Cup of Joe – November 12, 2023

“Moody’s on Friday offered a sharp rebuke of political dysfunction in the United States, with the credit-rating agency changing its outlook for U.S. sovereign debt to negative from stable and warning that ‘continued political polarization’ in Congress threatens the country’s fiscal strength,” the Washington Post reports.

“The agency, though, left the nation’s AAA credit score intact for now, keeping it as the last of the big three ratings firms to maintain the United States at the top mark. Fitch downgraded the United States’ long-term credit rating in August, following Standard & Poor’s, which did so in 2011 after a debt ceiling standoff in Congress.”

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who sent the House home early despite a government shutdown looming next week, will speak at a gathering of right-wing leaders in Paris this weekend.

“The federal government shuts [on] Friday at midnight absent congressional action. And all of Washington is looking toward Speaker Mike Johnson for a public indication of a plan to avoid that outcome,” Politico reports.

Jamie Dupree: “I’m not sure how this week could have been any worse for House Republicans. GOP leaders had to cancel votes on two government funding bills. An entire week of House legislative work was wasted.”

“And then, lawmakers went home not knowing how Speaker Mike Johnson will try to avoid a government shutdown on November 17.”

Politico: “For the last 10 years, the ‘Convention of States’ movement has sought to remake the Constitution and force a tea party vision of the framers’ intent upon America. This group wants to wholesale rewrite wide swaths of the U.S. Constitution in one fell swoop. In the process, they hope to do away with regulatory agencies like the FDA and the CDC, virtually eliminate the federal government’s ability to borrow money, and empower state legislatures to override federal law.”

“As far-fetched as this idea might sound, the movement is gaining traction — and now, it believes, it has a friend in the speaker of the House.”

Rolling Stone: “The flag — which Rolling Stone has confirmed hangs outside his district office in the Cannon House Office Building —  is white with a simple evergreen tree in the center and the phrase ‘An Appeal to Heaven’ at the top. Historically, this flag was a Revolutionary War banner, commissioned by George Washington as a naval flag for the colony turned state of Massachusetts. The quote ‘An Appeal to Heaven’ was a slogan from that war, taken from a treatise by the philosopher John Locke. But in the past decade it has come to symbolize a die-hard vision of a hegemonically Christian America.”

“To understand the contemporary meaning of the Appeal to Heaven flag, it’s necessary to enter a world of Christian extremism animated by modern-day apostles, prophets, and apocalyptic visions of Christian triumph that was central to the chaos and violence of Jan. 6. Earlier this year we released an audio-documentary series, rooted in deep historical research and ethnographic interviews, on this sector of Christianity, which is known as the New Apostolic Reformation. The flag hanging outside Johnson’s office is a key part of its symbology.”

“Several Republican lawmakers plan to fight the recently approved abortion rights amendment by trying to overthrow the judicial branch’s authority to interpret it,” the Columbus Dispatch reports.

“Ohio voters approved protections for abortion and other reproductive rights, 57-43%, Tuesday. Abortion rights advocates will soon head to court to repeal restrictions and bans on the procedure.”

Republicans are like the dog that finally caught the car.

For more than 40 years, the GOP pushed to elect politicians who would appoint and confirm judges who would ultimately repeal Roe v. Wade.

But once they finally succeeded on June 23, 2022, it’s been an electoral albatross.

They’ve lost elections they should have won and Democrats have outperformed in nearly every state and district — especially when abortion rights are at the forefront of the campaign.

The GOP has tried two strategies since that Supreme Court decision: In the 2022 midterms, they were mostly silent on the issue. Then in the 2023 off-year elections, they attempted to rebrand a 15-week ban as both reasonable and not really a ban. Both strategies failed spectacularly.

That’s because this is not a messaging problem. It is about Americans not wanting their basic rights taken away. Whether it’s ballot initiatives or specific candidates, abortion rights will continue to be a losing issue for Republicans in 2024.

“FBI agents seized Mayor Eric Adams’s electronic devices early this week in what appeared to be a dramatic escalation of a federal corruption investigation into whether his 2021 campaign conspired with the Turkish government and others to funnel money into its coffers,” the New York Times reports.

“The agents approached the mayor on the street and asked his security detail to step away… They climbed into his SUV with him and, pursuant to a court-authorized warrant, took his devices.”

“The devices — at least two cellphones and an iPad — were returned to the mayor within a matter of days… Law enforcement investigators with a search warrant can make copies of the data on devices after they seize them.”

Judge Aileen Cannon ruled she will not delay Donald Trump’s May 20 trial over classified documents at this time — but will reconsider schedule on March 1 after more negotiation over classified discovery.

“Donald Trump’s lawyers in the election subversion case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith have settled on a clear strategy: Delay, delay, delay,”  The Messenger reports. “The goal is to push the criminal trial until after the 2024 election, after which Trump could conceivably kill all the federal counts against him.”

“Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who is running for president, will go to Israel on Sunday, pressing what he sees as his foreign policy advantage in the race and challenging the other Republicans seeking the White House nomination to join him,” the New York Times reports.

“The trip will be his second to a war zone since opening his presidential bid.”

Florida state Rep. Michelle Salzman (R) has come under fire for appearing to call for the deaths of all Palestinians, the Pensacola News Journal reports.

“Former President Donald Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up undocumented people already in the United States on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled,” the New York Times reports.

“The plans would sharply restrict both legal and illegal immigration in a multitude of ways.”

“The constellation of Mr. Trump’s 2025 plans amounts to an assault on immigration on a scale unseen in modern American history. Millions of undocumented immigrants would be barred from the country or uprooted from it years or even decades after settling here.”

Dylan Byers: “Earlier this week, former president Donald Trump gave an interview to Univision, the Spanish-language broadcaster, during which he threatened to weaponize the F.B.I. and the Justice Department against his political opponents. The statements, which came on the heels of a Washington Post report revealing that Trump and his allies had been drawing up plans to use the federal government to retaliate against adversaries and former cabinet members, were arguably the most brazenly authoritarian remarks the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has made to date in a mainstream media interview. And the interview reasonably unnerved the political pundit class—’dangerous’ and ‘insane’ are among the words that have reverberated across cable news in the last 24 hours.”

“Inside Univision, however, the hour-long sit-down raised alarms for another reason. The interview, which was conducted by a non-Univision journalist who did little to question or push back on Trump’s claims, effectively functioned as a propaganda special, current and former Univision journalists have protested. In it, they saw glaring evidence of a broader effort by their new parent company, which has close ties to Trump and especially to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to curry favor with the former president and push the network further to the right.”

“Donald Trump is endorsing an effort by news organizations to provide live television coverage of his trial on federal charges that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election,” Politico reports.

“In a bombastic legal filing submitted late Friday to the judge who’s scheduled that trial to begin in March, Trump’s attorneys argued he’s the victim of political persecution by President Joe Biden’s administration and should be allowed to use the platform of TV to showcase the proceedings’ unfairness.”

From the filing: “The prosecution wishes to continue this travesty in darkness. President Trump calls for sunlight. Every person in America, and beyond, should have the opportunity to study this case firsthand and watch as, if there is a trial, President Trump exonerates himself of these baseless and politically motivated charges.”

“The Rev. Stephen C. Lee is one of the lesser-known figures indicted with former President Donald Trump in Fulton County, Ga., on charges of unlawfully conspiring to keep Mr. Trump in power after the 2020 election,” the New York Times reports.

“But on Thursday night at an evangelical church near Chicago, dozens of people held their arms aloft and prayed over Pastor Lee at a fund-raiser where he was portrayed as an American hero — and a victim of religious persecution.”

“Every night, in the darkening stillness of his luxury apartment on the Upper East Side, Rudy Giuliani puts on a suit and a tie, affixes an American flag lapel pin above his left breast, sits at his desk in his wood-paneled corner library with views over Madison Avenue, stares into a camera, and starts talking,” New York Magazine reports.

“And then he keeps on talking and talking, delivering, as he has for over a year, hundreds of hours of pure, uncut Rudy at his Rudest…”

“He has discovered that last refuge of the disgraced in 2023: The vodcast.”

“A once-robust alliance of federal agencies, tech companies, election officials and researchers that worked together to thwart foreign propaganda and disinformation has fragmented after years of sustained Republican attacks,” NBC News reports.

“The GOP offensive started during the 2020 election as public critiques and has since escalated into lawsuits, governmental inquiries and public relations campaigns that have succeeded in stopping almost all coordination between the government and social media platforms.”

“A group of preeminent conservative lawyers who opposed former president Donald Trump’s efforts to manipulate the legal system are launching a new, long-term project aimed at fostering respect for the US constitution and the rule of law in the legal profession,” The Independent reports.

“The group, which initially began operating in 2018 under the name Checks and Balances, includes preeminent conservative legal figures such as J Michael Luttig, the former Fourth Circuit judge who was shortlisted as a Supreme Court pick during the George W Bush administration, and George Conway, who was former president Donald Trump’s pick to run the Justice Department civil division before he became a prominent critic of the ex-president.”

Donald Trump boasted that former German Chancellor Angela Merkel “had complimented his ability to draw crowds — repeating a comment that implicitly compared him to Adolph Hitler,” according to a new book by Jonathan Karl, Politico reports.

“At least twice, Karl writes, Trump gloated to a prominent member of Congress that Merkel — who detested the 45th president privately and had trouble hiding her scorn publicly — told him she was ‘amazed’ by the number of people who came to see him speak, and Trump said ‘she told me that there was only one other political leader who ever got crowds as big as mine.’ The Trump-allied congressman knew who Merkel was comparing Trump to, but couldn’t tell if Trump, who took Merkel’s words as a compliment, himself understood.”

Asks Karl: “Which would be more unsettling: that he didn’t or that he did?”

An associate of a Jan. 6 defendant pleaded guilty this week to charges that the two men plotted “to murder employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” NBC News reports.

“When most of us came back from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War or after the war, we did not get a warm welcome in most quarters. Today, wherever I go, I get introduced as the last Vietnam War veteran serving in the Senate and I get standing ovations. It’s amazing. Amazing.”— Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) reflecting to National Journal on the arc of his service career.

Peter Thiel told the FBI that Russian president Vladimir Putin reached out to him through a Russian diplomat twice, once at a 2018 at a party in Vienna, and again in 2022, Insider reports.

He said that the Kremlin invited him to meet with Putin himself.

Philip Bump: “For many Americans, a turn toward authoritarianism isn’t seen as a negative. Many Americans support that idea.”

Washington Post: “For months, the former first lady has been living in one of Mar-a-Lago’s many bedrooms, secluded and almost entirely out of the public eye.”

“But as the big twin storylines of 2024 — whether Donald Trump will return to the White House, and whether he’ll be convicted of crimes and face possible prison time — have ramped up, Melania Trump has been more notable for where and when she has not appeared.”

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

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