Discover more from Letters from an American
April 26, 2023
[Warning: the third and fourth paragraphs of this piece refer to the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit.]
Well, the Republicans did it. After middle-of-the-night negotiations to include more of the far right’s wish list, House Republicans passed a bill agreeing to a short-term raising of the debt ceiling, so long as it is accompanied by massive spending cuts and a rollback of Biden’s major accomplishments. The bill squeaked through by a vote of 217 to 215, mostly along party lines. Four extremist Republicans voted no because they believed the measure didn’t go far enough to slash spending.
The administration reiterated that it would not negotiate over paying the nation’s bills. “In our history, we have never defaulted on our debt or failed to pay our bills,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “Congressional Republicans must act immediately and without conditions to avoid default and ensure that the full faith and credit of the United States is not put at risk. That is their job. Economists have warned that default could spark a dangerous financial crisis, lead to a recession costing millions of Americans their jobs, endanger hard-working Americans’ retirement savings, and increase long-term federal borrowing costs, adding to deficits and debt. We are not a deadbeat nation.”
“I am here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” E. Jean Carroll said in court today for the former president’s civil trial for rape. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I am here to try to get my life back.” Carroll offered a detailed account of what she says was Trump’s attack nearly 30 years ago, an attack that warped her life.
While she testified, Trump attacked Carroll on social media. The judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, warned Trump’s lawyer that his client’s statement was “entirely inappropriate,” saying he was trying to influence the jury. Any more commentary might open up “a new source of potential liability,” Kaplan said. The lawyer said he would do the best he could to silence Trump, but later in the day, Trump posted another attack and his son Eric Trump followed suit.
“I wanted to address my senators, Cruz and Cornyn,” Amanda Zurawski told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary today at a hearing on reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. Zurawski’s water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy, making it impossible for her fetus to survive. Because of the vague and extreme antiabortion bill Texas lawmakers had passed, her health care providers refused to treat her so long as the fetus had a heartbeat, denying her an abortion. Zurawski developed deadly sepsis and, after giving birth to a stillborn daughter, spent three days in intensive care as doctors worked to save her life.
Zurawski said she wanted the two Texas Republican senators to know “that what happened to me I think most people in this room would agree was horrific. But it’s a direct result of the policies they support. I nearly died on their watch, and…I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future. And it’s because of the policies that they support.”
Neither Cruz nor Cornyn showed up to hear her. Cornyn later said Zurawski should consider suing her doctors for misinterpreting the law. Zurawski responded: “[M]y physician and my team of health care professionals that I saw over the course of three days, while I was repeatedly turned away from health care access, made the decision to not provide an abortion because that’s what they felt they had to do under Texas’ law…. And that will continue to happen and it is continuing to happen, and it’s not a result of misinterpretation. It’s the result of confusion, and the confusion is because [of] the way the law is written.”
Today, the Walt Disney Company sued Florida governor Ron DeSantis over his “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” and attack free speech. Disney’s former chief executive officer last year spoke out against the governor’s law prohibiting teachers from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity. The lawsuit says that DeSantis’s attack “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
“For more than half a century,” the lawsuit reads,” Disney has made an immeasurable impact on Florida and its economy, establishing Central Florida as a top global tourist destination and attracting tens of millions of visitors to the State each year. People and families from every corner of the globe have traveled to Walt Disney World,” but that relationship is now in jeopardy, the lawsuit warns. “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
Meanwhile, DeSantis is overseas on what has been billed as a trade mission.
Tonight, the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals denied Trump’s last-ditch attempt to prevent former vice president Mike Pence from testifying before the grand jury investigating Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. The grand jury has issued a subpoena for Pence; Trump tried to argue that Pence’s testimony was barred because of executive privilege. The court of appeals disagreed.
Today, two associates of former Trump ally Steve Bannon were sentenced to four years and three years in prison for soliciting donations for their “We Build the Wall” charity and then pocketing the money. Bannon was also charged in the case, but Trump pardoned him for his involvement in it before he left office.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., today, President Joe Biden and President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea reaffirmed what Biden called the “ironclad” alliance between the two countries. They announced a new agreement, the so-called Washington Declaration, to increase cooperation in order to strengthen the message of nuclear deterrence conveyed to North Korea. This deterrence will include military training and exercises, the establishment of a joint nuclear consultative group, and the visit of a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea. “We’re not going to be stationing nuclear weapons on the peninsula, but we will have visits to ports, visits of nuclear submarines and things like that,” Biden said.
“A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action,” he added, a public reassurance Yoon was hoping to receive when he arrived in Washington. Nervous about North Korean development of nuclear weapons, a majority of South Koreans want to develop their own nuclear weapons, a stance the U.S. strongly opposes.
This official state visit, the second of the Biden presidency, reinforced the changing political landscape in the Indo-Pacific, where the United States seeks to support Japan and South Korea to counter the growing power of China. Since 2021, Korean businesses have invested more than $100 billion in the U.S., an investment that the White House says will create more than 40,000 new jobs here, while the U.S., in turn, is investing in South Korea. The presidents vowed to continue to work together to secure supply chains, develop clean energy, and cooperate on cybersecurity and emerging technologies.
Biden and Yoon have met four times before, and the mood at the White House after the announcement was friendly and celebratory. At tonight’s dinner in President Yoon’s honor, the attendees gave the South Korean leader a standing ovation when he sang the first verse of Don McLean’s 1971 rock ballad “American Pie.”