Posted: April 29, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Harry Littman, Joe Biden, Joe diGenova, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Preet Bharara, Rudy Giuliani, Victoria Toensing
Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS
Last night President Biden gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress. For the first time, two women sat behind the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A couple of reactions to the speech:
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: In his first speech to Congress, Biden rejects autocracy — including from Trump.
There were two moments during President Biden’s address to the nation on Wednesday in which he obviously, if only indirectly, referred to the man who preceded him in his position.
The first came near the beginning.
“America is rising anew,” Biden said, “choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.”
Only the second of those three pairings is immediately and obviously about Donald Trump; the former president’s indifference to accuracy is unparalleled. But by stringing the three together, Biden was similarly positioning Trump as the target of the other pejoratives. America under Trump, he’s saying, was a place of fear, dishonesty and darkness. That tracks with Biden’s past rhetoric and, frankly, Trump’s own: Biden warned the country last autumn that a dark winter was coming because of the pandemic (and Trump’s leadership failures), and Trump himself made fear a central part of his reelection bid.\But now, Biden argued on Wednesday night, all of that was swept aside.
“After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view,” he said. “We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again and leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America.”
From there, Biden turned his attention to an exhaustive list of policy priorities, one that, in its own way, differentiated his speech from any of Trump’s. Not only were his proposals robust and detailed in a way that was never Trump’s style, they were also progressive in a way that no Republican’s would be. It was an obvious difference and, of course, the most important one in terms of governance.
But it was also a reminder that Biden always ran on being a president who just sort of quietly went about presidenting, a promise that he has fulfilled in spades.
A CNN poll found that public reaction to the speech was positive: CNN Poll: 7 in 10 who watched say Biden’s speech left them feeling optimistic.
About half of Americans who watched President Joe Biden’s address to Congress had a very positive reaction to the speech, and 71% said they walked away feeling more optimistic about the country’s direction, according to a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
By a wide margin, speech-watchers said that Biden’s policy proposals would move the country in the right direction (73%) rather than the wrong direction (27%). In a survey conducted before the speech, the same people were a bit less bullish that Biden would lead in the right direction (67% right direction, 33% wrong direction), and that movement came from the independents and Republicans who watched the speech. Among Republicans, the share saying Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction grew from 13% pre-speech to 27% post-speech, while among independents, that percentage rose from 61% to 73%.
That perception carries through to the major issues covered in the speech. More than 8 in 10 said Biden’s proposals on the coronavirus pandemic would move in the right direction (86%), and 74% said the same about racial injustice. Around 7 in 10 said the President’s policies on the economy (72%), gun laws (70%) and taxes (70%) were steps in the right direction. Slightly fewer said the same about immigration (65%).
And Biden’s focus on those issues appeared to hit the right mark for speech-watchers. Overall, 68% said Biden has had the right priorities so far as president, while 32% said he has not paid enough attention to the most important problems.
The other big news yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani’s home and office were searched by Federal agents. Some reactions:
From The Week, via Yahoo News: Federal investigators search Giuliani’s home and office, and experts say it means he’s in real trouble.
Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan on Wednesday, executing search warrants as part of an investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine, reports The New York Times.
The former New York City mayor and personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump is being investigated over possible illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian officials and his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rivals. “Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president,” writes the Times. “While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Mr. Giuliani, it shows that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase.”
Experts agreed the search represented very serious stakes for Giuliani. Former U.S. attorney Harry Litman wrote that “this means that a magistrate judge has found probable cause to believe that [Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine] were criminal.” As the Times writes, “to obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.”
Federal prosecutor and legal analyst Shanlon Wu called the search an “extraordinary step,” and wrote that “no amount of hot air and ranting is going to help Rudy Giuliani now.”
Litman continued: “I don’t know offhand the percentage of people whose [apartments] are searched by warrant who are then indicted … but it’s high, and given Giuliani’s profile, it has to be higher [because] they would be more careful and get lots of approvals.”
The search warrant was reportedly a long time coming, and politics may have slowed it down. The process was delayed for the presidential election so as not to sway voters, and Trump appointees at the DOJ reportedly managed to temporarily block the warrant while Trump was still in office.
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara agrees. Benjamin Hart at New York Magazine: Preet Bharara Thinks Rudy Giuliani Is in ‘Deep Trouble.’
I spoke with Preet Bharara, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the district from 2009 to 2017 — and whose podcast, Stay Tuned, was recently acquired by Vox Media — about Giuliani’s predicament and where the investigation might go next.
How significant is this move by the Feds from your perspective? How much legal danger does Giuliani face here?
I think it’s extremely significant. I’m not one to say that when routine subpoenas are issued or interviews are conducted, but here you have a very prominent person — not just the former lawyer to the president of the United States but also the former U.S. Attorney of the office that’s involved in the investigation. The fact that you execute a warrant on someone’s residence does not necessarily mean there will be a charge, but given the circumstances, given the identity of Mr. Giuliani, given what you have to show to get a judge to authorize the warrant and the search — that’s a sign that he’s in deep trouble. We saw this play out with respect to Michael Cohen and to Paul Manafort. Very prominent targets, very sensitive cases. Both of those men were charged.
The two people you just cited also both went to prison. Is that where this could be going?
I used to head that office, and there are search warrants that get executed on people’s premises and their offices, and no charges follow. That happens, and Giuliani is presumed to be innocent. But what’s likely is that there has already been substantial investigation. The reporting was that they tried to execute these searches when Trump was in office, and they were stymied by higher-ups in the Justice Department. Bear in mind, they’re probably far along, given what showing they have to make of probable cause to do these searches in the first place. They likely already have a lot of Rudy Giuliani’s communications. You don’t need to have his devices in your possession to have email records; those are obtained from third parties, and they probably have all of that. It’s anyone’s guess what the charges will be and when they will come. But in my experience, when you do something like this, that you know will have a reputational effect on the subject, you’re usually thinking there’s a good likelihood of a charge.
It hasn’t been as widely reported, but it’s also significant that the Feds searched the home of another Trump-associated attorney, Victoria Toensing. Nicholas Reimann at Forbes: Feds Search Giuliani’s, Toensing’s Properties As Part Of Ukraine Investigation.
Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment on Wednesday and later searched the home of attorney Victoria Toensing as part of a probe into whether Giuliani acted on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs to illegally lobby the Trump Administration, according to multiple reports, with investigators said to have seized electronic devices.
A bit more from The New York Times:
F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.
Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.
More stories to check out:
Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Biden’s Speech Offers an Alternate Reality for Democrats to Love, After Four Years of Trumpian Fantasy.
Wall Street Journal: Stocks Are Off to Best Start to a Presidential Term Since Great Depression.
Newsweek: Rudy Giuliani Voicemail Hints at Cause of Federal Search Warrant.
The Los Angeles Times: FBI director says Capitol riot was ‘domestic terrorism.’
The Washington Post: Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection.
Politico: Trump’s Battle to Win the First 100 Days.
CNN: US investigating possible mysterious directed energy attack near White House.
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feds plan to indict Chauvin, other three ex-officers on civil rights charges.
CBS News: In India, a scramble for scarce vaccines as COVID deaths top 200,000.
CNN: India’s Covid-19 crisis is a problem for the world.
That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?