters, which both parties are trying to use to their electoral advantage.”

Said one Democratic strategist: “He is a rare and volatile combination of unvetted and conservative talk show host. He actually has years of material, freestyle right-wing rhetoric, that nobody has looked under the hood on.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) told MSNBC that before the election of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as House Speaker he did not cut any side deals like he did when Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) won the gavel.

Said Gaetz: “No side deals. This speaker election means that the House Republican conference is united, really, for the first time.”

Brendan Buck: “When Republicans drafted Paul Ryan into the speakership eight years ago, it was head-spinning. The magnitude of the task and sheer volume of responsibilities were jarring, even for someone with more than 15 years of legislative experience.”

“Experience, it seems, is no longer an attractive attribute for a Republican speaker. It was perhaps Mike Johnson’s short tenure in the House that allowed him to win the gavel. But now he faces a terrifyingly steep learning curve and almost no margin for error.”

“I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to be thrust into the speakership, serving as an aide at Ryan’s side after he took over from my former boss John Boehner.”

“Rep. Mike Johnson’s relative anonymity inside the Republican conference helped him make the unlikely jump from three-term congressman to speaker of the House,” The Messenger reports.

“But that lack of a public profile is also exactly what excites Democrats as they begin their efforts to publicize the Louisiana Republican’s conservative positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen ahead of the 2024 campaign.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “I follow politics for a living, and I had to Google Johnson to remember exactly who he was and where he was from.”

“Here’s who he is: Paul Ryan’s economic policies + Mike Pence’s views on abortion + Donald Trump’s dangerously wacky views on the 2020 election = Mike Johnson.”

“In other words, if Democrats could design in a lab the perfect candidate to run against, that person would look a lot like Mike Johnson.”

Playbook: “Remember that there were two giant electoral drags on the GOP during the 2022 elections: (1) denialism about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, and (2) policies on abortion rights that voters saw as overly restrictive or out of the mainstream.”

“Now, the Republicans have elected a speaker who Dems bet they’ll be able to use as an albatross around the neck of every Republican in a swing district or suburban seat. He was the architect of a lawsuit to overturn results of the 2020 race. He has supported abortion restrictions that make no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. He fits neatly into their talking points about ‘MAGA extremism’ in the GOP.”

“And given his brief time in Congress, they see the rare chance to define a leader of the opposing party before Washington (or the press) knows much of anything about him.”

Punchbowl News: “Johnson is far from a household name. This is an opportunity for Democrats to establish a vision of Johnson in the minds of voters.”

“If you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention.” — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), on Steve Bannon’s podcast. That MAGA Mike name is gonna stick.

“Mike Johnson is Jim Jordan in a sports coat.” — Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Viet Shelton, quoted by The Atlantic.

Punchbowl News: “Johnson is a paltry fundraiser, having brought in just a half-million dollars in the third quarter of 2023. By comparison, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California raised $15.3 million over the same period.”

“Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has a history of harsh anti-gay language from his time as an attorney for a socially conservative legal group in the mid-2000s,” CNN reports.

“In editorials that ran in his local Shreveport, Louisiana, paper, The Times, Johnson called homosexuality a ‘inherently unnatural’ and ‘dangerous lifestyle’ that would lead to legalized pedophilia and possibly even destroy ‘the entire democratic system.’”

“And, in another editorial, he wrote, ‘Your race, creed, and sex are what you are, while homosexuality and cross-dressing are things you do. This is a free country, but we don’t give special protections for every person’s bizarre choices.’”

Josh Marshall: “Moments from now Mike Johnson of Louisiana will become Speaker of the House and I just found out that Johnson and his wife have a podcast about ‘religious conservatism’, basically a heavy focus on abortion bans, opposing gay marriage and the like. Before entering Congress Johnson was a ‘religious liberty’ activist. It’s on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and the rest. You have to figure that opposition researchers are going to be listening to it pretty closely. The first episode I’m listening to is Episode 12 “The Truth about January 6th that You’ve Never Been Told”. After that there’s Episode 14 “Post-Roe America: What Happens Now?” Johnson supports an absolute national ban on abortions.”

Politico: “Federal workers are still on the job. Unofficially, though, conservatives in Congress got what they wanted: The government did shut down in demonstrable and significant ways this fall — just not on Sept. 30.”

“After Kevin McCarthy essentially forfeited his speakership to avoid a government funding lapse, his ouster on Oct. 3 effectively closed Congress for business. Washington will wake up on Tuesday to 21 days of a speaker-less House, which has lopped off half the legislative branch while two wars rage overseas and the lower chamber’s GOP implodes.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told Fox News the eight Republicans who voted to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker should apologize to “heal the conference.”

Tim Miller: “For about a decade and a half now the governing wing of the party has attempted every strategy imaginable to delay handing congressional leadership power to the group of lawmakers who better represent the desires of today’s GOP voters—the erstwhile renegades the late John McCain dubbed ‘wacko birds.’ That group has grown from only a handful of troublemakers to a significant bloc of Congress that’s bolstered by an additional group of “closet normals” who dress in wacko bird costumes for the retweets.”

“Throughout this period, Republican congressional leaders have taken whatever steps they thought necessary to accommodate and placate these members as long as they could retain what they saw as the real power—leadership posts, committee assignments, big-donor private jet rides—for themselves.”

“Among the many lowlights of this long-running spectacle of appeasement: engaging in wildly irresponsible brinkmanship, granting plum committee assignments to kooks, submitting to power-sharing arrangements and hosting struggle sessions with the House Freedom Caucus, launching sham impeachment inquiries, holding umpty-nine explicitly political hearings over a deadly embassy attack, flying down to an extremely dated South Florida resort to take degrading pictures with a wannabe authoritarian, defending a drag queen fabulist in their ranks, and, most egregiously, agreeing to be complicit in an attempt to overthrow our democracy to soothe the bruised ego of the man-baby-in-chief.”

“Former President Donald Trump’s final chief of staff in the White House, Mark Meadows, has spoken with special counsel Jack Smith’s team at least three times this year, including once before a federal grand jury, which came only after Smith granted Meadows immunity to testify under oath,” ABC News reports.

“The sources said Meadows informed Smith’s team that he repeatedly told Trump in the weeks after the 2020 presidential election that the allegations of significant voting fraud coming to them were baseless, a striking break from Trump’s prolific rhetoric regarding the election.”

“Meadows also told the federal investigators Trump was being ‘dishonest’ with the public when he first claimed to have won the election only hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, 2020, before final results were in.”

“Donald Trump has been fined $10,000 for violating a gag order that prevented him from speaking about those overseeing his civil fraud trial in New York,” The Hill reports.

“In an unexpected twist, Trump was sworn in as a witness to respond to allegations he violated the gag order against him in his fraud case by commenting about a court secretary.”

New York Times: “From the stand, Mr. Trump said that he had not been referring to the clerk, Allison Greenfield… After Mr. Trump left the stand, having testified for about three minutes, the judge, Arthur Engoron, said that he had not found the former president credible and levied the fine.”

That’s probably because Trump’s comments are on video.

Michael Cohen, the one-time fixer and personal lawyer of Donald Trump, testified on Tuesday that he had been instructed by the former president to “reverse engineer” the value of assets that are now at the center of a $250 million civil fraud lawsuit, the Financial Times reports.

Cohen told the Manhattan court that the annual “statement of financial condition” he helped prepare for his former boss — and which is the central issue in the New York attorney-general’s case — was a fiction.

Said Cohen: “I was tasked by Mr Trump to increase the total assets based on a number that he arbitrarily selected.”

Politico: “As Cohen delivered that testimony, Trump, who was seated at the defense table, grew red in the face and shook his head. Trump didn’t look at Cohen as he entered the courtroom, but as Cohen spoke on the witness stand, Trump trained his eyes on him and either crossed his arms or leaned forward over the defense table.”

“Cohen didn’t look at his former boss as he testified, instead directing his attention entirely to the lawyer from the New York attorney general’s office who was questioning him.”

Donald Trump stormed out of the courtroom during testimony from his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in a New York civil fraud trial.

Said Trump: “The witness just admitted that we won the trial. And the judge should end this trial immediately.”

NBC News reports his Secret Service agents were caught off-guard and chased after him as he abruptly left the room.

Michael Cohen was asked by reporters what he saw when he looked Donald Trump in the eye and responded: “I saw a defeated man. I saw somebody that knows it’s the end of the Trump organization.”

He added: “He’s got the wrong guy to intimidate. As you’ve seen, I haven’t stopped for, I don’t know how many years now and I won’t stop until accountability is had.”

“Donald Trump’s wealth, power and fame acted like a magnet for new associates keen to enter his orbit. But now, key figures who sought a share of his reflected glory are turning against him to save themselves,” CNN reports.

“The ex-president absorbed a trio of blows Tuesday that worsened his legal peril and underscored how the 2024 election – in which he is the front-runner for the GOP nomination – will play out in the courts rather than traditional voting battlegrounds.”

Rolling Stone: “On one front, the former president’s inner circle has fretted about how many co-defendants in the Fulton County criminal case — or co-conspirators in the special counsel probes — might turn against him, accept a plea deal, and cooperate with the prosecutors. But lingering beneath the fear of disloyalty lies another, darker fear about whether anyone anyone still working in, or close to, Trump’s inner orbit could already secretly be working with prosecutors.”

“For months, Trump, his lawyers, and advisers have been preparing for a potential onslaught of co-defendants flipping on him ahead of trial in the Georgia case. In the last week alone, three prominent co-defendants — ​​Jenna Ellis, Kenneth Chesebro, and Sidney Powell — have all struck plea deals with the district attorney, and the former president and his team are expecting more to come.”

“According to two sources familiar with the situation, and another two people briefed on it, the former president and his inner sanctum have tried for months to ascertain which imperiled Trump allies have been inching towards cutting deals.”

Charlie Sykes: “On October 24, 3023, the former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, facing 91 felony indictments, spent the day in court listening to his former personal lawyer describe his various financial frauds.”

“In the morning, he learned that another one of his lawyers, Jenna Ellis, had cut a plea deal in the racketeering case against him; and in the afternoon was told that his former Chief of Staff had been given immunity to testify before a federal grand jury about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.”

“On Earth 2.0, this would have been a bad day for the ex-president.”

“But in our world, Trump actually had a fabulous day.”

Donald Trump took questions from reporters in New Hampshire and oddly seemed to claim he was never indicted.

Said Trump: “We did nothing wrong. This is all Biden, indictments and impeachments and this is all about Biden, he can’t do anything right. The only thing they know how to do is cheat in elections and election fraud. This is all by himself.”

He added: “All of these indictments that you see. I was never indicted. Practically never heard the word. It wasn’t a word that registered.”

“Sidney Powell may have pleaded guilty to interfering in the 2020 US presidential election, but she still seems to think President Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate,” Insider reports.

“On her social-media accounts, Powell has continued to push claims that the 2020 election was rigged and that prosecutors in Georgia who brought the criminal case against her were politically motivated.”

“U.S. officials are worried that violence in Israel’s neighbors will spiral into a larger regional war,” Politico reports.

“Missile strikes from Yemen. Killings in the West Bank. Attacks on U.S. troops in Syria. And that’s before Israel officially launches a ground invasion of Gaza, the territory controlled by Hamas militants who killed more than 1,000 Israelis on Oct. 7.”

“Biden administration officials are especially concerned that armed groups backed by Iran are preparing to exact more bloodshed. Aside from Hamas, those proxy forces include Lebanon and Iraq-based Hezbollah and the Houthis of Yemen.”

Axios: Inside Biden’s slow-walking Middle East strategy.

Two dozen American military personnel were wounded last week in a series of drone attacks at American bases in Iraq and Syria, NBC News reports.

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Tuesday that Washington would react ‘swiftly and decisively’ if Iran or its proxy forces attack U.S. personnel after Tehran raised the risk of a larger Middle East conflict in recent days by unleashing the regional militias it has spent years arming,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“American military officials are trying to steer Israel away from the type of brutal, urban combat the US engaged in against insurgents during the Iraq War, in an effort to keep the Israelis from getting bogged down in bloody, house-by-house fighting as they prepare for an assault on Gaza,” CNN reports.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved Jacob Lew to be ambassador to Israel, moving quickly to get him in place during the country’s new war with Hamas,” the AP reports.

“The panel voted 12-9 on Wednesday to move Lew’s nomination to the Senate floor for a final vote, which could come as soon as next week. All Republicans on the panel except Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul voted against him.”

The United Auto Workers union and Ford have agreed in principle to the terms of a tentative agreement that could signal the end to the nearly six-week strike with the Big Three automaker, sources with knowledge of the discussions confirmed Wednesday to CNBC.

A tentative agreement could be announced as early as Wednesday night, pending approval of UAW leaders, according to two sources, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

The agreement will need to be ratified by UAW members, thousands of whom have walked off the job at Ford factories throughout the U.S., including its Kentucky Truck Plant, the company’s largest factory worldwide.

Dallas Morning News: “5,000 Workers at General Motors’ plant in Arlington walked out on strike Tuesday, shutting down work on the production of the highly profitable full-size SUVs and launching another front in the tense fight between the UAW union and automakers.”

David Corn, who broke the story of Mitt Romney deriding 47% of Americans as freeloaders during his presidential campaign, learned from Romney: A Reckoning that Romney went into depression after those remarks were made public:

He could barely eat during the day and struggled to sleep at night, even after popping a Lunesta. He couldn’t even bring himself to listen to music in his hotel room—“just too sick at heart,” he wrote. When he tried to concentrate on briefing materials, his mind would drift toward the self-inflicted damage he had done to his campaign, and to all the people he had failed. To take his mind off it, he rode the elliptical at a punishing pace.

Night after night, Romney castigated himself in his private diary. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he wrote.

“Awful, shameful, sorrowful,” he wrote.

“How I will have let so many down,” he wrote. “I can’t dwell on it—it is overwhelmingly depressing, even agonizing. I am so, so very sorry.”

Romney later called Stuart Stevens, his chief strategist, and asked: “Should I just drop out of the race?”

Chuck Todd reviews Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins.

“Obviously, the heart of the book is his chronicling of the end of the modern Republican Party. And it’s clear Romney is trying to figure out how that happened. What did he miss over the years? Could he or anyone else have done something different to keep voters from falling for a person he saw as a con artist who had no interest in or respect for the U.S. Constitution or for democracy?”

“In short, it’s a book that should serve as a warning to anyone who believes in ‘ends justifies the means’ politicking. Because at its core, that’s what this book showcases: how the ‘ends justifies the means’ mindset broke the GOP to the point it’s now in bed with Trump.”

“Five months ago, President Biden canceled a trip to Australia because the United States was on the brink of defaulting on its debt, and it seemed like a bad time to be out of town. Then he extended an invitation to Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, for a state visit in Washington — a redo of sorts, when things would be calmer,” the New York Times reports.

“Then again, maybe there’s never really a good time.”

“This week, Mr. Biden is steering American involvement in two overseas wars and monitoring the continuing calamity of a speakerless House of Representatives, and there is another government shutdown crisis looming next month.”

“Republicans announced Friday that they had uncovered a ‘direct payment’ to President Joe Biden — exactly the kind of evidence they’ve sought linking Biden to his family’s foreign business deals,” the HuffPost reports.

“But the March 2018 payment came from Joe Biden’s brother James, not a Ukrainian oligarch or Chinese tycoon, and the check was marked as a ‘loan repayment.’”

Washington state Sen. Jeff Wilson (R) “was arrested in Hong Kong on Friday night and charged with possession of an unregistered firearm after he brought the gun to the attention of authorities,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Wilson said that he didn’t realize the firearm—described in his statement as a pistol—was in his bag and that baggage screeners at the airport in the U.S. hadn’t detected it.”

“Indonesia’s top court rejected an effort to block presidential candidates who are over 70 or implicated in human rights abuses, clearing the legal path for a septuagenarian former general’s ultra-nationalist campaign,” the AP reports.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping met California’s Gavin Newsom, the first time the leader of the world’s second-biggest economy has met the governor of a US state in more than six years,” Bloomberg reports.

“Former Argentine presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich, who placed third in Sunday’s election, endorsed right-wing populist Javier Milei on Wednesday for next month’s runoff,” the AP reports.

“Bullrich, a former security minister, received 24% of the vote, compared to 37% for Economy Minister Sergio Massa and 30% for Milei.”

“Donald Trump surprised his own national security adviser and a group of Republican congressmen and women when he interrupted an Oval Office briefing to ask why he should ‘give a fuck’ about the fate of Kurds in Syria,” The Guardian reports.

“Nothing we said worked,” Adam Kinzinger writes in a new book.

“More than a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, one thing seems clear: New state bans have done little so far to deter women from obtaining abortions,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Data released Tuesday shows the number of abortions ticked up slightly in the year following the high court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. That ruling, from June 2022, ended federal protections for the procedure, and paved the way for some 16 states to ban many or most abortions.”

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

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