Lazy Caturday Reads

Vladimir Rumyantsev

By Vladimir Rumyantsev

After looking around at today’s news, I’d like to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend none of the madness is actually happening. But I’ll try to pull myself together and post some stories worth reading today.

The most serious news today is that we are rapidly approaching the debt limit and House Republicans are threatening to force a default on the country’s debt, which would crash the U.S. economy–and likely the global economy.

The Guardian: Treasury secretary: US to reach debt ceiling on Thursday.

Janet Yellen, the US treasury secretary, has notified Congress that the US is projected to reach its debt limit on Thursday, 19 January, and will then resort to “extraordinary measures” to avoid default.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders on Friday, Yellen said her actions will buy time until Congress can pass legislation that will either raise the nation’s $31.4tn borrowing authority or suspend it again for a period of time.

She urged lawmakers to act quickly to raise the debt ceiling to “protect the full faith and credit of the United States”.

“Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the US economy, the livelihoods of all Americans and global financial stability,” she said.

Republicans now in control of the House have threatened to use the debt ceiling as leverage to demand spending cuts from Democrats and the Biden administration. This has raised concerns in Washington and on Wall Street about a bruising fight over the debt ceiling this year that could be at least as disruptive as the protracted battle of 2011, which prompted the brief downgrade of the US credit rating and years of forced domestic and military spending cuts….

The White House said on Friday after Yellen’s letter that it will not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling.

“This should be done without conditions,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “There’s going to be no negotiation over it.”

Republicans are suggesting we pay some bills and postpone others. The Washington Post: House Republicans prepare emergency plan for breaching debt limit.

House Republicans are preparing a plan telling the Treasury Department what to do if Congress and the White House don’t agree to lift the nation’s debt limit later this year, underscoring the brinkmanship newly empowered conservatives will bring to the high-stakes negotiations over averting a U.S. default, according to six people aware of the internal discussions.

Kim Roberti

By Kim Roberti

The plan, which was previously unreported, was part of the private deal reached this month to resolve the standoff between House conservatives and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the election of a House speaker. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), a leading conservative who helped broker the deal, told The Washington Post that McCarthy agreed to pass a payment prioritization plan by the end of the first quarter of the year.

The emerging contingency plan shows how Republicans are preparing to threaten to not lift the nation’s debt ceiling without major spending cuts from the Biden administration. Congress must pass a law raising the current limit of $31.4 trillion or the Treasury Department can’t borrow anymore, even to pay for spending lawmakers have already authorized. Economists warn that not raising the debt limit could cause the United States to default, sparking a major panic on Wall Street and leading to millions of job losses.

In the preliminary stages of being drafted, the GOP proposal would call on the Biden administration to make only the most critical federal payments if the Treasury Department comes up against the statutory limit on what it can legally borrow. For instance, the plan is almost certain to call on the department to keep making interest payments on the debt, according to four people familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. House Republicans’ payment prioritization plan may also stipulate that the Treasury Department should continue making payments on Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, as well as funding the military, two of the people said.

Such a move would be unprecedented and hugely controversial, and even releasing the plan could turn into a major political liability for the GOP. A hypothetical proposal that protects Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits and the military would still leave out huge swaths of critical federal expenditures on things such as Medicaid, food safety inspections, border control and air traffic control, to name just a handful of thousands of programs. Democrats are also likely to accuse Republicans of prioritizing payments to U.S. bondholders — which include Chinese banks — over American citizens.

Read more details on the GOP’s idiotic “plan” at the link.

The other big story is the ongoing attempts of Republicans and some in the media to draw comparisons between Trump’s theft of hundreds of government documents and refusal to return them to the recent discovery of a small number of classified documents from Joe Biden’s time as Vice President in an old office and at his home in Delaware.

CBS News: Total number of Biden documents known to be marked classified is about 20, source says.

The approximately 10 documents marked classified and discovered at the Penn Biden Center included top-secret material, according to a federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

Top secret is the highest of the three basic levels of classification: confidential, secret and top secret. A leak of top secret information could cause “exceptionally grave damage.”

Fewer than 10 documents marked classified were found at the Biden residence in Wilmington, Del., and none were marked top secret.

In all, the source said, the total number of known documents marked classified is roughly 20,between the two locations.

Toby the Dog, Stephen Hanson

Toby the Dog, Stephen Hanson

NPR: Here’s what we know about the classified documents found at Biden’s home and office.

President Biden is facing a Department of Justice investigation after his lawyers found classified documents at his Delaware residence and an office in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department official Robert Hur to lead the DOJ probe.

“This appointment underscores for the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law,” Garland said Thursday.

The announcement comes three days after news broke that classified documents had been found at Biden’s private office in November less than a week before the midterm elections – a discovery that led the DOJ to launch an initial inquiry.

Details on the documents and where they were located:

Early last November, Biden’s personal lawyers were packing files from his one-time office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank founded in 2018 by the University of Pennsylvania where Biden served as a fellow and professor before he became president.

There, in a “locked closet,” the White House says, they discovered some files that were marked as classified, even though the office had not been authorized for the storage of classified documents. The documents were quickly turned over to the National Archives.

Then, on Nov. 4, the National Archives inspector general informed the Department of Justice of the discovery. In mid-November, Garland tapped John Lausch, a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney in Chicago, to begin an initial investigation.

In December, after a review that began after the November discovery, Biden’s personal counsel Robert Bauer informed Lausch that another set of documents had been found in the garage of Biden’s private home in Wilmington, Del. Those documents were soon secured by the FBI.

Finally, on Wednesday night, Biden’s team discovered one more classified document at Biden’s Wilmington home.

As far as we know, Biden’s retention of the documents was unintentional, but the news has provided a golden opportunity for Trump’s dishonest allies.

Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Biden’s Document Blunder Is Nothing Like Trump’s Crime. Trump is facing charges because he defied the law.

The sweet spot for Donald Trump’s allies has always been when they can justify his abuses and crimes through misdirected comparisons rather than direct defense. Did Trump extort Ukraine into smearing his opponent? Well, Ted Kennedy once did something kind of like this. Did Trump try to stay in office after losing the election? Maybe so, but let us tell you about the time a Democrat registered an objection to the Electoral College count in Congress.

The key aspect of these arguments is exaggeration, not fabrication. They seize on real events, often genuinely bad things done by other politicians, then use them as pretext to dismiss actions by Trump of a vastly greater order of magnitude.

Belinda Del Pesco

By Belinda Del Pesco

As many people have very neutrally pointed out, the news that President Biden held on to classified documents is pure manna for Trump’s defenders. It gives them a set of facts to work with that, if examined without any of the important context, can be spun to the willfully credulous as evidence that these men have committed similar crimes.

“There’s no good case for putting a President in prison — much less making two Presidents into cellmates — for improperly retaining materials from recent public office,” intones The Wall Street Journal. “When Mr. Trump was out on a limb by himself, this point was less obvious to some of our media competitors. Now that Mr. Biden faces a similar inquiry, perhaps they see how ridiculous it is.”

But Trump is not potentially facing charges because he improperly took classified documents. It’s because when the government found out about the documents, he refused to give them back and — allegedly — took steps to hide them from the FBI. This is not a small twist on the same crime. It is the crime….

This is how he has operated for his entire career. He cheats, lies, and steals in the expectation that he can brazen out any consequences. He can simply refuse to let Black people rent an apartment or pay contractors what he promised them or lie to his lenders about his worth, and whatever cost he faces will be worth it. The reason his document theft rose to the level of a federal crime was that he applied this method to behavior that is covered by the federal criminal code and handled by prosecutors he can’t necessarily bully or bribe into submission.

As we discovered during the Watergate scandal, it’s the cover-up that gets people in trouble. If Trump had just returned all the documents immediately, as Biden did, he (Trump) wouldn’t be facing the possibility of prosecution for obstruction of justice.

Ethics expert Norm Eisen at CNN: Opinion: I worked on document handling issues in government. Here’s why Biden’s and Trump’s cases are different.

We will all need to be patient now that former Maryland US attorney Robert Hur has been appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland as the special counsel in charge of the investigation into the classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home and private office from his time as vice president.

But giving Hur the time to dig into the legitimate questions he must ask does not mean we should compare Biden’s legal exposure to that of Donald Trump.

Based on what we know now, Biden is unlikely ever to face charges, whereas Trump is at high risk because of his obstructive conduct and other factors absent from the Biden case. The cases have special counsels and classified documents in common — but little else.

Hur, who was nominated by then-President Trump for the US attorney role in Maryland in 2018, will now attempt to determine how the batches of classified documents got to Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware and to his private office in Washington, DC; who was involved; and who may have seen them.

Still Life with Dillan, Alison Friend

Still Life with Dillan, Alison Friend

He will seek to make sure that there are no more anywhere else on Biden’s personal property (a bone of contention in the Trump investigation) and liaise as necessary with national security officials to assess the risk to national security. And he undoubtedly will look at the logistics of the search; for example, if the first batch of documents was discovered in November 2022, why the review that unearthed the new documents was not completed until this Wednesday….

The bottom line is that so far this appears to be a very different case, and the discovery of the second small tranche of documents and the appointment of the special counsel doesn’t change that. If these preliminary indications bear out, it appears unlikely Biden will face charges at the end of Hur’s investigation (whenever that may be).

Just as Hur must decide the Biden case on its facts, special counsel Jack Smith, who is looking at the Trump documents case, should not be influenced in any way in making his determinations about charging Trump based upon this separate and very different case involving Biden.

The Washington Post addressed the issue of the media response to the Biden story. Will this become another “but her emails” episode? The Biden documents scandal is a test for the media — and an opportunity.

After two years of relative quiet, the Washington press corps mounted familiar battle stations this week as a Biden administration scandal took shape.

“You’re not going to answer the questions, but we’re going to ask them because that’s our job,” Ed O’Keefe, a correspondent for CBS News, told White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a press briefing Wednesday in which she repeatedly refused to provide new information about classified documents that had been found improperly stored in the president’s former office space.

It triggered a back-and-forth that led Jean-Pierre to plead, “You don’t need to be contentious with me here.”

Yet for all the pent-up vigor with which they launched into the facts of the case, journalists also labored to contextualize a matter made all the more complex by the shadow of former president Donald Trump’s own ongoing classified-documents scandal. And they girded against partisan criticism that they are going too hard or too soft on the story.

Less than 48 hours after CBS News first broke the story Monday evening, some conservatives were quick to insist that “the media” was somehow downplaying it….

In reality, every network was covering the news that President Biden’s attorneys had voluntarily handed over classified documents on Nov. 2, the same day they discovered them found improperly stored in his private office.

The story was the lead piece on ABC’s and CBS’s evening news shows Monday and the second piece on NBC’s “Nightly News.” CNN devoted 1 hour and 47 minutes to the Biden documents that night compared with 14 minutes spent by MSNBC and 29 minutes on Fox News, according to Media Matters, a liberal group tracking media.

Read the whole discussion at the link if you’re interested. Personally, I expect the media to work hard to try to equate the two scandals. I just hope Biden doesn’t give them any more ammunition.

Woman with book and orange cat, Carol Keiser

Woman with book and orange cat, Carol Keiser

Yesterday, the judge in E. Jean Carroll’s sexual assault lawsuit against Trump released the transcript of Trump’s deposition, and it is just as disgusting as I expected.

The Washington Post: Trump falsely claimed in deposition that Carroll spoke about enjoying rape.

Donald Trump used a sworn deposition in a case brought by his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll to continue calling her a liar and to claim she is mentally ill — denying that he sexually assaulted her even as he falsely claimed Carroll said in a CNN interview that she enjoyed being raped.

In rambling and combative testimony during an October session at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated past claims he didn’t know Carroll, except as an adversary in what he termed “hoax” litigation, and said she was a “nut job”who was fabricating the story altogether.

“I know nothing about her,” he said in response to questions from Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, according to court documents unsealed Friday. “I think she’s sick. Mentally sick.”

The former president twisted Carroll’s comments from a June 2019 interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, in which shesaid she shied away from calling her alleged encounter with Trump a “rape” because the word “has so many sexual connotations” and is a “fantasy” for many.

“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” she told Cooper, according to a transcript of the interview, explaining that she instead thinks of her alleged attack as a “fight.”

Trump cited the interview in telling Kaplan that Carroll “loved” sexual assault.

“She actually indicated that she loved it. Okay?” Trump said in the deposition. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

Kaplan then asked: “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?”

And Trump answered: “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

That sounds like an admission that the rape actually happened.

More stories to check out:

Idaho State Journal: Idaho lawmaker ‘deeply sorry’ for comment comparing cows and women’s health.

The Daily Beast: Indiana Lab Worker Fired for Sending Creepy Threats to Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Fox59 News: ‘I hope you get tied to the back of a truck’: Indiana man threatens Congressman, gets fired from lab manager position.

Legal Insurrection: SCOTUS Investigation Into Abortion Leak Seems A Mess

The Daily Beast: Matt Schlapp and Our Culture of Protecting Predators.

Have a great long weekend, Sky Dancers!!

12 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

    I can’t help thinking that the Republicans can’t deal with the debt situation. The Freedom party wants our government to crash and burn so badly.

    Love the puppy Toby snuck in there!

  4. djmm says:

    Great post with lovely Caturday pictures!

  5. NW Luna says:

    The Republicans, Trump, the tasing cops, yech. I want to pull the covers over my head too!

    The media emphasis on the little that’s similar between Biden’s and Trump’s classified documents, while ignoring or skipping over the many differences, especially the Trump cover-up, is discouraging. Then many people won’t read closely enough, or bother reading past the headline or 1st paragraph, and so get the wrong impression.

    Thanks for the cute kitty pics.

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. quixote says:

    How did I get the impression that the debt hoopla was going to come to a head in summer? July or August is what I remember about ‘the money running out.’

    Now Yellen says Thursday!