Dec. 2020 News

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.

 

Dec. 16

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Defying Trump, McConnell Seeks to Squelch Bid to Overturn the Election, Nicholas Fandos, Updated Dec. 16, 2020. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and pleaded with Republicans privately not to join an effort by House members to throw out the results.

Mitchell McConnellBreaking with President Trump’s drive to overturn his election loss, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory and began a campaign to keep fellow Republicans from joining a doomed last-ditch effort to reverse the outcome in Congress.

Although Mr. McConnell waited until weeks after Mr. Biden was declared the winner to recognize the outcome, his actions were a clear bid by the majority leader, who is the most powerful Republican in Congress, to put an end to his party’s attempts to sow doubt about the election.

He was also trying to stave off a messy partisan spectacle on the floor of the House that could divide Republicans at the start of the new Congress, forcing them to choose between showing loyalty to Mr. Trump and protecting the sanctity of the electoral process.

“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”

A short time later, on a private call with Senate Republicans, Mr. McConnell and his top deputies pleaded with their colleagues not to join members of the House in objecting to the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to ratify the Electoral College’s decision, according to three people familiar with the conversation, who described it on the condition of anonymity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Relief Live Updates, Congressional Leaders Close In on a Stimulus Deal, Staff reports, Dec. 16, 2020. Officials on Capitol Hill appeared to be nearing an agreement for a plan that would infuse the economy with as much as $900 billion in pandemic relief. The plan would include another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans and additional unemployment benefits. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes first over-the-counter, rapid home virus test, William Wan,Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Unlike previous home tests, this version does not require samples to be sent to a lab and can be taken without a doctor’s orders by anyone older than age 2.

fda logoThe Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that can be taken at home without prescription and that yields immediate results.

The test could be a vital tool in the country’s fight against the virus — especially in the months before most Americans are vaccinated. Unlike previous home tests, this version does not require samples to be sent to a lab and can be taken without doctor’s orders by anyone older than 2.

The test, developed by Australian company Ellume, is just one of several positive developments for coronavirus testing.

After months of failures, long lines and continued shortages, the country’s testing capacity is finally expected to increase rapidly in the coming two to three months, reaching many times its current levels, experts said. That reflects new technologies coming online and long-standing investments to ramp up production that are coming to fruition.

ny times logocdc logo CustomNew York Times, Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C., Noah Weiland, Dec. 16, 2020. A former chief of staff at the C.D.C. and his deputy are speaking out about the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Moderna Vaccine Prevents Severe Covid-19, Data Show, Noah Weiland, Denise Grady and Carl Zimmer, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna is highly protective, according to new data released on Tuesday, setting the stage for its emergency authorization this week by federal regulators and the start of its distribution across the country.

The Food and Drug Administration intends to authorize emergency use of the vaccine on Friday, people familiar with the agency’s plans said. The moderna logodecision would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine beginning as early as Monday. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, cleared last week, was the first to be authorized.

“This is great news, as this now brings us to two products with high levels of efficacy,” said Rupali Limaye, an associate scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This would ensure access for millions more Americans. The review confirms Moderna’s assessment of an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent for its shot.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, With First Dibs, Rich Countries Have ‘Cleared the Shelves,’ Megan Twohey, Keith Collins and Katie Thomas, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S., Britain, Canada and others are hedging their bets, reserving doses that far outnumber their populations, as many poorer nations struggle to secure enough.

While many poor nations may be able to vaccinate at most 20 percent of their populations in 2021, some of the world’s richest countries have reserved enough doses to immunize their own multiple times over.

ny times logoNew York Times, If Teachers Get the Vaccine Quickly, Can Students Get Back to School? Eliza Shapiro and Shawn Hubler,  Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Teachers’ unions largely support plans to put educators near the front of the line, but given availability and logistics, that might not be enough to open more schools in the spring.

Given the limited number of vaccines available to states and the logistical hurdles to distribution, including the fact that two doses are needed several weeks apart, experts said that vaccinating the nation’s three million schoolteachers could be a slow process, taking well into the spring.
Live Updates:

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.16, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 73,940,622, Deaths: 1,644,800
U.S. Cases:   17,143,942, Deaths:    311,073

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 16, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Biden’s Delaware hometown, economic pain enters new phase as pandemic rages on, David J. Lynch, Dec. 16, 2020. For the president-elect, addressing the complex blend of urgent short-term issues and chronic ailments facing families in places such as Wilmington will be among his most difficult challenges.

Like larger cities, Wilmington has lost more than a third of its population since its industrial heyday and struggles with violent crime.
Trump Watch

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to pick Buttigieg for transportation secretary, Michael Laris, Ian Duncan and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The most pressing task will be rebuilding transportation networks battered by the pandemic.

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Pete Buttigieg, right, to be his secretary of transportation, elevating the onetime rival to a key role in the incoming pete buttigieg mayor south bend inadministration’s push to rebuild American infrastructure and the economy, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Biden at a critical moment in March ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries. Shortly afterward, an emotional Biden compared the former intelligence officer for the Navy Reserve, who served a tour in Afghanistan, to his son Beau, who died of brain cancer at age 46.

“It’s the highest compliment I can give any man or woman,” Biden said then, citing Buttigieg’s “moral courage” and “backbone like a ramrod,” and predicting a long and bright future. “I promise you, you’re going to end up, over your lifetime, seeing a hell of a lot more of Pete than you are of me.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden chooses Granholm for energy secretary, Will Englund, Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The former Michigan jennifer granholm twitter1governor, shown at right in her Twitter photo, will need an experienced deputy to handle nuclear weapons programs. Biden selects former EPA chief Gina McCarthy, below at left, as climate czar.

President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan who has been a strong voice for zero-emissions vehicles, as secretary of energy, two people familiar with the process said Tuesday.

Granholm, 61 and currently an adjunct professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, has argued that the United States risks being left behind by other countries if it doesn’t develop alternate energy technologies. Her pick is a clear sign that Biden wants the department to play an important role in combating climate change.

gina mccarthyArun Majumdar, a materials scientist and engineer who led a new research agency within the Energy Department under the Obama administration, is under consideration as deputy secretary, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision had been finalized. Majumdar, who has been working for the Biden transition team and was considered a candidate himself for the top Energy post, is an enthusiastic advocate for modernizing the nation’s electricity grid.

Granholm and Majumdar are both immigrants — she from Canada, he from India. Both come to the department from California with backgrounds and expertise in promoting and developing alternate technologies, even as the bulk of Energy’s mandate has to do with the maintenance and safeguarding of the nation’s nuclear weapons and handling the cleanup efforts at contaminated nuclear sites.

In budgetary terms, the nuclear program consumes about 75 percent of the department’s budget, or $27 billion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 16, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

washington post logoWashington Post, What you need to know about Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, Emily Davies, Justin Jouvenal, Teddy Amenabar and Matt Viser, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.).

Joe Biden is expected to begin his term as the 46th president Jan. 20, when he is scheduled to be sworn into office amid an inauguration ceremony unlike any other in recent memory.

The coronavirus pandemic will transform the traditions long associated with inaugural celebrations. In fact, Biden’s transition team is urging all Americans to stay home, refrain from travel and to limit gatherings during the inauguration to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Galas and balls may be canceled entirely. Some events, such as the parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, are expected to occur in a smaller and potentially distant form. Other celebratory components may be virtual, drawing inspiration from the Democratic National Convention’s online event. And people interested in coming to D.C. for the 59th presidential inauguration will have to navigate coronavirus travel restrictions. Here’s a look at what is known so far.

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at McConnell for recognizing Biden’s victory: ‘People are angry!’ Timothy Bella, Dec. 16, 2020. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) finally acknowledged on Tuesday that Joe Biden is the president-elect, President Trump publicly pleaded with him to support his continued efforts to upend the election with baseless claims of mass electoral fraud.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)“Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up,” the president tweeted at nearly 1 a.m. Wednesday. “Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!”

Trump’s tweet made it clear that McConnell’s decision to recognize Biden as president-elect has opened a rift at the top of the GOP, with the president continuing to falsely claim victory while McConnell works behind the scenes to convince Republican senators not to challenge the electoral college, which cast 306 votes for Biden on Monday, formalizing his victory.

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Mar-a-Lago neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The feud over whether Trump has the right to live at his Palm Beach club reaches a boiling point.

Next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., that he has called his Winter White House, have a message for the outgoing commander in chief: We don’t want you to be our neighbor.

That message was formally delivered Tuesday morning in a demand letter delivered to the town of Palm Beach and also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service asserting that Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the storied estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

The contretemps sets up a potentially awkward scenario, unique in recent history, in which a former Oval Office occupant would find himself having to officially defend his choice of a place to live during his post-presidency. It also could create a legal headache for Trump because he changed his official domicile to Mar-a-Lago, leaving behind Manhattan, where he lived before being elected president and came to fame as a brash, self-promoting developer. (Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida using the White House in Washington as his address, which is not allowed under Florida law. He later changed the registration to the Mar-a-Lago address.)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Trump Organization to give more records to N.Y. attorney general, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  A state judge dealt a loss to the Trump Organization on Tuesday, ordering the president’s company to turn over records related to a controversial property that is the subject of a civil investigation by the New York attorney general’s office.

“We will immediately move to ensure that the Trump Organization complies with the court’s order and submits records related to our investigation,” letitia james o headshotAttorney General Letitia James, right, a Democrat, said in a statement after the ruling.

Trump got a $21 million tax break for saving the forest outside his N.Y. mansion. Now the deal is under investigation.

The documents and communications at issue could help investigators answer questions about a conservation easement that was granted several years ago at the Seven Springs estate in suburban New York’s Westchester Country, a move that netted President Trump’s company a $21 million tax deduction. The materials, which Trump’s lawyers had sought to shield, include messages exchanged between an engineer and a land-use lawyer who worked on Trump’s behalf.

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds of invitees skip Mike Pompeo’s indoor holiday party at State Department, John Hudson, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Only a tiny fraction of the more than 900 guests invited to an indoor holiday party hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan showed up on mike pompeo portraitTuesday following an outcry from public health officials and U.S. lawmakers warning that the reception bore all the hallmarks of a superspreader event, said two U.S. officials familiar with the event.

Pompeo, whose name was on the invitation and who was scheduled to speak at the event, canceled his speech and tapped a substitute speaker, said the two officials. The event was dedicated to the family members of diplomats serving overseas in dangerous postings that require them to leave their spouses and children behind, such as in Iraq or Afghanistan.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Investors in breached software firm SolarWinds traded $280 million in stock just days before hack was revealed, Drew Harwell and Douglas MacMillan, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The timing of the trades raises questions about whether major shareholders used inside information to avoid stark losses after the attack. The firm’s share price has plunged roughly 22 percent since its role in the breach was revealed.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. government spent billions on a system for detecting hacks. The Russians outsmarted it, Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Russia’s digital Trojan horse communicated for months undetected.

When Russian hackers first slipped their digital Trojan horses into federal government computer systems, probably sometime in the spring, they sat dormant for days, doing nothing but hiding. Then the malicious code sprang into action and began communicating with the outside world.

russian flagAt that moment — when the Russian malware began sending transmissions from federal servers to command-and-control computers operated by the hackers — an opportunity for detection arose, much as human spies behind enemy lines are particularly vulnerable when they radio home to report what they’ve found.

Why then, when computer networks at the State Department and other federal agencies started signaling to Russian servers, did nobody in the U.S. government notice that something odd was afoot?

The answer is part Russian skill, part federal government blind spot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Barr failed at his job. His bootlicking resignation letter made that clear, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. ruth marcus twitter Custom16, 2020 (print ed.). William P. Barr told friends, when he was tapped for attorney general two years ago, that he was returning to the position to help save the Justice Department. Barr failed spectacularly at that task and ruined his reputation in the process.

Nothing made that more clear than the bootlicking letter of resignation he submitted Monday to President Trump.

No aspect of Barr’s departure is normal. Cabinet officials do not leave administrations to spend more time with their loved ones — the president tweeted that Barr wanted to “spend the holidays with his family” — 37 days before the end of a presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr was a disdainful block of gray, Robin Givhan, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The outgoing attorney general established himself as the lump who sat before Congress during this summer of protests against racial injustice and refused to see the powerful implications of color within our society.

william barr new oOf the many images of William P. Barr embedded in the historical record, the ones that most resonate with his time as attorney general in the Trump administration reflect a graceless, block of a man hunched over a hearing room desk with a resting expression of genial disgust.

His salt-and-pepper hair, combed forward and side-parted, juts from his head — an echo of a 1950s childhood and an aesthetic forged by that era. He has a hangdog jaw which is coupled with piercing eyes set behind schoolboy glasses. He is a bundle of contradictions wrapped up in serviceable business attire.

Barr will leave his position Dec. 23, a fact made public by the president on Twitter rather than by Barr himself. He leaves after refusing to give credence to the falsehoods and conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. The legal veteran of significant stature, who began his tenure in this administration with impressive bona fides and a smidgen of bipartisan support, leaves it as a tweet.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell congratulates Biden on presidential victory after weeks of silence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Dec. 15 acknowledged Joe Biden as the president-elect from the Senate floor.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Carolina GOP lawmaker urges Trump to suspend civil liberties to keep power: ‘Invoke the Insurrection Act,’ Katie Shepherd, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). On Facebook, North Carolina state Sen. Bob Steinburg (R) paraphrased a conservative commentator to make a radical suggestion: President Trump should declare a national emergency, suspend civil rights and remain in power over his baseless claims of election fraud.

djt maga hatAsked by a local TV station on Tuesday whether he stands by those sentiments, Steinburg doubled down, insisting that nefarious forces had corrupted President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about,” Steinburg told WRAL Tuesday evening. “I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.”

Steinburg wasn’t alone among GOP lawmakers in suggesting that Trump suspend civil liberties, even after the electoral college finalized Biden’s win on Monday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly acknowledged the Democrat’s victory on Tuesday. Virginia state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R) on Tuesday also called for martial law, echoing a suggestion floated by Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser pardoned by the president last month.

republican elephant logoThe Trump campaign’s claims of mass election fraud have been tossed repeatedly from court, including in a rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. Yet Trump has continued spreading baseless rumors on Twitter and falsely insisting that he won the election.

Steinburg, who recently won reelection to his state Senate seat in North Carolina, wrote an inflammatory Facebook post on Tuesday quoting an interview with retired Air Force lieutenant general Thomas McInerney earlier this month. .

“President Trump must declare a national emergency,” the 72-year-old state senator wrote in the post, which has since been deleted. “Trump should also invoke the Insurrection Act.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas mayor resigns over violent threats for backing mask mandate: ‘I do not feel safe anymore,’ Teo Armus, Dec. 16, 2020. The emails and voice mails to Dodge City, Kan., Mayor Joyce Warshaw began pouring in last month, after the city commission voted to require everyone in town to wear masks indoors.

djt maga hatSome anonymous messages told her that she was restricting civil liberties, Warshaw told The Washington Post. Others said she should go to jail over her vote.

But after the western Kansas city’s uphill battle against the coronavirus pandemic was highlighted in a USA Today feature on Friday, the messages grew more frequent and aggressive: Burn in hell. Get murdered. One person simply wrote, “We’re coming for you.”

So after nearly eight years in government, she called it quits Tuesday.

“They were loud, and they were aggressive, and they frightened me and my family,” said Warshaw, who had been serving her second stint as mayor.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McConnell sets up a clash with Trump over who’s in charge in the GOP, Aaron Blake, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Two things can be true at the same time. One is that Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election has been evident for several weeks, with no legitimate reason to doubt it (despite plenty of digging). And two is that Mitch McConnell just provided perhaps the most significant, if belated, recognition of that fact to date.

Mitchell McConnellThe Senate majority leader, right, acknowledged Biden’s win on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, one day after the electoral college made it official.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos“The electoral college has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” said McConnell (R-Ky.). He also nodded to the historic elevation of his Senate colleague, Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), to the vice presidency.

McConnell’s comments should have the effect of taking some pressure off his colleagues, but they also matter practically speaking. The position of the Senate GOP leader is now clear, pretty much negating any chance that Senate Republicans would participate in some kind of unlikely end-run not to accept the verdict of the electoral college.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ron Johnson could take his last stand as Trump’s most stalwart Senate defender, Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Ron Johnson believes Americans have been “snookered into this mass hysteria” about the coronavirus. He continues to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine, rejecting scientific studies that found it can endanger covid-19 patients. He has said the country’s intelligence service conspired with the media to undermine President Trump.

djt maga hatNow the Republican from Wisconsin is using his last days as chairman of the powerful Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to investigate what he calls “election irregularities” related to the 2020 campaign. The hearing, to be held Wednesday, comes after an array of federal and state courts rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud and in the wake of Monday’s electoral college vote confirming Joe Biden’s victory.

Johnson’s evolution from ideologically driven standard-bearer of the tea party to one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders mirrors the arc of his party over the past decade. With Johnson’s term expiring in 2022, Wednesday’s hearing could be both the last stand of Trump’s most fervent Senate follower and the first act of a post-Trump Republican Party.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Boko Haram claims the kidnapping of 300 boys in Nigeria, marking an alarming move into new territory, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Boko Haram claimed responsibility Tuesday for abducting more than 300 boys from a secondary school in northwest Nigeria, marking a striking leap from the extremist group’s usual area of operation and a chilling expansion of Islamist militancy in West Africa.

Nigerian FlagHundreds of gunmen surrounded the boarding school in Katsina state on Friday and opened fire in a community that had never known such violence, witnesses said, before dragging the students deep into the woods.

The mass kidnapping shocked the continent’s most populous country as deaths from a multifront conflict in the region soar. West Africa is home to the fastest-growing Islamist insurgencies in the world, conflict researchers say, with unrest from disparate forces gripping Nigeria and three of its regional neighbors: Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Boko Haram has killed at least 36,000 people and displaced millions over the past decade, but the campaign of terrorism has rarely stretched far from its stronghold in the Lake Chad Basin. The assault in the town of Kankara, however, signaled the fighters’ murderous reach has shifted nearly 500 miles west, endangering peace in new territory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuits by U.S. victims accuse top Qatar banks and charity of financing terrorism in Israel, Spencer S. Hsu, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The allegations of duplicity come at a delicate time in U.S.-Middle East diplomacy.

QatarU.S. victims of extremist violence in Israel allege that three of Qatar’s leading financial institutions have secretly funneled millions of dollars to Palestinian groups responsible for killing Americans, accusing a key U.S. ally in the Middle East of duplicity.

In U.S. lawsuits, victims and their families claim that the government and royal family members of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation have spearheaded “a terrorism financing conspiracy” that has channeled tens of millions of dollars to support Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), both U.S.-designated terrorist groups.

Philippines

washington post logoRodrigo DuterteWashington Post, International Criminal Court sees ‘reasonable basis’ for crimes against humanity in Philippines drug war, Siobhán O’Grady, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Human rights groups have raised alarm for years about President Rodrigo Duterte’s years-long and violent crackdown on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

 

Dec. 15

Top Headines

  President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

President-elect Joe Biden confirmed by Electoral College victory on Dec. 14 (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

 

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

 

Top Stories

pfizer logony times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Coronavirus Vaccinations Begin, But Some Americans Are Wary, Staff Reports, Dec. 15, 2020. A new survey revealed that more than one-quarter of Americans say they probably or definitely would not take a coronavirus vaccine. The skepticism, mainly from Republican, rural and Black Americans, presents a challenge as infections and hospitalizations continue to surge. On the same day as the first inoculations were administered, the

U.S. passed 300,000 deaths — more than any other country. In London, tighter virus rules raised the pressure on Boris Johnson. Here’s the latest.

election 2020 national map washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Electoral college makes Biden’s victory over Trump official, Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden and Omar Sofradzija, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Day-long series of votes delivers no surprises. The proceedings harked back to more typical presidential elections and stood in contrast with the unprecedented — though fruitless — six weeks of legal and procedural chaos triggered by President Trump’s refusal to accept his loss.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden’s speech to America: ‘It is time to turn the page,’ Matt Viser, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The president-elect ridiculed President Trump for claiming victory despite multiple failed efforts to overturn the election results and vowed to represent all of the nation, not just those who voted for him.

President-elect Joe Biden reaffirmed his faith in the integrity of American elections and the legitimacy of his presidency after the electoral college formalized his November win Monday, ridiculing President Trump for claiming victory despite multiple failed efforts to overturn the election results.

In sweeping and sometimes agitated comments 37 days after he was projected the winner, Biden attempted to unify a polarized and skittish country with direct appeals to the more than 74 million Americans who voted for Trump.

“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said. “We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal.”

The speech represented, to date, Biden’s most forceful defense of the election as well as his most complete denunciation of Trump’s fraudulent claims. Biden noted that he received 7 million more popular votes, and the same number of electoral votes, 306, as Trump did in 2016 when he claimed “a landslide.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden keeps giving Republicans who ignore his win the benefit of the doubt, Amber Phillips, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.).  He’s not necessarily getting the same in return.

william barr at doj

washington post logoWashington Post, William P. Barr to depart as attorney general, Trump announces, Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). William P. Barr, right, is stepping down as attorney general, President Trump announced Monday, ending a controversial tenure as the country’s top law enforcement official in which critics say he repeatedly used the Justice Department to aid Trump’s allies only to have the president turn on him when he did not bring charges against those seen as political foes and disputed claims of widespread election fraud.

Trump revealed the move on Twitter, writing that he and Barr, shown above in a file photo, had a “nice meeting” at the White House, and Barr would “be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.”

Trump claimed, “Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” — though Trump had expressed frustration with Barr in recent days because Barr did not reveal before the election that Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, was under investigation by the Justice Department.

He told Fox News this weekend that Barr “should have stepped up” on the matter.

“All he had to do is say an investigation’s going on,” Trump said, adding later, “When you affect an election, Bill Barr, frankly, did the wrong thing.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys who came ‘seeking violence’ sparked clashes during pro-Trump rally, D.C. officials say, Tom Jackman, Michael Brice-Saddler and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Police said that 38 people had been arrested for protest-related actions, and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said eight officers were injured, one seriously. Ten people were charged with assault on a police officer.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, What Getting Inoculated Is Like for Frontline Doctors and Nurses, Jack Healy, Lucy Tompkins and Audra D. S. Burch, Updated Dec. 15, 2020. Even as medical workers lined up for America’s first shots, many of them recalled nightmarish moments from the pandemic.

As Dr. Rishi Seth rolled up his left sleeve on Monday to receive one of the United States’ first Covid-19 vaccines, he thought of his patients back in the Special Care Unit.

There was the Uber driver who had walked out of the hospital after being on a ventilator. The dying father who said goodbye to his two college-age daughters on a video chat. The four coronavirus patients Dr. Seth had treated just on Monday morning, checking their oxygen levels and reviewing treatment plans before he stripped off his protective gear and joined a first wave of health care workers to get vaccinated in hospitals across the country.

“That’s why today is so emotional,” said Dr. Seth, an internal-medicine physician with Sanford Health in North Dakota, a state that has been ravaged by the virus. “You’re still fighting a battle, but you’re starting to see the horizon.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Virus Live Updates: Trump reverses course on plan to have White House staff get vaccine first, Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Siobhán O’Grady, Marisa Iati and Brittany Shammas, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Health officials urge Americans to get behind Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine.

President Trump reversed course on a plan to have some White House staff members be among the first Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Earlier, White House officials had said that senior members of the administration would receive priority, an announcement that drew criticism in light of the fact that Trump and his top advisers have repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic while flouting public health guidance.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.15, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 73,292,364, Deaths: 1,630,579
U.S. Cases:   16,942,980, Deaths:    308,091

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 15, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logous mail logoWashington Post, USPS struggles under crush of holiday packages as delays build up, Hannah Denham and Jacob Boga, Dec. 15, 2020. Private carriers FedEx and UPS have cut off delivery service for some retailers, sending massive volumes of packages to the Postal Service. The result has pushed the nation’s mail agency to the brink again.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appreciation: What Country Music Asked of Charley Pride, Jon Caramanica, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The singer put himself on the line to become the genre’s first Black superstar. He died on Saturday not long after performing at a largely mask-free awards ceremony.

At the 54th annual Country Music Association Awards last month, there was Charley Pride, right, onstage singing his indelible 1971 hit “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” alongside the rising country star Jimmie Allen. In the socially distanced audience, Nashville luminaries took in the wondrous spectacle. Eric Church, exuding stoic cool — no mask. Brothers Osborne singing along — no masks. Ashley McBryde swaying to the music — no mask.

charlie prideOf all the recent awards shows — the BET Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the Latin Grammys, the American Music Awards — the CMAs were singular in showing almost no people wearing masks, either onstage or in the audience. (It was also one of very few shows with an audience of any kind.)

If you believed what you were watching, you might think that the country music business was a tolerant one, encouraging of Black performers and willing to acknowledge the genre’s debt to Black music. And you might believe that it was possible for a gaggle of superstars (and the behind-the-scenes people who help them navigate the world) to keep the pandemic at bay.

The optics were pretty much seamless, the reality less so.

Five of the show’s planned performers pulled out because they tested positive for the coronavirus, or were exposed to someone who did. And most cruel was the news that this past Saturday, a month after the awards, Pride died, at 86, of complications of Covid-19. It is likely impossible to know whether Pride contracted the virus traveling from Texas to Nashville, or at the CMAs, but many, including the country stars Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton, expressed reasonable concern on Twitter that Pride’s appearance on the show might have led to his exposure.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 15, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Can’t Handle the Truth, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). You shouldn’t be surprised that they’re still paul krugmanbacking Trump. President Trump’s continuing attempts to overturn an election he lost decisively more than a month ago is, like so much of what he’s done in office, shocking but not surprising. Who imagined that he would go quietly?

What some people may not have been fully prepared for is the way Trump’s party as a whole has backed his dangerous delusions. According to a survey by The Washington Post, only 27 Republican members of Congress are willing to say that Joe Biden won. Despite the complete lack of evidence of significant fraud, two-thirds of self-identified Republicans said in a Reuters/Ipsos poll that the election was rigged.

But you really shouldn’t be surprised by this willingness to indulge malicious, democracy-endangering lies. After all, when was the last time Republicans accepted a politically inconvenient fact? It has been clear for years that the modern G.O.P. is a party that can’t handle the truth.

Most obviously, Republican refusal to accept the election results follows months of refusal to acknowledge the dangers of the coronavirus, even as Covid-19 has become the nation’s leading cause of death, and even as a startling number of people in Trump’s orbit have been infected.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says Election ‘Should Be Celebrated, Not Attacked’ as Electoral College Affirms His Victory, Sydney Ember, Kathleen Gray and Glenn Thrush, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Michigan Republican leaders affirm state’s electoral votes and reprimand lawmaker who suggested there might be violence.

The two most senior leaders in the Michigan legislature, both Republicans, on Monday affirmed the state’s electoral votes that would formalize Joseph R. Biden’s victory, as a fellow lawmaker was punished for suggesting there may be violence at the meeting of electors.

In blistering terms, House Speaker Lee Chatfield wrote that he “can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win,” describing such a move as “unprecedented for good reason.”

“That’s why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors,” he added. “I fear we’d lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

Last month, Mr. Chatfield and Mike Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader, were both summoned by President Trump to the White House in a bid to get lawmakers to substitute their own slate of electors. The two men, both rumored to be interested in higher office, went through with the visit but rebuffed Mr. Trump’s request.

Mr. Biden won Michigan by about 150,000 votes, a much greater margin than in the other most hotly contested battlegrounds. The electors upheld those results on Monday afternoon.

“Michigan’s Democratic slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty, free from threats of violence and intimidation,” Mr. Shirkey said. “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won Michigan’s presidential election. It our responsibility as leaders to follow the law and move forward in pursuit of policies that contribute to the betterment of Michigan.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: New poll is a warning sign for the GOP in Georgia, Aaron Blake, Dec. 15, 2020. GOP strategists have worried that Trump’s baseless voter fraud crusade could harm turnout in the Senate runoffs. A new poll suggests there could be something to that. The Fox News poll asked people whether “this presidential election has made you more or less likely to vote in the next presidential election.” Overall, 75 percent say it has made them more likely, while just 11 percent say it has made them less likely.

But there is a partisan split. While 84 percent of Democrats say this election has made them more likely to vote in the next one, just 69 percent of Republicans say the same. Only 6 percent of Democrats say they’re less likely to vote, while 16 percent of Republicans say the same.

What’s more, the group with the highest “less likely” number? Trump voters. Fully 19 percent — about 1 in 5 — say they are less likely to vote in the next presidential election, vs. just 5 percent of Biden voters. No other group broken out in the poll says it is as turned off as Trump voters; the next highest numbers come from voters under 45 years old, Whites without college degrees and rural voters, with the latter two groups overlapping significantly with Trump’s base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the ‘nasty’ feud between Trump and the Republican governor he blames for losing Georgia, Ashley Parker, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The first major fissure in the relationship between President Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp came a year ago, when Kemp paid Trump a clandestine visit in the White House residence.

The strain between the two Republicans has now boiled over into a full-blown feud in the aftermath of Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat, as the president has fixated on his loss in Georgia as a humiliation that he blames in large part on Kemp. Trump lost the solidly Republican state by approximately 12,000 votes and is furious with Kemp for not heeding his calls to question the integrity of the state’s election results.

This portrait of Trump’s combustible relationship with Kemp — which portends a potential intraparty civil war in the coming months and years — is the result of interviews with 15 allies and advisers to both men, as well as Republican political operatives, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.

ny times logoevan mcmullin twitterNew York Times, Opinion: Should NeverTrump Conservatives Form A New Party? Evan McMullin, right, Dec. 15, 2020. In the wake of Trump’s electoral defeat and political survival, principled Republicans must offer their own vision for America. In the wake of Trump’s electoral defeat and political survival, principled Republicans must offer their own vision for America.

Mr. McMullin, a former C.I.A. operations officer, was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. In 2016, he resigned to run for president as an independent candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McConnell sets up a clash with Trump over who’s in charge in the GOP, Aaron Blake, Dec. 15, 2020. Two things can be true at the same time. One is that Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election has been evident for several weeks, with no legitimate reason to doubt it (despite plenty of digging). And two is that Mitch McConnell just provided perhaps the most significant, if belated, recognition of that fact to date.

Mitchell McConnellThe Senate majority leader, right, acknowledged Biden’s win on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, one day after the electoral college made it official.

“The electoral college has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” said McConnell (R-Ky.). He also nodded to the historic elevation of his Senate colleague, Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), to the vice presidency.

McConnell’s comments should have the effect of taking some pressure off his colleagues, but they also matter practically speaking. The position of the Senate GOP leader is now clear, pretty much negating any chance that Senate Republicans would participate in some kind of unlikely end-run not to accept the verdict of the electoral college.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, More than a month after U.S. election, Russia’s Putin recognizes Biden’s win, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dec. 15, 2020. More than a Vladimir Putinmonth later than most world leaders, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden for his victory in the election, a delayed recognition that could set the tone for icy relations.

“In his message Vladimir Putin wished the president-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian FlagIt went on to say that Putin relayed to Biden that he is “ready for interaction and contact” and suggested cooperation between the two countries based on “equality and mutual respect.”

Putin was one of the last heads of state to acknowledge Biden’s win; Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un are other holdouts. The congratulations come after Biden’s victory became more formal on Monday, when 306 electors officially voted for him.

Other major world leaders didn’t wait for that step, reaching out to Biden after U.S. television networks called the race for him, as is customary. In 2016, Putin congratulated Donald Trump within hours of his acceptance speech, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this situation differed because Trump didn’t concede and threatened legal action to contest the count in several swing states. Peskov added that the Kremlin would wait until the result became “official” without specifying what that meant.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Ex-Hill Staffer Linked to Veselnitskaya Dies Suddenly After Fall Near His Home, Nico Hines, Updated Dec. 15, 2020.  Paul Behrends, who lost his job on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee after links to Russia were reported, suffered a head injury close to his home on Friday night.

dana rohrabacher oThe longtime aide to “Putin’s Congressman,” Dana Rohrabacher, right, died suddenly from a head injury over the weekend.

Paul Behrends was found by emergency responders close to his home on Friday night with severe head trauma. Behrends was a controversial figure on Capitol Hill who lost his job as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee after The Daily Beast reported on his links to Trump Tower lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya’s operation in the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hopes for ‘normal’ holidays fade as virus rages in Europe, North America, Adam Taylor, Dec. 15, 2020. When governments in Europe announced new shutdowns amid surging coronavirus cases last month, some world leaders floated a tantalizing light at the end of the tunnel.

“I have no doubt that people will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference Nov. 5, as he announced a four-week lockdown. But with coronavirus cases surging again as the holiday season approaches, and vaccine rollouts in stages too early to make a dent, hope for a Christmas miracle has come to look like a mirage.

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Opinion: Plea to the Press: Don’t Make Trump 2021’s Shadow President, Matt Lewis, Dec. 15, 2020. BE BEST, MEDIA! As president, everything he says is news. Soon, that won’t be so. We have to learn not to take his bait.

right, in a file photo by Jim Watson of AFP via GettyThere’s a dirty little secret between Donald Trump (right, in a file photo by Jim Watson of AFP via Getty) and the media that at this point isn’t much of a secret.

A symbiosis exists between us; we use him and he uses us. Now that his presidency is mercifully taking its last gasp, can we quit him and return to a modicum of sanity and normalcy? Starting in January, can we string together a few Trump-free news cycles? More to the point: can we quit taking his bait? Or are we doomed to cover Trump’s antics as a sort of shadow presidency?

washington post logoWashington Post,‘This is the reality’: Newsmax and One America grapple uneasily with Biden’s electoral college victory, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). As electors certified the presidential vote, the conservative outlets that have tried to outflank Fox News changed their tune on election denialism — slightly.

For the past six weeks, two upstart cable news channels — Newsmax and One America News — have tried to outflank Fox News from the right by embracing President Trump’s strategy of election denialism.

But on Monday, as the electoral college sealed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, their paths seemed to diverge slightly.

ny times logonba logoNew York Times, An Agent’s Mistake Cost an N.B.A. Player $3 Million. He Paid Him Back, Sopan Deb, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). All Bill Duffy had to do was inform the Miami Heat that Anthony Carter planned to return. Two decades after failing to do that, Duffy has made his client whole. 

 

Dec. 14

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Transition Live Updates: Biden Says Election ‘Should Be Celebrated, Not Attacked’ as Electoral College Affirms His Victory, Sydney Ember, Kathleen Gray and Glenn Thrush, Dec. 14, 2020. Michigan Republican leaders affirm state’s electoral votes and reprimand lawmaker who suggested there might be violence.

The two most senior leaders in the Michigan legislature, both Republicans, on Monday affirmed the state’s electoral votes that would formalize Joseph R. Biden’s victory, as a fellow lawmaker was punished for suggesting there may be violence at the meeting of electors.

In blistering terms, House Speaker Lee Chatfield wrote that he “can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win,” describing such a move as “unprecedented for good reason.”

“That’s why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors,” he added. “I fear we’d lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

Last month, Mr. Chatfield and Mike Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader, were both summoned by President Trump to the White House in a bid to get lawmakers to substitute their own slate of electors. The two men, both rumored to be interested in higher office, went through with the visit but rebuffed Mr. Trump’s request.

Mr. Biden won Michigan by about 150,000 votes, a much greater margin than in the other most hotly contested battlegrounds. The electors upheld those results on Monday afternoon.

“Michigan’s Democratic slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty, free from threats of violence and intimidation,” Mr. Shirkey said. “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won Michigan’s presidential election. It our responsibility as leaders to follow the law and move forward in pursuit of policies that contribute to the betterment of Michigan.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Virus Death Toll Crosses 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin, Staff reports, Dec. 14, 2020. High-risk health care workers are being pfizer logogiven priority as the U.S. surpassed more than 300,000 virus-related deaths. Australia and New Zealand intend to establish a travel bubble.

  • The number of people with the virus who died in the U.S. passes 300,000.
  • Health care workers in New York, Iowa and Ohio were among the first to receive the vaccine, opening a new chapter in the battle against the pandemic.
  • The inoculations began as the nation’s Covid-19 death toll passed 300,000, a surge that reflected how much faster the virus has spread in recent months.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci laid out a timeline for a return to normalcy that stretched well into 2021.
  • election 2020 national map washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: Electoral College Is Voting; Will Formalize Biden’s Victory, Staff reports, Dec. 14, 2020. Crucial Step in Process That Trump Has Tried to Subvert.

  • Electors in key battleground states President Trump has contested — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia — have voted, with no surprises or defections.
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court again denied Mr. Trump’s attempt to invalidate more than 200,000 votes.

The Electoral College was nearing completion Monday afternoon of the process that will officially designate Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the president-elect, joe biden twitteras electors in battleground states President Trump had contested — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona — voted with no surprises or defections.

Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, announced the state’s 16 votes for Mr. Biden.

“As we stand here today about to make history,” said Representative-elect Nikema Williams, the state Democratic Party chairwoman who will be sworn into Congress next month, “we know this result was not luck. It was thanks to the hard work of organizers, volunteers and voters across Georgia.”

Indeed, despite palpable tensions across the country and rumors of mass protests at electoral meeting sites, wrought in large part by the rhetoric of the president, the Electoral College process appeared to be proceeding smoothly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, For weeks, the Trump campaign said the electoral college vote would decide the election, JM Rieger, Dec. 14, 2020.  As President Trump and his allies have sought to challenge and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, his officials have at times pointed to the Dec. 14 electoral college vote as the de facto deadline for its challenges. You can watch examples of this in the video above.

stephen miller nbc screenshot wh“Let’s remember that the electoral college, which is our constitutional process, does not vote until Dec. 14,” Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis said on Nov. 24. “We have plenty of time to pursue all legal options.”

By Monday morning, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, right, suggested the challenges could continue until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. “The only date in the Constitution is Jan. 20,” Miller told Fox News. “So we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian government spies are behind a hacking campaign that has breached U.S. agencies and a top cyber firm, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Treasury and Commerce departments are among those compromised, sources say. This latest attack is part of a long-running campaign targeting government agencies.

The Russian government hackers who breached a top cybersecurity firm are behind a global espionage campaign that also compromised the Treasury and Commerce departments and other U.S. government agencies, according to people familiar with the matter.

The FBI is investigating the campaign by a hacking group working for the Russian foreign intelligence service, SVR. The breaches have been taking place for months and may amount to an operation as long-running and significant as one that occurred in 2014-2015.

The group, known among private-sector security firms as APT29 or Cozy Bear, also hacked the State Department and the White House during the Obama administration.

All of the organizations were breached through a network management system called Solar Winds, according to three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. Solar Winds could not immediately be reached for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s Obama-era Cabinet picks frustrate liberals, civil rights leaders, Seung Min Kim and Annie Linskey, Dec. 14, 2020. His process has also discomforted some allies on the Hill, who say they have not been sufficiently consulted about picks.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.14, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 72,756,494, Deaths: 1,620,967
U.S. Cases:   16,737,267, Deaths:    306,459

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 14, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

Biden Transition

Palmer Report, Opinion: Electoral College slams the door shut on Donald Trump in key swing states, Bill Palmer, Dec. 14, 2020. All of the states that Trump tried to steal have now cast their Electoral College votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Trump has lost yet again. Biden will address the nation tonight at 7:30pm eastern time, as President-elect.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is now filing suit in New Mexico, a state he lost by eleven points. He’s exhausted his legal challenges in the swing states he was trying to steal. So now he’s trying to prolong his grift by pretending to contest the election in states where he got blown out. This is just pathetic. And again, it has no chance of getting him anywhere.

Tweet of the day, from Congresswoman Maxine Waters: “Trump, you attempted to overthrow the legitimate votes of Americans. You got kicked in the face by 46 courts & the crown kicking came from the Supreme Court you thought you owned! The democracy is stronger than you will ever understand. Goodbye & good riddance!”

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Just How Dangerous Was Donald Trump? Michelle Goldberg, Dec. 14, 2020. He failed to bend the state to his will, but he still broke the country. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, there’s been an argument on the left over the sort of threat he poses.

The American left’s most famous figures — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky — saw Trump as an authoritarian who could, if re-elected, destroy American democracy for good. But another strain of left opinion viewed Trump’s fascistic gestures as almost purely performative, and believed his clumsiness in marshaling state power made him less dangerous than, say, George W. Bush.

A leading proponent of this position is the political theorist Corey Robin, author of an essential book about right-wing thought, “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.” In an interview with the left-wing publication Jewish Currents, he argued, “Compared to the Republican presidencies of Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush, Trump’s was significantly less transformational, and its legacy is far less assured.”

The day when the Electoral College meets to ratify Joe Biden’s victory seems an appropriate one to revisit this debate. Trump tried, in his sloppy, chaotic way, to overturn the election, and much of his party, including the majority of Republicans in the House, and many state attorneys general, lined up behind him. Yet he failed, and it’s unlikely that he will follow calls from supporters, like his former national security Adviser Michael Flynn, to declare martial law.

So what matters more, the president’s desire to overthrow American democracy, or his inability to follow through? Just how fascist was Trump?

Part of the answer depends on whether you’re evaluating Trump’s ideology or his ability to carry it out. It seems obvious enough that the spirit of Trumpism is fascistic, at least according to classic definitions of the term. In “The Nature of Fascism,” Roger Griffin described fascism’s “mobilizing vision” as “the national community rising phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it.” Translate this into the American vernacular and it sounds a lot like MAGA.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Georgia’s Secretary of State on Standing Up to Trump, Hosted by Kara Swisher, Dec. 14, 2020 (taped interview with Brad Raffensperger — “getting it from all sides”). Brad Raffensperger is getting it from all sides. Georgia’s secretary of state infuriated Donald Trump when he stood by Georgia’s presidential election results. Now he has the critical task of overseeing two U.S. Senate runoffs that will determine the fate of the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election Live Updates: Electoral college to formally cast ballots for Biden as president, John Wagner, Dec. 14, 2020. Analysis: Today’s electoral college vote could push more Republicans to back Biden’s win. Or not; Wall Street Journal editor blames ‘cancel culture’ after critics blast op-ed on Jill Biden; Biden to speak after electoral college voting concludes. Electors include Bill and Hillary Clinton in New York and Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

The electoral college is poised to convene in state capitols around the country on Monday to formally vote for Joe Biden as the nation’s next president, even as President Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the election.

Following the gatherings, which will occur throughout the day, Biden plans to address the nation. Trump has planned no public events but continues to tweet grievances about the election, which he claimed Sunday is “under protest.”

djt as chosen one

President Trump is shown in an idealized graphic created when he described himself during his 2020 campaign as “The Chosen One.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump the tedious, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 14, 2020. This is what Donald Trump had to say (in part) to Fox News creep Brian robert harringtnn portraitKilmeade:

“The election was rigged by local Democrats, by state Democrats. They outsmarted State Republicans. Do you know what I do… I [run] a country and we ran it great. I did more than any other president. Then I had to campaign. We had the greatest campaign in history. We had the biggest crowds anyone’s ever had. I did 56 rallies with a number of people [that] were incredible okay, incredible, record-setting. And then I go home and I watch the television to see how we are doing and by 10:30 it was over. We won. I got calls from everybody, pros, people you know very well, saying congratulations. I say let’s not go so fast, I don’t trust these machines and a lot of bad things happen with these people. And in essentially five or six states the local people who run it rigged the election.”

My apologies for that Trump screed. I know, it was only 147 words, but it seemed longer. But my point was not to bore you with Trump’s rant, my point was not the content of the rant’s character but the character of the rant’s content.

Somebody, anybody, tell me by now you couldn’t have written the bill palmer report logo headerabove paragraph yourself. Word for word. You could have written it easily. If you have spent the last four years listening to Trump, then you can’t tell me that you couldn’t have written the above paragraph yourself — and convinced most people it came from Trump.

I have spent the last two and a half years criticizing Donald Trump here in the pages of the Palmer Report. But one area I have not emphasized, or at least I haven’t mentioned much, is how tediously unoriginal and predictable Trump is.

He is so predictable that most of us already know what he’s going to say before he says it. We already know what words and and phrases he’s got in his limited repertoire (“incredible,” “strongly,” “disgraceful,” “tremendous,” “a lot of people are saying,” “nobody’s ever heard of,” “we had the greatest campaign in history,” “a lot of people called me and said,” etc.). Any of those words or phrases could be recruited to create a Trumpian rant on any subject. We’ve all heard it, over and over and over.

This is a man who’s spent the last four years telling us how great he is, how perfect, how he’s the best president America has ever had, and how awful and corrupt and dishonest everyone who doesn’t agree with him is, using some of the most staggeringly unoriginal language possible. Between rounds of golf he’s tweeted it, he’s repeated it by phone to Fox and Friends, he’s said it in interviews, in rallies, in gaggles, at ceremonies.

It’s what he says just about every time he goes off script in the course of one of his rare formal speeches. Trump’s presidency has been one long, tedious, predictable, limited, unoriginal, graceless and classless commercial for himself.

robert wilkie vaThe Hill, Hoyer calls on VA Secretary Wilkie to resign after watchdog report, Justine Coleman, Dec. 14, 2020 (print ed.). House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Sunday called on Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie, right, to resign after a watchdog report revealed he disparaged a congressional aide who reported being sexually assaulted at a VA facility.

World News

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Taking their cue from Trump, Nazis rise again in Germany and Austria, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 14, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies in Germany and Austria are increasingly vigilant as resurgent Nazi groups take advantage of Covid-19 public health restrictions to gain adherents and rant against democratic government.

 

 

U.S. Media & Sports News michael pack

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Restoring the Voice of America after a Trump ‘wrecking ball’ won’t be easy. But it’s worth saving, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The global news organization has been under siege by CEO Michael Pack (shown above), who claims to be rooting out bias.

 

Dec. 13

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Begins Shipping Vaccine as Virus Rages On, Staff reports, Dec. 13, 2020. The first doses left a Pfizer facility in Michigan early Sunday, kicking off the most ambitious inoculation campaign in U.S. history. The effort to ship the vaccine to all 50 states comes as the pfizer logocountry’s coronavirus death toll approaches 300,000. Here’s the latest.

  • Vaccine distribution is about to begin in the virus-ravaged U.S.
  • How pharmacies plan to get Pfizer’s vaccine to nursing homes.
  • Fears of a ‘twindemic’ recede as the flu lies low.
  • Germany announces a strict lockdown over Christmas.
  • Bahrain is the second country to approve a Chinese vaccine, and other news around the world.
  • As the U.S. vaccine rollout begins, port workers ask for early access.
  • Major airlines will introduce a health passport app to verify passengers’ test results.

washington post logoWashington Post, In contesting his election loss, Trump cements control of GOP, Toluse Olorunnipa and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). President Donald Trump officialOfficials from all wings of the Republican Party are bending to the president’s will as he undermines the peaceful transfer of power with baseless election challenges.

For the past six weeks, Trump has staged the ultimate loyalty test for the party faithful as he forced Republican officials to opt between siding with him and the nation’s democratic process. Through public displays of support and lengthy silences, the vast majority of elected Republicans chose to back Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The last wall’: How dozens of judges rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn election, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). They are both elected and appointed, selected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Some have served for decades — while others took the bench only months ago.

Since the November election, they have all ruled in court against Trump or one of his allies seeking to challenge or overturn the presidential vote.

In a remarkable show of near-unanimity across the nation’s judiciary, at least 86 judges — ranging from jurists serving at the lowest levels of state court systems to members of the United States Supreme Court — rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters, a Washington Post review of court filings found.

The string of losses was punctuated Friday by the brief and blunt order of the Supreme Court, which dismissed an attempt by the state of Texas to thwart the electoral votes of four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden

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Palmer Report, Opinion: After humiliating Supreme Court defeat, Donald Trump shifts course in his grift, Bill Palmer, Dec. 13, 2020. The Supreme Court has now destroyed Donald Trump. It’s ended his presidency, and it’s cleared the way for others to drive him into prison and bankruptcy. But that isn’t stopping Trump from continuing his grift. In fact, now that his life is about to get squeezed from all sides, he needs the money more than ever.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is now planning to run TV ads pretending that he won the election, according to Bloomberg. Since there is literally no one else for him to appeal to, it means he’s simply trying to con his gullible supporters into giving him money for an imaginary election battle.

Trump had better pocket what he can. He’s now just 38 days from being an ordinary citizen again. New York State is ramping up its criminal case against him, amid rumblings that his creditors are planning to cut their losses on him. Trump is so pathetically in debt, even his election grifting isn’t likely to keep his financial house of cards intact for long.

washington post logoWashington Post, Multiple people stabbed after thousands gather for pro-Trump protests in Washington, Emily Davies, Rachel Weiner, Clarence Williams, Marissa J. Lang and Jessica Contrera, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands of maskless rallygoers who refuse to accept the results of the election turned downtown Washington into a falsehood-filled spectacle Saturday, two days before the electoral college will make the president’s loss official.

In smaller numbers than their gathering last month, they roamed from the Capitol to the Mall and back again, seeking inspiration from speakers who railed against the Supreme Court, Fox News and President-elect Joe Biden. The crowds cheered for recently pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, marched with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and stood in awe of a flyover from what appeared to be Marine One.

But at night, the scene became violent. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, a gathering point for the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism. The victims were hospitalized and suffered possibly life-threatening injuries, D.C. fire spokesman Doug Buchanan said.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Covid-19 is spreading wildly in prisons like mine. We should get the vaccine early, Christopher Blackwell, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). In many states, stigma against incarcerated people is derailing sensible policy.

I have spent eight months watching my fellow prisoners inside a state penitentiary in Washington suffer from covid-19. Now there is finally a vaccine on the horizon. Unfortunately, it may not get to many incarcerated people in time to save us.

Those responsible for deciding the order in which people get the vaccine (chiefly members of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel and state officials) say their goal is to prioritize front-line health-care workers and people especially likely to contract the virus and experience the worst outcomes, including nursing home residents. The close quarters where prisoners live make us an extremely high-risk population, too, and the prison population is aging. But because of social stigma, we’ve become an afterthought in many states (although a very few, including Massachusetts, Nebraska and North Carolina, have placed us ahead of the healthy general population). The Federal Bureau of Prisons will get an early allotment of the vaccine, but the agency plans to give it to staff, not incarcerated people.

Prisoners lose their liberty — I am serving time for robbery and a murder I committed in my early 20s, something I regret every day and know I cannot change — but we have not been sentenced to suffer or die from a virus. If the standard for vaccine distribution involves helping the most vulnerable, as officials insist, then we ought to be near the top of the list.

A recent study found that prisoners were nearly four times as likely than the average citizen to get the coronavirus and — adjusting for age, sex and ethnicity — twice as likely to die from it. (The discrepancy was even higher earlier in the pandemic, narrowing only as the virus spread aggressively in the general population.) One of the largest coronavirus clusters of any kind occurred at Avenal State Prison, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, with more than 2,800 infected incarcerated people. Nationally, there have been nearly 230,000 covid cases in prisons, and more than 1,500 people have died, according to the Marshall Project, a nonprofit criminal justice news outlet.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.1 3, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 72,250,742, Deaths: 1,614,159
U.S. Cases:   16,551,634, Deaths:   305,088

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 13, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19’s U.S. toll: Nearly 300,000 lives lost as nation starts seeing days with more than 3,000 deaths reported, Marc Fisher, Scott Wilson and Arelis R. Hernández, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.).  Between late September and mid-November, the death tally climbed from 200,000 to 250,000. Now it has nearly reached the 300,000 marker in less than half that time — even though treatment of the most severe cases has improved.

The year of the coronavirus is ending much as the pandemic began, with overwhelmed hospitals and thousands of deaths each day. There is still no national plan for curbing the spread of the disease, just a hodgepodge of conflicting local and state approaches to everything from shutdowns to masking up.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Begins Staggering Effort to Get Vaccines to States, Abby Goodnough, Reed Abelson and Jan Hoffman, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The F.D.A.’s approval set in motion the most ambitious vaccination campaign in U.S. history, against a backdrop of soaring infection rates and deaths.

The first injections are expected to be given by Monday to high-risk health care workers, the initial step toward the goal of inoculating enough Americans fda logoby spring to finally halt the spread of a virus that has killed nearly 300,000, sickened millions and upended the country’s economy, education system and daily life.

The rapid development of the vaccine, and its authorization based on data showing it to be 95 percent effective, has been a triumph of medical science, but much in this complicated next stage could go wrong.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking vaccine distribution, state by state, Dan Keating, John Muyskens and Garland Potts, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Find out how many doses are expected to be delivered in the first set of Pfizer’s newly authorized vaccine.Distribution to more than 600 locations in all 50 states was set to begin within 24 hours of federal clearance of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These locations are primarily large health-care systems able to handle the vaccines and their storage at ultracold temperatures. If the Moderna vaccine is approved in December, supply to the states will increase greatly.

 

Biden Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, Seeking a Diverse Administration, Biden Finds One Group’s Gain is Another’s Loss, Michael D. Shear and Annie Karni, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The pressure on President-elect Joe Biden is intense, even as his efforts to ensure ethnic and gender diversity already go far beyond those of President Trump. The head of the N.A.A.C.P. had a blunt warning for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. when Mr. Biden met with civil rights leaders in Wilmington this week.

Nominating Tom Vilsack, a former secretary of agriculture in the Obama administration, to run the department again would enrage Black farmers and threaten Democratic hopes of winning two Senate runoffs in Georgia, Derrick Johnson told Mr. Biden.

“Former Secretary Vilsack could have a disastrous impact on voters in Georgia,” Mr. Johnson cautioned, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Intercept. Mr. Johnson said Mr. Vilsack’s abrupt firing of a popular Black department official in 2010 was still too raw for many Black farmers despite Mr. Vilsack’s subsequent apology and offer to rehire her.

Mr. Biden promptly ignored the warning. Within hours, his decision to nominate Mr. Vilsack to lead the Agriculture Department had leaked, angering the very activists he had just met with.

The episode was only one piece of a concerted campaign by activists to demand the president-elect make good on his promise that his administration will “look like America.” In their meeting, Mr. Johnson and the group also urged Mr. Biden to nominate a Black attorney general and to name a White House civil rights “czar.”

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Axios Sneak Peek, Biden Weighs Power for USAID, Kadia Goba, Dec. 13, 2020. Joe Biden is considering Samantha Power (shown above at the United Nations in 2014) to head the United States Agency for International Development, which would place a high-profile figure atop foreign aid and coronavirus relief efforts, people familiar with the matter tell Axios’ Hans Nichols.

Why it matters: Installing Power — a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide — would signal the Biden administration plans to revitalize foreign assistance and use it as an instrument of soft power and to achieve humanitarian goals. ower was a prominent member of President Obama’s Cabinet and recently wrote a Foreign Affairs article about the president-elect headlined: “The Can-Do Power: America’s Advantage and Biden’s Chance.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 13, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

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 ny times logoNew York Times, How the G.O.P. Tried to Topple a Pillar of Democracy, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump was also a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders who had put their interests ahead of the country’s.

The court’s decision on Friday night, an inflection point after weeks of legal flailing by Mr. Trump and ahead of the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday, leaves the president’s party in an extraordinary position. Through their explicit endorsements or complicity of silence, much of the G.O.P. leadership now shares responsibility for the quixotic attempt to ignore the nation’s founding principles and engineer a different verdict from the one voters cast in November.

Many regular Republicans supported this effort, too — a sign that Mr. Trump has not just bent the party to his will, but pressed a mainstay of American politics for nearly two centuries into the service of overturning an election outcome and assaulting public faith in the electoral system. The G.O.P. sought to undo the vote by such spurious means that the Supreme Court quickly rejected the argument.

Even some Republican leaders delivered a withering assessment of the 126 G.O.P. House members and 18 attorneys general who chose to side with Mr. Trump over the democratic process, by backing a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to throw out some 20 million votes in four key states that cemented the president’s loss.

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s time for the 14th Amendment, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 13, 2020. It’s time for the 14th Amendment. This week 126 House robert harringtnn portraitRepublicans asked the Supreme Court to prevent four swing states from casting electoral votes for Joe Biden to seal his victory in the November election.

bill palmer report logo headerI encourage you to read that first sentence again, because in a year overburdened with scandal and outrage, that (seemingly) quiet sentence is perhaps the most scandalous and outrageous. It may signal the inflection point when America definitively passed from a country of two democratic (small “d”) parties to a country divided between supporters of democracy and elements of insurrection and autocracy.

In a year when it could have been said a thousand times that “Republicans have finally gone too far” they finally and truly have. To put it another way, 126 members of the United States Congress supported a move to overturn the presidential election based on hoped-for evidence they haven’t actually seen but only wished was there. It is one thing to be disappointed in the outcome of an election, it’s another thing entirely to try to subvert that outcome by asserting evidence that you only hope exists but haven’t actually seen.

Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution is explicit on this. I provide it here in its entirety:

“Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Yet 126 members of the House of Representatives “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against a lawfully constituted election, asserting that the election was null and void, not because they have actual evidence of fraud but because the people of Texas “feel” they were denied the outcome they wanted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Texas Lawsuit and the Age of Dreampolitik, Ross Douthat, right, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The separation of political reality ross douthatfrom political fantasy still exists — for now.

When it comes to Donald Trump’s efforts to claim victory in the 2020 presidential election, there are two Republican Parties. One G.O.P. has behaved entirely normally, certifying elections, rejecting frivolous claims and conspiratorial lawsuits, declining to indulge the conceit that state legislatures might substitute their votes for the electoral outcome.

The other G.O.P. is acting like a bunch of saboteurs: insisting that the election was stolen, implying that the normal party’s officials are potentially complicit and championing all manner of outlandish claims and strategies — culminating in the lawsuit led by the attorney general of Texas that sought to have the Supreme Court essentially nullify the election results in the major swing states.

What separates these two parties is not necessarily ideology or partisanship or even loyalty to Donald Trump. (Nobody had Brian Kemp and Bill Barr, both prominent members of the first group, pegged as NeverTrumpers.)

It’s all about power and responsibility: The Republicans behaving normally are the ones who have actual political and legal roles in the electoral process and its judicial aftermath, from secretaries of state and governors in states like Georgia and Arizona to Trump’s judicial appointees. The Republicans behaving radically are doing so in the knowledge — or at least the strong assumption — that their behavior is performative, an act of storytelling rather than lawmaking, a posture rather than a political act.

This postelection division of the Republican Party extends and deepens an important trend in American politics: The cultivation of a kind of “dreampolitik” (to steal a word from Joan Didion), a politics of partisan fantasy that so far manages to coexist with normal politics, feeding gridlock and stalemate and sometimes protest but not yet the kind of crisis anticipated by references to Weimar Germany and our Civil War.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Aide Accuses Cuomo of Sexual Harassment, Dana Rubinstein and Jesse McKinley, Dec. 13, 2020. A former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday accused him of sexual harassment, asserting that the governor would often discuss her physical appearance, something she said occurred over the course of years.

“I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks,” Lindsey Boylan, the former aide, wrote on Twitter. “Or would it be both in the same conversation?”

Ms. Boylan declined multiple requests for further comment. She has thus far discussed no specific allegations, nor did she provide any immediate corroboration.

“There is simply no truth to these claims,” the governor’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard, said on Sunday.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, John le Carré, who lifted the spy novel to literature, dies at 89, Matt Schudel, Dec. 13, 2020. John le Carré, a British author who drew on the enigma of his incorrigibly criminal father and his own experiences as a Cold War-era spy to write powerful novels about a bleak, morally compromised world in which international intrigue and personal betrayal went hand in hand, died Dec. 12 at a hospital in Cornwall, England. He was 89.

The cause was pneumonia, his U.S. publisher, Viking Penguin, said in a statement.

In a literary career spanning six decades, Mr. le Carré published more than two dozen books. His best-known titles, including “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1963) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (1974), sold in the millions and were made into acclaimed film and television adaptations. More than a master of espionage writing, he was widely regarded as an elegant prose stylist whose skills and reputation were not limited by genre or era.

 

Dec. 12

Top Headines

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Virus Victims, Remedies

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

World News

 

Top Stories

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ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on adam liptakFriday rejected a lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the election results in four battleground states that President Trump lost in November, ending any prospect that a brazen attempt to use the courts to reverse his defeat at the polls would succeed.

The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”

The order, coupled with another one on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that a conservative court with three justices appointed by Mr. Trump refused to be drawn into the extraordinary effort by the president and many prominent members of his party to deny his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his victory.

It was the latest and most significant setback for Mr. Trump in a litigation campaign that was rejected by courts at every turn.

Texas’ lawsuit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, challenged election procedures in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It asked the court to bar those states from casting their electoral votes for Mr. Biden and to shift the selection of electors to the states’ legislatures. That would have required the justices to throw out millions of votes.

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrettMr. Trump has said he expected to prevail in the Supreme Court, after rushing the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October in part in the hope that she would vote in Mr. Trump’s favor in election disputes.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” Mr. Trump said of the election a few days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”

He was right that an election dispute would end up in the Supreme Court. But he was quite wrong to think the court, even after he appointed a third of its members, would do his bidding. And with the Electoral College set to meet on Monday, Mr. Trump’s efforts to change the outcome of the election will soon be at an end.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Doses Will Your State Get? Danielle Ivory, Mitch Smith, Jasmine C. Lee, Jordan Allen, Alex Lemonides, Barbara Harvey, Alex Leeds Matthews, Cierra S. Queen, Natasha Rodriguez and John Yoon, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times surveyed all 50 states for their estimates of how much coronavirus vaccine they expect to receive before the end of 2020.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, allies vow to ‘fight on’ after Supreme Court loss, Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 12, 2020. President Trump lashed out at his attorney general and GOP governors he deemed unfaithful. President Trump on Saturday amplified his unfounded claims and falsehoods about Joe Biden’s victory, lashed out at his attorney general and GOP governors he deemed unfaithful to him, and vowed to continue challenging the election results, despite the Supreme Court dealing a final blow to his brazen legal efforts to overturn the vote.

“I WON THE ELECTION IN A LANDSLIDE, but remember, I only think in terms of legal votes, not all of the fake voters and fraud that miraculously floated in from everywhere! What a disgrace!,” Trump tweeted shortly after 8 a.m., one in a series of morning posts that Twitter labeled as disputed.

Many of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress were unswayed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenge brought by the Texas attorney general that asked the justices to invalidate millions of ballots cast in four battleground states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia — and toss out Biden’s win. The Congress members accused the Supreme Court of dodging or lacking courage.

 washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes first coronavirus vaccine in U.S., Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 12, 2020. The historic authorization of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech came after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to be prepared to submit his resignation if the agency did not clear the vaccine by day’s end Friday.

pfizer logoThe Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave emergency use authorization to the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, launching what scientists hope will be a critical counteroffensive against a pathogen that has killed more than 290,000 Americans, shredded the nation’s social and political fabric and devastated the economy.

The historic authorization of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for people age 16 and older, just 336 days after the genetic blueprint of a novel coronavirus was shared online by Chinese scientists, sets in motion a highly choreographed and complex distribution process aimed at speeding vaccines throughout the United States to curb the pandemic.

mark meadowsThe FDA action came after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, on Friday told FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, right, to be prepared to submit his resignation if the agency did not clear the vaccine by day’s end, according to people familiar with the situation stephen hahn owho spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what happened.

Meadows’s threat followed months of efforts by FDA scientists to try to ward off President Trump’s importuning on the vaccine and keep the review process apolitical and transparent in hopes of boosting public confidence in the shots. The FDA already had planned to clear the vaccine Saturday morning, and accelerating the authorization to Friday night was not expected to change the delivery timeline of the first shots.

The nation set a record for covid-19 deaths Thursday for the second day in a row, surpassing 3,300. The death tally for Friday was 2,950, only slightly lower, bringing the U.S. death toll to nearly 295,000.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Doses Will Your State Get? Danielle Ivory, Mitch Smith, Jasmine C. Lee, Jordan Allen, Alex Lemonides, Barbara Harvey, Alex Leeds Matthews, Cierra S. Queen, Natasha Rodriguez and John Yoon, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times surveyed all 50 states for their estimates of how much coronavirus vaccine they expect to receive before the end of 2020.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking vaccine distribution, state by state, Dan Keating, John Muyskens and Garland Potts, Dec. 12, 2020. Find out how many doses are expected to be delivered in the first set of Pfizer’s newly authorized vaccine.Distribution to more than 600 locations in all 50 states was set to begin within 24 hours of federal clearance of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These locations are primarily large health-care systems able to handle the vaccines and their storage at ultracold temperatures. If the Moderna vaccine is approved in December, supply to the states will increase greatly.

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. officials clamp down on restaurants, South Korean researchers argue that six feet between indoor diners isn’t enough, Tim Carman, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Earlier this year, two diners at a South Korean restaurant were infected with novel coronavirus in a matter of minutes from a third patron who sat at least 15 feet away from them. The third patron was asymptomatic at the time.

After dissecting that scene from June, South Korean researchers released a study last month in the Journal of Korean Medical Science that suggests the virus, under certain airflow conditions, travels farther than six feet and can infect others in as little as five minutes.

The study appears to be more bad news for restaurants, which have already been identified in research as a primary source for the spread of the virus. The Korean researchers recommend that public health authorities update safety guidelines based on their study, arguing that six feet of space between tables is not enough to protect diners from being infected.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 11, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

71,438,206, Deaths: 1,601,190
16,295,458, Deaths:    302,750

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 11, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden narrows attorney general list, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Matt Viser, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The search for the next attorney general has become more focused on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates, according to people familiar with the discussions, who said that appeals court Judge Merrick B. Garland remains a serious contender.

President-elect Joe Biden’s search for the next attorney general is increasingly focused on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates, according to people familiar with the discussions, who said that appeals court judge Merrick B. Garland remains a serious contender.

Jones, who lost his reelection bid in November, is the favorite at this stage, but Biden and his inner circle continue to debate the nomination, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

It is increasingly unlikely, these people said, that former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will be selected to become the nation’s top law enforcement official. People familiar with the discussions said in recent days that the discussions of the three other candidates have increasingly shifted toward the likelihood of confirmation in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. On that question, Jones is viewed as having an edge over Yates, according to the people familiar with the discussions.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws late night tantrum after Supreme Court says it’s over for him, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 12, 2020. bill palmerWhen the Supreme Court agreed by a 9-0 margin tonight that Donald Trump’s final election case had no merit, and voted by a 7-2 margin to not even hear the case before throwing it out, it meant the end for Trump. He’ll now be gone from office within weeks, and on track for prison and bankruptcy after that.

bill palmer report logo headerFive hours after the ruling came down, Palmer Report pointed out at 11:32 pm that Trump still hadn’t said anything about it. He had seemingly been stunned into silence. But as if on cue, just five minutes after our article, Trump erupted with his inevitable meltdown.

After posting some incoherent quotes from Fox News, Trump ended up tweeting this: “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!” Well okay then. Is this a concession speech? Does he know that there’s no further recourse for anyone beyond the Supreme Court? Whatever, it’s over for him.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP lawsuits challenge Ga. absentee-ballot requirements, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Dec. 12, 2020. The court filings set the stage for legal fights that could lead to last-minute changes for the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections.

State and national Republicans this week filed lawsuits challenging Georgia’s requirements for verifying and submitting absentee ballots, setting the stage for legal fights that could lead to last-minute changes for the Jan. 5 runoff elections and confusion for voters who are already submitting their vote by mail.

The Republican National Committee, Georgia Republican Party and other GOP plaintiffs filed three suits this week against the Republican secretary of state and other election administrators, asking the courts for additional reviews of the signatures on absentee ballots and to limit the use of ballot drop boxes.

In the lawsuits, Republican officials raised concerns with the ways that signatures were matched on absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election — the source of criticism lobbed by President Trump and his allies in their efforts to sow doubt in the integrity of the presidential vote in Georgia.

That state certified its election results for the second time this week after a second recount of presidential ballots reaffirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state. But Trump and his allies have repeatedly, without evidence, alleged widespread improprieties with the state’s signature-matching process for absentee ballots — a voting method widely preferred by Democrats this year.

The lawsuits seek changes for the runoff election, although absentee voting is already underway and tens of thousands of Georgians have already submitted their ballots.

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven Senators are at least 80 years old. Is it time for them to exit? Paul Kane, Dec. 12, 2020. Republicans want Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), 87, to seek another six-year term, and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), 80, will decide next November. A few years ago, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) established unusual benchmarks for deciding whether to run for reelection in 2022, potential six-year terms that would end with Grassley in his mid-90s and Leahy in his late 80s.

“If I can run three miles four times a week, I’ll be running for reelection,” Grassley, now 87, said at the time.

Leahy, in non-pandemic times, celebrates his birthday by scuba diving, first swimming down to the depth of his new age, doing a somersault underwater. “If I reach the point that I can’t go scuba diving and do my somersaults, that will be one clear indication,” Leahy, now 80, said in late 2017.

The longest-serving Republican and Democrat in the Senate are part of a large bloc of octogenarians who continue to serve well past the average retirement age of a typical American worker.

Today, seven senators are at least 80 years old, the second-largest number of 80-somethings to ever serve together, according to records kept by the Senate Historical Office. The largest group came in 2018, when eight senators had eclipsed their 80th birthday, which nearly doubled the previous record for octogenarians serving in the Senate.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

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ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan D.A. Intensifies Investigation of Trump, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and David Enrich, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Prosecutors have recently interviewed employees of President Trump’s lender and insurance brokerage, in the latest indication that he still faces the potential threat of criminal charges once he leaves office.

Daily Kos via OpEdNews, Opinion: Barr knew that Hunter Biden was ” not charged with anything and not the subject of a criminal probe, Mark Sumner, Dec. 12, 2020. To be absolutely clear: Bill Barr is a terrible attorney general who has used his position to grossly distort the whole purpose of the Justice Department. Barr has spent most of the last two years trying to fulfill Donald Trump’s every conspiracy theory dream by appointing special investigators, providing an endless stream of disinformation to right-wing media, and traveling the world in an attempt to find an ally willing to roast U.S. intelligence agencies. And all of that is on top of Barr’s previous star turn in which he played a central role in dismissing charges resulting from Iran-Contra. He’s a bad attorney general, a bad American, and simply a bad man.

But just because Barr is determinedly malevolent, and saved Trump from what should have been an impeachment over the plain fact that his campaign engaged in every form of cooperation with the Russian government in order to subvert the outcome of a U.S. election, it doesn’t mean that Trump is always going to be happy with him. And now, in the twilight of both their careers, Trump is increasingly treating Barr as an enemy.

In Trump’s mind, there are only two possible roles anyone can serve: Completely subservient bootlicker, or infuriating opponent. There is no in-between.

So the fact that Barr didn’t wholeheartedly join in with Rudy Giuliani and his parade of Hunter Biden laptops as confirmed by blind shop owners before the election had already made Barr suspect. Trump repeatedly tweeted a mixture of disdain and distaste for Barr in the weeks before the election as it became clear that, unlike 2016, there was not going to be some last-minute statement from the DOJ or FBI to provide Trump a last-minute vote infusion.

And now a story from The Wall Street Journalhas Trump hammering away at Barr again, while Trump supporters are calling Barr a traitor and Republican senators are demanding yet another very special counsel.

The claims from the WSJ began with a story in which Hunter Biden admitted that his federal income taxes are under investigation. Of course, Donald Trump has claimed that he could not reveal his tax returns for the last ever because he’s perennially under audit. It’s also widely known that Trump’s taxes are the subject of investigations by the State of New York.

However, what’s routine for Trump is apparently supposed to be scandalous for Joe Biden’s surviving son — a son who will have no role in the upcoming administration. The investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes apparently predates both Barr and Trump’s phone call to Ukraine but is said to be restricted to tax issues and “doesn’t implicate other members of his family or the president-elect.”

But what has the whole right wing in an uproar is the idea that … Barr knew. Barr knew, and he didn’t make a statement that Trump could use before the election. For Trump, this isn’t just an excuse to attack Barr for failing to come through the clinch, but also to claim that Biden’s term is going to be “so plagued by scandal” that the Supreme Court just might as well hand the election to Trump and save everyone some time and embarrassment.

And of course, Barr did know. He knew that while Hunter Biden’s taxes were being investigated by an office of the department he controlled.

Barr also knew that no crime has been alleged, no one has been indicted, and that nothing appeared to be connected to the actual candidate for office. A fuming Trump supporter inside the DOJ also complained that Barr knew about another investigation involving Hunter Biden, an investigation that the WSJ was quick to highlight … before reaching the point where it admits that its sources indicate Hunter was “never a specific target for criminal prosecution.” Connected to the first investigation, this appears to be more a matter of looking at a bank that may have made some shady deals rather than anything specifically done by Hunter Biden.

So what Barr knew was that Hunter Biden’s taxes were being examined in one investigation, and Biden was not the target of a second investigation. Still, Barr’s failure to jump up and down and scream about a family of criminals is apparently all that was required to toss him from the good graces of Trump and his supporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Bill Barr get into bizarre war of words as everything unravels for them both, Bill Palmer, Dec .12, 2020. Earlier today, Palmer Report explained why it really doesn’t much matter at this point whether or not Donald Trump fires Attorney General Bill Barr. But things do seem to be coming to a head tonight between the two of them, even as everything unravels for them both.

bill palmer report logo headerAccording to CNN, a “source familiar with” Bill Barr is now leaking that Barr views Trump’s post-election threats and antics as nothing more than “the deposed King ranting.” To be clear, Barr has a consistent history of leaking things to the media under the guise of it coming from a ” source familiar with” him. In other words, Barr is putting these fighting words out there on purpose.

So what is Barr doing? At this point it sounds like he’s trying to get fired. Why would he do this? Once Trump is out of office in just 39 days, the DOJ will have to decide whether to criminally charge Barr for the several counts of felony obstruction of justice that he committed in the name of helping Trump. Perhaps Barr figures that if he can get Trump to fire him, it’ll allow him to argue that he couldn’t have possibly been corruptly in league with Trump. This won’t work, but Barr is facing prison, and he has to try something.

In any case, if Bill Barr is indeed now trying to get fired, it suggests that either Donald Trump has already secretly pardoned Barr, or that Barr has concluded he’s not going to get a pardon one way or the other. And again, if Trump fires Barr, it won’t suddenly give Trump some kind of magical DOJ powers. It would generate a lot of scary ratings-driven hype from pundits, but it really wouldn’t change much.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, U.S. executes Louisiana man who killed daughter, Michael Tarm, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.).  The Trump administration has carried out its 10th execution of the year, putting to death Fred Bourgeois, 56, a Louisiana truck driver who killed his 2-year-old daughter by slamming her head against a truck’s windows and dashboard.

The Trump administration continued its unprecedented series of post-election federal executions Friday by putting to death a Louisiana truck driver who severely abused his 2-year-old daughter for weeks in 2002, then killed her by slamming her head repeatedly against a truck’s windows and dashboard.

Alfred Bourgeois, 56, was pronounced dead at 8:21 p.m. Eastern time at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. His lawyers had argued he had an IQ that put him in the intellectually disabled category, saying that should have made him ineligible for the death penalty.

In his last words, Bourgeois, strapped to a gurney, offered no apology and instead struck a deeply defiant tone, insisting that he neither killed nor sexually abused his baby girl.

“I ask God to forgive all those who plotted and schemed against me, and planted false evidence,” he said. He added: “I did not commit this crime.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Archdiocese of Washington sues D.C. mayor over virus attendance restrictions, Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 12, 2020. The Catholic church cites Christmas seven times and says new limits — as regional cases surge — are “arbitrary” and “chilling.”

The Catholic archdiocese of Washington Friday sued D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and the city over Washington’s coronavirus attendance limits, saying they are “chilling” and harm hundreds of thousands of Catholics as Christmas approaches.

The suit was filed as the region has added to its growing list of restrictions and closures. This week saw the largest number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day average of new cases across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. stood Friday at 6,887, down slightly from Thursday’s record high.

The suit charges that the city is violating the rights of the 650,000 Catholics in the archdiocese, which includes the District and its Maryland suburbs. It says the attendance limits violate the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and cites a Supreme Court ruling a few weeks ago that said a state violated the rights of some houses of worship by imposing mandatory attendance caps, regardless the size of the facility.

The D.C. archdiocese’s filing late Friday also cited the caps on tighter new restrictions put in place last month as cases began to climb. In late November, the new rules said houses of worship can have only 50 attendees, no matter the size of the room. Half of the city’s Catholic parishes, the suit says, can seat more than 500 people.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. braces for clashes Saturday as pro-Trump demonstrators descend on Washington, Clarence Williams, Marissa J. Lang, Emily Davies and Jessica Contrera, Dec. 12, 2020. Long before the day’s events officially started, clashes had already begun.

With waving flags, air horns and several hundred in their ranks, protesters who refuse to accept that President-elect Joe Biden won the election began their “March for Trump” Saturday morning at the Capitol.

djt maga hatThe gathering is the first in a day of planned rallies for the president, two days before the electoral college votes to make his 306-to-232 loss official.

His supporters will be met by counterprotesters who hope to protect Black Lives Matter Plaza and by a police force determined to keep the two groups apart.

But long before the day’s events officially started, clashes had already begun. Just before midnight on Friday, a chaotic brawl broke out between small groups of Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators at 15th and K streets NW, two blocks from the White House. With about a dozen people on each side, angry taunts escalated into shoving, tackling, punching and kicking.

D.C. police officers tried to separate the sides, but were shoved by people from both groups who seemed intent on a fight. In the skirmish, one anti-Trump supporter was wrestled to the ground and kicked repeatedly. Five people were arrested on charges that included assaulting officers, disorderly conduct, inciting violence and resisting arrest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Too many of D.C.’s youth are victims of violence — or causing it. We have to help them all, Colbert I. King, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Too many of this city’s youths are on the receiving end of violence — or are causing bodily harm to others — often to the point of death. To pretend otherwise, and suggest that our greatest problems are too many cars on the streets, too little clean air and inattention to motor scooters and bikes, is absurd.

Yes, the community was shocked almost two weeks ago by the story of 15-month-old Carmelo Duncan being shot to death in Southeast D.C. while strapped in a car seat next to his 8-year-old brother.

But you might have missed the item in The Post’s Dec. 8 Metro section about a 15-year-old boy who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after a man was found shot in a Southeast neighborhood.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Sidney Powell’s secret ‘military intelligence expert’ never worked in military intelligence, Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The witness is code-named “Spyder.” Or sometimes “Spider.” His identity is so closely guarded that lawyer Sidney Powell has sought to keep it even from opposing counsel. And his account of vulnerability to international sabotage is a key part of Powell’s failing multistate effort to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Powell describes Spyder in court filings as a former “Military Intelligence expert,” and his testimony is offered to support one of her central claims. In a declaration filed in four states, Spyder alleges that publicly available data about server traffic shows that voting systems in the United States were “certainly compromised by rogue actors, such as Iran and China.”

Spyder, it turns out, is Joshua Merritt, a 43-year-old information technology consultant in the Dallas area. Merritt confirmed his role as Powell’s secret witness in phone interviews this week with The Washington Post.

Records show that Merritt is an Army veteran and that he enrolled in a training program at the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion, the unit he cites in his declaration. But he never completed the entry-level training course, according to Meredith Mingledorff, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, which includes the battalion.

“He kept washing out of courses,” said Mingledorff, citing his education records. “He’s not an intelligence analyst.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Jimmy Lai, Media Mogul, Is Charged Under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, Vivian Wang, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The China Flagprominent pro-democracy activist is accused of colluding with foreign forces. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison. Jimmy Lai, shown at his Hong Kong home in August, is the highest-profile figure to be formally charged under the new law.

Jimmy Lai, the publishing tycoon and one of Hong Kong’s most outspoken critics of the Chinese Communist Party, was charged under the city’s new national security law on Friday, as Beijing intensified its efforts to smother pro-democracy activism in the once-freewheeling metropolis.

The move against Mr. Lai was not surprising. He is one of the best-known faces internationally of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and Chinese state news outlets have long railed against him as one of the driving forces behind the huge anti-government protests last year.

Still, the news underscored Beijing’s determination to intimidate an already disheartened movement. Street protests have mostly evaporated since the law was enacted in June, and open dissent among most residents has quieted. But well-known activists such as Mr. Lai have continued to speak out, to the fury of Chinese officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, European leaders clash in Brussels but ultimately agree on a coronavirus rescue package, new climate goals, Michael Birnbaum and Quentin Ariès, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who intends to retire next year after a 15-year stint as Europe’s most powerful leader, brokered the compromises.

european union logo rectangleEuropean leaders gathered in Brussels this week ready to clash on fundamental issues, from democracy to climate change. But they ended a two-day summit on Friday with a string of significant deals, including a plan to give unprecedented money-raising authority to the European Union to help economies struggling through the pandemic.

Although the specter of a disorderly British break from the E.U. on Dec. 31 loomed over the meeting, the prime ministers and presidents spent little time on it. Instead, they fought over a host of other issues — and, ultimately, struck some bargains. Along with a $2.2 trillion spending plan that includes an emergency pandemic fund, leaders committed to sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade.

It was a diplomatic triumph for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who intends to retire next year after a 15-year stint as Europe’s most powerful leader. With Germany holding the rotating presidency of the European Council, Merkel chaired the proceedings and brokered the compromise agreements — though critics said too much was given away in the spirit of a deal.

 

Dec. 11

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

 

World News

 

Top Stories

 

djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, White House orders FDA chief to authorize vaccine today or submit his resignation, Josh Dawsey and Laurie McGinley, Dec. 11, 2020. Warning led FDA to move authorization up from Saturday; The message from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows came as the Food and Drug Administration prepared to clear the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, according to three people familiar with the situation.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, on Friday told Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to submit his mark meadowsresignation if the agency does not clear the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine by day’s end, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what happened.

fda logoThe threat came on the same day that President Trump tweeted that the FDA is “a big, old, slow turtle” in its handling of vaccines, while exhorting Commissioner Stephen Hahn to “get the dam vaccines out NOW.” He added: “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”

It also led the FDA to accelerate its timetable for clearing America’s first vaccine from Saturday morning to later Friday, according to two people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

The White House actions once again inject politics into the vaccine race, potentially undermining public trust in one of the most crucial tools to end the pandemic that has killed more than 290,000 Americans. It comes in the midst of a process that had been designed to show no shortcuts were taken in reviewing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine as surveys show many people remain unsure whether they will get the shots.

A White House official declined to comment, saying “we don’t comment on private conversations, but the Chief regularly requests updates on progress toward a vaccine.”

stephen hahn o“This is an untrue representation of the phone call with the Chief of Staff,” Hahn, right, said in a statement. “The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech’s EUA request. FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning.”

pfizer logoThe two-shot vaccine, which has been shown to be 95 percent effective in randomized trials involving tens of thousands of people, has already been cleared by Britain, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials have engaged in a more rigorous review process that they believe will boost public confidence.

Meadows’ threat and the president’s tweets constituted the latest attack by Trump, who has complained vociferously that the vaccine wasn’t authorized before Election Day, blaming it on the ‘Deep State’ inside the agency that he accused of working against his reelection. Trump was also said to be upset that Britain cleared the vaccine before the United States, although the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been developed and reviewed in record time.

 ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Advisory Panel Gives Green Light to Pfizer Vaccine, Katie Thomas, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The panel of experts voted in favor of emergency authorization for people 16 and older. The F.D.A. does not have to follow the advice, but it usually does.

pfizer logoPfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine passed a critical milestone on Thursday when a panel of experts formally recommended that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the vaccine. The agency is likely to do so within days, giving health care workers and nursing home residents first priority to begin receiving the first shots early next week.

fda logoThe F.D.A.’s vaccine advisory panel, composed of independent scientific experts, infectious disease doctors and statisticians, voted 17 to 4, with one member abstaining, in favor of emergency authorization for people 16 and older. With rare exceptions, the F.D.A. follows the advice of its advisory panels.

With this formal blessing, the nation may finally begin to slow the spread of the virus just as infections and deaths surge, reaching a record of more than 3,000 daily deaths on Wednesday. The F.D.A. is expected to grant an emergency use authorization on Saturday, according to people familiar with the agency’s planning, though they cautioned that last-minute legal or bureaucratic requirements could push the announcement to Sunday or later.

The initial shipment of 6.4 million doses will leave warehouses within 24 hours of being cleared by the F.D.A., according to federal officials. About half of those doses will be sent across the country, and the other half will be reserved for the initial recipients to receive their second dose about three weeks later.

ny times logoNew York Times, As President Trump Disputes Election, Republicans Target Voting by Mail, Michael Wines, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Nearly half of voters cast absentee ballots in the election, a huge increase. If Republicans have their way, that might not last.

President Trump’s barrage of losses in court cases trying to undermine the election has not stopped Republicans from turning to battles they might be able to win — attempts to limit or undermine the future use of the vote-by-mail ballots that so infuriated Mr. Trump.

Absentee ballots constituted nearly half the votes cast in the 2020 election, and the experiment in mass voting by mail has been viewed by election experts as a remarkable success, one that was less prone to errors than expected and had almost no documented fraud. But that has not stopped Republican critics eager to follow the president’s lead.

This week in Georgia, as the president rages against the election he lost and the members of his party who oversaw it there, Republican state senators promised to make getting and casting mail ballots far more difficult.

The Georgia state senators pledged on Tuesday to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, require a photo ID to obtain a ballot, outlaw drop boxes and scrap a court agreement to quickly tell voters about signature problems on ballots so that they could be fixed.

Republicans were pressing that cause on other fronts as well: The national and state parties filed a lawsuit in Atlanta seeking to curtail the use of drop boxes in next month’s runoff elections for the U.S. Senate. The suit claimed it was illegal to let absentee voters deposit ballots after business hours.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican and a frequent target of Mr. Trump for not taking steps to overturn the election results, renewed an earlier call for a recheck of signatures on mail ballots after a Trump volunteer falsely claimed at a State Senate hearing that a video showed workers retrieving “suitcases” of ballots from under a table after observers left. Election officials said the video showed routine tabulation work.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden picks Denis McDonough for Veterans Affairs, Susan Rice for top domestic policy job, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez, Matt Viser, Lisa Rein and Annie Linskey, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.).

Biden is preparing to nominate former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, a sprawling part of the federal government that employs nearly 380,000 workers to care for the country’s military veterans.

Biden has selected former United Nations ambassador Susan E. Rice to be the director of his Domestic Policy Council. Details below in section on Biden Transition.

washington post logogeorge conway postWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s last-ditch effort to steal the election is the biggest farce of all, George T. Conway III, right, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.).

“We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!” tweeted the soon-to-be-ex-president of the United States. A filing at the Supreme Court soon followed.

President Trump needs an intervention these days all right — but not of the kind he was talking about. And it’s he who desperately needs a victory, not the country.

That’s because Trump and his allies have lost just about every lawsuit they’ve brought to try to keep him in office. By one Democratic election lawyer’s count, they have just one win and 55 losses to show for their efforts (a ratio that would be even more lopsided if he counted multiple losses in each case). Adding insult to injury, the Trumpistas’ solitary victory was a piddling, technical one that affected just a tiny number of ballots, nowhere near enough to change the result. Sad!

Trump and his litigation boosters have lost every which way, and everywhere. In state courts and federal courts. In trial courts and appellate courts, intermediate and supreme. Before Democratic judges and Republican ones. In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada — every state that could possibly matter. On substantive grounds and procedural ones, on the facts, and on the law.

They’ve already lost a case in the U.S. Supreme Court — and are about to lose there again, very, very soon.

It’s hard to imagine that any alliance of litigants and lawyers has ever lost more cases for more reasons — and in less time — than this sorry bunch has.

Their problem is they have nothing to sue about, and never did. The words of a Trump-appointed member of the federal appeals court in Philadelphia pretty much sum things up: “Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

And time’s up. All the contested states have certified their Biden-Harris slates of electors before the deadline set by federal law. That means the certifications “shall be conclusive, and shall govern in the counting of the electoral votes.” The electors will meet and vote in their respective states on Monday. The result will be Biden 306, Trump 232. A landslide, according to Trump.

ken paxton mugBrought by Texas’s ethically challenged attorney general, Ken Paxton [shown in a mug shot at left] the case is legally preposterous. By Texas’s own admission, it’s “challenging” the other states’ “administration of the 2020 election.” No constitutional provision, no statute and no principle of law gives one state the standing to challenge another state’s handling of an election. In our system, Texas isn’t the boss of Pennsylvania. Allowing such suits would invite a multistate free-for-all every time a presidential election is held.

Texas’s proposed complaint even has a claim that, given Trump’s middle-of-election-night lead in the defendant states, there was less than a “one in a quadrillion” chance that Biden should have won. Do they really think the justices of the Supreme Court are that stupid?

And what relief does the Texas suit seek? For the court to declare that the 62 electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin “cannot be counted.” That’s a quote.

That any member of any bar, let alone a member of the Supreme Court bar, could file such flimsy tripe in any court, let alone the Supreme Court, is an embarrassment to the legal profession. For public officials such as Paxton and his fellow Republican attorneys general to call for the wholesale disenfranchisement of the people of four states is an affront to the rule of law, an insult to an independent judiciary and a contempt of democracy.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: F.D.A. Could Issue Emergency Authorization on Saturday, Staff reports, Dec. 11, 2020. The authorization will be the start of a complex, monthslong distribution plan, “We could see people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of fda logonext week,” said Alex Azar, the health secretary. Here’s the latest.

The F.D.A. is expected to issue an emergency authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine on Saturday. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said their experimental vaccine did not appear to work well in older adults, a significant setback.

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Vaccine Will Get From the Lab to You, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Amy Schoenfeld Walker and Jeremy White, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). With a promise to deliver millions of doses in weeks, the U.S. government faces a massive logistical test.

The U.S. now hopes to have about 40 million doses in 2020, down from a goal of 300 million. But only about 20 million people may get their first shots this month, because the leading vaccines require two doses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Covid Meds Are Scarce, but Not for Trump Cronies, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Rudy Giuliani michelle goldberg thumbgot monoclonal antibodies. You probably can’t.

According to a document from the Department of Health and Human Services, a total of 108 doses of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail have been allocated to Washington, which had 265 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday alone. Somehow Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s lawyer, got one of those doses. In an interview with a New York radio station on Tuesday, Giuliani did us all the favor of explaining why he qualified for privileged treatment.

“I had very mild symptoms,” he told the radio station, WABC. “I think if it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in the hospital. Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you; they’re going to examine it more carefully and do everything right.” He said on another show on the same station that the president’s physician was involved in his care.

Giuliani, of course, is not the only presidential crony to get access to highly rationed experimental therapies. Trump himself was among the very first people to get the Regeneron treatment outside of a clinical trial, before it received an emergency use authorization from the F.D.A. on Nov. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jobless claims spiked in the U.S. last week, with 853,000 people seeking new benefits, Eli Rosenberg, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). New Labor Department data show how surge in coronavirus cases is hitting the economy hard once again.

us labor department logoThe number of new unemployment claims rose sharply to 853,000 last week, an increase of 137,000 from the week before, another sign of the toll the pandemic is taking on the labor market.

The number of claims leapt over 800,000 for the first time since the week ending Oct. 10, when they came in at 842,000.

A large spike in coronavirus cases in the United States, particularly since October, has rattled large parts of the economy. There are now more than 1 million new cases of coronavirus each week in the United States, and the country shattered a record on Wednesday with more than 3,000 deaths from the disease. Hospitals in many parts of the country are overwhelmed and some state and local jurisdictions are imposing fresh restrictions to try and curb the spike.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to reach a deal on a new relief package but those talks have so far failed to produce a consensus plan.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 11, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 70,854,730, Deaths: 1,591,354
U.S. Cases:   16,044,308, Deaths:    299,751

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 11, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

Palmer Report, Opinion: 300,000, Robert Harrington, Dec 11, 2020.  By the time you read this, brothers and sisters, the 300,000th American will have died robert harringtnn portraitfrom COVID-19. To put that number in perspective, 116,516 Americans died in World War I, 405,399 died in World War II. By the time Joe Biden ascends to the presidency in January, the COVID death toll will have easily exceeded the death toll of the Second World War.

bill palmer report logo headerThese American deaths are at the feet of Donald Trump. He could have stopped most of it. Instead he chose to politicize the disease and create confusion and conflict around it.

Trump mocked people for wearing masks. He faked irritation at reporters wearing masks and pretended to have difficulty hearing them because their voices were muffled — even though their words were easily discernible. He mocked Joe and Jill Biden for wearing masks. He downplayed the severity of the disease itself, even though we know that he knew how deadly it really was — thanks to a February recording of an interview with Bob Woodward.

Trump made not wearing a mask a macho thing, a thing of pride, thereby confusing the very reason we wear masks. We wear them to protect each other, to keep others safe, to sacrifice our comfort in the name of the health and comfort of our fellow human beings. The average Trump supporter doesn’t understand this. Even though many of them are slow and stupid, it’s a simple message that they could have easily learned: wearing a mask is one of the bravest and most selfless and most patriotic things you can do.

Donald Trump provided his low-information devotees with a smorgasbord of reasons to mistrust the reality of the pandemic, and many of those reasons contradicted the other reasons. He began by saying it was a “Democrat hoax.” Then he said that it would disappear in the spring. Then he hinted it was a deadly pathogen created in a lab in China. Then he claimed that it was only killing the very old, and they didn’t matter anyway, that the rest of us were just fine. Then he claimed a victory and falsely insisted that the pandemic was over, just days before the thousand-a-day death toll climbed to two thousand deaths a day, and now three three thousand deaths a day.

Then — in a staggering orgy of hypocrisy — Donald Trump claimed the pandemic had been politicized, and that the announcement of the vaccine was deliberately withheld until after the election in order to hurt him politically. And the drooling cretins who follow him uncritically believe all of it.

Trump’s strategy these days is to ignore the pandemic and focus on the provably false claim that the election was stolen from him. Just as in the run up to the election his focus was on Hunter Biden and the “dangers” of voting by mail, it remains scattered on inaninities — focused anywhere except on this devastating pandemic.

Welcome to the party of “pro-life.” Welcome to the party where facts no longer matter, where the narrative can be anything you want it to be as long as it suits the capricious goal of the moment. Americans have been waiting four long years to see how far Donald Trump could push the envelope before Republicans finally pushed back. We now have our answer. There is no limit. Republicans will never lush back. Donald Trump can be as destructive and murderous as he wants to be, even in his death throes, and Republicans are content to allow a bunch of tinfoil hat-wearing lunatics to be their spokespeople.

It’s at times like this when the Napoleonic edict, to never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake, is at its most applicable. I’m content to let their whole stinking Republican pirate ship of corruption go down with him. If Donald Trump is the end of the Republican Party, then he may have finally done us a favor by accident. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Tries to Kill Covid Relief, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Is it ignorance, or is it cynicism? The next few paul krugmanmonths will be terrible. Several thousand Americans are now dying from Covid-19 every day; given the lag between cases and deaths, the daily toll will almost certainly rise through the end of this year, and if people are careless over Christmas it could surge even higher in the new year. Economic recovery has stalled, with employment still down almost 10 million from pre-pandemic levels.

The most we can hope for at this point are policies that mitigate the suffering, getting us through the horror while we wait for widespread vaccination. And a few days ago it seemed possible that we would in fact get some good news on the economic front. A bipartisan group of senators seemed close to agreement on a Covid relief bill that would fall far short of what we should be doing, but would be much better than nothing.

Then the lame-duck Trump administration intervened — destructively. Tthe administration proposal completely eliminated the most important piece of any relief deal — expanded benefits for the unemployed — replacing it with one-time $600 checks that would be sent to everyone.

President Trump is still trying, in ever more desperate and destructive ways, to overturn the results of the election. And in his madness he may imagine that he will gain more politically from sending everyone another check with his name on it than from helping those truly in need.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The covid-19 pandemic is Trump’s legacy. He can still salvage a shred of his reputation, Eugene Robinson, right, eugene robinson headshot CustomDec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s shameful legacy will be the needless death and vast devastation of the covid-19 pandemic.

More than 3,100 Americans died from the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, a shocking all-time high, with the virus currently the nation’s leading cause of death. The health and economic impacts of covid-19 were always going to be brutal, but Trump made everything much worse than it had to be. And he has capped his mismanagement of the crisis by making it more difficult not just to persuade Americans to comply with life-saving preventative efforts but by also sowing doubt about the vaccines that are the way out of this crisis.

The worst thing Trump did — and continues to do — is to treat the virus less like a threat to the nation and more like a danger to his own political and psychological well-being. From the beginning, he listened to the advisers who told him what he wanted to hear — that it wouldn’t be so bad (though epidemiologists said otherwise), that we could achieve some sort of herd immunity (though infectious-disease specialists said this was madness), that the disease would magically “go away” in time for the election (though all realistic people said this was pure fantasy).

Trump could have used his megaphone and his dominance of the Republican Party to push for consistent, nationwide rules for mandates and shutdowns. If he had called last spring for universal mask-wearing, for example, and driven that message home with his loyal MAGA followers, Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and even Kristi Noem of South Dakota likely would have had no choice but to go along or face the wrath of constituents who are more loyal to Trump than to them.

 

Biden Transition

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough n the White House Oval Office on July 11, 2016 (White House photo).

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough n the White House Oval Office on July 11, 2016 (White House photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Biden picks Denis McDonough for Veterans Affairs, Susan Rice for top domestic policy job, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez, Matt Viser, Lisa Rein and Annie Linskey, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). (Continued from above). Biden is preparing to nominate former White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Biden has selected former United Nations ambassador Susan E. Rice to be the director of his Domestic Policy Council.

Denis McDonough: The choice of McDonough, who is not a veteran himself, caught veterans groups off guard. His name was not on a list circulated to Capitol Hill and veterans groups, who were led to believe the top contender was former congressman Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq War veteran.

joe biden twitter“I don’t get it. I don’t understand the nomination,” said Joe Chenelly, executive director of American Veterans, an advocacy group known as AMVETS. “He’s not a veteran. What we really want to understand is Joe Biden’s thinking on this. There were some really good candidates out there. McDonough has no background in health care or experience running a big organization. He is not well-known in the veterans community.”

His nomination, first reported by Politico, was later confirmed by Biden’s transition team.

McDonough was Obama’s chief of staff during his second term, but he previously served as deputy national security adviser and as chief of staff to the National Security Council. Biden viewed those roles as important in selecting McDonough to head VA, according to a source familiar with the selection, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the formal announcement.

In those roles, McDonough visited Walter Reed Military Medical Center regularly, and while on the National Security Council met with service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. McDonough’s wife, Kari, is president and co-founder of Vets Community Connections, which aims to help veterans and their families reintegrate into communities.

“He is an experienced leader who has helped #DeptVA through its toughest days in 2014 and cares deeply about #veterans,” tweeted David Shulkin, who ran the department under Obama and the first year of Trump’s term. “He will do a great job.”

McDonough will face key challenges in the job to repair the department’s reputation among veterans and members of Congress, after relations with both have frayed under the current secretary, Robert Wilkie.

In addition to Murphy, other candidates for the job included Bob McDonald, who held the position under Obama, and Chet Edwards, a former congressman from Texas.

“With years of experience working at senior levels in the executive branch, Rice knows government inside and out and will carry through the President-elect’s vision of a newly empowered Domestic Policy Council and turbocharge the effort to build back better,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.

Susan Rice: The position will put Rice in charge of coordinating the policymaking process for Biden’s domestic agenda. The council includes the president along with key members of the Cabinet — but does not require Senate confirmation.

susan rice oThe position is one that Rice sought, according to a person familiar with her thinking. Rice was vetted to be Biden’s vice president and many of his top allies believe she was a contender to be secretary of state. But a number of Republicans balked, making it clear that there would have been a fight over her confirmation.

Rice is known for her foreign policy prowess. In addition to being U.N. ambassador during the Obama administration, she was also Obama’s national security adviser. But she has shown interest in domestic policy recently, including penning an op-ed in the New York Times arguing for D.C. statehood, and briefly considered running for Senate in Maine.

The Biden team hailed Rice on Thursday as “among our nation’s most senior and experienced government leaders with the skills to harness the power of the federal government to serve the American people.”

“As a former member of the Cabinet, she also understands the challenges and opportunities of running an agency and has extensive experience working with other key members of the Biden-Harris White House team, including the heads of NSC and NEC,” the team said, referring to the National Economic Council.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 11, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, In Blistering Retort, 4 Battleground States Tell Texas to Butt Out of Election, Adam Liptak and Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The attorneys general for the states asked the Supreme Court to reject a lawsuit from Texas seeking to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victories.

There are two reasons the Texas election case is faulty: a flawed legal argument and a statistical fallacy. The lawsuit, filed by the Republican attorney general of Texas and backed by his G.O.P. colleagues in 17 other states and 106 Republican members of Congress, represents the most coordinated, politicized attempt to overturn the will of the voters in recent American history. President Trump has President Donald Trump officialasked to intervene in the lawsuit as well in hopes that the Supreme Court will hand him a second term he decisively lost.

The suit is the latest in a spectacularly unsuccessful legal effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn the results, with cases so lacking in evidence that judges at all levels have mocked or condemned them as without merit. Legal experts have derided this latest suit as well, which makes the audacious claim, at odds with ordinary principles of federalism, that the Supreme Court should investigate and override the election systems of four states at the behest of a fifth.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: These Republicans may not be capable of shame, but you should know who they are, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 11, 2020. I never ruth marcus twitter Customimagined that the aftermath of the election would pose a greater danger to American democracy than the four previous years. But here we are. Not just because of President Trump — his authoritarian impulses are a given — but because of the craven response of his fellow Republicans.

With the always doomed-to-fail litigation at the Supreme Court, Republicans have gone beyond the indulge-the-toddler-while-he-cries-it-out phase of this debacle to a dangerous new stage: Incentivize the toddler. Reward his bad behavior. Encourage his belief, as poisonous to democracy as it is delusional, that the election was stolen.

And they are laying the predicate for a contentious new phase of American democracy, if it can continue to be called that, in which election results — after appropriate recounts and audits and certifications — are no longer accepted. Instead, they merely open the door for a second phase of legal and political guerrilla warfare in which no tactic, no lie, no baseless claim is off-limits. Democracy cannot function this way.

It had looked as though we dodged a bullet with Trump’s defeat. Turns out there were more in the gun.

One interminable month ago, in response to Trump’s unsupported claims of electoral victory — then shocking, now routine — I wrote that history would judge the response of Republican leaders. Only those willing to ignore their gutless record over the past four years would have expected many profiles in courage. Still, what’s happened is even worse: not servile silence but vigorous incitement.

Which brings us to Texas’s risible bid to have the Supreme Court throw out the election results — which the justices predictably rejected Friday evening. The dry legal language of the court’s order barely concealed its exasperation with Texas’s shenanigans. “Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the court noted tartly.

But this is not a matter of all’s well that ends well. What was alarming about the Texas effort — what Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro aptly described as “this seditious abuse of the judicial process” — was that it gained the support of so many others. Seventeen of 26 Republican state attorneys general. Nearly two-thirds of House Republicans, some 106 on Thursday, with 20 more jumping on the bandwagon Friday, including the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

Every one of these individuals has forfeited any claim to believe in anything but fealty to Trump and their own political self-interest. Because nothing could be less conservative, less consistent with supposed Republican principles, than urging a court to overturn a democratic election. Spare me the pieties about activist judges.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The ‘Trump Won’ Farce Isn’t Funny Anymore, Jamelle Bouie, Dec. 11, 2020. Republicans are now seriously arguing that elections are legitimate only when their side wins.

Raw Story, Anxious Biden electors bracing for confrontations with Trump supporters trying to derail Electoral College vote, Travis Gettys, Dec. 11, 2020. Electors pledged to president-elect Joe Biden are taking extraordinary security measures under “unrelenting” harassment from President Donald Trump’s supporters.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe electors will cast their votes Monday at statehouses across the country, and Biden’s campaign has armed each of theirs with precise logistical information and backup plans in case pro-Trump protesters try to interfere with their arrival, reported Politico.

“I do expect there to be some confrontation on Monday, because that’s just how these unpatriotic, so-called Americans have been behaving,” said Marseille Allen, a Biden elector from Michigan, “and it’s disappointing. But as an African American and indigenous woman, I’m not surprised at the behavior.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Trump team throws in the towel on proving voter fraud, Aaron Blake, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). For weeks, the Trump campaign has said it had conclusive evidence of fraud. The last-ditch lawsuit it has joined from Texas, though, acknowledges that that’s not the case.

The GOP’s latest effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, like many such efforts before it, is a bit of a mess.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and is now joined by the Trump campaign and 17 other Republican attorneys general, wrongly claims that no presidential candidate has lost both Florida and Ohio and won the presidency. (This would be news to John F. Kennedy.)

It ridiculously suggests that late vote shifts in key states were astronomically improbable — to the tune of 1 in 1 quadrillion — a claim with which Philip Bump dispatches, here.

But the GOP’s new focus on this hail-Mary case is also notable for one key reason: It essentially throws in the towel on proving fraud.

ny times logoNew York Times, Student Loan Cancellation Sets Up Clash Between Biden and the Left, Erica L. Green, Luke Broadwater and Stacy Cowley, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Democratic leaders are pressing President-elect Joe Biden to cancel $50,000 in debt per borrower, but he wants Congress to pass more modest relief.

Mr. Biden has endorsed canceling $10,000 in federal student debt per borrower through legislation, and insisted that chipping away at the $1.7 trillion in loan debt held by more than 43 million borrowers is integral to his economic plan. But Democratic leaders, backed by the party’s left flank, are pressing for up to $50,000 of debt relief per borrower, executed on Day 1 of his presidency.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog says Veterans Affairs secretary openly questioned credibility of House aide who reported sexual assault at hospital, Lisa Rein, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and his senior leaders openly questioned the credibility of a House aide who reported a sexual assault at the agency’s flagship hospital in the District, denigrating her and ascribing political motives to her claim, a report released Thursday found.

The tone Wilkie set with his senior staff and with reporters influenced the investigation into the veteran’s claim — and led to the agency’s failure to improve an inhospitable environment for women at the D.C. Medical Center, Inspector General Michael Missal found.

robert wilkie vaAnd instead of turning their attention to the hospital contractor that veteran Andrea Goldstein told authorities “bumped his entire body against mine and told me I looked like I needed a smile and a good time,” investigators found that VA’s senior leaders embarked on a campaign to discredit her. The contractor did not have credentials to enter the hospital and had been the subject of a previous sexual harassment complaint from a VA employee.

“Using denigrating remarks and questioning the credibility of a veteran who reported being sexually assaulted, and then failing to fully explore the facts, is…contrary to the ongoing missions of improving VA and of serving the veteran community with respect,” James Mitchell, deputy inspector general for special reviews, wrote.

Wilkie, right, in a scathing response to the report, wrote, “After nearly a year of investigation, interviews with 65 people and analysis of nearly 1.5 million documents, VA’s inspector general cannot substantiate that I sought to investigate or asked others to investigate the Veteran. That’s because these allegations are false. What’s more, the IG could not identify a single instance in which any VA employee violated any rule, regulation or policy.”

Raw Story, Commentary: Trump launches angry Friday morning tweetstorm, David Badash, Dec. 11, 2020. President Donald Trump has a mere 39 days left in office, and while he refuses to acknowledge that fact, his grasp on reality appears to be just as rapidly unraveling.

Friday morning the President launched a series of angry tweets, covering everything from North Korea to Hunter Biden to his unlawful call strong-arming the President of Ukraine to “the dam vaccines” to demanding the Supreme Court overturn the election, to this tweet that left many people actually worried: “I just want to stop the world from killing itself!”

He did manage to acknowledge there is going to be a Biden administration, claiming it will be “a scandal plagued mess,” which is exactly what he has inflicted on America for the past four years. There is zero reason to think Biden will do the same, given the incredible wealth of talent and expertise he has already assembled. But everything with Trump is projection.

Whenever Trump says “everybody knows,” you can bet he’s lying.

Trump tried to turn Hunter Biden’s announcement that his taxes are under investigation into vindication of his call to the president of Ukraine, a call that was unlawful.

But as Vox reports, the DOJ’s investigation “has focused on Hunter’s business dealings in China,” not Ukraine. “And Joe Biden ‘is not implicated,’ per CNN.”

Trump, who has washed his hands of the coronavirus pandemic entirely, is trying to steal all the credit for the vaccines – even though he refused to buy enough and now it appears Americans will have to wait months longer than we were told to get inoculated.

Trump literally called the vaccine “one of the ‘greatest and fastest medical miracles in modern day history.’” minutes after blasting the FDA for being “a big, old, slow turtle,” that’s “playing games,” and ordering the FDA chief to “Get the dam vaccines out NOW.”

Trump will go down in history as the worst president ever America has ever seen. He likely will face massive legal problems once he leaves office. There will be no “Trump 2024,” at least not for Donald Trump. And it will take at least until then for America to start recovering from this disaster.

Mainer News, Investigation: How Sara Gideon Lost to Collins the Day After She Entered the Race, Nathan Bernard, Dec 11, 2020. Democrat Sara Gideon’s bid to unseat Sen. Susan Collins was doomed the day after she announced she was running. Continued from above.

The DSCC and likeminded political action committees flooded Maine’s modest media market and stuffed our mailboxes with ads and junk mail slamming Collins. Among them were so-called “dark money” groups that don’t disclose their donors, like Maine Momentum, an ad hoc operation run by Willy Ritch, a former spokesman for Democratic Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and Chris Glynn, a former Gideon staffer and spokesman for the Maine Democratic Party. In August of 2019, Maine Momentum dropped nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, all from secret sources, to run over 4,000 commercials attacking Collins, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.

Incessant negative advertising by outside groups helped make this race the most expensive in Maine’s history. It also made a mockery of Gideon’s oft-repeated pledge to “limit the influence of big money in politics.” Republicans were quick to call the DSCC’s endorsement proof that Gideon was a puppet of Beltway powerbrokers, and her two Democratic primary challengers were equally critical. “The DC elite is trying to tell Mainers who our candidate should be,” Betsy Sweet, one of those challengers, tweeted that summer.

But, crucially, the DSCC’s endorsement also limited the impact of Gideon’s positive messages, the campaign promises she made to improve the lives of everyday Mainers.

It’s an axiomatic fact that Schumer and other top party officials will not back candidates who openly disagree with their policies or are likely to challenge their leadership. Adherence to the party line on big issues like health care and the climate crisis are unspoken prerequisites for a DSCC endorsement. So, unsurprisingly, Gideon did not support popular ideas championed by fellow Democrats, like a Green New Deal or universal health care. Even Democrat Jared Golden, who represents Maine’s conservative 2nd Congressional district, supports “Medicare for All;” he was reelected this fall in a district that once again voted for Trump. Instead, Gideon spoke of lowering prescription-drug prices and made vague vows to “create an economy that works for all Mainers.”

In the aftermath of Election Day, some top Democrats sought to blame progressives for the party’s poor showing in Senate and House races, but the DSCC’s record speaks for itself. Of the 18 Senate candidates endorsed by the committee, only four were victorious last month (two contenders, both in Georgia, failed to win on Nov. 3 but qualified for runoff elections next month).

As the campaign gained speed, the pandemic and the national uprising against police brutality gave Gideon two big opportunities to break from the moderate pack and distinguish herself from Collins, who denied that “systemic racism” is a “problem” in Maine, and whose Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a fraud-riddled failure. But Gideon’s position on racial justice was limited to training-manual adjustments like banning chokeholds and racial profiling, as well as further study of the problems that have plagued Black Americans since Reconstruction. Her credibility to criticize the PPP was compromised by the million or more dollars her husband’s law firm got from the program. And Republican critics took to social media daily to point out that, as far as anyone could tell, the House Speaker was doing practically nothing to help Mainers crushed by COVID-19.

While her constituents worried about keeping their jobs and homes, Gideon’s campaign bombarded them with tens of millions of dollars’ worth of ads, including pleas for them to give her money. The fundraising juggernaut engineered by her highly paid political consultants badgered Mainers for more cash till the bitter end.

AlterNet via Raw Story, Rick Wilson has plans to destroy a former Trump administration official ‘like a wild animal,’ Meaghan Ellis, Dec. 11, 2020. Rick Wilson, one of the Never Trump Republicans behind the popular Lincoln Project political action committee (PAC), weighed in with his opinion of President Donald Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon and why he “must be destroyed.”

President Donald Trump has a mere 39 days left in office, and while he refuses to acknowledge that fact, his grasp on reality appears to be just as rapidly unraveling.

rush limbaugh medal feb 4 2020 slate Custom

Radio host Rush Limbaugh, shown in a file photo with First Lady Melania Trump in the background, this week flirted with the concept of Red State secession from the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Secession? Rush Limbaugh floats a startling notion — then quickly backs off, Paul Farhi, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The conservative radio titan has been a fierce advocate of President Trump’s baseless election claims. This week, he took the talk a step further.

Rush Limbaugh isn’t saying he wants the country to split into red and blue factions as a result of conservative fury over the election results. As he attempted to make clear Thursday, he’s just saying that other people are saying it.

“I know that there’s a sizable and growing sentiment for people who believe that’s we’re headed to, whether we want to get there or not, secession,” he said on his nationwide radio program. “Now, I didn’t advocate for it. I never would advocate for secession. I’m simply repeating what I have heard.”

Limbaugh’s drift into radical theories like secession came after weeks of egging on Trump’s claim that the 2020 vote was riven by fraud, cheating him out of a second term. So far, it’s been a losing argument: Trump and his allies have lost dozens of legal challenges in court, and states have certified their results. On Monday, the electoral college’s electors will meet to affirm Biden’s victory.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

 Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis, appear in an April 30 photo taken at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, identified by a Washington Post analysis from center to right, respectively, appear in an April 30 group photo taken of armed protesters at the Michigan Capitol. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Sedition and insurrection: Trump channels ghost of Aaron Burr, Wayne Madsen (below left, author wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallof 18 books, syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer and National Security Agency analyst), Dec. 11, 2020.

In challenging the constitutional presidential victory of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and his federally- and state-elected supporters are engaged in much more than sedition and insurrection against the government and Constitution of the United States.

They are pushing for one-party rule for a political party that has become a full-blown fascist movement. It is the party that insists on calling itself the Republican Party, but is no more than an anti-democratic fascist bloc of racists, neo-Nazis, Qanon conspiracy kooks, armed private militias, and Christian Dominionists poised to eliminate free and fair elections in the United States and institute a dictatorship.

Setting aside the Civil War, which represented sedition and insurrection on a massive scale, Trump’s antics in his final days in office are more akin to the experiences of Aaron Burr. The seditious treason against the United States being committed by Trump and his associates is very much overt, as can be witnessed on television and social media.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Why Splitting Up Facebook Won’t Be Easy, Mike Isaac and Cecilia Kang, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. and state cases against the social network are far from a slam dunk because the standards of proof are formidable, competition experts said.

facebook logoSenator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said, “Facebook’s reign of unaccountable, abusive practices against consumers, competitors and innovation must end.” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, called the lawsuits “a necessity” and said Facebook’s acquisitions of nascent rivals “were meant to be anti-competitive, and they should be broken up.”

But lawmakers and consumer advocates did not address a hard-to-deny factor: The cases against Facebook are far from a slam dunk.

Antitrust laws are complex and were put in place before the advent of modern technology. The F.T.C. and state attorneys general now face an uphill battle to prove their allegations, competition experts said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The price Donald Trump will pay, Bill Palmer, Dec. 11, 2020. I’ve been asked whether Donald Trump’s seditious post-election behavior will increase the odds that he ultimately pays a price for all of this. That’s a good question, and the answer comes in two parts.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Trump is already just about a lock for prison in New York State on financial charges, which nearly always result in a conviction. It’s possible that in response to Trump’s worsening behavior, New York could decide to indict Trump sooner than it was otherwise djt prison palmer reportplanning. But if Trump is indicted while he’s still in office, will this scare him into toning down his antics, or cause him to panic and ramp up his antics? That’s something New York would have to consider.

Second, there is the ongoing question of federal charges. Because Trump will try to pardon himself and that self-pardon will take time to get thrown out in court, there could be a significant delay before the DOJ even legally has the option of federally charging Trump. By that time he could already be in state prison, making the charges more symbolic than anything. But Trump’s worsening antics could leave America with the kind of lasting bad taste that ultimately demands federal criminal charges once they’re an option.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Take off your mask’: Boorish customers have found a way to make sexual harassment even more of a hazard, Monica Hesse, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The upside to wearing a mask at work was that at least it would curtail the harassment. As a server, Sandy Tran was used to unwanted comments on her appearance, but the coronavirus precautions enforced by her Dallas restaurant now required full-time face coverage — a literal barrier between Tran and creepy customers.

Then she heard the first iteration of what would become a refrain:

“Take off your mask,” the diner instructed her while she took his order one afternoon. “I want to see your beautiful smile.”

“If I do it, it makes me seem like I have no respect for myself,” Tran thought, weighing her options. “But if I don’t, he’s going to leave me a bad tip.” Before the pandemic, Tran could make $200 a night. Now she often went hours into her shift without seating a single customer, and her base pay was $2.13 an hour. She needed the money. So from a six-foot distance, she pulled down her mask. She felt “like a circus animal,” standing there while the customer pressed her to tell him her ethnicity, saying she was a “beautiful mix.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A North Carolina judge is blocking journalists from his courtroom. One objected — and got handcuffed, Elahe Izadi and Mark Berman, Dec. 11, 2020. The judge has given no reason for the order in a county wracked by racial-justice protests. That’s causing concern for transparency advocates.

It started last week, when a District Court judge blocked them from a hearing in his courtroom. Though many assumed it had to do with the pandemic, he offered no explanation.

So this week, three newspapers filed a motion asking for clarity and demanding access to observe a Tuesday hearing in a case that has drawn the attention of local Black Lives Matter activists. One publisher pushed the issue harder, walking into the hearing and telling Judge Fred Wilkins he had a right to be there.

That’s when the handcuffs came out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress bans anonymous shell companies after long campaign by anti-corruption groups, Jeanne Whalen, Dec. 11, 2020. The groundbreaking measure, tacked onto the defense bill, requires corporations established in the United States to disclose their real owners to the Treasury Department, making it harder for criminals to launder money or evade taxes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’m burning a source. Here’s why, Radley Balko, Dec. 12, 2020. For the past several months, I’ve been working on a new series about policing in Little Rock. In 2018, I published an investigation into how the city had been conducting illegal no-knock drug raids, and then another into police misconduct disciplinary problems in the city’s police department.

A Little Rock attorney lied to me during an off-the-record conversation, then mischaracterized that conversation in a sworn court document.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to impose long-sought sanctions on Turkey over Russian defense system, Karoun Demirjian, Ellen Nakashima and Karen DeYoung, Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The Turkish purchase of an S-400 missile-defense system alarmed other NATO members. The sanctions come as Congress is poised to pass a defense bill that would have forced the Trump administration’s hand.

ny times logoNew York Times, Morocco Joins List of Arab Nations to Begin Normalizing Ties With Israel, Lara Jakes, Isabel Kershner, Aida Alami and David M. Halbfinger Dec. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Morocco follows Bahrain, Sudan and the U.A.E. in setting aside decades of hostility toward the Jewish state, part of a major Trump administration effort.

For almost 60 years, the two countries have worked together closely but secretly on arms and spying; President Trump’s decision to endorse Moroccan control of Western Sahara puts the U.S. at odds with world opinion.

 

Dec. 10

Top Headines

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

 

World News

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Britain warns against Pfizer vaccine for those with history of severe allergic reactions, William Booth and Erin Cunningham, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The warning was issued after two health-care workers reacted adversely to injections.

United Kingdom flagAfter two health-care workers reacted adversely to the first dose of the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, British regulators on Wednesday ordered hospitals not to give the shots to people who have a history of “significant” allergic reactions.

The temporary guidance comes just a day after Britain launched the first mass coronavirus immunization campaign in the West, with the aim of vaccinating the whole country against the virus.

Two staffers with Britain’s National Health Service manifested symptoms of “anaphylactoid reaction” after receiving the vaccinations at a hospital Tuesday.

NHS officials said both workers have a history of serious allergies and carry epinephrine injectors — often called EpiPens — for the emergency treatment of acute reactions, which can include rashes, low blood pressure, constricted airways and dizziness or fainting.

“Both are recovering well,” said NHS Medical Director Stephen Powis.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., states sue Facebook as an illegal monopoly, setting stage for potential breakup, Tony Romm, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The facebook logoU.S. government and 48 attorneys general filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday, seeking to break up the social networking giant over charges it engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to buy, bully and kill its rivals.

The twin lawsuits filed in federal district court allege that Facebook under its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, behaved for years as an unlawful monopoly — one that had repeatedly weaponized its vast stores of data, seemingly limitless wealth and savvy corporate muscle to fend off threats and maintain its stature as one of the most widely used social networking services in the world.

The state and federal complaints chiefly challenge Facebook’s acquisition of two companies: Instagram, a photo-sharing tool, and Justice Department log circularWhatsApp, a messaging service. Investigators said the purchases ultimately helped Facebook remove potentially potent rivals from the digital marketplace, allowing the tech giant to enrich itself on advertising dollars at the cost of users, who as a result have fewer social networking options at their disposal.

Read the state and federal lawsuits against Facebook

The lawsuits together represent the most significant political and legal threats to Facebook in its more than 16-year history, setting up a high-profile clash between U.S. regulators and one of Silicon Valley’s most profitable firms that could take years to resolve. Antitrust regulators explicitly asked a court to consider forcing Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp letitia james o headshotto remedy their competition concerns. Such a punishment would unwind Zuckerberg’s digital empire and severely constrain Facebook’s ambitions.

The Federal Trade Commission, led by Republican Chairman Joe Simons, brought its lawsuit in a D.C. district court. Letitia James, right, the Democratic attorney general of New York, led her Democratic and Republican counterparts from dozens of states and territories in filing their complaint in the same venue. Appearing at a news conference, James on Wednesday sharply rebuked Facebook for having put “profits ahead of consumers’ welfare and privacy.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Canada Approves Pfizer’s Vaccine After Independent Review, Staff reports, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Canada’s review of the canadian flagvaccine’s safety follows Britain’s earlier approval, which was done on an emergency basis and relied heavily on Pfizer’s analysis. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the first doses will arrive at 14 Canadian distribution centers next week. The United Arab Emirates approved on Wednesday a promising Chinese vaccine that was tested there, in the first public indication of the vaccine’s efficacy. Here’s the latest.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, There’s No Place for Them to Go’: I.C.U. Beds Near Capacity Across U.S., Lauren Leatherby, John Keefe, Lucy Tompkins, Charlie Smart and Matthew Conlen, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). More than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running critically short of intensive care beds.

In El Paso, hospitals reported that just 13 of 400 intensive care beds were not occupied last week. In Fargo, N.D., there were just three. In Albuquerque, there were zero.

More than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running critically short of intensive care beds, federal data show, revealing a newly detailed picture of the nation’s hospital crisis during the deadliest week of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Hospitals serving more than 100 million Americans reported having fewer than 15 percent of intensive care beds still available as of last week, according to a Times analysis of data reported by hospitals and released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 10, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 69,239,671, Deaths: 1,575,810
U.S. Cases:   15,820,042, Deaths:    296,698

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, House approves one-week spending bill to give lawmakers more time for stimulus negotiations, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate is expected to take up the measure before Friday’s deadline in order to avert a shutdown. Bipartisan stimulus talks remain ongoing as lawmakers sort through difficult choices on corporate liability and state aid.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘God be with us’: A rural community in S.D. ignored the virus for months. Then people started dying, Annie Gowen, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). A city council member in Mitchell, S.D., tried to introduce a mask mandate in October and was ridiculed. Since then, the town has been inundated with the coronavirus and the council is trying again.

djt leaves hospital doug mills nytimes oct 5 2020

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump and others in his circle got coronavirus care that many couldn’t, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani became the latest in President Trump’s inner circle to boast about the treatment he received for Covid-19, as hospitals across the country ration care.

Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Donald J. Trump (shown above leaving Bethesda Naval Hospital after treatment) are not the sturdiest candidates to conquer the coronavirus: older, in some cases overweight, male and not particularly fit. Yet all seem to have gotten through Covid-19, and all have gotten an antibody treatment in such short supply that some hospitals and states are doling it out by lottery.

djt rudy giuliani headshots CustomNow Rudolph W. Giuliani, left, the latest member of President Trump’s inner circle to contract Covid-19, has acknowledged that he received at least two of the same drugs the president received. He even conceded that his “celebrity” status had given him access to care that others did not have.

“If it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in a hospital frankly,” Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, told WABC radio in New York. “Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you they’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.”

Mr. Giuliani’s candid admission once again exposes that Covid-19 has become a disease of the haves and the have-nots. The treatment given to Mr. Trump’s allies is raising alarms among medical ethicists as state officials and health system administrators grapple with gut-wrenching decisions about which patients get antibodies in a system that can only be described as rationing.

“We should not have Chris Christie and Ben Carson — and in the case of Carson with intervention by the president — get access,” said Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist who works with drug companies on how to ration scarce medicines, referring to the secretary of housing and urban development’s admission that the president “cleared” him for the therapy. “That is not the way to secure public support for difficult rationing systems.”

The treatments — a monoclonal antibody developed by Eli Lilly and a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies developed by Regeneron — won emergency use authorization, or an E.U.A., from the Food and Drug Administration last month for outpatients with “mild to moderate” disease who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease or for being hospitalized.

ny times logosteven mnuchin wNew York Times, Legacy on the Line, Mnuchin Gambles by Ending Fed Programs, Alan Rappeport and Jeanna Smialek, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Steven Mnuchin, right, the Treasury secretary, has clawed back billions from the Federal Reserve, a move Democrats called political but he said was prudent.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC’s Redfield allegedly ordered deletion of Trump official’s email seeking to interfere in virus guidance, House panel chair says, Lenny Bernstein and Lena H. Sun, Dec. 10, 2020. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allegedly ordered the destruction of an email written by a top Trump administration health official who was seeking changes in a scientific report on the coronavirus’s risk to children, the head of a congressional oversight subcommittee charged Thursday.

Robert RedfieldIn a letter to CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, right, and his superior, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) expressed “my serious concern about what may be deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence that senior political appointees interfered with career officials’ response to the coronavirus crisis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The report was not altered or withdrawn. But Clyburn, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, cited an interview three days ago with the editor of the CDC’s most authoritative publication, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, known as MMWR. Charlotte Kent, editor in chief of that report, told investigators that while on vacation in August, she received instructions to delete the email written by Paul Alexander, a senior adviser to Azar.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Doug Jones is on Biden’s attorney general list, along with Sally Yates, Merrick Garland and Deval Patrick, Matt Viser, Matt Zapotosky and Amy B Wang, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers have asked at least one outside advocacy group for doug jones senateinput about Sen. Doug Jones, right, as a potential attorney general, one indication that his team is giving serious consideration to the Alabama Democrat as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Biden is not expected to make a decision this week, prolonging the debate both inside and outside his transition team over what will be one of the highest-profile roles in his administration. It has sent the wider legal and political worlds into a frenzy, with Biden’s close-knit advisers keeping a tight lid on their decision-making process amid widespread interest over who will lead a consequential department whose morale has plummeted under an assault from President Trump.

Justice Department log circularIt also has extended questions about the diversity of Biden’s Cabinet, as a range of groups press him to name a Black attorney general in the aftermath of a national racial reckoning on race that Biden has vowed to systematically address.

At least four candidates remain under serious consideration for the position, according to two people familiar with the decision-making process who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about internal discussions. In addition to Jones, top Biden advisers are eyeing former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, shown in a file photo below right, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. All but Patrick are White.

Sally YatesJones, who lost his reelection bid in November, has a record that has impressed some civil rights groups. Allies have pointed to his time as a U.S. attorney, which included the prosecution two decades ago of Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church in which four young Black girls were killed.

In what has become another vital component during Biden’s selection of nominees, Jones has a long-standing relationship with the president-elect, dating back to 1978 when Biden went to Alabama to speak at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and was introduced by a young Jones.

Jones later worked with Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee and was the Alabama co-chair of Biden’s short-lived 1988 presidential campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden touts defense secretary nominee, Felicia Sonmez, Colby Itkowitz and John Wagner, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday touted retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, shown in a file photo, his nominee to lead the lloyd austin resized uniform fileDefense Department, as “the right person for this job at the right moment” at an event in Wilmington, Del. Biden’s remarks come as he accelerates his efforts to fill top-level positions in his incoming administration.

Biden’s son Hunter said in a statement that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware is investigating his “tax affairs.” He said he handled everything “legally and appropriately.”

President Trump is continuing to falsely claim that he won the election even as he and his allies rack up more losses in court battles, including one Tuesday at the Supreme Court. Trump has advertised no public appearances Wednesday but has been tweeting grievances about the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden selects Katherine Tai as U.S. trade representative, Amy B Wang and David J. Lynch, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Tai has been the chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee since 2017. President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Katherine Tai to be U.S. trade representative, according to three people familiar with the decision.

Tai, who has been the chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee since 2017, is the lead adviser to Democrats and the committee chairman on international trade issues.

Though she would be making an unusual jump to a Cabinet-level position, Tai is well regarded by both the moderate and liberal wings of the party and is backed by prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). A group of 10 female House Democrats led by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.) and Judy Chu (Calif.) wrote Biden last month backing Tai as “uniquely qualified” for the job.

Tai would also be the second Asian American woman to be named to a Cabinet-level position under Biden. Her planned selection comes after members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and several advocacy groups met with Biden’s transition team this week to express their growing concern that there would be insufficient Asian American representation in top-tier spots in Biden’s administration.

Along with substantial experience on Capitol Hill, Tai spent seven years as a U.S. trade representative (USTR) attorney specializing in enforcing trade agreements with China. Tai reportedly impressed many Democrats last December while negotiating with Trump officials for stronger labor provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden’s cabinet, Bill Palmer, Dec. 10, 2020. Some observers have pointed out that while President-elect Biden has picked a number of solid and highly qualified people for his cabinet and administration, he hasn’t really done anything thus far to elevate the next generation of Democratic Party political leaders. I have a theory about that.

bill palmer report logo headerDuring the course of the election, Joe Biden stated many times that he would use his presidency as a transition to the next generation of Democrats. In fact he specifically stated that people like Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke would be in his administration. Biden is a man of his word, so there’s no way he would have said these things if he didn’t mean them.

I could end up being wrong about this, but my guess is that Biden decided to roll out the nonpartisan, low profile names first, in order to establish a basis of solid and non-controversial picks. That way, by the time he starts naming rising political stars to his administration, it won’t look so partisan.

Keep in mind that President Biden has to do two things simultaneously in order to keep his broad coalition together. He has to do a strong job of setting up the next generation of the Democratic Party in order to keep the base happy, and he has to look like he’s not being overly partisan in order to keep the people in the middle happy. My guess is he’s boring us to death by rolling out his picks whose names aren’t well known, so that by the time he rolls out the bigger and more partisan names, there will be a more widespread appetite for picks that the average American has heard of.

washington post logoWashington Post, Team of Rivals? Biden’s Cabinet Looks More Like a Team of Buddies, Michael D. Shear and Shane Goldmacher, Updated Dec. 10, 2020. In making his picks for the new administration, the president-elect has put a premium on personal relationships.

Some Democratic allies say they worry that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s reliance on the same people threatens to undermine his ability to find new solutions to the country’s problems.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has worked with the former aide he wants to be secretary of state since their time at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1990s. His nominee for agriculture secretary endorsed his first presidential bid more than 30 years ago. And he knows his choice for Pentagon chief from the retired general’s time in Iraq, where Mr. Biden’s son Beau, a military lawyer, also served on the general’s staff.

For all the talk that Mr. Biden is abiding by a complicated formula of ethnicity, gender and experience as he builds his administration — and he is — perhaps the most important criterion for landing a cabinet post or a top White House job appears to be having a longstanding relationship with the president-elect himself.

His chief of staff, Ron Klain, goes back with him to the days of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas when Mr. Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Mr. Klain was on his staff. John Kerry, his climate envoy, is an old Senate buddy. Even Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who is not a longtime confidante and ran an aggressive campaign against Mr. Biden, had a close relationship with Beau Biden before he died — a personal credential that is like gold with the man about to move into the Oval Office.

In accepting Mr. Biden’s nomination to be the first Black man to run the Defense Department, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III on Wednesday called Beau a “great American” and recalled the time he spent with him in Iraq, and their conversations after he returned home, before his death from a brain tumor in 2015.

“As you, too, can attest, madam vice president-elect, Beau was a very special person and a true patriot, and a good friend to all who knew him,” General Austin said.

It is a sharp contrast to President Trump, who assembled a dysfunctional collection of cabinet members he barely knew. After an initial honeymoon, they spent their time constantly at risk of being fired. With nearly half of Mr. Biden’s cabinet and many key White House jobs announced, his administration looks more like a close-knit family.

Palmer Report, Will Donald Trump flee the country? Bill Palmer, Dec. 10, 2020. One of the more frequent questions I get these days is whether Donald Trump will attempt to flee the country. The short answer is that it’s ultimately up to him, and we have no way of knowing for sure what’s in his head at this point. But if I had to bet, I’d bet against it.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen people attempt to flee the country to avoid criminal prosecution, it’s not glamorous, like in the movies. Jurisdiction and extradition come into play, and next thing you know, you’re living on a mattress in the basement of some foreign embassy, like Assange. Is this how a privileged softie like Trump wants to risk spending his final few years? I doubt it.

Even if Trump made it all the way to a place like Russia, would Russia have much use for him at this point? Putin might want to parade him around, but then Trump would really just be Putin’s property. That’s not how a narcissist like Trump wants to live. And if the reports of Putin’s pending retirement turn out to be true, then Trump’s safety could be in danger.

The reality is that while Trump will certainly end up being sentenced to prison in New York State, and may face federal criminal charges on top of it, these things take time. If Trump can convince a judge to give him house arrest at Mar-a-Lago while he drags out his trial date, he’d certainly find that preferable to living in an embassy basement scenario.

There’s also the question of whether Trump really can flee from a logistical standpoint. He’d have to set up a summit near the end of his term as an excuse to travel overseas, and everyone would know what he was up to. Could he then just send Air Force One and his Secret Service detail home, and stay in that foreign country? It all seems a bit unlikely.

Trump also has a consistent tendency to indecisively put off decisions until it’s too late, and circumstances have made the decision for him, and then overreact in panicked fashion once it’s too late to matter. In other words, he’s the kind of guy who would tepidly miss his window for fleeing the country while he’s still in office, only to then later decide that he wants to flee, but not be able to do so.

We’ll see. But my guess is that Donald Trump will aim for house arrest ahead of trial, and that he’s arrogant enough to think he can beat the charges at trial anyway. He’s wrong about that; the financial charges against him in New York will be cut and dry. But Trump always thinks he can weasel his way out of such things. Why flee, if you delusionally expect to get acquitted anyway?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s self-pardon, Robert Harrington, Dec. 10, 2020. Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States, not the 47th. Because malignant narcissists don’t step down, not even temporarily, not even to promote peace in the war with Iran and not even to promote Mike Pence to the position of 46th President so he can pardon Donald Trump.

Ibill palmer report logo header don’t know the future and neither does anyone else, but Donald Trump stepping down for strategic reasons is not consistent with the pernicious character of the two narcissists that it has been my distinct displeasure to know personally. I could be wrong but I can’t imagine it happening.

The merits of such a self-pardon will be disputed in federal courts and could — and probably will — be used as justice-delaying or even justice-denying tactics. The crux of any such case against a self-pardon is that presidential pardon has been abused for a corrupt purpose.

But nothing can stop any district attorney in any state in the United States from filing a complaint against Trump for criminal negligence because of his blatant mishandling of coronavirus. And, of course, nothing can stop the state of New York from indicting Donald Trump for the many financial crimes he committed while there.

Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the damage Trump has done and is still doing. For example, in the last 24 hours since I last wrote to you, brothers and sisters, a staggering 3,300 Americans have died from COVID-19. Since I started tracking daily coronavirus deaths on Twitter (@RAHarrington), that is the highest number of COVID deaths I’ve seen in a single day so far, and the first time the number has exceeded 3,000.

While it’s true we have a vaccine now, we must still remain hyper-vigilant against the disease. We must continue to wash our hands, maintain social distance and wear masks, not until Twitter or Facebook or the blogosphere sounds the all-clear, but until medical professionals do.

Meanwhile Donald Trump is planning another super spreader event Christmas party at the White House. For that alone he should be impeached. Trump is the first president in history who has probably committed an impeachable offense every day he’s been in office. Let’s make sure he’s the last.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

djt biden smiles resized

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden headed to Georgia next week to campaign for Senate candidates, John Wagner, Dec. 10, 2020. Giuliani thanks doctors and nurses after leaving hospital for covid treatment, says he had ‘serious symptoms;’ Fact Checker: Trump’s embarrassing Four-Pinocchio claim about Florida and Ohio

President-elect Joe Biden’s team announced Thursday that he will travel next week to Georgia to campaign for the two Democratic candidates whose runoff elections next month will effectively determine which party controls the Senate for at least the first two years of Biden’s term.

President Trump, who continues to insist he won the election, is hosting a White House luncheon Thursday for a group of Republican state attorneys general, most of whom are supporting a long-shot lawsuit aimed at undoing Biden’s victory.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Trump team throws in the towel on proving voter fraud, Aaron Blake, Dec. 10, 2020. For weeks, the Trump campaign has said it had conclusive evidence of fraud. The last-ditch lawsuit it has joined from Texas, though, acknowledges that that’s not the case.

The GOP’s latest effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, like many such efforts before it, is a bit of a mess.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and is now joined by the Trump campaign and 17 other Republican attorneys general, wrongly claims that no presidential candidate has lost both Florida and Ohio and won the presidency. (This would be news to John F. Kennedy.) It ridiculously suggests that late vote shifts in key states were astronomically improbable — to the tune of 1 in 1 quadrillion — a claim with which Philip Bump dispatches here. Its attempt to invalidate the vote in four states has already been rebuked by several top Republicans, and not exactly Mitt Romney Republicans.

But the GOP’s new focus on this hail-Mary case is also notable for one key reason: It essentially throws in the towel on proving fraud.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration plans to execute Brandon Bernard, four others before Biden takes office, Mark Berman, Dec. 10, 2020. The executions have drawn criticism for being scheduled during the presidential transition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s embarrassing Four-Pinocchio claim about Florida and Ohio, Salvador Rizzo, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.).

“No candidate has ever won both Florida and Ohio and lost. I won them both, by a lot! #SupremeCourt”

President Trump, in a tweet, Dec. 9, 2020

“President Trump prevailed on nearly every historical indicia of success in presidential elections. For example, he won both Florida and Ohio; no candidate in history—Republican or Democrat—has ever lost the election after winning both States.”

Trump attorney John C. Eastman, in a filing to the Supreme Court, Dec. 9, 2020

This is false. Is anyone surprised?

The president has never shown a command of U.S. history and has been lying, misleading and peddling baseless conspiracy theories like a sludge pipe since losing the Nov. 3 presidential election to Joe Biden, who earned 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

This falsehood appears both on Twitter and in a Trump filing to the Supreme Court. It’s a good example of how hollow and easily disprovable Trump’s claims are as he seeks to delegitimize and overturn the election results. It takes seconds to fact-check this false claim — for those who bother with the truth, anyway.

The Facts

john f kennedy microphoneThe year was 1960. And the presidential candidates were John F. Kennedy (D), right, preparing for a talk, and Richard M. Nixon (R).

Nixon earned 219 electoral votes, including 10 from Florida and 25 from Ohio. Kennedy won 303 electoral votes and the presidency. Trump was a 14-year-old, somehow drawing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from his father’s real estate business in New York.

Fast-forward 60 years.

Trump earned 232 electoral votes, including 29 from Florida and 18 from Ohio. Biden won 306 electoral votes and the presidency. Trump was a 74-year-old, staring down the prospect of $421 million in debt he had personally guaranteed, most of which would come due over the next four years.

In a legal filing to the Supreme Court submitted Wednesday, an attorney for Trump repeats the falsehood that no candidate has won the presidency while losing Florida and Ohio, along with a multitude of other questionable claims.

“The fact that nearly half of the country believes the election was stolen should come as no surprise,” the attorney, John C. Eastman, wrote. “President Trump prevailed on nearly every historical indicia of success in presidential elections. For example, he won both Florida and Ohio; no candidate in history — Republican or Democrat — has ever lost the election after winning both States.”

Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the same lawyer who published an op-ed in Newsweek suggesting that Sen. Kamala D. Harris, who is of African American and Indian descent, might not be a natural-born U.S. citizen. Harris (D-Calif.) was elected vice president, and her citizenship is not under any serious question.

We gave this claim Four Pinocchios because Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1964. Eastman’s op-ed, which dismissed relevant passages from an 1898 ruling by the Supreme Court, spawned a wave of “birther” attacks against Harris reminiscent of the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Now, Eastman’s filing on behalf of Trump calls into question Biden’s wins in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, three states where Black voters lifted the Democrat to victory, and in Pennsylvania. Eastman did not respond immediately when we asked whether he would correct his filing to the Supreme Court as to Florida and Ohio.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a reversal, YouTube will remove new misleading videos that claim fraud or errors influenced the 2020 election, Davey Alba, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). YouTube on Wednesday announced changes to how it handles videos about the 2020 presidential election, saying it would remove new videos that youtube logo Custommislead people by claiming that widespread fraud or errors influenced the outcome of the election.

The company said it was making the change because Tuesday was the so-called safe harbor deadline — the date by which all state-level election challenges, such as recounts and audits, are supposed to be completed. YouTube said that enough states have certified their election results to determine that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the president-elect.

American System Network, Opinion: 106 Seditious House Republicans Endorse Dictatorship in Form of Attack on Presidential Election, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Dec. 10, 2020. Trump is Said to Be Taking Names, So Voters Should Take Names Too; McConnell’s GOP Has Time to Shred webster tarpley 2007Constitution, But No Time to Pass Urgently Needed Pandemic Relief; Extinction of Republican Party Is Necessary Response to GOP’s Monstrous Excesses.

1,500 Lawyers Want Disbarment of Trump Lawyers for Lying as Officers of the Court; Federal Rule Eleven Sanctions for Bringing Frivolous Law Suits Are Also Long Overdue;

FDA Advisory Panel Votes 17 to 4 to Approve Emergency Use Authorization for Pfizer-Biontech Vaccine for Those 16 and Up; Final Decision on Vaccine from FDA Officials Expected Momentarily;

Biden Reminds Black Leaders that Unwise Slogan of Defund the Police Helped GOP to “Beat the Living Hell” Out of Democrats in Election; Stresses that Much Can Be Done Provided It Be Done Carefully, After January 5 Runoff; Since Vilsack Erred in Firing Shirley Sherrod, Compensate Her for the Injustice; Last Tango in Brussels: British Press Now View Catastrophic No-Deal Brexit as Likely; Biden Should Again Demand that BoJo & Co. Stop Wrecking the West;

Trump-Barr Death Cult Setting Up Busiest Year for Federal Executions Since 1896, Including First Woman in 70 Years; Death Penalty is a Racist Relic of Barbarism and Must Be Abolished;

Determined to Keep Americans Divided Even as Trump Rides Into Oblivion, Limbaugh Talks Culture Wars and Secession Once Again; But Lesson of Civil War is Never Again; And That Means Never Again Trump, and Never Again GOP!

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

washington post logoWashington Post, Silicon Valley feared Facebook’s bullying tactics years before they came to the attention of regulators, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook hasn’t kept its promises of independence to WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook executives approached Ali Partovi, the creator of a popular app that used Facebook’s data, a decade ago with a threatening ultimatum. Sell your company to us or we will shut you down, according to legal filings. Partovi’s app, iLike, had built a predecessor to the “like” button.

facebook logoPartovi refused the offer. Shortly after, Facebook discontinued features that iLike relied upon, pushing Partovi to sell his start-up to Myspace for a fraction of its previous value. Facebook then built its own “like” button, modeled after iLike.

The negotiations — when Facebook was a much smaller player — are early evidence of the hardball tactics to neutralize competition that got the social network to where it is today: a platform that counts more than a third of the world’s population as monthly users of its family of apps, which include WhatsApp messaging and the photo-sharing service Instagram.

That behavior is now the subject of sweeping antitrust lawsuits filed Wednesday from 48 state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission. The suits allege that the company is a monopoly that abused its market power through years of anti-competitive conduct and illegal acquisitions, enabling Facebook to become the world’s largest social network while stripping users of alternatives.

hunter biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden confirms he is under federal investigation, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.).  Federal prosecutors have been investigating Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, to determine if he failed to report income from China-related business deals, according to people familiar with the matter — a politically explosive probe that is likely to challenge the Justice Department in the incoming administration.

The investigation into the president-elect’s son began in 2018, though little could be learned immediately about what, if any, wrongdoing it had found. The existence of a tax investigation was confirmed Wednesday by Hunter Biden in a statement saying he had just been advised of it.

According to a person familiar with the matter, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing and politically sensitive investigation, FBI agents had been seeking to talk to Hunter Biden as part of the case on Tuesday — though an interview has not yet been scheduled or taken place — as well as serve subpoenas on Hunter Biden and his associates.

irs logo“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a statement. “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”

“President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger,” the Biden transition team wrote in a statement.

Although the investigation has been ongoing for some time, it is unclear how far along prosecutors consider themselves toward building a criminal case or closing the matter. The subject of an investigation typically is interviewed when prosecutors have amassed a good deal of evidence — though prosecutors seeking to serve subpoenas as recently as this week suggests there is more investigative work to be done.

A person familiar with the case said that the investigation continued during the election year but that agents took care not to take overt investigative steps as voting neared that would have made it more widely known. Those precautions, the person said, became unnecessary once the election was over.

Justice Department logoIf the investigation is continuing when Joe Biden takes office, it will mark a major test for him and his attorney general. Democrats have criticized the Justice Department, alleging it has lost its historical independence from the White House during the Trump administration, as Attorney General William P. Barr has intervened in cases to the benefit of President Trump’s friends, and Joe Biden’s incoming chief of staff has said the president-elect will not tell the Justice Department whom to investigate or not.

Trump on Wednesday night tweeted a claim about voters changing their minds “if they knew about Hunter Biden” and added, falsely, “But I won anyway!”

Hunter Biden’s foreign business ventures have long dogged his father’s political life, as Republicans have alleged they presented conflicts of interest for the elder Biden.

Trump and his GOP allies targeted Hunter Biden throughout the presidential campaign, specifically his work for a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president, as well as his China-related business affairs. Trump invited a former business associate of Hunter Biden to attend the final presidential debate, and in a staged event beforehand, the associate discussed a deal involving a Chinese company.

The associate, Tony Bobulinski, alleged that in May 2017 he met with Joe Biden and his son, as well as Joe Biden’s brother Jim to discuss a joint venture with the Chinese energy firm CEFC. That was after Joe Biden had left public office, and it was far from clear he would again run in 2020. But Bobulinski appeared to be disputing Joe Biden’s assertion that he had never discussed foreign business dealings with his son. Bobulinski told Sinclair volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotBroadcast Group in October that he had been interviewed for five hours by the FBI.

Trump’s fixation on Hunter Biden began months before Joe Biden won the Democratic presidential nomination. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right, to open a public investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company while simultaneously withholding U.S. military aid to the country.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This Hunter Biden thing AGAIN? Bill Palmer, Dec. 10, 2020. Based on the timing and the circumstances, it appears the Trump regime is going out of its way to create phony scandals for everyone from Eric Swalwell to Hunter Biden on its way out the door.

This isn’t just petty, it’s stupid. It’ll make it so much easier for the DOJ to justify launching real criminal investigations into Trump’s kids and corrupt Republicans once Trump is out the bill palmer report logo headerdoor.

No, Republican Senator Thom Tillis isn’t going to be able to send people to prison for using a copyrighted song in a live stream, or whatever it is he’s trying to send people to prison for. He tried to quietly slip it into the bill, and he got caught, which means he’s failed. But wow is he ever a jackass for trying.

Bishop Talbert Swan pointed out tonight that all of the republican Attorneys General who signed onto the phony Trump election lawsuit are white. That’s not surprising. It’s not a coincidence how often corruption and racism go hand in hand.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Johns Hopkins, Revelations About Its Founder and Slavery, Jennifer Schuessler, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Johns Hopkins University announced research indicating that its founding benefactor and namesake, long celebrated as an abolitionist, owned enslaved people.

The university and its medical system have celebrated their founding benefactor as a staunch abolitionist. But newly surfaced documents tell a different story.

It’s a tale that has long been repeated at the university and medical center in Baltimore that bear his name: In 1807, the 12-year-old Johns Hopkins was summoned home from boarding school to work the fields of the family’s sprawling tobacco farm in Maryland after his father, following the directives of his Quaker faith, freed the family’s slaves.

Young Johns grew up to be a wildly successful businessman and, as the story goes, a committed abolitionist. And on his death in 1873, he left $7 million — the largest philanthropic bequest in American history at that time — to found the nation’s first research university, along with a hospital that would serve the city’s poor “without regard to sex, age or color.”

Hopkins’s Quaker rectitude has been a touchstone for the institution he founded. But an important part of that origin story, it turns out, is untrue.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Fleeing Ethiopians Tell of Ethnic Massacres in Tigray War, Abdi Latif Dahir / Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Tens of thousands have sought safety in Sudan, where they gave accounts to Times journalists of a devastating and complex conflict that threatens Ethiopia’s stability.

Ashenafi Hailu was attacked by a group of Fano militia members. After they learned that he was ethnic Tigray, they robbed him, tied a noose around his neck and dragged him until he passed out.

Mr. Ashenafi, 24, was racing on his motorcycle to the aid of a childhood friend trapped by the Ethiopian government’s military offensive in the northern region of Tigray when a group of men on foot confronted him. They identified themselves as militia members of a rival ethnic group, he said, and they took his cash and began beating him, laughing ominously.

“Finish him!” Mr. Ashenafi remembered one of the men saying.

As they tightened the noose around his neck and began pulling him along the road, Mr. Ashenafi was sure he was going to die, and he eventually passed out. But he said he awoke alone near a pile of bodies, children among them. His motorcycle was gone.

Mr. Ashenafi and dozens of other Tigrayan refugees fled the violence and settled outside the remote and dusty town of Hamdayet, a community of just a few thousand people near the border, where I spoke to them. Their firsthand accounts, shared a month after Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, declared war on the Tigray region, detail a devastating conflict that has become a grisly wellspring of looting, ethnic antagonism and killings.

Nearly 50,000 have fled to Sudan so far, in what the United Nations has called the worst exodus of refugees Ethiopia has seen in more than two decades. And their accounts contradict the repeated claims from Mr. Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for ending the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea, that no civilians are being hurt.

The Tigrayans describe being caught between indiscriminate military shelling and a campaign of killing, rape and looting by government-allied ethnic militias. Several told me that they saw dozens of bodies along the route as they fled their shops, homes and farms and took to the long road to the border with Sudan, in stifling heat.

As the fighting in Tigray continues, it is degenerating into a guerrilla war that could unravel both Ethiopia’s national fabric and the stability of the entire Horn of Africa region. That includes Eritrea, which is allied with Ethiopia against the Tigray and has been shelled by the rebel forces; and Sudan, which has heavily deployed its army along its restive border with Ethiopia even as it has allowed refugees to cross.

The Tigray make up about 6 percent of Ethiopia’s 110 million people, and they were the arbiters of power and money in the country from 1991, when they helped dismantle a military dictatorship, until 2018, when anti-government protests catapulted Mr. Abiy to power.

Mr. Abiy had sought to emphasize national unity and diversity in a multiethnic Ethiopia, even as he began methodically excluding Tigrayan figures from public life and condemning their abuses while they were in power. Now, the conflict stands at stark odds with the legacy he was seeking, and with the stability of the entire country.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military dispatches B-52 bombers to Middle East as show of force against Iran, Paul Sonne, Dec. 10, 2020. The aircraft flew nonstop to the Middle East from Louisiana, as tensions with Iran raise the risk of a miscalculation or attack against U.S. interests during President Trump’s final days in office.

The United States flew a pair of B-52 strategic bombers from a base in Louisiana to the Middle East on Thursday as a show of force against Iran, underscoring the U.S. military’s ability to defend itself and its allies in the region as tensions between Tehran and Washington escalate during the final days of the Trump administration.

The B-52H “Stratofortresses,” long-range heavy bombers that can carry nuclear warheads or perform conventional missions, left Barksdale Air Force Base on a short-notice nonstop mission.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, said the mission was designed to demonstrate the U.S. military’s commitment to its regional partners and ability to deploy combat power rapidly to anywhere in the world. It was the second such mission in two months.

 

Dec. 9

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Media News

 

U.S. Race, Crime, Culture

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Britain Begins Vaccinating Citizens, Staff reports, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Britain has become the first nation to begin a mass United Kingdom flaginoculation campaign using a fully tested vaccine, kicking off a global effort to fight Covid-19. Doctors, nurses, certain people aged 80 or over and nursing home workers will be among the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

National Health Service Delivers First Shots to Fight Covid-19; A 90-year-old Briton became the first person in the world to receive a clinically authorized, fully tested coronavirus vaccine; The country has 800,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses as it opens a public health campaign with little precedent in modern medicine. Here’s the latest.

  • Pfizer’s vaccine debuts in Britain as the world’s first fully tested vaccine.
  • As Britain begins vaccinations, here are answers to some common questions.
  • The U.S. has recorded its most deaths in a week.
  • The C.D.C.’s call for data on vaccine recipients raises an alarm over privacy.
  • Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered months ago to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses.
  • Here’s why vaccinated people still need to wear a mask.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. records more than 3,000 deaths in a single day, a new high, Reis Thebault, Jacqueline Dupree, Hannah Knowles, Kim Bellware, Siobhán O’Grady, Hamza Shaban, Teo Armus, Erin Cunningham and Rick Noack, Dec. 9, 2020. Lessons from the pandemic fall: Infections are rare in classrooms, not off campus; Santa Claus is coming to town. Try not to infect him; What the polls say about Americans’ willingness to get the vaccine (and the challenges ahead); Military health personnel, senior officials will be first in line to get Defense Department’s initial vaccine doses.

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

After weeks of surging infections and rising levels of virus hospitalizations, the United States recorded more than 3,000 covid-19 deaths in a single day, a pandemic record, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The harrowing milestone comes as two vaccine candidates appear to be on the verge of clearing the country’s final regulatory hurdles. Yet the new death record, as well as a new high of more than 106,000 covid-19 patients in hospitals, are grim reminders of the pandemic’s devastating toll.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pfizer’s Vaccine Offers Strong Protection After First Dose, Noah Weiland and Carl Zimmer, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The Food and Drug pfizer logoAdministration’s first analysis of the clinical trial data also found that it worked well regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age.

The coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech provides strong protection against Covid-19 within about 10 days of the first dose, according to documents published on Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration before a meeting of its vaccine advisory group.

Health-and-human-services-logo.pngThe finding is one of several significant new results featured in the briefing materials, which include more than 100 pages of data analyses from the agency and from Pfizer. Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their two-dose vaccine had an efficacy rate of 95 percent after two doses administered three weeks apart. The new analyses show that the protection starts kicking in far earlier.

What’s more, the vaccine worked well regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age. While the trial did not find any serious adverse events caused by the vaccine, many participants did experience aches, fevers and other side effects.

On Thursday, F.D.A.’s vaccine advisory panel will discuss these materials in advance of a vote on whether to recommend authorization of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech began a large-scale clinical trial in July, recruiting 44,000 people in the United States, Brazil and Argentina. Half of the volunteers got the vaccine, and half got the placebo.

New coronavirus cases quickly tapered off in the vaccinated group of volunteers about 10 days after the first dose, according to one graph in the briefing materials. In the placebo group, cases kept steadily increasing.

 supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court denies Trump allies’ bid to overturn Pennsylvania election results, Robert Barnes, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a last-minute attempt by President Trump’s allies to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.

The court’s brief order provided no reasoning, nor did it note any dissenting votes. It was the first request to delay or overturn the results of the presidential election to reach the court.

The lawsuit was part of a blizzard of litigation and personal interventions Trump and his lawyers have waged to overturn victories by Democrat Joe Biden in a handful of key states.

Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives twice during the past week to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state. But Speaker Bryan Cutler told the president he had no authority to step in, or to order the legislature into special session, a Cutler spokesman told The Washington Post.

Republican members of the legislature and Congress supported the Supreme Court challenge to the changes they had made to Pennsylvania’s voting system in 2019.

A group of Republican candidates led by Rep. Mike Kelly (R) challenged Act 77, a change made by the Republican-controlled legislature to allow universal mail-in ballots. Their charge was that the state constitution’s requirements on absentee ballots meant the legislature didn’t have the authority to open mail-in balloting for others.

Trump allies ask Supreme Court to intervene in Pennsylvania election

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the challenge was filed too late — only after the votes were cast and the results known. Democrat Joe Biden won the state by a more than 80,000-vote margin.

The unanimous order blamed petitioners for a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing their facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment.”

It added that some of the petitioners had urged their supporters to cast their ballots using the new main-in procedure.

The U.S. Supreme Court rarely intervenes in a decision of a state supreme court interpreting its own constitution and laws. But the plaintiffs charged that the system raised federal issues. Although acknowledging that it is up to states to develop election procedures, the claim was that the federal Constitution was violated if the Pennsylvania legislature expanded the mail-in procedure without proper authority from the state constitution.

Further, they claimed the individual constitutional rights of Kelly and the others were violated. Their theory was that because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the challenge because it was filed too late, they were denied due process.

Palmer Report, Opinion: All 50 states certify election results: Joe Biden wins with 306 electoral votes, Bill Palmer, Dec. 9, 2020. With yesterday’s “safe harbor” deadline having come and gone, all fifty states have now certified their presidential election results. To the surprise of precisely no one outside of Donald Trump’s idiot base, Joe Biden has won the Presidency with 306 electoral votes.

bill palmer report logo headerSure, the Electoral College still has to vote on Monday, but that’s a formality at this point. Faithless electors aren’t really a thing, as the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of state laws that prohibit electors from going rogue. Nor is Trump’s joke of a Texas lawsuit going anywhere. In other words, it’s over.

Of course it’s been over for more than a month. Trump is still pretending to drag it out, partly because he’s still raising “election legal funds” from his gullible supporters, which he’s then mostly pocketing. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s over. Joe Biden is the President-elect, and Donald Trump is just a guy who’s about to lose his job and get evicted ahead of facing severe legal troubles.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden lays out plan to combat covid in first 100 days, including requiring masks on interstate buses, trains, Amy Goldstein, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laid out a three-point plan to begin defeating the coronavirus pandemic during his first 100 days in office, saying he will sign an executive order the day he is sworn in to require Americans to wear masks on buses and trains crossing state lines, as well as joe biden twitterin federal buildings.

Biden also pledged to distribute “at least 100 million covid vaccine shots” during that time, singling out educators, who he said should get shots “as soon as possible” after they are given first to health workers and people who live and work in long-term-care facilities under current plans. He did not specify whether he meant 100 million doses or vaccinating that many people; the two vaccines nearing approval both require two doses.

The other goal of his 100-day plan, Biden said, is to enable “the majority of our schools” to reopen within that time and to remain open. He called on Congress to devote the funding needed to make it safe for students and teachers to return to classrooms.

The president-elect set out these initial priorities for the pandemic he regards as his top priority in remarks in Wilmington, Del., during which he introduced six members of the team he has chosen to lead the government’s response and to pursue other changes to the nation’s health-care system.

michael flynn arms folded

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Flynn judge says pardon doesn’t mean ex-national security adviser is innocent, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge dismissed Michael Flynn’s prosecution Tuesday after President Trump’s pardon, but said the act of clemency does not mean the former national security adviser (above) is innocent of lying to FBI agents about his talks with the Russian government before Trump took office. (Continued below.)

In formally ending Flynn’s three-year legal saga, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said he probably would have denied the Justice Department’s controversial effort this year to drop the case, which Democrats and many legal experts said appeared to be an attempt by Attorney General William P. Barr to bend the rule of law to help a Trump ally.

Attorney Mark Anderl, his wife, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and their son, Daniel Anderl

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: My Son Was Killed Because I’m a Federal Judge, Esther Salas, shown above with her son and husband, is a United States District Court judge for the District of New Jersey who sits in Newark, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Her theme today: Protecting judges is essential to our families, and our democracy.

“Let’s keep talking; I love talking to you, Mom.” Those were the last words spoken to me by my only child, Daniel, as we cleaned up the basement from his birthday festivities. He was still glowing from a glorious weekend at home with his parents and friends.

Then the doorbell rang. Daniel raced up the stairs. Seconds later, as I stood alone in our basement, my beloved son was shot to death. Mark Anderl, my husband of 25 years was shot three times and critically injured.

This tragedy, every mother’s worst nightmare, happened for a reason wholly unrelated to either my husband or my son, but because of my job: I am a United States District Court judge. A lawyer who had appeared before me was angered by the pace of a lawsuit he had filed in my court. He came to my home seeking revenge.

My attacker sought to hurt me but his ire, and his focus, were not unique. Federal judges are at risk from other would-be attackers.

The threat to judges is intensifying. Security incidents targeting judges and other personnel who play integral roles in federal court cases rose to 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, from 926 such incidents in 2015, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

roy den hollander esther salasIn my case, Roy Den Hollander [shown at right with the judge in file photos), a New York lawyer who had filed a suit against the male-only military draft, harbored deadly grudges.

On July 11, 2020, he killed a lawyer in California. Eight days later, he came to our door and killed Daniel. Too late, I learned that he had often described himself as “anti-feminist.” In a self-published memoir, he described me as “a lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama.”

For judges and their families, better security is a matter of life and death. But its importance goes beyond our well-being alone. For our nation’s sake, judicial security is essential. Federal judges must be free to make their decisions, no matter how unpopular, without fear of harm. The federal government has a responsibility to protect all federal judges because our safety is foundational to our great democracy.

ron desantis screengrab

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump stooge Ron DeSantis totally blew it, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 9, 2020. Just how stupid is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis? He bill palmerhad the police raid whistleblower Rebekah Jones’ house at gunpoint yesterday, and as a result, she now has more than twice as many Twitter followers. DeSantis (shown above in a file photo) just handed her a huge megaphone for calling out his corruption.

bill palmer report logo headerThe first rule of a coverup is that you make moves to ensure that fewer people know about the scandal, not more people. It’s as if DeSantis went to villain school but played hooky every day, and never learned how any of this works.

Here’s what Rebekah Jones, below right, has to say following the incident:

1. rebekah jones@thecovidmonitor will be updated with new computer soon
2. Imagine if the camera wasn’t recording
3. Imagine if I weren’t white.
4. Imagine this were you. Because one day, it might be.
5. Turn rage into action. RT.
6. I’ll be back at work tomorrow.intervention by another party would prove that the dispute *could* be resolved elsewhere — and that there’s nothing unique about Texas’s claims.”

Raw Story, Ron DeSantis’ ex-judicial commissioner explains the real reason he thinks Florida data scientist was targeted, Sarah K. Burris, Dec. 9, 2020. Scientist Rebekah Jones sounded the alarm early on about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ hiding the truth about the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida. In a bombshell report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the governor was outed for suppressing bad news, spreading “dangerous misinformation,” and ignoring inconvenient facts about the virus.

Jones was then targeted by a sweeping warrant for sounding the alarm about DeSantis. She filmed the incident in which police came into her home with guns drawn and gathered all of her electronic devices, alleging she sent a text that they didn’t like. In the wake of the incident, DeSantis’ judicial commissioner, Ron Filipkowski, resigned in protest after studying the warrant issued by a judge appointed by DeSantis.

Speaking to Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday, Filipkowski explained that he saw the video and then went to look at the warrant.
Take advantage of our limited time offer. Go ad-free for just $2 a week. Support independent journalism.

“I saw the video and obviously was pretty shocked and outraged like everybody else,” he said. “And then I posted something on Twitter about my visceral reaction to that. And actually, a Trump supporter sent me a link to the search warrant from the Miami Herald website and said, ‘before you say anything, you better read the warrant and see what terrible things she’s done.’ I did that, and it just made me more mad.”

O’Donnell cited the warrant saying that the attack on Jones was due to a group text messages sent to workers in the Florida health department: “It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”

“That was the crime that was being investigated with guns drawn in Rebekah Jones’ home,” O’Donnell said.

Filipkowski called it outrageous, specifically calling out the overly “broad” search warrant “which encompassed them seizing all of her electronic devices, with no minimization or limits on what they could do once they received those devices, led me to believe that really their primary target of this warrant is not necessarily Rebekah Jones. And the primary purpose of the warrant is not to make a criminal case against Rebekah Jones. The primary purpose of all of this is to find out the identities of the people inside the state government who are talking to her and what they’re telling her. And I think that’s really what they’re after.”

Jones told O’Donnell Tuesday in an interview that she has confidential sources in the Florida government trying to give her information about what’s going on inside DeSantis’ government.

“Absolutely, there’s just no — I know that the governor’s office is denying that he had any knowledge whatsoever about this investigation or this warrant,” Filipkowski continued. “I mean, this is a law enforcement agency that reports directly to the governor’s office. It doesn’t report to a state attorney’s office locally. So — and this is a nemesis of Gov. DeSantis and has been for six months, an outspoken critic, high profile. So, the idea that his own law enforcement agency would execute a search warrant like this on such a high-profile critic and they wouldn’t clear it through him or his general counsel first? That just strains all credibility to me.”

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Palmer Report, Donald Trump’s final botch job, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 9, 2020. As the UK administered its first coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, we find that the US will not get the number of vaccines it needs because Donald Trump decided to “pass” on the opportunity to secure additional vaccines bill palmer report logo headerbefore they were even ready.

The New York Times reported that Pfizer offered the US the opportunity to lock in additional vaccines over and above the 100 million doses it had agreed to sell, and Trump declined. Let that sink in. Our so-called president decided to make do with enough vaccines for 50 million people (it is a double-vaccination process). The US population was 328.24 million as of 2019, which means he is either terrible at math or did not care if the bulk of us get vaccinated.

pfizer logoAs the Times explained, once the US turned down Pfizer’s offer, Pfizer moved forward with deals with other governments. The European Union acquired 200 million doses – twice as much as the US agreed to.

Trump, ever the misinformed idiot, held a White House event touting the great job done by Operation Warp Speed in securing the vaccine for the US. He further signed a (useless) executive order under his “America First” policy, claiming that other countries will not receive any of the US vaccine supply until all Americans have been inoculated. Apparently, he has not heard that UK began giving vaccinations already, and they have no need for US supplies since they have more than we do, thanks again to the Worst President Ever.

According to unnamed administration officials, this “executive order” is merely Trump’s attempt to create a foil to the news that he declined to secure enough vaccines for the nation. This is typical Donald Trump. Whenever he screws up, he looks for a way to turn his blunder around to his favor. That ploy will not work this time. Trump has continued to put millions of lives at risk by betting on five other vaccines, including Moderna and AstraZeneca, both of which have tested in the 90%+ range but both of which have not yet been approved, instead of taking Pfizer’s offer.

According to the Times, Pfizer is the only manufacturer that received Western emergency approval. Trump could have secured 500 million additional doses had he taken Pfizer’s offer, but by the time those talks became serious in October, Trump was more focused on his reelection than on ensuring that more Americans could receive a vaccination against coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blunders Eroded U.S. Confidence in Early Vaccine Front-Runner, Rebecca Robbins, Sharon LaFraniere, Noah Weiland, David D. Kirkpatrick and Benjamin Mueller, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). On the afternoon of Sept. 8, AstraZeneca officials had a conference call with the Food and Drug Administration. The discussion covered important ground: What would AstraZeneca need to do to win the F.D.A.’s blessing for the coronavirus vaccine it was developing with the University of Oxford?

But the AstraZeneca representatives neglected to mention a crucial development: Two days earlier, the company had quietly halted trials of its vaccine around the world, including a late-stage study in the United States. It acted after a participant in Britain fell ill.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca effort held great promise to help arrest the pandemic. But a series of miscues caused it to fall behind in the U.S.

A pattern of communication failures has damaged the company’s relationship with regulators and, in at least one instance, slowed the vaccine’s development.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 9, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 68,567,526, Deaths: 1,563,130
U.S. Cases:   15,591,709, Deaths:    293,398

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 9, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House proposes dramatically lower unemployment benefit in exchange for $600 stimulus payment, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The new proposal represents a sharp rejection of the bipartisan efforts that have gotten Democrats and Republicans closer to a compromise on a legislative package amid signs that the U.S. economy is deteriorating.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump and Biden offer conflicting messages on pandemic in an ongoing fight for attention, David Nakamura, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The nation’s top infectious-disease expert was a notable no-show at President Trump’s coronavirus vaccine summit at the White House on Tuesday. Anthony S. Fauci told colleagues that he had a scheduling conflict, so he wasn’t seated among the government health officials in the Southcourt Auditorium.

Which made it all the more jarring when he popped up via video message on the jumbo screen at a health-related event with President-elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Del., at the same time.

“I believe, as you do, that in the fight against the pandemic, we must lead with science,” said Fauci, who for months has largely been sidelined by Trump over his implicit critiques of the president’s efforts to play down the threat of a virus that has killed at least 284,000 Americans.

Fauci’s remarks were pretaped, and he explained that he was not able to attend Biden’s introduction of his new health team — on which Fauci will serve as Biden’s “chief medical adviser” — because he was participating in a ceremony for a colleague at the National Institutes of Health who won the Nobel Prize for medicine.

But his appearance was another stark illustration of the discomforting split screen taking place as Trump seeks to maintain power by leveling baseless accusations of voter fraud while Biden works to assemble his administration — all against the backdrop of a global health and economic crisis.

Since losing the election, Trump has sought to undermine Biden’s transition. Trump reportedly has told aides he is considering holding a rally in Florida on Inauguration Day to announce his intention to run again in 2024 and draw attention away from Biden.

The competing events on Tuesday foreshadowed such a scenario.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Hearing Promotes Unproven Drugs and Dubious Virus Claims, Linda Qiu, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Panelists called by Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, deployed inaccurate information in disputing the need for mask wearing and social distancing.

ron johnson oSenator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, spent much of this year promoting investigations into Hunter Biden, trying fruitlessly to show corruption on the part of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Now Mr. Johnson, right, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is more focused on another narrative sympathetic to President Trump if not to established science: that the reaction to the coronavirus pandemic has been overblown and that public health officials have been too quick to come to conclusions about the best ways to deal with it.

So on Tuesday, for not the first time, Mr. Johnson lent his committee’s platform to the promotion of unproven drugs and dubious claims about stemming the spread of the coronavirus while giving prominence to a vaccine skeptic.

washington post logoWashington Post, An Idaho official left a meeting in tears as anti-maskers swarmed her home, Katie Shepherd, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Minutes into a public health district’s virtual meeting to vote on a local mask mandate in Idaho on Tuesday evening, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo tearfully excused herself after getting a phone call that anti-mask protesters had surrounded her home.

“My 12-year-old son is home by himself right now, and there are protesters banging outside the door,” she told the Central District Health’s Board of Health, which serves four counties in the state’s most populous region. “I’m going to go home and make sure he’s okay.”

A visibly upset Lachiondo then disconnected from the video call, leaving her colleagues at the meeting stunned. They soon learned that protesters had gathered outside the Central District Health office and one other board member’s residence as well, targeting the public officials who were meeting virtually from their homes and private offices as a precaution amid the worsening pandemic.

Hundreds of anti-mask demonstrators poured out to protest a public health order that would have limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people and required face masks be worn in public and private around non-household members when social distancing is not possible, among other restrictions. More than 3,000 public comments had been submitted on the order between Friday and Monday, the health district said in a statement. The health district board was set to vote on the order Tuesday evening.

The protests on Friday and Tuesday were organized by a multistate network of right-wing activists called People’s Rights. The group was founded by Ammon Bundy, a vocal anti-masker and anti-government activist who gained national attention as part of the 2016 standoff between Patriot movement extremists and federal police at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Bundy was arrested in August at the Idaho Capitol after tying himself to a chair and refusing to leave amid an anti-mask protest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s why the Biden health-care team was so assuring, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 9, 2020. The elements that were missing from jennifer rubin new headshotPresident-elect Joe Biden’s rollout of his team of health-care officials on Tuesday were telling. There were no outlandish promises, no political shots at Republicans, no sycophantic tributes to Biden and no unqualified cronies named to critical positions. Ah, this is what government was like before the dark times.

Instead of announcing fantastical goals, Biden set out ambitious but attainable objectives for the first 100 days of his presidency.

First, a 100-day masking plan “will start with my signing an order on Day One to require masks where I can under the law — like federal buildings and interstate travel on planes, trains and buses,” Biden said. “I’ll also be working with the governors and mayors to do the same in their states and cities.”

He reiterated this is not a political act, but the best way to protect Americans. He also pledged to get “at least 100 million covid vaccine shots into the arms of Americans in the first 100 days,” making clear he actually will have a plan to do so, not dump the responsibility on state governments.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Light at the end of the tunnel, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 9, 2020. Yesterday, December 8, 2020, about 120 miles from where I’m sitting robert harringtnn portraitas I write this to you, brothers and sisters, the first mainstream, non-clinical Homo sapiens in human history received a vaccine for coronavirus in Coventry, England. Her name is Margaret Keenan, a lady in a care home who will turn 91 next week.

What a last few weeks it has been! After so long a period of hopeless drought in the world we are finally getting a little blessed rain. November marked the beginning of the end for one of the most hateful and destructive monsters in human history. It was also the month we got the grand news that the world has been gifted with not one but three vaccines. And December marks the beginning of the end of the modern pandemic that motivated those vaccines.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat will January bring? Possibly the downfall of the two insider-trading criminals, the robotic non-person Kelly Loeffler and her partner in deceit, the coward David Perdue, returning effective control of the Senate to the Democrats.

Should those two disgusting villains lose in Georgia, Vice President Kamala Harris will undoubtedly have her work cut out for her after January 20. No doubt she will have to fulfill her Constitutional duty and preside over the Senate more often than most Vice Presidents have had to in recent decades.

Victory in Georgia is essential. Without it power will be retained by the Republicans and Mitch McConnell, with McConnell continuing to function as Majority Leader. Without majority leadership McConnell will be reduced to humiliating powerlessness. Certainly many votes in the Senate will come down to a 50-50 tie, with Susan Collins expressing “concern” but voting party line nevertheless.

It has been a hard fight and a horrible year, culminating in triumph. After we defeat Loeffler and Perdue, let’s all take a brief, much-needed, much-deserved rest. But then let’s get back to work. We have a pandemic to defeat, global warming to stop and much-needed work in social justice to advance.

 

Biden Transition

Politico, Biden to tap Marcia Fudge to lead housing agency, Katy O’Donnell, Tyler Pager and Megan Cassella, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The offer comes after Fudge lobbied for the position of Agriculture secretary.

marcia fudge oPresident-elect Joe Biden has selected Rep. Marcia Fudge, left, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

The offer to lead the roughly $50 billion housing agency comes after weeks in which Fudge launched a bid to become the first Black female Agriculture secretary.

Fudge, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and her allies in the Congressional Black Caucus had lobbied openly for the USDA job. Biden is now leaning toward choosing former Obama agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, however.

james clyburnHouse Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), right — whose endorsement was pivotal in helping Biden secure the nomination — has pushed aggressively for Fudge to be named to the Cabinet and said earlier Tuesday she would land a top job. The Cleveland congresswoman also has the support of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, which will handle her nomination.

A spokesperson for Fudge did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Biden transition declined to comment.

Fudge lamented just last month in an interview with Politico that Black policymakers have traditionally been relegated to just a handful of Cabinet positions — including HUD secretary.

usda logo horizontal Customwashington post logoWashington Post, Biden to pick Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, reprising a role he had during Obama’s eight years, Matt Viser, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Biden has chosen Tom Vilsack to be his secretary of agriculture, reprising a role that Vilsack held during all eight years under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the nomination.

Vilsack, who is also a former mayor and state senator, was governor of Iowa for two terms before joining the Obama administration and has been a close friend of Biden’s throughout his political career.

tom vilsack oBiden views Vilsack, shown at left in a file photo from his previous appointment, as bringing essential experience to the role at a time when the country is experiencing a heightened hunger crisis, according to a transition official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a nomination that has not been made public yet.

Vilsack is also well liked among Republicans, was confirmed by unanimous consent in 2009 and is unlikely to face fierce opposition.

But the pick is also likely to upset some within Biden’s party and has already met resistance among prominent civil rights groups who met with Biden this afternoon.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, said that Vilsack should be disqualified from the role, citing a controversy from 2010 in which he fired Shirley Sherrod from her position as the department’s rural development director in Georgia amid a misunderstanding over racial comments. Vilsack later apologized and offered her a new position.

“We think that an individual who unjustifiably fired Shirley Sherrod — who is a civil rights icon, a legend, who worked with John Lewis — should not be considered,” he said.

“There are many other well-qualified candidates,” Johnson said. “We should not go backward. We should go forward.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Patrick Gaspard, a former Obama aide, emerges as a favorite for labor secretary, Jim Tankersley, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Patrick Gaspard, a former aide to President Barack Obama, U.S. ambassador to South Africa and executive director of the Democratic National Committee, has emerged as the leading candidate to be nominated as labor secretary under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

patrick gaspard haiti ambassador oMr. Gaspard, shown in a file photo at right, announced last week that he would step down as the head of the Open Society Foundations, founded by the liberal megadonor George Soros, at the end of the year, fueling speculation in Washington that he was poised to join the incoming administration. He has a background in labor organizing, including a senior leadership position for the Service Employees International Union, which he held before joining the Obama administration.

His potential nomination would give Mr. Biden, who calls himself a “union guy,” a labor secretary with union roots. He would also add to the list of Black cabinet appointees, a key goal of Mr. Biden’s transition team as it seeks to fulfill Mr. Biden’s campaign promise of diversity in the top leadership of his administration.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haitian parents, Mr. Gaspard immigrated to the United States in early childhood, grew up in New York and attended Columbia University before leaving to work on Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. He worked for years in New York City politics and on Howard Dean’s 2004 Democratic presidential bid, and he was an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins. After Mr. Dinkins died last month, Mr. Gaspard wrote on Twitter, “He taught me that you don’t need to be loud to be strong.”

Mr. Gaspard worked for years as an organizer and rose through the Service Employees International Union to become its national political director before joining Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. In the Obama White House, Mr. Gaspard served as director of political affairs, before helming the Democratic National Committee and being confirmed as Mr. Obama’s ambassador to South Africa.

Two other possible nominees appear to remain in contention for Labor secretary. One is Julie Su, a labor lawyer and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient who is the secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The other is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has won support from some key labor unions.

Allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and Mr. Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination this year, had pushed hard for Mr. Sanders to be selected as labor secretary. But Mr. Biden’s short list for the job does not appear to include Mr. Sanders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two Biden Cabinet picks played role in Clinton-era commutation that drew complaints of favoritism, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Xavier Becerra and Alejandro Mayorkas were among several prominent Los Angeles figures who reached out to the White House about a convicted cocaine trafficker.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nevada Supreme Court rejects Trump campaign’s appeal to overturn Biden’s win, Timothy Bella, Dec. 9, 2020. The state’s high court affirmed a previous ruling that that there was no evidence supporting the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud and wrongdoing in a state President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 33,000 votes.

 
U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

election 2020 national map washington post

American System Network, Opinion: All Fifty States Have Now Certified Their Election Results and Electors in Conformity with Safe Haven Requirements, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Dec. 9, webster tarpley 20072020. Biden’s 306 Electoral Vote Total Makes Him Next President, According to Applicable Law; Electoral College Meets in State Capitals on Monday;

But Trump Presses Last-Ditch Lawsuit to Shred the Right to Vote of Americans: Seventeen Reactionary State AGs Join Rogue Attorney General Paxton of Texas in Attack on Statehood of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia; Supremes to Hear Initial Arguments Thursday; Time for Rule Eleven Sanctions Against These AGs and Pro-Trump Lawyers.

Will States Accept Lessons in Election Organization from Voter Suppression Leader Texas, Where Only One Drop Box for Paper Ballots Was Allowed in Each County; GOP Hates All Voter-Verifiable Paper Trails Because They Make Theft by Republicans More Difficult.

GOP’s Armed Fascist Gangs Run Wild in Various States with Political Cover from White House Usurper.

How Biden’s Personal Friendship with Defense Secretary-Designate Lloyd Austin Can Help Block Coups, Autogolpes, Putsches, and Other Subversive Chicanery Coming from the Trump Camp; In Parlous Times, President Has Right to Choose a Defense Minister He Knows and Trusts; Austin is Expert in Logistics, a Specialty Needed During Pandemic; Expertise in Directed Energy Weapons Using New Physical Principles Also Needed.

Gen. McCaffrey Backs Austin as Bulwark Needed in Pentagon to Counter “Squirrely Lads Burrowing In,” i.e. Trump’s Incompetent Recent Appointments Spreading Chaos!

CNNCNN, Melania Trump ‘just wants to go home,’ Kate Bennett, Dec. 9, 2020. In mid-November, as President Donald Trump railed against the election results, his wife, first lady Melania Trump publicly agreed with his sentiments. But privately, a handful of days after the final state tally, the first lady tasked an emissary with discreetly finding out what was available to her in terms of budget and staff allocation for post-White House life.

While the President is busy figuring out a way to stay in the White House, the first lady is determining what to put in storage, what goes to Trump’s New York City digs, and what should be tagged for shipment to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

“She just wants to go home,” said another source familiar with Melania Trump’s state of mind. Asked how the first lady feels about rumors her husband might announce a 2024 bid, the source added: “That might not go over well.”

Melania Trump Twitter photoThe first lady quietly brought on Marcia Lee Kelly to her scant East Wing staff in April as a special government employee who could add gravitas and experience. She is unpaid and serves in a volunteer capacity but her job as Trump’s special adviser proved helpful as the waning months of her first-term tenure.

Kelly had previously run the White House Office of Administration and after it became clear Trump would need to prep for her life after Washington the first lady told Kelly to discreetly ask West Wing acquaintances and a member of the Office of Management and Budget whether there were taxpayer funds allocated to former first ladies, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

melania trump i really dont care jacket twitterThe short answer is no. While there are post-presidential perks for such things for the outgoing commander in chief, budgets to set up an official office and staff and cover some travel costs, there is nothing from the government for any first lady, save a paltry $20,000-a-year pension, which is paid out only if her husband dies.

The intel gathered by Kelly on the budget — that there isn’t one — has not deterred Trump from turning her energy to departing Washington. According to discussions with three sources familiar, there is currently ongoing inventory being taken at the White House of the Trump’s own furniture and art and personal items.

And the first lady is hyper-focused of late on her legacy. One thing Trump is considering is a book, though it will likely not be a memoir — the post-White House writing of which is a tradition most first ladies have adhered to. Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, and Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart, were massive bestsellers.

Instead, Trump is said to be toying with writing a photo-centric coffee table book about White House hospitality history, or one perhaps centered on the design projects she has completed while first lady, according to a source in the publishing industry familiar with preliminary discussions. Trump has also reportedly done one of the final things most first ladies do before leaving office: select the administration’s official china service.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Trump’s Loss in Arizona, State Republicans Turn on One Another, Simon Romero, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). A top Republican told the governor to “shut the hell up.” Another official described a lawmaker as a resident of “Crazytown.”

The Republican speaker of Arizona’s House of Representatives did what he thought was right after Rudolph W. Giuliani rolled through Phoenix for maskless meetings with Republican legislators and then tested positive for the coronavirus: He shut the chamber down for a week in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

rnc logoBut that move is now adding fuel to the open conflict within Arizona’s Republican Party, positioning Trump loyalists intent on overturning the state’s election results against relatively moderate figures like Rusty Bowers, the House speaker, and Gov. Doug Ducey, both of whom have made it clear the results will stand.

The party this week publicly urged people to fight to the death to overturn the election in which President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeated President Trump by fewer than 11,000 votes, about 0.3 percentage points. That entreaty came after 28 current and incoming Republican lawmakers called for the decertification of the election as requested by Mr. Giuliani, the personal and campaign lawyer for Mr. Trump.

The quarreling, which has powerful state Republicans openly insulting one another, is bringing attention to the challenges the party faces as Arizona shifts from a Republican bastion to a battleground state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Defense bill clears House with veto-proof majority, despite Trump threats, Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans have hoped that a strong show of support in the House and Senate will dissuade President Trump from trying to scuttle the bill in the waning weeks of his presidency.

The House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan, $741 billion defense authorization bill by a sizable veto-proof majority, throwing down the first of two expected gauntlets before President Trump, who has escalated his threat to scuttle the legislation.

The 335-to-78 vote represents a much bigger margin of victory for the bill than the House mustered for an earlier version of the legislation this summer. It is also a sharp rebuke to Trump’s exhortations to Republicans to vote against the measure: Fewer than half of the GOP lawmakers who opposed the initial defense bill over the summer voted against the bipartisan compromise Tuesday.

washington post logopaul waldmanWashington Post, Opinion: Any Biden effort to ‘reach out’ to conservatives is doomed, Paul Waldman, right, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden is not giving up on reaching out to the people who didn’t vote for him, even as most of them seem to believe he’s at the head of a plot to steal the election — and a significant portion believe he’s part of a global conspiracy of satanic, pedophile, cannibal, sex-traffickers.

Biden is determined, though, just as so many Democrats were before him. And like them, he’ll probably fail.

Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs reports that the Biden White House will be making a particular point of reaching out:

The Biden administration plans to create a position to find common ground with conservatives, said Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement for the president-elect

It’s possible that Rep. Richmond (D-La.) is just throwing around ideas, and in the end, there won’t be a Conservative Outreach Czar in the Biden White House. But there’s no doubt that Biden will govern, as he said many times, as the president of all Americans, not just those who supported him.

djt profile balding big head palmerIt’s the right thing to do (and what we assumed all presidents would do, until Donald Trump). He’ll be supporting policies that he believes are good for the whole country, not just the places in the country that supported him. Unlike Trump, he won’t be doing any “victory tours” of just the states he won. But it won’t help.

This is a never-ending obsession with Democrats. How can we get conservatives to like us more? Is there some special strategy we can deploy, or argument we can make, that will open their hearts and minds to what we have to say?

You may have noticed that Republicans — who have now lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections — never bother to ask themselves how they might reach out to liberals.

They appoint no people to carry out this task; they publish no essays in their journals about how to go about it; they hold no think-tank forums to explore the problem and consider solutions. They’d much rather dream up new voter suppression schemes to make it more difficult for liberals to cast their ballots.

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA finalizes rollback making it harder to enact new air pollution rules, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The move is one of several environmental rollbacks the Trump administration is finalizing in the weeks before the president leaves office.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Rails Against Loss, His Supporters Become More Threatening, Nick Corasaniti, Jim Rutenberg and Kathleen Gray, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s baseless claims of fraud have prompted outrage among his loyalists and led to behavior that even some Republicans say is dangerous.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Is Planting Loyalists in Biden Transition Meetings, Lisa Friedman, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Supporters of President Trump are monitoring many of the conversations between Biden teams and civil servants, chilling the flow of information.

 

World News

Wayne Madsen Report, Analysis: Trump tilt to Azerbaijan resulted in jihadist war crimes in Caucasus, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 9, 2020. Trump tilt to Azerbaijan resulted in jihadist war crimes wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallin Caucasus.

wayne madesen report logoThe presence of Trump buildings in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and in Istanbul has had disastrous consequences for ethnic Armenians in the predominantly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian soldiers attempting to protect the enclave from recent Azerbaijani military aggression.

Turkey provided logistical and jihadist mercenary support from Syria and Libya for the Azerbaijani army in Nagorno-Karabakh. Israel, a close military and intelligence ally of Azerbaijan, turkey flagalso provided drone and other military support to Baku.

The twin Trump Towers in Istanbul represents a major conflict of interest for Trump in relation to the dictatorial government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has made no secret of his disdain for ethnic Armenians, with whom Turkey has had a torturous past, which includes Turkish genocide of ethnic Armenians in the early 20th century.

washington post logoWashington Post, Saudi court sentences American citizen to six years in prison despite appeals from the U.S., Kareem Fahim, Dec. 8, 2020. A court in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday sentenced Walid Fitaihi, a doctor with dual American and Saudi citizenship, to six years in prison on charges that included illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship, a person close to his family said.

The sentencing came despite the Trump administration’s repeated appeals to the Saudi government to release Fitaihi.

Fitaihi, the founder of a prominent hospital, was arrested in November 2017 as Saudi authorities detained hundreds of business executives, government officials and royal family members. He was held for nearly two years without trial and tortured while in custody, he told family members.

Fitaihi was released from custody last year but he and his family remained under a travel ban with their Saudi assets frozen. And he continued to face accusations that human rights groups have called politically motivated.

The sentence imposed on Fitaihi Tuesday was for charges that included obtaining U.S. citizenship without official permission and posting messages on Twitter supporting the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, according to the person close to the family, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

President Trump, who has warm ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been loath to criticize the kingdom’s human rights record. But his administration has made an exception for Fitaihi, raising his plight publicly while at the same time lobbying the Saudi government privately to show clemency, according to people briefed on the discussions.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, FireEye, a Top Cybersecurity Firm, Says It Was Hacked by a Nation-State, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The Silicon Valley company said hackers — almost certainly Russian — made off with tools that could be used to mount new attacks around the world.

For years, the cybersecurity firm FireEye has been the first call for government agencies and companies around the world who have been hacked by the most sophisticated attackers, or fear they might be.

Now it looks like the hackers — in this case, evidence points to Russia’s intelligence agencies — may be exacting their revenge.

FireEye revealed on Tuesday that its own systems were pierced by what it called “a nation with top-tier offensive capabilities.” The company said hackers used “novel techniques” to make off with its own tool kit, which could be useful in mounting new attacks around the world.

It was a stunning theft, akin to bank robbers who, having cleaned out local vaults, then turned around and stole the F.B.I.’s investigative tools. In fact, FireEye said on Tuesday, moments after the stock market closed, that it had called in the F.B.I.

michael pack

washington post logoWashington Post, Voice of America interim director pushed out by Trump-appointed overseer in final flurry of actions to assert control, Paul Farhi, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). Trump appointee overseeing VOA won’t cooperate with Biden transition team.

The head of the agency that oversees Voice of America removed the international broadcasting service’s interim director on Tuesday, in a move apparently aimed at asserting greater control over its editorial operations.

voice of america logoMichael Pack, shown above in a file photo, a Trump appointee who has made sweeping and controversial changes at VOA and its sister broadcasting networks, pushed out Elez Biberaj, a VOA veteran whom Pack had appointed as the head of the service on an interim basis in June.

Biberaj, who has worked as a journalist for 40 years at VOA, had quietly resisted Pack’s attempts to change the news organization into one more aligned with President Trump’s views and policies.

Pack, who runs a federal agency called the U.S. Agency for Global Media that supervises VOA and four other government-funded news and information networks, has asserted the right to breach a regulatory “firewall” that prohibits political appointees from direct involvement in the work of journalists at VOA and sister agencies, such as Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, State, federal authorities expected to file antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, Tony Romm, Dec. 9, 2020 (print ed.). The filings from more than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government will allege the tech giant engaged in unlawful tactics to buy or kill off its rivals and solidify its dominance in social networking.

 

U.S. Race, Crime, Culture

ny times logoNew York Times, At Johns Hopkins, Revelations About Its Founder and Slavery, Jennifer Schuessler, Dec. 9, 2020. Johns Hopkins University announced research indicating that its founding benefactor and namesake, long celebrated as an abolitionist, owned enslaved people.

The university and its medical system have celebrated their founding benefactor as a staunch abolitionist. But newly surfaced documents tell a different story.

It’s a tale that has long been repeated at the university and medical center in Baltimore that bear his name: In 1807, the 12-year-old Johns Hopkins was summoned home from boarding school to work the fields of the family’s sprawling tobacco farm in Maryland after his father, following the directives of his Quaker faith, freed the family’s slaves.

Young Johns grew up to be a wildly successful businessman and, as the story goes, a committed abolitionist. And on his death in 1873, he left $7 million — the largest philanthropic bequest in American history at that time — to found the nation’s first research university, along with a hospital that would serve the city’s poor “without regard to sex, age or color.”

Hopkins’s Quaker rectitude has been a touchstone for the institution he founded. But an important part of that origin story, it turns out, is untrue.

ny times logoNew York Times, Carnegie Hall Stands By Its Chairman, Despite Tax Violations, Robin Pogrebin, Dec. 9, 2020. Robert Smith has acknowledged his involvement in a scheme to hide more than $200 million in income and evade taxes, but he retains the support of the hall’s board.

When Robert F. Smith, the billionaire philanthropist, became the new chairman of Carnegie Hall in 2016, he seemed almost too good to be true.

He promised to be a stabilizing presence at Carnegie after the brief, tumultuous reign of his predecessor. He was a benefactor with deep pockets and a strong interest in the hall’s education efforts. He was the rare board leader of color in a field where diversity lags. And he was cheered as a national hero last year when, during his commencement address at Morehouse College, he pledged to pay off the student debt of the entire graduating class.

So it came as a shock this fall when Mr. Smith, 58, admitted to having played a supporting role in what federal prosecutors called the largest tax evasion case in U.S. history — acknowledging that he had “willfully failed to report” over $200 million in income — and signed a nonprosecution agreement in which he agreed to pay large fines and cooperate with investigators.

 

Dec. 8

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Election Litigation

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

 

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Passed on Chance to Secure More of Pfizer Vaccine, Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas and Noah Weiland, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). The pharmaceutical company offered the government a chance to lock in additional supplies before its vaccine was proved effective in clinical trials. (Continued below.).

michael flynn djt

wayne madsen screen shotStrategic Culture Foundation, Right-Wing Generals Calling for a Military Coup: A Long History, Wayne Madsen, right, Dec. 8, 2020. History books record that there were a mere handful of cases in which generals plotted the overthrow of a far-right regime to institute moderate or leftist government. In the vast majority of cases, however, strategic culture logogenerals’ putsches are fascist affairs having dire consequences for the rule of law and human rights.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, above at left, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Donald Trump national security adviser, circulated an on-line petition calling for Trump to suspend the U.S. Constitution, declare martial law, and have the Pentagon oversee a “re-vote” of the presidential election, one that would assuredly have Trump “win” over the current President-elect, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Flynn petition also warned of a “civil war” if his demands were not carried out.

The petition stated: “Failure to [suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and conduct a re-vote] could result in massive violence and destruction on a level not seen since the Civil War.” The petition adds, “Limited Martial Law is clearly a better option than Civil War!” Flynn was recently pardoned by Trump for his criminal conviction of lying to federal investigators.

Flynn’s dangerous anti-constitutional rhetoric has not been seen in the United States since the Civil War. To be sure, there have been right-wing generals who defied various post-Civil War administrations in the past – Army General Douglas MacArthur, Army Major General Edwin Walker, Air Force General Curtis LeMay, and Army Major General John Singlaub are four of the most notorious in that respect – none have come close to Flynn in advancing insubordination to outright insurrection and sedition.

Flynn’s call for a coup in the United States places him in the camp of some of the vilest military fascist tyrants who have seized power in nations around the world. Such regimes were supported by civilian paramilitaries that acted as street vigilantes and thugs against pro-democracy opposition parties and leaders.

Such would-be “enforcers” for a Trump/Flynn dictatorship today routinely issue death threats against public health officials, health care workers, state governors, mayors, municipal and county council and board members, and election officials around the United States. Fascist enablers like Trump and michael flynn uniform resizedFlynn (shown in a file photo while in uniform) have encouraged their supporters to see those trying to ensure free and fair elections and those trying to protect the health of the public as a common enemy to be dealt with by intimidation and violence.

The world has seen the blood-soaked results of paramilitaries and civilian vigilantes teaming up with military dictators to enforce fascist rule. Trump and his supporters are encouraging a similar alliance in the United States. This unholy alliance comprises neo-Nazis, white nationalists, police officers and sheriff’s deputies, and other various social misfits and dead enders. These are the shock troops for the fascist ideology of Trumpism.

Every fascist regime requires its violent enforcers. For Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, the enforcers were the SA (“Sturmabteilung” – the Storm Troopers or “Brownshirts”), the SS (“Schutzstaffel”), and the Gestapo (“Geheime Staatspolizei” or “secret state police”).These paramilitaries were aided by the civilian police. e.

Trump has cobbled together a similar violent force to intimidate his opponents and public officials. They include the fascist Proud Boys, the white nationalist “Boogaloo Bois,” the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, Atomwaffen Division, White Aryan Resistance, American Identity Movement/Identity Evropa, Patriot Prayer, Light Foot Militia, Forza Nuova – USA, steve bannon court aug 21 2020National Policy Institute, Oath Keepers, 3 Percenters, and various regional and state militias and groups, such as the Michigan Militia, Wolverine Watchmen, Virginia Militia, Georgia 229 Militia, Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, Wisconsin Kenosha Guard.

Through the auspices of criminally charged former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon (shown in a collage of photos following his arrest in a massive fund-raising scheme), the embryonic Trump militias have been able to coordinate their activities with likeminded groups in Europe, Latin America, Australia, and South Africa.

With General Flynn and his confederates calling for a military coup in the United States, Trump’s paramilitary militia-in-formation is waiting for the call to arms to wage civil war and draw blood on America’s streets. That is the enemy every loyal American now must face and deal with swiftly and with certitude.

Wall Street on Parade, Analysis: Bull Market? Had Three Dow Stocks Not Been Removed in August, 43 Percent of Dow Stocks Would be Negative Year-to-Date, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Dec. 8, 2020. There has been a lot of bullish talk about the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching 30,000 for the first time in history. But the underpinnings of the bellwether Dow index look a lot less rosy.

Replacing three of the Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks on August 31 looked like a desperate move by S&P Dow Jones Indices, the folks that oversee that stock index. One of the stocks replaced, Exxon Mobil, had been a Dow component for 92 years, joining the Dow in 1928 under the name Standard Oil of New Jersey. Exxon was replaced with Salesforce, a company that only went public in 2004. Salesforce describes itself as a “customer relationship management platform,” explaining that “We help your marketing, sales, commerce, service and IT teams work as one from anywhere — so you can keep your customers happy everywhere.” If that sounds a little nebulous to you, it should. But the stock price has been on a rip for the past four years so Wall Street loves it.

The two other stocks in the Dow that were replaced on August 31 were the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, replaced with biotech company Amgen; and Raytheon Technologies, replaced by Honeywell International.

What might have prompted that radical shakeup in the Dow in August? As of August 19, five days before the announcement was released to the press, two-thirds of the 30 Dow components were in the red for the year.

We decided to take a look at where things would stand today if the August 31 shakeup in the Dow had not happened. It turns out that 13 of the pre-August 31 Dow 30 stocks, a remarkable 43 percent, are in the red year-to-date.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Passed on Chance to Secure More of Pfizer Vaccine, Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas and Noah Weiland, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.).

Before Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was proved highly successful in clinical trials last month, the company offered the Trump administration the chance to lock in supplies beyond the 100 million doses the pharmaceutical maker agreed to sell the government as part of a $1.95 billion deal over the summer.

But the administration, according to people familiar with the talks, never made the deal, a choice that now raises questions about whether the United States allowed other countries to take its place in line.

While two vaccines, including Pfizer’s, have proved to be highly effective against Covid-19, and a third also appears at least moderately effective, supplies are shaping up to be scarce in the coming months as infections, hospitalizations and deaths surge to new highs. And while Pfizer is now negotiating with the administration to provide more of its vaccine, people familiar with the talks say the company cannot guarantee that it will be able to deliver more than the initial 100 million doses — enough to inoculate 50 million people since its vaccine requires two shots — before perhaps next June.

After it signed its federal contract in late July, Pfizer went on to seal deals with other governments, including the European Union, which last month finalized an agreement to acquire 200 million doses from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. On Tuesday, Britain will begin inoculating its population with the vaccine.

President Trump has hailed the development of the vaccine as a victory for his administration, even though Pfizer, unlike the developer of the other most promising vaccine, Moderna, took no upfront money from the government’s Operation Warp Speed development program.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump is holding a White House event to promote the program’s role and plans to issue an executive order that applies his “America First” philosophy to the pandemic by proclaiming that other nations will not get the U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated.

The executive order by itself appears to have no real teeth and does not expand the U.S. supply of doses, according to a description of the order on Monday by senior administration officials. But it provides Mr. Trump with a talking point to rebut any criticism about the limited initial supply of the vaccine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: The Stimulus Compromise Is $908 Billion Better Than Nothing, Editorial Board, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate’s plan is flawed. Doing nothing would be much worse.

Americans urgently need Congress to deliver a fresh round of economic aid. Millions of people who lost jobs in the spring are reaching the end of their unemployment benefits. Many have fallen behind on rent or mortgage payments. Many do not have enough to eat.

A wave of good news about vaccines offers reason for hope that the coronavirus pandemic will loosen its grip next year and that economic growth will accelerate. That makes it all the more important to build a bridge allowing people to get through the winter months.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 8, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 68,084,568, Deaths:1,553,749
U.S. Cases:   15,373,680, Deaths:   290,816

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 8, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis reportedly has coronavirus – and she apparently spread it around the White House, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. When Rudy Giuliani was hospitalized with coronavirus over the weekend, we suspected it was part of a much larger outbreak. Giuliani and the rest of jenna ellis cropped screenshotDonald Trump’s election legal team had spent the week traveling the country and holding mask-less meetings with Republican legislators.

Sure enough, Trump election lawyer Jenna Ellis, right, has now also tested positive for coronavirus. But it gets worse.

bill palmer report logo headerAxios is reporting that Ellis very recently attended the White House Christmas party, meaning she probably spread coronavirus to Trump’s political advisers and staff. So it looks like the Trump White House may be headed for yet another ugly outbreak. Meanwhile, multiple state legislatures are currently shut down because some of their Republican members were exposed to Rudy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida police raid house of fired data scientist who alleged state manipulated covid-19 stats, Reis Thebault, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). Florida police officers with guns drawn raided the home of an ousted health department data scientist Monday morning, searching for the former agency employee’s most powerful tools: her computer, her phone and other hardware that supports the coronavirus website she set up after accusing the state of manipulating its official numbers.

rebekah jonesLaw enforcement officials allege the scientist, Rebekah Jones, left, may have also used the devices to hack into a health department website in November and to send an unauthorized message to Florida emergency personnel, urging them to speak out against the state’s pandemic response. She has denied the accusation.

This is the latest clash between Jones and state officials, who have traded accusations since she was fired from the Florida Department of Health this summer. Jones said she had refused to comply with agency requests she considered unethical, and she has accused the state of mismanaging a health crisis that has so far infected more than a million residents and killed nearly 20,000.

After her dismissal, Jones launched her own data portal, advertising it as the transparent and independent alternative to the state dashboard. Now, Jones says, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s raid is an attempt to silence her work.

U.S. Election Litigation

Trump by Michael Vadon Creative Commons e1486885124813

Palmer Report, Opinion: Supreme Court rejects Donald Trump’s election case; so much for Alito and SCOTUS saving him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. 
Today is the safe harbor deadline, meaning that after today, the presidential election results can no longer be disputed or revised. So it’s a big deal that the U.S. Supreme Court just refused to hear a case brought by Donald Trump and his allies, which sought to overturn the results in Pennsylvania.

bill palmer report logo headerNotably, this was the case that was presented to conservative Trump-friendly Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. So the rejection, which doesn’t note any dissenters, suggests that Alito agreed with the rejection – and that it may well have been unanimous.

So this could be the end of it. We’ll see if the Supreme Court makes any additional moves tonight, before the safe harbor deadline at the end of the day. But it looks like Donald Trump has finally, fully lost his to bid to magically overturn the election.

Trump always had literally zero chance of pulling this off, at the margins he lost by. But it’s comforting that Trump’s failure to magically overturn the election is becoming more official by the hour.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rachel Maddow just nailed it, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. When corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a bizarre election lawsuit today aimed at helping Donald Trump, Palmer Report pointed out that it had literally zero chance of going anywhere, and that Paxton was surely just trying to get Trump to pardon him.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Rachel Maddow used her MSNBC show tonight to go into more detail about the story. Paxton is facing a potential ninety-nine year prison sentence in Texas for financial fraud, which he’s been abusing his office to fend off. But as Maddow pointed out, Paxton is also now under active investigation by the FBI. No wonder Paxton is trying to impress Trump in the hope of a federal pardon.

Meanwhile, Maddow also confirmed something that Palmer Report was hoping would be the case. In his dismissal of the Michael Flynn case today, Judge Emmet Sullivan did indeed include language expressing doubt as to whether Flynn’s preemptive pardon can prevent him from being charged with additional crimes. This opens the door for the DOJ to indict Flynn again once Trump is gone.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No, this Texas election case with the Supreme Court isn’t going anywhere, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. For those asking: No, this Texas lawsuit won’t magically overturn anything. It’s even more legally vacuous than Trump’s last fifty election lawsuits, all of which went nowhere.

bill palmer report logo headerNo, the Supreme Court won’t intervene when there’s no case to be had. Yes, the results will be locked in place at the end of today’s safe harbor deadline. No, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Joe Biden won, and there is literally zero chance of that changing.

Tweet of the day, from Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul: “I feel sorry for Texans that their tax dollars are being wasted on such a genuinely embarrassing lawsuit. Texas is as likely to change the outcome of the Ice Bowl as it is to overturn the will of Wisconsin voters in the 2020 presidential election.”

Background: Texas Tribune, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted 5 years ago. He still hasn’t gone to trial, Emma Platoff June 19, 2019 Updated: July 28, 2020. Read our timeline covering delays and side battles in the long-running securities fraud case against Paxton.

Spring 2014: First signs of trouble. In April, during Paxton’s bid to become the Republican nominee for attorney general, The Texas Tribune obtains documents showing he was not registered with the state board while he was being paid to solicit clients for a North Texas financial services firm. Paxton’s campaign launches an internal review to determine whether he had broken any laws. Soon after, the Texas State Securities Board reprimands Paxton for soliciting investment clients without being registered. He is fined $1,000 and signs a disciplinary order without disputing its findings.

Prosecutors begin to build their case against Paxton, now sworn in as attorney general. News breaks that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Servergy, a McKinney tech firm Paxton had invested in. In July, Paxton is indicted by a Collin County grand jury. In late August, Paxton pleads not guilty….

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders votes retallied in N.Y. House race with 12-vote margin, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 8, 2020. A New York state judge Tuesday ordered ballots retallied in one of the closest House races in history, which could leave the question of who will represent the 22nd Congressional District potentially unsettled into the new year.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Scott J. DelConte ordered officials in eight counties to recanvass ballots after a Monday hearing in which, according to media reports, he expressed frustration with lawyers for both incumbent Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D) and his Republican opponent, former congresswoman Claudia Tenney.

The decision to order a districtwide review, however, is good news for Brindisi, who currently trails by 12 votes under the most recent districtwide count. His lawyers had hoped to limit recounts to certain absentee ballot disputes, but DelConte ordered a full recanvass — wholly rejecting Tenney’s request that he simply order the election’s certification, setting aside alleged errors and newly found ballots.

 

Biden Transition

lloyd austin o

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to name retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary, Seung Min Kim, Annie Linskey, Dan Lamothe and John Hudson, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden plans to tap retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to be secretary of defense, according to three officials familiar with the decision. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black Pentagon chief.

Department of Defense SealAustin, 67, rose to become a four-star general in the Army and retired in 2016 as the chief of U.S. Central Command, a role from which he oversaw U.S. military operations across the Middle East for three years. His tenure there included the rise of the Islamic State, which began seizing cities in Iraq in 2014, and the U.S.-led military intervention to stop it.

The early days of the campaign against the Islamic State were marked by airstrikes and the United States building a coalition to roll back the militant group’s gains. It also included embarrassments, including a failed $500 million effort to train Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State.

The three officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose a decision that has not been made public. A spokesman for the transition declined to comment. Earlier Monday, as Biden left the Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., where he had held meetings with transition advisers, he told reporters he would unveil his secretary of defense on Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Michèle Flournoy Again Finds Her Shot at the Top Pentagon Job Elusive, Jennifer Steinhauer, Dec. 8, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to instead nominate retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III enraged many of the women Ms. Flournoy elevated from the trenches of national security policy.

Michèle A. Flournoy, below left, an experienced military policymaker and mentor to scores of women in national security, may now be remembered as the first female secretary of defense who wasn’t. Three times.

michele flournoyFor months Ms. Flournoy — who repeatedly sat at the center of heated disputes as the under secretary for policy at the Pentagon during the Obama administration — was widely believed around Washington to be a front-runner for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pick for the top job.

On Monday, however, aides to Mr. Biden revealed that he instead will nominate retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, a former commander of the American military effort in Iraq, to lead the Pentagon, deflating a narrative of inevitability that many around her sought to build even before Mr. Biden won. If confirmed, General Austin would be the first Black defense secretary in the nation’s history.

The decision enraged many of the women Ms. Flournoy elevated from the trenches of the male-dominated world of national security, who were hoping to see another woman in a prominent cabinet post.

Several people involved in or close to Mr. Biden’s transition team now say that the notion of Ms. Flournoy as the front-runner was mostly a product of an impressive lobbying campaign by her supporters — many but by no means all women — in public statements, published opinion pieces and tweets in recent weeks.

But even her supporters acknowledge that Ms. Flournoy’s WestExec consulting role, and her position as an adviser to the investment fund Pine Island Capital Partners, put her in the cross hairs of many liberal critics, something her business partner in those roles, Antony J. Blinken, seemed to escape Department of Defense Sealwhen Mr. Biden announced him as the nominee for secretary of state.

Another possible source of tension was that Mr. Biden differed greatly with many in the Obama White House over the surge in Afghanistan. In 2009, Ms. Flournoy, in her role as under secretary for policy to Robert M. Gates, the Pentagon chief at the time, met with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal at an airfield near Mons, Belgium, to hear the general make his case for a large troop increase in the region — something Mr. Biden, then the vice president, deeply and openly opposed.

The political conflict over that war, and statements criticizing Mr. Biden attributed to General McChrystal’s aides, would later cost General McChrystal his job as commander in Afghanistan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s choice to run the CDC is a respected specialist who is unafraid to speak her mind, Lena H. Sun, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). Rochelle Walensky’s research has long had a public health focus, but she has never run a government agency or organization as large and complex as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

cdc logo CustomPresident-elect Joe Biden’s choice to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a widely respected infectious-diseases specialist regarded as a strong communicator unafraid to speak her mind, qualities critical to returning the beleaguered public health agency to its traditional front-line role and to bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control.

But while Rochelle Walensky’s research has long had a public health focus, she has never run a government agency or organization as large and complex as the CDC.

rochelle walensky 2Walensky, 51, left, heads the infectious-diseases department at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the nation’s storied medical centers, and is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She has conducted pioneering research on HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on equity and access to treatment.

Her research has included topics such as the effectiveness of treatment in stopping HIV’s spread and cardiovascular disease among people receiving HIV medicine in South Africa.

The challenges in running the CDC are enormous. It was once the most admired public health agency in the world but has experienced a loss of institutional credibility during the Trump administration.

Axios Sneak Peek, Biden may start with ‘skeleton staff,’ Kadia Goba, Dec. 8, 2020. Joe Biden will likely start with a “skeleton staff” in the West Wing to keep him healthy after the Trump administration’s cavalier approach to the coronavirus, a White House support staffer familiar with the transition’s plans tells Axios’ Hans Nichols and Alexi McCammond.

Why it matters: The incoming president, at 78 the oldest to take office, is in a high-risk group and already careful to mask up.

• President Trump and numerous staffers have flouted safety protocols and caught COVID-19, meaning there will have to be some sort of deep cleaning for the White House residence and offices before the new team moves in.
The support staffer told Axios the White House is expected to be a “ghost town” immediately after Biden’s inauguration next month. Many staffers will work remotely or next door in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

• If tradition holds, Biden would spend at least the night before the inauguration at Blair House, the presidential guest house just across Pennsylvania Avenue.

• Harry Truman lived and worked there from 1948 to 1952 while the White House was being renovated.

• Biden spokespeople declined comment, but aides have noted that they worked remotely throughout the campaign and during the transition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 8, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

In making his selections Biden is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

Raw Story, Trump may have undermined Texas’s Hail Mary election lawsuit with a single tweet: law professor, Brad Reed, Dec. 9, 2020.  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton this week sued four key battleground states lost by President Donald Trump in the hopes of overturning the 2020 presidential election.

Legal experts have picked apart the lawsuit and have said it stands little chance of even being heard by the United States Supreme Court, let alone succeeding.

And according to University of Texas School of Law professor Stephen Vladeck, Trump may have further undermined an already-shaky case with a tweet that he posted on Wednesday morning.

Specifically, Trump tweeted that “we will be INTERVENING in the Texas case,” while also hyping up the Paxton lawsuit as “the big one.”
Take advantage of our limited time offer. Go ad-free for just $2 a week. Support independent journalism.

According to Vladeck, however, Trump intervening would harm the case’s chances of success.

“The central purpose of SCOTUS’s ‘original’ jurisdiction is for disputes between states that can’t be resolved elsewhere,” he explained. “Successful

 

Inside DC: Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative nonprofit group challenging election results around U.S. has tie to Trump legal adviser, Jon Swaine, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). A conservative legal organization that has filed lawsuits challenging the election results in five states has a tie to President Trump’s legal team, raising questions about the independence of what has appeared to be an endeavor separate from the president’s last-gasp legal maneuvering.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotSenior Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis, right, serves as special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which has filed lawsuits through the newly formed Amistad Project alleging problems with the vote in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Thomas More Society confirmed her relationship to the group but said she is playing no role in its election-related activities.

However, her affiliation with the organization — as well as other links between Trump’s team and the conservative group — suggest a coordinated effort to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that allows the president to claim the election results remain contested.

The first glimpse of the Amistad Project came late this summer, when the new legal outfit popped up in courts across the country, trying to stop county election officials from taking grants to bolster their operations amid the pandemic.

rnc logoAmistad’s lawsuits have asked courts to allow the Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states to appoint presidential electors — a strategy Trump and his legal team have urged state lawmakers around the country to embrace. Amistad sought to justify the plan in a paper published on Friday that railed against the conduct of election officials in “urban Democrat strongholds.”

Philip Hackney, a former IRS official and professor in nonprofit law at the University of Pittsburgh, said the Thomas More Society was “putting its tax-exempt status at risk” by partnering with partisan figures while bringing election litigation.

For Trump, the Amistad Project has served a key role in helping to keep alive his baseless claims that fraud corrupted the 2020 presidential race. The group’s efforts serve as a third front in the assault against the election results, alongside Trump’s own legal challenges and lawsuits filed by attorney Sidney Powell.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Can’t Handle the Truth, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). You shouldn’t be surprised that they’re still paul krugmanbacking Trump. President Trump’s continuing attempts to overturn an election he lost decisively more than a month ago is, like so much of what he’s done in office, shocking but not surprising. Who imagined that he would go quietly?

What some people may not have been fully prepared for is the way Trump’s party as a whole has backed his dangerous delusions. According to a survey by The Washington Post, only 27 Republican members of Congress are willing to say that Joe Biden won. Despite the complete lack of evidence of significant fraud, two-thirds of self-identified Republicans said in a Reuters/Ipsos poll that the election was rigged.

But you really shouldn’t be surprised by this willingness to indulge malicious, democracy-endangering lies. After all, when was the last time Republicans accepted a politically inconvenient fact? It has been clear for years that the modern G.O.P. is a party that can’t handle the truth.

Most obviously, Republican refusal to accept the election results follows months of refusal to acknowledge the dangers of the coronavirus, even as Covid-19 has become the nation’s leading cause of death, and even as a startling number of people in Trump’s orbit have been infected.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: No One Expects Civility From Republicans, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). What’s worse: making Sarah Sanders michelle goldberg thumbleave a restaurant, or terrorizing election officials?

Perhaps you remember the terrible ordeal suffered by the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the Red Hen in 2018. She was awaiting her entree at the Virginia farm-to-table restaurant when the co-owner, appalled by Sanders’s defense of Donald Trump’s administration, asked her to leave. This happened three days after the homeland security secretary at the time, Kirstjen Nielsen, was yelled at for the administration’s family separation policy as she tried to dine at a Mexican restaurant in Washington.

These two insults launched a thousand thumb-suckers about civility. More than one conservative writer warned liberals that the refusal to let Trump officials eat in peace could lead to Trump’s re-election. “The political question of the moment,” opined Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal, is this: ‘Can the Democratic Party control its left?’”

Somehow, though, few are asking the same question of Republicans as Trump devotees terrorize election workers and state officials over the president’s relentless lies about voter fraud.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Recertifies Its Results After 2nd Recount Affirmed Biden’s Victory, Richard Fausset, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). The announcement is the latest blow to President Trump’s attempts to subvert the election results in the state. Here’s the latest.

Georgia’s top election official said the state had “counted legally cast ballots three times, and the results remain unchanged.”

 

World News

ny times logojoe biden twitterNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Says No More Coddling Dictators. OK, Here’s Where to Start, Michael Wahid Hanna (senior fellow at the Century Foundation), Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). The United States has been far too lenient against Egypt’s brutal dictator.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to put democracy back on the agenda after four years of President Trump’s unapologetic coddling of dictators. Mr. Biden has promised to host a gathering of the world’s democracies to demonstrate his commitment to democratic values both abroad and at home. But will Mr. Biden go beyond rhetoric and gestures to making concrete policy?

If he is serious, there is an obvious place to begin: Egypt.

Mr. Biden will assume office at a time of multiple crises. A country where the regime appears stable, the relationship is well established, and there are no urgent security problems is unlikely to be high on his list of priorities. Still, there is good reason to start the push for democracy with Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sheikh Buys Stake in Israeli Team Infamous for Anti-Arab Fans, David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, Updated Dec. 8, 2020. Beitar Israel FlagJerusalem, a soccer team that has never fielded an Arab player and whose most extreme fans chant racist slurs, has an Emirati royal at its helm.

The barrier-shattering deal is among the first fruits of Israel’s nearly three-month-old normalization agreement with the Emirates and carries outsize symbolic importance: It puts a Muslim sheikh at the helm of Beitar Jerusalem, the only Israeli team that has never fielded an Arab player — and whose most extremist fans routinely chant virulent slurs like “Death to Arabs.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Chuck Yeager, Test Pilot Who Broke the Sound Barrier, Is Dead at 97, Richard Goldstein, Updated Dec. 8, 2020. A World War II fighter ace and Air Force general, he was, according to Tom Wolfe, “the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyers across the country urge bar associations to investigate Trump’s legal team, Alan Feuer, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). Arguing that “a license to practice law is not a license to lie,” nearly 1,500 lawyers issued a letter on Monday calling on bar associations across the country to investigate and, if needed, penalize the members of President Trump’s legal team, including the architect of his post-election strategy, Rudolph W. Giuliani, right.

rudy giuliani recent“It is indefensible for lawyers to falsely proclaim widespread voting fraud, submit a pattern of frivolous court claims and actively seek to undermine citizens’ faith in our election’s integrity,” said the letter, which was signed by several former judges, former federal prosecutors and law professors. “We condemn this conduct without reservation.”

The letter comes as Mr. Trump and his Republican allies have lost or withdrawn from nearly 50 legal challenges to this year’s election, including five in five different states within about three hours on Friday evening alone. Even so, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and those representing his Republican allies have continued filing lawsuits, igniting criticism that they are acting frivolously, even irresponsibly.

In their letter on Monday, the signers noted that Mr. Giuliani — who recently tested positive for Covid-19, according to President Trump — has made baseless arguments in public about “massive fraud” in the election, but has tempered his claims under questioning in court, saying he was not alleging fraud.

“Mr. Giuliani’s aim is obvious,” the letter said. “To fuel Mr. Trump’s campaign to delegitimize the outcome of the election.”

Among the signers were Philip Lacovera, a former deputy solictor general who worked on the case that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon; Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University; and Thomas Vanaskie, a former judge with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

The letter also took aim at another lawyer for Mr. Trump, Joseph DiGenova, who late last month publicly threatened Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who was fired by Mr. Trump after he declared that the 2020 elections were “the most secure in American history.”

During an interview on the conservative TV outlet Newsmax, Mr. DiGenova said that because of Mr. Krebs’s remarks he should be “taken out at dawn and shot.”

For the moment, only a handful of challenges to the election are still moving through the courts, including an emergency petition by Mike Kelly, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, requesting the Supreme Court hear his appeal of a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the state’s election results.

All of the remaining efforts are running out of time to succeed. On Tuesday, the nation will reach the so-called safe harbor deadline, the date by which all state-level election challenges are supposed to be completed.

Then on Dec. 14, the Electoral College will cast its votes, making any attempt to overturn the results of the election nearly impossible.

 michael flynn arms folded

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Flynn judge says pardon doesn’t mean ex-national security adviser is innocent, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 8, 2020 (continued from above).

In formally ending Flynn’s three-year legal saga, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said he probably would have denied the Justice Department’s controversial effort this year to drop the case, which Democrats and many legal experts said appeared to be an attempt by Attorney General William P. Barr to bend the rule of law to help a Trump ally.

emmet sullivan 2012Sullivan, left, expressed deep skepticism about the Justice Department’s stated reasons for abandoning the case, criticizing it for applying a different set of rules to Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of 2016 election interference.

The judge also said he was troubled by the government’s “dubious” rationales as well as aspects of its “ever-evolving justifications” that ignored applicable law, appeared to be irrelevant or to contradict prosecutors’ previous statements.

“President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot,” Sullivan wrote, adding: “However, the pardon ‘does not, standing alone, render [Mr. Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation.’ ”

The 43-page ruling delivered the court’s final say in the politically charged case, after the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense requested immediate dismissal following Trump’s “full and unconditional pardon” on Nov. 25. The action ensured that Flynn will not face federal penalties for “any and all possible offenses” arising from facts or circumstances “in any matter related” to Mueller’s Russia probe.

Read the opinion here.

Flynn, 61, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying in an FBI interview and to senior White House officials about the scope of his pre-inauguration conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after Moscow intervened to boost Trump in the 2016 U.S. election.

FBI logoFlynn, ousted from the White House after only 22 days on the job, was the only Trump White House adviser charged in Mueller’s investigation, and faced up to six months in prison under an initial plea deal.

But when Sullivan did not initially approve a sentence of probation that had the government’s blessing, Flynn changed defense teams and began accusing prosecutors and his former attorneys of entrapping and coercing him into pleading guilty despite his earlier sworn statements. Flynn moved in January to withdraw his guilty plea, and Barr ordered a review of the case that determined that the Justice Department should drop the prosecution.

djt handwave fileIn reversing course, the Justice Department concluded that Flynn’s lies were not material to any valid counterintelligence or criminal investigation. The government also said it doubted that it could persuade a jury to convict him since key FBI officials who led the probe into potential Trump campaign ties to Russia had been discredited.

Meet the judge who will decide Flynn’s case, one of the Justice Department’s most probing skeptics

In Tuesday’s opinion, Sullivan cast doubt on the government’s true reasons.

“As this case has progressed, President Trump has not hidden the extent of his interest in this case,” noting that Trump tweeted or retweeted about Flynn’s case at least 100 times. “Given this context, the new legal positions the government took … raise questions regarding its motives in moving to dismiss.”

Justice Department log circularThe president has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and embraced Flynn’s case as a rallying cry for his reelection campaign. For more than a year, Flynn attorney Sidney Powell has called the pursuit of Flynn a corrupt effort by the FBI and “deep-state” conspirators to “get Trump,” discussing the case several times with Trump, before taking a prominent legal role last month promoting Trump’s unsuccessful claims of voter fraud.

The judge also took issue with the government saying that Flynn had a “faulty memory” in defending his misstatements.

“Mr. Flynn is not just anyone; he was the National Security Advisor to the President, clearly in a position of trust, who claimed that he forgot, within less than a month, that he personally asked for a favor from the Russian Ambassador that undermined the policy of the sitting President prior to the President-Elect taking office,” Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the case upon the Barr Justice Department’s motion in May, instead tapping a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s position to help determine whether dismissal was in the public interest. The department argued that judges must dismiss prosecutions when the government and defense agree to do so, leading to an extraordinary legal battle that reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and raising questions about the power of the courts to check the executive branch.

With Flynn’s pardon, those questions may now go unanswered, but Sullivan on Tuesday strongly rejected the Justice Department’s argument, saying courts are not a “rubber stamp.”

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Prosecutors conceded at one point, he noted, that judges may act to protect the public against exceptional abuses by “rogue” prosecutors, such as the “corrupt dismissal of politically well-connected individuals.” But Sullivan said that narrow reading “fails to acknowledge the possibility that the ‘considered view of the Executive Branch as a whole’ could be contrary to the public interest.”

Similarly, the judge called the government’s “newly-minted” definition of “materiality” perplexing, “not the law” and an unexplained “about-face” from prior prosecutors’ position that Flynn’s lie’s were “absolutely material” and “went to the heart” of the FBI’s investigation.

Sullivan’s complaints echoed findings by a bipartisan Senate investigation that the Flynn-Kislyak talks were relevant to assessing “what Moscow sought to gain and the counterintelligence vulnerabilities” of Trump’s team.

The Justice Department inspector general found last year the FBI committed serious errors but had sufficient legal basis to open the criminal inquiry into whether individuals associated with Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russians.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Judge Sullivan hears legal arguments against Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. When Donald Trump granted a preemptive pardon to Michael Flynn, Palmer Report pointed out that it wasn’t a magic wand. There isn’t clear precedent as to whether preemptive pardons (for charges not yet brought) are constitutional, because they’ve never been properly challenged in court.

bill palmer report logo headerThey’ll surely be challenged during the course of Trump’s pardon spree, and we’ve been wondering if Judge Emmet Sullivan would initiate that process himself. After all, he’s been going out of his way to stop Bill Barr from sabotaging the Flynn case.

That prospect got a boost over the weekend when another Federal Judge, Reggie Walton, publicly urged Sullivan to consider ruling that Flynn’s pardon doesn’t apply to charges not yet brought. Sure enough, Sullivan announced today that he’ll hear friend of the court amicus briefs from legal experts who are arguing that Flynn’s pardon isn’t valid for charges that haven’t been brought yet.

There’s no roadmap for where this is headed. But we now have confirmation that Judge Sullivan is at least considering formal arguments against the scope of Flynn’s pardon. This could open the door for the DOJ to hit Flynn with additional criminal charges once Trump is gone.

ny times logoNew York Times, As His Term Ends, Trump Faces More Questions on Payments to His Hotel, Eric Lipton, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). A civil case being pursued by the attorney general for the District of Columbia considers whether President Trump and his family have profited from the office.

It was a month before Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, and one of his aides had a delicate question: Wasn’t there going to be a backlash when it became known that the inauguration had spent donors’ money at Mr. Trump’s hotel in Washington, even though other places would cost much less or even be free?

“These are events in P.E.’s honor at his hotel, and one of them is with and for family and close friends,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, then an event planner for Mr. Trump, wrote in an email to a colleague in December 2016, referring to Mr. Trump as the president-elect and saying she raised the issue to “express my concern.”

djt mouth openAs Mr. Trump’s presidency comes to a close, expenditures like those are receiving renewed legal scrutiny in the form of a civil case being pursued by the attorney general for the District of Columbia.

At the heart of the case is a question — whether Mr. Trump and his family have profited from his public role, sometimes at the expense of taxpayers, competitors and donors — that has been a persistent theme of his tenure in the White House.

More than 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments patronized Mr. Trump’s properties during his presidency while reaping benefits from him and his administration. Sixty of them spent $12 million at his properties during the first two years he was in office.

The Trump family business has received millions of dollars in payments by the Secret Service, the State Department and the United States military to Trump properties around the country and the world. The president has visited his properties on at least 417 days since taking office, at times with world leaders. And he and his affiliated political committees spent more than $6.5 million in campaign funds at his hotels and other businesses since 2017, including a million-dollar final burst in the weeks before the election last month.

In the lawsuit now moving forward, Attorney General Karl A. Racine of Washington is arguing that Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee illegally overpaid his family business by as much as $1.1 million for events held at the Trump International Hotel in the city in January 2017. Ivanka Trump was deposed in the case last week.

Questions about spending, influence and lobbying around the 2017 inaugural have also drawn scrutiny from federal prosecutors from two different offices in New York, with charges filed against at least one donor.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lindsey Graham floats last ditch scheme to keep himself and Donald Trump out of prison, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. What do Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham have in common? They’re both traitors who are trying to figure out how to keep themselves out of prison. Trump has committed every crime under the sun and is a lock for prison in New York State, no matter what the DOJ does or doesn’t do to him. Graham has been caught committing felony election tampering in multiple states, and also has to worry about being locked up.

bill palmer report logo headerSo it’s no surprise that Graham, the current head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is now publicly threatening to reject any Biden Attorney General nominee who is planning to investigate Trump’s crimes. It’s not difficult to figure out why Graham is doing this; he’s afraid an aggressive AG will prosecute him as well.

This makes it more important than ever that the Democrats win the Georgia runoffs and take control of the Senate, so President Biden can have the cabinet nominees he deserves.

 

Dec. 7

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

Inside DC: Investigations

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

U.S. Media

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump rants over election, his administration accelerates push to lock in policy and staffing gains, David Nakamura, Juliet Eilperin and Lisa Rein, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). The rush has come despite the president’s relative inattention to governing since his electoral defeat last month, driven in part by ideologically minded aides, including Cabinet members eager to burnish their own legacies.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump last week recorded a 46-minute video rant regurgitating a litany of baseless accusations of election fraud.

Yet even as Trump has been consumed with his waning political fortunes in a desperate attempt to retain power, his administration has accelerated efforts to lock in last-minute policy gains and staffing assignments that it hopes will help cement the president’s legacy and live on past Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

Last week, for example, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adopted a longer and more difficult citizenship test that critics said could further curb legal immigration. The Pentagon named 11 new members, including a pair of prominent former Trump campaign aides, to a Defense Department business advisory board. And the president signed an executive order drafted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy aimed at protecting civil liberties in the use of artificial intelligence by the federal government.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn’t act’ on a stimulus plan, Senator Mark Warner said, Luke Broadwater and Hailey Fuchs, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). A bipartisan group of senators on Sunday made the case for a $908 billion stimulus proposal that they argued would break the stalemate in Congress over delivering additional economic relief to Americans battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

mark warnerSenator Mark Warner, right, Democrat of Virginia and one of the lawmakers who created the plan, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the number of senators backing the proposal “goes up every day.”

“It would be stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn’t act,” Mr. Warner said, adding that he predicted a few more “days of drama” before the deal gained enough support to pass both chambers.

The proposal, spearheaded by two centrist senators, Joe Manchin III, left, Democrat of West Virginia, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has yet to be endorsed by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of Dick ShelbyCalifornia, has been more encouraging, saying it should serve as the “basis” for negotiations.

Intended as a stopgap measure to last until March, the plan would restore federal unemployment benefits that lapsed over the summer, but at half the rate, providing $300 a week for 18 weeks, and would provide $160 billion to help state, local and tribal governments facing fiscal ruin — a fraction of what Democrats had sought. Also included was $288 billion to help small businesses and a short-term federal liability shield from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The proposal does not include another round of $1,200 checks for most Americans.

Mr. Warner pushed back against criticism from the left over the liability provision, which was meant to last just four months while states come up with their own proposals. Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, had criticized the plan as a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for corporations, but Mr. Warner said Mr. Sanders was “not involved in these negotiations, and his characterization is just not accurate.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Armed protesters alleging voter fraud surrounded the home of Michigan’s secretary of state, Katie Shepherd, Dec. 7, 2020. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had just finished wrapping string lights around her home’s portico on Saturday evening and was about to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with her 4-year-old son when a crowd of protesters marched up carrying American flags and guns.

About two dozen protesters chanted “Stop the Steal” and accused Benson, a Democrat and Michigan’s chief election officer, of ignoring widespread voter fraud — an echo of President Trump’s continued unfounded claims as he seeks to overturn the results of the election that President-elect Joe Biden won.

“She’s decided to completely ignore all of the credible, credible, fraudulent evidence that has been continually pointed out,” demonstrator Genevieve Peters said of Benson, as she live-streamed the protest in Detroit on Facebook. “We’re out here in front of the secretary of state’s house and we want her to know we will continue to be here.”

Although the group dispersed with no arrests when police responded just before 10 p.m. Saturday, Michigan state officials accused the group of “terrorizing” Benson’s family.

“They shouted baseless conspiracy theories about the election, and in videos uploaded to social media, at least one individual could be heard shouting ‘you’re murderers’ within earshot of her child’s bedroom,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy (D) said in a joint statement on Sunday. “This mob-like behavior is an affront to basic morality and decency.”

They added that “terrorizing children and families at their own homes is not activism.”

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Existential Peril’: Mass Transit Faces Huge Service Cuts Across U.S., Christina Goldbaum and Will Wright, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Reeling from the pandemic, transit agencies across the U.S. are grappling with drastic reductions in ridership and pleading for help from Washington. The profound cuts agencies are contemplating could hobble the recoveries of major cities where reliable transit is a lifeblood of the local economies.

In Boston, transit officials warned of ending weekend service on the commuter rail and shutting down the city’s ferries. In Washington, weekend and late-night metro service would be eliminated and 19 of the system’s 91 stations would close. In Atlanta, 70 of the city’s 110 bus routes have already been suspended, a move that could become permanent.

And in New York City, home to the largest mass transportation system in North America, transit officials have unveiled a plan that could slash subway service by 40 percent and cut commuter rail service in half.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: All Eyes Are on the U.K. As It Readies for a Mass Vaccination Drive, Staff reports, United Kingdom flagDec. 7, 2020.  Health care workers in Britain will begin rolling out inoculations of a virus vaccine on Tuesday, aiming to vaccinate more than 20 million citizens. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said indoor dining could be barred in New York City as soon as Monday. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Christmas could lead to more virus spread than Thanksgiving, Fauci says, Teo Armus, Erin Cunningham,
Brittany Shammas, Marisa Iati, Siobhán O’Grady and Hamza Shaban, Dec. 7, 2020. A misunderstanding at an Australian airport prompted 174 people to self-quarantine; ‘A lost generation’: Surge of research reveals students sliding backward, most vulnerable worst affected; Top CEOs expect sales boost next year; urge Congress to deliver aid; Second-largest U.S. school district suspends in-person learning.

Anthony S. Fauci warned Monday that Christmas celebrations could facilitate the spread of the virus even more than Thanksgiving, because Christmas gatherings often start several days before the holiday and continue through New Year’s.

“I think it could be even more of a challenge than what we saw with Thanksgiving,” Fauci told CNN’s “New Day,” and noted that this is a “very critical” time in the United States.

Health officials are scrambling to apply the lessons from a Thanksgiving holiday weekend in which millions defied pleas not to travel. The country on Wednesday surpassed 200,000 new infections in a single day and topped 100,000 covid-19 patients hospitalized.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Huge Regions in California Are Forced to Shut Down, Staff reports, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Much of the state will be under stay-at-home orders as of late Sunday night, as it tries to control an accelerating virus surge; Nationally, 205, 513 new cases were reported on Dec. 5. Here’s the latest.

Much of California will be under stay-at-home orders as of late Sunday night — with outdoor dining and bars shuttered, schools closed and playgrounds roped off — as the state tries to control an accelerating coronavirus surge and head off a catastrophic shortage of intensive care beds.

gavin newsom headshot CustomUnder orders issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, regions are to be placed under the new restrictions once their intensive care unit availability falls below 15 percent. The governor has warned that without drastic action, hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.

On Saturday, two regions hit the I.C.U. threshold and learned that at 11:59 p.m. Sunday they would have to begin complying with the stay-at-home orders for at least three weeks: Southern California was at 12.5 percent, and the San Joaquin Valley at 8.6 percent. Together, the regions are home to more than half of California’s population of 40 million.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 7, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 67,393,283, Deaths: 1,541,747
U.S. Cases:   15,159,529, Deaths:    288,906

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 7, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Trump Says, Maggie Haberman, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and President Trump’s personal and campaign lawyer, has tested positive for the coronavirus, Mr. Trump announced on Twitter on Sunday.

djt rudy giuliani“@RudyGiuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus. Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Giuliani was at Georgetown University Medical Center, according to a person who was aware of his condition but not authorized to speak publicly.

Mr. Giuliani has repeatedly been exposed to the virus through contact with infected people, including during Mr. Trump’s preparation for his first debate against President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in September, as well as when he appeared with his son, Andrew, at a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters about two weeks ago. But Mr. Giulani had not been said to have contracted the virus until now.

It was unclear why Mr. Trump was the one announcing it. It was also unclear whether Mr. Giuliani, 76, is symptomatic. But at his age, he is in the high-risk category for the virus.

Palmer Report, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis raids house of scientist who exposed his COVID coverup, Bill Palmer, Dec. 7, 2020. In a profoundly disturbing ron desantis odevelopment, Florida’s criminal Governor Ron DeSantis, right, had law enforcement raid scientist Rebekah Jones’ house at gunpoint today. Her crime: she dared to bill palmer report logo headerpost data exposing DeSantis’ effort to cover up the coronavirus pandemic in Florida.

Ron DeSantis has to go to prison for this. He’s carrying out acts of terrorism against whistleblowers. In fact DeSantis has to go to prison for life. This isn’t merely corruption; it’s domestic terrorism.

NBC News, Former Alabama senator dies of Covid at age 78, and in his last words warns, ‘We messed up,’ Wilson Wong, Dec. 7, 2020. A former Alabama NBC News logostate senator died of Covid-19 last week at age 78, officials said.

“We let our guards down. Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately,” former Sen. Larry Dixon said.

Former Sen. Larry Dixon, a Republican who also served as the executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, died from Covid-19 on Dec. 4, the board said in a statement on Friday.

Dr. David Thrasher, a close friend of Dixon and a pulmonologist in Montgomery, told NBC News that Dixon’s wife, Gaynell Dixon, told Thrasher that his last words to her were a prescient warning to the people of Alabama.

“We messed up, we let our guard down,” Dixon said, according to Thrasher. “Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately.”

Thrasher said his friend was exposed to the virus at a social gathering “with a couple of guys” that was hosted outside about two weeks ago. Thrasher said he was unsure how many people attended, but he said he knew of two other men who attended the meetup and tested positive.

Thrasher said he treated Dixon for early Covid-19 symptoms a few days after the social gathering. As his condition worsened, the former senator was placed on a ventilator, according to Thrasher

Dixon’s wife, Gaynell also tested positive for Covid-19 last week and is still recovering, Thrasher said. According to Thrasher, Dixon’s two daughters contracted the virus earlier this year, but have since recovered and have not been reinfected since their parents’ diagnosis.

 

Biden Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Picks Xavier Becerra to Lead Health and Human Services, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). The selection of Mr. Becerra, the California attorney general, is a surprise. If confirmed, he will face a daunting challenge in leading the department at a critical moment in the pandemic.

xavier becerra twitterPresident-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Xavier Becerra, right, a former congressman who is now the Democratic attorney general of California, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services, ending a politically delicate search that brought complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus about a lack of Latinos in the incoming cabinet.

Health-and-human-services-logo.pngMr. Becerra became Mr. Biden’s clear choice only over the last few days, according to people familiar with the transition’s deliberations, and was a surprise. He has carved out a profile more on the issues of criminal justice, immigration and tax policy, and he was long thought to be a candidate for attorney general.

But as attorney general in California, he led legal efforts on health care, including seeking to protect the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by Republican attorneys general. He has also been a leading voice in the Democratic Party for women’s health.

If confirmed, he will immediately face a daunting task in leading the department at a critical moment during a pandemic that has killed more than 281,000 people in the United States — and one that has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

 

Inside DC: Investigations

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Erik Prince, Back in action for the Pentagon, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 7, 2020. Erik Prince, left, the founder of the discredited former mercenary firm Blackwater USA and brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has apparently landed a major secret Pentagon erik princecontract for mercenary services in Africa.

The announcement of the contract was practically simultaneous with Donald Trump’s order to withdraw some 7,000 U.S. military personnel from Somalia. The moves by Trump and the Pentagon, which has seen several Trump loyalists embedded in key positions after Trump’s firing of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other Pentagon officials on November 9, is yet another monetization of government services by Trump and his grifter supporters prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bye bye, Betsy DeVos, Robert Harrington, Dec. 7, 2020. There are three ways to get rich from what’s variously called a multilevel robert harringtnn portraitmarketing or network marketing or referral marketing scheme. Whatever option you have available to you, your wealth will come as the direct result of suckers who will start poor and stay that way.

I prefer to call these companies pyramid schemes or Ponzi schemes, because that’s what they actually are. They’re zero sum games with lots and lots of losers and damned few winners. They all have cult-like followings and multiply faster than rabbits. They are aberrations in the world of otherwise legitimate business.

bill palmer report logo headerBetsy DeVos is an heiress of one of these scams called called Amway. DeVos is the outgoing Secretary of Education, one of a handful of Trump cabinet appointments who is sufficiently evil and conscienceless to have lasted Trump’s entire first and only term. She will be gone in January, and the anticipatory champagne corks have been popping across the land and in the homes of American educators on that account. Public school educators despise her, and for good reason.

betsy devos oDeVos, right, is notorious for rolling back and rewriting Obama-era guidance and regulations, including those that protect the rights of transgender students, students of color and survivors of campus sexual assault. She also revoked higher education regulations that curb bad actors in the for-profit college sector. She blocked the discharging of student loan debt for borrowers who were defrauded by unscrupulous lenders.

DeVos has consistently shown herself to be a friend of the filthy rich elite and the enemy of the voiceless, working class, little guy. Betsy DeVos is a woman of legendary tone deafness who is almost absurdly incompetent. Her departure is being universally praised and celebrated by jill biden headshot whalmost all teachers of both parties.

Above all, DeVos, an evangelical Christian, ignored the needs of America’s public schools to “build God’s kingdom” instead. Throughout her tenure she has actively promoted private evangelical schools — the province of the rich, white elite — over poor, inner city schools. Most recently, DeVos used the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to redirect money intended for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools instead.

Fortunately, as a bonus counterweight to DeVos’ departure, the incoming First Lady, Jill Biden, left, is an intelligent and talented educator. Unlike the outgoing First Lady, Dr. Biden has actually worked for a living.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

Axios Sneak Peek, Nightly lookahead from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops, Alayna Treene, Dec. 6, 2020. 1) President Trump is considering a made-for-TV grand finale: a White House departure on Marine One and final Air Force One flight to Florida for a political rally opposite Joe President Donald Trump officialBiden’s inauguration, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: The former network star is privately discussing using his waning powers as commander in chief to order up the exit he wants after dissing Biden by refusing to concede the election, welcome him to the White House or commit to attending his inauguration.

The big picture: The Trump talk could create a split-screen moment: the outgoing president addressing a roaring crowd in an airport hangar while the incoming leader is sworn in before a socially distanced audience outside the Capitol, as NBC News first reported.

Other news: 2) “Amtrak Joe’s” inaugural arrival. There’s talk within Bidenworld of the president-elect ditching the typical flourish of arriving in Washington on an Air Force plane, pulling in instead on the same Amtrak train he rode to and from Delaware for 30 years as a senator.

Why it matters: A train trip would be very on-brand for “Amtrak Joe.” It also would mirror Barack Obama, who rode into Washington on a vintage railcar in January 2009.

3) The only Trump thing Biden wants to keep: Biden disagrees with most of President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, but several of his advisers tell Axios’ Barak Ravid and me that there is one he plans to keep: the Abraham Accords.

Why it matters: Continuing to push the Abraham Accords — the biblical branding the administration has given to the individual normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — could help Biden build positive relationships with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders in the Persian Gulf.

4. Tracking Biden’s Cabinet nominees. We’ll be updating this chart as Joe Biden continues to announce nominees for top administration roles. Bookmark this link for more.

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia governor rebuffs Trump’s call for special session to overturn election results, top official says, Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Georgia’s governor will not call a special session of the state’s legislature to overturn the election results in President Trump’s favor, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) said Sunday.

brian kemp 2019 CustomIn an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Duncan said he “absolutely” believes that Gov. Brian Kemp (R), right, won’t accede to Trump’s demand that he persuade the state legislature to appoint electors who would override the popular vote and nullify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

“We’re certainly not going to move the goal posts at this point in the election,” Duncan said.

cnn logoThe lieutenant governor also weighed in on Trump’s Saturday night rally in the state. He said he was encouraged by the parts of the speech in which the president urged his supporters to vote for Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in Senate runoff elections next month that could decide which party controls the upper chamber.

But Duncan said Trump’s fanning of the flames around misinformation was “concerning,” pointing to the president’s repeated false claims that he won the election and that the election was “stolen.”

“The mountains of misinformation are not helping the process; they’re only hurting it,” Duncan said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The devil came down to Georgia, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 7, 2020. The devil came down to Georgia. He was looking for an election to steal. He called out to Governor Kemp to help his scheme, but Kemp refused his deal. So continues the saga of the man who cannot and will not admit he lost.

bill palmer report logo headerAs many Republicans feared, Trump did not come to Georgia to help Perdue and Loeffler win their races. He came to continue to push Governor Kemp to do something to overturn the election results in Georgia, even if it meant breaking the law. Trump is no stranger to breaking the law, so this comes as no surprise. It is obvious that Trump has lost what was left of his mind.

The runoffs will go forward on January 5, regardless of what Trump thinks and despite any craziness he continues to put out in the universe. While Trump finally told the crowd they should go out and vote for Loeffler and Perdue, his “lawyers” Lin Wood and Sydney Powell held their own rally, encouraging Republicans not to vote on January 5. Taking advantage of Republican stupidity, a progressive PAC has erected a billboard in Georgia: “Perdue/Loeffler didn’t deliver for Trump. DON’T deliver for them.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia Senate debate: Warnock and Loeffler argue over coronavirus relief, police funding, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). kelly loeffler o CustomRepublican Sen. Kelly Loeffler repeatedly declined to say who won the 2020 election during Sunday’s debate in one of the U.S. Senate races in Georgia that will determine the balance of power in Washington.

Loeffler, right, was asked about President Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud in Georgia at least five times and ducked at every turn, highlighting the challenge she faces as she tries to court Trump supporters — and the president — without directly repeating his false claims that hundreds of thousands of votes were tainted by fraud in Georgia.

The debate between Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock aired on CNN, reflecting the national focus on a race that has been inundated with money, resources and star power. Fittingly, the event featured repeated mentions of polarizing figures such as Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), former state lawmaker Stacey Abrams and Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Next up for Never Trumpers, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 7, 2020. The first and essential goal for Never Trumpers — the general jennifer rubin new headshotdescription for the loose affiliation of former Republicans and anti-Trump Republicans who worked on behalf of President-elect Joe Biden — was accomplished with the defeat of President Trump. That was the overriding objective for the past four years. Having succeeded, however, Never Trumpers’ work has just begun.

For starters, whether they now identify as independents, as Democrats or as Republicans in exile, Never Trumpers can offer assistance and counsel to Democrats based on their lifetime of experience “on the other side.”

During the campaign, that took the form of Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump ads. That can continue into the 2022 election cycle, as Never Trumpers work to complete the task of eradicating today’s GOP (more about that in a minute) by helping to defeat Trump toadies such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

Never Trumpers can also bring the best of the conservative sensibility to public debate, namely an awareness of the risk of unintended consequences, an appreciation for federalism (as a way of maneuvering around Republican obstructionists in Congress) and a deep appreciation of the necessity of America’s international leadership (in contrast to isolationists on the right and left). At its best, conservatism is not a laundry list of policy positions but a set of preferences — for compromise, for partnership with civil society, for executive branch restraint.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Declines to Tighten Soot Rules, Despite Link to Covid Deaths, Coral Davenport, Dec. 7, 2020. Experts say the E.P.A.’s decision defies scientific research showing that particulate pollution contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths annually.

The Trump administration on Monday declined to tighten controls on industrial soot emissions, disregarding an emerging scientific link between dirty air and Covid-19 death rates.

In one of the final policy moves of an administration that has spent the past four years weakening or rolling back more than 100 environmental regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency completed a regulation that keeps in place the current rules on tiny, lung-damaging industrial particles, known as PM 2.5, instead of strengthening them, even though the agency’s own scientists have warned of the links between the pollutants and respiratory illness.

 

World News

ny times logojoe biden twitterNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Says No More Coddling Dictators. OK, Here’s Where to Start, Michael Wahid Hanna (senior fellow at the Century Foundation), Dec. 7, 2020. The United States has been far too lenient against Egypt’s brutal dictator.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to put democracy back on the agenda after four years of President Trump’s unapologetic coddling of dictators. Mr. Biden has promised to host a gathering of the world’s democracies to demonstrate his commitment to democratic values both abroad and at home. But will Mr. Biden go beyond rhetoric and gestures to making concrete policy?

If he is serious, there is an obvious place to begin: Egypt.

Mr. Biden will assume office at a time of multiple crises. A country where the regime appears stable, the relationship is well established, and there are no urgent security problems is unlikely to be high on his list of priorities. Still, there is good reason to start the push for democracy with Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.

washington post logonicolas maduro customWashington Post, Maduro consolidates power in Venezuela, wins election boycotted by opposition, Ana Vanessa Herrero, U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his allies declined to seek reelection, saying they didn’t trust the authoritarian Nicolás Maduro, right, to hold a fair vote.

The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader. Trump administration officials and advisers to President-elect Joe Biden say they’ll continue to do so after Sunday’s vote. Guaidó says he’ll remain in the country after his term ends Jan. 5.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brexit negotiators ‘very gloomy’ over trade deal, with talks on ‘knife’s edge.’ Again, William Booth and Michael Birnbaum, Dec. 7, 2020. Though Britain officially left the E.U. in January, it didn’t quite leave. What it did was begin an 11-month transition period, which ends midnight on Dec. 31.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyers across the country urge bar associations to investigate Trump’s legal team, Alan Feuer, Dec. 7, 2020. Arguing that “a license to practice law is not a license to lie,” nearly 1,500 lawyers issued a letter on Monday calling on bar associations across the country to investigate and, if needed, penalize the members of President Trump’s legal team, including the architect of his post-election strategy, Rudolph W. Giuliani, right.

rudy giuliani recent“It is indefensible for lawyers to falsely proclaim widespread voting fraud, submit a pattern of frivolous court claims and actively seek to undermine citizens’ faith in our election’s integrity,” said the letter, which was signed by several former judges, former federal prosecutors and law professors. “We condemn this conduct without reservation.”

The letter comes as Mr. Trump and his Republican allies have lost or withdrawn from nearly 50 legal challenges to this year’s election, including five in five different states within about three hours on Friday evening alone. Even so, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and those representing his Republican allies have continued filing lawsuits, igniting criticism that they are acting frivolously, even irresponsibly.

In their letter on Monday, the signers noted that Mr. Giuliani — who recently tested positive for Covid-19, according to President Trump — has made baseless arguments in public about “massive fraud” in the election, but has tempered his claims under questioning in court, saying he was not alleging fraud.

“Mr. Giuliani’s aim is obvious,” the letter said. “To fuel Mr. Trump’s campaign to delegitimize the outcome of the election.”

Among the signers were Philip Lacovera, a former deputy solictor general who worked on the case that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon; Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University; and Thomas Vanaskie, a former judge with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

The letter also took aim at another lawyer for Mr. Trump, Joseph DiGenova, who late last month publicly threatened Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who was fired by Mr. Trump after he declared that the 2020 elections were “the most secure in American history.”

During an interview on the conservative TV outlet Newsmax, Mr. DiGenova said that because of Mr. Krebs’s remarks he should be “taken out at dawn and shot.”

For the moment, only a handful of challenges to the election are still moving through the courts, including an emergency petition by Mike Kelly, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, requesting the Supreme Court hear his appeal of a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the state’s election results.

All of the remaining efforts are running out of time to succeed. On Tuesday, the nation will reach the so-called safe harbor deadline, the date by which all state-level election challenges are supposed to be completed.

Then on Dec. 14, the Electoral College will cast its votes, making any attempt to overturn the results of the election nearly impossible.

ny times logoNew York Times, As His Term Ends, Trump Faces More Questions on Payments to His Hotel, Eric Lipton, Dec. 7, 2020. A civil case being pursued by the attorney general for the District of Columbia considers whether President Trump and his family have profited from the office.

It was a month before Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, and one of his aides had a delicate question: Wasn’t there going to be a backlash when it became known that the inauguration had spent donors’ money at Mr. Trump’s hotel in Washington, even though other places would cost much less or even be free?

“These are events in P.E.’s honor at his hotel, and one of them is with and for family and close friends,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, then an event planner for Mr. Trump, wrote in an email to a colleague in December 2016, referring to Mr. Trump as the president-elect and saying she raised the issue to “express my concern.”

As Mr. Trump’s presidency comes to a close, expenditures like those are receiving renewed legal scrutiny in the form of a civil case being pursued by the attorney general for the District of Columbia.

At the heart of the case is a question — whether Mr. Trump and his family have profited from his public role, sometimes at the expense of taxpayers, competitors and donors — that has been a persistent theme of his tenure in the White House.

More than 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments patronized Mr. Trump’s properties during his presidency while reaping benefits from him and his administration. Sixty of them spent $12 million at his properties during the first two years he was in office.

The Trump family business has received millions of dollars in payments by the Secret Service, the State Department and the United States military to Trump properties around the country and the world. The president has visited his properties on at least 417 days since taking office, at times with world leaders. And he and his affiliated political committees spent more than $6.5 million in campaign funds at his hotels and other businesses since 2017, including a million-dollar final burst in the weeks before the election last month.

In the lawsuit now moving forward, Attorney General Karl A. Racine of Washington is arguing that Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee illegally overpaid his family business by as much as $1.1 million for events held at the Trump International Hotel in the city in January 2017. Ivanka Trump was deposed in the case last week.

Questions about spending, influence and lobbying around the 2017 inaugural have also drawn scrutiny from federal prosecutors from two different offices in New York, with charges filed against at least one donor.

Twitter, Analysis of Supreme Court requests for briefs on Pennsylivania’s presidential balloting, Stephen Vladeck (right, University of Texas law professor), Dec. 6, stephen vladeck resized2020. A lot of reactions today to Justice Alito moving up the deadline for PA to respond to @MikeKellyPA’s application for an emergency injunction to throw out PA’s certification of its presidential electors.

Here’s a quick #thread on why none of this matters—or is going to matter:

First, there’s the obvious point: Even if this gambit somehow succeeds (spoiler: it won’t), the worst-case scenario is that PA’s electoral votes get tossed.

In that case, Biden would *still* receive 286 electoral votes when the Electoral College votes on 12/14. He needs 270.

3. Now, let’s get to why the Kelly suit isn’t going anywhere. First, it was dismissed by the PA Supreme Court based upon a state procedural bar (“laches”). #SCOTUS does not have jurisdiction to review state court decisions that rest on such “independent and adequate” state rules.

djt looking up

Palmer Report, Opinion: The principal reason Donald Trump belongs in prison, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 6, 2020. I have infinite respect for Dr. Mary L. Trump, robert harringtnn portraitDonald Trump’s niece. I read with fascination her book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. We are fortunate that a woman who grew up to be a first rate trained psychologist was at Donald Trump’s elbow for so many of his formative years. She is to the history of Trump what the Watergate tapes were to Nixon, or the Zapruder film was to the Kennedy assassination. She was there, she witnessed the formation (and the formulation) of the monster. Dr. Trump has the qualities, intelligence and qualifications to relate and interpret what and how Donald Trump happened.

But when it comes to the central reason why Donald Trump must go to prison I think Dr. Trump, for all her perspicacity, widely misses the point. In fact I think most commentators on the tragedy that is Donald Trump and the Trump presidency miss the point.

bill palmer report logo headerIn a recent interview, Dr. Trump said, “It’s quite frankly insulting to be told time after time that the American people can’t handle [the prosecution of Trump] and that we just need to move on.” I can’t argue with her there. But then she gave her reason: “If anybody deserves to be prosecuted and tried, it’s Donald. [Otherwise] we just leave ourselves open to somebody who, believe it or not, is even worse than he is.”

While that’s all true enough, and I can’t dispute it, it’s not the principal reason Donald Trump belongs in prison. The principal reason Trump needs to go to jail is one I made in passing in the last article I wrote to you, brothers and sisters. So vital is that point that I think it requires it’s very own article.

djt prison palmer reportDonald Trump must go to prison not merely because we must discourage future monsters who may be worse, he must go to prison because we do not have the right not to send him there. We do not have the right to forgive him for the crimes he has committed against other people.

Think of it yourself. Imagine someone has harmed you very deeply, so deeply in fact, that the harm he has done to you has ruined your life, or destroyed the life of someone you love. Now imagine if I came along and ostentatiously forgave that person, completely absolved them of any wrongdoing they may have committed against you. Wouldn’t that seem to you the pinnacle of arrogance and conceit? Wouldn’t you wonder how dare I do such a thing and — more to the point — who the hell do I think I am that I should do such a thing, that I should so presumptuously arrogate such a power to myself? Wouldn’t you even go so far as to think I am committing a crime just as bad, or at least in the same league, as the man I so conspicuously absolved?

Of course you would. You would feel your heartfelt cry for justice he’s been ignored, rejected, smothered in a blanket of self-righteous goo and sentimental self-congratulation.

By forgiving Trump we would be committing a grave injustice to more than a quarter of million men and women Trump has murdered through negligence, the thousands of family businesses he’s ruined, the 545 immigrant children he has permanently separated from their parents, the dozens of women Trump has sexually assaulted and raped, the hundreds, or even thousands of Americans and their families Trump has put in fear of their lives with angry Tweets because they were “guilty” of insulting him, or insufficiently praising him, or not going far enough in assisting him in his criminal endeavors.

What hubris it would be for us to ignore justice for such a man! What arrogance would be ours to then slap ourselves on the backs with smug approbation and call ourselves peacemakers! We have no such right. We must, at the very least, try to send Donald Trump to prison — and we have no right not to.

Yes, we need to prevent another Trump. Yes, we need to send a message that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. Yes, we need to prosecute Trump because the law demands it, that no free society can hope to survive without the rule of law. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

But above all, we must avenge the millions of Americans Donald Trump has harmed, the ones he harmed insolently, thoughtlessly, without remorse, without so much as an afterthought. He has harmed and killed Americans with elitist indifference, as if it’s his birthright and we are all nothing by comparison. Justice must be done. Justice cries out from the ground for the voiceless Donald Trump has destroyed. Justice must be done if only for the reason that we have no right to contemplate anything less than justice, and for that reason alone we have no choice but to do our duty. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: No, President Trump can’t pardon himself, J. Michael Luttig, Dec. 7, 2020. J. Michael Luttig served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals (1991-2006) and as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department (1990-1991).

In June 2018, in the throes of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, the president claimed “the absolute right to PARDON myself,” citing “numerous legal scholars.”

The president was correct that some scholars have reached that conclusion. But those scholars are wrong. The president has no right under the Constitution to pardon himself.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, The NFL probe of D.C’s football team has uncovered a years-old confidential settlement. A former team lawyer wants it kept secret, Beth Reinhard, Liz Clarke and Will Hobson, Dec. 7, 2020. An emergency motion filed Monday said Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder plans to intervene in a legal dispute over which details surrounding the settlement, from a decade ago, can become public.

The NFL’s investigation into allegations of workplace sexual harassment at the Washington Football Team uncovered a confidential settlement from a decade ago, court records show, and an emergency motion filed Monday said team owner Daniel Snyder plans to intervene in a legal dispute over which beth wilkinsondetails surrounding the settlement can become public.

nfl logoThe name of the complainant in the settlement, that person’s job and the nature of the allegations have not been made public, but the available records show lawyer Beth Wilkinson, left, who is leading the league’s probe into the team’s workplace, encountering resistance from the team’s former lawyer.

David P. Donovan, who served as the team’s general counsel from 2005 to 2011, sued Wilkinson last month in federal court in Virginia to stop her from disclosing information pertaining to a 2009 confidential agreement to which Donovan is a party. In the suit filed Nov. 9, Donovan sought to keep private all court records, including any public notice of the lawsuit itself, arguing that making the proceedings public would “undermine public confidence in the enforceability of confidential agreements between private parties.” That request was denied Nov. 17.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bob Dylan Sells His Songwriting Catalog in Blockbuster Deal, Ben Sisario, Dec. 7, 2020. Universal Music purchased Bob Dylan’s songwriting catalog, including classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

The deal, which covers Dylan’s entire career, from his earliest tunes to his latest album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” was struck directly with Dylan, 79, who has long controlled the vast majority of his own songwriting copyrights. The price was not disclosed, but is estimated at more than $300 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, FCC announces $9.2 billion in awards to provide rural areas with broadband access, Christian Davenport, Dec. 7, 2020. SpaceX joins Charter Communications, LTD Broadband and the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium in receiving large grants to provide broadband Internet service to millions of Americans who now lack access to reliable service.

ajit pai headshot customThe Federal Communications Commission on Monday awarded $9.2 billion in funding to help companies provide broadband Internet service to millions of Americans without access to reliable service.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the awards the “single largest step ever taken to bridge the digital divide.”

Among the big winners was Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has been launching dozens of satellites at a time in a bold attempt to build a massive constellation in space that would help serve remote or rural areas. The company received $886 million from the FCC to help serve hundreds of thousands of customers in 35 states, a huge boost in its quest to pull off a feat even Musk has said had a high likelihood of failure.

So far the company has launched nearly 1,000 satellites as part of its Starlink constellation and has begun a pilot program in the northern United States and southern Canada it calls “Better Than Nothing.”

fcc logoThe company has approval to launch some 12,000 satellites, and as the number increases, so will the reliability and speed of its service, the company has said. It plans to expand its beta service by early next year and “rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021,” according to its website.

Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion-dollar push to boost U.S. broadband

The funding gives SpaceX an even bigger lead over its competitors in the race to build the Internet in space. Recently, OneWeb emerged from bankruptcy and appointed a new CEO. Jeff Bezos’s Amazon also intends to flood Earth’s orbit with its own satellites in a project it calls Kuiper that it has said would bring broadband to “unserved and underserved communities around the world.” (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

In a statement, Pai said the awards would bring “welcome news to millions of unconnected rural Americans who for too long have been on the wrong side of the digital divide. They now stand to gain access to high-speed, high-quality broadband service.” The winning bidders must provide financial statements, coverage maps and certify that their network is capable of delivering “to at least 95% of the required number of locations in each relevant state,” the FCC said.

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is leaving press freedom in tatters. Biden can take these bold steps to repair the damage, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). In words and deeds, Biden should act quickly to restore America’s reputation and stop the attacks on journalists.

 

Dec. 6

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Law & Courts

 

U.S. Media / Politics

 

Top Stories

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani has coronavirus, and it could mark the end of Donald Trump’s election farce, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2020. Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for coronavirus. Considering how many outbreaks he’s been at the center of in recent weeks, it’s a wonder he didn’t catch it sooner. Or maybe he’s had it all along, and he’s been the one causing these outbreaks. Don’t be Rudy. Wear a mask.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s worth noting that Donald Trump is the one who announced (via tweet) that Giuliani tested positive for coronavirus. Usually, you announce your own positive test result. But Giuliani, who is usually a motormouth on Twitter, hasn’t tweeted anything since Friday night. It raises the question of whether he may be too sick to tweet. We wouldn’t wish this awful virus on anyone, but Rudy is 76 years old and has appeared to be what you might call “in decline” for some time. He’s not exactly in a good position to fight this off.

In any case, regardless of whether Rudy is seriously sick or not, the mere fact that he’s tested positive means he’ll be isolation for at least two weeks. That means no more hearings, and no more weird meetings with rogue officials at hotels. Rudy had been running what was left of Trump’s “contesting the election” scam. This could be the end of that scam, unless Trump wants to put it in the hands of someone who is even less competent than Rudy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Operation Warp Speed promised a flood of covid vaccines. Instead, states are expecting a trickle, Christopher Rowland, Lena H. Sun, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Carolyn Y. Johnson, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). The administration pledged several hundred million doses in 2020. Companies will actually ship about 10 percent of that. Lower-than-anticipated allocations have spawned widespread confusion and concern in states, which are beginning to grasp the level of vaccine scarcity they will confront in the early going of the massive vaccination campaign.

election 2020 national map washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Just 27 GOP lawmakers acknowledge Biden’s win in Post survey, Paul Kane and Scott Clement, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). Out of 249 Republicans in the House and Senate, 220 would not say who won the election, largely hiding from answering questions about President Trump’s loss.

Two Republicans consider Trump the winner despite all evidence showing otherwise. And nearly 90 percent of all Republicans serving in Congress — will simply not say who won the election.

Those are the findings of a Washington Post survey of all 249 Republicans in the House and Senate that began the morning after Trump posted a 46-minute video Wednesday evening in which he wrongly claimed he had defeated Biden and leveled wild and unsubstantiated allegations of “corrupt forces” who stole the outcome from the sitting president.

djt resized joe biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, Trump vie to project authority, making for a tense transition, Matt Viser and Ashley Parker, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). As President-elect Joe Biden signals he’s poised to take over the presidency, President Trump is acting like he hasn’t lost.

When President-elect Joe Biden put his weight behind a coronavirus aid package recently, it energized an effort that had seemed dead and nudged political adversaries to the bargaining table, with success now looking far more likely.

President Trump, meanwhile, spent last week demanding that a major defense bill nod to his cultural and political agenda, threatening a veto if it wasn’t changed. But even some faithful Republican supporters shrugged him off, embracing a final draft that not only ignores Trump’s demands but rebukes some of his moves as commander in chief.

That split screen of contrasting presidential trajectories is growing ever more vivid. One leader is steadily gathering power, building an administration and making policy proclamations; the other is seeing his power ebb even as he angrily insists he won an election that, a growing number of allies admit, he clearly lost.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Is Said to Be Weighing Whether to Leave Before Trump’s Term Ends, Katie Benner, Michael S. Schmidt and Peter Baker, Dec. 6, 2020. The attorney general’s future came into doubt after he acknowledged that the Justice Department had not found evidence of widespread voter fraud in the president’s election loss.

Justice Department log circularAttorney General William P. Barr is considering stepping down before President Trump’s term ends next month, according to three people familiar with this thinking. One said Mr. Barr could announce his departure before the end of the year.

It was not clear whether the attorney general’s deliberations were influenced by Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede his election loss or his fury over Mr. Barr’s acknowledgment last week that the Justice Department uncovered no widespread voting fraud. In the ensuing days, the president refused to say whether he still had confidence in his attorney general.

One of the people insisted that Mr. Barr had been weighing his departure since before last week and that Mr. Trump had not affected the attorney general’s thinking. Another said Mr. Barr had concluded that he had completed the work that he set out to accomplish at the Justice Department.

But the president’s public complaints about the election, including a baseless allegation earlier last week that federal law enforcement had rigged the election against him, are certain to cast a cloud over any early departure by Mr. Barr. By leaving early, Mr. Barr could avoid a confrontation with the president over his refusal to advance Mr. Trump’s efforts to rewrite the election results.

Mr. Barr’s departure would also deprive the president of a cabinet officer who has wielded the power of the Justice Department more deeply in service of a president’s political agenda than any attorney general in a half-century. Conversely, it would please some Trump allies, who have called for Mr. Barr to step down over his refusal to wade further into Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election outcome.

Mr. Barr has not made a final decision, and the prospect of him staying on through Jan. 20 remains a possibility, the people familiar with his thinking cautioned. Should Mr. Barr step down before the end of the Trump administration, the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, would be expected to lead the Justice Department until President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Rally for Georgia Senators, Trump Focuses on His Own Grievances, Jonathan Martin and Astead W. Herndon, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump called the election rigged and falsely claimed he had won. Earlier, he called Gov. Brian Kemp and asked for help in subverting the results.

One month before a pair of Georgia runoffs that will determine the Senate majority, President Trump used a rally for the two Republican senators on Saturday to complain about his own loss last month, insisting he would still prevail and, with notably less ardor, encouraging voters here to elect the Republicans. Related story below.

ny times logoNew York Times, Report Points to Microwave ‘Attack’ as Likely Source of Mystery Illnesses That Hit Diplomats and Spies, Ana Swanson and Edward Wong, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.).  A government-commissioned report provides the most definitive explanation yet for “Havana syndrome,” which struck scores of American employees, first in Cuba and then in China, Russia and other countries.

The most probable cause of a series of mysterious afflictions that sickened American spies and diplomats abroad in the past several years was radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that includes microwaves, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has concluded in a report.

The conclusion by a committee of 19 experts in medicine and other fields cited “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy” as “the most plausible mechanism” to explain the illness, which came to be known as Havana syndrome, though they said that they could not rule out other possible causes and that secondary factors may have contributed to symptoms, according to a copy of the report obtained by The New York Times.

The report, which was commissioned by the State Department, provides the most definitive explanation yet of the illness that struck scores of government employees, first at the U.S. Embassy in Havana in 2016, and then in China and other countries. Many of the officers suffered from dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and loss of hearing, memory and balance, and some were forced into permanent retirement.

C.I.A. officers visiting overseas stations also experienced similar symptoms, The Times and GQ magazine reported in October. The officers were traveling to discuss countering Russia covert operations with foreign intelligence agencies, a fact that adds to suspicions that Moscow is behind the episodes.

Though couched in careful, scientific language, the new report reveals strong evidence that the incidents were the result of a malicious attack. It attributes the illnesses to “directed” and “pulsed” — rather than “continuous” — energy, implying that the victims’ exposure was targeted and not the result of more common sources of microwave energy, such as, for example, a cellphone.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: 2 Huge Regions in California Are Forced to Shut Down, Staff reports, Dec. 6, 2020. Much of the state will be under stay-at-home orders as of late Sunday night, as it tries to control an accelerating virus surge; Nationally, 205, 513 new cases were reported on Dec. 5. Here’s the latest.

Much of California will be under stay-at-home orders as of late Sunday night — with outdoor dining and bars shuttered, schools closed and playgrounds roped off — as the state tries to control an accelerating coronavirus surge and head off a catastrophic shortage of intensive care beds.

Under orders issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, regions are to be placed under the new restrictions once their intensive care unit availability falls below 15 percent. The governor has warned that without drastic action, hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.

On Saturday, two regions hit the I.C.U. threshold and learned that at 11:59 p.m. Sunday they would have to begin complying with the stay-at-home orders for at least three weeks: Southern California was at 12.5 percent, and the San Joaquin Valley at 8.6 percent. Together, the regions are home to more than half of California’s population of 40 million.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Peddles Falsehoods to Obscure Origin of Pandemic, Javier C. Hernández, Dec. 6, 2020. Facing global anger over their initial mishandling of the outbreak, the Chinese authorities are now trying to rewrite the narrative of the pandemic by pushing theories that the virus originated outside China.

China FlagIn recent days, Chinese officials have said that packaged food from overseas might have initially brought the virus to China. Scientists have released a paper positing that the pandemic could have started in India. The state news media has published false stories misrepresenting foreign experts, including Dr. Kekulé and officials at the World Health Organization, as having said the coronavirus came from elsewhere.

The campaign seems to reflect anxiety within the ruling Communist Party about the continuing damage to China’s international reputation brought by the pandemic. Western officials have criticized Beijing for trying to conceal the outbreak when it first erupted.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 6, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 66,855,796, Deaths: 1,534,553
U.S. Cases:   14,983,425, Deaths:    287,825

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 6, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

Nashville Tennessean, Rep. David Byrd flown by helicopter to hospital for COVID-19 treatment, Natalie Allison, Dec. 6, 2020. Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd has been hospitalized for COVID-19, making him at least the second member of the House Republican Caucus to require a hospital stay after contracting the virus.

Byrd, 63, was flown by helicopter over the weekend from Wayne County Hospital to Saint Thomas in Nashville, according to a Facebook post by family member Terry Franks. While it’s unclear when Byrd first began experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, he was among the nearly 70 House Republicans in attendance at a caucus meeting held in the House chamber Nov. 24. Byrd could be seen at one point on the House floor not wearing a mask.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The fallout from Rudy Giuliani’s coronavirus is already underway, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2020. Rudy Giuliani has been hospitalized today with coronavirus, after spending the past few weeks traveling the country and meeting in close quarters with Republican officials in various states, all without wearing a mask. There was sure to be fallout from this, and it’s underway already.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, the Arizona State Legislature is now shutting down entirely for the next week, after at least fifteen Republican members were exposed to the virus by Giuliani. Meanwhile, CNN believes that Giuliani has exposed hundreds of people to coronavirus in total. Giuliani’s behavior has been absolutely unconscionable, and statistically speaking, it’s nearly a given that multiple people will die as a result.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A miserable end to a miserable presidency, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 6, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden, merely by speaking about two jennifer rubin new headshotnational crises of historic magnitude (the economy and the pandemic), reminded us that even in his final weeks in office, President Trump prefers to focus on insane conspiracies meant to overturn a democratic election rather than on imminent threats to Americans’ lives and livelihoods.

At a Friday news conference, the relaxed and calm incoming president spoke to the country. “Earlier today, the November jobs report was released,” he said. “It’s a grim report. It shows an economy that is stalling.” The current president did not bother to address it.

Biden. left, joe biden 2020 button Customrecognized that “it’s deeply troubling that last month’s drop in overall unemployment [to 6.7 percent] was driven by people who were dropping out of the labor market altogether. … Over the last three months, 2.3 million more people are in long-term unemployment — by far the largest increase on record.” The economy fell about 224,000 jobs short of expectations.

Biden encouraged lawmakers to pass a compromise stimulus bill and promised that more help is on the way. (“Americans need help, and they need it now, and they’ll need more come early next year.”) The current president was nowhere to be seen. While clinging to office and to his delusions, Trump has abdicated responsibility and declined to keep up the pretense he is governing.

Axios Sneak Peek, Nightly lookahead from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops, Alayna Treene, Dec. 6, 2020. 1) President Trump is considering a made-for-TV grand finale: a White House departure on Marine One and final Air Force One flight to Florida for a political rally opposite Joe Biden’s inauguration, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: The former network star is privately discussing using his waning powers as commander in chief to order up the exit he wants after dissing Biden by refusing to concede the election, welcome him to the White House or commit to attending his inauguration.

The big picture: The Trump talk could create a split-screen moment: the outgoing president addressing a roaring crowd in an airport hangar while the incoming leader is sworn in before a socially distanced audience outside the Capitol, as NBC News first reported.

Other news: 2) “Amtrak Joe’s” inaugural arrival. There’s talk within Bidenworld of the president-elect ditching the typical flourish of arriving in Washington on an Air Force plane, pulling in instead on the same Amtrak train he rode to and from Delaware for 30 years as a senator.

Why it matters: A train trip would be very on-brand for “Amtrak Joe.” It also would mirror Barack Obama, who rode into Washington on a vintage railcar in January 2009.

3) The only Trump thing Biden wants to keep: Biden disagrees with most of President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, but several of his advisers tell Axios’ Barak Ravid and me that there is one he plans to keep: the Abraham Accords.

Why it matters: Continuing to push the Abraham Accords — the biblical branding the administration has given to the individual normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — could help Biden build positive relationships with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders in the Persian Gulf.

4. Tracking Biden’s Cabinet nominees. We’ll be updating this chart as Joe Biden continues to announce nominees for top administration roles. Bookmark this link for more.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Do So Many Americans Think the Election Was Stolen? Ross Douthat, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). Looking for the reasons behind a seemingly unreasonable belief.

There have been few surprises this past month in how Donald Trump has dealt with the reality of his electoral defeat.

Anyone familiar with his career could have predicted that he would claim to have been cheated out of victory.

So far, so predictable. But speaking as a cynical observer of the Trump era, one feature of November did crack my jaded shell a bit: not his behavior or the system’s response, but the sheer scale of the belief among conservatives that the election was really stolen, measured not just in polling data but in conversations and arguments, online and in person, with people I would not have expected to embrace it.

Drawn from my conversations in the past few weeks, here’s an attempt at a taxonomy of these unlikely seeming fraud believers.

  • The conspiracy-curious normie.
  • The outsider-intellectual
  • The recently radicalized

At the moment, the voter-fraud narrative is being deployed, often by people more cynical than the groups I’ve just described, to help an outgoing president — one who twice lost the popular vote and displayed gross incompetence in the face of his administration’s greatest challenge — stake a permanent claim to the leadership of his party and establish himself as the presumptive Republican nominee in 2024.

And it’s being used to push aside the more compelling narrative that the Republican Party could take away from 2020, which is that Trump’s presidency demonstrated that populism can provide a foundation for conservatism, but to build on it the right needs a very different leader than the man Joe Biden just defeated.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is ripping the Republican Party to pieces in real time, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 6, 2020.To give you an idea of just how poorly bill palmerDonald Trump’s Georgia rally went for the Republicans, his supporters ended up drowning out Perdue and Loeffler when they tried to speak, with chants like “Fight for Trump” and “Stop the steal.” No one at that rally had any interest in voting in the runoffs. The GOP has a real problem here. Good.

bill palmer report logo headerIn yet another sign that Team Trump is eating itself alive, Judge Jeanine Pirro went on an incoherent rant during her Fox News show on Saturday night and ended up calling Bill Barr a “reptile.” It didn’t make any more sense in context.

Trump is now accusing Arizona’s Republican Governor of knowingly signing a fraudulent document. This comes after Trump accused Georgia’s Republican Governor of malfeasance earlier in the day. Next he’ll be calling for them to be locked up. The Republicans did this to themselves when they put a psychotic criminal atop their party. He was always going to destroy them on his way down.

In the latest sign that Trump truly is losing it, at around one in the morning he tweeted “Melissa is great!” Then he started retweeting “cat turd” again. Forty-five days and this guy won’t be our problem anymore.

Twitter, Analysis of Supreme Court requests for briefs on Pennsylivania’s presidential balloting, Stephen Vladeck, right, (University of Texas law professor), Dec. 6, stephen vladeck resized2020. A lot of reactions today to Justice Alito moving up the deadline for PA to respond to @MikeKellyPA’s application for an emergency injunction to throw out PA’s certification of its presidential electors.

Here’s a quick #thread on why none of this matters—or is going to matter:

First, there’s the obvious point: Even if this gambit somehow succeeds (spoiler: it won’t), the worst-case scenario is that PA’s electoral votes get tossed.

In that case, Biden would *still* receive 286 electoral votes when the Electoral College votes on 12/14. He needs 270.

3. Now, let’s get to why the Kelly suit isn’t going anywhere. First, it was dismissed by the PA Supreme Court based upon a state procedural bar (“laches”). #SCOTUS does not have jurisdiction to review state court decisions that rest on such “independent and adequate” state rules.

washington post logoWashington Post, At Georgia rally, Trump spouts election falsehoods, amplifies old grievances, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Amy B Wang and David Weigel, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). In his first rally since losing the election last month, President Trump continued to spout conspiracy theories about voter fraud, falsely claiming that he had defeated President-elect Joe Biden.

david perdue headshot“We’ve never lost an election. We’re winning this election,” Trump declared soon after he took the stage outside a hangar at Valdosta Regional Airport on Saturday night.

It was the first in a fire hose of falsehoods Trump offered up to a largely unmasked crowd of thousands, who cheered him on and repeatedly chanted “Four more years!”

Trump was ostensibly in the state to whip up support for Republican Sens. David Perdue, above right, and Kelly Loeffler, who are locked in tight Jan. 5 special jon ossoff warnockelection races with their respective Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff, left, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. At stake is control of the Senate, where Republicans hold 50 seats. If Democrats win both seats in Georgia, they will effectively have a majority, with Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote if needed.

But Trump mostly focused on himself. People held “Make America Great Again” placards and draped themselves in giant “Trump 2020” flags, and there was little noticeable signage for Perdue or Loeffler. Both incumbents addressed the crowd about 90 minutes before Trump took the stage at 7 p.m.

Once at the lectern, Trump spent most of his time airing grievances and falsehoods about the presidential race, occasionally weaving in mention of the Senate runoffs. He knocked Ossoff and Warnock as “radical Democrats” who would be “total pawns” of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). He also attacked Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Georgia Republicans who have repeatedly vouched for the integrity of the state’s elections.–

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, nor of any fraud that would overturn the election results, as Trump has alleged. Trump’s legal team has lost nearly all of its cases in key states. Even Attorney General William P. Barr has said the Justice Department had found no evidence of voting fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election.

Trump was introduced Saturday night by a surprise guest — first lady Melania Trump — who seemed to stick to prepared remarks, encouraging the crowd to vote for Loeffler and Perdue without mentioning her husband’s claims of a “rigged” election.

 

djt as chosen one

President Trump is shown in an idealized graphic created when he described himself during his 2020 campaign as “The Chosen One.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump doesn’t have a prayer, Ron Leshnower, Dec. 6, 2020.  t’s common for people to pray for their preferred candidate in an election or team in a sporting event. While we can disagree about the power, purpose and even the validity of prayer, one thing is clear: if you’re praying for a certain outcome after failing spectacularly to obtain it, then you’re probably not doing well.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter losing last month at the polls, Donald Trump has added insult to injury by failing again in a humiliatingly bizarre, cretin-over-country attempt to get courts and state legislators to overturn a legitimate blowout election. Despite Trump’s endless series of flops, people are stepping up prayer efforts in the hope of somehow turning things around.

An online event called “Global Prayer for U.S. Election Integrity” has been meeting regularly, allegedly attracting up to 10,000 worldwide listeners. As co-host Mario Bramnick explained, “We are praying to expose the clear election fraud. It is clear that President Trump won… but that extensive, wide fraud was committed on behalf of Biden.”

Disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn appeared as the featured guest at Wednesday night’s meeting as the ink was still drying on his pardon. According to reporting from Right Wing Watch, Flynn urged listeners to pray for the “incredibly brave patriots” who have been alleging voting irregularities under supposed threats and intimidation.

The great irony here is that all this praying is aimed at helping someone who thinks it’s as real as the bone spurs in his heels. In his recent book, Disloyal, Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen recalled when prominent evangelical leaders laid their hands on his boss in prayer during the 2016 campaign. Trump allegedly told Cohen, “Can you believe that bullshit? Can you believe people believe that bullshit?”

Next month, Joe Biden will get sworn in as the 46th President of the United States while his predecessor will be frantically trying to avoid prison. Biden won by obtaining a 306-232 Electoral College victory and a popular vote lead of over 7 million votes, having earned more votes than any presidential candidate in American history. Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t have a prayer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: As much as we want to tune Trump out, ignoring him is a luxury we cannot yet afford, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 6, ruth marcus twitter Custom2020 (print ed.). President Trump called it “maybe the most important speech I’ve ever made.” A different superlative about the president’s 46-minute videotaped attack on the 2020 election is in order: maybe the most deranged. Not just by Trump, but by any president.

Even now, after four-plus years of unceasing outrages, it is sobering to use language that harsh about a sitting president. But the adjective is justified and — even as Trump’s remaining time in office ticks slowly away — imperative.

People are understandably tempted to indulge the urge to move on, exhausted by the years of Trumpian norm-breaking and comforted by the prospect that he will soon be gone. Yet attention must be paid, even in what New Yorker writer Susan Glasser describes as the “ ‘yeah, whatever’ phase of

 

World News

washington post logoindia flag mapWashington Post, Indian farmers blockade Delhi to protest Modi’s agriculture reforms, Joanna Slater, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). While the government says the sweeping changes will spur investment, the farmers camped out in Delhi consider them an existential threat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus came roaring back in Brazil, shattering illusions it wouldn’t, Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano, Dec. 6, 2020 (print ed.). Sick people are found dead at home, as long lines form for intensive care beds. Yet streets and beaches remain full of brazil flag wavingunmasked people, unaware or unbothered by the health warnings.

In Rio de Janeiro, where the virus has already killed tens of thousands, upturned the economy and sent rates of homelessness soaring, moments that recall the darkest days of the pandemic are once more appearing in the news.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maduro poised to consolidate power in Venezuela election, Ana Vanessa Herrero, Dec. 7, 2020 (print ed.). U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó urged a boycott of a vote he says will be fraudulent, a move that cedes the legislature to the authoritarian government.

nicolas maduro customPresident Nicolás Maduro,, right, was expected to regain control of Venezuela’s National Assembly on Sunday as the U.S.-backed opposition urged voters to boycott the country’s legislative election.

venezuela flag waving customNational Assembly President Juan Guaidó and his allies declined to seek reelection, saying they didn’t trust the authoritarian Maduro to hold a fair vote. In their absence, most of the candidates are Maduro allies or supporters.

The loss of the assembly would be another blow to an opposition that has struggled, despite U.S. and other support, to make progress toward ousting the socialist government founded by Hugo Chávez.

For Maduro, who claimed victory in 2018 in a presidential election widely considered fraudulent, the vote is an opportunity to consolidate power. He already controls the presidency, the courts and the military.

 

U.S. Law & Courts

Twitter, Analysis of Supreme Court requests for briefs on Pennsylivania’s presidential balloting, Stephen Vladeck (right, University of Texas law professor), Dec. 6, stephen vladeck resized2020. A lot of reactions today to Justice Alito moving up the deadline for PA to respond to @MikeKellyPA’s application for an emergency injunction to throw out PA’s certification of its presidential electors.

Here’s a quick #thread on why none of this matters—or is going to matter:

First, there’s the obvious point: Even if this gambit somehow succeeds (spoiler: it won’t), the worst-case scenario is that PA’s electoral votes get tossed.

In that case, Biden would *still* receive 286 electoral votes when the Electoral College votes on 12/14. He needs 270.

3. Now, let’s get to why the Kelly suit isn’t going anywhere. First, it was dismissed by the PA Supreme Court based upon a state procedural bar (“laches”). #SCOTUS does not have jurisdiction to review state court decisions that rest on such “independent and adequate” state rules.

djt looking up

Palmer Report, Opinion: The principal reason Donald Trump belongs in prison, Robert Harrington, Dec. 6, 2020. I have infinite respect for Dr. Mary L. Trump, Donald Trump’s niece. I read with fascination her book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. We are fortunate that a woman who grew up to be a first rate trained psychologist was at Donald Trump’s elbow for so many of his formative years. She is to the history of Trump what the Watergate tapes were to Nixon, or the Zapruder film was to the Kennedy assassination. She was there, she witnessed the formation (and the formulation) of the monster. Dr. Trump has the qualities, intelligence and qualifications to relate and interpret what and how Donald Trump happened.

But when it comes to the central reason why Donald Trump must go to prison I think Dr. Trump, for all her perspicacity, widely misses the point. In fact I think most commentators on the tragedy that is Donald Trump and the Trump presidency miss the point.

bill palmer report logo headerIn a recent interview, Dr. Trump said, “It’s quite frankly insulting to be told time after time that the American people can’t handle [the prosecution of Trump] and that we just need to move on.” I can’t argue with her there. But then she gave her reason: “If anybody deserves to be prosecuted and tried, it’s Donald. [Otherwise] we just leave ourselves open to somebody who, believe it or not, is even worse than he is.”

While that’s all true enough, and I can’t dispute it, it’s not the principal reason Donald Trump belongs in prison. The principal reason Trump needs to go to jail is one I made in passing in the last article I wrote to you, brothers and sisters. So vital is that point that I think it requires it’s very own article.

djt prison palmer reportDonald Trump must go to prison not merely because we must discourage future monsters who may be worse, he must go to prison because we do not have the right not to send him there. We do not have the right to forgive him for the crimes he has committed against other people.

Think of it yourself. Imagine someone has harmed you very deeply, so deeply in fact, that the harm he has done to you has ruined your life, or destroyed the life of someone you love. Now imagine if I came along and ostentatiously forgave that person, completely absolved them of any wrongdoing they may have committed against you. Wouldn’t that seem to you the pinnacle of arrogance and conceit? Wouldn’t you wonder how dare I do such a thing and — more to the point — who the hell do I think I am that I should do such a thing, that I should so presumptuously arrogate such a power to myself? Wouldn’t you even go so far as to think I am committing a crime just as bad, or at least in the same league, as the man I so conspicuously absolved?

Of course you would. You would feel your heartfelt cry for justice he’s been ignored, rejected, smothered in a blanket of self-righteous goo and sentimental self-congratulation.

By forgiving Trump we would be committing a grave injustice to more than a quarter of million men and women Trump has murdered through negligence, the thousands of family businesses he’s ruined, the 545 immigrant children he has permanently separated from their parents, the dozens of women Trump has sexually assaulted and raped, the hundreds, or even thousands of Americans and their families Trump has put in fear of their lives with angry Tweets because they were “guilty” of insulting him, or insufficiently praising him, or not going far enough in assisting him in his criminal endeavors.

What hubris it would be for us to ignore justice for such a man! What arrogance would be ours to then slap ourselves on the backs with smug approbation and call ourselves peacemakers! We have no such right. We must, at the very least, try to send Donald Trump to prison — and we have no right not to.

Yes, we need to prevent another Trump. Yes, we need to send a message that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. Yes, we need to prosecute Trump because the law demands it, that no free society can hope to survive without the rule of law. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

But above all, we must avenge the millions of Americans Donald Trump has harmed, the ones he harmed insolently, thoughtlessly, without remorse, without so much as an afterthought. He has harmed and killed Americans with elitist indifference, as if it’s his birthright and we are all nothing by comparison. Justice must be done. Justice cries out from the ground for the voiceless Donald Trump has destroyed. Justice must be done if only for the reason that we have no right to contemplate anything less than justice, and for that reason alone we have no choice but to do our duty. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

 

Media / Politics

Palmer Report, Analysis: Chris Wallace drops the hammer on Donald Trump’s antics, Bill Palmer, Dec. 6, 2020. Donald Trump sent his HHS bill palmer report logo headerSecretary Alex Azar onto Fox News this morning to falsely defend his administration’s coronavirus response, and to also pretend that Trump somehow secretly won the election. Host Chris Wallace wasn’t having it, correcting Azar when he referred to “Vice President Biden.”

Good on Chris Wallace for taking out Trump’s trash. But the reality is that the bar is set so low, we end up praising someone like Wallace for merely stating a fact and doing his job. Imagine if waiters were so bad at their job, you had to single out for praise the occasional waiter who actually brought your food to the right table. Why is the bar this low for cable news hosts?

djt hands up mouth open Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, SNL skewers Giuliani and Trump’s ballot fraud claims, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Dec. 6, 2020. On “Saturday Night Live,” Rudy Giuliani’s flatulence and Cecily Strong’s drunken conspiracy theorist Melissa Carone stole the cold open.

In its first episode after celebrating President-elect Joe Biden’s win, “Saturday Night Live” lampooned voter fraud conspiracy theories and later turned the punchlines inward to address its own controversy.

First, the cold open poked fun at political theater that was practically made for Studio 8H. Real life took a decidedly bonkers turn last Wednesday as the Michigan House of Representatives Oversight Committee heard testimony on possible election fraud from Trump campaign attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and the campaign’s star witness Melissa Carone, who claimed with no evidence that tens of thousands of votes had been counted twice.

The opening scene began with SNL player Mikey Day assuming the part of Michigan state Rep. Steven Johnson (R) who introduced the hearing thusly: “It is my honor and also one of the great horrors of my life to welcome President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.”

SNL’s famed chameleon Kate McKinnon then took over as a bald (and very flatulent) Giuliani. “It’s great to be in a courtroom where I’m not the defendant,” she said.

McKinnon-as-Giuliani then swore that he and Trump would overturn illegal votes in “Georgylvania,” “Pennsachusettes,” and “North Dacanada.” When Rep. Johnson countered that the campaign’s voter fraud claims were based on “zero actual evidence,” Giuliani brought in his “highly intelligent, barely intoxicated” eyewitnesses.

First at-bat was Cecily Strong as a dead ringer for the real life Carone with black frame glasses, a blonde messy top knot and a business-y blazer.

Hollywood PoliTrivia, The often-forgotten third industry of Hollywood, Wayne Madsen, right, Dec. 6, 2020. The thirteen-story Capitol Records Tower is almost as wayne madsen screen shoticonic as the famed “Hollywood” sign overlooking Tinsel Town from the Hollywood Hills in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Musical artists recording their singles and albums at the Capitol Records Tower did so at a time when their hits sometimes ended up as part of motion picture scores. During the heyday of Hollywood, movies, television shows, and record hits were all interwoven in what was then the entertainment capital of the world.

Radio listeners around the world were also keenly aware of Hollywood’s connection to music when, every week and beginning on July 4, 1970, deejay Casey Kasem played “Billboard” magazine’s top popular music hits on “American Top 40.”

 

Dec. 5

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

 washington post logoWashington Post, Judges in six states turn back claims by Trump and his allies, Elise Viebeck, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his allies faced a crush of defeats in post-election litigation Friday, a further sign of their ongoing failure to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory through the courts and to gain traction through baseless claims of widespread fraud.

Just over a month after the Nov. 3 election, the Trump campaign and other Republicans suing over Biden’s win were dealt court losses across six states where they have tried to contest the results of the presidential race — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Judges ruled decisively that Trump’s side has not proved the election was fraudulent, with some offering painstaking analyses of why such claims lack merit and pointed opinions about the risks the legal claims pose to American democracy.

joe biden twitter“It can be easy to blithely move on to the next case with a petition so obviously lacking, but this is sobering,” wrote Justice Brian Hagedorn of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, agreeing with the court’s decision not to hear a lawsuit filed by a conservative group that sought to invalidate the election in that state.

“The relief being sought by the petitioners is the most dramatic invocation of judicial power I have ever seen,” added Hagedorn, who is part of the court’s conservative wing. “Judicial acquiescence to such entreaties built on so flimsy a foundation would do indelible damage to every future election. . . . This is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread.”

Two of the biggest defeats took place in Arizona and Nevada, where judges tossed full-scale challenges to the states’ election results filed by the Republican Party and the Trump campaign, respectively. Both judges noted in their opinions that the plaintiffs did not prove their claims of fraud.

In a detailed, 35-page decision, Judge James T. Russell of the Nevada District Court in Carson City vetted each claim of fraud and wrongdoing made by the Trump campaign in the state and found that none was supported by convincing proof. The judge dismissed the challenge with prejudice, ruling that the campaign failed to offer any basis for annulling more than 1.3 million votes cast in the state’s presidential race.

washington post logoWashington Post,Trump calls Georgia governor to pressure him for help overturning Biden’s win in the state, Amy Gardner, Colby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 5, 2020. brian kempPresident Trump called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Saturday morning to urge him to persuade the state legislature to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state and asked the governor, right, to order an audit of absentee ballot signatures, the latest brazen effort by the president to interfere in the 2020 election.

Hours before he was scheduled to hold a rally in Georgia on behalf of the state’s two GOP senators, Trump pressed Kemp to call a special session of the state legislature for lawmakers to override the results and appoint electors who would back the president at the electoral college, according to two people familiar with the conversation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private call.

Trump also asked the governor to demand an audit of signatures on mail ballots, something Kemp has previously noted he has no power to do. Kemp declined the president’s entreaty, according to the people.

ny times logoNew York Times, Report Points to Microwave ‘Attack’ as Likely Source of Mystery Illnesses That Hit Diplomats and Spies, Ana Swanson and Edward Wong, Dec. 5, 2020. A government-commissioned report provides the most definitive explanation yet for “Havana syndrome,” which struck scores of American employees, first in Cuba and then in China, Russia and other countries.

The most probable cause of a series of mysterious afflictions that sickened American spies and diplomats abroad in the past several years was radiofrequency energy, a type of radiation that includes microwaves, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has concluded in a report.

The conclusion by a committee of 19 experts in medicine and other fields cited “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy” as “the most plausible mechanism” to explain the illness, which came to be known as Havana syndrome, though they said that they could not rule out other possible causes and that secondary factors may have contributed to symptoms, according to a copy of the report obtained by The New York Times.

The report, which was commissioned by the State Department, provides the most definitive explanation yet of the illness that struck scores of government employees, first at the U.S. Embassy in Havana in 2016, and then in China and other countries. Many of the officers suffered from dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and loss of hearing, memory and balance, and some were forced into permanent retirement.

C.I.A. officers visiting overseas stations also experienced similar symptoms, The Times and GQ magazine reported in October. The officers were traveling to discuss countering Russia covert operations with foreign intelligence agencies, a fact that adds to suspicions that Moscow is behind the episodes.

Though couched in careful, scientific language, the new report reveals strong evidence that the incidents were the result of a malicious attack. It attributes the illnesses to “directed” and “pulsed” — rather than “continuous” — energy, implying that the victims’ exposure was targeted and not the result of more common sources of microwave energy, such as, for example, a cellphone.

ICE logo washington post logoWashington Post, Judge restores DACA, orders DHS to take first-time applications from immigrants, Maria Sacchetti, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children are immediately eligible to apply for an Obama-era program nicholas garaufisthat grants them work permits, a federal judge in New York ruled.

Thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children are immediately eligible to apply for an Obama-era program that grants them work permits, a federal judge in New York ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, right, in Brooklyn said he was fully restoring the eight-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program to the days before the Trump administration tried to end it in September 2017. He chad wolfordered the Department of Homeland Security to post a public notice by Monday to accept first-time applications and ensure that work permits are valid for two years.

us dhs big eagle logo4Acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf, left, had issued a memo in July reducing DACA recipients’ work permits to one year, but Garaufis ruled last month that Wolf had unlawfully ascended to the agency’s top job and vacated the memo.

“The court believes that these additional remedies are reasonable,” Garaufis said. “Indeed, the government has assured the court that a public notice along the lines described is forthcoming.”

ny times logoNew York Times, In Blue States and Red, Pandemic Upends Public Services and Jobs, Patricia Cohen, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). As a standoff over federal aid persists, state and local governments across America are making deep budget cuts, regardless of the party in charge. Republicans scorned aid as a “blue-state bailout.” In reality, the degree of distress depends on virus cases, the state’s businesses and its taxes.

washington post logoWashington Post, For first time, CDC advises all to wear masks indoors when not at home, Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Kim Bellware, Siobhán O’Grady, Paulina Villegas and Taylor Telford, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Bahrain becomes second country in the world to authorize Pfizer vaccine.

cdc logo CustomThe Centers for Disease Control is recommending “universal mask use” outside people’s homes as part of guidance published Friday aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus as the nation braces for what is expected to be the darkest period of the pandemic.

This is the first time the agency has advocated for universal mask use indoors. In its weekly Morbidity and Mortality report, the CDC warned that the United States has entered “a phase of high-level transmission” as colder weather and the ongoing holiday season push Americans inside, and said that “consistent and correct” use of face masks is crucial to taming the virus.

washington post logodjt smiling fileWashington Post, Trump campaign groups spent $1.1 million at Trump properties in the last days of reelection bid, David A. Fahrenthold, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s campaign and its affiliated committees continued a pattern of self-enrichment in which Trump has converted $6.7 million from campaign donors into revenue for his businesses since taking office, new filings show. 

Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Team Trump falls to pieces as Donald Trump checks out, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 5, 2020. The thing about leaders – even villainous leaders or crime bosses – is that they’ve got to give their people guidance and direction. Otherwise, the underlings end up merely guessing what the leader wants bill palmerthem to do, or they use the vacuum to carry out their own personal agenda instead.

bill palmer report logo headerApart from periodic tweets and the occasional hostage video insisting that the election was rigged against him, Donald Trump has largely checked out. Not only is he failing to give his people much guidance in public, he’s apparently also failing to give them guidance behind the scenes either.

As a result of Trump’s total lack of leadership, his sidekick Rudy Giuliani is out there touting a star witness who claims without evidence that the election was hacked, yet apparently has a criminal record of her own involving computer crimes. Trump has sat back while Giuliani and Jenna Ellis fired Sidney Powell, right, from the team, but now it turns out Ellis may not even be a practicing lawyer. Meanwhile Powell is still filing suits that may or may not be on Trump’s behalf, and today she mistakenly claimed that the voting machines gave Biden’s votes to Trump. She can’t even get her lies right.

Meanwhile Powell and another Trump lawyer named Lin Wood are busy telling Republicans not to bother voting at all in the Georgia runoffs, even as Trump stooge Dan Crenshaw attacks Wood for it, and Trump stooge Michelle Malkin attacks Crenshaw for attacking Wood. Trump seems to think he’s holding a rally in Georgia on Saturday. At this point it’s anyone’s guess whether he even shows up, let alone what he says to voters. It’s total chaos.

We were expecting a leadership vacuum, infighting, backbiting, and pandemonium within the Republican Party once Donald Trump was gone from office. But with Trump having largely checked out already, we’re seeing that pandemonium playing out now. It wouldn’t matter so much if the Georgia runoffs weren’t so important. It gives the Democrats a real opportunity to seize control of the Senate, if they put in the work required to win.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, The Virus Is Devastating the U.S., and Leaving an Uneven Toll, Manny Fernandez, Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon, Danielle Ivory and Mitch Smith, Updated Dec. 5, 2020. The United States saw the most new coronavirus cases of the pandemic on Friday, with deaths and hospitalizations also rising. Underlying conditions largely determine who survives.

On Friday, a national single-day record was set, with more than 226,000 new cases. It was one of many data points that illustrated the depth and spread of a virus that has killed more than 278,000 people in this country, more than the entire population of Lubbock, Texas, or Modesto, Calif., or Jersey City, N.J.

“It’s just an astonishing number,” said Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We’re in the middle of this really severe wave and I think as we go through the day to day of this pandemic, it can be easy to lose sight of how massive and deep the tragedy is.”

In California, where daily case reports have tripled in the last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new round of regional stay-at-home orders to address a mounting crisis over intensive-care beds. Some counties in the Bay Area said they were enacting tough new restrictions this weekend, before the state rules come into effect. And in South Florida, which is in the early stages of a new surge, physicians and politicians alike worried that there might not be enough resources to treat the sick.

As the virus has spread, infectious-disease experts have gained a better understanding of who among the nation’s nearly 330 million residents is the most vulnerable.

Nursing home deaths have consistently represented about 40 percent of the country’s Covid-19 deaths since midsummer, even as facilities kept visitors away and took other precautions and as the share of infections related to long-term care facilities fell substantially.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Virus Spreads, C.D.C. Draws Up an Urgent Battle Plan, Roni Caryn Rabin and Apoorva Mandavilli, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). C.D.C. Draws Up an Urgent Battle Plan. The multipronged advice, for individuals and state and local officials, may augur a national strategy in the months to come, experts said.

Agency officials have issued increasingly stark warnings in the waning weeks of the Trump administration, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has promised a new national strategy to turn back the virus. On Thursday, Mr. Biden said he would call on Americans to wear facial coverings for 100 days.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 5, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 66,370,568, Deaths: 1,527,267
U.S. Cases: 14,775,308, Deaths: 285,668

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 5, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, How 700 Epidemiologists Are Living Now, and What They Think Is Next, Margot Sanger-Katz, Claire Cain Miller and Quoctrung Bui, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). They are going to the grocery store again, but most said it would probably take a year or more for many activities to safely restart, even with vaccines.

In a new informal survey of 700 epidemiologists by The New York Times, half said they would not change their personal behavior until at least 70 percent of the population was vaccinated. Thirty percent said they would make some changes once they were vaccinated themselves.

A minority of the epidemiologists said that if highly effective vaccines were widely distributed, it would be safe for Americans to begin living more freely this summer: “I am optimistic that the encouraging vaccine results mean we’ll be back on track by or during summer 2021,” said Kelly Strutz, an assistant professor at Michigan State University.

But most said that even with vaccines, it would probably take a year or more for many activities to safely restart, and that some parts of their lives may never return to the way they were.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

Reuters via Yahoo News, U.S. Appeals Court rejects bid to block Georgia win for Biden, Tom Hals and Makini Brice, Dec. 5, 2020. A federal appeals court on Saturday rejected a bid by a conservative lawyer to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia and left in place procedures that will make it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots in January when two Senate seats are up for grabs.

U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg, who was nominated by Trump, rejected attorney L. Lin Wood’s arguments and found in a Nov. 20 opinion that the lawyer had no standing to sue.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta agreed with the lower court, saying Wood had failed “to allege a particularized injury” and the request was moot anyway since Georgia had already certified the election.

“We may not entertain post-election contests about garden-variety issues of vote counting and misconduct that may properly be filed in state courts,” the appeals court said in its ruling.

The ruling also means Georgia officials will be required to notify absentee voters so they can fix problems with their ballot in the upcoming U.S. Senate election. On Jan. 5, Georgia holds a run-off election for its two U.S. Senate seats, which will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber.

Wood was seeking to overturn a lower court judge who refused to block Georgia officials from certifying the state’s election for Biden.

The appeals court ruling was decided by a panel of three judges, two of whom had once been under consideration by U.S. President Donald Trump for U.S. Supreme Court seats.

It is yet another setback for supporters of Trump in their long-shot bid to reverse Biden victories. They have suffered court losses in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All of these states have already certified their election results.

Wood’s lawsuit claimed that Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger violated state law in March when he struck an agreement with the Democratic Party to settle a lawsuit over 8,157 ballots that were thrown out in the 2018 general election.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon blocks visits to military spy agencies by Biden transition team, Greg Miller and Missy Ryan, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). The rejections came even as the president-elect’s advisers spent much of this week meeting with officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, which are independent of the Defense Department.

The Trump administration has refused to allow members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to meet with officials at U.S. intelligence agencies that are controlled by the Pentagon, undermining prospects for a smooth transfer of power, current and former U.S. officials said.

The impasse has prevented the Biden team from engaging with leaders at the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other military-run spy services with classified budgets and global espionage platforms.

The Defense Department rejected requests from the Biden team this week, officials said, despite a General Services Administration decision Nov. 23 that cleared the way for federal agencies to meet with representatives of the incoming administration.

The rejections came even as Biden advisers spent much of this week meeting with officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, agencies that are part of the U.S. intelligence community but independent of the Defense Department.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration appoints loyalists Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie to Defense Business Board, Dan Lamothe, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration installed loyalists on a Pentagon advisory panel Friday, naming former campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie among the new appointees to the Defense Business Board.

christopher miller official.jpgActing defense secretary Christopher Miller, right, appointed to his job last month after the firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, said in a statement that he was “proud” to welcome each of the new members and looked forward to their contributions to help guide the Defense Department’s business efforts in coming years.

“These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our Department, and our nation well,” Miller said in a statement.

The appointments were announced along with the dismissal of other members, injecting partisanship into a board that is rarely discussed outside the Defense Department and defense industry. Lewandowski and Bossie worked together on the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 and later co-authored a memoir titled “Let Trump Be Trump.”

Michael Bayer, who was ousted as chairman of the board, said in a phone interview that he was informed of the administration’s decision to dismiss him with a form letter that was emailed to him on Friday morning. He said he does not know the politics of most of the board’s members and that they have typically operated in a nonpartisan manner

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Old-school revolving door’: Private-sector ties complicate Biden’s efforts to staff incoming administration, Michael Scherer, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.).

Joe Biden’s secretary of state nominee, Antony Blinken, founded a consulting firm that promises corporate clients a bridge from “the Situation Room to the Board Room.” The incoming National Economic Council director, Brian Deese, and the deputy treasury secretary nominee, Wally Adeyemo, both recently held jobs at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm.

They have all been called back to public service in recent weeks because of their experience in the Obama administration. And the private-sector baggage they bring now threatens to undermine Biden’s promise to “restore ethics in government.”

Like many others now staffing Biden, they built résumés during the Trump years that abound with the kind of financial connections that typically set off alarm bells: managing the money of Persian Gulf states’ sovereign wealth funds, drafting legal and regulatory battle plans for Silicon Valley giants, or helping American companies conduct business overseas.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s trip to Georgia today is already going poorly for him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 5, 2020. Donald Trump has spent the past month turning the Republican Party against itself in Georgia, and putting the party’s prospects in the Senate runoffs at risk. Now Trump is heading to Georgia tonight to hold a supposed rally for Perdue and Loeffler, but we expect it’ll be more of a Trump pity party. In any case it’s already off to a bad start for him.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out Trump called Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp this morning and demanded that he overturn the presidential election results in the state. This isn’t surprising at all. But what is notable is that Kemp (or someone close to him) turned around and immediately told the Washington Post about Trump’s antics. In other words, Kemp and his office are trying to score points by outing Trump for once again trying to steal the election.

Kemp’s unwillingness to help Trump, and decision to leak Trump’s antics to the media, are already serving to make Trump look bad – and desperate. It should also serve to put Trump in a foul mood heading into what was already going to be a whacked out rally tonight. Now we’ll see just how ugly and mutually destructive it gets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The MAGA Revolution Devours Its Own, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 5, 2020. Republicans encouraged Trumpist havoc. Now it’s michelle goldberg thumbcoming for them.

Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia election official and longtime Republican, held a news conference this week in which, with barely contained rage, he excoriated Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud and the threats of violence those lies inspired.

He railed against Trump’s campaign lawyer, Joseph diGenova, who called for the shooting of Christopher Krebs, a federal cybersecurity official fired by Trump for saying that the election wasn’t rigged. (DiGenova later claimed he was joking.) Sterling described a “20-something tech” involved in the vote tabulation who was getting death threats.

djt maga hat“It has to stop!” he said, visibly seething. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop.”

The next day, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, expressed his support for Sterling. “It’s about time that more people were out there speaking with truth,” he said. His office had asked Trump to “try and quell the violent rhetoric being born out of his continuing claims of winning the states where he obviously lost,” he said, to no avail. Trump’s language, said Raffensperger, was creating a “growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs.”

Along with many other state-level Republican election officials, Sterling and Raffensperger have shown admirable commitment to the rule of law. Their refusal to participate in Trump’s attempted autogolpe helped avert a constitutional crisis. Yet it’s hard not to notice that their outrage is a bit selective.

There is nothing new about Trump inciting harassment against private citizens, or of his lackeys calling for violence against the president’s opponents. In 2015, after an 18-year-old college student asked Trump a question he didn’t like at a political forum, he targeted her on Twitter, and she was deluged with graphic, sexualized threats. Ahead of the 2018 midterms, a man named Cesar Sayoc sent homemade pipe bombs to Trump critics; he’s been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

ABC News, As lawyers keep pushing Trump election challenges, calls for sanctions mount, Olivia Rubin and Matthew Mosk, Dec. 5, 2020. Some legal abc news logoexperts say attorneys have crossed the line with unsupported claims.

As President Donald Trump and his allies continue their legal barrage in an effort to overturn the presidential election despite a succession of adverse rulings, some state and local election officials are starting to cry foul.

In Michigan Thursday, Republican lawyers were back in court seeking an audit of election results in the heavily-Democratic county that is home to Detroit — even after the state’s Supreme Court had already rejected an earlier request from the same group to halt certification. An exasperated lawyer for the city pleaded with the judge to do something.

“They are trying to use this court in a very, very improper way,” said Detroit city attorney David Fink. “We ask this court not just to deny the relief that is requested but to grant significant sanctions, because this has to stop.”

The Michigan case is not isolated, and opponents say they are starting to see the relentless effort as abusive. In just the past week, at least five new cases were filed on the president’s behalf. Between the Trump campaign and the president’s allies, there have now been at least 46 lawsuits filed challenging the 2020 presidential contest — many employing the same recycled fraud claims and witness affidavits.

And if more cases land on court dockets with glaring errors or what judges have described as anemic evidence, legal experts told ABC News that even some slow-to-boil judges may see no choice but to impose sanctions.

Whether and when the blizzard of lawsuits may cross a line and be deemed abusive by a court is nearly impossible to predict, a number of legal experts told ABC News, but some say it now seems possible. New York University Law Professor Stephen Gillers, an expert on ethics rules, said there is a point at which a plaintiff could face reprimand, especially if cases are repeatedly being dismissed as unsupported by facts — as has occurred repeatedly in Trump’s case.

“Judges have inherent power to impose monetary sanctions on lawyers who abuse the court system by making claims to which they have no reasonable factual or legal basis,” Gillers said. “Is it frequently done? No. Is it unheard of? No.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cynthia Lummis, a Bull-Coaxing Conservative, Heads to the Senate, Luke Broadwater, Dec. 5, 2020. A right-wing rancher with a libertarian streak, Ms. Lummis, who served four terms in the House, is the first woman to represent Wyoming in the Senate.

The bull Romeo stood in the middle of 2,000-acre pasture near Cheyenne, Wyo., suffering from foot rot. Even though she lacked a horse, Cynthia Lummis, as the ranch owner, was responsible for getting this moody and aggressive animal into a trailer and to the vet.

cynthia lummisA bull is too powerful to be forced to do anything, but he can be persuaded. So Ms. Lummis, right, approached Romeo on foot, talked to him very kindly and pulled the giant beast gently by the ear until he had boarded the trailer and was off to treatment.

A thing to note about Ms. Lummis during this 2010 encounter: She was a sitting member of the House of Representatives at the time. A decade later, she can boast of another feat: She is the only woman to have been newly elected to the Senate this year.

“There are 535 members of Congress — you think any of them moved cattle yesterday? Who else moved a bull?” Tucker Fagan, Ms. Lummis’s former chief of staff, marveled as he recounted the story. “And you did it just by being nice.”

Big victories for congressional Republicans in November’s elections have ushered in what some analysts are calling the year of the conservative woman. At least 36 Republican women will serve in the 117th Congress when it is gaveled in this January — with the number of Republican women in the House more than doubling. But Ms. Lummis is the only one to have won a Senate seat in this wave.

A self-described “libertarian-leaning Republican,” Ms. Lummis — whose last name rhymes with hummus — is the first woman to represent Wyoming in the Senate. She is also the first member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus to win a seat in the chamber.

 

U.S. Law, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to decriminalize marijuana as GOP resists national shift on pot, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). The House endorsed a landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs Friday, voting to remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances and provide for the regulation and taxation of legal cannabis sales.

The vote was 228-to-164 and marked the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on the issue of federally decriminalizing cannabis.

The measure is not expected to pass into law, and, due to political skittishness, it was only voted on after the November election and more than a year after it emerged from committee. But the House took a stand at a moment of increasing momentum, with voters last month opting to liberalize marijuana laws in five states — including three that President Trump won handily.

Friday’s vote, however, was largely along party lines, with Democrats voting overwhelmingly to support the federal decriminalization bill and all but five Republicans broadly opposing it.

samuel little victims fbi

washington post logoWashington Post, Samuel Little confessed to killing 93 people. Now, police must find them (Part 3), Hannah Knowles, Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Police across America are digging through old case files to identify his victims, shown above in a montage of sketches assembled by the FBI.

Since Little began cooperating with authorities in May 2018, he has confessed to killing 93 people in 19 states, virtually all women. Nearly half of them remain unidentified. Even as Little vividly recalls certain details of his crimes — the pattern of a sundress, a necklace nestled against a soft throat, a leg protruding from a shallow grave — he often cannot remember his victims’ names.

samuel little two mugsWith Little now 80 (shown in his younger days and more recently at right) and in failing health, police across the nation are racing to complete a wave of investigations in reverse: They have the culprit. Now they need to find the victims.

The FBI considers Little’s confessions credible, and has gone to extraordinary lengths to publicize details of the unsolved FBI logocases. The agency has circulated Little’s eerily lifelike drawings and created a webpage with video snippets of him describing his victims.

Meanwhile, local police are searching dusty files for crimes that match Little’s confessions — so far with uneven results. Several police agencies say they have found no evidence that Little committed a crime on their turf. Other agencies have developed significant leads, but have struggled to close cases involving victims from the margins of society, mostly women of color whose disappearances often failed to trigger extensive investigations or generate thick case files bristling with clues.

Part 1: How America’s deadliest serial killer got away with murder
Part 2: How Little was caught, charged and tried — but never stopped

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. seeks prison time for ex-FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering email in Russia probe, Spencer S. Hsu, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. prosecutors Thursday called for up to a six-month prison term for a former FBI lawyer who altered an email the bureau relied on to seek court authorization to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

kevin clinesmithKevin Clinesmith, 38, left, pleaded guilty on Aug. 19 to one count of making a false statement, conceding to a federal judge that he falsified the document to say that Page was “not a source” for the CIA. Clinesmith said he thought at the time he was inserting truthful information.

In a 20-page sentencing filing, attorneys with special counsel John Durham wrote that a sentence of at least two to six months was just given the seriousness of the offense. The case “fueled public distrust of the FBI and of the entire” program under which federal law enforcement obtains court approval to surveil domestic targets in foreign intelligence cases, the filing said.

“An attorney — particularly an attorney in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel — is the last person that FBI agents or this Court should expect to create a false document,” prosecutors Anthony Scarpelli and Neeraj N. Patel wrote. “This Court’s sentence should be designed, in part, to send a powerful message to the community that this type of conduct — falsifying information to hide facts from a court — will not be tolerated.”

FBI logoClinesmith is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 10.

The charge carries a maximum five-year prison term. Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has said federal guidelines call for zero to six months for someone in Clinesmith’s circumstances.

Separately on Thursday, Clinesmith’s attorneys asked for probation and community service. They cited his record of public service and the self-inflicted damage to his reputation, prospects for practicing law or working in national security positions, and the ability to support his wife and their first child, due in March.

  donald trump ny daily pussy

New allegations echo Trump’s words in “Hollywood Access” videotape, reported upon above, that arose during the 2016 presidential campaign. Then and Now: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump’s claimed innocence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: E. Jean Carroll should get to make her case against Trump, Colbert I. King, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). The full list of Trump administration actions that President-elect Joe Biden plans to undo is not publicly known. But one item ripe for reversal is the free pass that Trump’s Justice Department concocted to get the president out of a most undesirable situation.

e jean carrollFirst, the situation, as described in the Oct. 26 opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in the case of E. Jean Carroll v. Donald J. Trump in Trump’s personal capacity.

It’s worth quoting Kaplan at length here: “According to the complaint, Mr. Trump, then a private citizen, encountered Ms. Carroll (shown above left and below right) at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan some time between the e jean carroll headshotfall of 1995 and the spring of 1996…..She claims that she pushed Mr. Trump away and laughed at him, and that he then pressed her against the wall once more, pulled down her tights, and forcibly raped her for several minutes until she managed to push him off and flee the store.”

This allegation was described in Carroll’s 2019 book, What Do We Need Men For? It first came to light when an excerpt of the book was published in New York magazine that June.

e jean carroll cover new york magazineWhen the account was published, Trump — president at that time, of course — told the media that Carroll had made up the story in order to sell books. Trump said he had never met her.

Carroll, in turn, contended that Trump had falsely accused her of lying. She said that his words injured her reputation, entitling her to damages. Carroll sued him for defamation in a New York State Court.

Thus we had a routine lawsuit between two people in conflict — Trump being defended as a private individual and represented by his personal lawyers — with our sturdy system of civil litigation well equipped to adjudicate the dispute.

Did those possibilities serve to concentrate Trump’s mind? We can’t know how things played out behind the scenes, but in September, Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening in the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump sued by N.Y. apartment tenants alleging years-old rent scheme, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump, already saddled with lawsuits and investigations that will follow him when he leaves office, is now facing a legal challenge from former tenants who say he and his family manipulated the cost of apartment improvements to raise their rents.

The group of tenants from rent-regulated apartments that late family patriarch Fred C. Trump once owned are pursuing a class-action lawsuit, alleging a long-running scheme in which a Trump-controlled company, All County Building Supply, artificially adjusted the cost of appliances and other materials to justify raising rents at more than 30 buildings previously owned and managed by the Trumps in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

The president is a named defendant in the lawsuit, along with his siblings Robert S. Trump, now deceased, and Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal judge. The companies that own or oversee the properties now are also named in the suit, because they have benefited from the rent increases that took effect years ago, the complaints says.

The case names 20 plaintiffs who represent a class of victims. It was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

The lawsuit was first reported by the New York Times.

Trump’s post-presidency will be cluttered with potentially serious legal battles

The allegations stem from a New York Times investigation that exposed a history of alleged malfeasance as the Trump family’s sizable real estate business ballooned into an empire. The conduct alleged in the case began in the 1990s. The Trumps sold off the properties over the next several years.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How to put a former president in prison, Robert Harrington, Dec. 5, 2020. There’s a common proclivity in human nature to believe that if something extraordinary happened once before then it can, and sometimes must, happen again. A corollary to that theorem might also be that something extraordinary can’t happen if it’s never happened before. However contradictory these two points of view may seem they often occupy the same head. We’ve all seen recent examples of both.

bill palmer report logo headerAn example of the former goes something like this: since Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls in 2016 and Trump won anyway, Biden being ahead in the polls in 2020 meant Trump, once again, was also going to win anyway. I’m probably not alone in that I was treated by certain patronizing cretins as a fool for even entertaining the possibility that Biden might win — for that very reason.

Many rabid Bernie supporters were of this opinion, for example. They insisted in fact that the only way to beat Trump was with Bernie, and any other candidate would lose, and because in 2016 they gave the candidacy to Hillary and not Bernie, she lost. And so it was supposed to go in 2020 with Biden. They were positively insufferable about it. Needless to say they have since taken their opinion and run for the hills with it. Hide though they may, however, they know damn well who they are.

An example of the latter is, since no American president has ever gone to prison, no American president ever will. This is an almost unstated — and certainly unwritten — article of faith of the mainstream media. They can’t imagine Trump going to jail because there’s no historic precedent for it. No American president ever has. Besides, one common objection goes like this: how is the secret service supposed to guard a former president if he’s in prison?

I don’t know about you but that question particularly pisses me off. How is a poor, single mother supposed to take care of her children if she goes to prison? I don’t know how to say it in legalease Latin, but I think in English it goes something like, “Tough shit. She goes to jail anyway.” That’s how.

Now, I don’t know for sure if Donald Trump is going to prison or not, and neither does anyone else. That kind of certainty, or something close to it, exists only in autocratic dictatorships like North Korea. In America we have a thing called Due Process and the Presumption of Innocence. So it’s not up to me if Trump goes to prison or not, it’s up to prosecutors, the courts and, ultimately, 12 men and women on a jury and a judge. If Trump ever gets that far.

But the need for Trump to be put in front of a jury, found justly guilty and imprisoned is staggering. So is his body of criminal behavior. Donald Trump may very well be one of history’s biggest criminals, if not the biggest. I don’t know of any single human being in history who has been responsible for as many deaths, as much money stolen, as much money laundered, as many women sexually assaulted and raped, as many honest people swindled, as many people recklessly endangered, as many people incited to violence, as much justice obstructed, as many lies told to Congress and the FBI, as much insider trading, as much mail fraud, as much election fraud, as many treasonable actions, and as many conspiracies to commit felonies as Donald John Trump. If you can think of a bigger criminal please do let me know. But I’ll bet you can’t.

ABC News, California father arrested for allegedly decapitating his son, daughter: Police, Rosa Sanchez, Dec. 5, 2020. The boy was 12 years old and the abc news logogirl 13. A Lancaster, California, man has been arrested for allegedly killing and decapitating his son and daughter, police said. Detectives arrested Maurice Taylor Sr.

Law & Crime, State Bar Probes Republican Lawyer Who Said He’d Move to Georgia ‘For the Next Two Months’ to Vote, Colin Kalmbacher, Dec. 5, 2020. The Florida Bar Association is investigating a conservative attorney who allegedly encouraged other Republicans to break the law by registering to vote in Georgia’s instrumental Senate runoff elections.

According to local ABC affiliate WSB-TV, where reporter Nicole Carr originally broke the story, Price is now subject to the internal discipline of the Sunshine State’s attorney-licensing organization over his proposal and efforts to allegedly game the system.

From that report:

On Friday morning, the Florida Bar Association confirmed to Carr that they’d opened a file into the allegations against Price. The open file is investigated at a staff level to determine whether the attorney violated Florida Bar rules. Open files can lead to active investigations or monitoring of the event in the probe.

Panama City, Florida-based lawyer Bill Price made waves earlier this week after state and local officials in Georgia announced that he was being investigated for felony voter fraud after attempting to register to vote in the Peach State following a public appearance in which he outlined ways for others to do the same.

A since-deleted Facebook Live video contains the evidence on which those three separate investigations are based.

In the footage, Price can be seen speaking to the Bay County GOP in Florida on Nov. 7. After bemoaning Joe Biden‘s apparent win, the Florida Republican attorney explains that he plans on briefly moving to his brother’s home in Georgia so he can register to vote for incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are currently locked in a razor-tight campaign with Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.

Law & Crime, Alito Demands Briefs in Pennsylvania Congressman’s Lawsuit to Flip the Election, Aaron Keller, Dec. 5, 2020. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has asked Pennsylvania officials to file response briefs in a so-far-failed attempt by GOP Congressman Mike Kelly to flip Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results.

Kelly, a loyal and longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, is asking the nation’s highest court to take up the same elections case the Pennsylvania Supreme Court summarily ejected with prejudice last weekend. Kelly’s 50-page application and 213-page appendix was submitted to Alito because he is the justice who oversees incoming matters from the Third Circuit, which includes Pennsylvania.

Though Alito originally called for response arguments from the Commonwealth to be filed by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9th, the case docket was changed Sunday morning to move that deadline up to Tuesday, Dec. 8, by 9 a.m. The change is critical. Pennsylvania’s members of the electoral college are due to meet at noon on Dec. 14th in Harrisburg to cast their votes for president. As Law&Crime has previously reported, and as Kelly’s arguments point out, federal election law sets a so-called “safe harbor” deadline which requires controversies “concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors . . . by judicial or other methods or procedures” to be determined “at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors.” Alito’s original Dec. 9th deadline failed to take that window into account. His new deadline does.

The thrust of Kelly’s arguments is that a 2019 state election reform statute known as Act 77 violated both the state constitution and the federal constitution. Act 77, which predates the coronavirus pandemic, was described when signed into law as a “bipartisan compromise.” It created a so-called “no-excuse mail-in” voting regime that Kelly claims violates a provision of the state constitution. Kelly interprets the constitution as allowing only limited circumstances which qualify a voter to cast a ballot by mail. In other words, in Kelly’s view, people must vote in person unless they can take advantage of only a few, narrow excuses contained within the state constitution and, therefore, Act 77 and related election access laws must be struck down as invalid. Because the 2020 election was conducted under Act 77, its results are questionable, he claims.

In strict theory, the U.S. Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to settle Pennsylvania constitutional issues, such as whether the state statute at question (Act 77) violates the state constitution. Generally, such matters are the exclusive realm of a state supreme court. But there are exceptions to that general concept, Kelly argues, including here. Because the state is acting under a “direct grant of authority” from the U.S. Constitution to manage federal elections, the U.S. Supreme Court can become involved, he argues, and can determine whether the Pennsylvania statutory and constitutional regime of laws violates the U.S. Constitution. Kelly invites the U.S. Supreme Court to conclude as such and, perhaps more dubiously, that the state court’s way of rubbishing the election violates his rights to petition the government and to receive due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments thereto.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopia’s war in Tigray shows no signs of abating, despite government’s victory claims, Max Bearak, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Even with a U.N. pact, desperately needed humanitarian aid has yet to enter the embattled Tigray region.

The conflict exploded a month ago between Ethiopia’s new leader, Abiy Ahmed, a young and reform-minded ex-soldier who won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and the country’s old ruling faction: the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a powerful regional political party that dominated Ethiopian affairs for 27 years until Abiy’s rise.

washington post logoindia flag mapWashington Post, Indian farmers blockade Delhi to protest Modi’s agriculture reforms, Joanna Slater, Dec. 5, 2020. While the government says the sweeping changes will spur investment, the farmers camped out in Delhi consider them an existential threat.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Historians sue Trump administration to stop ‘bonfire of records in the Rose Garden,’ Gillian Brockell, Dec. 5, 2020. The American Historical Association and other groups fear President Trump and his inner circle may not preserve critical records; Screenshots are not “complete copies” of presidential records, they say.

The American Historical Association, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — a frequent plaintiff in Trump-related legal challenges — joined in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Hartford Courant’s newsroom is closing down, Katie Robertson, Dec. 5, 2020 (print ed.). The Hartford Courant, the Connecticut newspaper that has been in print since 1764, when it chronicled the locals’ dissatisfaction with British rule, is the latest daily that will try to cover the news without a newsroom.

Tribune Publishing, the company that owns the paper, told employees on Friday that it would “close our Broad Street office, with no plan to find us a new one,” the Hartford Courant Guild, which represents editorial employees, said in a Twitter post.

Andrew Julien, the Courant’s publisher and editor in chief, said in an email to staff members that the closing of the physical newsroom was “a decision about real estate needs amid a difficult and challenging time on both the public health and economic fronts.”

Journalists will continue to do their work remotely, he added.

“It won’t change the essence of what we do: Delivering the high-impact journalism readers have come to expect from the Courant and crafting creative solutions that meet the needs of our advertising partners,” Mr. Julien wrote.

Tribune said in a statement that the newsroom would close on Dec. 27.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office at the Hartford Courant for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” the statement said.

It continued: “As we progress through the pandemic and as needs change, we will reconsider our need for physical offices. We will keep employees informed of decisions as they are made.”

Tribune Publishing, which is part-owned by the hedge firm Alden Global Capital, has shuttered a number of its newspapers’ offices over the last few months, with the great majority of its employees working remotely as the death toll associated with the coronavirus pandemic continues to climb.

In August, the company closed the Lower Manhattan offices of The New York Daily News, which was once the largest circulation newspaper in the country. It also shut down the newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. A Chicago Tribune office for suburban publications in Aurora, Ill., was also closed.

Alex Putterman, a Hartford Courant reporter and member of the guild, said that staff members were told on Friday that they would have to pick up their belongings before the office shut down for good. He said the staff had been working remotely since March, when the pandemic first took hold in the United States in the early months of the year.

“For all we know at this moment,” he continued, “the plan is for us to be remote forever.”

washington post logoWashington Post, CIA profiler who called Trump ‘dangerous’ dies of covid-19; Jerrold M. Post: 1934–2020, Sydney Trent, Dec. 5, 2020.
The psychiatrist analyzed everyone from Menachem Begin to Saddam Hussein at the CIA. In a 2019 book, he analyzed the 45th president.

The Yale- and Harvard-trained psychiatrist advised former president Jimmy Carter about how best to negotiate with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat before the Camp David Peace Accords. He explained Sadat’s “Nobel Prize Complex” — his desire to be remembered as a great leader — and Begin’s biblical preoccupation and obsession with detail.

 

Dec. 4

Top Stories

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

More On U.S. Law, Courts

 

Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccines offer hope, but brutal months lie ahead, Joel Achenbach and Jose A. Del Real, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.). By early next year, more than a million doses could be administered every day in the United States. But it will take time to change the pandemic’s trajectory.

election 2020 national map washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The size of Joe Biden’s victory matters. And it is huge, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 4, 2020. The refusal by Republicans to jennifer rubin new headshotacknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory is remarkable in its contempt for democracy and defiance of reality. But while much time has been spent trying to get Republicans to admit that Biden won, very little time has been spent impressing upon them the magnitude of the victory. That matters as we begin Biden’s presidency.

Biden not only received a majority of the popular vote, but also cleared 51 percent — the largest vote percentage obtained against an incumbent president since 1932 and a bigger percentage of the popular vote than any Republican president since George H.W. Bush in 1988. In the process, Biden amassed the largest total number of ballots in U.S. history. He pummeled Trump by more than 7 million votes (and exceeded Barack Obama’s 2008 vote total by more than 11 million). Biden’s popular vote margin by percentage (4.4 percent) far surpasses Obama’s 2012 victory over Mitt Romney.

Why is it important to emphasize the magnitude of Biden’s victory? Because, far from narrow, it represents the overwhelming verdict of the voters. If there is such a thing as a mandate, Biden has one. He has been explicit about the things he intends to do: preserve and expand Obamacare, pass child-care and sick-leave legislation, pursue police reform, push through a massive infrastructure bill and tackle climate change.

Of course, if his margin of victory was a single vote or single elector, he would still be entitled to exercise all the powers of the presidency. Treating Biden as anything but the president-elect and denying him ample latitude to compile the Cabinet and senior staff of his choosing represents an outlandish attempt to preempt the will of more than 80 million Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Winds Have Shifted in Pandemic Aid Negotiations, Jim Tankersley, Emily Cochrane and Nicholas Fandos, Updated Dec. 4, 2020.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, spoke on Thursday as momentum grew for a stimulus deal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden taps Murthy as nation’s top doctor, offers Fauci key role, Toluse Olorunnipa and Amy Goldstein, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.).  joe biden twitterPresident-elect Joe Biden, right, has selected a close adviser to help lead the nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis, tapping a veteran of the Obama administration to serve as America’s top doctor as the country suffers from a surging pandemic.

Vivek H. Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, has been asked to reprise the role in an expanded version in the new administration, according to an individual familiar with the decision.

Murthy is expected to be part of a team of health-care officials charged with tackling the issue Biden has said would be his top priority upon taking office, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because decisions have not been officially announced.

anthony fauci CustomOn Thursday, Biden told CNN that Anthony S. Fauci, left, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, would serve as a chief medical adviser and help his administration with its coronavirus response plan.

Fauci, who served on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, has been attacked by the president in recent months as he has contradicted the White House’s message that the pandemic is under control and on the verge of disappearing. “I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well and be part of the covid team,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump raises $495 million since mid-October, including a haul fueled by misleading appeals about election fraud, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has raised $495 million since mid-October, with $207.5 million of it pouring in after Election Day — an extraordinary haul resulting from Trump’s post-election fundraising effort using a blizzard of misleading appeals about the integrity of the vote.

The sum raised since Oct. 15 far exceeds fundraising records set by the Trump operation in roughly comparable time periods at the height of the 2020 presidential campaign and is an unusually large amount to raise after the election.

That means between Oct. 15 to Nov. 23, Trump raised an average of nearly $13 million per day — a massive amount fueled by a deluge of email and text fundraising appeals sent out by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee that raises money for the president’s campaign, the party and Trump’s new leadership PAC, Save America.

The figures were announced by the campaign on Thursday, and will be made public in federal filings this month and in January. The Biden campaign has not yet released figures.

“These tremendous fundraising numbers show President Trump remains the leader and source of energy for the Republican Party, and that his supporters are dedicated to fighting for the rightful, legal outcome of the 2020 general election,” Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, said in a statement. “It also positions President Trump to continue leading the fight to clean up our corrupt elections process in so many areas around the country, and to build on gains from the 2020 elections so we can take back the House and build on our Senate majority in 2022.”

Much of the money raised since the election probably will go into Save America, a political action committee that the president can use for various activities after he leaves office. Some of the contributions will go toward what is left of the president’s legal fights over the certification of election results, which have failed to gain traction in the courts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: America may not be so lucky next time. Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Dec. 4, 2020. Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

The country was lucky that President Trump and his reelection campaign were so inept. He ultimately lost by a wide margin, and his challenges to the results have been farcical. His rhetoric ramped up in inverse proportion to his ability to produce evidence supporting his charges of systemic “fraud” or “rigged” elections.

The United States might not be so lucky next time. What if the 2020 election had been as close as it was in 2000, and the outcome hinged on a state (or states) with a truly narrow margin? How would the country have fared under a Trump-style assault on democracy’s foundations?

Trump’s attempts to negate millions of votes by challenging state certifications revealed cracks in those foundations. Some shoring-up is clearly needed before the next election cycle begins. A good place to start might be with the appointment of a bipartisan commission that would propose election reforms to Congress and the states. Here are half a dozen suggestions to get things started:

Revise the Electoral Count Act of 1887, a law that came perilously close to being invoked for the first time in its history. Its muddled language would not have provided clear answers to myriad crucial questions. What happens if a state submits competing slates of electors? How to determine if a “majority” of the electoral college refers to all 538 electors or only those present and voting? If choosing the president fell to the House, with a single vote for each state, could a majority of members prevent the swearing-in of enough minority members (who nonetheless represented more states) so that the majority’s presidential candidate would win? The 1887 law clearly needs updating and clarifying.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 4, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 65,527,498, Deaths: 1,511,719
U.S. Cases:   14,535,196, Deaths:    282,829

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 4, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy added just 245,000 jobs in November, a worrisome sign, Eli Rosenberg, Dec. 4, 2020. The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November— the slowest month of growth by far since the recovery began in the spring and a warning in the months ahead as infections surge to new heights across the country.

The November unemployment rate ticked down to 6.7, from 6.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases the monthly employment report based on data it gathers during the first half of the month.

Job gains were driven by a 145,000 jobs added in transportation and warehousing, with more modest growth in other industries. Professional and business services added 60,000 jobs, health care added 46,000 jobs, and construction and manufacturing both added 27,000. Leisure and hospitality, one of the most badly hit sectors of the economy, added back 31,000 jobs, but that category is still 3.4 million jobs short of where it was in February.

The November jobs report showed a continued slowing in the economic recovery as new closures and shutdowns in many states have begun to weigh on parts of the labor market and the larger economy.

OpEdNews, Commentary: Mass Ignorance in the Age of Information, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 4, 2020. It is beyond counter-intuitive that in the Age of Information, the masses are more ignorant of facts than at any time in the past. It matters not that smart phones provide reliable information to individuals at their fingertips. Increasingly, some of the most well-informed people on the planet are adopting the mindsets of the Luddites, the anti-technology English workers of the 19th century.

Aversion to facts is endemic among the right-wing. However, even among certain quarters of the left-wing, mostly neo-Trotskyists and affiliated anarchists, there is an increasing rejection of Covid-19 pandemic public health restrictions. The present-day rejection of vaccinations, social distancing, personal protective equipment, common sense sanitation steps, and other measures designed to protect the public from the raging Covid virus was not even seen in past pandemics, including the 1918 influenza, the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak, and the 2009 H1N1 novel virus (“swine flu”) pandemic. Unlike the 1918 influenza and Covid-19, the SARS outbreak was contained as that – an outbreak – and never reached the pandemic stage. Quick reaction by governments and the World Health Organization (WHO) ensured that the mortality from H1N1, which spread from Mexico, did not exceed 12,500 deaths worldwide.

It seems mind boggling that from 1918 to 1919, people around the world and with only newspapers as their major source of information, were more willing to accept the recommendations of doctors, nurses, the Red Cross, and government public health officials than today, with 24-hour satellite news, the Internet, and smart phones and smart watches.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws Louis DeJoy under the bus, Bill Palmer, Dec. 4, 2020. It’s not clear what Louis DeJoy thought he would be us mail logogaining by coming out of the shadows to become Donald Trump’s Postmaster General. By sabotaging the Post Office ahead of the election, perhaps DeJoy steered some profit toward his own shipping company. But Trump’s Post Office sabotage didn’t hand him the election, and so now DeJoy is expendable to him.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump has gone on a Twitter tirade today, accusing USPS of having rigged the election against him. That’s right, Trump is now effectively accusing Louis DeJoy of felony election fraud. This is notable in that DeJoy actually did commit election fraud – in Trump’s favor. This allegation could open the door for the Feds to charge DeJoy after Trump is gone.

In any case, DeJoy’s time in the Post Office spotlight led to the discovery of his decade-long pattern of campaign finance fraud, and the resulting confirmation by the North Carolina Attorney General that it was being looked into.

Whatever Louis DeJoy thought he was going to get out of this, it was all based on the presumption that Donald Trump would win the election. Now that Trump has lost, DeJoy is merely yet another Trump henchman who has been thrown under the bus by Trump, and is facing legal troubles. The story always ends the same way.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Giuliani boasts about finally providing evidence of fraud (which doesn’t appear to be evidence of fraud), Philip Bump
Dec. 4, 2020. Sean Hannity was impressed, at least.

rudy giuliani hair dye resized screenshotPresident Trump is set to lose Georgia for a third time Friday as the state reaffirms President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state following a recount requested by Trump’s campaign. That recount followed an audit automatically conducted by the state after it became apparent that the results in the presidential contest would be exceptionally narrow. The audit, which compared paper records of votes cast with the reported results, failed to make Trump the winner as, of course, did the initial results after Election Day.

Even if Trump were to pull an upset in Georgia, it wouldn’t really matter for anything other than bragging rights. The state’s 16 electoral votes are insignificant to the actual results, given that flipping them from Biden to Trump would simply narrow Biden’s electoral college victory.

But the reality of success has not been one of the bounds of Trump’s effort to allege fraud in a smattering of states, an effort now spearheaded by his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani. Giuliani has been crisscrossing the country attending informal hearings held by sympathetic lawmakers in the hope of making the sort of splash on the local scene that he has failed to make nationally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Biden to talk jobs, meet with county leaders; Obama, Pence seek to boost Ga. Senate candidates, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 4, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks Friday after the release of a November jobs report that showed the slowest month of growth by far since the recovery began. He then plans to meet virtually with a group of county leaders, whose agenda includes federal relief to help recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Former president Barack Obama and Vice President Pence plan to stage dueling events aimed at boosting enthusiasm for candidates in Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections next month, which will determine which party controls the chamber in Washington.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Bill Barr are trying to take each other down, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 4, 2020. As each day passes, Donald Trump is looking more like he is back on “Celebrity Apprentice” with his penchant for firing people. He has fired so many people that we long ago grew used to it, but he is now firing people out of spite because the election did not go his way. He fired cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs for declaring the 2020 election “the safest we have ever had.” Now, rumor has it that he is after his most trusted advisor and henchman, “attorney general” William Barr.

bill palmer report logo headerAt this point, Trump is merely lashing out like the petulant child that he is, and he will come up with every perceived wrong to justify terminating anyone who does not agree with him. Trump should not complain. At least he made some money.

NBC News reported on the long-awaited release of the recipients of PPP funds from the Small Business Administration. Many small businesses either received no loans or received loans that required repayment.

sba logo new Custom CustomIt appears that many of the small businesses that did benefit from initial grant funds will also benefit Donald Trump and Jared Kushner. Many of those recipients are tenants in buildings owned by the Trump Organization and the Kushner Companies. As NBC News reported, these tenants were given loans that were to be allocated to rent, ultimately, making those loans forgivable. While Trump and Kushner may not have directly benefitted from the actual loans, they certainly benefitted by receiving their rents when other landlords were not as fortunate.

Delving into the loan information provided by NBC, over 25 PPP loans worth more than $3.65 million were given to businesses with addresses at Trump and Kushner real estate properties. Of those businesses, 15 reported that they kept one job, no jobs, or just did not bother to report. One loan totaling $2,154,543 went to Triomphe Restaurant, which is housed in the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York. The company admitted that none of that money went to keeping jobs, and the restaurant closed. Over $2 million dollars down the tubes—well, unless you count what went into Trump’s pocket for rent. The list of these Trump/Kushner tenants is too long to mention, but you get the idea. No wonder Trump so desperately wanted to hang onto his job as “president.”

Now that Trump no longer has the taxpayers’ funds at his disposal, he is bilking his supporters through his election legal fund, most of which is likely going straight to Trump’s bank. Trump reportedly asked some of his aides how he is going to make money, admitting that he has been making a living with our money.

Once he finishes firing Barr and everyone else, he can fire himself. Too late — the American people did.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to hear Trump campaign challenge to election results, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Biden says vaccine distribution will be key in economic recovery.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomThe Washington Post is providing this important election information free to all readers. Get election results and other major news delivered to your inbox by signing up for breaking news email alerts.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday declined to take up a challenge to the presidential election filed by President Trump’s campaign, a new blow to his floundering efforts to overturn the election.

Trump declined Thursday to say whether he retains confidence in Attorney General William P. Barr, who this week undercut the president by saying he had not seen any evidence of fraud on a scale that would alter the election results.

Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris named Tina Flournoy as her chief of staff and selected other key aides Thursday as the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden forged ahead with its transition to power.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s federal criminal charges, Bill Palmer, Dec. 4, 2020. Donald Trump is going to prison in New York on state charges he can’t pardon, and he’ll surely remain in prison for the rest of his natural lifespan. That’s the easy part to predict. The question is what happens with federal charges.

bill palmer report logo headerPlenty of pundits have been expressing, with a fair amount of certainty, that Trump either will or won’t be federally indicted. These pundits are all wrong by default, because no one outside of the DOJ can predict such a thing with any certainty whatsoever. Not only will President Biden not be involved in Trump’s federal prosecution, Biden’s Attorney General likely won’t be directly involved either. It comes down to what cases career DOJ officials have been building, or decide to build, against Trump. Any reasonable Attorney General isn’t going to override those officials one way or the other.

Trump will likely try to preemptively pardon himself on all federal charges on his way out the door. Given the constitutional difficulty of pulling this off, and the increasing ineptitude of Trump’s schemes as time has gone on, there is a good chance that it could be struck down by the courts. The percentage odds are anyone’s guess. But even if it is struck down, it’ll take time, because the courts move at glacial speed.

So while New York State is free to move against Donald Trump as soon as he’s out of office, the Feds will have to wait until the pardon saga plays out. By the time the DOJ even has the option of indicting Trump federally, he may have already been tried, convicted, and imprisoned by New York State.

That would mean that any federal charges against Trump would end up being less about incarcerating him (he’d already be in state prison), and more about sending a message to any future criminals who try to hijack the presidency so they can shield their crimes behind it. In other words, it could come down to the mood of the nation.

That’s where Donald Trump’s current antics could end up coming into play. He’s now pardoning his own criminal co-conspirators to try to keep them from testifying against him. He’s caught up in a bribery-for-pardon scandal. His attempt at overthrowing the election was never going to work, but it was nonetheless treasonous. He’s talking about trying to pardon his family members.

This is the stuff that average nonpartisan Americans are going to remember in the end. They never will fully grasp whether the pandemic was his fault, or if he was good or bad for the economy, or what money laundering and obstruction of justice are. But they will understand that his pardons and such on the way out the door meant that he was very guilty.

These antics are going to make it easier for the DOJ to bring federal criminal charges against Donald Trump if it ends up deciding to. Of course at that point Trump may not care. By the time he gets to federal trial, he’ll likely already be in state prison, bankrupt, alone, and in fading health, with nothing left to lose. But if the DOJ does manage to indict him on federal charges, it would send a message for the next few generations that no President is above the law – regardless of which state they’re from and whether that state is willing to prosecute them.

The Mary Sue (“geek girl’s guide to the universe”), Commentary: Aaron Coleman, the Abusive Teenager Elected to Kansas House Reportedly Still Harassing Women, Vivian Kane, Dec. 4 2020. Aaron Coleman was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in November, despite having admitted to circulating nude photos of a 12-year-old girl when he was 14 after she refused to send him nudes directly. He has also admitted to pressuring another girl to attempt suicide at the same age. In many cases, most of us would be hesitant to bring up something a person did when they were 14, but at the time of his election, not only was Coleman only 19, but he had done nothing at all to prove genuine remorse, let alone growth over the past five years.

When challenged about his past, he blamed feminism for making drop out of the election (which he quickly un-dropped out of). He also subsequently admitted to having physically assaulted his ex-girlfriend as recently as last year. He also threatened to “call a hit out” on Kansas Governor Laura Kelly just last month, saying her reelection race in 2022 will be “extremely bloody.”

Despite showing voters exactly who he is, Coleman ended up winning his primary race against the incumbent candidate, Stan Frownfelter, by a mere fourteen votes. He then ran unopposed in the general election. Which is a great reminder that every single vote really does count.

Now that he’s about to take office, Coleman has been accused of continuing to harass women, specifically Frownfelter’s campaign manager Brandie Armstrong. Armstrong told the Kansas City Star that Coleman has been harassing her by phone and that she planned to file a no-contact order (similar to a restraining order but for criminal court cases rather than civil) against him this week.

“I’m filing the no-contact order to protect myself and my family, but also because it’s time someone tells this boy the way he behaves is despicable and has consequences. It may not be much, but it’s something,” she told the Star.

Meanwhile, the other women who have come forward with allegations against Coleman say they’re being harassed by his supporters online. (Both on Twitter and in a statement to the newspaper, Coleman denies that he or his supporter are harassing Armstrong but didn’t address the other allegations of harassment. He also misspelled Brandie Armstrong’s name in both.)

 

More On U.S. Law, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Associates Said to Have Been Scrutinized in Suspected Pardon Scheme, Michael S. Schmidt, Kenneth P. Vogel, Katie Benner and Adam Goldman, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.) A billionaire sought clemency for a man convicted of monetary crimes. The Republican donor Elliott Broidy and a lawyer for Jared Kushner were enlisted.

The Justice Department investigated as recently as this past summer the roles of a top fund-raiser for President Trump and a lawyer for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a suspected scheme to offer a bribe in exchange for clemency for a tax crimes convict, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

A federal judge in Washington unsealed heavily redacted court documents on Tuesday that disclosed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. The people said it concerned efforts by the lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe Lowell, and the fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, elliott broidywho pleaded guilty in October to a charge related to a different scheme to lobby the Trump administration.

A billionaire San Francisco real estate developer, Sanford Diller, enlisted their help in securing clemency for a Berkeley psychologist, Hugh L. Baras, who had received a 30-month prison sentence on a conviction of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits, according to the filing and the people familiar with the case. Under the suspected scheme, Mr. Diller would make “a substantial political contribution” to an unspecified recipient in exchange for the pardon. He died in February 2018, and there is no evidence that the effort continued after his death.

As part of the effort, someone approached the White House Counsel’s Office to “ensure” that the “clemency petition reached the targeted officials,” according to the court documents. They did not say who made the contact or how the White House responded.

Mr. Baras did not receive clemency.

No bribe was paid, said Reid H. Weingarten, a friend of and lawyer for Mr. Lowell who confirmed his client had represented Mr. Baras in his unsuccessful efforts to avoid incarceration. Mr. Baras went to prison in June 2017 and was released in August 2019.

Mr. Weingarten said he spoke to department officials who left him “with the impression they had absolutely no concerns with Mr. Lowell’s conduct.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Is Trump’s Lawyer Jenna Ellis ‘Elite Strike Force’ Material? Jeremy W. Peters and Alan Feuer, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.).  Ms. Ellis, a top lawyer to President Trump, bills herself as a “constitutional law attorney.” But her experience doesn’t align with what she plays on TV.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Wrote the Special Counsel Rules. Barr Has Abused Them, Neal K. Katyal (right, a law professor at Georgetown), Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.). neal katyal oThere is no reason for the outgoing attorney general to appoint his preferred prosecutor for the continuing Trump-Russia inquiry.

Attorney General William Barr’s decision on Tuesday to name John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut appointed by President Trump, as special counsel to investigate matters surrounding the 2016 election violates the rules for special counsels as well as fundamental democratic principles.

There may be reasons the inquiry by Mr. Durham, below left — an investigation that began in 2019 into the Trump-Russia inquiry — should continue, but there is absolutely no reason to permit an outgoing attorney general to try to install his preferred personnel at the investigation’s helm in the new administration. And it is entirely appropriate for President-elect Joe Biden to appoint all the prosecutors in his new administration, just as john durham o portrait 2 croppedhis predecessors have done.

The special counsel regulations, which I drafted in 1999 as a Justice Department staff member, were designed with the idea that some investigations require a person from outside the department to assure the public of sufficient independence.

The reason for using any of these models, especially the special counsel one, is really the opposite of Mr. Barr’s apparent goal. They are designed to insulate from politics serious investigative work that needs to be done.

So far as anyone can tell, after months of work, Mr. Durham’s effort appears not to be investigative work that requires insulation from politics but political work that Mr. Barr now wants to insulate from investigative scrutiny. That stands the special counsel model on its head and underscores why he should not receive the “special counsel” designation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Robert Kraft dodged charges from prostitution sting. The Orchids of Asia employees did not, Matt Bonesteel, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.). Robert Kraft still could be punished by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

robert kraft twitterIn September, prosecutors in Florida dropped misdemeanor prostitution charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft after a state appeals court ruled that footage of Kraft (shown on his Twitter photo) from a police-installed video camera inside the nfl logoOrchids of Asia spa had been obtained using unconstitutional methods and would be inadmissible at trial.

The case didn’t end there, however. Three Orchids of Asia employees, including two women Kraft was accused of patronizing, have pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges. They must pay thousands of dollars in fines, court fees and cash forfeitures and face months of probation. One other employee already had pleaded guilty in February and was sentenced to the 60 days she had spent in custody awaiting an outcome of her case.

 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

Law & Crime, Ghislaine Maxwell Wants to Be Home for the Holidays in Renewed Bail Application, Adam Klasfeld, Dec. 4., 2020. Four days before Christmas, Ghislaine Maxwell wants to appear in federal court for another chance to seek bail before trial, amid a coronavirus scare in her pre-trial federal lockup. She lost her initial bid to post bail earlier this year.

“The defense respectfully requests that the hearing take place before the holidays and the government is amenable to that schedule,” her lawyer Christian R. Everdell wrote in a two page letter, requesting that a renewed bail hearing be held on Dec. 21.

Late last month, Maxwell was placed under quarantine by officials inside Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center after a staffer in her area of the jail contracted COVID-19.

“Specifically, on November 18, 2020, the defendant was tested for COVID-19 using a rapid test, which was negative,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey disclosed five days after the incident. “That same day, the defendant was placed in quarantine.”

Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim complained shortly after that their client is being treated worse than a terrorist.

“Ms. Maxwell is a non-violent,exemplary pretrial detainee with no criminal history, no history of violence, no history of mental health issues or suicidal ideation,” Sternheim wrote. “She is overmanaged under conditions more restrictive than inmates housed in 10South, the most restrictive unit in the MCC; or individuals convicted of terrorism and capital murder and incarcerated at FCI Florence ADMAX, the most restrictive facility operated by the BOP.”

Maxwell’s legal team asked for another chance to let their client out on bail, having lost a similar effort back in July.

Back then, prosecutors depicted Maxwell as living a life on the lam, traveling frequently with three passports, owning more than a dozen bank accounts, traveling under assumed alter egos, and entering into a secret marriage that she would not disclose to prosecutors.

Citing Maxwell risk of flight, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan balked at release with the warning: “The risks are simply too great,” following a hearing where the British socialite pleaded not guilty to six charges of grooming and abusing Epstein’s victims and lying about it under oath.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexico has counted more than 79,000 missing, reflecting a collapse of order in America’s neighbor, Mary Beth Sheridan, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.). For the first time, Mexico has committed to a serious effort to find its missing people. But a new wave of disappearances is more baffling, more complex than what happened during Latin America’s dirty wars of the 1970s and 1980s. It coincides with the drug war and the country’s troubled transition to democracy.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, DOJ sues Facebook, alleging it improperly hired foreign workers, Tony Romm and Abigail Hauslohner, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.) The Justice Department on Thursday sued Facebook over allegations that it discriminated against Americans in the way it hired temporary foreign workers for thousands of facebook logowell-paid positions.

The lawsuit contends that Facebook failed to properly advertise at least 2,600 jobs — and consider applications from U.S. citizens — before it offered the spots to foreign workers whom the tech giant was sponsoring for green cards granting permanent residence.

Facebook’s practices violated federal laws that require employers to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available before it offers positions to temporary foreign workers it is sponsoring, the Justice Department said. The government sought unspecified monetary damages and other penalties against the tech giant for the alleged violations, which occurred in 2018 and 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe crashed a private CNN teleconference. CNN says he may have broken the law, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 4, 2020 (print ed.). Over the last few years, Project Veritas has gathered evidence in an effort to prove that CNN slants its coverage to hurt President Trump.

In the past, that has meant surreptitiously recording and releasing videos of unsuspecting CNN employees talking about the network’s coverage, as well as releasing leaked tapes of comments made by network executives and staffers in editorial meetings.

cnn logoBut on Tuesday, Project Veritas — an organization that has used deceptive tactics in some of its attempts to capture proof of what it says is liberal bias and corruption in mainstream media and government — may have crossed a line.

To help promote a new cache of two months of recordings of CNN’s daily morning editorial calls, the group’s founder, James O’Keefe, filmed himself calling in to the network’s 9 a.m. meeting and pressing CNN President Jeff Zucker on the network’s journalistic integrity.

While Project Veritas had previously disseminated covert recordings of CNN’s daily meeting, in this video O’Keefe himself could be seen dialing in to a private CNN call — apparently without the knowledge or consent of participants

DCist, Congress Approves Fallen Journalists Memorial To Be Built On Federal Land In D.C., Elliot C. Williams, Dec 4, 2020. Congress has authorized construction of a memorial on federal land in D.C. to honor reporters, photographers, and broadcasters who have been killed while on the job. The U.S. Senate unanimously voted to pass the House’s version of the “Fallen Journalists Memorial Act” on Thursday, as first reported by the Capital Gazette.

On June 28, 2018, five Capital Gazette reporters — Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, and Rob Hiaasen — were shot and killed by a man who stormed into the Annapolis newsroom with a shotgun and smoke grenades. The massacre led former Congressman David Dreier, also former chairman of the Capital’s parent company Tribune Publishing, to begin collecting support for a memorial.

“Every year, journalists are attacked, imprisoned and murdered around the world,” said Dreier, who is now chairman of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, in a statement. “No matter the circumstances of their deaths, these journalists and their sacrifices deserve to be remembered by a free society that values a free press.”

Democratic Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of California and Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma introduced the bipartisan legislation in the House in June 2019. The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Rob Portman from Ohio.

The bill is now headed to President Donald Trump who, despite his frequent attacks on the media, is expected to sign it, Dreier told the Gazette.

“A free press has fought for transparency and freedom since the founding of our republic. Those who personify the First Amendment rights granted to every citizen have made our nation stronger,” Senator Cardin said in a statement. “Too many, including five innocent souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, gave everything they had in defense of democracy.”

 

Dec. 3

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Trump Watch

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

More On U.S. Law, Courts

 

Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

 djt virus trump did it Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC director says coronavirus vaccines won’t be widely available till the middle of 2021, Amy Goldstein, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). It will take months after approval for a vaccine to help control the pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield predicted at Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted Wednesday that most of the American public will not have access to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus until late spring or summer of next year — contrary to President Trump’s assertions that the pandemic is nearly over.

us senate logoAt a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, CDC director Robert Redfield adhered to President Trump’s oft-stated contention that a safe and effective vaccine will become available in November or December — perhaps just before the presidential election seven weeks away.

But Redfield, right, said the vaccine will be provided first to people most vulnerable to covid-19, the disease caused by the Robert Redfieldvirus, and supplies will increase over time, so Americans who are lower priority for the protection will be offered the shot more gradually. For it to be “fully available to the American public, so we begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life,” he said, “I think we are probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”

Though any individual vaccinated should benefit, he said, the progressive widening of its availability means there will be a time lag between when a vaccine is approved and when it could have a measurable effect in controlling the pandemic. That might be six to nine months after the day it is approved by federal drug regulators, Redfield predicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, New U.S. virus cases top 200,000 in a day; CDC director issues stark warning, Reis Thebault, Meryl Kornfield, Jacqueline Dupree, Derek Hawkins, Siobhán O’Grady, Paulina Villegas and Taylor Telford, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Moderna quietly publishes plan to test its vaccine on children. But the timeline may mean kids can’t get the vaccine by the school year; Head of EPA in quarantine after possible exposure to the cdc logo Customcoronavirus; McEnany’s husband doesn’t wear mask in the White House despite reporter telling him the rules also apply to him.

The United States set a pair of alarming coronavirus records Wednesday, surpassing 200,000 new infections and topping 100,000 covid-19 patients hospitalized — the first time the country has reached either metric in a single day.

And Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the worst might still be ahead. He predicted that the U.S. covid-19 death toll could reach 450,000 by February, and he warned that this winter could be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: The enemy within: Trump’s coup and martial law attempt, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 3, 2020. WMR has learned wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallof a coordinated effort by Donald Trump loyalists Steve Bannon, exiled Chinese billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui, Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, retired Army Lieut. General and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and other members of Trump’s political inner circle to not only attack the results of the 2020 presidential election but also call for Trump to suspend the U.S. Constitution and impose martial law.

Flynn has echoed Bannon in calling for Trump to “temporarily suspend the Constitution, declare limited martial law, have the military oversee a national re-vote, and silence the destructive media.” Under the terms of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Flynn could be called back to active duty for the purpose of court-martialing him for sedition.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Flynn goes completely off the deep end – and he’s making things worse for himself, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2020. Michael Flynn is now openly calling for the overthrow of the United States government on Twitter, urging Donald Trump to “temporarily suspend michael flynn microphonethe Constitution” and “silence” the media. To be clear, it would be literally impossible for Trump to do these things – and Flynn isn’t helping himself.

bill palmer report logo headerFlynn (shown in a file photo) has already gotten his pardon. There is no (sane) reason for him to continue acting like this. All he’s doing is painting himself as a dangerous madman. This means that if federal prosecutors decide to challenge Flynn’s flimsy preemptive pardon in court by hitting him with additional criminal charges, Flynn’s behavior right now will help make their argument stronger – both in federal court, and in the court of public opinion.

What Michael Flynn, a retired U.S. military general, is doing right now is dangerous. But in the end, all he’s doing is helping to ensure a worse outcome for himself. Then again, Flynn has been self destructively unraveling for years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Britain is first to grant emergency approval for Pfizer’s vaccine, William Booth and Karla Adam, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Britain became the first country pfizer logoto grant emergency approval on Wednesday to the coronavirus vaccine developed by the Pfizer and BioNTech, smashing all speed records to see a potentially lifesaving shot invented, tested and approved in less than a year.

United Kingdom flagBritish officials said a mass immunization program would begin almost immediately, with distribution of the first 800,000 doses to begin next week in a remarkable rollout of an entirely new kind of vaccine. Built with a few bits of RNA, it must be stored and shipped at sub-Antarctic temperatures, which might prove a challenge.

fda logoDrug regulators in Britain have a global reputation for being tough but fast, and Wednesday’s decision is likely to intensify the focus on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has faced increasing pressure from the Trump administration to approve Pfizer’s vaccine.

ny times logoNew York Times, 596 Trades in One Term: Inside Senator Perdue’s Stock Portfolio, Stephanie Saul, Kate Kelly and Michael LaForgia, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). The Georgia Republican’s stock trades have far outpaced those of his Senate colleagues and have included a range of companies within his Senate committees’ oversight, an analysis shows.

david perdue headshotAs a member of the Senate’s cybersecurity subcommittee, David Perdue, right, has raised alarms that hackers from overseas pose a threat to U.S. computer networks. Citing a frightening report by a California-based company called FireEye, Mr. Perdue was among the senators who asked this spring that the National Guard prepare to protect against such data breaches.

Not only was the issue important to Mr. Perdue, so was FireEye, a federal contractor that provides malware detection and threat-republican elephant logointelligence services. Beginning in 2016, the senator bought and sold FireEye stock 61 times, at one point owning as much as $250,000 worth of shares in the company.

Along with Senator Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Georgia Republican, Mr. Perdue faces an unusual runoff election in January. With control of the Senate at stake, and amid renewed concern about the potential for conflicts of interest in stock trading by members of Congress, Mr. Perdue’s investment activity — and especially his numerous well-timed trades — has increasingly come into the public glare.

ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Republicans Seek Cover From Trump’s Fury Over Loss, Richard Fausset, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Many in the state brian kemp 2019 CustomG.O.P. are expending significant effort to navigate President Trump’s outrage over his loss, hoping to retain the support of his base.

Even though Gov. Brian Kemp, right, has already certified Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr., his fellow republican elephant logoRepublicans plan to hold a pair of State Senate committee hearings Thursday that are likely to dig into the question of whether the state’s election was, as President Trump falsely puts it, “rigged.”

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 3, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 64,838,896, Deaths: 1,499,218
U.S. Cases:   14,313,941, Deaths:    279,865

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 3, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC says 2-week quarantines can be cut to 10 or 7 days, Joel Achenbach, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). The revised guidance aims to boost compliance with a key tool for limiting the spread of covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, States race to create their own relief plans amid federal inaction, Tony Romm, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Governors and state lawmakers across the country are racing to authorize millions of dollars in new coronavirus stimulus aid, aiming to plug gaping holes in their local economies before the end of the year.

The burst of activity has intensified in recent weeks after months of false starts in Washington, where congressional lawmakers repeatedly have failed to deliver additional support for a growing number of Americans who are still out of work, struggling to pay their bills or facing severe financial straits.

Michigan, for example, has sought to extend another round of enhanced payments to its unemployed residents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden transition advisers emerge as top contenders to preside over new administration’s covid-19 response, Amy Goldstein and Toluse Olorunnipa, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). As President-elect Joe Biden makes fighting the raging coronavirus his most urgent mission when he takes office next month, two figures already playing central roles in his transition are emerging as the most likely officials to preside over the new White House’s pandemic response.

One contender for Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, envisioned as a powerful role in setting the agenda and orchestrating the work of federal agencies, is Jeff Zients, a co-chairman of the Biden transition team who led the Obama administration’s National Economic Council. Another is Vivek H. Murthy, a co-chair of the transition’s covid-19 advisory board and a former U.S. surgeon general.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo invites hundreds to indoor holiday parties after State Dept. subordinates are warned against hosting ‘non-mission critical events,’ John Hudson, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Health experts say festivities have all the makings of superspreader events, with one calling plans “dangerous on so many levels.”

Following a sharp spike in coronavirus cases across the country, State Department leadership sent out a notice to employees one week ago recommending that “any non-mission critical events” be changed to “virtual events as opposed to in-person gatherings.”

mike pompeo portraitThat same week, U.S. event planners were told that the guidance did not apply to the upcoming functions they were working on: large indoor holiday parties hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and his wife, Susan, on the eighth floor of the State Department involving hundreds of guests, food and drinks.

Pompeo’s lineup of parties in the next three weeks comes as the Trump administration’s own health experts are imploring Americans to limit travel and avoid large gatherings amid a pandemic that has killed more than 270,000 Americans and infected nearly 14 million across the United States.

A copy of one invitation, obtained by The Washington Post, welcomes guests to a Dec. 15 event titled “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” in the Benjamin Franklin Room, the department’s flagship reception space, which features cut-glass chandeliers and towering Corinthian columns. Invitations have already gone out to 900 people, said two U.S. officials familiar with the planning, raising concerns about a potential superspreader event.

One State Department official questioned why Washington’s limitations on the size of indoor gatherings to fewer than 10 people or other measures aren’t being considered for the event.

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump escalates baseless attacks on election with a 46-minute video rant, Philip Rucker, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). He claimed without evidence that the nation’s election system was “under coordinated assault and siege” and that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump officialEscalating his attack on democracy from within the White House, President Trump on Wednesday distributed an astonishing 46-minute video rant filled with baseless allegations of voter fraud and outright falsehoods in which he declared the nation’s election system “under coordinated assault and siege” and argued that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Standing behind the presidential lectern in the Diplomatic Reception Room and flanked by the flags of his office and of the country whose Constitution he swore an oath to uphold, Trump tried to leverage the power of the presidency to subvert the vote and overturn the election results.

The rambling and bellicose monologue — which Trump said “may be the most important speech I’ve ever made” and was delivered direct-to-camera with no audience — underscored his desperation to reverse the outcome of his election loss after a month of failed legal challenges and as some key states already have certified Biden’s victory.

washington post logoWashington Post, President is said to be livid at attorney general, with one official suggesting termination is possible, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr had undercut President Trump’s unfounded claims of a rigged election.

william barr new oPresident Trump remained livid at Attorney General William P. Barr, right, on Wednesday, with one senior administration official indicating there was a chance Barr could be fired — not just for his public comments undercutting Trump’s unfounded claims of election-shifting fraud, but also for steps he did not take on a probe of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign.

A day after Barr told the Associated Press that he had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Trump continued to complain about his attorney general, people familiar with the matter said.

Trump, the official said, was perhaps even angrier that Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham did not issue a public report of his findings before last month’s election, and that Barr had secretly appointed Durham as special counsel in October, giving him extra legal and political protection to continue the work he started a year ago. Durham is examining whether crimes were committed by law enforcement during its 2016 investigation of whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia.

joseph diGenova victoria toensig fox

washington post logoWashington Post, Joseph diGenova resigns from Gridiron Club after saying fired cybersecurity official should be shot, Elahe Izadi, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). The elite Washington journalism social organization asked the Trump campaign lawyer to step down.

Joseph diGenova, (shown above with his wife and law partner Victoria Toensig) the Trump campaign lawyer who had been a fixture in Washington legal circles for decades, resigned under pressure Tuesday from the elite Gridiron Club after an uproar over his comments suggesting a former government official should be executed.

DiGenova later said he was joking when he made the comments about Christopher Krebs, right, the federal cybersecurity official who was fired by chris krebs oPresident Trump after asserting that the 2020 election was secure and free of widespread voter fraud. “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs . . . .” diGenova said on the conservative “Howie Carr Show” on Monday. “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

Still, the White House denounced the statement, Krebs said he would consider legal action — and the 135-year-old Gridiron Club asked diGenova to step down.

The Gridiron Club is primarily an organization for Washington journalists, but it is best known for an annual formal dinner that also ropes in political luminaries and a raucous musical-comedy presentation of satirical songs and skits. DiGenova, who served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in the 1980s, had been a “limited” member for more than 25 years, one of a handful of “ringers” recruited for their impressive singing voices.

His comments have also caused alarm on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Ted W. Lieu (D-Ca.), both former prosecutors, called on the disciplinary arm of the D.C. bar to immediately open an investigation into diGenova’s statements as an incitement to violence and a violation of rules of professional conduct. “If a lawyer licensed in the District of Columbia can – while speaking in a representative capacity – publicly call for the death of his client’s perceived adversaries without consequences, the [bar] Counsel has abjectly failed in its duty,” the lawmakers wrote.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Reaping what they have sown, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 3, 2020. In the 24 hours since last I wrote to you, brothers and sisters, robert harringtnn portrait90 more Americans have died from coronavirus than died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. That is, 2,889 coronavirus victims against the 2,799 who died that fateful day nearly 20 years ago. My hope is that grim statistic is more than just a mind-numbingly large number, but a reminder that there are often somber repercussions to ignorance. Most of those coronavirus deaths were preventable.

bill palmer report logo headerThe difference between those coronavirus deaths and the deaths of September 11, of course, is they did not occur in the midst of the shocking spectacle of mammoth collapsing buildings and shrieking terror-inspired New Yorkers in full flight for their lives, but quietly, unobtrusively, in a hospital bed, or at home.

To put it in cynical terms, September 11th had the better publicist. Even so, in some ways the coronavirus deaths are even more shocking. September 11th was the result of an attack by inimical foreign agents living outside the United States and setting out to murder Americans. The coronavirus deaths, on the other hand, were caused by ignorant Americans misled by the president of the United States. And, of course, Donald Trump is still killing Americans in 9/11 orders of magnitude every single day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Prosecuting Trump Is a Very Bad Idea, Eric Posner (University of Chicago law professor and the author of “The Demagogue’s Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy From the Founders to Trump”), Dec. 3, 2020. The goal would be to renew faith in our government, but its effect would be the opposite.

As the Biden administration slowly coalesces, there have been many calls for its Justice Department to prosecute Donald Trump for any crimes he may have committed while in office. The hope, proponents of this view argue, is to establish that the president is subject to the rule of law and to deter future presidents from breaking the law.

The problem with this agenda is that there is little evidence that Mr. Trump did commit crimes as president. A conviction, given what we know now, is all but impossible. The calls to investigate him echo the president’s own calls to investigate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden based on mere speculation — calls that most people, especially liberals, rightly condemned.

The most plausible charge is that Mr. Trump obstructed justice by interfering with, and possibly lying to, Robert Mueller and his investigators. Critics also argue that Mr. Trump may have broken the law by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government announced the opening of an investigation into the Bidens. A third possible charge is that Mr. Trump corruptly mixed his financial affairs with government business.

All of these charges would face formidable difficulties in court.

Investigations into allegations that Mr. Trump was involved in credit and tax fraud and campaign finance violations before his presidency are another matter. But convictions based on such pre-presidential behavior will not reflect on his presidency nor hold lessons for future presidents.

And even these investigations run the risk of turning Mr. Trump into one of the last things we want him to be: a martyr.

 

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Inside Ivanka Trump’s failed attempt to have Congress secure her legacy, Josh Rogin, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). For ivanka trump long hair filemore than three years, Ivanka Trump, right, has been working to advance the cause of women’s economic empowerment, with cooperation from lawmakers in both parties and substantial success.

But her eleventh-hour push to have her flagship program enshrined into law failed this week due to a mix of politics and personalities, bringing down with it another important piece of legislation in the process.

Law & Crime, What Ivanka Trump’s Emails with Rick Gates Likely Reveal About Her Deposition, Adam Klasfeld, Dec 3, 2020. The court filing revealing that Ivanka Trump sat for a deposition with the office of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine revealed few details about the First Daughter’s interrogation. But her emails open a window into a likely focus of the Q&A.

Racine has accused President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee of coordinating with the Trump family to grossly overpay for an event space inside Washington’s Trump International Hotel—to the tune of at least $300,000 for a private reception from the outgoing president’s children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.

The attorney general’s office obtained emails from 2016 showing haggling over that deal, and the First Daughter pulled one out of context to defend the transaction.

“Why don’t you call and negotiate,” Ms. Trump, leftt, wrote the hotel’s managing director Mickael Damelincourt and Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger on Dec. 14, 2016. “It should be fair market rate.”

Racine’s complaint alleges that the inaugural committee created in 2016 misused nonprofit money to make unfair payments of $1.03 million to the Trump and failed to seek out fair market alternatives.

A month after Election Day in 2020, outgoing President Trump continues to flail in last-gasp efforts to overturn the race for the White House that he lost decisively, and attention has been turning to the potential civil and criminal liability that could await his family once he leaves or is ousted from office.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Washington DC Attorney General fires back at Ivanka Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2020. Yesterday the news broke that Ivanka Trump had been forced to testify in the Washington DC Attorney General’s civil investigation into alleged Trump inauguration fund fraud. It turns out Ivanka isn’t happy about it, and it further turns out that the Attorney General isn’t impressed with her whining.

bill palmer report logo headerIvanka posted a tweet today, revealing that she was forced to testify for five-plus hours. She accused the entire investigation of being a “politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness.”

Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine fired back at Ivanka: “We filed suit after gathering evidence that the Presidential Inaugural Committee knowingly entered into a grossly overpriced contract with the Trump Hotel. Any claim to the contrary is incorrect … DC law requires nonprofits to use funds for stated public purposes, and to avoid unreasonable, wasteful expenses. Our investigation revealed the Committee willfully used nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. It’s very simple: They broke the law. That’s why we sued.”

karl racineRacine, left, also posted an email from former Melania Trump friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who is now working with investigators, addressed to convicted felon Rick Gates, and CC’d to Ivanka Trump. In the email, Wolkoff expressed concern that the inflated Trump hotel inaugural pricing would end up being “audited” and become a problem.

Here’s what stands out. There is no indication that Ivanka is a target of the investigation; thus far it’s merely established that she’s a witness to the alleged fraud. Also, this is merely a civil investigation, and not (yet) a criminal one. But Ivanka is reacting in remarkably angry, bitter, defensive, and conspiratorial fashion. Since her father lost the election, she’s starting to sound more like her father with every passing day.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

ronna mcdaniel djt Custom

politico CustomPolitico, RNC invites 2024 hopefuls to January meeting in show of neutrality toward Trump, Alex Isenstadt, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). RNC chair Ronna McDaniel (shown above) is positioning herself as a neutral force in the party going forward.McDaniel is inviting roughly a dozen potential rnc logo2024 presidential candidates to the RNC’s January meeting in Amelia Island, Fla. — the most explicit move she’s made yet to show that the committee will be impartial going forward and not simply an extension of Trump’s political machine, even as he openly mulls a comeback bid.

The list of would-be candidates invited to speak includes South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. Vice President Mike Pence, another potential contender, is planning to attend. Trump is also invited, though spokespersons declined to say whether he’d be going.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s campaign begins attacking Trump’s election lawyer Lin Wood as everything hits the fan, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2020. Lin Wood, a lawyer who has been representing Donald Trump in his election legal battle, told a crowd of Republicans on Wednesday that they shouldn’t even bother voting in Georgia’s Senate runoff races, because the voting machines are supposedly rigged anyway. In response, Trump’s campaign Twitter account attacked Wood and accused him of secretly being a Democrat.

bill palmer report logo headerSo now we have Trump’s election lawyer trying to sabotage Trump’s party’s chances of keeping the Senate, and we have Trump’s campaign attacking Trump’s election lawyer. Not only are the rats turning on each other, it’s becoming clear that there’s no direction at all from the top. These Trump factions wouldn’t be openly feuding with each other if Trump himself were bothering to give any of them marching orders. He’s clearly checked out.

Law & Crime, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood File Midnight Brief Asking Appeals Court to Decertify Presidential Election, Matt Naham, Dec. 3, 2020. Attorneys Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and their co-counsel submitted a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit at 11:58 p.m. on Wednesday, asking the court to issue a temporary injunctive order to decertify the presidential election, and order Republican Georgia defendants Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “preserve all data on the Dominion System” so “Republican Electors can audit the Dominion System” in 10 counties.

The Eleventh Circuit said that this filing was due by midnight. Briefs by the state are due by midnight Friday, and any reply brief by Powell et al. is due by midnight Sunday.

The state has argued that Powell is “security risk” who should “not get the keys to the software kingdom.” Defendants also said Powell and Wood are relying on “innuendo and accusation,” rather than “facts and law.”

The Powell brief repeated allegations of widespread fraud orchestrated by Iran and China:

Plaintiffs filed their complaint and 28 exhibits on November 25, 2020. Plaintiffs alleged that the Dominion election system was vulnerable to hacking and malware, and that the election results presented mathematical and statistical anomalies bordering on the impossible. Plaintiffs supported these allegations with substantial affidavits and declarations of experts, including two cyber security experts’ declarations, the “Spider” Affidavit (Doc. 01-9) and the Ramsland Declaration (Doc. 01-10). The Spider Affidavit, filed with the affiant’s name redacted due to existing threats to his life from his professional work, and concern about his safety from giving this testimony, see Doc. 5, presents a truly alarming picture of Iran and China having completely penetrated Dominion’s networks.

As recently as Tuesday, Attorney General Bill Barr said federal agencies have looked into claims that voting machines were rigged to manipulate the election results. Barr, one of Trump’s most loyal cabinet members, said he has not seen evidence of that.

“There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.

The Powell brief also admitted that “appellate jurisdiction” to deliver the order she is seeking “does not ordinarily exist.”

Powell claimed at the district court level that Dominion was “founded by foreign oligarchs and dictators to ensure computerized ballot-stuffing and vote manipulation to whatever level was needed to make certain Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez never lost another election.” She said the defendants, both Republicans, “rushed through the purchase of Dominion voting machines and software in 2019 for the 2020 Presidential Election.” The lawsuit included an altered version of Secretary Raffensperger’s certification of Dominion voting machines, declaring that the certificate was “undated.” It was only undated because the plaintiffs cropped out the date.

The district judge temporarily enjoined defendants from “altering, destroying, or erasing, or allowing the alteration, destruction, or erasure of, any software or data on any Dominion voting machine” Cobb, Gwinnett, and Cherokee Counties. Powell et al. seek much more than that.

The appellate filing came hours after Powell and Wood told supporters of President Donald Trump at a so-called “Stop the Steal” rally not to vote in the upcoming Kelly Loeffler-Rev. Raphael Warnock and David Perdue–Jon Ossoff runoff elections—which will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. They told the MAGA audience that the security of the election can’t be trusted. Newt Gingrich did not like this, despite circulating Wood’s plans as recently as Sunday.

Law & Crime, Trump Has Already Rewarded Ally Who Was Banned from DOJ for Trying to Dig Up Info on Ongoing Election Matters, Matt Naham, Dec. 3, 2020. There are so many things that Attorney General Bill Barr could have discussed during his hours-long visit at the White House on Tuesday, including John Durham’s appointment as special counsel or Barr’s own remarks that he has not seen evidence of widespread, election-altering fraud. But what about White House allies roaming around the Department of Justice trying to “pressure” staffers into divulging information about ongoing investigations into election matters?

Justice Department log circularThe Associated Press reported on Thursday that Heidi Stirrup, a White House liaison to the Department of Justice, was banned from entering Main Justice within the last two weeks because she tried to dig up information about ongoing DOJ investigations of particular and current interest to President Donald Trump:

Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, was quietly installed at the Justice Department as a White House liaison a few months ago. She was told within the last two weeks to vacate the building after top Justice officials learned of her efforts to collect insider information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud, the people [familiar with the matter] said.

Stirrup is accused of approaching staffers in the department demanding they give her information about investigations, including election fraud matters, the people said.

Stirrup may have been banned for stirring things up behind the scenes, but she has already been rewarded for her attempts to keep the 45th president in the loop as he remains in denial that Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States.

Just minutes before the AP report was published, the White House announced that Stirrup, a Stephen Miller ally, had been rewarded with a “spot on the Board of Visitors to the United States Air Force Academy,” as the Daily Beast put it.

 washington post logojoe biden oWashington Post, Biden plans to spurn Trump immigration restrictions, but risk of new border crisis looms, Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden will take office under pressure to repudiate and rescind many, if not most, of the more than 400 executive actions President Trump used to tighten the U.S. immigration system. But Biden also will start his term in a bind that could make such changes difficult to accomplish in short order.

ny times logoNew York Times, 12 Votes Separated These House Candidates. Then 55 Ballots Were Found, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jesse McKinley, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). After all the votes had been counted in a heated House rematch in Central New York, only 12 votes separated Claudia Tenney, a former Republican congresswoman, from Representative Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat.

But the razor-thin margin is far from the only reason the race is engulfed in chaos.

‘StickyGate’ is just one of the reasons for the uproar over the extraordinarily close race between Claudia Tenney, a Republican, and Rep. Anthony Brindisi.

The other unresolved race is an open seat in Iowa’s Second District, where Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, was recently certified the winner following a recount in which she led the Democrat, Rita Hart, by just six votes. Ms. Hart has indicated she intends to challenge the result, which could be the closest congressional race in recent memory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Trump-fueled peril for the GOP in Georgia, Aaron Blake, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Late last week, concern was building among Republicans that President Trump’s baseless attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election might lead their voters to sit out Georgia’s all-important Senate runoffs, which will determine control of the chamber. If elections are rigged, the logic goes, why bother? And why reward people who supposedly haven’t stood up enough for Trump’s specious claims?

So Trump weighed in with a brief message.

The election was indeed a “total scam,” he assured, “but we must get out and help David and Kelly, two GREAT people” — referring to Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.).

 

More On U.S. Law, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Choice, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), Dec. 3, 2020. Will she join the Supreme Court’s grievance linda greenhouse cover just a journalistconservatives? Justice Amy Coney Barrett (below left) had a choice.

She could provide the fifth vote on the Supreme Court that Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh needed — and would not have received from the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to place a temporary block, in the name of religious freedom, on New York’s pandemic-driven limitations on church and synagogue attendance.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoOr she could give that precious fifth vote to Chief Justice John Roberts in the name not only of public health but also of judicial modesty, since the most severe restrictions the Catholic and Jewish organizations were complaining about were no longer in effect and the whole case might well disappear into thin air if the Supreme Court simply stayed its hand.

History will record the choice Justice Barrett made in the court’s Nov. 25 decision as the first moment of fruition for the hopes and fears engendered by her abrupt election-eve ascension to the Supreme Court following Justice Ginsburg’s death in September.

The real significance of the decision lay in the which-side-are-you-on test it posed for the newest justice. I don’t mean the conservative side versus the liberal side. Obviously, she’s a conservative. What matters is that a month into her tenure, she chose to align herself with what I call grievance conservatism: conservatism with a chip on its shoulder, fueled by a belief that even when it’s winning, it’s losing, and losing unfairly.

Law & Crime, Kyle Rittenhouse Loses Round in Court, Must Stand Trial on Murder and Other Charges, Colin Kalmbacher, Dec. 3, 2020. Admitted Kenosha killer Kyle Rittenhouse will be tried for murder, a court in Wisconsin ruled on Thursday afternoon.

The decision comes as a blow to the defense, which attempted to argue the defendant acted in self-defense and therefore did not commit a felony. A self-defense argument necessitates admitting the underlying action was committed by whoever attempts to claim it.

kyle rittenhouse resized cropped mugHere, this means Rittenhouse, shown at right in a mug shot, and his defense team are not disputing that he shot and killed two people while injuring a third–just that his actions were permissible and justified under the law due to the circumstances surrounding the 17-year-old’s night of violence.

During a Zoom hearing, Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner Loren Keating ruled in favor of the prosecution on multiple fronts–while allowing the defense a bit of leeway in making their own case–and determined that enough probable cause existed to pursue several felony charges against the would-be “militia” member, including two counts of murder in the first degree and one count of attempted murder.

“I do find the state has demonstrated probable cause that in this case felonies were committed relating to the counts in the complaint,” the judge noted.

Self-defense claims are typically adjudicated during the trial phase of a prosecution–a point Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger brought up during Thursday’s preliminary hearing.

michael null left william null resized michigan

Michigan terrorism suspects Michael Null, left, and his brother William Null, shown in mug shots.

Law & Crime, Two Men Charged with Terrorism in Alleged Plot to Kidnap Gov. Whitmer Were Released from Jail, Colin Kalmbacher, Dec. 3, 2020. Two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) earlier this year were released from jail Thursday on bond. According to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), defense attorneys for 38-year-old brothers William Null and Michael Null attended a bond hearing on Wednesday that went well for the defendants.

Grand Traverse County 86th District Court Judge Michael Stepka reduced bond for each of the Null brothers from a pure cash bond of $250,000 to a $250,000 surety bond set at 10-percent.

Initially refusing to modify their bond due to “concerns for the safety of the public and government officials,” the judge ultimately relented.

According to The Detroit News, both men will be confined to their homes except for work-related travel and visits with their lawyer–subject to a curfew. The judge also conditioned their would-be release on an ankle-monitoring and blood-testing regime with an explicit bar on possessing weapons, consuming illicit drugs or alcohol and forbidding them from any contact with the Wolverine Watchmen or Michigan Liberties Militia groups.

During the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Sunita Doddamani fervently opposed lowering the alleged domestic terrorists’ bonds whatsoever, calling the Nulls “extremely dangerous individuals.”

“They were clearly motivated to commit political violence and they were at the table early in multi-state meetings with militias as early as June,” she said during the hearing. “They went to provide help and support for the operators of this plot.”

Each of the six defendants were arrested in early October by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly planning to target the first-term governor at her vacation home in response to stay-at-home orders aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus and ensuing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” the investigating FBI agent said in an affidavit. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”

“The [alleged co-conspirators] discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to destroy police vehicles,” the indictment read. “The [alleged co-conspirators] also discussed plans for an additional meeting during the first weekend of July when they also would conduct firearms and tactical training.”

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, DOJ sues Facebook, alleging it improperly hired foreign workers, Tony Romm and Abigail Hauslohner, Dec. 3, 2020. The Justice Department on Thursday sued Facebook over allegations that it discriminated against Americans in the way it hired temporary foreign workers for thousands of facebook logowell-paid positions.

The lawsuit contends that Facebook failed to properly advertise at least 2,600 jobs — and consider applications from U.S. citizens — before it offered the spots to foreign workers whom the tech giant was sponsoring for green cards granting permanent residence.

Facebook’s practices violated federal laws that require employers to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available before it offers positions to temporary foreign workers it is sponsoring, the Justice Department said. The government sought unspecified monetary damages and other penalties against the tech giant for the alleged violations, which occurred in 2018 and 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah gives up and quits, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, 2020. The rats just keep leaving the sinking ship. Some are doing so involuntarily, such as Donald Trump’s operative Heidi Stirrup, who got banned from the Department of Justice today for malfeasance.

Others, such as Trump’s White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah, are simply resigning and moving on. Notably, Farah had only been on the job since April. So she joined the ship while it was sinking, and is leaving now that it’s nearing the bottom of the sea.

It’s been such a chaotic revolving door, we’ve actually lost track of just how many White House Communications Directors that Donald Trump ended up having. Anthony Scaramucci famously had the job for eleven days. Hope Hicks had the job at one point. Sean Spicer held the title in an acting capacity at two different points. Jason Miller was given the job but managed to lose it in scandal before even starting the job. Mike Dubke, Stephanie Grisham, and Bill Shine all had the job as well. There were long stretches where Trump’s White House Communications Director post was simply left absent. What a joke.

President elect Joe Biden has now pulled ahead of Donald Trump by seven million votes and counting. This election was never even remotely close.

washington post logoWashington Post, Parler’s got a porn problem: Adult businesses target pro-Trump social network, Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Rachel Lerman, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Anyone following the #sexytrumpgirl hashtag on Parler, a social media site increasingly popular with conservatives, got an eyeful one recent Thursday evening as images of topless women and links to hardcore pornography websites appeared at a rapid-fire rate, often more than one per minute.

The surge of #sexytrumpgirl posts highlighted a broader dilemma for Parler: The site’s lax moderation policies, in keeping with its claims to being a bastion of free speech, have helped it become a magnet for pornographers, escort services and online sex merchants using hashtags targeting conservatives, such as #keepamericasexy and #milfsfortrump2020.

The pornography threatens to intrude on users not seeking sexual material and has the potential to complicate hopes the site may have to expand advertising, which is now limited. Experts on the impact of pornography say major companies typically avoid having their sales pitches appear alongside controversial imagery.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, for example, prohibit sexually explicit images and videos, while Twitter generally allows them so long as they show the images or actions of consenting adults.

Parler once banned all pornography but in recent months revised its terms of service to permit essentially anything that’s legal, making its policy close to Twitter’s, if slightly more permissive.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli parliament moves to dissolve government, triggering possible new elections, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). A no-confidence vote Wednesday could spell the end of the unity government formed seven months ago. Israel faced the prospect of political chaos once again Wednesday when lawmakers approved a preliminary measure to dissolve the turbulent coalition government, putting the country on a path to its fourth election in two years.

Israel FlagThe vote of 61 to 54 to advance the proposal marked another escalation of a political crisis that has left the country with only a caretaker government for more than a year and a largely dysfunctional unity coalition during the mounting coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic collapse.

Wednesday’s bill does not take immediate effect. Negotiations among the feuding factions could still head off final action on the proposal as it moves to a parliamentary committee before coming back for three more votes by the full Knesset, Israel’s parliament. But the push to topple the coalition got a major boost when Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party that shares power with Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, announced he would support ending the government.

ny times logoNew York Times, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Who Struggled to Transform France, Dies at 94, Dec. 3, 2020 (print ed.). As a conservative president and a descendant of nobility, he sought to make government more responsive to the people but was thwarted by an economic slowdown, demographic shifts and an imperious bearing. He died of Covid-19.

 

Dec. 2

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  • william barr resized profileNew York Times,