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

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

 

Nov. 28

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal appeals court rejects Trump request to block certification of Pa. election results, Jon Swaine, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The sharply worded opinion, written by a Trump appointee, said the campaign’s challenge has no merit.  A federal appeals court on Friday rejected President Trump’s request for an emergency injunction to overturn the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results.

stephanos bibasThe Third Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Trump campaign’s challenge of a U.S. district court’s decision had “no merit.”

The court’s sharply worded opinion was written by Judge Stephanos Bibas, right, who was appointed to the court by Trump.

“Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Bibas wrote.

Trump’s campaign appealed after a district court last weekend dismissed its federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania election authorities and rejected its request to revise the suit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Did So Many Americans Vote for Trump? Will Wilkinson, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). To the dismay of Democrats, the president’s strategy of ignoring the pandemic mostly worked for Republicans.

President Trump’s disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic probably cost him re-election. Yet it seems mind-boggling that he still won more votes than any incumbent president in American history despite his dereliction of responsibility at a time of a once-in-a-century health crisis and economic devastation.

Why are President-elect Joe Biden’s margins so thin in the states that clinched his victory? And why did the president’s down-ticket enablers flourish in the turbulent, plague-torn conditions they helped bring about?

Democrats, struggling to make sense of it all, are locked in yet another round of mutual recrimination: They were either too progressive for swing voters — too socialist or aggressive with ambitious policies like the Green New Deal — or not progressive enough to inspire potential Democratic voters to show up or cross over.

djt maga hatBut they should understand that there was really no way to avoid disappointment. Three factors — the logic of partisan polarization, which inaccurate polling obscured; the strength of the juiced pre-Covid-19 economy; and the success of Mr. Trump’s denialist, open-everything-up nonresponse to the pandemic — mostly explain why Democrats didn’t fare better.

This shocking strategy worked for Republicans, even if it didn’t pan out for the president himself. Moreover, it laid a trap that Democrats walked into — something they should understand and adjust for, as best they can, as they look ahead.

How could a president responsible for one of the gravest failures of governance in American history nevertheless maintain such rock-solid support?

When party affiliation becomes a central source of meaning and self-definition, reality itself becomes contested and verifiable facts turn into hot-button controversies. Elections can’t render an authoritative verdict on the performance of incumbents when partisans in a closely divided electorate tell wildly inconsistent stories about one another and the world they share.

Mr. Trump has a knack for leveraging the animosities of polarized partisanship to cleave his supporters from sources of credible information and inflame them with vilifying lies. This time, it wasn’t enough to save his bacon, which suggests that polarization hasn’t completely wrecked our democracy’s capacity for self-correction: Sweeping a medium-size city’s worth of dead Americans under the rug turned out to be too tall an order.

However, Mr. Trump’s relentless campaign to goose the economy by cutting taxes, running up enormous deficits and debt, and hectoring the Fed into not raising rates was working for millions of Americans. We tend to notice when we’re personally more prosperous than we were a few years before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump moves to strip job protections from White House budget analysts as he races to transform civil service, Lisa Rein, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The outgoing Trump administration is racing to enact the biggest change to the federal civil service in generations, reclassifying career employees at key agencies to strip their job protections and leave them open to being fired before Joe Biden takes office.

djt smiling fileThe move to pull off an executive order the president issued less than two weeks before Election Day — affecting tens of thousands of people in policy roles — is accelerating at the agency closest to the White House, the Office of Management and Budget.

The budget office sent a list this week of roles identified by its politically appointed leaders to the federal personnel agency for final sign-off. The list comprises 88 percent of its workforce — 425 analysts and other experts who would shift into a new job classification called Schedule F.

The employees would then be vulnerable to dismissal before Trump leaves office if they are considered poor performers or have resisted executing the president’s priorities, effectively turning them into political appointees that come and go with each administration.

The Office of Personnel Management is also rushing to shuffle many of its own roughly 3,500 employees into the new category, a senior administration official said. Other agencies are pulling together lists of policy roles, too — but the budget and personnel offices volunteered to be test cases for the controversial policy, this official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration deliberations.

By fast-tracking a process that gave agencies until Jan. 19 to identify affected jobs, the administration appears to be signaling its intent to leave as big an imprint as possible on a workforce it has long mistrusted. Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to block the effort.

The White House budget office acts as the nerve center of the government, an elite career workforce that prepares and helps administer the annual spending plan and helps set fiscal and personnel policy for federal agencies. Its analysts are generally mission-driven, and they provide vast institutional memory and expertise for a president, regardless of party.

Up to 88 percent of the workforce at the Office of Management and Budget could be affected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prominent Iranian nuclear scientist killed in attack outside Tehran, Kareem Fahim and Miriam Berger, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). A prominent Iranian nuclear scientist who was seen as mohsen fakhrizadeha driving force behind Tehran's disbanded effort to build a nuclear weapon was killed Friday during an attack east of Tehran, Iranian news agencies reported.

The scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, right, was gravely wounded during a “clash” between his security detail and unidentified “armed terrorists” in the city of Damavand, the semiofficial ISNA news agency said. Fakhrizadeh later died at the hospital, the agency said.

iran flag mapIran’s state television said Fakhrizadeh was killed in a shootout, the Associated Press reported.

Western intelligence agencies and Israel had described Fakhrizadeh as the mastermind behind Iran’s covert program aimed at building a nuclear weapon, which was halted in 2003.

There was no claim of responsibility for the apparent targeted killing, but Iran has accused Israel and the United States of carrying out similar deadly attacks on nuclear experts in Iran in the past.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ethiopia launches assault on rebelling Tigray region, bucking global efforts to avoid war, Lesley Wroughton and Danielle Paquette, Nov. 28, Aabiy Ahmed ethiopian pm2020. The collapse in dialogue raised fears of civil war in Ethiopia and further instability and a growing humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The offensive against Mekele — a normally peaceful city of 500,0000 — followed the end of a 72-hour ultimatum issued by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, shown at right in a file photo, to rebelling leaders of the Tigray region to lay down arms after three weeks of unrest.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

New York Times, Live Updates: With Learning Upended, Parents Pull Children From U.S. Public Schools, Ellen Barry, As public schools shift to remote or hybrid learning because of the virus, parents are opting to keep children home or find more in-person instruction. The U.S. has set records for the number of patients hospitalized every day for the past two weeks. Here’s the latest.

Two and a half months into the school year, Massachusetts compiled its data and found sobering results: Enrollment in public schools was down 37,000, or almost 4 percent, from last year, a startling drop for a system that has mostly held steady.

Though no nationwide data is available, similar snapshots are emerging all over the country. Enrollment in New York City public schools is down 31,000 students, or 3.2 percent, according to preliminary data obtained by Chalkbeat.

With public schools mostly shifting to remote or hybrid learning, parents are pulling their children out entirely, opting to keep them at home or looking for options that offer more in-person instruction.

“In some cases, the charter schools are taking them, in some cases privates and parochials,” said Glenn Koocher, who heads the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. “The bigger tragedy is that some kids aren’t getting anything, because they’ve fallen off the map.”

Mr. Koocher said he believes a third of the students that left public schools this year are in that category. “The districts have lost touch with them,” he said. “They’re staying home, probably doing nothing, and we’re out of touch with them.”

A reverse phenomenon has taken place at private schools, many of which began the school year with in-person learning. In New England, 36 percent of independent schools reported a rise in enrollment in September compared with last year, according to the National Association of Independent Schools.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 28, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 62,120,296, Deaths: 1,451,878
U.S. Cases:   13,454,346, Deaths:    271,029

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, Nov. 28, 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, Pushed by the Pandemic, Amazon Goes on a Hiring Spree Without Equal, Karen Weise, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The company added 427,300 employees in 10 months for a work force of more than 1.2 million people globally, which approaches the population of Dallas. The hiring has taken place at headquarters in Seattle, at warehouses in rural communities and suburbs, and in countries such as India and Italy.

amazon logo smallAmazon added 427,300 employees between January and October, pushing its work force to more than 1.2 million people globally, up more than 50 percent from a year ago. Its number of workers now approaches the entire population of Dallas.

The spree has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic, which has turbocharged Amazon’s business and made it a winner of the crisis. Starting in July, the company brought on about 350,000 employees, or 2,800 a day. Most have been warehouse workers, but Amazon has also hired software engineers and hardware specialists to power enterprises such as cloud computing, streaming entertainment and devices, which have boomed in the pandemic.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Suffered Crushing Down-Ballot Losses Across America, Trip Gabriel, Nov. 28, 2020. Suburban voters’ disgust with President Trump failed to translate into a rebuke of other Republicans, ensuring the party’s grip on partisan mapmaking. From the top of the party down to the state level, Democratic officials are awakening to the reality that voters may have delivered a one-time verdict on Mr. Trump that does not equal ongoing support for center-left policies.

This year, Democrats targeted a dozen state legislative chambers where Republicans held tenuous majorities, including in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Minnesota. Their goal was to check the power of Republicans to redraw congressional and legislative districts in 2021, and to curb the rightward drift of policies from abortion to gun safety to voting rights.

But in all cases, Democrats came up short.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Contenders for Biden’s Cabinet Draw Fire From All Sides, Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Martin, Nov. 28, 2020. There are leading candidates and dark horses. There are potential roadblocks from progressives and conservatives. And there are competing factions.

Aides to Mr. Biden who are managing the selection process are revealing little about whom he intends to choose. And yet, as is typical in Washington in the early days of a transition, the names of those the president-elect is said to be considering are a frequent source of discussion. This time, the gossip is spreading via Zoom calls, Twitter posts and encrypted text messages sent by lawmakers, lobbyists and political consultants.

Whom Mr. Biden will tap to be the next attorney general is among the most talked about — and politically fraught — decisions that the president-elect will make as civil rights issues roil the country and some Democrats expect investigations into President Trump and his associates.

sally yates oSally Q. Yates, left, the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration, had long been considered the front-runner. Mr. Biden is close to her and has told friends that he could imagine her as the nation’s top law enforcement official. But some advisers fear that Republicans would block her nomination because of her refusal to defend Mr. Trump’s first travel ban and her role in the early stages of the investigations into his campaign and associates.

Mr. Biden could instead pick Lisa Monaco, the former homeland security adviser for President Barack Obama who was a finalist in 2013 to be deval patrick oF.B.I. director. And like Ms. Yates, she worked well with Mr. Biden when he was vice president.

But both women are up against Deval Patrick, right, the former Massachusetts governor who served as the head of the department’s civil rights division in the Clinton administration and would be the second Black man to be attorney general.

us senate logoThe president-elect’s aides see civil rights issues as a far more deep-seated problem than simply one that has arisen because of Mr. Trump. The aides believe that Mr. Patrick’s experience at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. and his stewardship of the department’s civil rights division positions him to take on that issue.

Others around the president-elect are not eager to reward Mr. Patrick, who jumped into the Democratic nomination last year to challenge Mr. Biden as a politically moderate answer to the party’s more liberal candidates.

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, is also under consideration for attorney general.

ny times logoNew York Times, Empowered by an Odds-Defying Win, Susan Collins Is Ready to Deal, Emily Cochrane, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The senator from Maine has emerged from the toughest re-election battle of her career more influential than ever, and ready to play a crucial deal-making role in a divided Senate.
Senator Susan Collins, right, Republican of Maine, won a resounding victory this month in a state President Trump lost.

Susan CollinsSenator Joe Manchin III, the centrist Democrat from West Virginia, reached out wanting to know how soon he could get a meeting with his fellow moderate to begin breaking through the impasse on a coronavirus relief package. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a brief call to congratulate a former Senate colleague and legislative ally whose vote he will badly need to push through his agenda and staff his administration.

The ring-kissing reflected the prime perch of Ms. Collins, who, after having survived the steepest re-election challenge of her career with a comfortable margin, has emerged more powerful than ever, poised for a fifth term in which her brand of bipartisan deal-making will be crucial.

The question is how Ms. Collins, who has long held sway as one of the few swing votes in a narrowly divided Senate, will use that power.

Ms. Collins, 67, has a strong relationship with Mr. Biden, who has called her “a woman of incredible character, integrity, and grace.” And now, she has the battle scars and enhanced credibility that comes with having accomplished a feat many Republicans readily concede they never could have: win a resounding victory in a state that President Trump lost. She has also surpassed a more enduring milestone, having now outlasted Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to represent Maine in the Senate, to become the longest-serving Republican woman in the chamber’s history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. rule change could allow federal executions by electrocution or firing squad, Matt Zapotosky and Mark Berman, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The change is likely to draw criticism from civil liberties advocates and death penalty foes who view firing squads and other methods as inhumane, though its practical impact remains to be seen.

The Justice Department is giving itself wider latitude in how it can execute federal inmates facing death sentences, including by using electrocution, gas or firing squads in certain circumstances.

The department on Friday published a final rule change — set to take effect Dec. 24 — to its protocols that would permit executions by injection “or by any other manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence was imposed.”

While all states that use the death penalty permit lethal injection, some also allow for other means — such as nitrogen gas, electrocution or firing squad — if lethal injection is unavailable. Some also give those sentenced to death a choice.

The Justice Department under President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr has revived and reinvigorated use of the federal death penalty, carrying out the first federal execution in 17 years and executing more federal inmates in the past four months than the total number over the previous three decades. Last week, the Justice Department executed 49-year-old Orlando Hall, who was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering 16-year-old Lisa Rene in Arkansas in 1994.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I am thankful that Trump will be out of office. But dark days still lie ahead, Colbert I. King, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Yet, I stop short of breathing a sigh of relief because Trump will be out of office. He will, after all, only be out of the building.

The unscrupulous and defeated president, who continues to press unfounded charges of being cheated out of the election, is more than an American abnormality. Trump is doing damage to our democratic system by undermining confidence in our elections. There is also an added aspect to his recklessness. Trump’s unconscionable actions might be laying the groundwork for politically motivated violence.

Palmer Report, Opinion: What Rudy Giuliani is holding over Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Nov. 28, 2020. When Donald Trump first put Rudy Giuliani in charge of his election legal defense, things had already progressed to the point where Trump was guaranteed to lose. The only possible reason to drag out the legal proceedings was to keep up the illusion that Trump was contesting the election, and buy time for Trump to continue grifting.

At the time, I figured Trump chose Rudy because he knew it was already lost cause, and once he finished losing in court, he was going to have to explain to his supporters why he goaded them into backing such a lost cause, and he knew Rudy would humiliate himself, and this would give him an excuse to just pin it all on Rudy. But now I’m left to wonder.

Trump had to know that Rudy would embarrass him in the process of buying him time. But it all seems to be over with now. Trump just spent $3 million dollars, for instance, on a partial Wisconsin recount that actually cost him votes. Even from a grifting standpoint, there’s no way that paying for the recount was worth it.

Of course there’s the cold hard reality that Rudy Giuliani, for all his obvious worsening senility and mental instability, surely knows where Donald Trump has buried all the proverbial bodies. Rudy had been representing Trump for free for a couple years, but now Rudy is reportedly demanding an absurd $20,000 a day. This isn’t money that you pay to a stooge you’re sending out there to buy you a little time. It’s the kind of money you pay to someone who’s blackmailing you.

These two idiots deserve each other. It’s fitting that they’re each more or less precipitating the other’s downfall at this point. Much as we all wish Trump and Giuliani were off the stage already, we’re stuck with them for a bit longer, and at least we get to watch them flail and squirm on their way down.

 

World News

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, China sharply ramps up trade conflict with Australia over political grievances, Gerry Shih, Nov. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Beijing imposed tariffs of up to 200 percent on Australian wine, escalating a dispute that its officials have made clear is over unmet political demands.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood’s Obituary, the Sequel. Now Streaming, Brooks Barnes, Nov. 28, 2020. In the 110-year history of the American film industry, never has so much upheaval arrived so quickly and on so many fronts.

“Hollywood’s like Egypt: full of crumbled pyramids. It’ll never come back. It’ll just keep on crumbling until finally the wind blows the last studio prop across the sands.”

David O. Selznick, the golden era producer, made that glum proclamation in 1951. A new entertainment technology, TV, was emasculating cinema as a cultural force, and film studios had started to fossilize into bottom line-oriented businesses. As Selznick put it, Hollywood had been “grabbed by a little group of bookkeepers and turned into a junk industry.”

Since then, Hollywood has repeatedly written its own obituary. Underneath the tumult, however, the essence of the film industry remained intact. But the moment of crisis in which Hollywood now finds itself is different.

 

Nov. 27

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

djt kiddie desk nov 30 2020

South China Morning Post via Business Insider, Donald Trump mocked for giving Thanksgiving speech from tiny desk, Staff report, Nov. 27, 2020. #DiaperDon trends on Twitter and Trump was compared to a child banished to a kid’s table on Thanksgiving for throwing a tantrum; Some noticed uncanny similarities between the event and a 2017 Saturday Night Live sketch that used a tiny desk as a punch line.

President Donald Trump’s press conference on Thursday was his first since losing the US election – and an unusually small piece of furniture stole the show.

After conducting a call with US troops for Thanksgiving, Trump responded to reporters’ questions about the election largely by stirring baseless allegations of electoral fraud, at one point snapping at a reporter.

Many viewers, however, seemed distracted by the tiny desk at which the president was seated. Some likened it to a child’s desk and wondered whether images showing it had been altered (they had not).

#DiaperDon was soon trending on Twitter, and the president was compared to a child banished to a kid’s table on Thanksgiving for throwing a tantrum.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Senate Democrats Face Power Struggle for Top Judiciary Job, Carl Hulse, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Senators Richard J. Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse are vying to be the top Democrat on the panel that controls judicial nominations, reflecting a broader debate among activists about how to wield power.

As soon as Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois learned officially on Monday that there would be a Democratic opening at the top of the Judiciary Committee, he was on the phone to his colleagues trying to nail down their support for the position.

dick durbin speaking screenshot“Never take anything for granted,” Mr. Durbin, right, said of his bid to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who stepped aside as the senior Democrat on the panel under intense pressure from progressive activists who deemed her insufficiently aggressive for the job. “I have been through these contests before.”

One fellow Democrat whom Mr. Durbin did not talk to was Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, left, who made clear by the next afternoon that he was also interested in the job. Some of the same progressive activists who pressed to shove Ms. Feinstein aside said they would be backing him.

sheldon whitehouseThe competition set up a rare internal power struggle that reflected broader disputes among Democrats over the direction and approach of their party in a new Congress. As they sort through the results of the election, which handed them control of the White House but left their hopes of taking the Senate hanging by a thread, some are pushing for a new, more combative style and generational change.

Depending on the results of two Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, whoever wins the battle for the post will be either the chairman of the panel or the senior Democrat, with a crucial role to play on a panel that Republicans have turned into a judicial confirmation assembly line.

Mr. Durbin is the next in line behind Ms. Feinstein on the committee, and Democrats generally adhere to seniority when awarding such posts. The tension in this case partly comes from the fact that Mr. Durbin is already the No. 2 leader and holds an important subcommittee chairmanship on the Appropriations panel, which controls federal spending. To some, he is trying to hoard power, potentially at the expense of his own effectiveness in either job.

Members of both parties have viewed Mr. Durbin as an effective advocate for committee Democrats who have chafed at the way Republicans have jammed through nominees in recent years.

“Believe me, I wouldn’t take this on if I didn’t think I could do the job,” he said in an interview this week.

Under Republican control since 2015, the committee has been the focal point for that party’s drive to confirm more than 220 conservative federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices and 53 appeals court judges.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Whitehouse, 65, has charted out how a network of advocacy groups has taken money from undisclosed donors to support the confirmation of conservative judges who are seen as potentially sympathetic to their interests.

During the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in October, Mr. Whitehouse devoted his first round of questioning to laying out his case and telling her that she needed to understand the “forces outside of this room who are pulling strings and pushing sticks and causing the puppet theater to react.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Thanksgiving marked by surging covid-19 cases and questions about a leading vaccine candidate, Tim Craig and Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Confusion persisted about the vaccine AstraZeneca is developing with the University of Oxford.

Despite pleas from top government leaders and scientists for Americans to scale back Thanksgiving gatherings this year, it appeared that a large number still tried to gather with loved ones.

The Transportation Security Administration reported that nearly 1.1 million people passed through airport security checkpoints Wednesday, the agency’s highest screening volume since March 16.

Those travelers still represented fewer than half of the 2.6 million screenings that TSA agents conducted on the day before Thanksgiving last year. Combined with auto and rail, AAA predicted that as many as 50 million Americans will have been on the move by the end of the weekend, raising concerns that coronavirus cases will continue to flare in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, confusion and new questions persisted about the vaccine that pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is developing with the University of Oxford, which is viewed as one of three early candidates for FDA approval.

AstraZeneca said Monday that its vaccine was 70 percent effective overall, with the most hopeful segment of data — a 90 percent effective vaccine — reported in a group of fewer than 3,000 people who received only half the initial dose of the two-dose regimen. The full two-dose regimen, the one being tested in a large clinical trial in the United States, was 62 percent effective.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Benjamin Netanyahu makes his post-Trump move against Iran, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2020. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t trying to magically save Donald Trump. He’s not that naive. He knows Trump is done. Netanyahu is messing with Iran because he’s on very thin ice himself in Israel, where he’s been criminally indicted and keeps coming closer to ouster, and he’s hoping to manufacture an excuse for his own continued existence in a post-Trump world.

bill palmer report logo headerIran has spent the past four years making very clear that it wants peace, because peace is more profitable. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a warmonger. He doesn’t have a future unless he can convince the Israelis that Iran is a mortal threat, so he’s going to do what he can to try to discourage Iran from coming back to the table once Trump is gone.

This is all a problem, but it doesn’t mean that Trump’s dead presidency has now somehow come back to life. And no, the U.S. isn’t magically going to war with Iran. It’s time to stop falling for that particular Trump head fake, after he’s been bluffing on it for four years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ethiopia’s Leader Escalates Assault on Tigray Region, Putting Civilians at Risk, Abdi Latif Dahir, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (shown at right in a file photo) said that a deadline for the region’s dissident leaders to surrender had lapsed. The conflict threatens to destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.

Aabiy Ahmed ethiopian pmHumanitarian organizations are warning of large civilian casualties and waves of refugees in a conflict that threatens to destabilize not just Ethiopia, but the entire Horn of Africa region.

Hundreds of people have been reported dead in the fighting, and 40,000 refugees have crossed into neighboring Sudan, according to the United Nations. But with communications shut off and access to the region blocked, there have been few reliable reports about the impact of the fighting.

The U.N. has warned of fuel and food shortages in Tigray, affecting not just locals, but also tens of thousands of refugees from Eritrea who live in the region. And the fighting has drawn concern from all across the world, even eliciting warnings of potential ethnic cleansing and genocide from the United Nations.

Jake Sullivan, who is expected to be President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s nominee for national security adviser, said on Twitter that he was “deeply concerned about the risk of violence against civilians” and called on both parties to engage in an African Union-mediated dialogue.

But Mr. Abiy, who was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize in part for mediating conflicts in the Horn of Africa, has shunned diplomacy, saying that Ethiopia is “capable and willing to resolve this situation in accordance with its laws and its international obligations.”

The push that he announced on Thursday is a turning point in a military operation that began early this month after Mr. Abiy accused the Tigray region’s leaders of assaulting a government defense post and trying to steal artillery and military equipment.

 amy coney barrett cnbc

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Midnight Ruling Exposes Rifts at a Supreme Court Transformed by Trump, Adam Liptak, right, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The justices issued six opinions, adam liptakseveral of them unusually bitter, in upholding challenges from churches and synagogues to state pandemic restrictions on religious services.

A few minutes before midnight on Wednesday, the nation got its first glimpse of how profoundly President Trump had transformed the Supreme Court.

Just months ago, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., left, was at the peak of his power, holding the controlling vote in closely divided cases and john roberts oalmost never finding himself in dissent.

But the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett (shown above) late last month, which put a staunch conservative in the seat formerly held by the liberal mainstay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meant that it was only a matter of time before the chief justice’s leadership would be tested.

On Wednesday, Justice Barrett dealt the chief justice a body blow. She cast the decisive vote in a 5-to-4 ruling that rejected restrictions on religious services in New York imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat the coronavirus, shoving the chief justice into dissent with the court’s three remaining liberals. It was one of six opinions the court issued on Wednesday, spanning 33 pages and opening a window on a court in turmoil.

The ruling was at odds with earlier ones in cases from California and Nevada issued before Justice Ginsburg’s death in September. Those decisions upheld restrictions on church services by 5-to-4 votes, with Chief Justice Roberts in the majority. The New York decision said that Mr. Cuomo’s strict virus limits — capping attendance at religious services at 10 people in “red zones” where risk was highest, and at 25 in slightly less dangerous “orange zones” — violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

Wednesday’s ruling was almost certainly a taste of things to come. While Justice Ginsburg was alive, Chief Justice Roberts voted with the court’s four-member liberal wing in cases striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, blocking a Trump administration initiative that would have rolled back protections for young immigrants known as Dreamers, refusing to allow a question on citizenship to be added to the census and saving the Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice Roberts is fundamentally conservative, and his liberal votes were rare. But they reinforced his frequent statements that the court is not a political body. The court’s new and solid conservative majority may send a different message.

That said, the court’s dynamics can be complicated, and not all decisions break along predictable lines. For instance, while Chief Justice Roberts has lost his place at the court’s ideological center, his replacement, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s second appointee, values consensus and may turn out to be an occasional ally.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 27, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 61,308,161, Deaths: 1,437,835
U.S. Cases:   13,248,676, Deaths:    269,555

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, Nov. 27, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump commits to leaving if electoral college votes for Biden, Josh Dawsey, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). But the president vowed he would continue his fight to overturn the election he lost, saying it is “going to be a very hard thing to concede.” It was Trump’s first explicit commitment to vacate office.

President Trump said on Thursday that he would leave the White House if the electoral college voted for President-elect Joe Biden next month, though he vowed to keep fighting to overturn the election he lost and said he may never concede.

djt i dont take responsibility at allThough advisers have long said he would leave on Jan. 20, it was Trump’s first explicit commitment to vacate office if the vote did not go his way.

Trump said he planned to continue to make claims of fraud about the results and said, without evidence, that Biden could not have won close to 80 million votes. His legal team has been widely mocked — and has lost almost every claim in every state, as officials certify results for Biden.

USTR seal Custom 2Even as most of his lawyers have quit and many campaign officials say the effort to overturn the election is going nowhere, Trump said it was going “very well.”

The president made the remarks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House after he spoke to troops across the world. The Thanksgiving session — an annual tradition for Trump — marked the first time he took questions since the election.

The president also said he planned to campaign in Georgia for two Republicans in Senate runoffs set for January. The races are key to the party keeping the majority. Trump said he may go as soon as Saturday, though a White House spokesman later said he meant next Saturday.

Republicans close to Trump have said he was largely uninterested in the runoffs until his Thursday appearance. He railed against Georgia officials, who he believes have not intervened enough as the state has counted ballots and certified results for Biden.

Law & Crime, Dominion Voting Systems Says Sidney Powell’s ‘Bizarre’ and ‘False’ Fraud Claims Have Led to Death Threats and Other Crimes, Adam Klasfeld, Nov. 27, 2020. The widely derided conspiracy theories of outgoing President Donald Trump and the attorneys aligned within him have had real-world consequences, Dominion Voting Systems said in a Thanksgiving press release cataloguing stalking, harassment and death threats employees have received.

sidney powellDominion said it has reported threats to law enforcement and plans to hold attorney Sidney Powell, right, personally responsible if any of the company’s staff is harmed.

“This criminal activity has been duly reported to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and we intend to hold Ms. Powell, and those aiding and abetting her fraudulent actions, accountable for any harm that may occur as a result,” Dominion wrote in an unsigned statement.

The Trump campaign distanced itself from Powell just eight days after the president praised her on Twitter. Reportedly too unhinged even for a legal team led by Rudy Giuliani — who had hair dye streaming down his face at a press conference — Powell has bandied about multiple iterations of a lawsuit challenging the now-certified results of Georgia’s presidential election.

The first and seemingly very rough version was riddled with errors, starting with the caption, which twice misspelled the Northern District of Georgia as “DISTRICCT” and “DISTRCOICT.” A second and better-proofread one has been uploaded on the internet, and it remains unclear which version was filed. (Powell also filed a case in Michigan.)

Typos were the least of the complaint’s problems, rehashing near-hallucinogenic claims somehow roping in dead Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez in an elaborate plot to tip the election in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor.

Calling Powell’s allegations “bizarre” and “baseless,” Dominion affirmed that it never operated in Venezuela — though other election companies have.

Dominion said that the Powell alleges a conspiracy that is “baseless, senseless, physically impossible, and unsupported by any evidence whatsoever” — and is, indeed, contradicted by the handcounts and audits now conducted by election workers in Georgia multiple times.

“Every vote from a Dominion device in Georgia is documented on an auditable paper trail and creates a verifiable paper ballot available for hand-counting,” the company noted. “In fact, the Georgia handcounts, independent audits, and machine tests have all repeatedly affirmed that the machine counts were accurate.”

The FBI’s field office in Denver, where Dominion has its U.S. headquarters, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Neither did the Denver Police Department.

The Northern District of Georgia, where Powell said she would be filing her lawsuit, is the same jurisdiction where a Trump-appointed judge torched other pro-Trump election claims made by QAnon-slogan-spouting lawyer Lin Wood.

djt kiddie desk nov 30 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump falls to pieces, Bill Palmer, Nov. 27, 2020. So this is how it ends. Certainly not with a bang, and not quite with a whimper either, but instead with a sort of loud angry whimper that’s half heartedly meant to come off like a bang.

bill palmer report logo headerSitting at an inexplicably tiny desk yesterday, Donald Trump finally took questions for the first time since he lost the election. He ended up yelling “Don’t talk to me that way, I’m the President of the United States” at a reporter who dared to ask him about conceding.

The thing is, Trump has never been particularly good at selling his strongman routine. Part of it is that he just can’t be bothered to put in the work required to give himself the upper hand. His “Thanksgiving” message yesterday consisted of tweeting “No thanks” at a pair of football players who had taken a knee, one of whom was white, in a reminder that the debate has completely passed Trump by.

Donald Trump seems desperate to find any minor points of leverage or suspense to keep all eyes on him, but those moments are increasingly slipping away from him. Yesterday he said that he’s made up his mind about whether he’ll attend President Biden’s inauguration but he’s not willing to reveal his decision yet, as if anyone cares. At some point a failed search for leverage merely displays as petulance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Horse-race political analysis is important — and flawed. We need more moral journalism, Michael Gerson, right, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). michael gerson file photoMany of our most serious divisions have become openly moral. In the current case, the president and his strongest supporters believe that their cause — the maintenance of power — is worth the massive invalidation of legitimate votes in disproportionately Black urban areas. They claim this is a moral action — to fight socialism, or to protect tradition, or to serve their illustrious leader, or whatever.

They are wrong. And only an ethical argument can demonstrate it. It is racist to seek the invalidation of mainly Black votes in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia or Atlanta. It is a violation of morality and an attack on democracy to throw away valid votes for nakedly political reasons.

This is not to argue against the importance of horse-race journalism or issues journalism, both of which will always have their place. It is only to put in a good word for moral journalism and moral commentary — which reveal the names and faces of those who suffer, and remind us of the duties we have to one another.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is the part where they crawl back into their holes, Robert Harrington, right, Nov. 27, 2020. As many of you will recall, brothers and sisters, I robert harrington twitterhave had the distinct misfortune of having to endure two malignant narcissists in the course of my private life. That experience gave me insights into Donald Trump that I could have just as soon done without. I wouldn’t wish a malignant narcissist on anyone, but it’s particularly awful when such a person is thrust on an entire nation for four years, as well you all know.

bill palmer report logo headerOne insight my experience gave me is that Donald Trump would never — ever — publicly acknowledge he lost the election, no matter what. And so he hasn’t and won’t. Any loss will forever be “suspicious” because narcissists don’t ever lose. They have two sets of scales, one for themselves and one for everyone else. Their personal scales are heavily balanced in their favor.

None of this nonsense would work particularly well for the narcissist were it not for their network of codependents, enablers, sycophants, janissaries, lickspittles, yes-men and yes-women. The most successful narcissists surround themselves with such people. Narcissists are bafflingly popular with certain kinds of people, people who are born spear-carriers, second-stringers and water-bearers for just such nasty types.

I can’t catalog the wake of failures, disappointments, malcontent and bloodthirsty hatred that will forever define the Trump presidency without reminding you of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are now dead because of this failed, one-term mediocrity. Trump’s legacy of death is the single most disgraceful part of his criminal antics, and will forever cast a pall of shame on this moribund institution, the Republican Party. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why did Democrats bleed House seats? A top analyst offers surprising answers, Greg Sargent, right, greg sergeantNov. 27, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden garnered an unprecedented 80 million votes, will win the popular vote by as much as seven million, and won fairly comfortably in the electoral college. Even if the vote counts in swing states were pretty tight, that’s a robust victory.

Yet despite all that, Democrats lost a dozen House seats, shrinking their majority and putting it at grave risk in 2022, lost key Senate races that would have secured control of the upper chamber, and failed to capture any state legislatures, diluting their influence over redistricting for the next decade.

Many House losses came in districts that were already heavily Republican-leaning (such as Minnesota’s 7th and Oklahoma’s 5th), but some were in Democratic-leaning districts where GOP gains among Latinos have alarmed Democrats (as in Florida).

This has given rise to a lot of infighting and a thousand explanations: Democrats suffered the taint of “the Squad” of leftists in Congress and the “defund the police” movement; they lost because squishy centrists talked only to suburban Whites; they faltered as their standing with non-college Whites grew more dire.

But what if there’s also another, more structural explanation, one rooted in realities about high turnout on both sides and already-built-in incentives for many GOP-leaning swing voters?

This idea emerged from my conversation about what happened with David Wasserman, the analyst of House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. An edited and condensed transcript follows.

Greg Sargent: Why did these losses happen?

David Wasserman: Republicans did a complete 180 on recruitment. This year all 12 Republicans who picked up Democratic seats so far were women or minorities. Republicans nominated candidates who looked like their districts, and didn’t necessarily sound like [President] Trump....

Trump helped Republicans down-ballot in two ways. He drove out millions of low-propensity conservatives who would never vote for their average Republican Joe in a midterm. But he also allowed Republican candidates to pick up voters who could not stomach Trump. In 2018, when he wasn’t on the ballot, the only opportunity for independent voters, especially suburban women, to vent their anger at Trump was by voting against a Republican congressional candidate. This time around, those voters could do so directly, but vote for a more conventional Republican down-ballot.

 us dc federal courthouse Small

The Barrett Prettyman, Jr. federal courthouse in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Emmet Sullivan’s handling of the Michael Flynn case is vindicated, Elliot Williams, Nov. 27, 2020. Elliot Williams was a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department from 2013 to 2017.

President Trump’s pardon of former national security adviser Michael Flynn didn’t merely save one man from going to federal prison. Far more importantly, the pardon demonstrated the wisdom of U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s refusal to dismiss the case against Flynn. In the end, the judge’s steadfastness saved the Justice Department from itself — or at least from its attorney general.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Flynn, right, was one of six associates of the president who were investigated and charged with federal crimes as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. In open court, Flynn entered a knowing, voluntary and intelligent guilty plea to a felony charge for lying about his substantive contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States. However, last May, acting on instructions from Attorney General William P. Barr, the Justice Department did a startling about-face in the case, seeking to dismiss it by arguing in court that prosecutors should never have brought the case in the first place.

Enter Sullivan, below left, — a judge before whom I have appeared, and who I can attest is not one to suffer fools. He declined to dismiss the case, instead bringing in an outside adviser who argued that the Justice Department’s argument smelled curiously like pretext for seeking to dismiss emmet sullivan 2012the case to benefit a political ally of the president.

Sullivan’s healthy skepticism of the Justice Department’s arguments ensured that the branches of our government functioned as they were supposed to, and that no one branch was allowed to hide from the costs of its actions. The president and his allies have repeatedly attacked the special counsel’s investigation from its earliest days, characterizing it as a partisan witch hunt fixated on Trump’s undoing. Once Flynn was charged, it was only a matter of when, not if, the president would pardon him.

The decision to withdraw charges can only be explained, then, as an attempt by the president and attorney general to produce the effect of a pardon (that is, vacating a criminal conviction), without incurring any of the natural political costs of granting a pardon.

Presidential acts of clemency can carry political costs: George W. Bush’s commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s prison term, Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, and George H.W. Bush’s pardon of Caspar Weinberger still linger over the three presidents’ legacies. Such is the cost of exercising unreviewable power.

However, passing the Flynn pardon off onto the Justice Department would have been an attempt to deputize prosecutors in carrying out a political favor for the president. It would have hidden political cronyism in the dry, apolitical packaging of legalese.

Sullivan had to have known this. By rejecting the Justice Department’s attempts to get out of the case, he was not digging in to stick it to a defendant he might have thought was guilty. He was protecting the justice system as an institution, ensuring that it wasn’t perverted by the Trump administration and the attorney general.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Australian Military Moves to Dismiss Soldiers After Killings in Afghanistan, Yan Zhuang, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). A scathing report revealed that members of the special forces had waged a campaign to cover up unlawful killings of Afghan civilians.

Australian flagOne week after the release of a damning report that revealed Australian special forces had unlawfully killed helpless Afghan civilians and waged a campaign to cover up the slaughter, the military has begun proceedings to dismiss 13 soldiers serving in the force.

The four-year investigation by the Defense Department’s inspector general exposed an extreme “warrior culture” within the elite special forces. It found credible evidence that more than two dozen current or former soldiers had either been involved as principal actors or as accessories in the killing of 39 Afghan adolescents, prisoners, farmers and other civilians between 2005 and 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. has closed at least 10 bases in Afghanistan, but drawdown details remain murky, Susannah George and Dan Lamothe, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Officials say uncertainty still surrounds the plans to drop troop numbers from roughly 5,000 to 2,500 by Jan. 15.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama during the Obama-Biden administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s Putin still hasn’t congratulated Biden, referring to the president-elect as a ‘candidate,’ Robyn Dixon, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). China's Xi Jinping did it. Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan did it. Leaders across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific also have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden.

PutinBut even as Washington moves on with the delayed presidential transition, Russian President Vladimir Putin has held back on well-wishes to Biden. Russia’s holdout diplomacy is becoming so awkward that it risks being interpreted as a pointed message that Putin is siding with outgoing President Trump and his baseless claims that the election was rigged and apparent attempts to delegitimize the president-elect.

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, Judge in Venezuela Convicts 6 U.S. Oil Executives of Corruption, Staff report, Updated Nov. 27, 2020. The so-called Citgo 6, who had been lured to Venezuela three years ago for a business meeting, were immediately sentenced to prison.

A Venezuelan judge on Thursday found six American oil executives guilty of a wide-ranging corruption scheme and immediately sentenced them to prison.

The so-called Citgo 6 — employees of the Houston-based Citgo refining company, which is owned by Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA — had been lured venezuela flag waving customto Venezuela three years ago for a business meeting and arrested.

The men — Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Jose Luis Zambrano, Alirio Jose Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira — each face more than eight years in prison. Five are Venezuelan-Americans with roots in Texas and Louisiana, and one is a permanent U.S. resident, according to media reports.

Five of the men were sentenced to prison terms of eight years and 10 months, while one received a 13-year sentence. A defense lawyer, Jesus Loreto, said the five with lesser terms could be released on parole in a couple of years.

Relatives of the men say they had been wrongly convicted, and defense lawyers vowed to appeal Thursday’s verdicts.

Miami Herald via Tampa Bay Times, Did the U.S. steal an island covered in bird poop from Haiti? A fortune is in dispute, Staff report, Nov. 27, 2020. For more than 160 years, the United States and Haiti have disputed the ownership of tiny Navassa Island.

When the eccentric rapper Kanye West, right, made headlines last month claiming the president of Haiti had gifted him an island to which a Texan had already laid development claims, it was not the only island off Haiti’s coast in dispute.

kanye west resized headshotFor more than 160 years, the United States and Haiti have disputed the ownership of tiny Navassa Island at the southwest entrance of the Windward Passage covered with what was once worth a king’s ransom. More than a century later, the question remains: Who owns the poop?

Known as La Navase in French, the pear-shaped island is located about 35 miles west of Haiti’s southern peninsula, 85 miles northeast of Jamaica and 95 miles south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Covered in bird poop and managed as a national wildlife refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is claimed by Haiti and included in the very constitution that President Jovenel Moise is currently trying to rewrite.

“The United States has no valid claim over Navassa Island,” said Fritz Longchamp, a former Haiti foreign minister who in 1998 had to deal with the U.S.’s revived claims to the deserted outpost while serving in then-Haitian president Rene Preval first cabinet.

“All they have,” Longchamp said about the U.S. government, which has claimed the rocky coral island since 1857 and in 1999 established a wildlife refuge there, “is a congressional act, called the Guano Act and it only has jurisdiction over the United States; nobody else.”

The Guano Islands Act of 1856 allowed adventure-seeking Americans to claim any abandoned or unclaimed islands with guano — the highly valuable 19th-century compost that comes from the excrement of seabirds and bats — on behalf of themselves and the United States.

An early example of American overseas expansion, the act was passed by Congress to break Peru’s international hold on guano and give American farmers access to the bird droppings.

Though the U.S. has since turned over jurisdiction of some of these bird islands, it continues to lay claim to Navassa. And so does a California treasurer hunter, Bill Warren, who says he purchased the three-mile-square island from a descendant of one of its last inhabitants.

Gerald Patnode, a university professor, said his great-grandfather James A. Woodward arrived on Navassa in 1899, a year after race riots there left five white supervisors dead and more than a dozen black laborers facing murder and manslaughter charges in the United States. Woodward was the general manager for the Baltimore phosphate company mining the bird droppings on Navassa and was on and off Navassa until around 1903.

Warren, 66, says “America stole the island from Haiti,” and “legally speaking Haiti owns the island.” Still, he’s looking to exercise his claim to Navassa in order to mine the guano, which has been making a come back in popularity with the increased demand for organic foods.

 

Media News

The Wrap, Eric Clapton Sparks Backlash for New Anti-Lockdown Song With Van Morrison, Jeremy Fuster, Nov. 27, 2020. The two musicians are frustrated with the loss of live music, but Twitter is frustrated with their history of racism and disregard of the danger of COVID-19

In his ongoing musical protest against the closures forced by COVID-19, Van Morrison has employed the help of Eric Clapton with a new song aimed to raise funds to support musicians that are struggling financially because of the pandemic. But the song has prompted a backlash against the classic rock stars for their history of right-wing and sometimes racist comments.

Morrison’s new collaboration with Clapton, titled “Stand and Deliver,” is the fourth anti-lockdown song the star has released since the start of the pandemic, joining songs with more blunt titles like “Born to Be Free,” “As I Walked Out” and “No More Lockdown,” which the artist says he created to protest closures ordered by the British government.

In their statement announcing the song, Morrison and Clapton kept their focus on supporting musicians and others in the live venue industry that have lost their livelihoods. All proceeds from the song will go to Morrison’s Lockdown Financial Hardship Fund.

“There are many of us who support Van and his endeavors to save live music; he is an inspiration,” Clapton said in a statement to Variety. “We must stand up and be counted because we need to find a way out of this mess. The alternative is not worth thinking about. Live music might never recover.”

“Eric’s recording is fantastic and will clearly resonate with many who share our frustrations,” Morrison said in a statement via Save Live Music.

But news of the song was met with backlash on Twitter, with people accusing Clapton and Morrison of disregarding the deaths inflicted by the virus on poorer communities. Jeffrey St. Clair, editor for left-wing news and commentary site CounterPunch, said that news of the song “Confirms everything I’ve ever thought about Clapton, a musician who has spent his entire career appropriating black music and now records his first ‘protest’ song against meager restrictions to slow a disease that is ravaging black communities.”

World Socialist Web Site, Commentary on 'Meet the Censored': Andre Damon, Matt Taibbi, Nov. 27, 2020. The following interview was conducted by journalist Matt Taibbi, the author of The Great Derangement (2009); Griftopia (2010); The Divide (2014); Insane Clown President (2017); I Can't Breathe (2017); and Hate Inc. (2019).

For much of the last four years, the WSWS  World Socialist Web Site] has been a bit of a canary in the coal mine, when it comes to new forms of censorship and speech restrictions.

Many Americans didn't pay attention to new forms of content moderation until May, 2019, when a group of prominent tech platforms banned figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopolis. A legend quickly spread that such campaigns exclusively target the right. Long before then, however, the WSWS had been trying to google logo customsound the alarm about the impact of corporate speech moderation on dissenting voices on the progressive left. As far back as August of 2017, the WSWS sent an open letter to Google, demanding that it stop the "political blacklisting" of their site, as well as others.

Like many alternative news sites, WSWS noticed a steep decline in traffic in 2016-2017, after Donald Trump was elected and we began to hear calls for more regulation of "fake news." Determined to search out the reason, the site conducted a series of analyses that proved crucial in helping convince outlets like the New York Times to cover the issue. In its open letter to Google, the WSWS described inexplicable changes to search results in their political bailiwick:

Google searches for "Leon Trotsky" yielded 5,893 impressions (appearances of the WSWS in search results) in May of this year. In July, the same search yielded exactly zero impressions for the WSWS, which is the Internet publication of the international movement founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938.

The WSWS connected the change to Project Owl, a plan announced by Google in April of 2017 designed to "surface more authoritative content."

When I called Google about a year later for a story on a related subject, they explained the concept of "authority" as an exercise in weighting some credentials over others. So, I was told, an old search for "baseball" might first return a page for your local little league, while a new one would send you to the site for Major League Baseball.

The rub was that Google was now pushing viewers away from alternative sources, such that an article in the New York Times about Trotskyism might be ranked ahead of the world's leading Trotskyite media organ. Queries had to be right on the nose to call up a whole host of alternative sites, all of which had seen sharp drops in their Google search results.

The WSWS listed many of them: Alternet down 63 percent, Common Dreams down 37 percent, Democracy Now! down 36 percent, etc. Even WikiLeaks, in the middle of an international furor over Russiagate, was down 30 percent.

In the years since, the WSWS has been one of the only major media outlets in the U.S. to regularly focus on tech censorship issues, frequently showing an interest in constitutional principles curiously absent in traditionally "liberal" publications. This has won the site an unpleasant brand of notoriety with tech platforms. In a recent Senate hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai referenced the WSWS when challenged by Utah Republican Mike Lee to name one left-wing "high profile person or entity" it had censored.

TK reached out to Andre Damon, writer and editor for the WSWS, to ask about the site's experiences:

TK: There was recently an incident involving the Twitter presence of International Youth and Students for Social Equality. Can you explain what happened? Has the WSWS had any other issues with Twitter over the years?

Damon: On November 11, Twitter suspended the account of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (US) without explanation. The IYSSE is the student movement of the Socialist Equality Parties around the world, which are affiliated with the World Socialist Web Site.

When we wrote to Twitter to demand the reinstatement of the account, Twitter replied vaguely, hinting that the IYSSE was operating multiple accounts. We responded that the IYSSE has chapters all over the world, which are officially recognized on dozens of campuses, including New York University, the University of Michigan, and Berlin's Humboldt University, where the IYSSE holds multiple seats in the student parliament. Each of these chapters, legitimately, has its own social media presence.

Twitter's stated justification for suspending the IYSSE's account was a ridiculous pretext, and this act of censorship triggered statements of opposition. Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and model Andrea Pejić made statements opposing it, as did dozens of other people. Nine days after the account was suspended, Twitter reinstated it, again without any serious explanation.

TK: When did the WSWS first become interested in the issue of platform censorship, content moderation, or whatever you want to call it? Actually, what do you call it? Is what's going on with increased content moderation a first amendment/free speech issue?

Damon: It's censorship, and it absolutely is a First Amendment issue.

In July 2017, we noticed that traffic to our site from Google fell by more than 75 percent. After reaching out to other sites and SEO experts we realized that the WSWS was one of over a dozen left-wing websites whose search traffic had also plunged.

As we sought an explanation, we discovered a blog post by Ben Gomes, at the time Google's VP of engineering, announcing that Google was making changes in its algorithm to demote what it called "fake news." It explained that Google would be hiring a small army of people to review search results and score them. The reviewers were told that if a search returned "alternative viewpoints," that search should be scored poorly. This system was internally called 'Project Owl,' and later came to be known as such publicly.

It was obvious that the drop in search traffic to the WSWS and other left-wing sites was caused by this change in Google's algorithm.

The actions by Google were the outcome of a campaign, largely bipartisan but led by the Democrats and their affiliated news outlets, to claim that domestic social opposition was the product of interference by foreign countries, particularly Russia. To stop this alleged interference, it was necessary to censor domestic political opposition, which the Russians allegedly sought to "amplify."

At repeated hearings in Washington, figures like Mark Warner and Adam Schiff would demand over and over again that Google, Facebook and Twitter censor left-wing content. It was all a clear and flagrant violation of the First Amendment, which says that Congress does not have the power to limit the freedom of expression. But here was Congress instigating private companies to do exactly that, and threatening to regulate or fine them if they did not comply.

In August 2017, the WSWS sent Google executives an open letter demanding "that the anti-democratic changes to the Google search result rankings and its search algorithm since April be reversed." In January 2018, we called for the formation of an "international coalition to fight Internet censorship."

In response to our letters, Google flatly denied it was carrying out political censorship. But this makes its admission this month that it is censoring the WSWS so significant.

When Senator Mike Lee asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai, "Can you name for me one high profile person or entity from a liberal ideology who you have censored," Pichai replied that "We have had compliance issues with the World Socialist Review [sic], which is a left-leaning publication."

This was a confirmation of every claim made by the WSWS in its campaign against internet censorship.

 

Nov. 26

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michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pardons Flynn, Ending Case His Justice Dept. Sought to Shut Down, Charlie Savage, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Flynn, above left, the president’s former national security adviser, twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

The pardon brings to an end the drawn-out legal saga of Mr. Flynn, who was the only White House official to be convicted as part of the Trump-Russia inquiry.
President Trump pardoned on Wednesday his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat and whose prosecution Attorney General William P. Barr tried to shut down.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

The presidential pardon brings to an end the drawn-out legal saga of Mr. Flynn. The Justice Department had moved in the spring to withdraw the charge against him after a public campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies, but the judge overseeing the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, had held up the request to scrutinize its legitimacy.

AltJustice Department log circularhough Mr. Trump had said months ago that he was “strongly considering” pardoning Mr. Flynn and was said to be planning for it after he lost the election, the intervention by Mr. Barr had held out the possibility that his administration could end the prosecution of a presidential favorite without requiring Mr. Trump to take explicit political responsibility for the act.

But as the case has lingered — delayed first by Mr. Flynn’s unsuccessful attempt to get an appeals court to block Judge Sullivan from reviewing the basis for Mr. Barr’s move, and then by further weeks of inaction from the judge — Mr. Trump ultimately moved to do so anyway.

Mr. Flynn was the only White House official to be convicted as part of the Trump-Russia investigation that was completed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Under Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr, the administration has been trying to discredit and dismantle that inquiry. Mr. Trump also commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felonies in a case brought by prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller.
breaking

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Weighs Pardon Blitz Before Trump’s Exit, Kenneth P. Vogel and Eric Lipton, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has so far granted 28 pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences.

Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as President Trump also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul. Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as the president also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul by commuting lengthy sentences for other offenders.

djt rncIt’s not just Michael T. Flynn. The White House is weighing a wave of pardons and commutations by President Trump in his final weeks in office, prompting jockeying by a range of clemency seekers and their representatives, including more allies of Mr. Trump.

Among those hoping for pardons are two former Trump campaign advisers, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who like Mr. Flynn, the former national security adviser who was pardoned on Wednesday by Mr. Trump, were convicted in cases stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

But it is not just the well-connected and wealthy who could benefit from one of Mr. Trump’s final exercises of executive power, lawyers in contact with the administration said.

Several groups that have pushed for a criminal justice overhaul are working with an ad hoc White House team under the direction of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, with a goal of announcing as many as hundreds of commutations for offenders now in jail for crimes ranging from nonviolent drug convictions to mail fraud and money laundering.

The end of any presidential administration is a time for intense lobbying related to pardons.

But in Mr. Trump’s case, it extends to his own personal and political considerations, his lingering bitterness over the Russia inquiry and his transactional approach to governing.

The sheer number of people in the president’s circle to have gotten in trouble with the law has also made the question of pardons especially fraught. In addition to Mr. Flynn, Mr. Gates and Mr. Papadopoulos, Trump aides and associates who have been convicted include Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer; Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime friend and adviser; and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

Others in the president’s circle to face federal charges include Stephen K. Bannon, his former strategist, who was indicted in August on charges of defrauding donors to a campaign to support Mr. Trump’s plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and Elliott Broidy, a top fund-raiser, who pleaded guilty last month in a foreign lobbying case.

A blitz of late pardons or commutations for federal crimes — over which presidents have unchecked power — is seen by some criminal justice reform activists as another way to build his record on that issue.

Far more explosive in political terms is the possibility of pardons or commutations for allies, associates or even himself, reflecting Mr. Trump’s oft-stated belief that his presidency was undermined by law enforcement investigations, including the special counsel’s inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court blocks limits on religious services in N.Y., Robert Barnes, Nov. 26, 2020. Religious organizations said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed to combat spiking coronavirus cases. The 5-to-4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation.

The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority late Wednesday night sided with religious organizations in New York that said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat spiking coronavirus cases.

The 5-to-4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump chose to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death in September. The decision differed from the court’s previous practice of deferring to local officials on pandemic-related restrictions, even in the area of constitutionally protected religious rights.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” said the unsigned opinion granting a stay of the state’s orders. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

The limits were severe, at times capping worship services at only 10 people. But the state said they were necessary to deal with “hot spots” of virus outbreaks.

The Supreme Court’s order was issued just before midnight, and five justices wrote separately.

john roberts oChief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., left, who had been the court’s pivotal member in previous emergency applications seeking relief from virus-related restrictions, dissented along with the court’s three liberal members.

He noted that while the court was considering the petitions, Cuomo, a Democrat, had eased the restrictions, and thus there was no need for the court to intervene now.

“It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote for himself.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court was intervening where it should not.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP effort to invalidate more than 2.5 million votes in Pennsylvania dealt another setback, Elise Viebeck and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans faced another procedural setback in a Pennsylvania lawsuit seeking to invalidate more than 2.5 million votes, as a temporary order blocking further certification of election results was stayed on appeal from state officials who had already formalized President-elect Joe Biden’s win the day before.

Legal experts said the case had little chance of success, much like the other last-ditch GOP election lawsuits pending in battleground states. Republicans have gained no substantive traction across more than two dozen cases trying to undo results favoring Biden since Election Day, and as of Tuesday, four of six states where President Trump tried to overturn the outcome have certified Biden’s win.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Americans gather for Thanksgiving, the world watches with dread and disbelief, Siobhán O'Grady and Adam Taylor, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Masses of Americans are choosing to follow through with plans to visit family and friends this week despite surging coronavirus cases — a scenario that officials in other countries are trying to avert ahead of other upcoming holidays.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

djt council to reopen america fox

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Economy Live Updates: U.S. Unemployment Claims Jump for Second Straight Week, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). It was the latest sign that the nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is threatening to undermine the economic recovery. Here’s the latest. Applications for unemployment benefits rose for the second week in a row last week, the latest sign that the nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is threatening to undermine the economic recovery.

More than 827,000 people filed first-time applications for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That was up 78,000 from a week earlier, before adjusting for seasonal patterns, and more than 100,000 from the first week of November, when weekly filings hit their lowest level since pandemic-induced layoffs began last spring.

Another 312,000 people filed for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers freelancers, self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for state benefits. And 4.5 million people are now receiving benefits under a separate program that extends payments during the pandemic, a total that has been rising as more people reach the end of their state benefits. Both those programs expire at the end of the year.

Unemployment filings have fallen substantially since last spring, when more than six million people a week were applying for benefits. But progress has stalled in recent months, and the data reported Wednesday suggests it could be going in reverse.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 26, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 60,876,538, Deaths: 1,430,041
U.S. Cases:   13,140,526, Deaths:    268,279

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump touts treatments as lifesavers. Regular people find them harder to get, Laurie McGinley and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 26, 2020. The day after being discharged from the hospital last month, President Trump enthusiastically endorsed a new antibody cocktail, saying it had been a “cure” for his covid-19. “I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president,” he said in an Oct. 7 video.

That’s not going to happen anytime soon. Frustrated doctors say they have had to ration the Regeneron medication given to Trump, and a similar one by Eli Lilly — if they can get them at all — because of extremely short supply. The government has distributed just 205,000 doses of the drugs so far, at a time when around 170,000 people are being infected by the coronavirus every day.

Nonetheless, patients are clamoring for the medications, in part because of Trump’s comments, as well as testimonials from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who also got the drugs before they were approved.

“Frankly, the image of Trump coming out of Walter Reed and being better so quickly, I think it really gave a lot of people a false sense of security regarding what a treatment can do,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The reality is, people who have extra access to the latest and greatest treatments are not your average person. . . . People don’t realize how inaccessible these drugs are.”

In some ways, the story of the antibody treatments is the tale of the U.S. health-care system, which tends to cater to the well-insured and well-connected, especially in providing new treatments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cases are skyrocketing again in cities, in some areas even harder than during previous peaks, Brittany Shammas, Mark Guarino and Jacqueline Dupree, Nov. 26, 2020. Dramatic increases have been reported in many major American cities in recent weeks, with some being hit harder than they were during their previous peaks. Testing has greatly ramped up since the start of the pandemic, but that alone does not explain the growing caseloads.

“The dreaded fall wave, in many places, is upon us,” said Josh Michaud, an epidemiologist and associate director for global health policy at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. “And that includes in metropolitan areas.”

In Cook County, where Chicago is located, the seven-day average of new cases hit a record high of 4,654 on Nov. 17 — far outpacing the peak of 1,690 during the spring surge. Deaths are lower than the numbers seen in the spring but have climbed in recent weeks.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden tries to spread calm, as some Democrats worry about his willingness to fight, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, Nov. 26, 2020 (print joe biden oed.). Republicans had been gearing up for the first partisan brawl of the new administration — a battle over whether to confirm the woman widely believed to be on Joe Biden's shortlist for secretary of state.

They blasted Susan E. Rice as a polarizing throwback to an interventionist style of foreign policy or, as one senator put it, the “Typhoid Mary” of the Obama administration for what they saw as her role in multiple controversies. Some Democrats urged Biden to pick her anyway, to stand by an experienced hand in foreign affairs who could be one of the most prominent Black women in his government.

That fight will have to wait.

Biden’s choice of the lower-profile Antony Blinken, an establishment figure with close ties to the president-elect for decades, is widely seen as less likely to kick up a political storm in the closely divided Senate that will vote on his confirmation.

But while the State nomination, along with several other Cabinet picks rolled out this week, underscore Biden’s intention to govern as a conciliator and not a partisan warrior, some on the left worry that his early moves signal weakness even before he steps into the Oval Office. They say Biden, 78, naively believes the Senate still functions as it did during his 36 years there, with potential for compromise and conciliation.

“To meet Republicans where they are is to meet them in Fantasyland,” said Rebecca Katz, who worked as a top aide to Nevada Democrat Harry M. Reid when he served as Senate majority leader. “We don’t have any time to spare. Sometimes you’ve got to fight. We can’t fold before we’ve had one fight.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s cellphone rant full of election falsehoods, Glenn Kessler, Nov. 26, 2020.  The president called into a news conference held by his allies, and in less than 10 minutes, he made at least 15 false or misleading claims.

On Thanksgiving eve, President Trump called into a news conference held by his allies in a Gettysburg, Pa., hotel, yet again falsely claiming that Joe Biden stole the presidential election. The presidential rant lasted less than 10 minutes, but Trump still managed to squeeze in at least 15 false or misleading statements. Here’s a rundown of his falsehoods.

“This was an election that we won easily. … This election was rigged, and we can’t let that happen. We can’t let it happen for our country. … This election was lost by the Democrats. They cheated. It was a fraudulent election.”

Trump lost decisively, with Biden earning 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. That’s the same margin that Trump had when he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, in what he repeatedly called a “landslide.” Many key swing states have already certified the results, with Biden’s margin of victory in some key states significantly higher than Trump’s margin four years ago. For instance, Biden won Michigan by more than 150,000 votes, compared with Trump’s margin of about 11,000 in 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s baseless election fraud claims in Georgia turn Senate runoffs into a ‘high-wire act’ for Republicans, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Amy Gardner, Nov. 26, 2020. Sen. David Perdue was encouraging a crowd at a gun club south of Atlanta to support him and fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler, below right, in their bids for Georgia's Senate seats, which he called the only thing standing between America and "a radical socialist agenda."

kelly loeffler o CustomBut five minutes into the senator's speech, a man interrupted.

“What are you doing to help Donald Trump and this fraud case?” the man screamed, as one woman said “Amen” and the crowd applauded. “What are you doing to stop what’s been going on here and this election fraud?”

The Republican candidates in Georgia’s dual Senate runoff campaign are navigating a highly unusual political labyrinth — caught in the middle of an intraparty war that has erupted since President Trump narrowly lost the state to President-elect Joe Biden and has turned his fire on the Republican leadership there.

The infighting now threatens to turn off the very Republican voters Perdue and Loeffler need to stave off challenges from their Democratic rivals, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly, and falsely, accused Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, of presiding over a fraudulent election. Trump has pushed the baseless claim that the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in Georgia were rigged as part of a global conspiracy, and Perdue and Loeffler have called for Raffensperger’s resignation.

But therein lies the conundrum: Perdue and Loeffler are traveling the state pleading with Republican voters to turn out on Jan. 5 — effectively asking Trump supporters to put their faith in the same voting system their president claims was manipulated to engineer his defeat.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller’s screw-up with the Michael Flynn case just keeps looking worse, Bill Palmer, Nov. 26, 2020. Yet another way in which Robert Mueller blew it: Michael Flynn didn’t just lie to the FBI. He stood accused of being an unregistered foreign agent, violating the Logan Act, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and various other serious alleged crimes.

robert mueller full face fileMueller, right, agreed not to prosecute Michael Flynn for any of those serious crimes, and let him plead out on one minimal charge, in exchange for his testimony against Donald Trump. Then in the end, Mueller made no move on Trump at all. What a waste.

bill palmer report logo headerWe still don’t have a satisfactory explanation for why Mueller came out like gangbusters in the first year of his probe, getting Flynn to flip on Trump and busting Manafort, only to spend the second year of his probe doing nothing, before ultimately giving up and going home.

We now know that Rod Rosenstein had been obstructing Mueller’s probe the entire time. But it’s not like Mueller wasn’t producing results. He started off super aggressive. Then he just sort of stopped investigating, long before Bill Barr came along at the end.

In fact, now that it’s become clear that Bill Barr is a muddling bumbler and ineffective henchman, it makes it all the more suspicious that Barr was somehow able to take Mueller down just by breathing on him. Then again, once Mueller finally was forced to testify, it became clear that he knew and understood far less about his own investigation than the average observer did. Maybe the guy really did go senile halfway through his investigation.

But when Mueller gave Flynn a nearly free pass in order to get him to flip on Trump, it was fairly clear at the time that Mueller intended to go after Trump. But in the end, Mueller couldn’t even be bothered to try subpoenaing Trump to testify in person. Now more than ever, we deserve answers about what went so horribly wrong with the Mueller probe. It allowed Trump to complete his term, and helped get more than a quarter million Americans killed.

Bloomberg, Ex-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell Files Election Suits in ‘DISTRCOICT’ Court, Tony Aarons, Nov. 26, 2020. Sidney Powell brings cases after being dropped from Trump team; Georgia case misspells district as ‘DISTRCOICT’ in court name.

A lawyer who was dropped from President Donald Trump’s legal team filed typo-strewn lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia alleging massive election fraud.

sidney powellSidney Powell, right, who has pushed some of the most extreme conspiracy theories around the election of Joe Biden, filed the lawsuits late Wednesday, according to a post on Twitter. The two cases have similar themes of problems linked to voting machines, mail-in ballots and deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

Powell was kicked off Trump’s legal team this week after her claims about a vast Democratic conspiracy against the president. Days earlier she had appeared at a press conference alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, where she alleged a plot to swing the election to Biden that involved voting-machine tampering and Venezuela.

The pre-Thanksgiving lawsuits, which target elected officials in both states, also include other claims about forged ballots and observers being unable to watch the vote count.

Despite numerous allegations of voter fraud and irregularities from Trump and his supporters, no evidence has emerged of widespread problems that would have changed the results of the election, which Biden won with 306 electoral votes.

Powell also represented former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by Trump Wednesday.

Both of Powell’s latest lawsuits were riddled with typographical errors.

The Michigan lawsuit, which was on the court website, was frequently marred by formatting problems that removed the spacing between words. For example: “TheTCFCenterwastheonlyfacilitywithinWayneCountyauthorizedtocountthe ballots.”

In the Georgia complaint, which was only available on Powell’s website, the word district in the court name was misspelled twice on the first page of the document. First there was an extra c for “DISTRICCT” and then, a few words later, “DISTRCOICT.”

Palmer Report, Everyone piles on after Donald Trump goes berserk about #DiaperDon trending on Twitter, Bill Palmer, Nov. 26, 2020.  Donald Trump spent today sitting at a child’s desk while yelling “Don’t talk to me that way, I’m the President of the United States” at reporters. But just when it seemed he couldn’t find a way to embarrass himself even further, the idiot indeed found a way.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter everyone began making fun of Trump for his infantile behavior, the hashtag #DiaperDon began trending on Twitter. At that point Trump began ranting and raving about how Twitter was supposedly putting phony trends at the top of the list that had nothing to do with what anyone was tweeting. He added “Same thing will happen to Twitter as is happening to Fox News daytime.” Wait, what does Fox News have to do with this?

Trump then demanded that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act be repealed, which would allow him to go after Twitter for daring to let embarrassing things trend about him. To be clear, Trump has been ranting about Section 230 for years, and he doesn’t have the ability to strike it down unilaterally.

At this point Donald Trump is just humiliating himself on his way out the door, and ensuring that he’s remembered as a pathetic villain who cried like a baby after he was defeated. America has had enough of this crap, which is why Trump was just voted out by a six million vote margin. Bring on President Biden.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster, Alexandra Alter and Edmund Lee, Nov. 25, 2020. ViacomCBS agreed to sell the 96-year-old company in a deal that potentially creates a megapublisher.

The biggest book publisher in the United States is about to get bigger. ViacomCBS has agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for more than $2 billion in a deal that will create the first megapublisher.

Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the United States, is owned by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann. Adding Simon & Schuster, the third largest publisher, would create a book behemoth, a combination that could trigger antitrust concerns.

The deal announced on Wednesday includes provisions that would protect ViacomCBS in the event that a sale is squashed by authorities. Bertelsmann would pay what is known as a termination fee if the deal does not go through. The sale of the company will profoundly reshape the publishing industry, increasingly a winner-take-all business in which the largest companies compete for brand-name authors and guaranteed best-sellers.

Simon & Schuster, which publishes prominent authors like Stephen King, Don DeLillo, Bob Woodward, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Walter Isaacson, had long been rumored to be the next big company to be put up for sale, and it made an attractive prize for larger publishing houses seeking to grow through acquisitions. It has a vast backlist of more than 30,000 titles.

The sale of Simon & Schuster is part of a great unwinding taking place across the media industry as conglomerates cleave off or close down ancillary businesses. ViacomCBS, which also owns Paramount studios and Nickelodeon, has bet its future on streaming, and books won’t play a big role in that strategy.

 ny times logoNew York Times, In Argentina, Maradona’s Death Sets Off a Vivid Display of Public Grief, Daniel Politi, Nov. 26, 2020. For many Argentines, Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday, was no mere soccer superstar. “I feel like a member of my family just died,” said one. There was a sense of incredulity in Argentina on Wednesday as word spread that the soccer star had died that morning at his home in Tigre, north of Buenos Aires. The government decreed three days of mourning.

Often called one of the game’s best players, Mr. Maradona was revered by his fellow Argentines — not just for his prowess on the field, but for his rise from poverty to global stardom. He stayed a national hero even as his personal life, which included long spates of drug and alcohol abuse, made him tabloid fodder around the world.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Diego Maradona was brilliant. And flawed. And fearless. And complex. And spectacular, Steven Goff, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). The mesmerizing Argentine midfielder lived at full speed, never satisfied, drawn to the bright lights.

We will want to remember Diego Maradona strictly for his brilliance on the soccer field, a spellbinding brew of dribbling, creativity and goal scoring that riddled opponents from Buenos Aires to Naples and reached a glorious pinnacle at the 1986 World Cup final in Mexico City.

We would prefer to cast aside his deep flaws and misdeeds, choosing instead to embrace the memory of the mesmerizing Argentine midfielder, who died Wednesday at age 60.

But as hard as we try, it’s impossible to separate the player and the man. He lived like he played: fearless and at full speed, never satisfied, drawn to the bright lights.

ny times logoNew York Times, C.I.A. Officer Is Killed in Somalia, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Adam Goldman, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). The officer’s combat death came as President Trump considers pulling back on American operations in the region.

A veteran C.I.A. officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, according to current and former U.S. officials, a death that is likely to reignite debate over American counterterrorism operations in Africa.

The officer was a member of the C.I.A.’s paramilitary division, the Special Activities Center, and a former member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6.

CIA LogoThe identity of the officer remained classified, and the circumstances of the killing were ambiguous. It was unclear whether the officer was killed in a counterterrorism raid or was the victim of an enemy attack, former American officials said. The C.I.A. declined to comment.

The death will lead to another star being added to the wall in the C.I.A.’s lobby, where it memorializes its fallen. The past 20 years have placed a heavy burden on the agency, with dozens of stars bringing the total to 135.

Compared with the U.S. military, the deaths of C.I.A. officers in combat is a relatively rare occurrence. Still, paramilitary work is the most dangerous task at the agency, and members of the Special Activities Center carry out missions as risky as those of Delta Force or SEAL Team 6.

The death of the C.I.A. paramilitary officer comes as a draft order is circulating at the Pentagon under which virtually all of the more than 700 American military forces in Somalia conducting training and counterterrorism missions would depart by the time President Trump leaves office in January.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sex crime ringleader who blackmailed dozens of women is jailed for 40 years in South Korea, Min Joo Kim, Nov. 26, 2020. Over nine months starting in spring 2019, Cho Ju-bin lured his victims — whom he called "slaves" — with calculated precision.

From his home in Seoul’s suburbs, the 25-year-old orchestrated one of South Korea’s most infamous sex crimes. Under an online alias as the “Doctor,” he blackmailed at least 74 young women, including minors, into sharing sexually explicit videos of themselves, then sold the footage online through a chat group on the encrypted app Telegram.

South KoreaOn Thursday, a court convicted Cho of organizing a crime ring and violating child protection laws, and jailed him for 40 years.

The case fueled a national outcry in South Korea over what has emerged as a major societal problem: men secretly recording sexually explicit footage of women, or blackmailing their victims into doing so, and then selling the material online.

It’s a crisis fueled by a lack of respect for women in Korean society and a culture of impunity, exemplified by weak laws against digital sex crimes and often low penalties for sex offenders.

 

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Midnight Ruling Exposes Rifts at a Supreme Court Transformed by Trump, Adam Liptak, Nov. 26, 2020. The justices issued six opinions, several of them unusually bitter, in upholding challenges from churches and synagogues to state pandemic restrictions on religious services. A few minutes before midnight on Wednesday, the nation got its first glimpse of how profoundly President Trump had transformed the Supreme Court.

Just months ago, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was at the peak of his power, holding the controlling vote in closely divided cases and almost never finding himself in dissent. But the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett late last month, which put a staunch conservative in the seat formerly held by the liberal mainstay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meant that it was only a matter of time before the chief justice’s leadership would be tested.

On Wednesday, Justice Barrett dealt the chief justice a body blow. She cast the decisive vote in a 5-to-4 ruling that rejected restrictions on religious services in New York imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat the coronavirus, shoving the chief justice into dissent with the court’s three remaining liberals. It was one of six opinions the court issued on Wednesday, spanning 33 pages and opening a window on a court in turmoil.

The ruling was at odds with earlier ones in cases from California and Nevada issued before Justice Ginsburg’s death in September. Those decisions upheld restrictions on church services by 5-to-4 votes, with Chief Justice Roberts in the majority. The New York decision said that Mr. Cuomo’s strict virus limits — capping attendance at religious services at 10 people in “red zones” where risk was highest, and at 25 in slightly less dangerous “orange zones” — violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

Wednesday’s ruling was almost certainly a taste of things to come. While Justice Ginsburg was alive, Chief Justice Roberts voted with the court’s four-member liberal wing in cases striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, blocking a Trump administration initiative that would have rolled back protections for young immigrants known as Dreamers, refusing to allow a question on citizenship to be added to the census and saving the Affordable Care Act.

Palmer Report, Opinion: President-elect Joe Biden steps up on Thanksgiving as Donald Trump whines and pouts like a loser, Bill Palmer, Nov. 26, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden and incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden delivered a heartwarming Thanksgiving message today.

Donald Trump is golfing today, on Thanksgiving. Might as well. He won’t be able to do that when he’s in prison. You’d think he’d be spending time with his family today, since he won’t be able to do that while in prison either. But he appears to care less about them than he does about golf.

Here’s the message that Trump decided was appropriate today, for his final Thanksgiving in office: “There is NO WAY Biden got 80,000,000 votes!!! This was a 100% RIGGED ELECTION.” And this guy wonders why he lost in a blowout.

I’m thankful to all of you who have spent these past four years fighting, winning, and surviving. I can’t think of a better group of people I’d want to stand alongside. We’re almost through this. It’ll get better. Hang in there and keep fighting the good fight. Happy Thanksgiving!

daily beast logoDaily Beast, The Biden Presidency Already Has Its First Conspiracy Theory: The Great Reset, Will Sommer, Nov. 26, 2020. HERE WE GO AGAIN. Usually, you become president before the crazy starts. But Biden still has weeks to go till he assumes office. Joe Biden isn’t president yet. But his incoming White House already has its first conspiracy theory to deal with.

It goes by the tag the “Great Reset” and under its construct a wild dystopian future is in store. The coronavirus pandemic is merely a means to enslave humanity and end capitalism. Biden’s “Build Back Better” slogan is really a cover for nefarious plotting of a global cabal from Davos, Switzerland, intent on abolishing private property and building prison camps for the dissenters who refuse to accept microchips that will read their thoughts. Even Grover from Sesame Street might be involved.

The Great Reset is a hodgepodge of one-world-government fears that has gained steam in the wake of Biden’s win. It’s been fed by right-wing media personalities who have told their audiences that Biden is bent on launching said reset by using the coronavirus pandemic to ban religion, crush small businesses, and turn humans into something like robots—or replace them with actual robots.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has declared that the Great Reset is “up in your grill,” while talk radio host Glenn Beck said the Great Reset is a plot to institute Nazi-style restrictions on American citizens. WorldNetDaily has called it a scheme from our “globalist overlords.” Pro-Trump personalities “Diamond and Silk” have warned their audience on Newsmax TV that Biden is behind the Great Reset plot.

“You know Biden said he wants to build back better,” Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway said on Nov. 21 on her show, Diamond and Silk: Crystal Clear. “But no, he doesn’t want to build back better. He wants to take this economy and build back globally. You all, I know you heard about this thing called the Great Reset.”

Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have also promoted the idea that Biden is a key player in a nefarious movement dubbed the Great Reset.

“His handlers, who are basically all old Obama staffers, believe in something called the Great Reset of capitalism,” Ingraham said in a November episode of her show. “It’s a plan to force a more equitable distribution of global resources.”

Despite the apocalyptic predictions of pro-Trump media figures, though, the supposed Great Reset’s actual origins are much more mundane.

In May, the World Economic Forum—a non-governmental group that hosts the annual Davos conference—announced a series of events and articles called the Great Reset centered on the idea of reducing inequality in the aftermath of the pandemic. The series, summed up in a book of the same name from WEF chief Klaus Schwab, is made up of the same kind of vague, feel-good talk aimed at the world’s wealthy that amounts to thought leadership at Davos. The WEF’s Great Reset website is filled with buzzwords like “sustainability,” “upscaling,” and “stakeholder capitalism,” but few concrete plans—and certainly nothing like the world-destroying plot described in pro-Trump media.

 

Nov. 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Trump Pardon Strategy

 

Trump Watch

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Media News

 

Inside DC 

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, After a long, bitter delay, Biden transition kicks into gear, Matt Viser, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Aides to President-elect Joe Biden held at least 20 meetings with Trump administration officials and were in active discussions with every federal agency, as well as the White House, preparing for the daunting task of taking over a crumbling economy and overseeing the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

joe biden oAfter weeks of delay, uncertainty and lawsuits, President-elect Joe Biden’s team plunged Tuesday into a formal transition, with Biden aides beginning to meet with agency officials in preparation for a head-snapping Trump-to-Biden shift throughout the vast federal bureaucracy.

Uncertainty remains over how much cooperation the Biden team will get from Trump’s political appointees — some of whom are embracing the false notion that the president could somehow still win reelection — as Biden hopes to rebuild a demoralized federal workforce and prepare it to implement his drastically different agenda.

But Tuesday marked a clear shift from delay to action. Following Monday night’s long-postponed decision by a key administration official to approve the transition, Biden aides held at least 20 meetings with Trump officials and were in active discussions with every federal agency, as well as the White House, preparing for the daunting task of taking over a crumbling economy and overseeing the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. They have been in touch with Anthony S. Fauci, whom Biden has said he would keep as the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.

 ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sets Record of Two Million New Virus Cases in Two Weeks, Lauren Leatherby, Nov. 25, 2020. Health officials are acknowledging that contact tracing can no longer be expected to contain the virus’s spread. Here’s the latest.

For the first time since the outbreak hit the United States, the country has added more than one million cases in each of the past two consecutive weeks. If the growth pattern holds, the total number of cases reported for November is likely to hit 4.5 million, more than double that of any previous month.

Some epidemiologists project that the number of deaths in the coming weeks could exceed the spring peak, in spite of improved treatment.

In the past week, the United States added an average of 173,000 new daily cases. If this growth pattern holds, the total number of cases reported for the full month of November is likely to hit 4.5 million. That would be more than double the number of any previous month.

With several days still left in the month, about 3.3 million people in the United States had already tested positive for the coronavirus as of Nov. 23.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden urges unity to fight pandemic as Trump rails about election, Jenna Johnson, Amy B Wang and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 25, 2020. As President-elect Joe Biden called on Americans to make a shared sacrifice, President Trump spent the day tweeting a stream of grievances and baseless accusations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s assault on the election could leave a lasting mark on American democracy, Toluse Olorunnipa, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Rosalind S. Helderman, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). When President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, he will face a fundamental challenge unlike any incoming president before him: Tens of millions of Americans who doubt his legitimacy and question the stability of the country’s democratic traditions — in part because of his predecessor’s unprecedented attempt to set both ablaze before leaving office.

For the past three weeks, as President Trump has refused to concede the election, the federal government, the Trump campaign legal team and whole swaths of the Republican Party have worked in tandem to interfere with the peaceful transition of power.

djt hands up mouth open CustomBy lodging baseless claims of voter fraud and embracing — or declining to reject — outlandish conspiracy theories about the electoral process, Trump and his allies have normalized the kind of post-election assault on institutions typically seen in less-developed democracies, according to historians, former administration officials, and lawmakers and diplomats from across the political spectrum.

Lingering damage to the U.S. electoral system could be among the most consequential legacies of the Trump presidency, said Michael Chertoff, a homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush.

Trump’s effort to overturn the election results in the days after the race has so far proved unsuccessful, as Biden has moved ahead with hallmarks of a presidential transition such as building a Cabinet. But Chertoff and others said the harm inflicted on the democratic process since Nov. 3 should not be underestimated.

 washington post logoWashington Post, NRA reports alleged misspending by current and former executives to IRS, Beth Reinhard and Carol D. Leonnig, Nov. 25, 2020 at 2:09 p.m. After years of denying allegations of lax financial oversight, the National Rifle Association has made a stunning declaration in a new tax filing: Current and former executives used the nonprofit group’s money for personal benefit and enrichment.

nra logo CustomThe NRA said in the filing that it continues to review the alleged abuse of funds, as the tax-exempt organization curtails services and runs up multimillion-dollar legal bills. The assertion of impropriety comes four months after the attorney general of New York state filed a lawsuit accusing NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and other top officials of using NRA funds for decades to provide inflated salaries and expense accounts.

The tax return, which The Washington Post obtained from the organization, says the NRA “became aware during 2019 of a significant diversion of its assets.” The 2019 filing states that LaPierre and five former officials received “excess benefits,” a term the IRS uses when officials have enriched themselves at the expense of a nonprofit entity.

The disclosures in the tax return suggest that the organization is standing by its 71-year-old chief executive while continuing to pursue former executives who left the group. The filing says that LaPierre “corrected” his financial lapses with a repayment and contends that former executives “improperly” used NRA funds or charged the nonprofit for expenses that were “not appropriate.”

LaPierre has reimbursed the organization nearly $300,000 in travel expenses covering 2015 to 2019, according to the tax return, which does not explain how that amount was determined or when LaPierre paid it.

ny times logojanet yellen oNew York Times, Janet Yellen Has Excelled at Big Jobs. This Will Be the Hardest, Neil Irwin, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The nominee for Treasury secretary, right, will face the tricky economics and even trickier politics of generating a strong recovery out of the pandemic.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 25, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 60,258,299, Deaths: 1,418,126
U.S. Cases:   12,958,805, Deaths:    265,986

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, Nov. 25, 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: Now there are three, Robert Harrington, right, Nov. 25, 2020. Swedish-British pharma major AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have created robert harrington twitterthe Covid-19 vaccine AZD1222, adding another rival to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already extant. Now watch Trump simultaneously claim credit for it and whine about it by insisting that its announcement was deliberately withheld until after the election. Whatever, with days to spare, November is turning out to be a positive mensis mirabilis.

Even so, despite this recent embarrassment of vaccine riches, all the vaccines in the world won’t get rid of this bug if people refuse to take it. Like it or not we are faced with that rare thing, an apparently nonpartisan conspiracy theory. That’s right, MAGA hat-wearing cretins aren’t the only science deniers. It turns out that liberals are also well-represented among anti-vaxxers. A whopping 42% of Americans say they will refuse any new Covid-19 vaccine. So once again, science ignorance rules the day.

bill palmer report logo header“So let them refuse it,” I can almost hear you saying. “I and mine will get inoculated. Let Darwin do his usual thing with fools.”

Not so fast. Just as mask-wearing isn’t any good unless a majority of people do it, the same goes for coronavirus inoculation. It turns out that a “95% efficacious” vaccine doesn’t mean that it will make 95% of its recipients immune to coronavirus. It means that the inoculated will become resistant to coronavirus 95% of the time, or one time in 20. So the more you socialize or work with people who haven’t been vaccinated, the likelier it becomes that you will get it anyway. And unless at least 70% of the population are vaccinated, then chances are you will get it, with or without the vaccine.

In other words, in order for America to achieve herd immunity, at least 70% of the population needs to be inoculated. Since 42% of the population are scientifically superstitious, at least as far as the new vaccines are concerned, herd immunity just isn’t going to happen.

Politico Magazine, Investigation: The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal, Tim Alberta, Nov. 24, 2020. How a state that was never in doubt became a "national embarrassment" and a symbol of the Republican Party’s fealty to Donald Trump.

After five years spent bullying the Republican Party into submission, President Donald Trump finally met his match in Aaron Van Langevelde.

Who?

That’s right. In the end, it wasn’t a senator or a judge or a general who stood up to the leader of the free world. There was no dramatic, made-for-Hollywood collision of cosmic egos. Rather, the death knell of Trump’s presidency was sounded by a baby-faced lawyer, looking over his glasses on a grainy Zoom feed on a gloomy Monday afternoon, reading from a statement that reflected a courage and moral clarity that has gone AWOL from his party, pleading with the tens of thousands of people watching online to understand that some lines can never be uncrossed.

“We must not attempt to exercise power we simply don’t have,” declared Van Langevelde, a member of Michigan’s board of state canvassers, the ministerial body with sole authority to make official Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. “As John Adams once said, 'We are a government of laws, not men.' This board needs to adhere to that principle here today. This board must do its part to uphold the rule of law and comply with our legal duty to certify this election.”

Van Langevelde is a Republican. He works for Republicans in the Statehouse. He gives legal guidance to advance Republican causes and win Republican campaigns.

As a Republican, his mandate for Monday’s hearing — handed down from the state party chair, the national party chair and the president himself—was straightforward. They wanted Michigan’s board of canvassers to delay certification of Biden’s victory. Never mind that Trump lost by more than 154,000 votes, or that results were already certified in all 83 counties. The plan was to drag things out, to further muddy the election waters and delegitimize the process, to force the courts to take unprecedented actions that would forever taint Michigan’s process of certifying elections. Not because it was going to help Trump win but because it was going to help Trump cope with a loss. The president was not accepting defeat. That meant no Republican with career ambitions could accept it, either.

Which made Van Langevelde’s vote for certification all the more remarkable. With the other Republican on the four-person board, Norman Shinkle, abstaining on the final vote — a cowardly abdication of duty — the 40-year-old Van Langevelde delivered the verdict on his own. At a low point in his party’s existence, with much of the GOP’s leadership class pre-writing their own political epitaphs by empowering Trump to lay waste to the country’s foundational democratic norms, an obscure lawyer from west Michigan stood on principle. It proved to be the nail in Trump’s coffin: Shortly after Michigan’s vote to certify, the General Services Administration finally commenced the official transition of power and Trump tweeted out a statement affirming the move “in the best interest of our Country.”

Still, the drama in Lansing raised deeper questions about the health of our political system and the sturdiness of American democracy. Why were Republicans who privately admitted Trump’s legitimate defeat publicly alleging massive fraud? Why did it fall to a little-known figure like Van Langevelde to buffer the country from an unprecedented layer of turmoil? Why did the battleground state that dealt Trump his most decisive defeat — by a wide margin — become the epicenter of America’s electoral crisis?

In conversations with more than two dozen Michigan insiders — elected officials, party elders, consultants, activists — it became apparent how the state’s conditions were ripe for this sort of slow-motion disaster.

 

Trump Pardon Strategy 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pardons Flynn, Ending Case His Justice Dept. Sought to Shut Down, Charlie Savage, Nov. 25, 2020. Michael Flynn, above left, the president’s former national security adviser, twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

The pardon brings to an end the drawn-out legal saga of Mr. Flynn, who was the only White House official to be convicted as part of the Trump-Russia inquiry.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Weighs Pardon Blitz Before Trump’s Exit, Kenneth P. Vogel and Eric Lipton, Nov. 25, 2020. President Trump has so far granted 28 pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just pardoned Michael Flynn – but it could blow up in both their faces, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2020. As expected, Donald Trump just announced a “full pardon” for Michael Flynn. Keep in mind that pardons are not magic wands for Trump. There are three ways in which this could blow back on Flynn and land him in prison anyway, and one way it could actually help send Trump to prison.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Flynn dodged several more serious criminal charges when he cut his cooperating plea deal on a lesser charge. Flynn went on to violate his plea deal, meaning prosecutors can now hit him with those more serious charges. Trump can try to word his pardon to include any and all crimes that Flynn hasn’t yet been charged with, but that’ll be legally flimsy, and prosecutors can challenge it in court. So Flynn could end up with more prison time than the zero to six months he was facing.

Second, because there is no clear precedent for a President being able to pardon his own criminal co-conspirators, prosecutors can try to get the entire pardon thrown out in court. This would in turn set the precedent to invalidate every pardon that Trump tries to issue to a co-conspirator. In fact Judge Sullivan, who’s handling the current Flynn case, and simply issue the opinion that this pardon is unlawful, sentence Flynn to prison, and dare him to appeal.

Third, depending on the nature of his other crimes and the states he committed them in, Flynn could be subject to state level criminal charges.

Now here’s the part where this gets ugly for Trump. If Flynn’s pardon holds up and he does skate entirely, then he’ll no longer face any criminal jeopardy. In such case the Fifth Amendment will no longer apply, and Flynn will then be required to testify against Trump. That’s right, this pardon could help put Trump in prison.

If Flynn refuses to testify against Trump, he can then be charged with felony obstruction – and Trump’s pardon certainly won’t apply to any crimes that Flynn commits after the pardon. The bottom line: Flynn probably ends up in prison one way or the other anyway, and Trump is now more of a lock for prison than ever.

Pardoning his co-conspirators is not a good option for Donald Trump. It opens up all kinds of problems for him. It’s just that it’s the only move he has left when it comes to trying to keep his co-conspirators from cutting plea deals against him. Don’t let anyone portray Trump’s pardons as magic wands. They’re treasonous, but they’re not all that effective.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Who will Donald Trump pardon next? It’s not that simple, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2020. Now that Donald Trump has pardoned Michael Flynn, it’s set off all kinds of narratives about whom he might pardon next, whether he’s planning to simply pardon everyone around him, and what his overall master plan is. I can give you at least some insight into the answers.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, as I’ve explained at length, pardons aren’t magic wands. There are several reasons why each person receiving a Trump pardon may not actually be off the legal hook. More importantly to Trump, each of these pardons is a calculated risk on his part.

In the end, Trump will surely try to pardon himself and his family, even though New York State can easily do to them whatever the DOJ can’t. And the Flynn pardon suggests that Trump will pardon anyone with sufficient Kremlin connections, under the presumption that Putin wants it to happen.

But beyond that, we really only expect Trump to issue the specific pardons that he thinks are in his own best interest. How many such pardon scenarios exist? 

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Said to Plan Pardon of Flynn, Maggie Haberman and Michael Crowley, Updated Nov. 25, 2020. The expected pardon of President Trump’s former national security adviser, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., is said to be one of a string Mr. Trump plans to issue before leaving office.

President Trump has told aides that he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and that it is one of a string of pardons he plans to issue before leaving office, a person familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Mr. Flynn, right, a retired Army lieutenant general, twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in late 2016 and early 2017. He was the only former White House official to plead guilty in the inquiry led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference.

In May, the Justice Department sought to withdraw its charges against Mr. Flynn. That move has since been tied up in federal court, challenged by the judge who presided over Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet G. Sullivan.

Mr. Trump’s plans were reported earlier by Axios. Mr. Flynn, 61, served just 24 days as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser before the president fired him in February 2017 for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak.

Mr. Flynn changed his legal team last year and began seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he never lied to investigators and was the target in January 2017 of what his lawyers in court papers called an “ambush-interview” by F.B.I. agents seeking to entrap him. He has since become a hero figure on the pro-Trump right, portrayed as a decorated patriot victimized by the politically motivated Russia “hoax” investigation of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump, who initially distanced himself from Mr. Flynn after his firing, has since taken up his cause, calling him “an innocent man” targeted by Obama administration officials trying to “take down a president.”

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis:Trump tweets string of falsehoods about Wisconsin absentee voters, Salvador Rizzo, Nov. 25, 2020.

“‘In Wisconsin, somebody has to be indefinitely confined in order to vote absentee. In the past there were 20,000 people. This past election there were 120,000...and Republicans were locked out of the vote counting process.’ @VicToensing @newsmax”

— President Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 24, 2020

Every part of this is false, proving once again why none of Trump’s claims about election fraud should be given any credence.

As we’ve documented in recent fact checks, the statements from Trump and his lawyers are all absurd and easily debunked. Last week, it was Sidney Powell alleging with no evidence that an algorithm from Venezuela had changed millions of Trump votes to votes for President-elect Joe Biden. This week, Rudolph W. Giuliani is mixing up Michigan and Minnesota to peddle a false claim about “phantom voters.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: President-elect Joe Biden just hit it out of the park, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2020. President elect Joe Biden gave a national Thanksgiving address to the American people today, and he offered precisely the mix of hope, leadership, and caution that we all needed to hear right now. From a leadership standpoint, Biden is already the de facto President. Donald Trump has given up even pretending to go through the motions anymore.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump’s official excuse for not attending today’s Gettysburg stunt is that someone on the team was exposed to COVID. But Trump just had COVID, and he’s keeps claiming he’s immune. Now he’s suddenly worried about catching it? It’s like he’s not even trying with his excuses anymore.

In yet another reminder of just how tepidly indecisive Trump is, he decided to stay out of Rudy’s post-election antics for weeks, only to decide to jump in today after he realized it was too late and he’d lost, only to then change his mind and stay home, only to then decide to call in on the phone and partially participate. So much for being a strongman. Tepid Trump is scared of his own shadow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Happy Thanksgiving to All Those Who Told the Truth in This Election, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Civil servants, tom friedman twitterelected officials and judges did their jobs and protected democracy. With so many families gathering, in person or virtually, for this most unusual Thanksgiving after this most unusual election, if you’re looking for a special way to say grace this year, I recommend the West Point Cadet Prayer. It calls upon each of these future military leaders to always choose “the harder right instead of the easier wrong” and to know “no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

Because we should be truly thankful this Thanksgiving that — after Donald Trump spent the last three weeks refusing to acknowledge that he’d lost re-election and enlisted much of his party in a naked power play to ignore the vote counts and reinstall him in office — we had a critical mass of civil servants, elected officials and judges who did their jobs, always opting for the “harder right” that justice demanded, not the “easier wrong” that Trump and his allies were pressing for.

It was their collective integrity, their willingness to stand with “Team America,” not either party, that protected our democracy when it was facing one of its greatest threats — from within. History will remember them fondly.

djt rudy giuliani headshots Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump makes bizarre desperation move after he realizes it’s all over for him, Bill Palmer, right (11:51 pm EST Nov. 24, 2020). When the bill palmerGSA began the transition to President-elect Biden, and Donald Trump publicly signaled his support for the move, it meant the end of his ability to argue that he’s still somehow magically going to win the election. Trump didn’t necessarily seem to understand this, as he’s since thrown a number of Twitter tantrums about how he didn’t really admit he lost. Not things are getting weird.

bill palmer report logo headerThe news broke today that Rudy Giuliani is meeting with Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators at a Wyndham hotel on Wednesday, to brief them on his latest phony conspiracy theories about the election. As a practical matter, this is going nowhere. Pennsylvania already certified its results statewide on Tuesday; game over. These low level Pennsylvania Republicans are only taking this meeting with crackpot Rudy because they figure it might get them somewhere personally. But now CNN and the New York Times are reporting that Trump is planning to attend as well.

This is surreal. Donald Trump has consistently remained far removed from Rudy’s post-election antics, presumably because he didn’t want to suffer the democratic donkey logoembarrassment of being seen as being directly involved in it. Now Trump has apparently decided he wants to take over this dumpster fire himself.

This is consistent with Trump’s pattern of tepidly and indecisively waiting far too long to take action on something, only to then try to belatedly jump into the fray after he realizes it’s too late. So it’s not necessarily surprising. But it suggests Trump is now so aware that he’s lost the election and that his life is going down the tubes, he’s willing to completely humiliate himself just to take a belated fantasy stab at magically turning it around. This is just pathetic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Since Election Day, a Lot of Tweeting and Not Much Else for Trump, Karen Yourish and Larry Buchanan, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has posted some 550 tweets since Nov. 3. About three-quarters of them attempted to undermine the integrity of the election results.

donald trump twitterIn total, the president attacked the legitimacy of the election more than 400 times since Election Day, though his claims of fraud have been widely debunked.

As Mr. Trump’s attacks continue, the coronavirus pandemic rages on, worse than ever. More than 25,000 people in the United States have died from Covid in the past three weeks.

Mr. Trump’s public calendar, meanwhile, has been remarkably light, especially relative to his pre-election schedule, when he often attended multiple campaign rallies in a single day.

From Nov. 4 to Nov. 23, he has had just eight days with an official schedule, though he has managed to maintain his weekend golf plans at his club in Virginia, as he has done most weekends in Washington.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s ugly endgame gets underway now that he knows he’s lost, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2020. It took some folks awhile to get there, but we now all seem to be on board with the reality that Donald Trump was never going to magically overturn the election, and that he was merely using that farce to try to distract us from whatever corrupt endgame he’s been pursuing behind the scenes. Fortunately, now that we’re all paying proper attention, Trump’s quiet endgame moves are coming under the proper spotlight.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, last night we all learned that Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, right, has been trying to secretly shift nearly half a billion dollars in pandemic aid money into a fund where he can presumably find a way for him and his pals to pocket it. Now that he’s been caught, steven mnuchin whe’ll have a harder time pulling it off. Just as, now that Trump has been caught trying to destroy the airplanes used in the Open Skies treaty, he’ll have a harder time pulling that off.

One thing that Trump has to do in the open, and simply hope that no one pushes back against, is his pardon endgame. Trump leaked last night that he’s about to pardon Michael Flynn. No surprise, as Trump has always considered protecting Flynn to be a top priority.

More such pardons are coming. But as we’ve explained, pardons will only be partially effective for Trump, and they’re not magic wands. It’s simply the only thing that Trump has left to try. The more loudly we push back against the corrupt nature of these pardons, the more cover it’ll give the DOJ to go ahead and challenge these pardons in court once Trump is gone from office.

 ny times logoNew York Times, As Their D.C. Days Dwindle, Ivanka and Jared Look for a New Beginning, Elizabeth Williamson, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner seem poised for a quick departure from Washington. They appear to have plans in New Jersey. As Manhattan awaits word of the Trump family’s return, the first daughter and her husband appear to be making preparations elsewhere: a Garden State refuge behind guarded gates, perhaps, or Florida, where jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookPresident Trump is renovating his Mar-a-Lago estate.

But New York now seems inhospitable and nowhere in their plans.

“In an odd way, they will even have a harder time than Trump himself” in New York, said Donny Deutsch, a brand management mogul in Manhattan and no-holds-barred critic of Mr. Trump on cable TV. “He’s despicable but larger than life.”

“Those two are the hapless minions who went along.”

Daily Beast,Trump Literally Phones It in for Voter Fraud ‘Hearing’ as He Frets Privately About Prosecutors Ready to Pounce, Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein, Nov. 25, 2020. One of the innate powers of the presidency is the bully pulpit it provides—the opportunity to virtually take any setting and turn it into a stage to showcase the awesome influence of the office you hold.

On Wednesday, that setting was a cell phone, put on speaker, placed close to a microphone, set on a table, inside a conference room, tucked within a Wyndham hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, over which Donald Trump repeated a long-list of wild conspiracy theories as to why he won the 2020 election when, in fact, he hadn’t.

“We have to turn the election over,” the president declared, saying the quiet part loud. “We can't let it happen for our country. And this election has to be turned around because we won Pennsylvania by a lot and we won all these swing states by a lot.”

Though there may have been a tinge of fight in his voice, these are inglorious times for the president, who has embraced the very bunkered existence that he spent months accusing Joe Biden of living. Trump hasn’t taken questions in weeks. He’s barely appeared in public. When he has, it’s been so brief and odd-sounding as to raise questions about the point of it all. He claims to be fighting for the future of democracy. But the most tangible activity in which he’s engaged has been golf.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

The Guardian via OpEdNews, Opinion: How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key, Bernie Sanders, below right, Nov. 26, 2020. A segment of working-class people in our country still believes Donald Trump defends their interests. We must win them over.

joe biden bernie sanders palmer headshotsAs the count currently stands, nearly 80 million Americans voted for Joe Biden. With this vote against the authoritarian bigotry of Donald Trump, the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

But the election results did also reveal something that should be a cause for concern. Trump received 11 million more votes than he did in 2016, increasing his support in many distressed communities -- where unemployment and poverty are high, healthcare and childcare are inadequate, and people are hurting the most.

For a president who lies all the time, perhaps Donald Trump's most outlandish lie is that he and his administration are friends of the working class in our country.

The truth is that Trump put more billionaires into his administration than any president in history; he appointed vehemently anti-labor members to the National Relations Labor Board (NLRB) and he gave huge tax breaks to the very rich and large corporations while proposing massive cuts to education, housing and nutrition programs. Trump has tried to throw up to 32 million people off the healthcare they have and has produced budgets that called for tens of billions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and social security.

Yet, a certain segment of the working class in our country still believe Donald Trump is on their side.

Why is that?

At a time when millions of Americans are living in fear and anxiety, have lost their jobs because of unfair trade agreements and are earning no more in real dollars than 47 years ago, he was perceived by his supporters to be a tough guy and a "fighter." He seems to be fighting almost everyone, every day.

He declared himself an enemy of "the swamp" not only attacking Democrats, but Republicans who were not 100% in lockstep with him and even members of his own administration, whom he declared part of the "deep state." He attacks the leaders of countries who have been our longstanding allies, as well as governors and mayors and our independent judiciary. He blasts the media as an "enemy of the people" and is ruthless in his non-stop attacks against the immigrant community, outspoken women, the African American community, the gay community, Muslims and protesters.

He uses racism, xenophobia and paranoia to convince a vast swath of the American people that he was concerned about their needs, when nothing could be further from the truth. His only interest, from day one, has been Donald Trump.

Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January and Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House. Depending upon what happens in Georgia's special elections, it is unclear which party will control the US Senate.

But one thing is clear. If the Democratic party wants to avoid losing millions of votes in the future it must stand tall and deliver for the working families of our country who, today, are facing more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression. Democrats must show, in word and deed, how fraudulent the Republican party is when it claims to be the party of working families.

And, in order to do that, Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades. I'm talking about Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industrial complex and many profitable corporations who continue to exploit their employees.

joe biden 2020 button Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden’s Cabinet Picks Veer Away From ‘America First’ Isolationism, Staff reports, Nov. 25, 2020. “Diplomacy is back,” said President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for ambassador to the United Nations. Here’s the latest.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s national security rollout had a notable omission: A nominee for secretary of defense, Anne Gearan, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.).  President-elect Joe Biden has introduced the bulk of his national security Cabinet, but did not include the Defense Department in his rollout this week amid questions about whether he has settled on longtime defense expert Michèle Flournoy as his Pentagon chief.

Flournoy’s name has been considered at the top of Biden’s list to run the nation’s largest security agency, with frequent mention that she would be the first female secretary of defense.

Department of Defense SealHer prominence served to highlight the absence of a Pentagon nominee during an event in Delaware on Tuesday that included Biden’s picks for secretary of state, intelligence director, chief of homeland security and United Nations ambassador, as well as White House national security adviser.

Biden has not yet made a decision and Flournoy remains very much in the running for the job, people familiar with the process said. Those people, who requested anonymity to talk about pending personnel decisions, cautioned against reading too much into the absence of Pentagon and CIA nominees in the initial round of Cabinet announcements. Biden’s choice for the U.S. Agency for International Development is also pending.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Republicans in disarray, Bill Palmer, Nov. 25, 2020. When CNN asked Republican Senator Ben Sasse about whether Trump should formally rnc logoconcede to President-elect Biden, Sasse said “got nothing for you, man.” No really, that was the quote.

bill palmer report logo headerAt this point the Republicans are in disarray. They’re still afraid to side against Trump, for fear of what’s left of his base. But they’re also afraid to side with Trump at this point, for fear it’ll work against them later on, after Trump finishes flaming out.

There’s no right answer for the Republicans right now when it comes to the Trump question, and they know it, which is why we’re seeing people like Sasse just shrug at the impossible nature of their situation. It won’t get easier for them.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Trump-boosting sheriff earned White House visits. Now she’s charged with theft, Tim Elfrink, Nov. 25, 2020. Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh was one of Trump's earliest backers in Pennsylvania and made multiple trips to the White House, where she often nabbed a seat at Trump’s side.

republican elephant logoNow Welsh, a 76-year-old Republican who left office last year after two decades as sheriff, has been charged with theft for an alleged scheme to charge taxpayers for volunteer work benefiting a K-9 unit. Welsh’s boyfriend, Harry McKinney, a former officer in the department, is also charged with using donations to the K-9 unit to pay his personal expenses.

“Bunny Welsh used her position of power for her and her partner Harry McKinney’s own personal gain instead of serving her community as she was elected to do,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) said in a statement sent to The Washington Post. Chester County court records show Welsh and McKinney, 62, were each charged with theft and diversion of services on Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly a sixth of the Senate GOP caucus has tested positive for coronavirus, Philip Bump, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans in the Senate have been about four times as likely as Americans overall to have tested positive for the virus. In the Senate, the rate of infections is even higher. As of writing, eight senators have tested positive for the virus, according to data compiled by GovTrack. That’s an 8 percent rate of positive tests, more than twice the national measure.

All eight of those positive tests, though, occurred among members of the Republican caucus, which currently numbers 53 senators. In other words, nearly 1 in 6 Republican senators has contracted the virus — about 15 percent of the caucus.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Wrongly Convicted Man Spent 25 Thanksgivings in Prison, Charles M. Blow, right, Nov. 25, 2020. This charles blow customholiday, he says he’s thankful. Are you? In 1995, I was a 25-year-old Brooklyn father of a one-and-a-half-year-old son. I had recently joined The Times and had become the paper’s youngest newsroom department head since a man named Lester Markel was named Sunday editor in 1923.

In 1995, Christian Pacheco was a 18-year-old Brooklyn father of a one-and-a-half-year-old son. He had recently joined the Latin Kings street gangs and become the second youngest co-defendant in a murder case.

Pacheco and some friends, including a young woman that he was seeing, were at a small, corner lounge in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, when a bump on the dance floor quickly escalated into a brawl in which the victim was stabbed and his throat slit.

One witness testified that Pacheco was the person who slit the man’s throat. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.

Pacheco insisted that he was innocent. Although he had fought another man earlier in the altercation, he had not stabbed the victim nor slit his throat. He contends that he knew the victim, came to his rescue, and as a result was stabbed several times himself for doing so.

Still, it wasn’t until this year that Pacheco’s conviction was overturned after newly discovered information proved that he did not receive a fair trial and that the testimony of the witness who said that Pacheco did the killing was “most probably false.”

I spoke to Pacheco this week. He told me what he recalled about that moment, years ago, when the judge read the verdict and he learned that he’d go to prison:

“Honestly, I don’t remember much, but I remember saying to myself, I said uh, ‘Oh God, I can’t believe this.’ You know, and I was shocked.”

He continued:

“And then I turned around. I looked at my son’s mom. She had the baby there. And she was there with her mother. And all I remember seeing was my son’s mom, um, getting up from the seat where she was sitting, crying, and walking away from the courtroom.”

I spent the Thanksgiving of Pacheco’s conviction year in the largest apartment I would ever occupy in New York: A rambling four-bedroom unit in Prospect Heights, which I rented from a colleague who was moving away to take another assignment, but was having a hard time selling the place in the wake of the Savings and Loan Crisis. There were so many rooms that some we just left empty.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stock Trades by Perdue Said to Have Prompted Justice Dept. Inquiry, Katie Benner, Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Kate Kelly, Nov. 25, 2020. Investigators focused on a sale of at least $1 million of stock in a financial firm whose board Senator David Perdue once sat on.

Early this year, Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, sold more than $1 million worth of stock in the financial company Cardlytics, where he once served on the board. Six weeks later, its share price tumbled when the company’s founder announced he would step down as chief executive and the firm said its future sales would be worse than expected.

After the company’s stock price bottomed out in March at $29, Mr. Perdue bought back a substantial portion of the shares that he had sold. They are now trading at around $120 per share.

The Cardlytics transactions drew the attention this spring of investigators at the Justice Department, who were undertaking a broad review of the senator’s prolific trading around the outset of the coronavirus pandemic for possible evidence of insider trading, according to four people with knowledge of the case who described aspects of it on the condition of anonymity. Though Mr. Perdue alluded to the federal inquiry in a campaign ad this fall, its details have not been previously reported.

Investigators found that Cardlytics’ chief executive at the time, Scott Grimes, sent Mr. Perdue a personal email two days before the senator’s stock sale that made a vague mention of “upcoming changes.” The timing of the message prompted additional scrutiny from investigators in both Washington and Atlanta. But ultimately they concluded the exchange contained no meaningful nonpublic information and declined to pursue charges, closing the case this summer.Palmer Report

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube suspends One America News, a Trump favorite, for peddling pandemic misinformation, Craig Timberg, Nov. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The action against OANN, which President Trump’s allies have praised in recent weeks while raging against Fox News for supposed disloyalty following the election, was the latest sign that Silicon Valley remains prepared to enforce policies against false and misleading information.

youtube logo CustomYouTube said it suspended right-wing channel One America News for one week, beginning Tuesday, for violating its policy against misinformation related to the covid-19 pandemic and temporarily stripped the channel of its ability to make money from other videos.

The action against OAN, which President Trump’s allies have praised in recent weeks while raging against Fox News for supposed disloyalty during and after this month’s election, was the latest sign that Silicon Valley was prepared to enforce policies against false and misleading information — even against those aligned with the president.

YouTube spokeswoman Ivy Choi said OAN, which has 1.2 million subscribers on the video service and sees some of its posts reach hundreds of thousands of viewers, violated the policy against portraying a covid-19 remedy as a cure for the illness that has killed more than 258,000 Americans and 1.4 million people worldwide.

In addition to losing the ability to post new videos for the coming week, OAN has been suspended from YouTube’s “Partner Program,” which allows monetization of videos through advertisements and can be a significant source of revenue to online operations. The reason, Choi said, was “repeated violations” of YouTube’s policies against covid misinformation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Comcast to begin charging more for heavy Internet users in Northeast, ending pandemic-related relief, Rachel Lerman, Nov. 25, 2020. Comcast said this week it would start charging more for heavy users of home Internet in the Northeast, sparking complaints from some customers as the global pandemic keeps life online.

Home Internet usage has skyrocketed during the pandemic as more people work from home and attend classes online, not to mention spend hours and hours streaming TV and games.

Comcast initially responded to this trend by giving people relief from data caps, which have already been in place across the central and western U.S. for a few years. That reprieve ended in July, and now the company is expanding its controversial data thresholds to the new region starting next year.

Akron Beacon-Journal, Woman found guilty of aggravated murder for role in pizza delivery murder, Alan Ashworth, Nov. 25, 2020. A Rittman woman was found guilty of aggravated murder on Wednesday for her role in the 2012 slaying of her stepdaughter’s biological mother.

The jury found Erica Stefanko guilty on one count of aggravated murder and not guilty on another aggravated murder charge. She was also found guilty of murder and not guilty on three remaining charges in the so-called pizza delivery murder trial.

Biggs was delivering a pizza when she was beaten and strangled to death. Biggs was the mother of the Erica Stefanko’s stepdaughter, who was 7 at the time of the murder. Now 15, the daughter testified Nov. 18 that Stefanko placed a pizza delivery order on the day Biggs was killed.

The 7-year-old’s father, Chad Cobb, is now in prison for his part in the crime. He pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges and was sentenced in 2013 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At the time of the murder, Biggs was involved in a heated court battle with Cobb and Stefanko over parenting issues and was seeking custody of her daughter. Biggs, a U.S. Army veteran, was working as a Domino's pizza delivery driver.

Prosecutors said Stefanko set the plot in motion in 2012, when she called Domino's and ordered a pizza delivered to a closed New Franklin business, knowing that Biggs would be the delivery driver.

The trial was one of the first to proceed in Summit County Common Pleas Court since the pandemic began and received national attention. It was streamed live on Court TV, where it was labeled the "pizza delivery murder trial."

Biggs was shocked with a Taser, beaten, and strangled with a 4-foot zip tie. Stefanko, driving, later followed Cobb as he drove Biggs’ car to a Wayne County cornfield near Cobbs' parents home, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Kerry O'Brien argued Cobb — who now denies killing Biggs even after pleading guilty — was trying to implicate Stefanko in his testimony, hoping it would help him get out of prison.

 

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Army Corps says no to massive gold mine proposed near Bristol Bay in Alaska, Juliet Eilperin, Nov. 25, 2020. The Trump administration denied a key permit on Wednesdat for a massive gold and copper mine in Alaska striking a devastating blow to a project opposed by an unusual coalition that includes the president’s son as well as conservationists and Alaska Natives.

In a statement, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska Commander Col. Damon Delarosa said the agency would block Pebble Mine because it determined that the plan the Pebble Limited Partnership submitted to deal with the project’s waste “does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.”

While the Trump administration has pressed ahead to weaken environmental protections and expand energy development before the president’s term ends in January, the upcoming mine decision represents a major win for environmentalists, fishing enthusiasts and tribal rights.

Trump officials had allowed the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, to apply for a permit even though the Obama administration had concluded in 2014 the firm could not seek federal approval because it could have “significant” and potentially “catastrophic” impacts on the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in nearby Bristol Bay. As recently as July, the Corps concluded that the mine would have “no measurable effect” on area fish populations.

But a slew of Alaskan and federal agencies warned that the project would inflict permanent damage on the region, destroying more than 2,800 acres of wetlands, 130 miles of streams and more than 130 acres of open water within Alaska’s Koktuli River Watershed. The proposed site lies at the river’s headwaters.

And an unlikely coalition of opponents formed when Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Vice President Pence’s former chief of staff, Nick Ayers – who all have enjoyed fishing or hunting around Bristol Bay - joined with traditional environmental groups and the region’s tribes in opposition to the project.

Independent, Trump adviser who was with Rudy Giuliani at press conference tests positive for coronavirus, Alex Woodward, Nov. 25, 2020. Boris Epshteyn, right, an adviser boris ephsteyn croppedto Donald Trump who recently joined Rudy Giuliani at a press conference alleging widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election, has announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I have tested positive for COVID-19,” he announced on Wednesday. “I am experiencing mild symptoms, and am following all appropriate protocols, including quarantining and contact tracing.”

rudy giulianiMr Giuliani, left, is expected to travel to Pennsylvania on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers in the state hold a hearing on “voter fraud” following the president’s loss in the 2020 election. His son Andrew Giuliani, a special assistant to the president, tested positive for Covid-19 on 20 November.

Along with Mr Epshteyn, the younger Giuliani and other members of the president’s legal team who launched a spurious legal effort to overturn the results of the election, attended a press conference where the president’s personal attorney amplified baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and other conspiracies. Mr Epshteyn stood alongside Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell during the 19 November press conference.

Law & Crime, Jenna Ellis Shared a Fake Teddy Roosevelt Quote. Then She Defended Herself by Saying the 'Ifea' Is True, Colin Kalmbacher, Nov. 25, 2020. The senior legal adviser of President Donald Trump’s campaign shared a quote on Twitter that was falsely attributed to former president Theodore Roosevelt. The critical response was immediate and efforts were quickly made to clean up the mess, but that only made things worse.

jenna ellis cropped screenshotTrump lawyer Jenna Ellis, right, known for pugilistic interactions with members of the press and any other perceived enemies, took to the micro-blogging website just after midnight on Wednesday and posted a meme of Roosevelt with the following caption: “To anger a conservative, lie to him. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.”

That phrase, in fact, appears to have a vintage of roughly 13 years–first appearing in print around 2007. Since then, it has been attributed to figures like Winston Churchill and Roosevelt, unattributed entirely or simply chalked up to some “anonymous” wordsmith with a penchant for insulting liberals. Various fact checks over the years have repeatedly debunked the phrase’s attribution to Roosevelt.

Multiple Twitter users pointed out Ellis’s clumsy use of the debunked meme overnight. By mid-morning on Wednesday, the Trump campaign’s top legal mind was backtracking. Instead of focusing on minor issues like historical accuracy, Ellis argued, the content of the quotation is what’s really important.

“For people asking, this quotation has been attributed to Roosevelt, but there isn’t a specific record of him saying this in a speech,” she admitted in a follow-up tweet. “I posted it because the ifea [sic] itself is true, whether or not he said it!”

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: A Thanksgiving like no other before it, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 25, 2020. Although there is a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, particularly the impending departure from the White House of the worst president in American history, Thanksgiving 2020 is unlike any other preceding it. The scope and lethality of the Covid-19 pandemic has ensured that this year's Thanksgiving celebrations are more subdued than even Thanksgiving 1918 and 1919, the years of the deadly Spanish influenza.

 

World News

prince harry meghan markle wedding file Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, reveals she had a miscarriage in July, calls for compassion in a polarized world, Jennifer Hassan, Nov. 25, 2020. The Duchess described the “almost unbearable pain” that comes with losing a child, and urged people to “commit to asking others, ‘Are you OK?’”

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, revealed Wednesday that she had a miscarriage in July, describing in an opinion piece for the New York Times the “almost unbearable pain” that comes with losing a child. She urged people to “commit to asking others, ‘Are you OK?’”

Within minutes after the story was published, women began sharing on social media their own experiences of miscarriage and praised her for her candor.

The 39-year-old duchess, who married Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in May 2018 (as shown above), wrote that the day of her miscarriage began like any other, a morning filled with ordinary moments: making breakfast, feeding the dogs and puttering around the family home.

She reflected on the grief wrought by a global health crisis and the divisions on display in the United States following a tense election period and a year in which people took to the streets to protest police brutality, citing the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

The duchess, who is a biracial American with a White father and an African American mother, has incessantly been cast as an outsider by British newspapers, which have hounded her since she began dating Prince Harry in 2016. Before she became a royal, the American Meghan Markle was an actress best known for her role in the television legal drama “Suits.”

 

Nov. 24

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

Inside DC

 

U.S. Courts, Law


World News

 

Top Stories

joe biden kamala harris campaign shot

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump relents, allows transition to proceed, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Amy Gardner and Philip Rucker, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Decision came as more GOP officials urged him to concede. While short of a concession, the president’s move paves the way for President-elect Joe Biden’s team to receive funding and security briefings, and sets in motion the steps needed for a peaceful transfer of power.

President Trump effectively surrendered his three-week protest of the election results Monday by submitting to the government's official transition to the incoming Biden administration, bowing to a growing wave of public pressure yet still stopping short of conceding to President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump authorized the federal government to initiate the Biden transition late Monday, setting in motion a peaceful transfer of power by paving the way for the president-elect and his administration-in-waiting to tap public funds, receive security briefings and gain access to federal agencies.

Though procedural in nature, Trump's acceptance of the General Services Administration starting the transition amounted to a dramatic capitulation and capped an extraordinary 16-day standoff since Biden was declared the winner on Nov. 7.

djt handwave fileBy continuing to subvert the vote and delay the transition, Trump risked becoming isolated within his own party as a growing chorus of Republican officials recognized Biden as president-elect following a succession of defeats in courts by the Trump campaign.

On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified Biden's win there, while earlier in the day dozens of business leaders and Republican national security experts had urged Trump to accept the result because refusing to begin the transition was endangering the country's security, economy and pandemic response.

And so Trump yielded, writing Monday night on Twitter that he had agreed to support the Biden transition "in the best interest of our country."

Yet the president also vowed to continue his push to overturn the results, adding, "Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail!"

A senior Trump campaign adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said Monday night: "He basically just conceded. That's as close to a concession as you will probably get."

To bring closure, some of Trump's advisers said they were encouraging him to deliver a speech in which he does not concede but talks about his accomplishments in office and commits to a transfer of power.

Trump only reluctantly agreed to let the transition begin as criticism intensified in recent days of his chaotic legal strategy, his failure to produce evidence of widespread voter fraud and his reliance on misinformation and debunked conspiracy theories.

A turning point was Thursday's news conference by Trump lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell alleging without any evidence that there was a coordinated plot with roots in Venezuela to rig the election in Biden's favor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan board votes to certify the state’s election results, dealing Trump another blow, Tom Hamburger, Beth Reinhard and Kayla Ruble, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). In the run-up to Monday’s meeting, President Trump made an extraordinary personal intervention in the state, seeking to undo President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

joe biden twitterThe Michigan Board of Canvassers voted Monday to certify the state's election results, effectively awarding the state's 16 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated President Trump with a margin of more than 154,000 votes.

The decision dealt another blow to Trump’s unprecedented effort to undo Biden’s win by attempting to delay the certification of the election results in key states.

michigan mapThree out the four board members — including one Republican — voted for certification, capping a dramatic political dispute that had roiled the state.

The Michigan canvassing board had never before refused to certify a statewide vote, but pressure on the once-obscure panel had built over the past week.

In the run-up to Monday’s meeting, Trump made an extraordinary personal intervention into Michigan, reaching out personally to state and local officials. His supporters called on the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint their own set of electors before the electoral college meets on Dec. 14.

And both the president and top GOP officials sought to discredit the vote process in Michigan’s Wayne County, home of Detroit, making sweeping and unsubstantiated claims about widespread fraud and citing errors in the vote tallies. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and state GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox called for a “full audit and investigation” before the vote was certified.

Detroit had more vote errors in 2016 when Trump won Michigan by a narrow margin. He didn’t object then.

republican elephant logoThe YouTube webcast of Michigan’s canvassing board meeting drew more than 30,000 people — a remarkable viewership for the small panel. The quiet scene they tuned into offered a striking contrast to the day’s high stakes: four board members sitting at tables draped in black cloth inside an antiseptic meeting room.

In the end, one of the Republican board members, Aaron Van Langevelde, joined the two Democratic board members in voting to certify the vote.

The lone holdout was GOP board member Norman Shinkle, who told The Washington Post in an interview last week that he was leaning toward seeking a delay. Shinkle cited a debunked conspiracy theory aired by Trump that voting machines made by a company called Dominion deleted thousands of Trump votes.

On Monday, Shinkle called Michigan’s elections “a national embarrassment.” “There is no excuse for the confusion and uncertainty that seems to follow every election in our state,” he said, before abstaining when the vote was called.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Expected to Pick Janet Yellen, Former Fed Chair, as Treasury Secretary, Jeanna Smialek, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The former Fed chair, a labor market expert, appears poised to lead President-elect Biden’s Treasury Department.

janet yellen oPresident-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to nominate Janet L. Yellen, right, the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, to be the next Treasury secretary, according to people familiar with the decision.

If confirmed, Ms. Yellen would be the first woman to lead the Treasury in its 231-year history. She would also be at the forefront of navigating an economic crisis — while growth is recovering from pandemic-related lockdowns earlier in the year, coronavirus infections are climbing and local governments are restricting activity again, likely slowing that rebound.

federal reserve system CustomMs. Yellen, 74, is likely to bring a long-held preference for government help for households that are struggling economically and for slightly tighter financial regulation with her to the Treasury.

But unlike the independent Fed, Ms. Yellen would find herself in a much more political role — one that will likely require negotiating with a Republican-controlled Senate. With Mr. Biden expected to push for additional economic aid, Ms. Yellen will be thrust into trying to broker a stimulus deal in a politically divided Congress that has so far failed to agree on another round of economic aid.

She may be well placed to do so, as one of the most recognizable figures in Washington’s economic spheres. Ms. Yellen is well known on Capitol Hill and well connected globally after leading the Fed from 2014 through 2018. Her long career as an economic policymaker has also given her insight into Wall Street and its major investors.

OpEdNews, Georgia tries to block new voters ahead of runoff, Greg Palast, Nov. 24, 2020. Georgia's Board of Elections is trying to sneak through a new rule that could block new registrations before the Senate runoff to people who don't have a car registered in the state.

This knocks out students and lower income urban voters (i.e. Black Atlantans) without cars. Of course, you can't force people to buy a car in order to vote. The voters will be allowed on the rolls after a hearing, which will of course be after the January 5 election.

brad raffenspergerThe GOP Secretary of State's excuse? To prevent voter fraud. Brad Raffensperger, right, claims people from out of state will be driving into Georgia to register to vote in the runoff.

Update: During the Election Board meeting, which took place on Monday, the group declined to discuss this new rule after Ryan Germany, General Counsel for the Secretary of State's office, advised the board that local officials already had the authority laid out in the proposed new rule. It was therefore decided that rather than going to the inconvenience of voting on the new rule, the Secretary of State's office would simply remind election officials of their existing powers by issuing the information in an official election bulletin.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 24, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 59,680,002, Deaths:1,405,061
U.S. Cases:   12,780,938, Deaths:  263,799

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, Nov. 24, 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, Ad Council’s Challenge: Persuade Skeptics to Believe in Covid-19 Vaccines, Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.).  The nonprofit marketing group led a polio vaccine campaign in the 1950s. Now it is working on an ad blitz to counter concerns about coming treatments.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It Started With ‘Birtherism,’ Jamelle Bouie, right, Nov. 24, 2020. There’s a pattern here. Donald Trump is exiting political life much the same way he entered it, pushing conspiracy theories for personal gain. Now, as then, these aren’t just any old conspiracy theories, but ones that hinge on the jamelle bouiefundamental illegitimacy of a whole class of Americans.

Trump made his first serious foray into national politics with “birtherism,” the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born outside the United States, making him an illegal president. It was a public expression of Trump’s belief that citizenship is tied to blood and ethnicity — that some Americans are Americans, some are less so and some just aren’t.

The voter fraud conspiracy to which Trump hitched his attempt to hold onto power falls under the same umbrella, an attempt to write millions of Americans out of the electorate on the basis of race and heritage, instead of just one person out of the office of the presidency.

The essence of the campaign’s legal and political argument, after all, is that Trump won the election, or would have, if not for mass electoral fraud, all in swing states and only then in those cities with sizable Black populations, specifically Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. To right the ship, his campaign asked various courts to toss out votes in these cities, invalidating hundreds of thousands of Black votes to hand the president a second term.

Here is Rudy Giuliani saying exactly this without shame or embarrassment at a news conference last week:

The margin in Michigan is 146,121 and these ballots were all cast basically in Detroit that Biden won 80-20. So you see it changes the result of the election in Michigan if you take out Wayne County. So it’s a very significant case.

The Trump movement has never been about “populism” or “nationalism” or the interests of working Americans. It has always and only been about the contours of our national community: who belongs and who doesn’t; who counts and who shouldn’t; who can wield power and who must be subject to it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obama, in Washington Post interview, rejects criticism he didn’t push hard enough for Democratic policies, Michael Kranish and Paulina Firozi, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Obama expresses concern for U.S. standing on world stage.

Former president Barack Obama on Monday rejected criticism that he had not been forceful enough in pushing the Democratic Party’s agenda, repudiating what he said was the view that he had spent too much time seeking to understand and work with his political opponents.

“The implication is, if you can see the other side, then somehow you are paralyzed … that you are stuck because you don’t know which way to turn,” Obama said. As president, he had no choice but to try to work with those who opposed him if he wanted to get things done, he said in an interview with Washington Post Live about his new memoir.

barack obama time covers CustomBut he said that as his former running mate, President-elect Joe Biden, prepares to take office, the divisions between the parties have grown so great that an “institutional reboot” is necessary for Congress to pass much-needed legislation.

Like many authors before him, Obama (portrayed at left along with his wife in a series of Time Magazine covers through the years) expressed frustration with assessments of his book. In the week since the publication of A Promised Land, a New York Times review said he seemed “genetically incapable of being an ideologue,” and The Washington Post wrote about “Obama’s innate caution … his skepticism — hopeful slogans notwithstanding — of dramatic change.”

Without citing specific reviews, Obama said, “There have been a couple of, you know, reviewers and commentators who say, ‘Ah, look, at Obama, he’s like on one side, on the other hand — he’s overthinking things.’”

As he did in the book, Obama blamed Republicans for obstructing his policies and noted that he faced pushback from members of his own party — from liberals who said he wasn’t far enough to the left and moderates who said he was too far left. When his efforts at compromise failed, he said, some in his party wondered what had happened to the oratory that twice got him elected president.

“Sometimes progressives in particular overestimate the degree to which high rhetoric is going to actually move votes,” Obama said. He noted, for example, that he had to win over not only recalcitrant Republicans but also Democrats such as Sen. Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), who had once been a local leader of the Ku Klux Klan and represented a coal-dependent state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Wars II: The Loser Strikes Back, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Trashing the nation on his paul krugmanway out the door. We all knew that Donald Trump would react badly to defeat. But his refusal to concede, the destructiveness of his temper tantrum and the willingness of almost the entire Republican Party to indulge him have surpassed even pessimists’ expectations.

Among other things, his officials are already trying to sabotage the economy, setting the stage for a possible financial crisis on Joe Biden’s watch.

To the uninitiated, the sudden announcement by Steven Mnuchin, left, the Treasury secretary, that he’s terminating support for several steven mnuchin wemergency lending programs created back in March might not seem like that big a deal. After all, the financial markets aren’t currently in crisis. In fact, defying Trump’s prediction that “your 401(k)s will go to hell” if he were to lose, stocks have risen substantially since Biden’s win.

Furthermore, much of the money allocated to those programs was never actually used. So what’s the problem?

Well, the Federal Reserve, which administers the programs, has objected strenuously — for good reason. You see, the Fed knows a lot about financial crises and what it takes to stop them — and Mnuchin is depriving the nation of tools that could be crucial in the months or years ahead.

Mnuchin’s claim that the money is no longer needed makes no sense, and it’s not clear whether his successor will be easily able to undo his actions. Given everything else that’s happening, it’s hard to see Mnuchin’s move as anything but an act of vandalism, an attempt to increase the odds of disaster under Trump’s successor.

Bloomberg, Mnuchin Plans to Put $455 Billion Beyond Yellen’s Easy Reach, Saleha Mohsin, Nov. 24, 2020. Biden Treasury pick will need lawmaker approval to use funds; Democrats question legality of Mnuchin’s shift of money. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will put $455 billion in unspent Cares Act funding into an account that his presumed successor, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, will soon need authorization from Congress to use.

The money will be placed in the agency’s General Fund, a Treasury Department spokesperson said Tuesday. Most of it had gone to support Federal Reserve emergency-lending facilities, and Mnuchin’s clawback would make it impossible for Yellen as Treasury secretary to restore for that purpose without lawmakers’ blessing.

Democrats swiftly criticized the move, with Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the congressionally appointed watchdog panel overseeing Fed and Treasury Covid-19 relief funds, saying “the good news is that it’s illegal and can be reversed next year.”

The move leaves just under $80 billion available in the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, a pot of money that can be used with some discretion by the Treasury chief. By contrast, the Cares Act funds had specific uses, and weren’t available for general government spending purposes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump came in promising so much winning. He's going out with so much whining, Dana Milbank, right, Nov. 24, dana milbank Custom2020 (print ed.). It’s all over but the pouting.

Trump lost the 2020 election by more than 6 million votes, four percentage points, and an electoral vote margin his own team called “historic” and a “landslide” when he was the victor in 2016.

But that’s just the beginning of the losing.

He has lost dozens of legal rulings in multiple states. He has failed in every single post-election ballot-counting challenge. Judges scold his lawyers: “like Frankenstein’s Monster … haphazardly stitched together,” “simply not how the Constitution works,” “inadmissible hearsay within hearsay,” “generalized speculation,” “your submission is defective.”

Trump is losing his autocratic attempt to get state Republican officials to throw out the election results and instead appoint pro-Trump electors.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Pennsylvania Certifies Biden as Winner While Trump Flails, William Bredderman, Nov. 24, 2020. There could be more wild legal maneuvers but the state’s move neuters Trump’s attempted courtroom coup. Authorities in Pennsylvania put an official seal on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory there Tuesday—and rammed a stake through President Donald Trump’s attempts to resurrect his dreams of a second term through legal challenges.

Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar finalized the result while Team Trump still had an appeal of its last federal court loss pending.

Legal experts told The Daily Beast the Pennsylvania certification has likely rendered that suit moot. Gov. Tom Wolf announced he has now signed off on the panel of electors, who will cast their votes for Biden at the Electoral College next month.

“It's a constitutional act, and once it takes place, it takes place—you can't undo it,” Stuart Gerson, a top Department of Justice official under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said in an interview.

Pennsylvania’s move came a day after certification by Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers, following Trump’s abandonment of the last federal lawsuit in the Midwest battleground. Georgia signed off on Biden’s triumph there last week, and Nevada is scheduled to do so today. Arizona and Wisconsin will finalize their results on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, respectively.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s dam finally breaks. But we cannot go through this again, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 24, 2020. jennifer rubin new headshotPennsylvania’s state supreme court on Monday upheld the dismissal of five of President Trump’s specious, post-election lawsuits and reversed one minor victory. (If you’re counting, his record is now 1-35.) 

The normally mild-mannered Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, scolded Murphy: "Moving forward, we must pursue statutory remedies to ensure that a transition is never again upheld for arbitrary or political purposes. A clearer standard and a low bar for triggering access to transition resources are crucial to protecting the apolitical nature of presidential transitions.”

republican elephant logoWe can add that to the list of belt-and-suspender reforms needed in case — God forbid — another president comes along who’s willing to act in total disregard of applicable law and the national interest.

In addition, one can imagine a slew of states will reexamine their own certification procedures. Every state should clarify that bureaucrats are not empowered to overturn the will of the people (and providing stiff criminal penalties if they try it). Now that one national party has demonstrated appalling bad faith and contempt for the will of the voters, we should all be a bit wiser about the need to eliminate loopholes that anti-democracy politicians might try to exploit.

Hackensack Daily Voice, Hackensack Board Member Who Opposed LGBTQ Curriculum Resigns After Embarrassing Zoom Incident, Jerry DeMarco, Nov. 24, 2020.
A Hackensack School Board member who made national headlines by opposing a LGBTC curriculum has resigned after an embarrassing incident during a Zoom meeting.

Frances Cogelja didn’t realize she’d left her laptop camera on when she took it with her while going to the bathroom during the public comments section of a board meeting Monday night.

 

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden’s nominees have pushed policies that Trump used to fuel his rise, Matt Viser, John Hudson, Karen DeYoung and Carol Morello, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden’s initial slate of nominees demonstrates that he aims to reverse much of President Trump’s agenda with figures who have promoted the policies that Trump rebuffed, denigrated and used to help fuel his rise to power.

Biden’s top picks, announced Monday, in the past helped push for trade deals, aimed to sign international treaties and advocated for foreign wars, positions that after Trump’s victory in 2016 triggered widespread soul-searching among Democrats over how they had misread the sentiments of voters on whose support they had long counted.

What they learned from that defeat and how they try to govern this time will be a major test of whether Biden feels a need to respond to the anxieties among supporters of Trump — who in November received the second-most votes in American history, behind only Biden; whether he views his election as a sweeping mandate to shift in an entirely different direction; or whether he settles somewhere in the middle.

At least initially, some of the nominees and their allies suggest that they will not slip easily into the same positions they took when last in power. Some of Biden’s picks believe that Trump benefited from highlighting problems that the Obama administration underplayed or failed to address, particularly the economic populism that was more widespread than they believed, both domestically and internationally.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the simultaneous economic collapse, that populist streak has not lessened. Trade deals will be harder to pursue than they were years ago, and the nation seems to have little appetite for foreign intervention.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live: Biden’s Transition to the Presidency Formally Begins, Staff reports, Nov. 24, 2020. President Trump did not concede and vowed to continue his fight in court. Today, Mr. Biden will introduce his picks for cabinet offices including the secretary of state and director of national intelligence. Here’s the latest.

Talking Points Memo, Defense Department To Finally Begin ‘Immediately’ Working With Biden Team, Zoë Richards, Nov. 24, 2020. The Department of Defense on Monday said it would begin “immediately” working with the incoming Biden administration to support the presidential transition becoming among the first government agencies for formally begin cooperating with President-elect Joe Biden’s team after a Trump-appointed administrator stalled transition.

“We will begin immediately implementing our plan to provide support in accordance with the White House and the Biden-Harris team,” the Defense Department wrote in a statement issued late Monday.

The news comes as the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, right, on Monday finally took the first steps to green emily murphylight the start of a formal transition after previously depriving the incoming team of access to key resources needed for a successful transition.

“The DOD Transition Task Force will arrange and coordinate all DOD contact with the Biden-Harris team,” the statement said. “DOD is prepared to provide post-election services and support in a professional, orderly, and efficient manner that is befitting of the public’s expectation of the Department and our commitment to national security.”

Biden made a series of announcements for top jobs in his administration on Monday, but has not yet formally said who will serve as his defense secretary.

The official selected for that role will be tasked with rebuilding confidence in the stability of a department that under Trump has been marred by a series of departures in recent months in addition to President Trump’s decision to fire his fourth defense secretary Mark Esper in an effort to weed out those who have not proven to be loyalists to his whims.djt sword dancers wh may 20 2017

President Trump participates in a ceremonial sword dance with Saudi Arabian royalty on his first overseas trip, in May 2017.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Donald Trump Liked About Being President, Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). He preferred pomp, splendor and a world amenable to his decisions, our reporters write. So he seemed to genuinely enjoy pardoning turkeys.

In November 2018, after a vote that did not matter enough to him to push conspiracy theories about the outcome, President Trump stood in the Rose Garden and delivered the hard truth.

“This was a fair election,” he said to a bird named Carrots, sidelined at the annual White House turkey pardon after being snubbed in an online contest over which privileged poultry (Peas or Carrots) would star in the ritual. “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we’re still fighting with Carrots.”

The crowd laughed, and Mr. Trump smirked a little. Such hammy pageantry in stately settings, aides say, has long been a part of the job he especially enjoys. He gripped his lectern for the punchline, thumbs behind the presidential seal.

“We’ve come to a conclusion,” Mr. Trump said grandly. “Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the result did not change. It’s too bad for Carrots.”

Two years later, after an election result that was too bad for Mr. Trump, he has been less willing to accept the cold math of whom the people want to see at the White House.

In the weeks since Election Day, the president and his allies have set off on a groundless and dangerous effort to overturn the will of an electorate that rejected him, moving to undercut basic tenets of American democracy to cling to an office he did not expect to win four years ago and has not particularly treasured since, by most accounts.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Palmer Report editorial note: here’s the really nice part about all this, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 24, 2020. The really nice part bill palmerright now: Joe Biden is taking command of not only the transition, but also the news cycle. His moves will decide what the story is each day. His coordination plans with the existing administration will be the news. His cabinet picks will keep coming. It’ll be about Biden now. Donald Trump doesn’t get to control the narrative anymore, not even a losing narrative – which means I now get to gradually transition toward writing about Trump less often.

bill palmer report logo headerDon’t worry, Palmer Report will continue to act as a check on Trump by covering whatever corrupt antics he tries to quietly carry out during his final days in office. And once Trump is gone from office, I’ll continue to cover his criminal scandals as needed, in order to help make sure he ends up in prison. But that’s more of a “cleanup on aisle five” kind of thing. This is President Biden’s show now.

Tweet of the day from Joe Biden, in a reminder that we’re transitioning to a President who simply does normal, adult, competent things: “Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and I spent the afternoon meeting with a bipartisan group of mayors. It was just the start of what I know will be a strong partnership in the months and years ahead. Together, we’re going to beat COVID-19 and build back better.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump melts down after realizing that the transition process means he’s toast, Bill Palmer, Nov. 23, 2020 (11:59 p.m.). After the GSA Administrator signed off on the transition process to President-elect Joe Biden earlier this evening, Donald Trump posted a tweet in support of the move. It’s not as if he had a choice; he was merely trying to save face, as the train was leaving the station with or without his approval.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now, hours later, it’s quickly becoming clear that it’s all over for Donald Trump. Even Fox News host Laura Ingraham acknowledged that it was over. Joe Biden launched an official “.gov” website, which you can only do if you are the government. So now Trump is melting down about the fact that everyone is moving on from him.

Trump posted this tweet: “What does GSA being allowed to preliminarily work with the Dems have to do with continuing to pursue our various cases on what will go down as the most corrupt election in American political history? We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots & Dominion.”

So there you have it. Donald Trump is “moving full speed ahead” with whatever it is that he wants his most gullible supporters think he’s doing to magically contest an election that he lost a long time ago. But outside from that small pocket of idiots who will never admit that Trump lost, everyone else is moving on from him as quickly as possible. None of his angry tweets are going to change that going forward. He’s toast.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Opinion: Sidney Powell’s Ravings Exposed the Right’s Morons & Zealots, Matt Lewis, Nov. 24, 2020. Numerous media stars on the right thought Sidney Powell’s ludicrous allegations should be taken seriously. A decent conservatism is too much to hope for.

In recent days, Sidney Powell emerged as the litmus test for sanity within the Republican Party —a dividing line between people who recognize reality and those who are willing to run out to the edge of the cliff, Wile E. Coyote-style, only to tumble down when even the Trump team wants to retroactively disavow this lunacy.

It should have been an easy test that (let’s be honest) was graded on a curve. Predictably, there were a lot of failures.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congressman seeks to have Rudolph Giuliani disbarred over attempts to overturn election, Kim Bellware, Nov. 24, 2020. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) filed complaints on Friday in five states against Giuliani and 22 other lawyers working with the Trump campaign, calling for them to be stripped of their law licenses for filing “frivolous” lawsuits and allegedly engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”

“Donald Trump has done great damage to this nation — but he has always had helpers. These lawyers are enabling his treachery and harming our democracy,” Pascrell told The Post through a spokesperson Monday. He called the campaign legal team’s effort to overturn election results with frivolous lawsuits "misconduct and an affront to the rule of law.”

Pascrell filed grievances with regulatory and disciplinary boards within the state bar associations in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Giuliani’s home state of New York.

Giuliani could not immediately be reached for comment but continued to make unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and election theft during his daily talk-radio program on WABC on Monday.

Rudy Giuliani’s post-election meltdown starts to become literal

The threshold for disbarring a lawyer is high — reserved for only the most heinous instances of misconduct — and happens infrequently. In 2018, the American Bar Association’s Survey on Lawyer Discipline estimated that among the roughly 1.3 million active and licensed lawyers in the United States, 378 were involuntarily disbarred that year.

When it does happen, disbarment is harsh discipline. In states such as Nevada, one of the five where Pascrell filed complaints against Giuliani, disbarment permanently locks a lawyer out of practicing law in the state.

Pascrell insists that such punishment is warranted now. “Failure to hold Giuliani and his crew accountable by revoking their licenses will only invite further abuses by bad actors and push America closer to lawlessness and authoritarianism,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Which Trump official has coronavirus now? This reporter always seems to know first, Elahe Izadi, Nov. 24, 2020. If you want to find out who in the Trump administration has tested positive for the coronavirus, you should probably just set an alert for Jennifer Jacobs’s tweets.

The Bloomberg News reporter has emerged as the preeminent source for intel on covid-19 cases in and around the White House. Before she helped break the story on Friday that Donald Trump Jr. tested positive, she was the one who first told the world — and many in the White House — about the positive diagnosis of Trump’s close aide Hope Hicks in early October, a watershed revelation followed hours later by President Trump disclosing his own positive test result.

Washington Examiner, Computer repairman at center of Hunter Biden laptop scandal closes shop, Tyler Van Dyke, Nov. 24, 2020. The computer repair store at the center of a scandal involving a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden that contained "smoking-gun" emails about the Biden family's foreign dealings has closed.

A neighbor said the owner skipped town, according to the Delaware News Journal. The outlet also reported that 10 days after the election, a sign appeared on the store's door to say that the shop had closed.

Weeks ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post published a series of stories based on emails and other data recovered from a laptop and hard drive that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden that critics say raise concerns about foreign business dealings that present possible corruption and national security issues for him and his father, President-elect Joe Biden.

The "smoking-gun email" report claimed that the elder Biden met with an executive at the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, which employed Hunter Biden, while he was vice president and suggested he directed U.S. foreign policy to protect his son. The Biden campaign released a statement that said the former vice president's "official schedules from the time" showed no meeting with Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, as was described in the report, but it otherwise did not deny the validity of the hardware's contents.

People working at the New York Post called the reporting "very flimsy" and argued that it "should not have been published."

nbc news logoNBC News, Opinion: Senate Republicans' Georgia bullying failed. But Lindsey Graham's ethics violations stand out, Richard Painter (former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush) and Claire O. Finkelstein (faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania), Nov. 24, 2020. Graham’s actions should be clearly identified and vociferously rejected by his fellow senators, as well as by the Biden administration.

Republican Party organizations have continued to support President Donald Trump’s unfounded allegations of voter fraud, amplifying his message in the press and in court filings. No such claim has survived legal scrutiny.

The president's own Department of Homeland Security has said that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history,” a statement that resulted in the firing of the director of that agency’s cybersecurity division. Just last week Trump summoned Michigan Republican leaders to the White House to try to throw out the state's election results. Despite these efforts, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania have certified the results in favor of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. And on Monday, the head of the General Services Administration approved the official transition process.

A handful of Republican senators has particularly disgraced the U.S. Senate in their willingness to support Trump’s doomed attempt to reverse the results of a lawful and secure election.

A handful of Republican senators has particularly disgraced the U.S. Senate in their willingness to support Trump’s doomed attempt to reverse the results of a lawful and secure election. The most egregious example is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the subject of an ethics complaint we filed, along with former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, last Wednesday with the Senate Ethics Committee.

The complaint centers on a phone call Graham placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to propose that Raffensperger invalidate thousands of mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, Graham “asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” which would have included ballots legally cast by eligible voters. In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Raffensperger explained that he took the senator’s message to mean “look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.”

Graham denies this account and maintains he was merely inquiring into the standards for mail-in ballots. His denial is not plausible. CNN reported that a staffer for Raffensberger, Gabriel Sterling, said “he participated in a controversial phone call with Sen. Lindsey Graham and claimed he heard Graham ask if state officials could throw out ballots.” Sterling and his family have received death threats and are now under 24-hour police protection.

Moreover, in the process of denying an attempt to invalidate ballots in Georgia, Graham admitted to reporters that he had also spoken with officials in Arizona, Nevada and possibly other states, because, as he said, “the future of the country hangs in the balance.”

Almost as worrisome as these attempts to influence election officials is Graham’s invocation of his authority as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to further the Republican narrative of fraud. Four days after the election, he vowed to launch a committee investigation into alleged irregularities, declaring that as chairman "all credible allegations of voting irregularities and misconduct will be taken seriously.” The next day he credited “allegations of system failure, fraud” as the reason Trump lost the election.

Graham is indeed empowered to investigate irregularities. But it would be a profound misuse of his office to call for an investigation for the purpose of bolstering Trump’s bid for re-election. Thus far there has been no public disclosure of any further plans regarding Graham’s promised investigation. Let’s hope it stays that way. If, however, Graham follows through, it will be clear that the investigative powers of the U.S. Senate are being pressed into service to challenge election results after the fact, either to reverse the outcome of the presidential election or to intimidate voters, election workers and the Georgia secretary of state in the upcoming January Senate runoff.

As we documented in an October report issued under the auspices of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the use of public investigatory powers for partisan political purposes has been a hallmark of the current administration, as demonstrated by William Barr’s Department of Justice. If our norms have become so distorted that the investigative powers of the Senate are similarly available for misuse, our country is experiencing a rule-of-law crisis of the first order.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from engaging in campaign activity, unless it is clear that they do so on their own time, outside of Senate space, and without using Senate resources.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from engaging in campaign activity, unless it is clear that they do so on their own time, outside of Senate space, and without using Senate resources. But there is no reason to suppose that Graham’s attempt to interfere in either the presidential election or the Georgia Senate runoff is being done in his personal capacity, rather than as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Taken in the context of the threats to launch an investigation into voter fraud, it is difficult to separate Graham’s official position from his personal one in support of Trump and GOP candidates in Georgia. It would not have been necessary to disentangle the two, however, had Graham steered clear of any conduct that cast doubt on his impartiality as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Perhaps the most deeply concerning aspect of Graham’s disenfranchisement campaign lies in its motive and methodology, namely to coordinate efforts across the Republican Party to flip the results of the election, a goal that could not be accomplished without disenfranchising a large number of Black voters. Both Georgia and South Carolina, Graham’s home state, have a history of infringing on the voting rights of African Americans. In recognition of this history, both states were previously under the supervision of the Department of Justice based on provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder decision, however, the Supreme Court in 2013 rescinded this supervision. Graham’s actions are illustrative of the type of conduct that might not have happened had the Voting Rights Act been fully in effect.

Graham did not succeed in his apparent attempt to disenfranchise thousands of Georgians in the November 2020 election. But if the Georgia secretary of state or his staffer had had less integrity, Graham might have prevailed. Such misconduct on the part of a sitting senator is an embarrassment to the Senate and a threat to our democracy, one that must be addressed in a full assessment of U.S. election security in the new administration. Graham’s actions should be clearly identified and vociferously rejected by his fellow senators, as well as by the Biden administration. They should make clear that interference with the counting or certification of votes is conduct unbecoming of a senator and will not be tolerated.

Federation of American Scientists, Secrecy News: 2020 Declassification Deadline Remains In Force, Saff report, Nov. 24, 2020. Classified records that turn 25 years old this year will be automatically declassified on December 31 — despite requests from agencies to extend the deadline due to the pandemic — unless the records are reviewed and specifically found to be subject to an authorized exemption.

Mark A. Bradley, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office, notified executive branch agencies last week that there is no basis in law or policy for deferring the automatic declassification deadline.

"Several agencies have expressed concerns that, due to diminished operational capacity and capability, they would likely be unable to complete declassification reviews of their 25-year old classified permanent records before the onset of automatic declassification on December 31, 2020. These agencies have requested some form of relief, such as a declassification delay or waiver," Mr. Bradley said in his November 20 letter.

But the executive order that governs declassification and the implementing regulations "do not permit the declassification delays or waivers requested in this instance," he wrote.

Mr. Bradley advised agencies "to adopt a risk-based approach and prioritize the review of their most sensitive records" in order to identify the most important information that might be exempt from automatic declassification.

But the fact remains that any "Originating agency information in 25-year old permanent records that are not reviewed prior to December 31, 2020 will be automatically declassified," he wrote.

Mr. Bradley's letter emphasized that automatic declassification applies only to information in records held by the originating agency, but not to information that originated with other agencies. Such other agency "equity" information is supposed to be referred to those agencies for their subsequent review.

On November 8, Donald J. Trump Jr., the President's oldest son, tweeted: "DECLASSIFY EVERYTHING!!!" adding "We can't let the bad actors get away with it."

This was not an actual policy proposal and it was not seriously intended for classification officials or even for Trump's own father, who as President is the one ultimately responsible for classification policy.

Rather, it was directed at Trump Jr.'s 6.4 million Twitter followers, telling them that classification is a corrupt process that protects "bad actors" and that must therefore be discredited and dismantled. It's a juvenile notion but not, given the size and malleability of Trump's audience, an inconsequential one.

Law & Crime, ‘Tears and Legal Bills’: Legal Experts Point and Laugh as Trump’s Legal Team Sweats It Out at Third Circuit, Colin Kalmbacher, Nov. 24, 2020. President Donald Trump’s last-ditch efforts at undoing the vote in Pennsylvania suffered a series of significant setbacks on Tuesday. One of those obstacles was the Keystone State’s certification of the 2020 election results, which finally and official determined Joe Biden the winner of the commonwealth’s electoral votes.

The fact of that certification, of course, makes the campaign’s ongoing litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ever more tenuous and unlikely to succeed. To that end, Democrats and Pennsylvania officials each filed their own scathing briefs that invoked pop cultural references like Monty Python’s famous Inquisition sketch and Frankenstein’s monster’s monster, respectively.

Those briefs were viewed as “super-strong.”

But to hear legal experts tell it some more, the Trump campaign’s case here was essentially over before it ever even started.

National security attorney Bradley P. Moss was brief in his estimation: “It’s all over except for the tears and legal bills.”

Politico, Poll: Majority of Republicans would support Trump in 2024, Matthew Choi, Nov. 24, 2020. The president gets 53 percent backing for a hypothetical 2024 primary, according to the POLITICO/Morning Consult survey. President Donald Trump is the favored Republican candidate for a 2024 run, beating other notable Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, by a double-digit margin, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Tuesday.

Trump gets 53 percent of support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents for a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary, according to the poll of registered voters. Pence came in second at only 12 percent support. Donald Trump Jr. got the third-highest support at 8 percent, while other Republican figures, including Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney, and Nikki Haley each got less than 5 percent support.

With Trump losing the 2020 presidential election, he is still constitutionally eligible to run for a second term in 2024 or later, at which point he would be at least in his late 70s. Trump has delayed conceding the election to President-elect Joe Biden, and his legal team is continuing its fight to reverse results in key swing states.

 

U.S. Courts

Law & Crime, Man Raped 14-Year-Old Girl While Out on Bail for Sexual Assault of Another Minor: Police, Alberto Luperon, Nov. 24, 2020. There are more legal problems for a Utah man already facing a case for the alleged sexual assault of a child. Gregory D. Allen, 45, got in trouble again, this time after police said that he gregory allen via Salt Lake County Jailraped a 14-year-old girl, according to KUTV. The teenager was the daughter of a friend of his, cops said.

According to the story from police, 14-year-old girl in question was at his home with him and his daughter. The teenager had just learned about her mother possibly having cancer, and she was struggling with this development. Allen, right, allegedly tried to act supportively, but told her they could discuss this in the bedroom.

He was already in serious legal trouble, being out on pretrial release for the alleged sexual assault of a child. In that case, Allen faced three counts of unlawful sexual conduct involving a 15-year-old girl. A 2016 case for enticing a minor was previously dropped.

Allen is now charged out of Salt Lake County with a count each of rape, forcible sodomy, possession with intend to distribute a controlled substance, and endangerment of a child or elderly adult.

 

World News

ny times logoBenjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterNew York Times, Israeli Reports Say Netanyahu Met Crown Prince, but Saudis Deny It, Ben Hubbard, David M. Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman, Nov. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The reported visit between Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, right, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia would be the first such high-level meeting.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Chooses Antony Blinken, Defender of Global Alliances, as Secretary of State, Lara Jakes, Michael Crowley and David E. Sanger, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Formerly the State Department’s No. 2, Mr. Blinken is expected to re-establish the United States as a trusted ally ready to rejoin global agreements and court multilateral efforts to confront China.

Antony J. Blinken, a defender of global alliances and one of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s closest foreign policy advisers, is expected to be nominated for secretary of state, a job in which he will attempt to coalesce skeptical international partners into a new competition with China, according to people close to the process.

antony blinken 5 16 2016 IMG 3713Mr. Blinken, 58, a former deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama and a guitar aficionado (shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig from across a conference room table at a State Department press briefing), began his career at the State Department during the Clinton administration. His extensive foreign policy credentials are expected to help calm American diplomats and global leaders alike after four years of the Trump administration’s ricocheting strategies and nationalist swaggering.

He has been at Mr. Biden’s side for nearly 20 years, including as his top aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as Mr. Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president. In that role, Mr. Blinken helped develop the American response to political upheaval and ensuing instability across the Middle East, with mixed results in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

But chief among his new priorities will be to re-establish the United States as a trusted ally that is ready to rejoin global agreements and institutions — including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization — that were jettisoned by President Trump.

“Simply put, the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons — to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral solutions,” Mr. Blinken said this past summer. “Even a country as powerful as the United States can’t handle them alone.”

Working with other countries, Mr. Blinken said in the same July forum at the Hudson Institute, could have the added benefit of confronting another top diplomatic challenge: competing with China by choosing multilateral efforts to advance trade, technology investments and human rights — instead of forcing individual nations to choose between the two superpowers’ economies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden to Nominate First Woman to Lead Intelligence, First Latino to Run Homeland Security, Michael Crowley, Nov. 23, 2020. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to name several top national security picks on Tuesday, his transition office said, including the first Latino to lead the us dhs big eagle logo4Department of Homeland Security, the first woman to head the intelligence community and a former secretary of state, John Kerry, to be his climate czar.

At an event in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden will announce plans to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas to be his secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, his transition office said, and Avril Haines to be his director of national intelligence. He intends to name Mr. Kerry as a special presidential envoy on climate.

The transition office also confirmed reports on Sunday night that Mr. Biden will nominate Antony J. Blinken to be secretary of state and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser.

 ronna mcdaniel djt Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Hopes to Use Party Machinery to Retain Control of G.O.P., Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Ronna McDaniel, shown above, a close ally of President Trump, wants to remain head of the Republican National Committee, inciting a behind-the-scenes proxy battle. As President Trump brazenly seeks to delay the certification of the election in hopes of overturning his defeat, he is also mounting a less high-profile but similarly audacious bid to keep control of the Republican National Committee even after he leaves office.

McDaniel, Mr. Trump’s handpicked chairwoman, has secured the president’s support for her re-election to another term in January, when the party is expected to republican elephant logogather for its winter meeting. But her intention to run with Mr. Trump’s blessing has incited a behind-the-scenes proxy battle, dividing Republicans between those who believe the national party should not be a political subsidiary of the outgoing president and others happy for Mr. Trump to remain in control of it.

While many Republicans are hesitant to openly criticize their president at a moment when he is refusing to admit he has lost, the debate crystallizes the larger question about the party’s identity and whether it will operate as a vessel for Mr. Trump’s ambitions to run again in four years.

rnc logoMr. Trump will have no political infrastructure once he leaves office except for a political action committee he recently formed, and absent a formal campaign, he is hoping to lean on the R.N.C. to effectively give him one, people familiar with his thinking said.

The continuing influence of Mr. Trump could also have implications for some of the national committee’s most critical assets: Its voter data and donors lists contain thousands of names of contributors and detailed information about supporters. The voter data in particular is a focus of attention, after distrust arose between the committee and the Trump campaign over the data’s use in the final months of the campaign.

This power play is alarming a number of R.N.C. members, party strategists and former committee aides, who are highly uneasy about ceding control of the committee to a potential candidate in 2024, a step that they fear would shatter the party’s longstanding commitment to neutrality in nominating contests.

“Trump always wants to use other people’s money,” said former Representative Barbara Comstock, a Northern Virginia Republican who lost her re-election in 2018 thanks to the suburban anti-Trump wave that also felled the president this month. The R.N.C., the Trump campaign and related committees raised more than $1 billion this cycle.

Ms. Comstock — while allowing that “nobody dislikes Ronna” — said the committee should not be a piggy bank for the president’s political endeavors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Christie calls the conduct of Trump’s legal team a ‘national embarrassment,’ Paul Kane, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Several prominent Republicans said this weekend that President Trump’s legal arguments had run their course, calling on him to concede to Joe Biden or at least allow the presidential transition process to begin.

“The conduct of the president’s legal team has been a national embarrassment,” former New Jersey governor Chris Christie said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

chris christie april 2015Christie, left, a Trump confidant who helped run debate preparations, said the Republican Party needed to focus on trying to win Georgia’s two runoff elections Jan. 5 to secure the Senate majority, rather than continuing with the unsuccessful legal challenges of the election results.

“The rearview mirror should be ripped off,” Christie said.

Late Saturday night, after a federal judge threw out Trump’s legal attempt to invalidate all of Pennsylvania’s votes, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) congratulated Biden and vice president-elect Kamala D. Harris on their victory and encouraged the president to accept that result.

“President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,” Toomey said in a statement, noting that he ushered that judge, Matthew W. Brann, onto the federal bench as a “longtime conservative Republican.”

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP national security experts call on Trump to concede, Tom Hamburger and Ellen Nakashima, Nov. 23, 2020. Imploring GOP lawmakers to speak up, more than 100 former officials issued a statement saying President Trump’s refusal to accept the result is dangerous and harmful.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020. At left above is attorney Sidney Powell, whom the Trump White House announced earlier this month as one of its lawyers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani releases statement distancing Trump campaign from lawyer Sidney Powell, Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Powell lobbed some of the most convoluted false claims about the election, alleging a conspiracy that involved ‘communist money.’

The president’s legal team was thrown into tumult Sunday when two Trump attorneys — Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — released a statement abruptly distancing the campaign from a third attorney, Sidney Powell.

Giuliani, Ellis and Powell all appeared together at a news conference Thursday, when they made a range of baseless accusations about the integrity of the election. Powell, in particular, has lobbed some of the most convoluted claims, alleging a conspiracy that involved “communist money,” the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and an algorithm favoring Democrats.

“Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own,” Giuliani and Ellis said in their statement Sunday. “She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

tucker carlson djtAt the start of Thursday’s news conference, Giuliani said he, Ellis, Powell and other attorneys present were “representing President Trump and we’re representing the Trump campaign.” Ellis introduced the group as “an elite strike force team that is working on behalf of the president and the campaign to make sure that our Constitution is protected.”

Two advisers to Trump, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said that the president disliked the coverage Powell was receiving from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, shown at left in a file photo, and others and that several allies had reached out to say she had gone too far. The advisers also said she fought with Giuliani and others in recent days.

Trump believed she was causing more harm than help, a campaign official said: “She was too crazy even for the president.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: G.O.P. Rewrites Old Playbook on Disenfranchising Black Americans, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Updated Nov. 23, 2020. As they try to reverse Joe Biden’s victory, President Trump and his allies are targeting cities with large populations of Black voters, painting them as corrupt.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The disinformation system that Trump unleashed will outlast him. Here’s what reality-based journalists must do about it, Margaret Sullivan, below left, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). It’s time for journalism to stand for something — or lose its audience to the excitement of burgeoning lies.

margaret sullivan 2015 photoPresident Trump didn’t create the media cesspool that he’ll bequeath to a troubled nation. He just made it exponentially worse — not only with his own constant lies but with his ability to spread the ugliness.

Just days ago, he tweeted out a debunked conspiracy theory that a company that makes voting machines had deleted millions of Trump votes. And though he — barring true disaster — will leave office in January, the widespread disinformation system that he fostered will live on.

Social media platforms, streaming “news” channels and innumerable websites will spew lies and conspiracy theories, and will keep weakening the foundation of reality that America’s democracy needs in order to function.

So what, if anything, can the reality-based press do to counter it?

I see three necessities.

First, be bolder and more direct than ever in telling it like it is. No more pussy-foooting or punch-pulling. No more of what’s been called “false equivalence” — giving equal weight to truth and lies in the name of fairness.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just lost big time in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Bill Palmer, Nov. 23, 2020. After a judge dismissed Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania election case with prejudice over the weekend and basically told him to go shove it, you’d think Trump and Rudy Giuliani would finally take a hint and give up. But they just keep finding new ways to lose.

bill palmer report logo headerToday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Trump’s appeal to get Philadelphia ballots thrown out. Not only did this shut down Trump’s current case, it also reversed an earlier lower court ruling that Trump had won. That’s right, even as Trump has lost dozens of court rulings related to the election, he’d only won two minor rulings along the way – and now he’s back down to having only won one minor ruling.

Giuliani keeps openly fantasizing about getting this all in front of the United States Supreme Court. That would also fail, because when you have literally no case, you automatically lose, even if the judges like you better. But it’s worth noting that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up any of Trump’s cases today. With certification deadlines looming, he’s running out of time. All of this had literally zero chance of magically overturning the election result, but it’s going even more humiliatingly for Trump than even we were expecting.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 23, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 59,106,979, Deaths: 1,395,719
U.S. Cases:   12,591,402, Deaths:    262,726

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, Nov. 23, 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, Bill Gates, the Virus and the Quest to Vaccinate the World, Megan Twohey and Nicholas Kulish, Nov. 23, 2020. The billionaire is working with the W.H.O., drugmakers and nonprofits to defeat the virus everywhere, including in the poorest nations. Can they do it?

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: AstraZeneca and Oxford University Say Their Vaccine Is ‘Highly Effective,’ Rebecca Robbins, Benjamin Mueller and Jenny Gross, Nov. 23, 2020. The coronavirus vaccine candidate was up to 90 percent effective, said the drugmaker, the third this month to report promising results. Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, said that “these findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Team, Pushing Quick Stimulus Deal, Prepares for Renewed Recession, Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.).  Economists warn that lawmakers must pass aid now, as a renewed coronavirus surge chills consumer spending and business activity.

Advisers to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. are planning for the increasing likelihood that the United States economy is headed for a “double-dip” recession early next year. They are pushing for Democratic leaders in Congress to reach a quick stimulus deal with Senate Republicans, even if it falls short of the larger joe biden 2020 button Custompackage Democrats have been seeking, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Until now, Mr. Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, have insisted that Republicans agree to a spending bill of $2 trillion or more, while Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, wants a much smaller package. The resulting impasse has threatened to delay additional economic aid until after Mr. Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Many of the president-elect’s advisers have become convinced that deteriorating economic conditions from the renewed surge in Covid-19 infections and the looming threat of millions of Americans losing jobless benefits in December amid a wave of evictions and foreclosures require more urgent action before year’s end. That could mean moving at least part of the way toward Mr. McConnell’s offer of a $500 billion package.

But top Democrats remain publicly adamant that Republicans need to move closer to their opening offer of $2.4 trillion. Mr. Biden, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer have given no public indication of how much they are willing to scale back their ambitions in order to reach a deal with Mr. McConnell, arguing that the Republican leader has not been willing to compromise.

 

Trump Watch

djt wind jim watson afp getty

 ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Misinformation ‘Superspreaders’ Seed False Election Theories, Sheera Frenkel, Nov. 23, 2020. Researchers have found that a small group of social media accounts are responsible for the spread of a disproportionate amount of the false posts about voter fraud.

eric trump djtOn the morning of Nov. 5, Eric Trump (shown at far right), one of the president’s sons, asked his Facebook followers to report cases of voter fraud with the hashtag, Stop the Steal. His post was shared over 5,000 times.

By late afternoon, the conservative media personalities Diamond and Silk had shared the hashtag along with a video claiming voter fraud in Pennsylvania. Their post was shared over 3,800 times.
Image

That night, the conservative activist Brandon Straka asked people to protest in Michigan under the banner #StoptheSteal. His post was shared more than 3,700 times.

Over the next week, the phrase “Stop the Steal” was used to promote dozens of rallies that spread false voter fraud claims about the U.S. presidential elections.

New research from Avaaz, a global human rights group, the Elections Integrity Partnership and The New York Times shows how a small group of people — mostly right-wing personalities with outsized influence on social media — helped spread the false voter-fraud narrative that led to those rallies.

facebook logoThat group, like the guests of a large wedding held during the pandemic, were “superspreaders” of misinformation around voter fraud, seeding falsehoods that include the claims that dead people voted, voting machines had technical glitches, and mail-in ballots were not correctly counted.

“Because of how Facebook’s algorithm functions, these superspreaders are capable of priming a discourse,” said Fadi Quran, a director at Avaaz. “There is often this assumption that misinformation or rumors just catch on. These superspreaders show that there is an intentional effort to redefine the public narrative.”

diamond and silk croppedAcross Facebook, there were roughly 3.5 million interactions — including likes, comments and shares — on public posts referencing “Stop the Steal” during the week of Nov. 3, according to the research. Of those, the profiles of Eric Trump, Diamond and Silk (shown at right) and Mr. Straka accounted for a disproportionate share — roughly 6 percent, or 200,000, of those interactions.

While the group’s impact was notable, it did not come close to the spread of misinformation promoted by President Trump since then. Of the 20 most-engaged Facebook posts over the last week containing the word “election,” all were from Mr. Trump, according to Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool. All of those claims were found to be false or misleading by independent fact checkers.

donald trump twitterThe baseless election fraud claims have been used by the president and his supporters to challenge the vote in a number of states. Reports that malfunctioning voting machines, intentionally miscounted mail-in votes and other irregularities affecting the vote were investigated by election officials and journalists who found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The voter fraud claims have continued to gather steam in recent weeks, thanks in large part to prominent accounts. A look at a four-week period starting in mid-October shows that President Trump and the top 25 superspreaders of voter fraud misinformation accounted for 28.6 percent of the interactions people had with that content, according to an analysis by Avaaz.

“What we see these people doing is kind of like setting a fire down with fuel, it is designed to quickly create a blaze,” Mr. Quran said. “These actors have built enough power they ensure this misinformation reaches millions of Americans.”

In order to find the superspreaders, Avaaz compiled a list of 95,546 Facebook posts that included narratives about voter fraud. Those posts were liked, shared or commented on nearly 60 million times by people on Facebook.

twitter bird CustomAvaaz found that just 33 of the 95,546 posts were responsible for over 13 million of those interactions. Those 33 posts had created a narrative that would go on to shape what millions of people thought about the legitimacy of the U.S. elections.

A spokesman for Facebook said the company had added labels to posts that misrepresented the election process and was directing people to a voting information center.

“We’re taking every opportunity to connect people to reliable information about the election and how votes are being counted,” said Kevin McAlister, a Facebook spokesman. The company has not commented on why accounts that repeatedly share misinformation, such as Mr. Straka’s and Diamond and Silk’s, have not been penalized. Facebook has previously said that President Trump, along with other elected officials, is granted a special status and is not fact-checked.

Many of the superspreader accounts had millions of interactions on their Facebook posts over the last month, and have enjoyed continued growth. The accounts were active on Twitter as well as Facebook, and increasingly spread the same misinformation on new social media sites like Parler, MeWe and Gab.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why the far-right news outlets can’t beat Fox News at its game, Paul Waldman, Nov. 23, 2020. President Trump’s most devoted paul waldmansupporters have had it with the liberally biased news media. But now, the outlet they’re abandoning isn’t CNN or the New York Times or The Post. It’s Fox News.

Many seem to be heading to Newsmax, which used to be a network characterized by cheap production values and elaborate conspiracy theories, but is now characterized by cheap production values, elaborate conspiracy theories — and rapidly growing ratings. Others seem to be gravitating to One America News, the even nuttier cable news alternative that has long been a Trump favorite. Meanwhile, some Trumpists fed up with Twitter — another of Trump’s targets — have been decamping for Parler, where right-wingers are free to say almost anything they please without moderation.

fox news logo SmallBut as a political project, they’re limited in one important way. Conservatives are very good at raising a stink, and news organizations often respond by changing their coverage. But it only works if those in the mainstream are aware of what’s being said on the right. You can’t pressure someone who is barely aware you exist.

Which is part of the power of Fox News: It’s watched by most Republicans in official Washington, and what happens there is injected into the mainstream conversation. The same congressman who watches Fox News in his office later goes on ABC News and repeats what he heard.

 

djt as chosen one

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

 washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Giuliani keeps peddling debunked falsehoods on behalf of Trump, Glenn Kessler, Nov. 23, 2020. Trump campaign tries to invalidate thousands of votes as Wisconsin recount gets underway,

“Want evidence of fraud. In 70% of Wayne County, Detroit, there were PHANTOM VOTERS. There were more votes than registered voters. 120%, 150%, 200%, even 300%.”

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, in a tweet on Nov. 22

Want evidence that the Trump legal team is not serious? When the top lawyer tweets out information that has already been thoroughly debunked, even in the conservative media.

The Facts

During Giuliani’s news conference on Thursday, he made similar claims about overvotes, which he said signaled many people voted twice.

“The overvote was so high, monstrously high in about two-thirds of the precincts in the city of Detroit, which means, magically, two and three times the number of registered voters turned out to vote,” he declared. “In fact, we have precincts in which two times the number of people who live there, including children, voted. That’s absurd.”

But the next day, Power Line, a conservative website, pointed out something very odd about the affidavit that made this claim. (It had been filed in a Georgia court case that has since been dismissed by a federal judge.) Under a blog post titled “Do Trump’s lawyers know what they are doing?” Power Line pointed out that the precincts that were listed in the affidavit were from Minnesota, not Michigan.

Someone had apparently mixed up two states that started with “Mi.” The precincts were not in Wayne County but in some of the reddest parts of Minnesota — Trump country.

That’s a pretty big error — one that the lawyer who filed the affidavit, L. Lin Wood, acknowledged in an email to PolitiFact. “We are imperfect,” he said.

Our colleague Aaron Blake further dug into the data and found that even in those Minnesota precincts, the data in the affidavit was off. Minnesota has same-day registration and very high turnout rates. Blake determined that the number of voters matched the number of votes cast. He speculated that the affidavit might have been relying upon incomplete “estimated voters” data from the Minnesota secretary of state in the days after the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, In last-gasp maneuver, Trump campaign tries to invalidate thousands of votes as Wisconsin recount gets underway, Rosalind S. Helderman and Dan Simmons, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s campaign is seeking to use a recount of the presidential election in Wisconsin to attempt to invalidate tens of thousands of votes in the state, making sweeping challenges to whole categories of ballots cast in the state’s two Democratic-leaning counties in his last-gasp effort to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomAs a recount began on Friday in Dane and Milwaukee counties — home to the cities of Madison and Milwaukee — Trump lawyers argued that officials should not merely retabulate all the votes cast in the Nov. 3 election to reconfirm they’d been counted properly.

Instead, they argued that large batches of ballots had been improperly accepted and counted in the first place. In both Dane and Milwaukee, they sought to disqualify all absentee ballots that had been cast before Election Day in person, rather than by mail.

So far, their efforts have been rejected by the Democratic-majority boards of canvasses in both counties, which have denied attempts to set aside large categories of ballots and instead proceeded to a slow-moving process to retabulate all the votes.

The recount must conclude no later than Dec. 1, when the election is scheduled to be certified. At that point, the president’s campaign could file a lawsuit over its rejected challenges — potentially delaying certification.

 djt tump int hotel

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: Has the Trump International Hotel been bugged by Trump and his associates? Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 23, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. While Donald Trump has continually lambasted the FBI for wiretapping his Trump Tower in New York -- legally authorized by court orders as a result of the amount of organized crime activity taking place there -- there is evidence that he had at least one condominium wayne madesen report logooutfitted with audio and video bugs during its use by contestants on Trump's NBC reality show, "The Apprentice."

Moreover, there are fears being expressed from informed quarters that Trump has been blackmailing individuals who have stayed at his Trump International Hotel, located in the Old Post Office building, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What line did Sidney Powell cross that Rudy Giuliani didn’t? Philip Bump, Nov. 23, 2020. Ridiculous claims and embarrassing behavior are clearly acceptable. So what wasn't?

sidney powellThere’s no question that, at least at one point, Sidney Powell, right, was part of President Trump’s legal team as he pushed to overturn the will of the voters and earn a second consecutive term as president.

Trump himself had touted her involvement in his “truly great team.” She was one of three attorneys who spoke during last week’s wild, overheated campaign news conference in which the “elite strike force” (as one member described them) delineated a wide-ranging and obviously hollow case for how Trump had somehow been wronged. Afterward, both Trump and the Republican Party shared snippets of her arguments.

Between then and Sunday afternoon, though, the relationship between Powell and the president soured. Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has served as Trump’s personal attorney since last year, released a statement effectively slicing Powell out of the strike force. Something that Powell had done crossed some sort of line, and out she went, with the statement’s language leaving open the possibility that the remaining team might try to claim that Powell had never been formally representing Trump’s interests.

So what happened?

Powell did do two things that Giuliani avoided, however.

The first was that she implied the involvement of Republican elected officials in her delineated conspiracy theory. The other obvious failure on Powell’s part was that she was unable to give Fox News adequate cover to present her claims uncritically.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: A Trump donor’s company got a 3% government-backed pandemic loan. It sells loans at a 350% annual rate, Todd C. Frankel, Nov. 23, 2020. Wellshire used what consumer advocates describe as a loophole to a rule designed to prevent most lenders from qualifying for the Fed's Main Street pandemic-loan program.

A Trump donor’s company got a 3% government-backed pandemic loan. It sells loans at a 350% annual rate, Todd C. Frankel, Nov. 23, 2020. / Wellshire used what consumer advocates describe as a loophole to a rule designed to prevent most lenders from qualifying for the Fed's Main Street pandemic-loan program.

A company owned by a major donor to President Trump that operates auto-title loan stores with names such as LoanStar and Moneymax secured a $25 million low-interest loan from a government pandemic aid program, using what consumer advocates describe as a loophole to a rule designed to prevent most lenders from getting this federal help.

The cash infusion to Wellshire Financial Services — part of a multi-state title loan empire run by Atlanta businessman Rod Aycox — came from the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion Main Street Lending program for small- and medium-size businesses. It’s the same program that is among the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities that will be allowed to expire at year’s end after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced last week the unspent funds will be redirected to more distressed parts of the U.S. economy. The decision does not affect loans that already have been made, such as the one to Wellshire.

Wellshire’s government-backed, five-year loan came with a 3.15 percent interest rate, Fed records show.

Loans to consumers at Wellshire’s auto-title loan stores can carry a 350 percent annual rate, thanks to high fees and interest supercharging the cost of borrowing, according to corporate disclosure documents.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden makes secretary of state pick, emphasizing experience and the foreign policy establishment, Annie Linskey, Matt Viser and John Hudson, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden has selected Antony Blinken, right, one of his closest and longest-serving foreign policy advisers, for the position. Biden is also planning to announce Linda Thomas-Greenfield,a former career Foreign Service officer and African American woman, as his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.

antony blinken oAll three expected nominees have decades-long careers working at the highest levels of government, and a deep respect for institutions. Their placement into key positions offers one of the first windows into the administration Biden is hoping to build.

If Trump’s administration was designed to upset the pillars of government and global order, Biden’s appears aimed at rebuilding it with people who have held similar roles in the past. All three expected nominees also served in the Obama administration, a clear sign that Biden will rely on people who held key roles the last time he served in Washington.

washington post logobarack obama a promised land coverWashington Post, Former president Barack Obama sits down with The Post to discuss his new memoir, Paulina Firozi, Nov. 23, 2020. A Promised Land, right, chronicles Obama's first term as president. He joins The Post to discuss his memoir, the impact of his historic presidency and how he views the country today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Biden to meet with mayors; Michigan canvassing board plans meeting with unknown outcome, Staff reports, Nov. 23, 2020.  Trump confidant Stephen Schwarzman says ‘the country should move on;’ New Zealand’s Ardern says she offered to share pandemic expertise with Biden.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to meet virtually on Monday with a group of mayors as he continues a transition to the White House that will also include the formal unveiling of the first of his Cabinet picks this week.

In Michigan, a four-member canvassing board tasked with certifying election results could deadlock if both Republican members seek a delay. Biden leads President Trump, who continues to falsely claim that he won the Nov. 3 election, by more than 150,000 votes in Michigan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: Pennsylvania and Michigan Are Set to Certify Election Results, Staff reports: Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The two states, whose results are both contested by President Trump, are scheduled to verify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory today. Here’s the latest.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosDespite moves by Republicans to subvert the results of the presidential election, Pennsylvania is scheduled to certify its vote results on Monday, and a board in Michigan is set to consider doing the same.

The certifications, which come amid a string of legal losses for the Trump campaign, would all but ensure the futility of President Trump’s challenges to the election results. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College count — 306 to Mr. Trump’s 232 — mirrors the total by which the president defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The electors will meet in their respective states and the District of Columbia to formally cast their votes on Dec. 14.

ny times logoNew York Times, Business Leaders, Citing Damage to Country, Urge Trump to Begin Transition, Kate Kelly and Danny Hakim, Nov. 23, 2020. More than 100 USTR seal Custom 2chief executives plan to ask President Trump’s administration to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and begin a transfer of power.

In a letter they plan to send Monday, business leaders will demand that Emily W. Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, issue a letter of ascertainment affirming that Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have won the election. Ms. Murphy has so far resisted calls to begin the normal transition planning, which includes providing resources and money to an incoming administration as it prepares to take control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Republican Party has split in two. Let’s keep it that way, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 23, 2020. In one half of the former GOP stand jennifer rubin new headshotPresident Trump, his pathetic enablers in his campaign and in right-wing media, and the vast majority of Senate and House Republicans.

In the other half of the party, we see individuals from varying ideological backgrounds but who share a fundamental belief in democracy and the rule of law. These Republicans promptly declared that Trump had lost and insisted it was time to move on. In the Senate, Ben Sasse (Neb.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) swiftly recognized the results of the election. (Belatedly, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania joined them.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Legal Farce Is Having Tragic Results, Richard L. Hasen (author of Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust and the Threat to American Democracy), Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). There is nothing funny about the Republican Party’s multipronged attack on voting rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Joe Biden Brings Back the Media’s Good Old Days, Ben Smith, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The next president promises to do for old-line newspaper columnists what Donald Trump did for cable. What a time to be George Will!

if you’d asked me earlier this year who would be the most politically relevant American writer of 2020, I would not have picked Jon Meacham.

But Joe Biden did. The former vice president won the presidency despite reporters’ bored skepticism and editorial board snubs.

And Mr. Meacham, a Pulitzer-winning historian whose books have lionized figures like President George H.W. Bush and Representative John Lewis, is the media figure he’s closest to, an occasional source of historical advice who helps with his biggest speeches. (This revelation cost Mr. Meacham a formal MSNBC contributor job when it was reported in The New York Times this month.) Mr. Meacham’s surprising turn at the center of American politics is a reflection on Mr. Biden’s relationship with the news media, one very different from his predecessor’s, and a hint at the future.

washington post logoWashington Post, With Trump, Russia probes behind it, polarized House panel looks to heal partisan rifts, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). House Intelligence Committee must overcome deep divisions to restore a culture of bipartisan functionality. Some members don’t think it can be done.

After four years of bitter partisan feuding over its investigations into President Trump, the House Intelligence Committee is facing perhaps its steepest challenge yet: restoring bipartisan functionality to the panel that is supposed to be Congress’s first line of defense against the nation’s most existential threats.

Back-to-back Russia probes and an impeachment investigation soured the committee’s traditionally apolitical culture and catapulted its leaders into the sharply partisan limelight as they defended or excoriated Trump. As Democrats accused top Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.) of conspiring to protect the president, and Republicans accused top Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) of making up lies to smear him, each assumed the joint role of hero to his party and boogeyman to the other side — and the panel became the scorched earth in between.

Even after investigations cadenced, scars remain. For months, Republican members have boycotted all but one of the committee’s public events, as well as unclassified private briefings. The panel also has yet to produce a single piece of legislation or statement of policy that has not split along party lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden reaches out. The GOP slaps him in the face, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden’s victory offered the ej dionne w open neckcheerful prospect that we might begin to detoxify our politics. Maybe we could forget Donald Trump for a while and argue with at least a touch of civility about the actual problems our country faces.

Heck, some of us dared to imagine that we might treat each other with respect. After all, Biden said over and over that he wanted to be the president of all Americans and honored the dignity of voters who had supported Trump in the past by expressing an understanding of their discontents.

Moreover, bypassing more polarizing alternatives, Biden’s own party chose the candidate most likely to be acceptable to the other side, itself a form of outreach.

And the GOP’s response to the outreach? With just a handful of exceptions, abject refusal to stand up against the anti-democratic lunacy of Trump’s efforts to nullify the results of a fair election.

 

Nov. 22

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

More on Trump Watch

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Dismisses Trump Lawsuit Seeking to Delay Certification in Pennsylvania, Alan Feuer, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). In a scathing order, a federal judge rejected the Trump campaign’s claim of widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots, removing a major legal hurdle to certifying Joseph R. Biden’s Jr.’s victory there. A federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed on Saturday night a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that had claimed there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots in the state, ending the last major effort to delay the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote results, which is scheduled to take place Monday.

In a scathing order, Judge Matthew W. Brann wrote that Mr. Trump’s campaign, which had asked him to effectively disenfranchise nearly seven million voters, should have come to court “armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption” in its efforts to essentially nullify the results of Pennsylvania’s election.

matthew brannBut instead, Judge Brann, right, complained, the Trump campaign provided only “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.”

The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 9, accused Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and several counties with largely Democratic populations of unfairly handling mail-in ballots, which were used in unprecedented numbers during this year’s election. The suit claimed that under Ms. Boockvar’s guidance, the Democratic counties gave voters who had submitted mail-in ballots with minor flaws an opportunity to “cure” or fix them while counties with mostly Republican populations did not alert voters about faulty ballots.

That, according to the campaign, violated the equal protections clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But Judge Brann rejected this argument, likening it to Frankenstein’s monster, which had been “haphazardly stitched together.” He ruled that the Trump campaign, lacking standing to make the claim, could not prove that it had suffered any harm if some counties, anticipating a deluge of mail-in ballots, helped their voters to file proper ballots while others did not.

“That some counties may have chosen to implement” Ms. Boockvar’s suggestions while others did not, “does not constitute an equal-protection violation,” Judge Brann wrote.

rudy giuliani calls for beheading dems

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's top lawyer in lawsuits seeking to overturn the election, calls for beheading Democratic leaders (that would include President-Elect Biden) on Fox New's Hannity show. (Sceengfrab by Dave Lindorff).

This Can' Be Happening Blog via OpEdNews, Opinion: 'They should be beheaded!': Trump and Giuliani Go Full ISIS in Attack on Biden and Democrats, Dave Lindorff, oenearthlogoNov. 22, 2020. It's often been noted that countries that go to war tend to adopt the behaviors of their enemies in fighting them, and then bring that war and the techniques they have appropriated home where they begin to apply them domestically.

For at least two decades, since the US in 2001 launched its so-called "War" on Terror following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, the US, under a series of three presidents, has waged a grossly illegal war around the globe against alleged terrorists, real or perceived, in countries as remote as Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. In this borderless, lawless "war" the US has turned to the same kind of terrorism that it accuses its enemies of using.

sean hannity white houseThese attacks on terrorist leaders are, in the lingo of the trade, referred to as "decapitations." It's the same term applied to what the Taliban in Afghanistan or IS fighters in Syria or elsewhere use to describe how they kill captives in their actions, which they, without an airforce or access to drone technology, dispatch in the old-fashioned way, with a large knife or a sword.

Now soundly and decisively defeated in his bid for re-election (Biden's winning the national vote by 4% and by 6 million votes and counting, with only heavily Democratic New York State and primarily even more heavily Democratic New York City having a significant one-sixth of its fox news logo Smallvotes in the form of absentee ballots left to count) and having won 306 Electoral College votes, 36 more than needed, Dear Leader Donald Trump is turning to IS tactics in his flailing effort to hang on to the White House.

On Nov. 19 on Fox News's "Sean Hannity Show," Rudy Giuliani, the head of Trump's legal team that is filing dozens of lawsuits in so-called swing states that narrowly went for Joe Biden this year seeking to overturn those Biden victories, told Hannity, shown in a file photo above right, that the Democratic Party had been taken over by "the Clintons," and then added that the the leadership of that party "needs to be beheaded."

He made a hand-accross-the-neck gesture to emphasize his meaning. Hannity cut the interview off abruptly at that point, but the Fox News shock-jock shouldn't have been caught by surprise."

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s wildest claims are going nowhere in court. Thank legal ethics, Adam Winkler (professor at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches legal ethics and other subjects), Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s lawyers can’t make assertions without evidence in front of judges.

President Trump’s lie that the election was stolen has had some unfortunate success in the court of public opinion: Polling shows that more than three-quarters of his supporters believe the contest was riddled with fraud. To overturn the result, though, Trump needs to win in the court of law. A president who packed the federal courts with conservatives now depends on the judicial system to agree with his perspective and provide him a pathway to a second term despite Joe Biden’s win.

djt smiling fileYet Trump’s legal strategy has run aground — in no small part because of legal ethics. While lawyers are often cast as unscrupulous and immoral, they are required to follow a strict code of professional responsibility established by state bars. The famous duty of lawyers to keep a client’s confidences, for instance, comes from these ethical codes. Law students must take a course in legal ethics, the bar exam includes a section on ethical rules, and continuing-education requirements emphasize lawyers’ duties to clients and to the courts.

Two ethical rules have been fatal to Trump’s election lawsuits in state after state: the lawyer’s duty of candor to a court and the lawyer’s duty to avoid frivolous claims. The president can spew all the theories he wants, and his advocates can say whatever they like on television, but because of these two ethical duties, Trump’s lawyers can make claims before courts only if they can back them up with actual evidence.

Lawyers are obligated to be truthful in everything they say to a court. If they aren’t, they can lose their license to practice law. In a hearing over Trump’s claim that his campaign was being excluded from observing the ballot count in Philadelphia, the judge — a conservative George W. Bush appointee — asked Trump’s lawyer if campaign observers were in fact present. Because of the duty of candor to the court, Trump’s lawyer had to concede that campaign observers were indeed in the room.

djt rudy giuliani headshots CustomConcerns about violating ethical rules partly explain why Trump’s lawyers are deserting him. Two large law firms withdrew as counsel only days after filing lawsuits. Two new lawyers signed on, only to withdraw within days themselves. Lawyers in high-profile cases rarely quit a client so quickly — unless they fear that the representation will violate the rules of legal ethics. Then they have no choice. Likewise, most of the establishment legal team that defended Trump during his impeachment has stayed away from the post-election litigation efforts.

The exodus has left Trump’s lawsuits in the hands of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who until this past week hadn’t been in a courtroom in decades. Although he’s made wild accusations in news conferences about “a massive fraud” involving the Clintons, George Soros and Hugo Chávez, Giuliani acknowledged in a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania that “this is not a fraud case.” And so far, none of the strangest claims he’s made publicly have found their way into any court filings.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 20, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 58,627,205, Deaths: 1,388,904
U.S. Cases:   12,453,047, Deaths:    261,822

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: America Is Letting the Coronavirus Rage Through Prisons, Editorial Board, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). It’s both a moral failure and a public health one. As Americans grapple with how — or whether — to gather with loved ones this holiday season, the roughly two million people confined in the nation’s prisons and jails face an even grimmer challenge: how to stay alive inside a system being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

Like the nation overall, U.S. correctional facilities are experiencing record spikes in coronavirus infections this fall. During the week of Nov. 17, there were 13,657 new coronavirus infections reported across the state and federal prison systems, according to the Marshall Project, which has been tracking these numbers since March. The previous week saw 13,676 new cases. These are by far the highest weekly tolls reported since the pandemic began. With winter descending, the situation threatens to grow bleaker still.

The American penal system is a perfect breeding ground for the virus. Squabbles over mask wearing and social distancing are essentially moot inside overcrowded facilities, many of them old and poorly ventilated, with tight quarters and with hygiene standards that are difficult to maintain. Uneven testing, inadequate medical resources and the constant churn of staff members, visitors and inmates further speed transmission. Crueler still, inmates suffer disproportionately from comorbidities, such as high blood pressure and asthma, putting them at an elevated risk for complications and death.

washington post logoWashington Post, Italy is again seeing one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls, but it no longer registers as a national tragedy, Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Many people are desensitized, fatigued and preoccupied with economic survival.

washington post logofda logoWashington Post, Experimental drug given to Trump to treat covid-19 wins FDA clearance, Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The drug, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is designed to prevent infected people from developing severe illness. The treatment is expected to be in short supply.

washington post logoWashington Post, G-20 leaders call for global coronavirus vaccine access as U.S. labs near approval, Miriam Berger, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). At the virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia, attention quickly turned to vaccines as promising results from U.S.-based labs Pfizer and Moderna raise hopes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Don’t expect that we’ll magically return to normal just because a vaccine might be close, experts say, Marlene Cimons, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.).  Precautions such as mask-wearing will still need to be followed during initial rollouts of the inoculations, experts warn. And there's plenty we don't yet know — such as how long a vaccine's protection will last.

cnbc logoCNBC, Doctors say CDC should warn people the side effects from Covid vaccine shots won’t be ‘a walk in the park,’ Berkeley Lovelace Jr., Nov. 23, 2020. The CDC must be transparent about the side effects people may experience after getting their first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, doctors urged during a meeting Monday with CDC advisors.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer said that both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines require two doses and she worries whether her patients will come back for a second dose because of potentially unpleasant side effects after the first shot. Both companies acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild Covid-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headache.

 

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: Twitter suspends Sidney Powell after Donald Trump fires her, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 22, 2020. This evening Donald Trump’s attorneys Rudy bill palmerGiuliani and Jenna Ellis announced that Sidney Powell was no longer a part of Trump’s election legal team. In other words, Trump fired Powell and didn’t have the guts to announce it himself.

In a surreal turn of events, Michael Flynn – who is represented in his ongoing criminal case by Sidney Powell – tweeted this: “Sidney Powell
bill palmer report logo headerhas been suspended from Twitter for 12 hours. She understands the WH press release & agrees with it. She is staying the course to prove the massive deliberate election fraud that robbed #WeThePeople of our votes for President Trump & other Republican candidates.”

Well okay then. Somebody’s having a rough night. To be clear, Sidney Powell has been suspended from tweeting, but her account is still visible; “suspended” is not the same thing as being banned. We’re not sure what she did to get herself suspended, but we’d guess it has something to do with making false claims about the election results. Speaking of which, when is Donald Trump getting suspended?

ny times logoNew York Times, Duty or Party? For Republicans, a Test of Whether to Enable Trump, Jim Rutenberg and Kathleen Gray, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). In pushing his false claims to the limits and cowing Republicans into acquiescence or silence, President Trump has revealed the fragility of the electoral system — and shaken it.

For the next three weeks, the integrity of American democracy is in the hands of people like Norman D. Shinkle, a proud Michigander who has, until recently, served in relative obscurity on the state board that certifies vote results.

But now Mr. Shinkle faces a choice born from the national election turmoil created by President Trump, his preferred candidate, for whom he sang the national anthem at a campaign rally in Lansing last month.

republican elephant logoMr. Shinkle’s duty, as one of two Republicans on the four-member board, is to validate the will of Michigan voters and certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory ahead of the Electoral College vote on Dec. 14. Yet Mr. Shinkle is weighing whether to block certification at a board meeting scheduled for Monday, because of minor glitches that Mr. Trump and his allies have baselessly cast as evidence of widespread, election-invalidating fraud.

That Mr. Shinkle is equivocating over a once-routine step in the process — despite all 83 state counties submitting certified results and Mr. Biden leading by 154,000 votes — shows the damage inflicted by Mr. Trump on the American voting process and the faith that people in both parties have historically shared in the outcome of elections.

But this is also a moment of truth for the Republican Party: The country is on a knife’s edge, with G.O.P. officials from state capitols to Congress choosing between the will of voters and the will of one man. In pushing his false claims to the limits, cowing Republicans into acquiescence or silence, and driving officials like Mr. Shinkle to nervous indecision, Mr. Trump has revealed the fragility of the electoral system — and shaken it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump privately plots his next act — including a potential 2024 run, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). In a nod to the reality that he is destined to leave office in January, the president is seriously contemplating life beyond the White House, telling advisers he wants to remain an omnipresent force in politics and the media.

President Trump would have the world falsely believe that he won the election and is preparing for a second term.

djt hands up mouth open CustomIn private huddles and phone conversations, however, Trump has been discussing an entirely different next act: another presidential run in 2024.

In a nod to the reality that he is destined to leave office in January, the president is seriously contemplating life beyond the White House, telling advisers that he wants to remain an omnipresent force in politics and the media — perhaps by running for the White House again.

Trump has told confidants he could announce a 2024 campaign before the end of this year, which would immediately set up a potential rematch with President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump also has been exploring ways to make money for relatively little work, such as giving paid speeches to corporate groups or selling tickets to rallies. In addition, he may try to write a score-settling memoir of his time as president and appear on television, in a paid or unpaid capacity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attempt at unprecedented power grab runs into resistance from local and state Republicans, Toluse Olorunnipa, Amy B Wang and Chelsea Janes, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). While some GOP officials have given credence to his baseless fraud claims, only a few have seemed willing to endorse a move to overturn the will of voters by appointing pro-Trump electors in states that President-elect Joe Biden won.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s post-presidency will be cluttered with potentially serious legal battles, Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The swirl of criminal investigations and civil complaints stemming from his business activities and personal conduct could possibly prove more serious once he leaves office.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: When the 2024 contenders come around, remember this, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 22, 2020. The 2024 Republican presidential primary jennifer rubin new headshotfield may be large, unless President Trump hangs around. Ironically, potential GOP contenders have increased the chances that Trump will return by refusing to call out his unconstitutional assault on the sanctity of our elections and his embrace of deranged conspiracy theories.

Let’s say Trump does not run again. When Republican candidates such as Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) come around looking for support, the country should dismiss them out of hand. They repeatedly failed basic tests of citizenship — let alone leadership — forfeiting their moral authority to serve in any government position.

 

supreme court Custom

Politico Magazine, Analysis: The Supreme Court’s “Breathtakingly Radical” New Approach to Election Law, Wendy Weiser and Daniel Weiner, Nov. 22, 2020. The justices won’t end up deciding the 2020 presidential race, but they have set the stage for a massive rollback of voting rights.

In the end, the blizzard of lawsuits from President Donald Trump’s campaign will amount to nothing beyond a megaphone for disinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election. As destructive as the president’s attempts to undermine democracy are, the most lasting damage to America’s election system is likely to come instead from a series of Supreme Court rulings that appear perfunctory but actually could restrict voters’ rights for years to come.

In the weeks before Election Day, the court weighed in on more than a dozen cases in a way that many portrayed as a mixed bag for voting rights—allowing voting expansions to stand in some cases and sharply curtailing them in others. But that scorecard approach obscures the principal effect of the court’s rulings: In all of the cases, regardless of whether the Trump campaign won or lost, the justices quietly—yet dramatically—rolled back Americans’ voting rights in ways that could do permanent harm—that is, unless Congress steps in.

Let’s start with the visible damage.

In multiple cases, and often without a shred of explanation, the Supreme Court affirmatively stepped in to make it harder to vote. The first case was in Wisconsin in April, right after the pandemic hit. A lower court had extended the deadline for returning mail ballots in the presidential primary by six days. But the night before the election, over a withering dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—one of her last written opinions—the Supreme Court blocked that extension, leaving voters only hours to obtain and return their ballots. The result: thousands of citizens were unable to return their ballots on time, and their votes were not counted.

Likewise, in South Carolina in early October, the court reinstated a witness requirement for absentee ballots after voting had already started and weeks after the ballot instructions had been printed. While the court exempted voters whose ballots were delivered within two days of its ruling without a witness signature, at least 2,509 ballots arrived after that date and were disqualified. In Alabama, the court stepped in two weeks before Election Day to reinstate witness identification requirements for absentee ballots and a ban on curbside voting.

Until these rulings, federal courts across the country had generally responded to the pandemic by expanding voting access, applying well-established legal doctrines to evaluate burdens to voting rights under the Constitution. Their decisions mainly allowed more voters to take advantage of mail voting and to have safe ballot drop-off and voting locations. Election officials adapted their systems accordingly, and voters requested and received ballots in keeping with the new procedures.

After the Supreme Court ruled in South Carolina, however, appellate courts followed its lead and blocked more than a dozen voter-friendly rulings and settlements within a span of a few weeks. In one egregious case only four days before Election Day, a federal appeals court halted a settlement allowing Minnesota voters to mail back their ballots up until Election Day. At the time, there were more than half a million ballots—all containing instructions with the previous deadline—still outstanding.

These decisions likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of Americans this year, disproportionately people of color. But their most significant damage is not limited to this election. Although the Supreme Court didn’t provide a rationale for its rulings, individual justices articulated two principles that guided their votes, and the way the court applied those principles this election season sets dangerous precedents for the future.

First, there’s what’s known as the Purcell principle, which maintains that federal courts shouldn’t make changes to voting rules close to an election. The supposed purpose of this judge-made doctrine is to prevent confusion and chaos by requiring last-minute changes to election practices that could disenfranchise voters or cause administrative snafus. But in many cases during the lead-up to this election, the Supreme Court itself caused confusion and administrative problems by reversing voting rights rulings from lower federal courts that had already been implemented by election officials, and the circuit courts followed suit. (This would seem to suggest that while the Supreme Court believes this rule applies to lower courts, it is not a constraint on its own rulings.)

What’s more, the Purcell principle has never before been applied as a blunt instrument to block all voting rights protections close to an election, regardless of their impact, as the Supreme Court seemed to do this year. A broad application of this precedent could make it impossible to challenge barriers to voting that were themselves imposed at the last minute, including obstacles erected purposefully to thwart certain voters. This isn’t theoretical; it’s precisely what happened in Texas when a federal appeals court used the Purcell principle to uphold Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 1 executive order, which sharply limited the number of ballot drop-off sites in a way that targeted voters in more populous counties, after a federal district court ruled against it.

Second, and even more dangerous, five of the court’s justices have signed onto opinions endorsing a brand new legal theory—that the Constitution gives state legislatures virtually untrammeled authority to set voting rules for federal elections, no matter how arbitrary or unreasonable. This previously discredited theory, which was first articulated by three justices in one of the cases concerning the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, could insulate most anti-voter laws—from arbitrary voting restrictions to burdensome registration requirements—from constitutional review by federal courts. What is more, the Court may be poised to prevent even state courts from reviewing their own state’s laws for compliance with state constitutional protections. Indeed, that was the logic Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas wanted to apply to strike down the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline this year. They were outvoted this time, but this logic could also be applied to prevent state and local election officials from expanding voter access beyond legislative mandates—as many did to ensure voters’ health and safety this year.

These theories are breathtakingly radical, and if they take root, they will seriously undermine Americans’ voting rights going forward. But here is the good news: When it comes to voting rights, the Supreme Court does not necessarily get the last word. Congress can take the lead.

Wendy Weiser is vice president for democracy and Daniel Weiner is deputy director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.

Global Research via Truth & Reconciliation Committee, Opinion and Memoir: Unspeakable Memories  -- The Day John Kennedy Died, Edward Curtin, Nov. 22, 2020. There is a vast literature on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who died on this date, November 22, 1963. I have contributed my small share to such writing in an effort to tell the truth, honor him, and emphasize its profound importance in understanding the history of the last fifty-seven years, but more importantly, what is happening in the U.S.A. today.

Unless one is a government disinformation agent or is unaware of the enormous documentary evidence, one knows that it was the U.S. national security state, led by the CIA, that carried out JFK’s murder.

Confirmation of this fact keeps arriving in easily accessible forms for anyone interested in the truth. A case in point is James DiEugenio’s posting at his website, KennedysandKing, of James Wilcott’s affidavit and interrogation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, declassified by the Assassinations Record Review Board in 1998.

In that document, Wilcott, who worked in the finance department for the CIA and was not questioned by the Warren Commission, discusses how he unwittingly paid Lee Harvey Oswald, the government’s alleged assassin, through a cryptonym and how it was widely known and celebrated at his CIA station in Tokyo that the CIA killed Kennedy and Oswald worked for the Agency, although he did not shoot JFK. I highly recommend reading the document.

I do not here want to go into any further analysis or debate about the case. I think the evidence is overwhelming that the President was murdered by the national security state. Why he was murdered, and the implications for today, are what concern me. And how and why we remember and forget public events whose consequences become unbearable to contemplate, and the fatal repercussions of that refusal. In what I consider the best book ever written on the subject, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (2009), James W. Douglass explains this in detail, including the James Wilcott story.

Realizing what I am about to say might be presumptuous and of no interest to anyone but myself, I will nevertheless try to describe my emotional reactions to learning of John Kennedy’s murder so long ago and how that reverberated down through my life.

I hope my experiences might help explain why so many people today can’t face the consequences of the tragic history that began that day and have continued to the present, among which are not just the other assassinations of the 1960s but the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent endless and murderous “war on terror” with its mind-numbing propaganda and the recent anti-Russia phobia and the blatant celebration of the so-called “deep-state’s” open efforts to overthrow another president, albeit a very different one.

....

Many people will pretend that they are exposing themselves to such traumatic memories and are investigating the events and sources of their disquietude. It is so often a pretense since they feel most comfortable in the land of make-believe. What is needed is not a dilettantish and superficial nod in the direction of having examined such matters, but a serious in-depth study of the facts and an examination of why doing so might make one uncomfortable.

Perhaps a reason we remember so much trivia is to make sure we forget profound experiences that might shake us to our cores. The cold-blooded public execution of President John Kennedy did that to me on that melancholy Friday when I was 19, and by trying to forget it and not to speak of it, I hoped it would somehow go away, or at least fade to insignificance. But the past has a way of never dying, often to return when we least expect or want it.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s inauguration, like his campaign, will likely look like no other in recent history, Matt Viser, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Those close to President-elect Joe Biden insist that the ceremony must still have the august feeling of past inaugurations. But that quest is complicated by another urgent demand: to adhere to health guidelines that Biden embraced during his campaign and wants to showcase at the start of his administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Kelly Loeffler quarantining after testing positive for coronavirus, then getting inconclusive result ahead of Georgia runoff, Hannah kelly loeffler o CustomKnowles, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus on Friday and then receiving an inconclusive result the next day, a spokesman for her campaign said. Update: On Nov. 22, was reported as testing negative.

Loeffler, right, has no symptoms and is taking precautions “until retesting is conclusive,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a Saturday night statement. The potential disruption to her campaigning comes as Loeffler and her Republican colleague, Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R), try to fend off Democratic challengers in runoff elections that will determine the power balance in the Senate.

chuck todd meet the press logo

Palmer Report, Opinion: Chuck Todd crashes and burns, Bill Palmer, Nov. 22, 2020. The mainstream media is getting a number of things wrong right now. For instance, Donald Trump isn’t looking at some kind of 2024 magic carpet ride, he’s looking at criminal charges and prison. But the media has done a good job of making clear that Trump has lost, and that he isn’t going to just magically remain in office come January. Then there’s Chuck Todd.

This morning Chuck Todd (above), who isn’t fit to host The Gong Show let alone Meet The Press, said this: “It looks like Biden is going to be the apparent winner. There’s still more to go through.” No really, he said this. This is some Fox News level nonsense.

It’s the latest reminder that while too many TV pundits treat politics as if both sides were the same, Chuck Todd openly roots for both-sidesism. He has way too much fun trying to invent ways to knock one side when the other side is doing poorly, which he appears to think it what “unbiased” means. He’s almost uniquely bad at this, and in his current position he does real harm. It’s one thing to be at 1pm weekdays on MSNBC, when no one cares. It’s another thing to hold the reins of something as powerful as Meet The Press. Every one of you reading this would do a better job of hosting it, if only because you wouldn’t try to do it wrong.

The American penal system is a perfect breeding ground for the virus. Squabbles over mask wearing and social distancing are essentially moot inside overcrowded facilities, many of them old and poorly ventilated, with tight quarters and with hygiene standards that are difficult to maintain. Uneven testing, inadequate medical resources and the constant churn of staff members, visitors and inmates further speed transmission. Crueler still, inmates suffer disproportionately from comorbidities, such as high blood pressure and asthma, putting them at an elevated risk for complications and death.

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsmax, Once a Right-Wing Also-Ran, Is Rising, and Trump Approves, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, Nov. 22, 2020. A once-niche conservative cable network, owned by a longtime friend of the president, lures audiences by refusing to declare an electoral winner.

Flanked by aides in the Oval Office on Wednesday, President Trump dialed up a friend in the news media with a message: Keep up the good work.

“He said that it’s just incredible, the ratings you’re getting, and everyone’s talking about it,” recalled Christopher Ruddy, the owner of Newsmax, a niche conservative cable network that has yet to declare a winner in the 2020 presidential election.

Based in Boca Raton, Fla., the network features lo-fi production values and off-brand personalities like Sean Spicer and Diamond and Silk. Even finding it can be a chore: It appears on Channel 1115 in some major markets. But since Election Day, Newsmax has become a growing power in a conservative media sphere that has been scrambled by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede.

Hundreds of thousands of new viewers have tuned into Newsmax programs that embrace the president’s debunked claims of voter fraud and insist that Mr. Trump can keep the White House. Until recently, the network’s top shows attracted a paltry 58,000 viewers. On Thursday night, the network drew its biggest audience ever, notching 1.1 million viewers at 7 p.m.

The out-of-nowhere rise has come as Fox News — the No. 1 network in TV news and long the destination of choice for many Trump partisans — has experienced a rare dip in dominance. Ratings for the Rupert Murdoch-owned network have dropped since election night, when its early projection that Mr. Biden had won Arizona infuriated Mr. Trump and his allies.

 

Nov. 21

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

Inside DC

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

Top Stories

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, Nov. 21, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 354,530 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, After Trump Meeting, Michigan Lawmakers Say They’ll Honor State’s Vote, Kathleen Gray and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). A group of Michigan Republicans, after a meeting at the White House, said they would honor the count showing President-elect Joe Biden had won their state. Other political news: Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tested positive for the coronavirus and has been isolating since Monday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump suffers twin defeats in effort to reverse Biden’s victory in key states, Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Georgia officials certified President-elect Joe Biden’s slim victory there, and Michigan Republicans said after a White House meeting that they had learned nothing to warrant changing the outcome in their state.

President Trump received twin blows Friday to his effort to overturn his election defeat, with Georgia officials certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s slim victory there and Michigan Republicans declaring after a White House meeting that they had learned nothing to warrant reversing the outcome in their state.

american flag upside down distress“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R) said in a joint statement issued late Friday.

The developments were a substantial setback for the president after the tumult of Thursday, when his lawyers held a news conference on Capitol Hill and made incendiary and false claims that Biden had rigged the election and proclaimed their intent to aggressively challenge the results.

Trump this week made an extraordinarily personal intervention in Michigan, where his lawyers hope to stall the state’s certification of the vote, set to be considered at a meeting Monday, and get the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint pro-Trump electors to the electoral college. Trump trails Biden in Michigan by about 156,000 votes.

But even after a personal invitation to the White House by the president, the state’s top two GOP lawmakers notably did not endorse his baseless claims of widespread fraud in the state and instead said they used the meeting to press Trump for more coronavirus relief funds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anger builds in Black community over Trump’s unsupported claims of voter fraud in big cities, Ashley Nguyen, Kayla Ruble and Tim Craig, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Scholars and activists compared President Trump’s actions to the disenfranchisement of African Americans following the Civil War.

When Wisconsin Republicans opened an office earlier this year in the historical Bronzeville neighborhood, it was meant to be a physical symbol of President Trump's commitment to urban voters. Signs on the window declared "Black Voices Matter," and the address was on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

djt hands up mouth open CustomBut on Friday, as state officials began recounting ballots in Milwaukee County at the request of Trump’s failed reelection campaign, the office had become, for many residents, a symbol of Republican hypocrisy.

“The president kept talking about Black voices mattering when he attempted to make inroads with the African American community,” said Cavalier Johnson, president of the Milwaukee Common Council. “Then he loses the election, and turns right around and targets the same communities that these Black folks came from.”

Johnson, who is Black, reflected deepening outrage over the president’s push for a recount, which some characterized as an attempt to disenfranchise Black voters in a desperate and chaotic bid to stay in power. Though Trump courted Black voters — and improved his showing over 2016 — he and his allies are now trying to deny President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in key battleground states by targeting ballots cast in heavily Black cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Milwaukee, arguing that these Democratic strongholds are hotbeds of fraud.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: U.S. Breaks Single-Day Record for New Cases as Number Nears 200,000, Staff reports, Nov. 21, 2020. The U.S. passed 12 covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2million cases and hospitalizations rose beyond 82,000 as the nation reconsiders the usual winter holiday travel.

The United States passed 11 million total coronavirus cases on Sunday, and its caseload has now soared past 12 million. New daily cases are approaching 200,000: on Friday, the country recorded more than 198,500, a record.

As the nation reconsiders the usual winter holiday travel and cozy indoor gatherings, new cases are being reported at an unrelenting clip. The seven-day average has exceeded 100,000 cases a day every day for the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database.

The latest virus surge began accelerating across much of the country in mid-October. It took just over two weeks for the nation to go from eight million cases to nine million on Oct. 30; going from nine to 10 million took only 10 days. From 10 million to 11 million took just under seven days.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 21, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 58,086,967, Deaths: 1,380,721
U.S. Cases:   12,287,642, Deaths:    260,427

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccines are coming. Who should get them first? William Booth, Eva Dou, Robyn Dixon and Luisa Beck, Nov. 21, 2020. Public health officials are hashing out how to prioritize citizens. It is harder than it might seem. A coronavirus vaccine is coming soon. The question now for the world is who will be at the front of the line for an injection.

In the initial months, vaccines will certainly be rationed. Demand will outstrip supply. There will be millions of doses available, not billions.

Health ministries around the globe are just now beginning to create the lists that will prioritize vaccine allocation within their countries. It is harder than it might seem.

Nations need to wrestle with questions of fairness and expediency. They need to determine how to balance saving the lives of the most vulnerable against stopping the spread of the virus against the need to keep essential workers — however they are defined — on the job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19 is still killing racial and ethnic minorities at much higher rates. Many of those deaths are preventable, Dan Keating, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Gabriel Florit and Chris Alcantara, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). While overall fatality rates have plummeted since the spring, experts say many of the deaths in minority communities are preventable.

It’s not just grieving relatives who are demanding answers. Nearly nine months after the virus exploded in the United States, and amid big treatment strides, the disease continues to ravage African American and other minority communities with a particular vengeance. Black, Asian, Native American and Hispanic patients still die far more frequently than White patients, even as death rates have plummeted for all races and age groups, according to a Washington Post analysis of records from 5.8 million people who tested positive for the virus from early March through mid-October.

  • Washington Post, Health experts dispute conservatives’ claim that new study finds masks are ineffective, Meryl Kornfield, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Pfizer applies for emergency vaccine approval as U.S. cases reach new high, Staff report, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Pfizer and pfizer logoits German partner BioNTech on Friday became the first companies to seek emergency authorization for a coronavirus vaccine in the United States, a landmark moment and a signal that a powerful tool to help control the pandemic could begin to be available by late December.

Conditions around the country remain dire: The United States reported a record high of more than 196,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday and is likely to cross 12 million cases nationwide on Saturday, six days after surpassing 11 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, Homicides skyrocket across U.S. during pandemic, while robberies and rapes plummet, Tom Jackman, Nov. 21, 2020. Police say protests, covid-related budget cuts forced them to move officers away from proactive crime fighting.

Homicides across America rose more than 28 percent in the first nine months of this year, and aggravated assaults increased nine percent, while rapes and robberies saw significant drops compared to the same period last year, according to statistics compiled this month from 223 police agencies by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Some police commanders say the twin impacts of the coronavirus and civil uprisings against police violence caused them to redirect their officers away from proactive anti-crime programs, whether due to virus-related budget cuts or strategic redeployment of forces to handle the unrest. Other officials point to job loss and other stresses of the pandemic as fueling tension and leading to violence. And with many schools shuttered, police say, many areas have seen a rise in violence involving juveniles.

washington post logoWashington Post, Donald Trump Jr., president’s son, tests positive for coronavirus, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a spokesman. The spokesman said the younger Trump tested positive earlier this week and has been since isolating.

washington post logoWashington Post, Virtual Group of 20 summit opens in Saudi Arabia with pandemic casting economic shadows, Miriam Berger, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The head of the European Commission expressed hope that President-elect Joe Biden would rebuild U.S. ties with the world.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, As Trump Fights to Reverse Election, Business and World Leaders Move On, Michael D. Shear, David Gelles, Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Inside the White House, the 2020 election rages on, with President Trump angrily refusing to concede. But the rest of the world is pushing ahead. The vast machinery of diplomacy, business and lobbying is recalibrating for the Biden era. And President-elect Joe Biden is seizing the moment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: President Trump’s legal team is setting a precedent for lowering the bar, Mark Leibovich, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his lawyers are engaged in a spectacle that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous, and if the stakes weren’t so high

washington post logoWashington Post, Most Senate Republicans greet Trump’s push to overturn election with usual response: Silence, Paul Kane, Mike DeBonis, Paulina Firozi and Rachael Bade, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Three Republican senators criticized President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. The others responded with what has become their go-to reaction — nothing.

republican elephant logoTheir response, or lack of it, served to harden one of the party’s legacies of the Trump years: its complicit silence, which has not only made GOP lawmakers appear subservient to the president but has contributed to a notable shift in the party toward conspiracy theories and away from facts.

Only this time, their collective refusal to speak up comes at an unusually perilous moment for American democracy — as a president takes the unprecedented step of wielding the powers of his office to try to subvert the will of the voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s lawyers have lots of affidavits. That doesn’t mean as much as it seems, Aaron Blake, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). At their news conference Thursday, President Trump’s lawyers implored reporters to take their thus-far-baseless allegations of massive voter fraud more seriously. And in the course of doing so, they repeatedly referred to the hundreds of affidavits they had assembled as genuine evidence of fraud.

“It’s your job to read these things and not falsely report that there’s no evidence,” said Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

But how much weight do these affidavits carry? And what is their true reliability?

The Trump campaign has repeatedly cited the hundreds of sworn affidavits it has assembled. It has even shown stacks of them to illustrate the supposed heft of its legal case. Many of them are not available because they haven’t been filed in actual lawsuits or made available publicly. (Giuliani cited the alleged targeting of their authors for keeping them obscured.)

But among the witnesses who have had their allegations aired in court, many have been dismissed by judges as inadmissible or not credible. One particularly high-profile one alleged many precincts in Michigan had more votes than actual voters, but shortly after Giuliani et al. raised the issue Thursday — alongside their pleas to take the affidavits seriously — it fell apart.

  • Washington Post, Michigan’s attorney general is considering criminal probes of state and local officials who bend to Trump’s will on overturning election results, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.).
  • djt looking up

Palmer Report, Opinion: What Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon are really up to, Bill Palmer, Nov. 21, 2020. By all accounts, Donald Trump’s effort to “contest” the election is being run by Rudy Giuliani on the front end and Steve Bannon on the back end. It’s not a coincidence that these two guys are leading the last ditch charge on this. Bannon has been arrested and is awaiting trial. CNN reported last night that the FBI is targeting Giuliani.

bill palmer report logo headerBannon and Giuliani are both desperate for Trump to pardon them on his way out the door, and they’re both willing to humiliate themselves just to buy Trump a bit more time so he can keep up the ruse that he’s contesting the election and keep fundraising on it. If Trump thought he could actually somehow overturn the election, he’d have picked competent villains. Instead he picked these two stooges for their willingness to take pies to the face as a distraction while he makes one last cash grab.

Remember not too long ago when Donald Trump Jr. said coronavirus was over? Now he has coronavirus. It’s a reminder that you can’t make yourself immune to a pandemic just by calling it a hoax. Though in Junior’s case, he’s so lost in a haze of tinfoil hat conspiracy theories, he probably still thinks it’s a hoax even now that he has it.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Founders didn’t prepare for a president who refuses to step down, historians say, Gillian Brockell, Nov. 21, 2020. While President Trump continues to deny the results of the election, scholars warn there is nothing in the Constitution about what to do if he refuses to leave office. The framers never envisioned such a crisis.

President Trump continued Friday to deny the results of the election, pressuring state officials in Michigan and Georgia to overturn the will of voters, and increasing fears that he might refuse to cede power to President-elect Joe Biden.

But those looking to the nation’s Founders, or the Constitution they framed, for answers to such a crisis will come up empty-handed. There is nothing in the Constitution about what to do if a president refuses to step down when his term expires, according to three historians and a constitutional law professor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reverend who led Halloween march to the polls in North Carolina charged with felony assault, Barry Yeoman, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Law enforcement agencies used pepper spray to break up the peaceful march. The reverend's attorneys say the felony charges were designed to silence him.

The 400 peaceful marchers, including children, led by the Greensboro minister, left a Black church in Graham and headed toward an early voting site. Along the way, they stopped near the Confederate monument that fronts the Alamance County courthouse for a vigil honoring George Floyd and a permitted rally. Deputy sheriffs and Graham police broke up the rally with pepper spray, saying it was impeding traffic and using an unauthorized gas-powered generator. Several children vomited while fleeing the chemical irritant, witnesses say. And one woman told The Washington Post that she had a convulsion in her mobility scooter, which was recorded on several videos.

 

Inside DC

michael pack

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge halts efforts by Trump appointee to reshape Voice of America and related agencies, Paul Farhi, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Pack (shown above in a file photo) took over VOA’s parent agency in June and immediately set about firing senior leaders and disbanding oversight boards.

A federal judge issued a series of preliminary injunctions against a Trump appointee who has enacted sweeping and controversial changes at Voice of America and other government-funded news networks, effectively stopping the appointee’s efforts to reshape the international broadcasters.

beryl howellThe ruling late Friday by Judge Beryl A. Howell, right, in district court in Washington was a setback for Michael Pack, who in June took over Voice of America’s parent agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), and immediately set about firing senior leaders and disbanding oversight boards.

Pack had asserted the right to direct how journalists at VOA and sister networks such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia covered the news, a violation of the traditional “firewall” that ensures the networks aren’t government mouthpieces. Pack’s declaration was viewed by journalists at the networks as both alarming and ironic, given that their broadcasts — which are intended to counter foreign government’s official censorship and propaganda — would themselves be subjected to potential censorship by a political appointee of the U.S. government.

Pack’s actions and statements — including evidence-free suggestions that VOA was a nest of foreign spies — raised concerns that Pack was seeking to create news favorable to President Trump, his political patron.

Howell’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed last month by five senior executives at USAGM whom Pack had fired or suspended in August in what was seen as a purge of those opposed to Pack’s plans. The former employees sought to stop Pack from interfering in the editorial affairs of the broadcasters his agency oversees.

World Crisis Radio, Scoundrel Time! Opinion: Autogolpe [a leader's illegal coup against his own government ) Loses Some Momentum, but MAGA Fanatics Keep Trying, Webster G. webster tarpley 2007Tarpley, right, Nov. 21, 2020. Georgia Finally Certified for Biden with 16 Electoral Votes, but Fraudster Gov. Kemp is still Seeking to Filch Them; Michigan State Reps Visit Trump, and Do Not Openly Embrace His Coup Plan; Monday’s Meeting of State Canvassing Board in Lansing is Next Crucial Moment; Michigan AG Eyes Charges for Attempted Election Subversion.

US Government Faces Possible Government Shutdown and More Chaos on Dec. 11, with Moscow Mitch Once More the Culprit; Meadows Won’t Guarantee that Closure Can Be Averted; First-Time Jobless Claims Rise to 742,000, Still Depression Levels.

djt maga hatChristmas Cliff Looms for Sick and Needy, as Mnuchin Proclaims the End of Emergency Spending while Pandemic Rockets Ahead; Even Federal Reserve Wants to Spend More; No More Help for Self-Employed, Gig Workers; No More 13-Week Extension of Jobless Benefits; Eviction Freeze, Student Loan Forbearance, and Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts All Ending; Trump Gang from Super-Spreaders to Super-Scrooges.

Pompeo Meets Taliban to Press for Less Afghan Violence at Appeasement Talks in Qatar Just After 8 Die in Kabul Mortar Attacks; European Leaders in US-Led Coalition Warn that Trump’s Plan to Run for the Exits is Fraught with Peril.

The Lazy Putschist: Trump Flees Pandemic Discussion at Virtual G-20 Conference to Goof Off on Golf Links while Nation Suffers; This Negates His Oath to Promote the General Welfare and Should Force Him Out of Office; Show Him the American People Are More Teed Off than He Is! Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials – Still Applicable Today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shutdown deadline nears as White House, Congress tangle over VA funding, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Nov. 21, 2020. The Trump administration has new demands that threaten to sink a must-pass government spending bill. Negotiators must resolve differences by Dec. 11 or a government shutdown will begin.

The Trump administration is injecting new demands into congressional negotiations over a government spending bill that threaten to sink the must-pass package, people familiar with the discussions said.

The disagreement concerns how to classify $12.5 billion in cost increases in veterans’ health care, expenses that are part of sweeping veterans’ care changes signed into law by President Trump in 2018 with much fanfare.

The impasse could complicate the ongoing negotiations over legislation to fund the government, which if not resolved would lead the federal government to shutdown on Dec. 11 in the middle of the pandemic — a dangerous scenario lawmakers are working to avoid.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who can start transition, is in no hurry as Democrats fume, Lisa Rein, Jonathan O'Connell, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Heads of state are congratulating Joe Biden. President Trump’s national security adviser has promised the Democrat a “very professional transition.” The Georgia recount has kept the state in Biden’s column — and Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the election results are crumbling.

Yet more than two weeks after Election Day, the Trump appointee who officially acknowledges the next president — and starts the transition to a new administration — is marking time and in no hurry to make a decision, despite facing intense pressure as her boss works to subvert the election.

Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, has refused to declare Biden the “apparent” winner, as the law requires for the transition to begin. And she still has not determined when she will, her aides and associates say, leaving the changeover in a vacuum that threatens essential functions of government.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Jonathan Pollard, Convicted Spy, Completes Parole and May Move to Israel, Julian E. Barnes,  Nov. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The former Navy intelligence analyst served 30 years in prison for stealing American secrets during the Cold War.

Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel in one of the most notorious espionage cases of the late Cold War, completed his parole on Friday, the Justice Department said, freeing him to go to Israel as he has said he intends to do.

The Justice Department’s decision to let his parole restrictions expire may be one of the final gifts from the Trump administration to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Mr. Pollard’s case had long been an irritant in the relations between the two countries, and both sides at times had used him as a diplomatic bargaining chip.

jonathan pollardA U.S. Navy intelligence analyst [shown in a file photo at right], Mr. Pollard gave a range of classified documents to Israel starting in 1984. His disclosures exposed the abilities of the American spy agencies, potentially damaged intelligence collection efforts and risked exposing secrets, C.I.A. and Defense Department officials said in classified documents prepared after his arrest. He was arrested in 1985, and was convicted and served 30 years in prison before being released in 2015.

American national security officials had long objected to any easing of Mr. Pollard’s punishment, highlighting the damage Mr. Pollard did to American intelligence collection. But objections from intelligence officers have largely become muted, with some acknowledging that Mr. Pollard has both served his time and fulfilled his parole obligations.

The United States Parole Commission, the arm of the Justice Department that supervises the releases of federal prisoners, decided Friday not to extend the travel restrictions it had placed on Mr. Pollard when he was released from a federal prison five years ago.

“After a review of Mr. Pollard’s case, the U.S. Parole Commission has found that there is no evidence to conclude that he is likely to violate the law,” said Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. “Thus, in accordance with the statute, the commission has ordered that, as of today, his parole supervision is terminated and he is no longer subject to the conditions of parole.”

Mr. Pollard, now 66, was given Israeli citizenship in 1995 and has said he would move there if allowed. His lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said in a statement that he was free now to travel to Israel and that they looked forward to seeing him there, though they did not say when he would go.

Mr. Pollard, who is in ill health, wants to live out his life and be buried in Israel, said Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School who has advocated on behalf of Mr. Pollard.

“He would love to go to Israel; that’s been his dream, his wish, his hope,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “That would be good for Israel, it would be good for America, it would be good for the rule of law, so I hope it will happen.”

In Israel, Mr. Pollard still is viewed as a hero, who sacrificed much for the country’s security. But even if time has blunted the outrage, the American government continues to view him as a traitor who did huge amounts of damage.

 

Nov. 20

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 U.S. Elections, Politics

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

JFK Killing Anniversary / National Security

 

Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Universiity 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, Nov. 20, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 354,530 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump uses power of presidency to try to overturn the election, Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The president is orchestrating a far-reaching pressure campaign to persuade Republican officials in Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere to overturn the will of voters, who chose President-elect Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia secretary of state certifies results, including Biden as the winner of presidential vote, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Nov. 20, 2020. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), right, announced Friday that President-elect Joe Biden had won the state by more brad raffenspergerthan 12,000 votes after a hand count of all 5 million ballots. The certified results will be submitted to Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who has until Saturday afternoon to accept them.

President-elect Joe Biden convened Friday with the two top Democrats in Congress as he continues his transition to the White House, even as President Trump presses ahead with a bid to reverse the election results. Trump met with state Republican leaders from Michigan at the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Attempts to Overturn Election Are Unparalleled in U.S. History, David E. Sanger, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s push to prevent states from certifying electors and get legislators to override voters’ will is an audacious use of brute political force.

american flag upside down distressMr. Trump’s chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by nearly six million popular votes and counting, as well as a clear Electoral College margin. Yet the fact that Mr. Trump is even trying has set off widespread alarms, not least in Mr. Biden’s camp.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Trump Meeting, Michigan Lawmakers Say They’ll Honor State’s Vote, Kathleen Gray and Maggie Haberman, Nov. 20, 2020. A group of Michigan Republicans, after a meeting at the White House, said they would honor the count showing President-elect Joe Biden had won their state. Other political news: Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tested positive for the coronavirus and has been isolating since Monday. Here’s the latest.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Michigan’s Republican legislators publicly reject Donald Trump’s conspiracies after meeting with him, Bill Palmer, Nov. 20, 2020. Remember when Palmer Report told you that Donald Trump’s meeting with Michigan’s Republican legislators wasn’t going to add up to anything? Sure enough, the Michigan Republicans just issued this statement, per CNN:

“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as leg leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”

In other words, it was a whole lot of nothing. They took the meeting because Trump asked them to, but they’re not stupid enough to risk getting themselves criminally charged by illegally giving Biden’s electoral votes to Trump – particularly considering the courts would immediately strike such nonsense anyway. Now they’re announcing that the “evidence” Trump showed them today wasn’t anything.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump and Giuliani are the Republican Party, Jennifer Rubin, Nov,. 20, 2020. Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sidney Powell and other members of President Trump’s legal team, in spouting their bizarre, incoherent conspiracy theories about voter fraud, have made clear they want to overturn the election in large part by excluding ballots from Black voters. Without Wayne County, Mich., which is heavily African American, Giuliani declared on Thursday, Trump could have won the state — as if the 15th Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were nonexistent.

Giuliani’s news conference meandered from debunked claims about Dominion Voting Systems to a scheme somehow involving Hugo Chávez (dead since 2013). The event had virtually nothing to do with post-election lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign, of which Trump has so far lost 32 (in many, campaign officials — including Giuliani — have admitted there was no fraud).

Let us not dwell on the details. Or on the shamefulness of state bar authorities in failing to sanction such unprofessional conduct. Or on Giuliani’s hair dye that ran down from each sideburn. What is clear is that this is the level of sheer insanity and irrational propaganda that passes for Republican “thinking.” Plainly, Giuliani is representing the president’s views, and because the vast majority of Republicans say Trump should be allowed to exhaust his legal claims, his performance has, in effect, been endorsed by Republican House and Senate leadership, much of right-wing media and the Republican National Committee.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Republicans Supporting Trump, Remember: Lies Have a Long Half-Life, Editorial Board, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s actions are disgraceful and damaging to our democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Trump is past exploring legal options. He’s using lies and chicanery to try to undo his defeat, Editorial Board, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Day by day, President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair election grow more brazen. Day by day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other so-called leaders of the Republican Party grow more complicit in this banana-republic style assault on democracy.

As one Trump court challenge after another fails, it is easy to dismiss his claims that the election was “stolen” as nothing but a public relations stunt. Not a harmless stunt, to be sure; he is guaranteeing that millions of Americans will see President-elect Joe Biden as less than legitimate and their own democratic system as corrupt. But a stunt, nonetheless. Watching the latest ravings of campaign lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who on Thursday posited with no evidence whatsoever a series of increasingly wild conspiracy theories, it was possible to feel any number of emotions: pity, fury, astonishment. But nothing in his unhinged performance would lead a serious person to fear that the election results were in danger of being voided in court.

But it is a different matter entirely when the president intervenes directly in an effort to persuade state officials to overturn the voting results. This is what Mr. Trump is now doing. Having lost an election by a decisive margin, and then having lost one legal challenge to that result after another, he is now strong-arming local Republicans to simply ignore and override the results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden paints Trump as reckless as Pence and science advisers cheer vaccine news, Anne Gearan and Seung Min Kim, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). At dueling public events, the president-elect and the White House offered starkly different views of Trump’s pandemic response.

President Trump will be remembered as one of the nation's most reckless leaders for holding up cooperation on the deadly coronavirus pandemic after losing his bid for reelection, President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday.

At the White House, Vice President Pence tried to apply a veneer of calm to a tumultuous outgoing administration as he and federal health officials held what has become a rare public discussion of the federal government’s efforts to address the pandemic.

In Wilmington and in Washington on Thursday, the two events provided a split screen of sorts illuminating the challenges confronting the incoming administration on the most immediate crisis it faces. The events also showed the extent to which the Trump administration is ignoring the reality that in just two months there will be a change of power at the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden brushes aside Trump attempts to overturn the election, confident his win will stand, Michael Scherer and Matt Viser, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden tried Thursday to minimize as an irresponsible distraction the ever-escalating attempts by President Trump and his allies to undermine or overturn the presidential election results.

djt biden resized smilesThe decision reflected confidence among Biden’s advisers that Trump’s maneuverings — from pushing Michigan Republicans to block certification of the results to unfounded claims that U.S. voting machine software had been tampered with by allies of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez — were little more than public spectacle aimed at satisfying Trump’s sense of grievance with no chance of overturning the vote.

“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks. It’s hard to fathom,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del. “I am confident he knows he hasn’t won and he’s not going to be able to win, and we’re going to be sworn in on Jan. 20.”

Biden said he did not plan any new legal moves in response to Trump’s latest efforts, but also did not rule out taking action against the General Services Administration at a future date to force a belated recognition of his presidential transition. The GSA, following Trump’s dictate, has refused to allow the traditional exchange of information with the incoming administration, even blocking intelligence and pandemic briefings.

“Hang on. I’m on my way,” Biden said, after being asked what he would tell people concerned by Trump’s efforts to question the results. “That’s what I say to them. Not a joke.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Timeline of the Certification Process That Trump Is Trying to Disrupt, Maggie Astor, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Despite Republican efforts to undermine the process, state officials say they fully expect to meet their upcoming deadlines.

President Donald Trump officialAs President Trump and his Republican allies continue trying to undermine the election, the certification of the vote totals in each state is the next major step in formalizing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory; Election workers recounted ballots in Atlanta last week. The deadline for Georgia to certify its election results is Friday at 5 p.m.

A key part of the G.O.P. strategy has been to delay certification processes in battleground states that Mr. Biden won, in the hopes that, if state officials miss their deadlines, legislators will subvert the popular vote and appoint pro-Trump slates to the Electoral College. But that’s extremely unlikely to happen.

Here’s a breakdown of the certification deadlines and other key dates in battleground states, and what will happen between now and Inauguration Day.

Friday, Nov. 20: Georgia

There is a 5 p.m. Friday deadline for officials to certify election results in Georgia, which Mr. Biden won in a rare Democratic victory in the Deep South that has left Republicans deeply frustrated.

The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said the state will meet the Friday deadline despite having conducted a time-consuming hand recount of the five million ballots cast there.

Mr. Raffensperger is responsible for certifying the results, and he has fiercely defended the state’s electoral process against attacks from Mr. Trump. And on Thursday, a federal judge in Georgia — Steven Grimberg, whom Mr. Trump appointed — rejected a request to block certification.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani made accusations of fraud that the Trump team has failed to support in court, Alan Feuer and Linda Qiu, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). At a rambling news conference on Thursday, Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, mixed misleading statements, wild conspiracy theories and outright fabrications as he attempted to suggest that Mr. Trump still had a viable pathway to winning the election.

rudy giuliani recentOver and over again, Mr. Giuliani and other members of the president’s legal team suggested that Mr. Trump had evidence to prove that “massive fraud” had been committed in swing states across the country. But Mr. Giuliani himself had undercut that accusation in one high-profile case, telling the federal judge overseeing a suit in Pennsylvania, “This is not a fraud case.”

Mr. Giuliani, speaking at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, claimed that Mr. Trump would prevail in the election if only he could get his day in front of a judge.

“Give us a chance to prove it in court and we will,” he said.

The problem? In many of the instances that Mr. Giuliani mentioned, the Trump campaign has already had its chance in court — and failed.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Explosive Growth of Virus Is Recorded Across U.S., Staff reports, Nov. 20, 2020. The country is nearing 200,000 new cases a day. Deaths are covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2rising steadily and hospitals are struggling to cope. The C.D.C. urged Americans to rethink Thanksgiving plans.

California announced a curfew. Pfizer said it would apply today for emergency authorization of its vaccine. Senator Rick Scott of Florida is the latest member of Congress to test positive. With federal assistance programs in doubt, millions of Americans face financial hardship. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: U.S. Passes 250,000 Deaths, With Government in Disarray, Staff reports, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Experts predict that the country could soon be reporting 2,000 deaths a day or more, matching or exceeding the spring peak, and that 100,000 to 200,000 more Americans could die in the coming months. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the nation needed “a uniform approach” to fend off the onslaught. But there has been a notable lack of national direction.

Just how bad it gets will depend on a variety of factors, including how well preventive measures are followed and when a vaccine is introduced.

“It all depends on what we do and how we address this outbreak,” said Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University professor of environmental health sciences who has modeled the spread of the disease. “That is going to determine how much it runs through us.”

Back in March, when the virus was still relatively new and limited mainly to a few significant pockets like New York, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, predicted that it might kill up to 240,000 Americans.

It has now passed that mark, with no end in sight.

Since the very beginning, preventive measures like wearing masks have been caught up in a political divide, and that remains the case today, as the Trump administration resists beginning a transition of power to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and cooperating on a pandemic strategy.

New vaccines may begin to have an impact next year, experts said, and for now, developments in treating the disease as well as a younger population getting infected mean that far fewer people who are admitted to hospitals are dying. Infections are also being diagnosed earlier, which helps combat it.

The deadliest day of the pandemic in the United States was April 15, when the reported daily toll hit 2,752.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 20, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 57,407,792, Deaths: 1,368,818
U.S. Cases:   12,076,061, Deaths:    258,413

washington post logoWashington Post, Pfizer, BioNTech say they will file today for emergency clearance of their vaccine, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 20, 2020. The companies announced plans to file for regulatory clearance, a signal that a powerful tool to help control the pandemic could begin to be available within weeks.

pfizer logoThe U.S. race to develop a vaccine has set scientific speed records since it launched in January, and the submission of a first application to regulators cements that. The filing is a significant step in the effort to develop a vaccine and will move the race to its next, deliberative phase — a weeks-long process in which career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration scrutinize the data and determine if the vaccine is safe and effective to be used in a broad population.

Only after the agency has given the green light will a first, limited group of high-risk people be able to access the shots. Government officials anticipate having enough vaccine to inoculate about 20 million people with the two-dose regimen in the U.S. in December, between Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine and a second shot likely to be considered for emergency authorization soon, from biotechnology company Moderna. The United States will receive about half of the 50 million doses Pfizer is aiming to produce by the end of the year.

There will probably be enough vaccine for 25 million to 30 million people a month in early 2021, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government initiative to speed up vaccine development.

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Urges Americans to Avoid Thanksgiving Travel, Staff reports, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should consider canceling plans with relatives outside their households as virus cases rise. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the nation needed “a uniform approach” to fend off the onslaught. But there has been a notable lack of national direction. The spread of the virus in Europe appears to be slowing, a World Health Organization official said. Here’s the latest.

cdc logo CustomAs the United States struggles with surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday urged Americans not to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday and to consider canceling plans to spend time with relatives outside their households.

Officials said they were strengthening their recommendations against travel because of a startling surge in infections in just the past week. As of Wednesday, the seven-day average of new cases across the country had surpassed more than 162,000 new cases.

The agency’s overriding concern is that the holidays may accelerate the spread of the virus, C.D.C. officials said. Older family members are at great risk for complications and death should they contract the virus.

New concerns about the virus have been reflected in air travel plans. United Airlines said recently that it expected Thanksgiving week to be its busiest period since the pandemic’s onset, but on Thursday it reported that bookings had slowed and cancellations had risen in recent days. American Airlines has slashed December flights between the United States and Europe as cases rise sharply on both sides of the Atlantic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jobless claims rise as shutdowns spread, Eli Rosenberg, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The claims have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000, from 1982, for 35 weeks.

The number of new unemployment claims rose last week to 742,000, an increase of 31,000 from the previous week, as rising coronavirus cases have spurred a new wave of restrictions and closures begin to weigh on parts of the economy. Since Oct. 10, weekly jobless claims have been slowly trending downward or remaining flat, according to Labor Department data.

An additional 320,000 claims were processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for gig and self-employed workers. About 20.3 million people are still claiming some form of unemployment insurance. The number of new claims has fallen from peaks in the spring but remains historically high. Claims have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000, from 1982, for 35 weeks, although questions about backlogs, fraud and duplicate claims have complicated the data.

Economists say they are concerned about the continued high level of job losses more than eight months into the pandemic, as the virus surges anew. “This is the beginning of the darkest part,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “We’re going to see continued high unemployment claims."

washington post logosteven mnuchin wWashington Post, Mnuchin cuts off Fed’s emergency aid programs, sparking rare rebuke, Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The Federal Reserve criticized the move, citing the fragile recovery. The statement by the central bank reflects a government divided on how to respond as the pandemic surges, threatening a new wave of shutdowns. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Making the Most of the Coming Biden Boom, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The economic outlook is probably paul krugmanbrighter than you think. The next few months are going to be incredibly grim. But a vaccine is coming. And it’s also a good bet that when we do the economy will come roaring back.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Election Live Updates: ‘Numbers Don’t Lie,’ Says Official Who Will Certify Biden’s Georgia Win, Staff reports, Nov. 20, 2020. Georgia’s secretary of state will declare President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the state’s 16 electoral votes; The certification will deal a blow to President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results; Senator Lamar Alexander became the most senior Republican to directly call on President Trump to begin the transition process. Mr. Biden will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer today. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, A hand recount in Georgia confirmed Joe Biden’s win. These are the areas of the state where the count differed, Josh Holder and Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). On Thursday, Georgia’s 159 counties finalized a hand recount, technically an audit, of the five million ballots cast in the election, reaffirming Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory but reducing his lead by more than 1,200 votes.

brad raffenspergerGeorgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, right, a Republican, had ordered the manual audit as part of a new state law to ensure the accuracy of voting machines by comparing paper ballot counts with machine tallies. This was not an official recount, though the Trump campaign can choose to request one after the state’s results are certified this week, as the vote margin between Mr. Biden and President Trump is below 0.5 percentage points.

In many counties, officials conducting the audit found zero or single-digit differences in their counts, and they will not change their original results for the state certification process. Yet at least four counties — Douglas, Fayette, Floyd and Walton — discovered missed ballots and will add these to their original counts.

Despite the errors in these four counties, election officials have said that there are no signs of voter fraud and that the new system is working as intended.

“These people are operating in it under the highest level of stress, in the most contentious election in their work life in the United States and in Georgia. So for the most part they are doing a really good job on this,” said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s statewide voting system implementation manager.

Bradblog, Investigative Commentary: Team Trump Bastardizes 2010 BRAD BLOG Exclu to Declare Their 'Dominion Voting CONSPIRACY!', Brad Friedman, Nov. 20, 2020. What they get right (hardly anything) and wrong (almost all of it); Also: GW Univ. Law Prof. Randall D. Eliason on pressure brought against high profile legal firms representing Trump's phony 'voter fraud' claims.

Join us on today's BradCast for a deep dive down into the twisted rabbit hole of Team Trump's recently manufactured claims that Canadian election vendor Dominion Voting Systems and its Venezuelan-tied competitor Smartmatic secretly joined forces as part of an enormous international conspiracy (also involving the late Hugo Chavez) to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump on behalf of Joe Biden and the Democrats. We happen to know a bit about these claims, as they are directly based on one (or more) of my own exclusive investigate reports from a decade ago. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

As it turns out, The BRAD BLOG is actually responsible for the original kernel of truth that has become the pretend conspiracy now being used as the basis for Trump's attempt to reverse the results of the 2020 election. These are the claims now being shared by Trump's attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, not to mention by Trump himself.

The initial story is based on a deeply reported, well-evidenced and independently verifiable 2010 investigative exclusive of mine (also republished by HuffPo) that Republicans, over the past week or so, have been citing as the basis for their so-far evidence-free claims that Democrats teamed up with Dominion, Smartmatic --- and also China and Cuba somehow --- to commit "nationwide voter fraud" via computers (computers don't commit voter fraud, voters do) to flip the results of the election. They claim this proves that Donald Trump actually won the election in a landslide --- though, as even Tucker Carlson of Fox "News" found out, they have no actual evidence to back any of it up.

We share their actual claims, the original basis for them (which they have absurdly bastardized to the point that it is barely recognizable) and how others in the party, like Arizona State GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, have run with the ball to misrepresent facts and manufacture claims in her scary scary new video titled "DOMINION EXPOSED! This Video Should Terrify Every Single American".

We explain what all of these folks got right (almost nothing) and wrong (pretty much all of it...though Chavez is tied in to the story --- or was before he died seven years ago), and what the top two real takeaways should be for both parties and all American voters now that the GOP has finally decided to become concerned --- or, at least, pretend to be --- about the dangers of electronic voting and tabulation systems:

Simply because a computerized voting and tabulation system is vulnerable to fraud and manipulation does meant that any particular election run on it has been defrauded or manipulated, and;
Even if an election is 100% secure and accurate, if it can't be known by the public to have been 100% secure and accurate, it is every bit as much of a threat to confidence in our democratic system as it would be if the election had actually been stolen on such a system.

The past few days should give you plenty of evidence for that, at least!

There are too many details beyond that to include in a summary, so I hope you'll just buckle up and tune in for the full rollicking story today on this one!

But, one other point worth noting here. While we've been reporting on all of these facts --- with independently verifiable evidence --- for nearly two decades now, it is for the above reasons that we have been inviting Republicans of late to put their money where there mouths are. If they are actually concerned about easily manipulated elections by Dominion (or any other computer vote system vendor), then join us in demanding the use of only hand-marked paper ballots for Georgia's upcoming critical U.S. Senate runoffs in January (which will determine partisan control of the U.S. Senate). Those ballots should then be publicly hand-counted on Election Night. It's just two races with two candidates each, so it's very easy to count publicly in a single night, and it would result in Dominion being tossed out of elections entirely in the state of Georgia! How about it Repubs? You in? I'll even drive out to Phoenix to make a new video about it with Kelli Ward if she joins the call. Why wouldn't she?

Then, we're joined today by George Washington University Law School professor and Washington Post contributor RANDALL D. ELIASON, for his explanation as to why he believes it is appropriate to bring public pressure against high-profile law firms representing Trump in his evidence-free "voter fraud" cases, but not against attorneys and firms who choose to represent other despicable individuals like terrorists, child molesters and the KKK. That, after top national law firms recently withdrew from Trump's fraudulent "fraud" cases following public opprobrium encouraged by the anti-Trump Republicans of the Lincoln Project.

Also today: The latest news from Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan in Trump's attempted coup; the one Republican Senator who is finally calling it out; and the news that Florida's Republican Senator Rick Scott and Donald Trump Jr., have now both tested positive for the coronavirus...

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: No, judges don’t overturn elections because of isolated irregularities, Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s approach to challenging the election has been scattershot and contradictory, as his campaign demands that courts stop ballots from being counted in certain places while insisting that a more thorough review is necessary in other places.

Confusing as it may seem, essentially his goal is this: to get judges to invalidate the results in enough counties and states so that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead disappears.

Would judges ever actually do that?

djt pence yard sign logoThey have before, though never on the scale that the president and his legal team is attempting. There are numerous examples going back hundreds of years in the United States when courts have been asked to toss out the results of elections on the local, state and federal levels. Losing candidates have prevailed for a variety of reasons: because the court determined that the count was off, or that inconsistent standards were applied in processing ballots, or even that there was voter fraud.

But these cases are the exception. And election law experts said that judges have set the bar extremely high. It’s not enough to claim — or even prove — that irregularities occurred. The irregularities have to be significant enough to change the outcome of the race, which is extraordinarily rare.

“The prevailing view today is that courts should not invalidate election results because of problems unless it is shown that the problems were of such magnitude to negate the validity of which candidate prevailed,” said Edward B. Foley, director of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. This is inherently difficult to do, he added, given how hard it is to provide evidence that disputed ballots were cast in favor of a particular candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP deserved to lose even worse. Here’s why it didn’t, Michael Gerson, right, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). For the first time in my adult michael gerson file photolife, I publicly endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate. He won in a convincing fashion. But now, my new comrades, after an initial burst of celebration, are in a deep funk.

The reason? While the country shifted away from Trump, it did not turn against the GOP. And the GOP has not turned against Trumpism. To the contrary, the Republican loser has convinced some 70 percent of Republicans that he was cheated out of a victory. Expected Democratic gains in Congress did not materialize. And large increases in Democratic turnout were nearly matched by Trump reinforcements — 10 million more voters than he had in 2016 — that seemed to emerge from thin air.

More than 73 million Americans voted for a presidential candidate excited by exclusion, attracted to authoritarianism and prone to conspiracy theories. Doesn’t that indicate a party driven by prejudice and illiberalism?

It does, in part. Every Republican who did not support Trump because of his bigotry supported him in spite of it. But this is an incomplete picture of our politics: The facts do not refute Republican blame, but they do complicate it.

Complication No. 1: According to the 2020 exit polls, 35 percent of voters said that the economy was their most important issue. Of this group, the overwhelming majority — 83 percent — voted for Trump.

 

Trump Watch

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Trump encouraged full-blown terrorist attacks in multiple states, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 20, 2020. Donald Trump's actions to stir up wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfar-right terrorist militias to launch a full-blown insurrection in Michigan are linked to his current move to de-certify the ballots of largely African-American voters in Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Trump is signalling to his lawless base that he has little time for pillars of democracy like free and fair elections or the rule of law.

Trump's repeated encouragement of neo-Nazi and white supremacist gangs in Michigan ultimately resulted in a detailed terrorist plot by one such militia to burn down the Michigan State House in Lansing and televise the executions of hundreds of state employees, officials, and legislators at the Capitol building or at their homes.

The chilling plans were included in a document recently submitted by Michigan's Attorney General, Dana Nessel, to the Michigan 12th Judicial District Court in Jackson County recommending the denial of a pre-trial release for one of the alleged terrorist plotters, Pete Musico. Musico is described in the document as a founding member of the terrorist group, Wolverine Watchmen.

djt oct 7 2020 twitter

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump Tax Write-Offs Are Ensnared in 2 New York Fraud Investigations, Danny Hakim, Mike McIntire, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Inquiries into the president are looking at tax deductions taken on consulting fees. Some of the payments appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump.

Two separate New York State fraud investigations into President Trump and his businesses, one criminal and one civil, have expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The inquiries — a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and a civil one by the state attorney general, Letitia James, below — are letitia james o headshotbeing conducted independently. But both offices issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization in recent weeks for records related to the fees, the people said.

The subpoenas were the latest steps in the two investigations of the Trump Organization, and underscore the legal challenges awaiting the president when he leaves office in January. There is no indication that his daughter is a focus of either inquiry, which the Trump Organization has derided as politically motivated.

The development follows a recent New York Times examination of more than two decades of Mr. Trump’s tax records, which found that he had paid little or no federal income taxes in most years, largely because of his chronic business losses.

donald trump money palmer report CustomAmong the revelations was that Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by deducting about $26 million in fees to unidentified consultants as a business expense on numerous projects between 2010 and 2018.

Some of those fees appear to have been paid to Ms. Trump, The Times found. On a 2017 disclosure she filed when joining the White House as a presidential adviser, she reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Rudy Giuliani’s post-election meltdown starts to become literal, Dan Zak and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). During a sweaty news conference, an unmasked Giuliani and four maskless colleagues — “an elite strike force team,” according to senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis — spun a confusing web of conspiracies trying to indicate President Trump won the election that he lost. If Rudy is deteriorating, then so is anyone who listens to him. For 90 minutes, an unmasked Rudy and four maskless colleagues — “an elite strike force team,” according to senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis — spun a confusing web of conspiracies that indicate Trump won the election that he lost. A revolution, they said, was at hand.

It’s very simple, according to Rudolph W. Giuliani and the rest of President Trump’s legal posse, but also very vast. China is in on it. Cuba is in on it. Antifa and George Soros are in on it. At least two presidents of Venezuela, one dead and one living, are in on it. Big Tech is in on it; a Web server from Germany is involved (there’s always a server involved). Multiple major U.S. cities are in on it, as are decent American citizens who volunteer at polling precincts.

Argentina is in on it, too, sort of. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was in on it back in 1960, when, according to an unproved conspiracy theory, he stole the presidency for John F. Kennedy, thereby launching an ongoing pattern of corrupt cities stuffing or scrapping ballots. The “it” is a massive, premeditated scheme to steal the election from Donald Trump, according to Giuliani, and it also involved corralling poll watchers at great distances from the ballot counting.

Perhaps a cinematic example would help explain.

“Did you all watch ‘My Cousin Vinny?’ You know, the movie?” Giuliani asked Thursday. He was sweating at a lectern in the small lobby of the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill. “It’s one of my favorite law movies, ’cause he comes from Brooklyn.”

About 100 journalists and hangers-on had crammed into this potential coronavirus incubator for a news conference on the perverse legal strategy of President Donald J. Trump’s failed reelection campaign, which Giuliani is trying to hustle toward a twist ending. As the former New York mayor digressed about votes that could’ve been cast by dead people and Mickey Mouse, Trump campaign officials were at their headquarters in nearby Rosslyn, Va., winding down operations and closing out the budget.

Wall Street Journal, Trump Partner Shelves Office Tower Sales Effort That Hoped to Raise $5 Billion, Craig Karmin and Bryan Spegele, Nov. 20, 2020. Sale by Vornado would have given cash windfall to Trump Organization as it faces $400 million in debt coming due.

The Trump family’s partner in two of its most valuable properties halted an effort to sell the buildings, cutting off what could have been a big cash payout for the Trump Organization, which has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due.

 

steve bannon screen shot jan 28 2017

Trump 2016 Campaign CEO Steve Bannon shown in a 2017 screenshot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Steve Bannon and a Chinese Billionaire Created a Right-Wing Media Sensation, Amy Qin, Vivian Wang and Danny Hakim Nov. 20, 2020. Increasingly allied, the American far right and members of the Chinese diaspora gave a researcher a vast audience for peddling unsubstantiated pandemic claims.

Dr. Li-Meng Yan wanted to remain anonymous. It was mid-January, and Dr. Yan, a researcher in Hong Kong, had been hearing rumors about a dangerous new virus in mainland China that the government was playing down. Terrified for her personal safety and career, she reached out to her favorite Chinese YouTube host, known for criticizing the Chinese government.

Within days, the host was telling his 100,000 followers that the coronavirus had been deliberately released by the Chinese Communist Party. He wouldn’t name the whistle-blower, he said, because officials could make the person “disappear.”

By September, Dr. Yan had abandoned caution. She appeared in the United States on Fox News making the unsubstantiated claim to millions that the coronavirus was a bio-weapon manufactured by China.

Overnight, Dr. Yan became a right-wing media sensation, with top advisers to President Trump and conservative pundits hailing her as a hero. Nearly as quickly, her interview was labeled on social media as containing “false information,” while scientists rejected her research as a polemic dressed up in jargon.

Her evolution was the product of a collaboration between two separate but increasingly allied groups that peddle misinformation: a small but active corner of the Chinese diaspora and the highly influential far right in the United States.

Each saw an opportunity in the pandemic to push its agenda. For the diaspora, Dr. Yan and her unfounded claims provided a cudgel for those intent on bringing down China’s government. For American conservatives, they played to rising anti-Chinese sentiment and distracted from the Trump administration’s bungled handling of the outbreak.

Both sides took advantage of the dearth of information coming out of China, where the government has refused to share samples of the virus and has resisted a transparent, independent investigation. Its initial cover-up of the outbreak has further fueled suspicion about the origins of the virus.

An overwhelming body of evidence shows that the virus almost certainly originated in an animal, most likely a bat, before evolving to make the leap into humans. While U.S. intelligence agencies have not ruled out the possibility of a lab leak, they have not found any proof so far to back up that theory.

Dr. Yan’s trajectory was carefully crafted by Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire, and Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to Mr. Trump.

They put Dr. Yan on a plane to the United States, gave her a place to stay, coached her on media appearances and helped her secure interviews with popular conservative television hosts like Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs, who have shows on Fox. They nurtured her seemingly deep belief that the virus was genetically engineered, uncritically embracing what she provided as proof.

The media outlets that cater to the Chinese diaspora — a jumble of independent websites, YouTube channels and Twitter accounts with anti-Beijing leanings — have formed a fast-growing echo chamber for misinformation. With few reliable Chinese-language news sources to fact-check them, rumors can quickly harden into a distorted reality. Increasingly, they are feeding and being fed by far-right American media.

djt virus trump did it Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump must go to prison, Robert Harrington, right, Nov. 20, 2020. In the last 24 hours (as I write this) 2,079 Americans have died of robert harringtnn portraitcoronavirus. The prior 24 hours saw 1,999 Americans die of coronavirus. That’s 4,078 Americans in two days, a staggering figure with no end (until the 20th of January) in sight.

bill palmer report logo headerBut what strikes me about that figure is it’s more than a thousand Benghazis. To revisit, Republicans created a connecting line from four American deaths from a 2012 terrorist attack against two United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to Hillary Clinton. Republican-controlled House committees investigated her (and other members of the Obama administration) for Benghazi no less than six times. Since no investigation turned up anything inculpatory against Secretary Clinton, they settled for converting “Benghazi!” into a one-word excoriation, a battle cry as damning to her as Gallipoli was to Churchill.

All this past counterfeit outrage and pearl-clutching on the part of Republicans over Benghazi is thrown into recent sharp relief by the crickets chirping in the Republican camp at the prospect of thousands of Americans dying every day from coronavirus. This is the legacy of Republican policy. The ultimate consequence of Republican bigoted intolerance and religious hypocrisy is death. And it’s going to get worse if it’s not thoroughly prosecuted.

America failed to prosecute McCarthy. From McCarthy onward the chain of non-prosecutions left behind the certain knowledge that subsequent criminals could always get away with it. And McCarthy begat Nixon who begat Reagan who begat Bush pere who begat Bush fils who begat Trump. The unbroken chain of Republican criminality has now brought us to where it always was going to bring us: genocide.

One impotent catch-phrase that emerged from the impeachment of Donald Trump was, “no one, not even a president, is above the law.” But indeed they are, and we can thank (and blame) a single Department of Justice memo from Nixon-era 1973 for saying as much.

djt prison palmer reportWell it’s time for it to stop. People need to go to prison, and not just minor spear carriers but some of the top people, including the president. Donald Trump must be sent to prison, not only for his financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering, but for his complicity in the deaths of a quarter million Americans. Because if Trump isn’t sent to prison specifically for that crime and similar political crimes the chain of madness will never stop. Republicans will take away from it the lesson that the worst that could happen to them is early retirement.

For Trump, being a one-term loser is going to be more humiliation than he can endure. But he can endure it because he lives in an ocean of lies and denial, and he will go on insisting until the day he dies that he won the election and his victory was stolen from him by Democrats. But prison is impossible to deny. What’s more, it will be impossible for other Republicans to deny. Donald Trump in prison for his political crimes, for his crimes against humanity, will make future Republican criminals think twice about their own criminal activity once it starts to carry the threat of a prison sentence.

Either America is a nation of justice under the law or it’s not. Either no one in America is above the law or some are. You can’t have it both ways. If Trump goes to prison then Americans can at least rationally believe that the ideal of equal justice is achievable. But nothing short of that will make even the possibility of fair justice equally applied a rational goal. Trump must go to prison, because between now and January 20, 2021, as many as 120,000 more Americans will die because of Trump. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court postpones hearing on congressional effort to obtain secret Mueller material, Robert Barnes, Nov. 20, 2020. The Supreme Court on Friday postponed a planned hearing into whether House Democrats may see secret grand jury material from Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and it is unclear whether the case will continue.

The justices were scheduled to hear arguments in the case Dec. 2. But earlier this week the House Judiciary Committee said that the elections have changed the status of the case such that it would be best not to proceed.

Justice Department log circular“A new Congress will convene in the first week of January 2021, and President-elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021,” House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter wrote. “Once those events occur, the newly constituted committee will have to determine whether it wishes to continue pursuing the application for the grand-jury materials that gave rise to this case.”

The Justice Department asked the court to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that said the congressional committee was entitled to see the documents.

The secret sections of the special counsel’s report that the House wants to access are separate from the material the Justice Department released detailing some of the evidence aired at the trial of Trump associate Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress.

In its 2-to-1 opinion, the D.C. Circuit said the House was legally engaged in the kind of judicial process that exempts Congress from secrecy rules typically shielding grand jury materials.

 

JFK Killing Anniversary / National Security

jfk limo dallas 31kb

President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and Texas Governor John Connolly, at left in their front, are shown in a presidential limo on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas shortly before JFK was fatally shot and Connolly wounded.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Analysis: The Cunning Plot to Kill Kennedy, Jacob Hornberger, right, Nov. 20, 2020. If anyone murders a federal official, you can be assured jacob hornberger newof one thing: the feds will do everything they can to ensure that everyone involved in the crime is brought to justice. It's like when someone kills a cop. The entire police force mobilizes to capture, arrest, and prosecute everyone involved in killing the cop. The phenomenon is even more pronounced at the federal level, especially given the overwhelming power of the federal government

Yet, the exact opposite occurred in the Kennedy assassination. The entire effort immediately became to pin the crime solely on a "communist" ex-U.S. Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald and to shut down any aggressive investigation into whether others were involved in the crime.

What's up with that? That's not the way we would expect federal officials to handle the assassination of any federal official, especially the president of the United States. We would expect them to do everything -- even torture a suspect -- in order to capture and arrest everyone who may have participated in the crime.

For example, just three days after the assassination and after Oswald himself had been murdered, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach sent out a memo stating, "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."

How in the world could he be so certain that Oswald was the assassin and that he had no confederates? Why would he want to shut down the investigation so soon? Does that sound like a normal federal official who is confronted with the assassination of a president?

The answer to this riddle lies in the brilliantly cunning scheme of the U.S. national-security establishment to ensure that the investigation into Kennedy's assassination would be shut down immediately and, therefore, not lead to the U.S. national-security establishment.

The assassination itself had all the earmarks of a classic military ambush, one in which shooters were firing from both the front and back of the president. It is a virtual certainty that responsibility for the ambush lay with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been waging a vicious war against Kennedy practically since the time he assumed office. (See Future of Freedom Foundations book JFK's War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.)

While the JCS were experts at preparing military-style ambushes, they lacked the intellectual capability of devising the overall plot and cover-up, given its high level of cunning and sophistication. That responsibility undoubtedly lay with the CIA, whose top officials were brilliant graduates of Ivy League Schools. Moreover, practically from its inception the CIA was specializing in the art of state-sponsored assassinations and in how to conceal the CIA's role in them.

To ensure that the role of the Pentagon and the CIA in the Kennedy assassination would be kept secret, they had to figure out a way to shut down the investigation from the start. Their plan worked brilliantly. While the normal thing would have been all-out investigations into the murder, in this particular murder the state of Texas and U.S. officials did the exact opposite. They settled for simply pinning the crime on Oswald, the purported lone nut communist ex-U.S. Marine.

Here is how they pulled it off.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly clear that Oswald was a government operative, most likely for military intelligence or maybe the CIA and the FBI as well. His job was to portray himself as a communist, which would enable him to infiltrate not only domestic communist and socialist organizations but also communist countries, such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.

After all, how many communist Marines have you ever heard of? The Marines would be a good place to recruit people for intelligence roles. Oswald learned fluent Russian while in the military. How does an enlisted man do that, without the assistance of the military's language schools? When he returned from the Soviet Union after supposedly trying to defect and after promising that he was going to give up secret information he had acquired in the military, no federal grand jury or congressional investigation was launched into his conduct, even though this was the height of the Cold War.

Thus, Oswald would make the perfect patsy. He could be stationed wherever his superiors instructed. And he would have all the earmarks of a communist, which would immediately prejudice Americans at the height of the Cold War.

lee harvey oswald in dallas custodyBut simply framing Oswald (shown in custoday in Dallas after the shooting) wouldn’t have been enough to shut down the investigation. An aggressive investigation would undoubtedly be able to pierce through the pat nature of the frame-up. They needed something more.

If you’re going to frame someone who is supposedly firing from the rear, then doesn’t it make sense that you would have shots being fired only from the rear? Why would they frame a guy who is supposedly firing from the rear by having shots fired from the front?

That’s where the sheer brilliance of this particular regime-change operation came into play. The plan was much more cunning than even the successful regime-change operations and assassinations that took place prior to the one against Kennedy — i.e., Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Cuba from 1959-1963, and the Congo in 1961.

There is now virtually no doubt that Kennedy was hit by two shots fired from the front. Immediately after Kennedy was declared dead, the treating physicians at Parkland Hospital described the neck wound as a wound of entry. They also said that Kennedy had a massive, orange-sized wound in the back of his head. Nurses at Parkland said the same things. Two FBI agents said they saw the big exit-sized wound. Secret Service agent Clint Hill saw it.

Navy photography expert Saundra Spencer told the ARRB in the 1990s that she developed the JFK autopsy photos on a top-secret basis on the weekend of the assassination and that they depicted a big exit-sized wound in the back of JFK’s head. A bone fragment from the back of the president’s head was found in Dealey Plaza after the assassination. That is just part of the overwhelming evidence that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the shot that hit Kennedy in the head came from the front.

Okay, if you’ve got a shooter firing from the back and he’s a communist, and if you have other shooters firing from the front, then they have to be working together. So, who would the shooters be who were firing from the front? The logical inference is that they had to be communist cohorts of Oswald.

That’s what Oswald’s supposed visits to the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico just before the assassination were all about — making it look like Oswald was acting in concert with the Soviet and Cuban communists to kill Kennedy.

If the assassination was part of the Soviet Union’s supposed quest to conquer the world, retaliation would mean World War III, which almost surely would have meant nuclear war, which was the biggest fear among the American people in 1963.

But why not retaliate in some way? Would U.S. officials at the height of the Cold War hesitate to retaliate for the communist killing of a U.S. president, simply because they were scared of nuclear war? Not a chance! In fact, throughout Kennedy’s term in office the Pentagon and the CIA were champing at the bit to attack Cuba and go to war with the Soviet Union.

CIA LogoBut here’s the catch: How do you take action that is going to destroy the world when it was your side that started the assassination game in the first place? Remember: It was the CIA that started the assassination game by partnering with the Mafia to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Thus, Lyndon Johnson, the CIA, and the JCS had the perfect excuse to shut down the investigation and pin the crime only on Oswald: If they instead retaliated, it would be all-out nuclear war based on an assassination game that the U.S. had started.

In fact, when Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade alleged from the start that Oswald was part of a communist conspiracy, Johnson told him to shut it down for fear that Wade might inadvertently start World War III.

earl warrenMoreover, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, right, initially declined Johnson’s invitation to serve on what ultimately became the Warren Commission, Johnson appealed to his sense of patriotism by alluding to the importance of avoiding a nuclear war. Johnson used the same argument on Senator Richard Russell Jr.

From the start, the Warren Commission proceedings were shrouded in “national-security” state secrecy, including a top-secret meeting of the commissioners to discuss information they had received that Oswald was an intelligence agent. When Warren was asked if the American people would be able to see all the evidence, Warren responded yes, but not in your lifetime.

Does that make any sense? If the assassination was, in fact, committed by some lone nut, then what would “national security” and state secrecy have to do with it?

...

Thus, the plan entailed operating at two levels: One level involved what some call the World War III cover story. It entailed shutting down the investigation, as well as a fraudulent autopsy, to prevent nuclear war. The other level involved showing the American people that their president had been killed by only one person, a supposed lone nut communist former Marine.

...

Gradually, as the years have passed, the incriminating puzzle has come together. The big avalanche of secret information came out in the 1990s as part of the work done by the Assassination Records Review Board.

Of course, there are still missing pieces to the puzzle, many of which are undoubtedly among the records that the CIA and national-security establishment are still keeping secret. But enough circumstantial evidence has come to light to enable people to see the contours of one of the most cunning and successful assassination plots in history.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion-dollar push to boost U.S. broadband, Tony Romm, Nov. 20, 2020. President-elect Joe joe biden twitterBiden and top congressional Democrats are hoping they can secure billions of dollars in new government aid to improve Internet access and affordability -- and help people stay online during the pandemic.

Party leaders are mulling a wide array of proposals that would extend the availability of broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas, raise Internet speeds for American households, assist families who are struggling to pay their Internet bills and provide more funding to schools for computers and other equipment. Many Democrats say they are bullish about their prospects, believing they can shepherd a series of record-breaking investments at a time when the resurgent coronavirus is forcing Americans to work and learn from home again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson bashes Trump attorney Sidney Powell for lack of evidence in fraud claims: ‘She never sent us any,’ Tim Elfrink, Nov. 20, tucker carlson2020. As Fox News host Tucker Carlson noted on Thursday night, he’s more than willing to give airtime to outlandish claims. “We literally do UFO segments,” he said.

fox news logo SmallBut even Carlson, right, said he was fed up with the total lack of evidence produced by Sidney Powell, one of the Trump campaign’s attorneys, for her unfounded allegation that electronic voting systems had switched millions of ballots to favor President-elect Joe Biden.

“We invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour,” Carlson said. “But she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of requests, polite requests. Not a page. When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her.”

Carlson also noted: “She never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another. Not one.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The very different view of the election from pro-Trump media, David Weigel, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). On Newsmax, on One America News, at websites such as the Epoch Times and Gateway Pundit, the plan to keep President Trump in power sounds straightforward.

Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, carrying 306 electoral votes. Dozens of lawsuits, brought by both President Trump's campaign and by conservative activists, have been knocked down, failing to find irregularities that had any effect on the vote.

epoch timesYet for three hours on Tuesday night, Newsmax prepared conservative viewers for something big. In Wayne County, Mich., two Republican officials had declined to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election. Host Greg Kelly claimed that the election could be “reversed,” then brought on Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell to explain what the events in Michigan had meant.

“That’s an excellent development,” Powell said. “I would expect the entire Michigan board to reject the counts from the ballots. The election could not have been more rigged than it was.”

Moments later, the Wayne County Republicans reversed their decision, certifying the election. Twenty-four hours later they’d reverse themselves, again, attempting to retract the certification, which election rules don't allow them to do. This was surprising, but far less so for people watching pro-Trump media. Those outlets are offering his base an addictive alternate theory of the election. In this theory, one with no basis in fact or evidence but that threatens to undermine how American democracy works, the president claims to have won the election and the rest of the media is trying to steal it from him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ezra Klein leaves Vox, the website he founded; Lauren Williams, editor in chief, will also exit, Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison, Nov. 20, 2020. The co-founder of the digital-news site Vox will leave the organization and join the New York Times, in another sign of upheaval among start-up companies that have sought to challenge “legacy” news operations.

Ezra Klein, who rose to prominence as a policy blogger, including at The Washington Post, will become a columnist and podcast host at the Times, he said on Friday. Vox’s editor in chief, Lauren Williams, is also leaving the company and plans to start a nonprofit news organization aimed at Black communities.

Klein, 36, left The Post in 2014 to start Vox with two colleagues, Melissa Bell and Matthew Yglesias. The site — which publishes analytical reported articles explaining everything from Boeing’s issues with its 737 Max jet to Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian connections — is part of a constellation of specialized news-and-commentary sites owned by Vox Media, including SB Nation (sports), Curbed (real estate) and Eater (food). Vox is based in Washington and New York.

Despite multimillion-dollar investments from Wall Street firms and traditional media companies, many of the top names in digital media have struggled to realize the profits once imagined from the epochal transition from traditional print and broadcast media to the online kind. This has led to layoffs, waning of capital investment and a broad industry retrenchment.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Jonathan Pollard, Convicted Spy, Completes Parole and May Move to Israel, Julian E. Barnes, Nov. 20, 2020. The former Navy intelligence analyst served 30 years in prison for stealing American secrets during the Cold War.

Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel in one of the most notorious espionage cases of the late Cold War, completed his parole on Friday, the Justice Department said, freeing him to go to Israel as he has said he intends to do.

The Justice Department’s decision to let his parole restrictions expire may be one of the final gifts from the Trump administration to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Mr. Pollard’s case had long been an irritant in the relations between the two countries, and both sides at times had used him as a diplomatic bargaining chip.

jonathan pollardA U.S. Navy intelligence analyst [shown in a file photo at right], Mr. Pollard gave a range of classified documents to Israel starting in 1984. His disclosures exposed the abilities of the American spy agencies, potentially damaged intelligence collection efforts and risked exposing secrets, C.I.A. and Defense Department officials said in classified documents prepared after his arrest. He was arrested in 1985, and was convicted and served 30 years in prison before being released in 2015.

American national security officials had long objected to any easing of Mr. Pollard’s punishment, highlighting the damage Mr. Pollard did to American intelligence collection. But objections from intelligence officers have largely become muted, with some acknowledging that Mr. Pollard has both served his time and fulfilled his parole obligations.

The United States Parole Commission, the arm of the Justice Department that supervises the releases of federal prisoners, decided Friday not to extend the travel restrictions it had placed on Mr. Pollard when he was released from a federal prison five years ago.

“After a review of Mr. Pollard’s case, the U.S. Parole Commission has found that there is no evidence to conclude that he is likely to violate the law,” said Nicole Navas Oxman, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. “Thus, in accordance with the statute, the commission has ordered that, as of today, his parole supervision is terminated and he is no longer subject to the conditions of parole.”

Mr. Pollard, now 66, was given Israeli citizenship in 1995 and has said he would move there if allowed. His lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, said in a statement that he was free now to travel to Israel and that they looked forward to seeing him there, though they did not say when he would go.

Mr. Pollard, who is in ill health, wants to live out his life and be buried in Israel, said Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School who has advocated on behalf of Mr. Pollard.

“He would love to go to Israel; that’s been his dream, his wish, his hope,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “That would be good for Israel, it would be good for America, it would be good for the rule of law, so I hope it will happen.”

In Israel, Mr. Pollard still is viewed as a hero, who sacrificed much for the country’s security. But even if time has blunted the outrage, the American government continues to view him as a traitor who did huge amounts of damage.
Nicholas Kristof: A behind-the-scenes look at Nicholas Kristof’s gritty journalism, as he travels around the world.

washington post logoWashington Post, Orlando Hall executed after Supreme Court declined to intervene, Ann E. Marimow, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.).  Orlando Hall was executed just before midnight after the Supreme Court allowed the Justice Department to move forward with his federal death penalty.

Hall’s scheduled execution for 6 p.m. Thursday at the prison in Terre Haute, Ind., was delayed by several last minute legal filings that sought to halt his killing.

Hall, 49, became the eighth person executed by the U.S. government since the Trump administration pushed to resume federal executions for the first time in 17 years. The Justice Department has carried out more lethal injections in the past four months than the total number the federal government executed over the previous three decades.

The timing of the planned executions comes as President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office in January. Biden opposes the death penalty, and his campaign has said he will work to pass legislation to eliminate capital punishment at the federal level.

Hall was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering 16-year-old Lisa Rene in Arkansas in 1994. A second death-row inmate, Brandon Bernard, is set to be executed on Dec. 10, and also asked the court to delay his date. Bernard was convicted of killing two youth ministers on a military reservation in 1999.

Hall became the eighth person executed by the U.S. government since the Trump administration resumed federal executions in July for the first time in 17 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Boy Scouts must settle 95,000 abuse claims by next summer — or risk running out of cash, Samantha Schmidt, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The staggering volume of claims exceeded expectations of the victims’ lawyers and complicates the Boy Scouts’ struggle to emerge from bankruptcy amid a pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Charges Against U.S. Protesters Are Being Dismissed by the Thousands, Neil MacFarquhar, Nov. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Prosecutors declined to pursue many of the cases because they concluded the protesters were exercising their basic civil rights.

Matt Kaufmann loved bringing real-world issues into his classroom, but he never expected he would become a lesson himself. The headlines, however, made it hard to avoid: “Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year Arrested,” blared the local news after he was detained on May 31.

An English teacher at Marion C. Moore School at that time, Mr. Kaufmann was among more than 800 people swept up by the police in Louisville during the many months of demonstrations prompted by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

Mr. Kaufmann and his fiancée, protest novices, joined a large downtown crowd in late May, he said, when police officers began to break up the demonstration by firing tear gas and charging from all sides. With a helicopter thumping overhead, he suddenly found himself lined up on the ground with dozens of other protesters, then hauled off to a crowded jail cell.

“I had never experienced anything like that before,” Mr. Kaufmann, 41, said. “It was scary.”

Now, more than five months later, as Mr. Kaufmann’s case and those of thousands of others finally land in courts across the United States, a vast majority of cases against protesters are being dismissed. Only cases involving more substantial charges like property destruction or other violence remain.

 

World News

Palmer Report, Opinion: Vladimir Putin is in real trouble, Bill Palmer, Nov. 20, 2020. It’s gotten almost no coverage here in America, but Vladimir Putin is reportedly Vladimir Putinpreparing to retire, and he’s trying to negotiate a non-prosecution deal on his way out the door. This story is being covered pretty heavily everywhere but America. We’re kind of in a bubble here, as we fixate on Trump’s final days. But it seems Trump’s downfall has put the early stages of Putin’s downfall in motion.

bill palmer report logo headerKeep in mind that President Biden is about to hit Russia with huge sanctions for meddling in the 2016 and 2020 elections, and it’ll hit the oligarchs in the wallet. If they were to push Putin off the stage, they could use that as an argument for why the sanctions shouldn’t be so severe.

Putin supposedly has Parkinson’s. He also had a curiously timed coughing fit this week. He seems to be trying to take himself off the stage for “health reasons” Russian Flagbefore the Russian oligarchs sour on his failed Trump experiment and decide to take him out.

The mere fact that Putin wasn’t able to successfully rig the 2020 election for Trump is a sign that Putin doesn’t have the political muscle he did four years ago. So it’s not necessarily surprising that he may indeed be at or near his end. Putin is a lot smarter and savvier than Trump, so he’ll likely last longer than Trump – but at this rate, perhaps not all that much longer.

 

Nov. 19

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

washington post logo

2020 U.S. Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

Inside DC

 

Media News

 


Top Stories
djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tries delaying count to cast doubt on Biden win, Amy Gardner, Robert Costa, Rosalind S. Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has abandoned his plan to win reelection by disqualifying enough ballots to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in key battleground states, pivoting instead to a goal that appears equally unattainable: delaying a final count long enough to cast doubt on Biden’s decisive victory.

joe biden oOn Wednesday, Trump’s campaign wired $3 million to election officials in Wisconsin to start a recount in the state’s two largest counties. His personal lawyer, ­Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has taken over the president’s legal team, asked a federal judge to consider ordering the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania to select the state’s electors. And Trump egged on a group of GOP lawmakers in Michigan who are pushing for an audit of the vote there before it is certified.

Giuliani, below left, has also told Trump and associates that his ambition is to pressure GOP lawmakers and officials across the political map to stall the vote certification in an effort to have Republican lawmakers pick electors and disrupt the electoral college when it convenes next month — and Trump is encouraging of that plan, according to two senior rudy giuliani recentRepublicans who have conferred with Giuliani and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.

But that outcome appears impossible. It is against the law in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin law gives no role to the legislature in choosing presidential electors, and there is little public will in other states to pursue such a path.

Behind the thin legal gambit is what several Trump advisers say is his real goal: sowing doubt in Biden’s victory with the president’s most ardent supporters and keeping alive his prospects for another presidential run in 2024.

The shift in strategy comes after the president has suffered defeat after defeat in courtrooms around the country. And it serves as a tacit acknowledgment that Trump has failed to muster evidence to support his unfounded claims about widespread fraud.

 

djt ivanka rnc photo

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York State is criminally targeting Donald Trump over payments to Ivanka Trump, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2020. Now that Donald Trump has lost the election and will be eligible for arrest and asset seizures as soon as he’s gone from office, we’ve been waiting for New York State to tip off how its ongoing investigations into Trump are going to come to a head. Tonight we got a big piece of the puzzle.

bill palmer report logo headerThe New York Times is reporting that New York’s ongoing investigation into the Donald Trump and the Trump Organization has expanded to include massive consulting fees that were paid to Ivanka Trump and then written off. It’s not against the law for Ivanka to accept those payments. But the Trump Organization reportedly wrote off those payments as tax losses, which is illegal.

What stands out here is that the Times says New York’s civil and criminal investigations have expanded to include these payments. This means New York isn’t merely looking at taking the money back that was improperly written off; it’s looking into this in terms of felony tax fraud. That would include criminal charges for whoever in the Trump Organization made the decision to write it off, which would ostensibly be Donald Trump himself, along with Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. This comes after last week’s report djt prison palmer reportthat New York is putting the squeeze on Weisselberg and his family, in an apparent attempt at getting him to flip on Donald Trump.

This is important because it makes clear that New York State really is about to rip Donald Trump’s life to pieces, on both a civil and criminal level. We’ll see asset forfeitures. We’ll see indictments. We’ll see Trump on trial. As a reminder, no President can pardon state level charges. This news comes just hours after CNN reported that the FBI is now zeroing in on Rudy Giuliani. The sharks are circling pretty heavily now.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wayne County Republican who asked to ‘rescind’ her vote certifying results says Trump called her, Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble and Tim Elfrink, Nov. 19, 2020. The certified election results have already been sent to the secretary of state.

President Trump called a GOP canvassing board member in Wayne County who announced Wednesday she wanted to rescind her decision to certify the results of the presidential election, the member said in a message to The Washington Post on Thursday.

“I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Monica Palmer, one of two Republican members of the four-member Wayne County canvassing board, told The Post. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.”

djt maga hatThe call came after an hours-long meeting Tuesday in which the four-member canvassing board voted to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

For now, Trump’s intervention seemed unlikely to change the course of events in Michigan. Biden is winning the state by a wide margin, more than 148,000 votes. The state said Palmer’s board has done its job, and cannot retract its votes. The state’s board of canvassers is still scheduled to hold a hearing Monday to certify the results.

ny times logoNew York Times, Timeline of the Certification Process That Trump Is Trying to Disrupt, Maggie Astor, Nov. 19, 2020. Despite Republican efforts to undermine the process, state officials say they fully expect to meet their upcoming deadlines.

As President Trump and his Republican allies continue trying to undermine the election, the certification of the vote totals in each state is the next major step in formalizing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory; Election workers recounted ballots in Atlanta last week. The deadline for Georgia to certify its election results is Friday at 5 p.m.

A key part of the G.O.P. strategy has been to delay certification processes in battleground states that Mr. Biden won, in the hopes that, if state officials miss their deadlines, legislators will subvert the popular vote and appoint pro-Trump slates to the Electoral College. But that’s extremely unlikely to happen.

Here’s a breakdown of the certification deadlines and other key dates in battleground states, and what will happen between now and Inauguration Day.

Friday, Nov. 20: Georgia

There is a 5 p.m. Friday deadline for officials to certify election results in Georgia, which Mr. Biden won in a rare Democratic victory in the Deep South that has left Republicans deeply frustrated.

The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said the state will meet the Friday deadline despite having conducted a time-consuming hand recount of the five million ballots cast there.

Mr. Raffensperger is responsible for certifying the results, and he has fiercely defended the state’s electoral process against attacks from Mr. Trump. And on Thursday, a federal judge in Georgia — Steven Grimberg, whom Mr. Trump appointed — rejected a request to block certification.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Federal judge rules against Donald Trump in Georgia, clears way for Joe Biden victory certification, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2020. Federal judge rules against Trump, clears the way for Georgia to certify its results with Joe Biden as the winner on tomorrow’s deadline. This was the last court case that Trump had in place in Georgia, and now it’s gone. This was always going to go this way. There was literally zero chance Trump was going to magically overturn Georgia, just as there is literally zero chance he’s going to magically overturn Michigan or any other state.

bill palmer report logo headerThe kicker: the federal judge who just ruled against Trump was appointed by Trump. Again, no surprise. As Palmer Report explained at the very start of this process, judicial bias may play a role in narrowly nuanced cases, but it never plays a role when one side has literally no case.

If you’re preparing to panic and fret over Trump’s meeting with Michigan officials tomorrow, you’re setting yourself up for another day of worry and strife over something that will ultimately turn out to be nothing.

It couldn’t be much more clear that Trump is merely using these tactics to drag out the illusion that he’s somehow “contesting” the election, so he can continue fundraising on it. He knows he’s lost. This was always about money.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rudy Giuliani made accusations of fraud that the Trump team has failed to support in court, Alan Feuer and Linda Qiu, Nov. 19, 2020. At a rambling news conference on Thursday, Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, mixed misleading statements, wild conspiracy theories and outright fabrications as he attempted to suggest that Mr. Trump still had a viable pathway to winning the election.

Over and over again, Mr. Giuliani and other members of the president’s legal team suggested that Mr. Trump had evidence to prove that “massive fraud” had been committed in swing states across the country. But Mr. Giuliani himself had undercut that accusation in one high-profile case, telling the federal judge overseeing a suit in Pennsylvania, “This is not a fraud case.”

Mr. Giuliani, speaking at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, claimed that Mr. Trump would prevail in the election if only he could get his day in front of a judge.

“Give us a chance to prove it in court and we will,” he said.

The problem? In many of the instances that Mr. Giuliani mentioned, the Trump campaign has already had its chance in court — and failed.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 17, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 56,747,187, Deaths: 1,358,069
U.S. Cases:   11,882,927, Deaths:    256,445

washington post logoWashington Post, America’s 250,000 covid deaths: People die, but little changes, Marc Fisher, Shayna Jacobs and Pam Kelley, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). At least 11,517,000 cases have been reported. People die, but little changes. Many Americans stick to their original notions about the coronavirus, no matter what sorrows they’ve seen, no matter where they live.

Most everybody in town knows that Gladys Maull has been battered this year: Her father, her sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, all dead from covid-19. Maull keeps a sign on her front door: “Please do not come in my house due to covid-19. Thank you.”

Some people just step on in, maskless.

They mean no harm, but masks never caught on in rural Lowndes County, which has Alabama’s highest rate of coronavirus infections. In a place that gave 73 percent of its vote to Joe Biden, the sheriff and the coroner agree that although cases are spiking and deaths are rising, most people share President Trump’s view that masks are a matter of personal choice and that the end of the pandemic is just around the corner.

“I don’t see people taking it seriously enough,” Maull said. “They still have their yard parties, yard cookouts. They’re back inside the church. This is just too much.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Cases Rise, but Hazard Pay for Retail Workers Doesn’t, Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari, Nov. 19, 2020.  They were hailed as heroes during the first wave of the pandemic, but wage increases were fleeting.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The Coronavirus Is Airborne. But We’re Still Scrubbing Surfaces, Mike Ives and Apoorva Mandavilli, Updated Nov. 19, 2020. Scientists now say that there is little to no evidence that deep cleaning mitigates the threat of the virus indoors.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need a commission on voter suppression in 2020, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). An jennifer rubin new headshotattempt to disenfranchise Detroit voters by two Republicans members of the Wayne County, Mich., Board of Canvassers failed Tuesday, thanks in large part to a Zoom conference that allowed the public to observe their antics. Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley writes on the episode:

“[Board chair Monica Palmer] made something of a misstep by trying to block Detroit’s votes but not those tallied in nearby Livonia, which has a much whiter population, even after it had been noted during the meeting that Livonia’s numbers included the same kinds of small inconsistencies that were purportedly at issue. . . .

For his part, Republican canvassing board member William Hartmann has spent the last decade-plus filling his Facebook account with images of Barack Obama caricatured as a toothless, cigarette-smoking bum and hustler.

Fortunately all of this failed to go over with the members of the public, many of them Black, who spoke directly to Palmer and Hartmann during the comment period before they reversed their position. Palmer and Hartmann were lectured about the vote-counting process and told repeatedly they were embarrassing their state in what was sure to be a losing effort.”

It is moments like this that suggest we need a top-to-bottom evaluation of the 2020 election, including the conduct of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy; Attorney General William P. Barr’s decision to change Justice Department protocol in the investigation of voting fraud allegations; state efforts to block early voting; state rules preventing ballots to be processed in advance of Election Day; and pressure applied to local election officials such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Throw in as well a deep dive into social media treatment of disinformation and the frivolous lawsuits from the Trump campaign.

Christopher Krebs DHSSuch a commission should interview public servants such as Christopher Krebs, left, who was fired from his position as head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; the 16 U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys who determined there was no pattern of fraud in the election; and local and state officials, lawmakers and nonpartisan groups who saw the good, the bad and the ugly. We need to come up with reliable, factual data to serve as the basis for expert recommendations designed to maximize voter participation, election security and public confidence in the results.

Some of the results and recommendations might include criminal referrals for anyone who made false statements under oath or interfered in vote tabulation. Findings would also provide the basis for proposals to change state and federal voting laws to prevent voter intimidation, foot-dragging and conspiracies theories that thwart popular will. We may need laws to prohibit conduct that plainly attempted to impede a free and fair election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The recount in Georgia is going quite well for Trump. He’s still complaining. He’s still losing, Philip Bump, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The review of votes cast narrowed Joe Biden's lead, but not enough.

Palmer Report, Opinion: These numbers aren’t right, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2020. There are a ton of headlines today surrounding a new Reuters poll which shows that roughly half of all Republicans think the election was rigged. That sounds alarming, until you consider that recent Gallup polling shows that only 31% of Americans identity as Republicans. So “half of all Republicans” really means “half of 31% of Americans” or about 16%.

bill palmer report logo headerIn other words, about 16% of all Americans think the election was rigged against Trump. That in turn tells us 84% of Americans don’t think it was rigged. That’s a disappointing number, but it’s not exactly alarming. Consider that last week’s Reuters poll that said 79% of Americans agreed that Joe Biden won. If anything, the percentage of Americans accepting that Biden has legitimately won appears to be slightly increasing, as you would expect.

The longer these things drag on, the more people accept reality. So these are just more scary headlines aimed at scaring us into staying glued to our television sets. The media loves to build narratives out of thin air by mixing and matching numbers to sound like they’re something different than they are. Parsing it sometimes requires not only common sense, but also a calculator.

rudy giuliani nov 19 2020

American System TV, Opinion; Scoundrel Time! Trump’s Multi-State Attempt to Steal Electoral Votes and Stage Coup for Dictatorship Descends Into Theatre of the Absurd with Deranged Press webster tarpley 2007Conference by Giuliani and Friends, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Nov. 19, 2020. Allegations of Plot to Falsify Outcome with Rigged Voting Machines Bought with “Communist Money”; Plan Targets Democratic Cities with Black Majorities; Demand is Still that State Legislatures Junk Popular Votes and Choose Slates of MAGA Toadies as Electors; Grotesque Proceedings Make “Ghouliani” and His Claim of Win into Laughingstock.

After Dropping Lawsuits in Michigan, Trump Invites GOP Legislature Reps Chatfield and Shirkey to White House Friday in Open Conspiracy to Subvert Legal Nov. 3 Vote; Don Also Convinced Two Wayne County GOP Hacks to Recant Their Votes to Certify Votes There, but Secretary of State Rules It’s too Late; Trump’s Arizona Lawsuits Also Ended; Alexandria Ocasio Cortez officialIn Pennsylvania, House Orders “Audit” of Election Returns.

Biden Confers with Bipartisan Group of Ten Governors, Pledging Necessary Aid to States; Says that Legal Action May Take Too Long to Be Relevant, But Does Not Rule It Out; Pledges No National Shutdown.

Far From the Battlefield, AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left], is already Protesting Fellow Dems When Maximum Unity against Fascism is Imperative.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wayne County Republicans ask to ‘rescind’ their votes certifying election results, Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble and Tim Elfrink, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The certified results have already been sent to the secretary of state.

After three hours of tense deadlock on Tuesday, the two Republicans on an election board in Michigan’s most populous county reversed course and voted to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

djt biden smilesNow, they both want to take back their votes.

In affidavits signed Wednesday evening, the two GOP members of the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers allege they were improperly pressured into certifying the election and accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to audit votes in Detroit.

“I rescind my prior vote,” Monica Palmer, the board’s chairwoman, wrote in an affidavit reviewed by The Washington Post. “I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified.”

William Hartmann, the other Republican on the board, has signed a similar affidavit, according a person familiar with the document. Hartmann did not respond to a message from The Post.

Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and the board’s vice chairman, told The Post it’s too late for the pair to reverse course, as the certified results have been sent to the secretary of state in accordance with state rules. He lashed out at the Republicans over their requests.

“Do they understand how they are making us look as a body?” he said. “We have such an amazing and important role in the democratic process, and they’re turning it on its head.”

At the heart of the dispute is a last-minute compromise between Kinloch and the Republicans to seek a comprehensive audit of results in the Detroit area, where the GOP members said the votes were out of balance — meaning the poll book, the official list of who voted, didn’t match the number of ballots received.

Palmer and Hartmann said in their affidavits that they believed they had a firm commitment to an audit. But Palmer says in her affidavit that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) later said she didn’t view their resolution asking for an audit as binding.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Did Joe Biden just pull a fast one? Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 19, 2020. Earlier this week the media reported that Joe Biden bill palmerwas privately lamenting about not wanting to have to criminally prosecute Donald Trump, even while making clear that he would let the DOJ handle it and not interfere in any way. It’s a non-story, both because Biden won’t be involved in the DOJ’s decisions about federal charges, and because Trump is likely to get hit with state charges in New York first anyway. But it nonetheless set off a firestorm.

At first I thought Biden was simply leaking this particular lament because he wanted to position himself as being above the fray, and therefore make sure that the DOJ’s inevitable prosecution of Trump doesn’t look partisan. But today it finally hit me.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the past ten days since Biden was declared the winner, Palmer Report has been pointing out that the real story with Trump is that he’s now facing prison and bankruptcy. It’s been really irksome that the mainstream media is still hung up on fantasies about Trump launching a media venture or running in 2024, when in reality he’ll be in prison by then. I’ve been wondering how many weeks or months it would take for the media to finally shift gears and acknowledge that Trump is done for.

But now that Biden has leaked his lament about wishing he didn’t have to prosecute Trump, the mainstream media is suddenly spending portions of every day talking about the criminal liability that Trump faces. It’s finally prompted the media to shift gears and start acknowledging that Trump is looking at federal prison, state prison, litigation, you name it. It’s taking Trump’s legs out from under him, because once the public is aware that Trump has no leverage when it comes to where he goes next, it shatters Trump’s narrative that he’s somehow in the driver’s seat.

Did Joe Biden just pull a fast one? As a result of his leak about not wanting to prosecute Trump, suddenly the national conversation is about Trump being prosecuted, instead of Trump leaving on a magic carpet. If Biden had leaked that he did want to prosecute Trump, that wouldn’t have worked, because the media would have just criticized him for being too brazen about it. But as it’s playing out, Biden’s leak has resulted in the media finally acknowledging that Trump is backed into a corner on criminal charges.

Keep in mind that Joe Biden has been on the political stage for nearly fifty years. He knows how the media works. He knows how narratives work. Did Biden just get lucky, or did he purposely leak this in order to goad the media into turning toward the real narrative? Biden is a lot savvier than some people give him credit for.

ny times logoNew York Times, Confrontations in swing states escalate as Trump continues to attack election process, Nick Corasaniti, Jim Rutenberg and Kathleen Gray, Updated Nov. 19, 2020. Money pours into Georgia ahead of runoff races that will determine control of the Senate.

President Trump’s false accusations that voter fraud denied him re-election are causing escalating confrontations in swing states across the country, leading to threats of violence against officials in both parties and subverting even the most routine steps in the electoral process.

In Arizona on Wednesday, the Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, issued a statement lamenting the “consistent and systematic undermining of trust” in the elections and called on Republican officials to stop “perpetuating misinformation.” She described threats against her and her family in the aftermath of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over Mr. Trump in her state.

In Georgia, where Mr. Biden holds a narrow lead that is expected to stand through a recount concluding Wednesday night, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said he, too, received menacing messages. He also said he felt pressured by Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to search for ways to disqualify votes.

In Pennsylvania, statehouse Republicans on Wednesday advanced a proposal to audit the state’s election results that cited “a litany of inconsistencies” — a move Democrats described as obstructionist and unnecessary given Mr. Trump’s failure to present any evidence in court of widespread fraud or other problems. Republicans in Wisconsin filed new lawsuits on Wednesday in the state’s two biggest counties, seeking a recount. Mr. Biden reclaimed both states after Mr. Trump won them in 2016.

Nowhere was the confusion and chaos more evident than in Michigan on Tuesday night, when two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, initially refused to certify election results, pointing to minor recording discrepancies. It was a stunningly partisan move that would have potentially disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters from a predominantly Black city, and after a stream of public backlash, the two board members reversed their votes and agreed to certify.

Miami Herald, No-party candidate in Florida Senate race hires lawyer, says he doesn’t live in district, Samantha J. Gross and Ana Ceballos, Nov. 19, 2020. A no-party miami herald logocandidate who ran in a Miami Senate race has retained legal counsel as state prosecutors investigate his candidacy.

Alex Rodriguez received more than 6,300 votes in the race for Senate District 37 and likely cost incumbent Democrat José Javier Rodríguez, who shared the same surname, his seat. Republican Ileana Garcia won the race by 34 votes after a manual recount. More than 215,000 votes were cast in the election.

Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, whose name on the ballot appeared as Alex Rodriguez, confirmed to a Miami Herald reporter at his Boca Raton home Wednesday that he lived in Palm Beach County and wanted to run for state Senate in Miami because as a Miami native, “it’s always something I wanted to do.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Twitter cracks down on Republican Party’s official account, Bill Palmer, Nov. 19, 2020. As Donald Trump’s tweets continue to become more false and unhinged, Twitter has begun promptly placing various warning labels on them. Many of us think Twitter hasn’t been going far enough. But at least now Twitter is expanding its crackdowns to include the official @GOP account, which claimed today that Donald Trump won in a “blowout” but was hit with a warning label which twitter bird Customconfirmed that Joe Biden is the actual winner. It’s a start.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has found a way to get himself publicly condemned by Tucker Carlson, Mitt Romney, and Ben Sasse, all on the same night. Don’t tell me Trump is somehow magically winning. He’s just forcing his sometimes-allies to totally throw him under the bus, because they feel compelled to preserve their own relative credibility while he goes down this particularly embarrassing path to defeat.

Tweet of the day, from Congressman Eric Swalwell: “Why am I not freaking out over realDonald Trump? It’s not that I have faith in him doing what’s right. It’s that I have faith in you. He is a loser. It’s over. He wants you to think this is a thing. Let’s not make a small, insignificant man bigger and more significant than he is.”

 

U.S. Law, Race, Crime

kyle rittenhouse

washington post logoWashington Post, Kenosha: How two men’s paths crossed in an encounter that has divided the nation, Joyce Sohyun Lee, Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Elyse Samuels, Nov. 19, 2020. In an exclusive interview, Kyle Rittenhouse (shown above in a file photo) said he bought a gun with stimulus money. The first man he shot had just left a psychiatric hospital.

In a summer roiled by protests for racial justice, Kenosha, Wis., moved into the national spotlight in August after a White police officer shot a Black man named Jacob Blake seven times in the back.

Peaceful protests during the day were followed by rioting and civil unrest at night. Just before midnight on Aug. 25, tensions peaked when a 17-year-old named Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum. Moments later, Rittenhouse shot two other men, one fatally.

Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with multiple counts of homicide and weapons offenses, but right-wing groups have rallied to his cause, celebrating him as a hero who sought to protect Kenosha from destructive rioting and who fired in self-defense. The events have become a litmus test for a deeply divided nation.

A Washington Post examination of video and police records, along with other documents, sheds new light on the mindsets of the two people principally involved — one a gun enthusiast who thought of himself as a medic, the other a homeless man with a criminal record who was discharged that day from a psychiatric hospital.

The Post found that Rittenhouse, who was too young to buy a rifle, had arranged for an adult friend to buy the weapon for him using money Rittenhouse had received from a government stimulus program.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Four Years of the Trump Administration in Court. One Word Stuck in My Head, Linda Greenhouse, Nov. 19, 2020. A succession of Trump policies reflected the administration’s spite and heartlessness.

During four years struggling to keep up with the flood of court cases challenging the refusal by various Trump administration officials to follow the law, a word ​has come to mind so often that I can’t shake it. It’s the word “mean.​” There’s a meanness to the ​man and to the policies issued from the sycophantic bubble that passes for his administration.

One example is a decision this past weekend by Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He invalidated a series of moves by Chad Wolf, the supposed acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, following the Supreme Court’s decision in June that stopped President Trump from canceling DACA, the Obama administration program that still protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ponzi Scheme Suspect Uses Underwater Scooter to Flee F.B.I., John Ismay, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). After a chase, Matthew Piercey disappeared underwater using a submersible scooter, the authorities said. When he surfaced, agents were waiting with dry clothes his wife had provided. When the authorities went to arrest Matthew Piercey on Monday for what they said was his role in running a $35 million Ponzi scheme, he took off in his truck and led them to Shasta Lake, the largest man-made reservoir in California.

Tracked by air and trailed by F.B.I. agents and members of the California Highway Patrol, Mr. Piercey, 44, of Palo Cedro, Calif., was seen removing something from his truck and entering the frigid water with it in his street clothes, the authorities said. After about 25 minutes in the lake, part of which he spent submerged, a very cold and wet Mr. Piercey emerged and was arrested, the Justice Department said.

The agents allowed him to change into dry clothes that they had obtained from his wife before escorting him to the nearest F.B.I. field office, in Sacramento, the department said.

Mr. Piercey’s red Yamaha 350Li, an underwater sea scooter, was taken as evidence, the authorities said. The commercially available, battery-powered scooter has an enclosed propeller that can pull a diver underwater at just under 4 miles per hour, much faster than humans can move with fins.

 

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: In the waning days of Trump’s presidency, White House press pool reports are getting snarkier, Paul Farhi, Nov. 19, 2020. The pool reports White House correspondents share can be as mundane as a grocery list and about as informative — the who, what and when of the president’s daily comings and goings, as recounted by a reporter who travels with the president for a day and relays it all to the rest of the press corps.

At least that’s the way it used to be. In the Trump era — or, more precisely, in the waning days of the Trump administration — press pool reports have taken on a more cutting edge.

“The president has nothing on his public schedule today,” began HuffPost reporter Shirish Date’s pool report Tuesday. “He also has not posted any falsehoods on Twitter about winning the election or fraud or anything else, for that matter, in more than 11 hours. The day, however, is young.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s E.P.A. Chief Plans 2 Foreign Trips Before Leaving Office, Lisa Friedman, Nov. 19, 2020. Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, plans to squeeze in two taxpayer-funded trips abroad — to Taiwan next month and to four Latin American countries in January — before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes over and moves to overturn most of his policies.

andrew wheeler oBoth trips have raised concerns about the taxpayer expense at a time when Mr. Wheeler, right, no longer represents the direction of E.P.A. policy, and he and top aides are supposed to be aiding the transition to the Biden administration.

Traveling to Taiwan is expected to require a chartered flight at a cost of more than $250,000 to avoid coronavirus risks and because of the lengthy quarantines required of commercial travelers, according to three people knowledgeable about the trip.

The three-day visit, scheduled for the week of Dec. 5, will cost an estimated $45,000 for a delegation of 10 people, according to E.P.A. and American Institute of Taiwan documents as well as people familiar with the planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, BuzzFeed to Acquire HuffPost From Verizon Media, Edmund Lee and Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 19, 2020. Once they had digital media almost to themselves. Now, in a deal led by the BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, two giants of the web plan to join forces to better compete in an increasingly crowded field.

After falling prey to some of the same business difficulties that have plagued newspapers and magazines, the digital-media giants BuzzFeed and HuffPost have decided to join forces, the companies announced on Thursday.

huff post logoUnder the plan, BuzzFeed will acquire HuffPost from its owner, Verizon Media, as part of a larger stock deal, the companies said. The BuzzFeed and HuffPost websites will remain distinct, each with its own editorial staff. The BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, who helped found HuffPost 15 years ago, will serve as the chief executive.

As part of the arrangement, Verizon Media will become a minority shareholder in BuzzFeed, the companies said, but it will not have a seat on BuzzFeed’s board.

BuzzFeed and HuffPost have struggled, with both having gone through rounds of layoffs in recent years. Mr. Peretti believes that getting bigger is the right move for his business.

Digital media, a relatively open territory when HuffPost started in 2005, has grown crowded and more competitive. Google and Facebook have grabbed huge chunks of ad revenue from publishers; Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch are taking would-be readers’ attention; and many legacy media outlets have gotten the hang of the web while also figuring out how to persuade readers to pay for content.

 

Nov. 18

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

World News

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Media

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

Inside DC

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Pfizer to seek regulatory review for vaccine ‘within days,’ Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 18, 2020. The company said its experimental coronavirus vaccine is safe and 95 percent effective.

The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech is 95 percent effective at preventing disease, according to an analysis after the trial reached its endpoint. The vaccine trial also reached a safety milestone, with two months of follow-up pfizer logoon half of the participants, and Pfizer will submit an application for emergency authorization “within days,” according to a news release.

The experimental vaccine had already shown promise at an early analysis announced last week, but the trial sped to completion faster than anticipated due to the spike in coronavirus cases.

In the trial, half the nearly 44,000 participants received the experimental vaccine and half received a placebo. As those people went about their normal lives, they were exposed to the virus in the community, and physicians tracked all cases with symptoms to see if the vaccine had a protective effect.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 3 million people in U.S. estimated to be contagious with the coronavirus, Joel Achenbach, Nov. 18, 2020. More than 3 million people in the United States have active coronavirus infections and are potentially contagious, according to a new estimate from infectious-disease experts tracking the pandemic. That number is significantly larger than the official case count, which is based solely on those who have tested positive for the virus.

The vast — and rapidly growing — pool of coronavirus-infected people poses a daunting challenge to governors and mayors in hard-hit communities who are trying to arrest the surge in cases. Traditional efforts such as testing, isolation of the sick and contact tracing can be overwhelmed when a virus spreads at an exponential rate, especially when large numbers of asymptomatic people may be walking around without even knowing they are infectious.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump and his supporters are discovering how hard it is to sabotage election results, David Ignatius, right, Nov. 18, david ignatius2020 (print ed.). President Trump may be rattling our nerves with his baseless claims of fraud and his vindictive firings. But the two weeks since the election should give Americans greater confidence that our democracy can’t so easily be subverted.

Trump on Tuesday evening launched yet another assault on members of his administration who have dared to speak up. In a tweet, he Christopher Krebs DHS“terminated” Christopher Krebs, left, as head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security.

Krebs’s supposed crime was that he had rebutted Trump’s wild accusations of “massive improprieties and fraud” in the Nov. 3 election, as the president put it in the tweet firing Krebs.

When the history books about this election are written, Krebs will be one of the heroes. Last Thursday, when Trump was trying to spin his unsubstantiated claim that Dominion Voting Systems and other companies that provided election software had diverted votes to President-elect Joe Biden, Krebs delivered an emphatic rebuttal on behalf of his agency and the 50 state election monitors he had worked with.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump fires Christopher Krebs, whose agency disputed president’s false claims of election fraud, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Nov. 17, 2020. Mr. Krebs had overseen election cybersecurity efforts, and had joined other officials in declaring the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

Christopher Krebs DHSPresident Trump on Tuesday night fired his administration’s most senior cybersecurity official responsible for securing the presidential election, Christopher Krebs, right, who had systematically disputed Mr. Trump’s false declarations in recent days that the presidency was stolen from him through fraudulent ballots and software glitches that changed millions of votes.

The announcement came via Twitter, the same way Mr. Trump fired his defense secretary two weeks ago and has dismissed other officials throughout his presidency. The president seemed set off by a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security late last week, the product of a broad committee overseeing the elections, that declared the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

us dhs big eagle logo4“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate,” Mr. Trump wrote a little after 7 p.m., “in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” He said Mr. Krebs “has been terminated” as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a post to which Mr. Trump himself had appointed him.

Mr. Krebs, 43, a former Microsoft executive, has been hailed in recent days for his two years spent preparing the states for the challenges of the vote, hardening systems against Russian interference and setting up a “rumor control” website to guard against disinformation. But much of that disinformation came not from Moscow, but from the White House.

chad wolfOnly two weeks ago, on Election Day, Mr. Krebs’s boss, Chad F. Wolf, right, the acting secretary of homeland security, had praised Mr. Krebs’s work, including the “rumor control” effort. But behind-the-scenes efforts by administration officials to keep Mr. Trump from firing Mr. Krebs apparently failed.

Mr. Krebs started telling colleagues he expected to be fired after the election as early as June, when the president started claiming that mail-in voting would be “rigged.” The refusal by Mr. Krebs and his agency to back up the president’s claims put him on a list of disloyal officials, Mr. Krebs believed, that included Mark T. Esper, who was fired as secretary of defense shortly after the election; Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director; and Gina Haspel, the director of the C.I.A. Mr. Wray and Ms. Haspel remain in their jobs.

In recent weeks, Mr. Krebs drew the president’s ire again with his refusal to echo Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories about software glitches and dead people voting. Quite the contrary: Within hours of Mr. Trump tweeting false reports that millions of Trump votes were deleted, Mr. Krebs joined election officials in calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

In a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump’s announcement, Mr. Krebs wrote: “Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow. #Protect2020.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan Republicans Backtrack After Refusing to Certify Biden’s Win, Kathleen Gray, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.). After an outcry, G.O.P. members of a key elections board reversed their decision to hold up approval of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Republican members of a key Michigan elections board refused on Tuesday to certify Detroit’s election results in a nakedly partisan effort to hold up Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over President Trump — only to reverse themselves after an outcry from the city’s voters and state officials.

djt biden smilesThe initial deadlock and pressure-packed turnaround capped a chaotic day of repeated Republican misfires in the party’s attempt to undermine the election results. Republicans lost a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and faced a skeptical reception in a separate hearing in federal court in Pennsylvania, and an audit in Georgia confirmed there was no foul play with voting machines.

The Republican gambit in Detroit was among the starkest examples of how previously routine aspects of the nation’s voting system have been tainted by Mr. Trump’s effort to challenge his defeat, and he appeared to revel in the night’s chaos with celebratory tweets attacking Detroit even after the deadlock ended.

But the reversal by the elections board in Wayne County — which is home to Detroit — showed the limits of what has been, in essence, an effort to disenfranchise large numbers of Americans. The board’s G.O.P. members certified the results only after voters there angrily accused the Republicans of trying to steal their votes.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 17, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 56,093,790, Deaths: 1,346,576
U.S. Cases:   11,698,124, Deaths:    254,311

ny times logoNew York Times, Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years, New Data Hint, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Apoorva Mandavilli, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Blood samples from recovered patients suggest a powerful, long-lasting immune response, researchers reported.

washington post logoSwedish flagWashington Post, Analysis: Has Sweden’s light-touch coronavirus strategy failed? Ishaan Tharoor, Nov. 18, 2020. Swedish authorities believed their approach to coronavirus would help the country in the long run. But it's being rocked by the second wave.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City to Close Public Schools Again as Virus Cases Rise, Eliza Shapiro, Nov. 18, 2020. The shutdown in the nation’s largest school system was prompted by the city reaching a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. It is perhaps the most significant setback for New York’s recovery since the spring, when the city was a global epicenter of the outbreak.

washington post logoWashington Post, If Congress doesn’t act, 12 million Americans could lose unemployment aid after Christmas, Eli Rosenberg, Nov. 18, 2020. Deadlines set by Congress early in the pandemic will result in about 12 million Americans losing unemployment insurance by the year’s end, according to a report released Wednesday — a warning about the sharp toll that inaction in Washington could exact on the economic health of both individual households and the economy at large.

According to the report from unemployment researchers Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti, those Americans will lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas — more than half of the 21.1 million people currently on the benefits — due to deadlines Congress chose when it passed the Cares Act in March amid optimism the pandemic would be short-lived.

Another 4.4 million people have already exhausted their benefits this year, according to Stettner and Pancotti, who wrote the report for the Century Foundation, a public policy research group.

The “benefits cliff” on Dec. 26 includes an additional 7.3 million workers on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the supplemental insurance for gig and self-employed workers, which ends that day, as well as 4.6 million people on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the unemployment insurance extension available for people who have exhausted regular benefits after what is typically about six months, depending on the state.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Troops Are Packing Up, Ready or Not, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The Pentagon has announced a reduction down to 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan before President-elect Biden takes office. Afghan officials fear the cuts will encourage the Taliban to keep fighting.

Had it not been for dozens of U.S. airstrikes in recent weeks, the southern hub city Kandahar would be under siege, after Taliban fighters threatened to overrun several surrounding districts, security officials say.

American FlagNow with President Trump’s orders to cut American forces in Afghanistan by roughly half — from 4,500 to 2,500 — Kandahar’s fate, and the fate of the Afghan security forces spread across the country, are once more in question.

“If it were not for the air support of U.S. forces, the Taliban would be sitting inside Kandahar city now,” Col. Zabiullah Ghorzang, an Afghan Army regimental commander in Kandahar Province, said Tuesday.

The Pentagon on Tuesday formally announced those troop cuts, stopping short of the full withdrawal by Christmas that Mr. Trump had mused about publicly and ensuring that the war in Afghanistan will transition to a fourth American administration over almost 20 years of conflict.

President Trump’s decision to reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan will leave President-elect Joe Biden with the smallest force envisioned by counterterrorism planners.

Mr. Trump’s withdrawal will leave President-elect Joseph R. Biden, without his consultation, the smallest force in Afghanistan envisioned by American counterterrorism planners. But in pushing for the reduction before he leaves office, Mr. Trump has faced resistance from some prominent members of his own party in Congress — and on Tuesday from rankled NATO allies as well.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel Strikes Syria and Iranian Forces as Pompeo Flies In, Isabel Kershner, Nov. 18, 2020. Israel launched "retaliatory mike pompeo portraitairstrikes" in Syria hours before a meeting in Jerusalem with the Bahraini foreign minister and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right.

Israel FlagIsrael said the latest strikes were aimed at Syria and Iranian targets. They were part of a long-running campaign as Israel tries to thwart what it describes as a concerted effort by Iran to entrench itself on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that overlooks northern Israel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexico, Outraged at Arrest of Ex-Official, Threatened to Toss U.S. Agents, Alan Feuer and Natalie Kitroeff, Nov. 18, 2020. The threat to expel federal drug agents from the country appears to have worked: The U.S. has dropped charges against a former Mexican defense minister.

From the moment U.S. federal agents arrested a former Mexican defense minister last month on drug trafficking charges, the highest levels of the Mexican government were outraged at being kept in the dark about the case, seeing it as an egregious breach of trust between allies.

Those emotions reached a peak in recent days, as Mexico City issued an unheard-of warning to its counterparts in Washington: If the United States did not rethink its pursuit of Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico would consider expelling American federal drug agents from the country, jeopardizing a decades-long partnership that has helped bring several top drug lords to justice, according to three people in the United States who are familiar with the case.

That threat appeared to work. On Wednesday, at the request of Attorney General William P. Barr himself, a federal judge in Brooklyn said she would formally dismiss the charges against Mr. Cienfuegos, a former army general.

The Justice Department’s reversal stunned officials in the State Department and in Congress, who said Mr. Cienfuegos’s release would be an abrupt departure from the Trump administration’s aggressive pursuit of organized crime and drugs from Mexico. The dismissal was said to especially anger officials with the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, which oversees Mexico policy.

 

Trump Watch

Michigan thugs yell State Sen. Dayna Polehanki

Protester at Michigan's State Capitol on April 30, 2020.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Republicans as responsible as Trump for threats of election-linked violence, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small18, 2020. Pity the election workers, paid and volunteer, who Donald Trump and his army of zombie-like sycophants, some of whom we once knew as members of our family, as well as our friends, take aim at those who have given their all to ensure the United States conducted the most accurate and stable election possible.

Making matters worse is that because of the rhetoric of Trump and top Republican officeholders, their mindless zombies are lumping public health and medical workers in with election officers, painting targets on both during a raging viral pandemic.

This has ensured a toxic psychological brew. Trump supporters, believing that public health and election workers are out to get them, have been arrested and charged with making threats against Democratic and Republican election officials and state and county health directors across the once "United" States.

President-elect Joe Biden must understand that there can be no "looking ahead" without "looking back" to deal with the neo-Nazi and white supremacist violence committed by civilians and law enforcement, alike, that Trump and his enablers encouraged.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We came much closer to an election catastrophe than many realize, Paul Waldman, right, Nov. 18, 2020. You paul waldmanmay look at President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-to-232 lead in the electoral college, and his popular vote lead of 5.8 million votes and growing, and say that, thankfully, the results weren’t that close.

As my colleague Greg Sargent wrote before the election, Trump’s legal strategy was predicated on getting within “cheating distance,” with the margins narrow enough that he could convince Republican judges to intercede on his behalf and hand him the election. It hasn’t happened.

But it was closer than you think. And it raises the frightening possibility that if Trump’s team were not such a bunch of buffoons, and if Republican officials at the state level were just a little more corrupt than they already are, he might have been able to steal the election after all.

 djt march 2020 Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s deranged endgame, Shirley Kennedy, Nov. 18, 2020. The blatant attempts by Donald Trump to sabotage President-elect Joe Biden are so clear that a blind person can see them. His frivolous lawsuits are going nowhere, and deep inside, he knows he is done.

bill palmer report logo headerThat is why he keeps doing things that will make Joe Biden’s job harder once he assumes the presidency. Trump’s behavior may well slow down or complicate the delivery of a vaccine that U.S. citizens so desperately need to begin to return to normal, and distribution of the vaccine is complicated on its own.

Trump has already decreased public trust in anything coming from the government. Consequently, his continued interference could hamper administration of the vaccine. President-elect Biden will have to create a “public trust” campaign to ensure that people get djt impeachment graphicvaccinated. It is shameful that someone who calls himself “president” of our country is doing things to purposely harm us.

As if interfering with the vaccine is not enough, the Guardian reported that Trump was considering striking Iran’s nuclear sites before he is ushered out of office.

Iran will not sit idly by if Trump were to do such a thing. Trump would like nothing better than to start a war during his final days while undermining a coronavirus vaccine, which would leave the U.S. in turmoil and danger. He is despicable, though not as despicable as the people who continue to support and keep him in office.

 

Trump by Michael Vadon Creative Commons e1486885124813

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s becoming more clear why Donald Trump moved to Mar-a-Lago, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 18, 2020. When Donald Trump bill palmerannounced a year ago that he was “moving” from Trump Tower in New York to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, it raised eyebrows because he hadn’t actually lived at either property in a few years. At the time there was debate about whether Trump was doing it to try to save money, or if he mistakenly thought that moving to Florida would protect him from criminal charges in New York.

bill palmer report logo headerHindsight is now making things a bit more clear. Donald Trump is now just 64 days from being vulnerable to arrest. We don’t know when New York will arrest him on state charges, but we do know that the state has had a widely documented grand jury in the process of indicting him on financial charges for about a year. So it’s a matter of when, not if, Trump will be arrested.

At that point Trump will argue in court that he should be released on bail. Prosecutors will likely argue that Trump is an international flight risk, and a risk of giving U.S. intel to America’s enemies, and that he should be remanded. The judge could easily decide to split the difference by giving Trump house arrest, with his visits and communications supervised.

In such case, Trump would surely rather be under house arrest at a mansion like Mar-a-Lago with good weather year round, than in a New York City apartment. So it’s notable that Trump “moved” to Mar-a-Lago almost immediately after he learned that New York had a grand jury targeting him. It’s as if he wanted to establish Mar-a-Lago as his primary residence as soon as possible, in order to increase his odds of ultimately being able to convince the judge to let him serve his house arrest there.

There’s also another consideration. Trump’s creditors will come at him from all sides once he’s out of office. He’ll likely end up having to file personal bankruptcy as well as several corporate bankruptcies. Trump Tower, with its daunting debt structure, could be one of the first properties he loses. So he could be angling to argue in personal bankruptcy court that he should get to keep Mar-a-Lago because it’s been his primary residence for the past year.

In any case, it’s worth keeping in mind that for all the irrelevant noise that Donald Trump is making, and for all the irrelevant angles that the major news outlets seem to be hung up on right now, the real story here is that Trump is about to face prison and bankruptcy.

Everything he does from here on out will be an attempt at giving him a softer landing with regard to prison and bankruptcy, whether it’s trying to scare prosecutors into giving him a resignation immunity deal, or trying to steal money on his way out the door.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Choosing an attorney general could be Biden’s most important personnel decision, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 18, 2020. Of all the jennifer rubin new headshotmesses in all the departments that the Biden administration will need to clean up, none will be more of a challenge than the Justice Department.

Consider all the questions the new attorney general must face:

    • Whether to investigate President Trump and, if so, for what crimes.
    • Whether to investigate other members of the Trump administration for obstruction of justice, perjury or other crimes.
    • Whether to attempt to compile a definitive narrative of the Russia scandal and Ukraine affair.
    • How to determine if any Justice Department attorneys misrepresented facts to the court, assisted in any illegal activity or violated Justice Department log circulartheir code of professional ethics.
    • [Plus seven other sample major issues.]

The knotty issues that the next attorney general will have to untangle come on top of a slew of policy decisions and reallocation of resources — some of which may require legislation, voting rights enforcement, antitrust enforcement, drug enforcement, criminal justice reform, actions on environmental crime and dozens of other matters.

Mediaite, SCOOP: Unearthed Videos Show Joe Biden Speaking Candidly About Whether or Not to Prosecute Trump, Tommy Christopher, Nov. 18., 2020. NBC News made waves with an anonymously-sourced report on President-elect Joe Biden’s thoughts about prosecuting President Donald Trump, but we’ve got videos that cover the same territory from a single named source: Joe Biden.

People all over the Resistance-sphere™ are spun up over that report, which is attributed to “five people familiar with the discussions,” and while it contains no direct quotes, the gist is that “Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump,” and one adviser says he “just wants to move on.”

But we’ve unearthed video of Biden discussing this very same subject, which means all of you are about to become “people familiar with the discussions” too.

During a virtual town hall conducted by Lawrence O’Donnell in May, Biden was asked by a voter “would you be willing to commit to not pulling the president forward and giving Donald Trump a pardon under the pretense of healing the nation? In other words, are you willing to commit to the American ideal that no one is above the law?”

joe biden 2020 button Custom“Absolutely yes. I commit,” Biden replied, and went on to make some key points when O’Donnell followed up by asking “you`re saying that wherever the investigative trail might lead, whether that be an investigative trail pursued by the Justice Department against Trump officials, Trump associates, administration officials, whether those are congressional investigations, that`s hands off for you? You`re not going to say, let`s just let bygones be bygones?”

"It`s hands off completely.

Look, the attorney general is not the president`s lawyer. It`s the people`s lawyer. And you remember when you were there with Pat Moynihan. We never saw anything like the prostitution of that office like we see it today.

It is not something the president is entitled to do, to direct either a prosecution and/or decide to drop a case. That is not the president`s role, responsibility, and it`s a dereliction of his duty, and a dereliction of the duty as a — you know, you have what? Whether 2,000 was it or former attorneys general or people who worked in the office that said the present attorney general should resign.

What`s going on is an absolute travesty, a travesty of justice. That will not happen, I guarantee you."

djt rudy giuliani Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Here’s what happened when Rudolph Giuliani made his first appearance in federal court in nearly three decades, Jon Swaine and Aaron Schaffer, Nov. 18, 2020. It was Rudolph W. Giuliani’s first appearance in federal court since the early 1990s, and by late afternoon Tuesday, it was clear that U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann was losing patience with President Trump’s personal attorney.

Trump (shown above in a file photo with Giuliani) is seeking to stop the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote in the Nov. 3 election, alleging that Republican voters in the state were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Two voters named as co-plaintiffs with Trump’s campaign in the long-shot lawsuit had their ballots voided and allege that they were not given a chance to correct their mistakes.

“You’re alleging that the two individual plaintiffs were denied the right to vote,” Brann said. “But at bottom, you’re asking this court to invalidate more than 6.8 million votes, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the commonwealth. Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?”

In response, Giuliani said that Trump’s campaign was seeking only to throw out about 680,000 ballots cast in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, because, he said, Republican observers were not allowed to watch them being counted.

But Trump’s attorneys had removed legal claims relating to that issue in an amended version of the lawsuit they filed over the weekend, the judge reminded him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: An improbable journalist’s case could pressure the Supreme Court to rethink qualified immunity, George F. george f willWill, right, Nov. 18, 2020. Priscilla Villarreal, who calls herself Lagordiloca, which she translates as the Crazy Fat Lady, is a familiar figure on the streets of Laredo.

She has cruised them practicing a form of journalism that she calls “News on the Move.” In December 2017, the police department of Texas’s 10th-largest city arrested her for committing two felonies. She was charged, essentially, with committing journalism: She got information from the government and published it.

Three years after her arrest, she is suing the city and some of its employees, charging that her arrest was retaliatory. Her case involves a 2020 preoccupation, police misbehavior, and a court-created rule, “qualified immunity,” that breeds misbehavior by enabling much of it to go unpunished.

Villarreal, who sometimes uses salty language that would cause blushes below deck in a troop transport, has used her cellphone and her Facebook page — she has more than 170,000 followers — to livestream and comment on crime scenes, traffic accidents, immigration enforcement and other matters, including police behavior. She has enemies in high places.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Green Beret Admits He Betrayed U.S. While Spying for Russia, Adam Goldman, Nov. 18, 2020. A former Green Beret officer pleaded guilty in federal court in Northern Virginia on Wednesday to conspiring with Russian intelligence officers and providing them with classified information as part of a sophisticated spying operation dating back more than two decades.

peter rafael dzibinski debbins mugshotProsecutors said the man, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, right, 45, of Gainesville, Va., had worked secretly for the Russians for more than a decade and even joined the United States Army’s Special Forces at their urging. As part of his arrangement with the Russians, he was given a code name and signed a statement agreeing to help that country.

Mr. Debbins “violated this country’s highest trust by passing sensitive national security information to the Russians,” said John C. Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. He said Mr. Debbins “betrayed his oath, his country and his Special Forces team members with the intent to harm the United States and help Russia.”

Mr. Debbins, who held top security clearances, failed a polygraph, people familiar with the case said. That prompted the sensitive investigation and ultimately a criminal charge accusing him of violating the espionage statute. He was arrested in August.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Debbins “considered himself pro-Russian and a loyal son of Russia” and believed the United States was “too dominant in the world and needed to be cut down to size.” At one point, Mr. Debbins said he provided information to the Russians because he was “angry” and “bitter” about his military service.

Mr. Debbins is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 26 and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

It can take years, if not decades, to detect spies. In Mr. Debbins’s case, he appears to have been first recruited when he traveled to Russia in 1996 as part of an independent study program and lived in Chelyabinsk, near a Russian Air Force base.

 

 

2020 Elections, Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: So this is how it ends, Bill Palmer, Nov. 18, 2020. So this is how it ends for Donald Trump, not with a bang but with a cash shortage. Because Wisconsin isn’t particularly close, the state told Donald Trump he’d have to pay for a recount himself if he wanted one. This put him in a tricky situation.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is doing this “contesting the election” stunt to fundraise money and pocket it, so did he really want to waste $8 million on a recount that would merely result in him losing Wisconsin twice? After all, Trump needs this money for when he leaves office and his creditors squeeze him even as he has to mount a criminal defense team ahead of his inevitable trial in New York on state charges.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomOn the other hand, if Trump declined to do a Wisconsin recount, he’d be admitting he lost, and he might immediately face difficulty with fundraising. But now CNN is reporting that Trump has merely decided to pay for recounts in two Wisconsin counties, Milwaukee and Dane. This will cost him just $3 million instead of $8 million. It’ll likely take just as long as if they’d recounted the entire state, meaning he gets to drag things out just as long, and saves $5 million.

But wow is this ever embarrassing. Donald Trump, an alleged billionaire, is clearly facing a cash crunch. What kind of billionaire has to think twice about picking up an $8 million tab on something that he claims could alter the outcome of the election? In reality, this recount will turn up nothing that will close Trump’s 20,000 vote deficit in the state; it’ll just buy him a few more days of fundraising. So this is how it ends: pathetically.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: ‘The Far Left Is the Republicans’ Finest Asset,’ Thomas B. Edsall, Nov. 18, 2020. An intense battle between moderates and progressives has already spilled into public view.

Analysts and insiders are already talking ­— sometimes in apocalyptic terms — about how hard it will be for Joe Biden to hold together the republican elephant logocoalition that elected him as the 46th president.

alexandria ocasio cortezBut it’s important to remember that conflicts are inherent in a party that seeks to represent constituencies running the gamut from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 14th district in New York (50 percent Hispanic, 22 percent non-Hispanic white, 18 percent Asian, 8 percent Black) to 7th generation Utahan Ben McAdams’s 4th District in Utah (74 percent white, 1 percent Black, 3 percent Asian, 17 percent Hispanic.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Simple Theory of Why Trump Did Well, Jamelle Bouie, Nov. 18, 2020. Elections are complicated, but the money the government sent to more than 150 million Americans didn’t hurt.

There is no hard evidence that voters turned against Democratic congressional candidates because of “defund the police” and other radical slogans. What we have, instead, are the words of moderate Democratic lawmakers who believe those slogans left them unusually vulnerable to Republican attacks.

At the risk of committing the same sin as other observers and getting ahead of the data, I want to propose an alternative explanation for the election results, one that accounts for the president’s relative improvement as well as that of the entire Republican Party.

At the end of March, President Trump signed the Cares Act, which distributed more than half a trillion dollars in direct aid to more than 150 million Americans, from stimulus checks ($1,200 per adult and $500 per child for households below a certain income threshold) to $600 per week in additional unemployment benefits.

These programs were not perfect — the supplement unemployment insurance, in particular, depended on ramshackle state systems, forcing many applicants to wait weeks or even months before they received assistance — but they made an impact regardless.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lindsey Graham’s Long-Shot Mission to Unravel the Election Results, Stephanie Saul, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.). With unsubstantiated claims of vote-counting errors and calls to officials in several states, Senator Graham seems bent on reversing the election’s outcome.

lindsey grahamIn 2016, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, right, praised the integrity of the nation’s elections system, criticizing claims by Donald J. Trump that the vote was “rigged.”

“Like most Americans, I have confidence in our democracy and our election system,” Mr. Graham said in a statement on Twitter. “If he loses, it will not be because the system is ‘rigged’ but because he failed as a candidate.”

What a difference four years makes.

 

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Plan to Sell Arctic Oil Leases Will Face Challenges, Henry Fountain and John Schwartz, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.). If sales happen in the final days of President Trump’s administration, they may face disputes in court or could be reversed by President-elect Joe Biden.

Even if in its waning days the Trump administration succeeds in selling oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the leases may never be issued, legal and other experts said Tuesday.

The leases would face strong and likely insurmountable headwinds from two directions: the incoming Biden administration and the courts, they said.

Under new leadership, several federal agencies could reject the leases, which even if purchased at an auction a few days before Inauguration Day would be subject to review, a process that usually takes several months.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Grassley Tests Positive, Virus Threatens to Stall Work in Congress, Emily Cochrane, Updated Nov. 18, 2020. Two of the oldest members of Congress, Senator Chuck Grassley, right, and Representative Don Young, have the virus, underscoring the risks on Capitol Hill.

Charles Grassley R-IOThe marble-and-stone petri dish that is Capitol Hill is a vivid microcosm of the national struggle to confront and contain the spread of the pandemic, with partisan bickering often thwarting already unevenly enforced health precautions.

Having effectively declared themselves essential workers, the nation’s lawmakers — a group of older Americans whose jobs involve weekly flights, ample indoor contact and near-constant congregating in close quarters — are yet again struggling to adapt their legislative and ceremonial routines to stem the spread of the virus, even as it rages within their ranks.

Roll Call, Katherine Clark wins assistant speaker race against David Cicilline, Lindsey McPherson, Nov. 18, 2020. House Democrats re-elect other top leaders, Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn and Jeffries, who were unopposed.

katherine clark twitterHouse Democrats elected Massachusetts Rep. Katherine M. Clark, left, as assistant speaker on Wednesday, making her the second-highest ranking woman ever in Democratic leadership, behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Clark, 57, who got her start in leadership this Congress serving as caucus vice chair, beat Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, 59, the outgoing chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, for the No. 4 position in the caucus. The vote was 135-92.

Clark entered the House in 2013 after winning a special election to replace Edward J. Markey, who became a senator. She has quickly climbed the ranks in a caucus that has a reputation for stagnant leadership.

Clark is now in prime position to ascend to a higher role — potentially even one day becoming the second woman speaker — after Pelosi and her top lieutenants retire.

hakeem jeffriesHouse Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, 50, right, who was reelected to the No. 5 position Wednesday by acclamation and was unopposed, is also considered a potential Pelosi successor and could be the first Black speaker.

democratic donkey logoThe caucus also reelected Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, 81, and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, 80, by acclamation.

Pelosi, 80, was nominated for speaker by voice vote. But to secure the gavel again, Pelosi still needs to win a floor vote in January.

Democrats will have a single-digit majority. That means Pelosi will need to convince some of the Democrats who did not support her in the speaker vote two years ago to back her this time. At least 10 Pelosi opponents — potentially 11, depending on the outcome of Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s uncalled race in New York — are returning next Congress.

ny times logoboeing logoNew York Times, 20 Months After Two Crashes Grounded It, Boeing Max Jet Is Cleared to Fly, Niraj Chokshi, Nov. 18, 2020. The F.A.A. said changes in software, design and training had made the plane safe to operate again.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House chief of staff ‘can’t guarantee’ U.S. government will avert December shutdown,
Jeff Stein, Nov. 18, 2020. Congress, White House have until Dec. 11 to reach spending deal in middle of coronavirus pandemic

ny times logoNew York Times, Adam Schiff Ponders Life After Trump, Nicholas Fandos, Nov. 18, 2020. Having raised $40 million this election cycle, the California Democrat is weighing his next moves, including the possibility of a Biden administration post.

Mr. Schiff is biding his time but ruling out few possibilities, including a run for Senate, a Biden administration post or an eventual bid for the speakership or another top House leadership post.

 

Nov. 17

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

Obama Memoir

 

Inside DC

 

Trump Watch

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden dials up pressure on Trump to engage in handoff, Matt Viser, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The president-elect warned that more American lives would be at risk if members of the new administration are unable to plan for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine in coordination with current Trump administration officials.

joe biden twitterPresident-elect Joe Biden on Monday ratcheted up pressure on the Trump administration to engage in a transition of power, mincing no words on the dire consequences if his incoming team faces further delays in working with federal agencies.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden said during a news conference in Wilmington, Del., following remarks on the economic impact of the coronavirus in which he warned of a “very dark winter” where “things are going to get much tougher before they get easier.”

He also pointed out the absurdity that Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the vice president-elect, still has access to classified intelligence briefings because she is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Biden himself is not able to get those briefings because Trump’s administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Cities Accused in Fraud Conspiracies Didn’t Cost Trump the Election, Emily Badger, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Yet Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit have become the targets of G.O.P. allegations of voting shenanigans.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThat these three cities would become the chief sites of Republican claims of fraud in this election is unsurprising. All three are heavily Democratic. They have large African-American populations. And in their respective states, they have long been targets of racialized charges of corruption.

But in one revealing way, the fixation this year is misplaced. All three cities voted pretty much the same way they did in 2016. Turnout barely budged, relative to other areas in these states. Joseph R. Biden Jr. saw no remarkable surge in support — certainly nothing that would bolster claims of ballot stuffing or tampered vote tallies. Mr. Trump even picked up marginally more votes this year in all three cities than he did four years ago.

Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit, in other words, were not decisive in explaining why the Northern battleground states flipped from Mr. Trump four years ago to Mr. Biden in 2020. Voters outside of these cities made the difference.

Raw Story, Trump praises Michigan Republicans for blocking Detroit certification — moments after they backed down, Matthew Chapman, On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to praise Michigan after a pair of Republican canvassers in Wayne County voted to President Donald Trump officialblock the certification of election results in Detroit — something that could potentially have complicated the process of confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump: "Wow! Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!"

Mrs. Krassenstein @HKrassenstein, Replying to @realDonaldTrump: "WRONG! Literally a minute after you Tweeted this Wayne County Certified their election results. HE USA STANDS PROUD!"

washington post logoWashington Post, Deadlocked board in key Michigan county fails to certify vote totals by deadline, Kayla Ruble and Tom Hamburger, Nov. 17, 2020. The two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted against certifying the ballot count in the Detroit area Tuesday evening, leaving the four-member board in a deadlock.

The move means that the largest county in Michigan has failed to certify the vote by the Tuesday deadline. The issue now moves to state board, which has until Dec. 13 to reach a final decision certifying the winner of the election statewide.

In the decade that Michelle Voorheis has served on the Genesee County Board of Canvassers, the longtime Republican has never encountered so much attention to the ballot canvassing process — or so many rumors.

joe biden oSince election night, she has fielded calls around-the-clock from friends asking about conspiracy theories on Facebook or requests to scrutinize polling machines in a specific precinct. Unruly observers have interrupted the board’s usually staid meetings.

“Now all of a sudden, because [President] Trump is stirring the pot, everybody’s going ‘Oh, the board of canvassers,’ ” said Voorheis, chairwoman of the county Republican Party. “They made them believe all these things. I mean, I don’t know how to combat that.”

Despite President-elect Joe Biden’s lead of nearly 148,000 votes in this battleground state, President Trump’s false claims about widespread fraud continue to reverberate with his supporters, putting white-hot attention on the usually mundane vote certification process across Michigan.

In Facebook posts, Michigan Republican Party members passed along a message they claimed was coming “direct from Trump and MIGOP” seeking recruits to sit in and observe the canvassing board meetings across the state.

Sometimes raucous observers, under the mistaken impression they could challenge or object to the proceedings, at times disrupted the meetings. The four-member boards, split evenly between appointees from both parties, have been the subject of newspaper profiles and political speculation: Will they vote to certify?

Republicans know Trump lost, but they're indulging him anyway. The pressure is set to crescendo Tuesday, the deadline for all counties in the state to certify their vote totals and submit them to the state canvassing board.

Much of the focus is on Wayne County, home of Detroit, where the Trump campaign has claimed in a federal suit that GOP observers witnessed irregularities in the ballot count — allegations that city officials have vigorously denied.

“We are still crunching away,” said Monica Palmer, a Republican who chairs the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, who worked with other board members through the weekend to verify the ballot count.

She and the other Republican on the county board, William Hartmann, were present at Detroit’s TCF Center when absentee ballots were being counted and both have questioned whether protocol was properly followed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Early analysis finds Moderna’s vaccine nearly 95% effective, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The United States could have two coronavirus vaccines available on a limited basis by year’s end The biotechnology firm announced that in addition to the high rate of disease prevention overall, the shot reduced severe cases of illness.

Biotechnology firm Moderna announced Monday that a preliminary analysis shows its experimental coronavirus vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective at preventing illness, including severe cases — a striking initial result that leaves the United States with the prospect that two coronavirus vaccines could be available on a limited basis by the end of the year.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

The news comes a week after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech lifted the stock market and people’s hopes with the news that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.

anthony fauci Custom“It’s extremely good news. If you look at the data, the numbers speak for themselves,” said Anthony S. Fauci, left, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was one of three people briefed on the data by an independent committee Sunday morning. “I describe myself as a realist, but I’m fundamentally a cautious optimist. I felt we’d likely get something less than this. … I said certainly a 90-plus-percent effective vaccine is possible, but I wasn’t counting on it.”

 Michigan thugs yell State Sen. Dayna Polehanki

Anti-Government Protesters at Michigan's State Capitol on April 30, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump coronavirus adviser tells Michigan to ‘rise up’ against new shutdown orders, Katie Shepherd, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). I’m not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) responded.

On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced a three-week “pause to save lives,” closing colleges, high schools, workplaces and in-person dining as new coronavirus cases have spiked.

scott atlas resized After she appealed to the Trump administration to intervene in the pandemic, White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas responded with a call to action. But instead of supporting Whitmer’s efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Michigan, he urged residents to reject the state’s public health guidelines.

“The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas said in a tweet Sunday night, which quoted a reporter who had shared information about Whitmer’s new restrictions. “You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.”

gretchen whitmer o horizontal Custom

Critics immediately condemned Atlas’s “rise up” rhetoric, which mirrored President Trump’s previous calls to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and statements that correlated “tyranny” with the pandemic restrictions put in place by Whitmer, who was the target of an alleged kidnapping plot that was thwarted last month. The suspects said they planned the attack because the Michigan governor was a “tyrant b----,” according to the FBI.

Whitmer responded to Atlas’s tweet Sunday night on CNN, where she defended the three-week pause that resembles the stay-at-home orders issued in many cities and states early in the pandemic.

“We know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular,” Whitmer told CNN. “I’m not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) also slammed Atlas, calling the tweet “disappointing, irresponsible, and the reason why the United States finds itself in such desperate circumstances regarding COVID-19.” She said the opposition to restrictions would lead to more coronavirus cases and deaths.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ga. secretary of state says fellow Republicans are pressuring him to find ways to exclude legal ballots, Amy Gardner, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), right, to question the validity of legally cast absentee ballots in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.

lindsey grahamIn a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes not to be counted.

The atmosphere has grown so contentious, Raffensperger said, that both he and his wife, Tricia, have received death threats in recent days, including a text to him that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 17, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 55,497,553, Deaths: 1,334,979
U.S. Cases:   11,540,461, Deaths:    252,684

ny times logoNew York Times, Pandemic Delivers a Triple Punch to Working Women, Patricia Cohen, Nov. 17, 2020. Hit hard by job losses and the pandemic’s effect on schooling and child care, American women face short-term difficulties and long-term repercussions. Such a confluence could sap the nation’s workforce as women struggle to find new jobs, facing limited prospects for earnings over their lifetime.

washington post logoKim Reynolds 2018 CustomWashington Post, Live Updates: Iowa governor (right) issues mask mandate, weeks after belittling the idea, Staff reports, Nov. 17, 2020. Washington Football Team won’t allow fans at next game amid rise in coronavirus cases; Georgetown University to offer more housing, in-person classes for seniors in spring; Sweden bans public gatherings of more than eight people.

washington post logoWashington Post, Echoes of a pandemic: Experts fear lessons from the 2009 H1N1 vaccine drive are being ignored, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 17, 2020. Federal officials have been urging state and local health departments to heed those lessons, even as they warn that the immunization program ahead will be far more complex.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, The longer Republicans cower to Trump, the more damage they do to democracy, Editorial Board, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The Republican Party’s national leadership now stands squarely against fair and secure elections — or accepting results, for that matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Leftists and Moderates, Stop Fighting. You Need One Another, Michelle Goldberg, right, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.).  In the Democratic civil war, both sides are partly right.

michelle goldberg thumbIt’s the job of the activist left to push political limits, staking out positions that sound radical today but could, with enough work, seem like common sense in the future. But in the short term, an assertive left that garners national attention can threaten the political survival of Democrats who answer to a more conservative electorate.

In a postelection interview with The Times’s Astead Herndon, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed frustration with those who are blaming leftists for Democrats’ down-ballot losses. “Progressive policies do not hurt candidates,” she insisted, noting swing-district Democrats who had co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation and the Green New Deal and had kept their seats.

But most candidates who endorsed those initiatives were in safer districts than those who didn’t. When moderate Democrats like Conor Lamb and Abigail Spanberger say that left-wing slogans are poisonous in their communities, people who don’t live in those communities should take them seriously.

Left-wing populists often believe that there’s a silent majority who agree with them, if only they can be organized to go to the polls. If that were true, though, an election with record high turnout should have been much better for progressives. Instead, 2020 was a reminder of something most older liberals long ago had to come to terms with: The voters who live in the places that determine political control in this country tend to be more conservative than we are.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden to Appoint Campaign Manager, Congressional Ally and Close Friend, Michael D. Shear and Katie Glueck, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The appointments to key staff jobs suggest the importance that President-elect Joe Biden is placing on surrounding himself with people he trusts. The appointments of Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Representative Cedric Richmond and Steve Ricchetti suggest the importance that the president-elect is placing on surrounding himself with people he trusts.

joe biden 2020 button CustomDecisions about cabinet secretaries remain several weeks away, according to people close to Mr. Biden, who has spent several days during the past week in closed-door discussions with advisers about the challenge of winning confirmation fights if the Senate remains in Republican control next year.

By contrast, White House staff positions do not require Senate confirmation, leaving the president-elect wide latitude in selecting his West Wing advisers.

The announcements come as Mr. Biden moves quickly to establish his governing agenda and the team he will need to put it into effect once he takes office. The president-elect is under pressure to fill those jobs with people of diverse ethnic and ideological backgrounds, making good on promises he made during his campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Tensions Among Republicans Mount, Georgia’s Recount Proceeds Smoothly, Richard Fausset, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.).  Election officials discovered about 2,600 unaccounted for ballots, but they are not enough to affect the outcome of the presidential race in the state.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on Monday accused fellow Republicans of trying to undermine the legitimacy of the state’s election in an effort to swing the results to President Trump, who narrowly lost the state to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and later demanded the hand recount.

Election officials in Georgia also announced Monday evening that they had discovered 2,600 ballots in Floyd County that had not been previously reported to the state, a notable but overall minor hiccup in what they otherwise described as a smooth recounting of the nearly five million ballots cast by Georgia voters during the presidential election.

The counting is expected to wrap up this week, and elections officials have reported few problems aside from the error in Floyd County, which is located in northwestern Georgia and voted heavily for Mr. Trump. Democrats said the recount had so far resulted in no substantive changes, at least none that would affect the lead currently enjoyed by Mr. Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Democrats Went All Out Against Susan Collins. Rural Maine Grimaced, Ellen Barry, Nov. 17, 2020. The $180 million Senate contest, a political scientist said, “was like being a local in Woodstock in 1969: When it first started, it was exciting and fun, but by the end, it was muddy and dirty.”

In the great Democratic heave to remove Susan Collins from her Senate seat in Maine, Matt Gilbert should have been low-hanging fruit.

He is the son of a four-term Democratic state representative in one of Maine’s traditionally Democratic mill towns. As a high school principal, he had complaints about Senator Collins, a Republican, mostly centering on Trump-era education policy.

Susan CollinsBut over the weeks leading up to Election Day, Mr. Gilbert was first put off, and then “disgusted,” by the negative tone of the Senate showdown, in which spending by candidates and outside groups totaled more than $180 million.

The relentless television advertisements. The cold calls. The mailings, fistfuls of them every day, “crumpled up and in the recycling bin” before he even glanced at them.

By the time the Democratic Party distributed yard signs, Mr. Gilbert refused to display one for Sara Gideon, Ms. Collins’s opponent, leaving a gap among the signs he displayed in support of Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Jared Golden, his Democratic congressman; and Black Lives Matter. He ended up voting for Lisa Savage, an independent candidate.

“The approach on the ads and campaigning was disgusting enough that I didn’t want to vote for the person anymore, even though I agreed with the policy stances,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need an investigation into Lindsey Graham’s intervention in Georgia, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 17, 2020. Federal jennifer rubin new headshotand/or state law enforcement should get to the bottom of this, requiring both parties to the conversation, and any witnesses, to preserve evidence.

Stephen I. Vladeck, an election law guru and University of Texas law professor, tells me, “At least as relayed in the Post story, Sen. Graham, left, appears to have been attempting to convince Secretary Raffensperger to alter the valid results of Georgia’s election — in a manner that may run afoul of numerous provisions of Georgia election law.”

He adds, “At the very least, it’s a serious matter that might warrant further investigation — and that is grossly unbecoming of any United States senator, let alone the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Claims of voter fraud are common. It’s the fraud that’s rare, Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Voter fraud is one of the oldest charges a politician can level in American elections — though no president in modern times has done so with such frequency, and so little evidence, as President Trump.

In the 1941 Orson Welles epic “Citizen Kane,” newspapermen huddle near the printing press on election night as it becomes clear that the results won’t be good news for their boss, the publishing mogul Charles Foster Kane.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosOne of them holds up a front page with the headline they had hoped for: “Kane Elected.” He then lowers his head and nods toward the version they have to go with instead. “Fraud at Polls!” it declares.

The subject’s prevalence in the conservative news media, where it is treated as a more widespread problem than the facts show, may help explain how Mr. Trump, a ravenous consumer of cable news, came to be so fixated.

In reality, elections officials across the country, representing both parties, said there was no evidence that fraud had played any role in determining the election outcome this year. The most common claims of voter fraud — reports of ballots cast by someone voting twice, or by a dead person or someone who is otherwise ineligible — can almost always be traced back to a misunderstanding like a typo, a clerical error or a false assumption that two people with a common name are actually the same person, according to the Brennan Center.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the 2020 Election Makes it Hard to be Optimistic About the Future, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.).paul krugman If we can’t face up to a pandemic, how can we avoid apocalypse?

The 2020 election is over. And the big winners were the coronavirus and, quite possibly, catastrophic climate change. OK, democracy also won, at least for now. By defeating Donald Trump, Joe Biden pulled us back from the brink of authoritarian rule.

But Trump paid less of a penalty than expected for his deadly failure to deal with Covid-19, and few down-ballot Republicans seem to have paid any penalty at all. As a headline in The Washington Post put it, “With pandemic raging, Republicans say election results validate their approach.”

And their approach, in case you missed it, has been denial and a refusal to take even the most basic, low-cost precautions — like requiring that people wear masks in public.

The epidemiological consequences of this cynical irresponsibility will be ghastly. I’m not sure how many people realize just how terrible this winter is going to be.

Awful as the pandemic outlook is, however, what worries me more is what our failed response says about prospects for dealing with a much bigger issue, one that poses an existential threat to civilization: climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Liberals Envisioned a Multiracial Coalition. Voters of Color Had Other Ideas, Michael Powell, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats may need to rethink their strategy as the class complexities and competing desires of Latino and Asian-American demographic groups become clear.

Voters in Los Angeles on Election Day. Californians chose not to overturn a state ban on affirmative action despite endorsements from powerful politicians.

The proposition seemed tailor-made for one of the nation’s most diverse and liberal states. California officials asked voters to overturn a 24-year-old ban on affirmative action in education, employment and contracting.

The state political and cultural establishment worked as one to pass this ballot measure. The governor, a senator, members of Congress, university presidents and civil rights leaders called it a righting of old wrongs.

Yet on Election Day, the proposition failed by a wide margin, 57 percent to 43 percent, and Latino and Asian-American voters played a key role in defeating it. The outcome captured the gap between the vision laid out by the liberal establishment in California, which has long imagined the creation of a multiracial, multiethnic coalition that would embrace progressive causes, and the sentiments of many Black, Latino, Asian and Arab voters.

Asian-American Californians opposed the affirmative action measure in large numbers. Latinos, too, appear sharply divided. Prominent Latino nonprofit and civil rights organizations endorsed the affirmative action proposition even as all 14 of California’s majority-Latino counties voted it down.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s new Pa. lawyer once said lawsuits ‘will not reverse this election,’ Teo Armus, Nov. 17, 2020. Trump digs in on baseless claims as legal options dwindle. Moments after the presidential race was called for Joe Biden, Marc A. Scaringi took to his talk radio show to question President Trump’s dubious legal campaign to challenge the election results in various swing states.

“At the end of the day, in my view, the litigation will not work,” the Harrisburg, Pa., lawyer said Nov. 7 on iHeartRadio. “It will not reverse this election.”

Barely a week later, Scaringi is playing a key role in one piece of that litigation, representing the Trump campaign in what may be its last stand in Pennsylvania — an unlikely lawsuit intended to block the Keystone State from certifying its election results.

Amid intensifying scrutiny, a growing number of Trump campaign attorneys have in recent weeks pulled out of election lawsuits that critics say are peddling unfounded allegations of voter fraud.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans sound alarm on Georgia Senate runoffs as they weigh Trump’s influence, Robert Costa and Tom Hamburger, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). On a private call, GOP senators and allies fret about the changing electorate and look to reach anti-Trump Republicans.

republican elephant logoThose blunt assessments, which capture a Republican Party in turmoil as Trump refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, were made on a Nov. 10 call with donors hosted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It featured Georgia’s embattled GOP incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and Karl Rove, a veteran strategist who is coordinating fundraising for the Jan. 5 runoffs.

Roll Call, Grassley Senate vote streak is over, misses his first roll call in 27 years, Niels Lesniewski, Nov. 17, 2020. The longest duration of a consecutive vote streak in Senate history has come to an end.

Senate President Pro Tempore Charles E. Grassley said in a statement Tuesday morning that he was in self-quarantine after exposure to Charles Grassley R-IOCOVID-19. His vote streak ends at 8,927 consecutive votes, according to his office.

“I learned today that I’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. I will follow my doctors’ orders and immediately quarantine as I await my test results,” the Iowa Republican said. “I’m feeling well and not currently experiencing any symptoms, but it’s important we all follow public health guidelines to keep each other healthy."

The 87-year-old Grassley was on Capitol Hill Monday evening for the Senate’s first vote of the week to limit debate on the latest of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees to reach the Senate floor.

Until Tuesday, Grassley last missed roll call votes on July 14, 1993, when the senator was traveling with then-President Bill Clinton to tour flooding damage in Iowa during what the National Weather Service described as the Great Flood of 1993, which devastated Iowa and other states across the Great Plains.

 

Obama Memoir

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: In his memoir, Obama is both the subject and the judge, Carlos Lozada, Nov. 17, 2020. I’ve long been imagining Barack Obama’s presidential memoir. Would it be an extension of the life and mind found in Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, part three of a most introspective trilogy?

Would it see itself in conversation — or competition — with the memoirs and reflections of presidents past? Or might it somehow complement Michelle Obama’s blockbuster 2018 memoir, Becoming, on the struggle to articulate one’s purpose while shifting from private to public life?

barack obama a promised land coverThe answer is yes. Obama’s lengthy and still partial account of his presidency is some version of all of these books; its strength, like that of its author, is in the ability to be many things to many people.

But the deeper one wades through it, the clearer it becomes that A Promised Land is less a personal memoir than an unusual sort of history, one recounted by the man at the center of it, a man who seems always to be observing himself in action, always wondering if he is guiding the currents or driven by them.

There is chronology here, from childhood to schooling to community organizing to law to marriage to politics and finally to the White House, and then from financial crisis to health-care battles, from endless war in distant lands to an endless spill at the bottom of the ocean. Yet Obama himself remains at a distance, immersed more in thought than action, always on the lookout for contradictions and symbolism, unveiling himself only in select moments. If there is a narrative here, it concerns what happens inside the writer’s own head.

And so the book’s main revelation concerns that, too. Obama says he wrote A Promised Land to invite young people “to once again remake the world, and to bring about . . . an America that finally aligns with all that is best in us.” Implicit in such an invitation is an admission of his failure to bring about that alignment in his time.

Part of it is due to obstructionism by congressional Republicans, who turned opposition to the first Black president from a means of politics to its end. Part of it stems from the impossible expectations with which Obama imbued his politics and his speeches, which, as he puts it, “tapped into some collective spirit, a thing we all know and wish for — a sense of connection that overrides our differences and replaces them with a giant swell of possibility.”

Yet it is also a function of Obama’s innate caution, of his skepticism — hopeful slogans notwithstanding — of dramatic change.

 

Trump Watch

djt virus trump did it Custom

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Can America Restore the Rule of Law Without Prosecuting Trump? Jonathan Mahler, Nov. 17, 2020.  Donald djt smiling fileTrump’s potential criminal liability is the key to understanding his presidency. When he leaves office, it will present a historic dilemma.

Last year, one of Trump’s lawyers, William Consovoy, memorably argued in open court that a sitting president could shoot a man in public and not be prosecuted. The legal validity of this claim notwithstanding, there is nothing to protect a former president from prosecution. No ex-president has ever been indicted before, but no president has ever left office with so much potential criminal liability.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No, President Biden did NOT say he’ll let Donald Trump slide on criminal charges, Bill Palmer, Nov. 17, 2020. Some of you are totally misinterpreting Joe Biden’s remarks. He said that while he isn’t personally excited about Trump being prosecuted, he’s going to completely stay out of it and let the Attorney General and the DOJ make all the decisions. Biden is just trying to stay above the fray.

bill palmer report logo headerReally, it’s what you want from President Biden. The last thing we need is the appearance that Biden has anything at all to do with the criminal charges that will (obviously) be brought against Trump. The DOJ isn’t just going to magically let Trump’s crimes slide. Biden will simply lament publicly about the fact that any of it’s even necessary, even as Trump goes down.

Besides, Trump will likely try to pardon himself on federal charges on his way out the door. This will be disputed in court, but it could take time to sort out.

djt prison palmer reportWhat the media doesn’t get is that Trump’s most awful threats are usually just theater, designed to distract everyone from the other awful things he’s actually quietly carrying out in the background. Trump is a sociopath and his mind is failing, but he’s still at least a vaguely rational villain.

Trump knows that he’s earmarked for bankruptcy and prison [as suggested by a Palmer Report graphic at right], and that the only leverage he has left is his brief remaining time as president.

Once he realizes he has zero chance of magically remaining in office, he’s going to spend his final days in office trying to set up the softest landing possible for himself in his inevitable criminal trials. If he starts threatening to nuke Philadelphia or something, it’ll merely be his way of trying to distract us from the pardons, the embezzling, his other corrupt but low-key antics on his way out the door.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has to make a no-win decision by tomorrow, Bill Palmer, Nov. 17, 2020. Donald Trump, who’s obviously donald trump money palmer report Customhard up for money, has to decide by tomorrow whether to spend $8 million to fund a Wisconsin recount. He’d be wasting the money, because he knows he’ll end up losing the recount by the end of the week. But if he doesn’t go through with it and keep up appearances, he’ll immediately have a harder time convincing his rubes to keep funding his imaginary effort.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump hasn’t tweeted anything today. It’s nice that we no longer have to care why.

Donald Trump couldn’t even get his base to turn out and vote for other Republicans in the midterms and special elections before he lost. He’s not going to be able get his base to turn out in the Georgia Senate runoffs now that he’s a defeated loser. It’s absurd to suggest that he can.

Lindsey Graham now claims he “can’t remember” which election official he spoke to in Nevada. Good luck explaining that one to the jury.

 

donald trump melania trump piano posedjt melania liberty ball inauguration 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, Melania Trump, like America, may be more in love with President Trump than critics hoped, Mary Jordan and Jada Yuan, Nov. 17, 2020. Many who despise the president imagine that his wife (shown above in a photo layout earlier in their relationship and at right during the 2017 Inaugural) does, too. But in the closing days of the campaign, the first lady emerged as an ardent cheerleader.

Melania Trump keeps a small inner circle, but two people close to her spoke to The Washington Post and said that she has shown no sign of leaving her husband, at least not any time soon. (They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they know Melania would not want them to speak to the press. “She believes her private life is no one’s business,” said one.)

 

wayne madesen report logo

ny times logoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: A perilous presidential interregnum, Wayne Madsen, below left, Nov. 17, 2020. Not since the presidential transition from James Buchanan to Abraham Lincoln in 1861 has an incoming president been threatened with what amounts to calls for an armed insurrection against an newly-inaugurated president.

wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMany of the threats aimed at President-elect Joe Biden are being egged on from the core of the Donald Trump camp, which includes neo-Nazi and fascist groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and III%ers. These insurrectionists are also receiving aid and comfort from individuals like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a state that figured as heavily in the sedition against President Lincoln as it does today in the insurrectionism against President-elect Biden.

Soon-to-be President Biden should be as wary about dealing with the neo-insurrectionists as was Lincoln in keeping a watchful eye on the treason being organized in South Carolina.

 

Inside DC

ny times logo

New York Times, Dana Remus Has Taken an Unlikely Path to the White House Counsel’s Office, Michael D. Shear, Nov. 17, 2020. Ms. Remus, who clerked for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., will help guide Joseph R. Biden Jr. through politically charged legal fights with Republican lawmakers.

If there was a certain path to becoming President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s top lawyer in the West Wing, it was unlikely to have started with an apprenticeship to one of the most conservative jurists in the country.

But Dana Remus, a Yale-educated lawyer who clerked for Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. — a rock-solid member of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing — has been named the White House counsel in Mr. Biden’s administration, where she will help guide the new president through politically charged legal fights with Republican lawmakers.

An early member of Mr. Biden’s third bid for the presidency, Ms. Remus served as the campaign’s top lawyer and before that was a key legal adviser to President Barack Obama. She was the White House ethics lawyer for Mr. Obama and has represented the Obama Foundation since he left office in 2017.

Now, Ms. Remus will lead the White House Counsel’s Office for Mr. Biden as he seeks to unwind President Trump’s legislative and regulatory legacy and pushes forward with an agenda of his own.

washington post logoWashington Post, A third GOP senator comes out against Trump’s Fed nominee, putting confirmation vote on knife’s edge, Rachel Siegel and Seung Min Kim, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee joins two other Republicans in opposing Judy Shelton’s nomination. Alexander joins Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who said they would vote “no” over the summer.

federal reserve system Custom“I oppose the nomination of Judy Shelton because I am not convinced that she supports the independence of the Federal Reserve Board as much as I believe the Board of Governors should,” Alexander said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I don’t want to turn over management of the money supply to a Congress and a President who can’t balance the federal budget.”

Shelton’s nomination to the Fed board has been controversial from the start. In her past writings and remarks, Shelton has said the Fed harnesses too much power and should be reined in. Shelton, who advised Trump’s 2016 presidential run, has also caused lawmakers to question her commitment to the Fed’s independence from the White House, a core part of the central bank’s reputation and authority. She has also been outspoken against the Fed as an institution.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans are trying to jam through Judy Shelton. She has no business working at the Fed, Catherine Rampell, catherine rampellright, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Republican lawmakers are about to start an arms race politicizing a government institution critical to the country’s functioning, one that spent decades painstakingly establishing its credibility as a neutral, apolitical body of professionals.

The Senate is expected to vote as soon as this week on Trump’s nomination of Judy Shelton to the Fed. Simply put, Shelton is a demonstrably unqualified partisan quack who has no business working at the world’s most powerful central bank.

Her nomination has been condemned by hundreds of economists and Fed alumni, including prominent Republicans and at least seven Nobel laureates. The senators poised to confirm her appear to know she is unfit; ahead of February hearings, a former Republican Senate federal reserve system CustomBanking Committee aide said that “the idea of even calling her as a witness for something was beyond the pale” not long ago.

Perhaps most objectionable is her multi-decade effort to bring back the gold standard. This might be popular among the right-wing fringe, but it was abandoned worldwide long ago and remains almost unanimously rejected by economists. For good reasons, including that gold prices are volatile. Linking the dollar to gold can also restrict liquidity when the economy needs it most — as happened during the Great Depression.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Senate blocks Judy Shelton nomination to the Fed, Rachel Siegel and Seung Min Kim, Nov. 17, 2020. Shelton’s support narrowed after Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said he would immediately quarantine. Three other GOP senators oppose her confirmation.

Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors failed to advance in the Senate on Tuesday, jeopardizing her prospects of being confirmed due to a combination of Republican absences and opposition to her installation to the central bank.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against moving her forward; a procedural move that allows him to bring up Shelton’s nomination at another time. Hours before the Senate was set to vote on Shelton’s confirmation, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would immediately quarantine while waiting for test results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Urged by a Democrat to wear his mask, Sen. Dan Sullivan retorted: ‘I don’t need your instructions,’ Andrea Salcedo, Nov. 17, 2020. As Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) took the Senate floor on Monday, he had one request for Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “Please wear a mask,” he asked Sullivan.

Sherrod BrownThe Republican presiding over the Senate abruptly cut off Brown, left. “I don’t wear a mask when I’m speaking, like most senators,” Sullivan said. His red, white and blue mask sat atop his desk. “I don’t need your instructions.”

The brief but tense exchange between the senators, which went viral on Twitter in a clip viewed more than 1.8 million times by Tuesday morning, marked the latest partisan clash between congressional leaders, who have often argued over basic coronavirus safety and health measures inside the Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, SEC chairman to step down at end of the year, Hannah Denham, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Jay Clayton, a longtime corporate lawyer, was thrust into controversy when President Trump said he would nominate him to be the next U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Clayton, a longtime corporate lawyer, was appointed by Trump in May 2017 and is one of the commission’s longest-serving chairs.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration to cut troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq in sprint to deliver on president’s promise, Missy Ryan, Ellen Nakashima, Dan Lamothe, John Hudson and Karen DeYoung, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The White House is expected to announce a reduction of U.S. forces from around 5,000 to 2,500 by the time President Trump leaves office in January.

The Trump administration is planning to move ahead with a significant reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before President Trump leaves office in January, taking steps toward delivering on his long-delayed campaign promise to bring home troops from insurgent wars.

According to officials familiar with the discussions, the White House is preparing to announce as soon as this week plans to roughly halve the number of U.S. troops, from around 5,000 to 2,500, by the time President-elect Joe Biden assumes office on Jan. 20.

The administration is also expected to announce a more modest troop reduction in Iraq, bringing the military force there from about 3,000 to 2,500 troops, another step that would advance the goal Trump has espoused since before he was elected to wind down the wars launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and refocus resources at home.

But the reductions may not bring an end to America’s long-running wars, as militant groups continue to evolve and fracture. The proposed cuts also have an uncertain meaning less than 70 days before Biden takes office and launches a process to scrutinize his predecessor’s decisions.

The Trump administration’s decision to make a major reduction in Afghanistan, where violence has surged as Afghan negotiators engage in halting peace talks, in particular could bring to a head tensions that have intensified between some at the Pentagon and White House during a chaotic transition period.

Officials cautioned that the plans from the White House, where foreign policy zigzags have been common, could change. Some aides are proposing a Trump speech later in the week to announce the planned cut from Afghanistan, which was first reported by CNN.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Brazil’s Covid Crisis Eases, Bolsonaro Sees Rising Popularity, Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni and Letícia jair bolsonaro brazilCasado, Nov. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Jair Bolsonaro’s cavalier handling of the pandemic drew outrage, but his political standing has improved as the curve flattened. Now, with Brazil’s caseload and death toll down significantly since peaking in July, Mr. Bolsonaro’s popularity is starting to rise. Yet the easing of the pandemic came largely because Brazilians did not follow his lead.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s strengthened standing among the electorate stands in contrast to other leaders in the region who heeded brazil flag wavingthe scientific consensus about lockdowns, social distancing and masks, and have seen their popularity decline.

Feeling emboldened, Mr. Bolsonaro chided the press last week for continuing to focus on the pandemic, which has killed more than 163,000 people in Brazil.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Drop Case Against Mexican Ex-Official and Repatriate Him, Michael S. Schmidt and Natalie Kitroeff, Nov. 18, 2020 (print ed.).The announcement by the Justice Department was an abrupt turnaround a month after the high-profile arrest of a former defense minister.

The official, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, had been Mexico’s defense minister from 2012 to 2018 and was accused of taking bribes in exchange for protecting cartel leaders. But Mr. Barr and Mexico’s attorney general, Alejandro Gertz Manero, stopped short in a statement of promising any charges in Mexico, and the move raised questions about why the Justice Department would hand over the matter to a country with a shoddy record of investigating high-profile cases tied to organized crime.

In a court filing, prosecutors acknowledged that the Trump administration had determined that preserving its relationship with Mexico prevailed over pursuing the case.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, A Popular Political Site Made a Sharp Right Turn. Why? Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 17, 2020. Real Clear Politics pitches itself as a “trusted, go-to source” for unbiased polling. The Trump era changed its tone and funding sources.

For three days after every major news organization declared Joseph R. Biden Jr. the victor of the presidential election, one widely read political site maintained that Pennsylvania was still too close to call.

The delay was welcome news to allies of President Trump like Rudolph W. Giuliani and friendly outlets like The Gateway Pundit, which misrepresented the site’s decision in their efforts to spread false claims that Mr. Biden’s lead was unraveling.

That site, Real Clear Politics, is well known as a clearinghouse of elections data and analysis with a large following among the political and media establishment — and the kinds of political obsessives who might now have all the counties in Georgia memorized. It markets itself to advertisers as a “trusted, go-to source” admired by campaign and news professionals alike. Its industry benchmark polling average is regularly cited by national publications and cable news networks.

But less well known is how Real Clear Politics and its affiliated websites have taken a rightward, aggressively pro-Trump turn over the last four years as donations to its affiliated nonprofit have soared. Large quantities of those funds came through two entities that wealthy conservatives use to give money without revealing their identities.

The founders of Real Clear Politics, two self-described news junkies who became friends at Princeton and started the website in 2000, said over email that they “fully stand behind” the average and their editors’ decision to publish those pieces. “Our advertisers, sponsors, supporters, and readers represent an array of perspectives across the political spectrum,” wrote John McIntyre, the chief executive, and Tom Bevan, the president. “And they know we practice fiercely independent journalism that necessarily covers all relevant sides of our national political and policy debates.”

 

Nov. 16

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

Inside DC 

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump, Trying to Cling to Power, Fans Unrest and Conspiracies, Michael D. Shear, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s refusal to concede has entered a more dangerous phase as he blocks his successor’s transition, withholding intelligence briefings, pandemic information and access to the government.

joe biden oMore than a week after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the winner, Mr. Trump continues to block his successor’s transition, withholding intelligence briefings, critical information about the coronavirus pandemic and access to the vast machinery of government that Mr. Biden will soon oversee.

Some former top advisers to Mr. Trump have said that his refusal to cooperate is reckless and unwise. John F. Kelly, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, called it “crazy” on Friday. John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser who wrote a scathing memoir about his time in the administration, said the refusal “harms the country.”

john bolton hands up uncredited Custom“Every day that he delays under the pretense that he’s simply asking for his legal remedies ultimately is to the country’s disadvantage,” Mr. Bolton (shown at right in a file photo) said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday morning.

The president’s attempt to cling to power played out against a backdrop of protests by Trump supporters and opponents late Saturday, with sporadic clashes near the White House. The police arrested 21 people as one protester was stabbed and four officers were injured. Rather than seek to calm tensions, Mr. Trump lashed out.

“ANTIFA SCUM ran for the hills,” he posted on Twitter on Saturday as he urged the police to move in aggressively. “DC Police, get going — do your job and don’t hold back!!!”

washington post logodjt hands up mouth open CustomWashington Post, Analysis: The ending of Trump’s presidency echoes the beginning — with a lie, Ashley Parker, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s term is poised to come full circle in myriad ways, from a consistent lack of strategic vision to his enduring efforts to delegitimize his political rivals, whoever they might be.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Giuliani’s fantasy parade of false voter-fraud claims, Glenn Kessler, Nov. 16, 2020. In interviews with sympathetic Fox News hosts, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, right, has made several wild claims alleging that election fraud and malfeasance was responsible for Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

rudy giuliani recentHis claims have been echoed in weekend tweets by President Trump, accusing a software company of somehow manipulating the vote in favor of Biden. These presidential tweets have been flagged by Twitter as misleading.

Moreover, this nonsense has already been debunked by Trump’s own government. In a statement issued Nov. 12, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and partners such as the National Association of Secretaries of State declared: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

That sentence was posted in boldface, just to make it clear. The statement added: “While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too. When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is putting this country through something unprecedented. Here are three scenarios, Fred Hiatt (Post editorial page editor), Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.).

Scenario 1: President Trump is trying to overturn the results of a freely conducted election.
Scenario 2: Trump knows he has lost and must leave office Jan. 20, but he is salting the soil to make governing impossible for Biden while preparing his own political and financial comeback.
Scenario 3: Trump has no plan but is lashing out in anger and disbelief that he could have lost an election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election Live Updates: Biden delivers address on the economy as Trump refuses to concede, Staff reports, Nov. 16, 2020. Reps. Cheri Bustos, Tim Walberg test positive for coronavirus; Reps. Mark Pocan, Debbie Lesko quarantining; Wisconsin says recount would cost Trump campaign $7.9 million; Delaware is famous for corporations, chemicals, chickens — and now, finally, a president.

President-elect Joe Biden spoke with business and labor leaders and then delivered an address about the economy and his “build back better” plan. He said coordination between his team and President Trump’s administration is key as vaccine development progresses and the question of distribution looms, while Trump continued to refuse to acknowledge his loss.

Former president Barack Obama, in a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday, urged Trump to “put the country first” and concede.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has called for oil and gas firms to pick spots where they’d like to drill on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as it races to open the pristine wilderness to development and lock in drilling rights before Biden takes office.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, With 11 Million Cases in the U.S., Virus Is Now Personal for Most, Amy Harmon, Lucy Tompkins, Audra D. S. Burch and Serge F. Kovaleski, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. is nearing the point when every American knows someone who has been infected. But while some are taking more precautions, others are shrugging it off.

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

World Cases: 54,972,130, Deaths: 1,326,791
U.S. Cases:   11,372,904, Deaths:    251,934

ny times logoNew York Times, No Papers, No Jobs: The New Street Vendors of Queens, Staff report, Nov. 16, 2020 (video story.). As the virus spread and New Yorkers lost their jobs en masse, undocumented immigrants turned to one of the few options left: selling food on the street.

andrew cuomoReuters via New York Times, Trump’s Vaccine Distribution Plan Is an ‘Affront,’ Cuomo Says, Staff report, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, of New York criticized President Trump’s coronavirus vaccine distribution plan and said the state would consider taking legal action to pursue a more equitable process.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

Politico, Another shake-up on Trump campaign legal team, Josh Gerstein, Nov. 16, 2020.  The campaign has apparently tried to replace the entire team handling its federal lawsuit seeking to block certification of Pennsylvania’s election results.

The game of musical chairs among lawyers pursuing President Donald Trump’s court challenges to the election results continued on Monday evening, as the campaign tried to replace the entire team handling the campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to block certification of Pennsylvania’s results.

A court filing said Marc Scaringi, a Harrisburg, Pa., attorney, conservative talk radio host and former Senate candidate, was taking over the case. The move came just hours before a potentially make-or-break court hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on motions by Pennsylvania state and county officials to dismiss the lawsuit.

The legal escapade devolved into farce on Monday night as the federal judge rejected a move by the campaign to postpone that key hearing.

Less than 90 minutes after the outgoing attorneys for the campaign assured U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann that “Scaringi is aware of the schedule set by the Court in this matter and will be prepared to proceed according to that schedule,” Scaringi asked the judge to put off the session, arguing that he was inadequately prepared.

“Having only been retained today, Plaintiffs’ new counsel need additional time to adequately prepare this case for the upcoming oral argument and evidentiary hearing,” Scaringi wrote. “Furthermore, this is a case of significant complexity and importance to the people of the United States of America.”

Brann, an appointee of President Barack Obama who sits in Williamsport, Pa., promptly denied the continuance without explanation — beyond noting that the request was filed at 7:40 P.M.

“Oral argument will take place as scheduled, tomorrow, November 17, 2020,” the judge wrote. “Counsel for the parties are expected to be prepared for argument and questioning.”

Brann also appeared to balk at the campaign’s attempt to swap out its entire legal team. He excused two Texas-based attorneys who just formally joined the case on Friday, but did not immediately release a Pennsylvania lawyer who has served as local counsel since the suit was filed a week ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, With pandemic raging, Republicans say election results validate their approach, Griff Witte, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Democrat Joe Biden may have won the presidency pledging a national mask mandate and a science-based approach to controlling the pandemic. But in the states where the virus is spiking highest — particularly in the Upper Midwest — Republicans made substantial gains down-ballot. Often they did so by republican elephant logorailing against the very tool that scientists say could best help arrest the virus’s spread.

To many Republican voters, “masks have become a symbol of assaults on freedom,” said Aaron Weinschenk, chair of the political science department at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. “I’ve heard so many times, ‘You know what’s best for your family, so you should decide.’ ”

michelle obama resized hand up

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michelle Obama just called out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Nov. 16, 2020. Former First Lady Michelle Obama always says that when they go low, we go high. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know how to gracefully throw a proverbial punch when it’s necessary. Moments ago she called out Donald Trump for refusing to concede an election that he’s clearly lost.

bill palmer report logo headerMichelle Obama posted a lengthy message on Instagram today. Here are the final two sentences: “This isn’t a game. So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout history.”

This comes after President Barack Obama appeared on 60 Minutes last night and told Donald Trump that it’s over and that it’s time for him to start the transition to President-elect Joe Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Trump’s Yearslong Plan to Make Losing Look Like a Win, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Even before the 2016 election, Donald Trump was building a voter fraud conspiracy theory. It culminated this year as his political fortunes ebbed.

The trouble broke out inside the main counting room in Detroit late on the morning of Nov. 4.

It was the day after Election Day, and until then the process of tabulating votes from the city’s various counting boards had gone smoothly inside the TCF Center, the cavernous convention hall that plays host to the North American International Auto Show.

As batches of ballots came in by van, workers methodically inspected and registered them at 134 separate tables, each monitored by voting rights observers and so-called election challengers from each party.

But the posture of the Republican challengers shifted as the count swung in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and word spread that President Trump would sue. One witness, a nonpartisan observer, Julie Moroney, heard a Republican organizer say, “Now we’re going to challenge every ballot.”

Republican volunteers suddenly ramped up their objections across the room: accusations that the workers doing the counting were entering obviously incorrect birth years or backdating ballots. In some cases, the volunteers lodged blanket claims of wrongdoing.

The fraud that the Republicans claimed to observe was not fraud at all, a Michigan state judge determined on Friday in rejecting a lawsuit filed by allies of Mr. Trump. The various instances of supposed malfeasance were in fact well-established procedures for dealing with the peculiarities of data entry, the correction of minor errors and protocols for social distancing — all intended to ensure a careful and accurate vote count.

But in the fact-twisting narrative of Mr. Trump, his political allies and his supporters, the Detroit counting center was a crime scene where Democrats stole an election, a miscarriage demanding that outrage be channeled through the courts, presidential Twitter posts and cable news stemwinders.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Georgia Secretary of State reveals Lindsey Graham pressured him to rig the election for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Nov. lindsey graham16, 2020. Lindsey Graham had better hope his personal relationship with Donald Trump is enough to garner him a pardon from Trump on his way out the door. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger just revealed to the Washington Post that Graham, right, personally pressured him to throw out legally cast ballots.

bill palmer report logo headerGiven that Graham is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and by default he abused his position to try to pressure a government official into rigging an election, Graham has to be criminally charged with felony election tampering the minute Trump is gone from office.

It’s one thing to publicly make false claims about the outcome of the election, or to publicly spin phony conspiracy theories about the results of the election. That’s bad enough. But actually pressuring officials behind the scenes to go ahead and rig the outcome? Lindsey Graham had better hope Trump pardons him.

washington post logoWashington Post, The federal government’s chief information security officer is helping an outside effort to hunt for alleged voter fraud, Jon Swaine and Lisa Rein, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Camilo Sandoval said in an interview that he has taken a break from his government duties to work for the Voter Integrity Fund, a newly formed Virginia-based group that is analyzing ballot data and cold-calling voters in an attempt to substantiate the president’s outlandish claims about illicit voting.

Sandoval is one of several Trump appointees in the federal government — some in senior roles — who are harnessing their expertise for the project, according to the group’s leader.

The participation of administration officials in the project shows the extent of the efforts by the president’s allies to justify his unfounded allegations of widespread ballot fraud.

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Advocacy: Baseless Lawsuits That Tried to Disrupt Voter Outcomes in Four States Are Withdrawn, Staff report, Nov. 16, 2020. Cases Were Brought in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Four federal lawsuits filed by private plaintiffs in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin submitted notice of their intent to withdraw their claims today. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is involved in several of the post-election lawsuits that have been filed to rewrite the outcome of November's election.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued the following statement:

"We are not surprised that plaintiffs have moved to dismiss their own claims in this case as it confirms the pattern we have seen with these post-election suits - they are littered with baseless allegations that can't be substantiated in a court of law. There is no clear or coordinated strategy as these suits continue to crumble. The litigants in these cases have been desperately court-shopping in search of a judge who might be sympathetic to their claims. These suits are part of a last-ditch attempt intended to promote chaos and discord while eroding public confidence in the outcome of our elections.

"We have faced True the Vote before, an organization notorious for driving efforts to suppress the votes and voices of Black voters and voices of color. It is notable that these suits have sharply focused on communities that are home to large numbers of voters of color, making the racialized pattern underlining these suits especially odious."

Palmer Report, Opinion: We’re almost there, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 16, 2020. You know that feeling at the end of a six hour flight when you’ve finally pulled bill palmerup to the gate, and then you have to sit there for another fifteen minutes waiting for them to finally open the door and let everyone off? That’s what we’re all feeling right now when it comes to Donald Trump’s illegitimate presidency.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s been four years of hell, but we’ve managed to make it through. We’ve defeated Donald Trump, even after he shut down the Post Office in an attempt at keeping people from voting him out. We did it. There will not be another four years of Trump. There will instead merely be another sixty-something days. We’re about 95% of the way through this nightmare – and now the final 5% seems interminable.

We have good reason for sweating it out, of course. There’s a deadly pandemic that’s getting worse, and Trump is still doing everything he can to donald trump twittersabotage the response. The economy is a mess. And of course Trump is going to do everything he can to give himself a softer landing with regard to the prison and bankruptcy he’s facing once he’s gone.

But there is also reason for hope. We’ve made it this far. Trump has far less power and influence now than he did before he lost; it’s clear that many of his allies are no longer taking his calls. We elected a good man in Joe Biden who will help us piece things back together quickly. There’s a vaccine on the horizon. And we’ve got each other. We’ll get through this. We’re almost there.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: America: Vacant and bereft of the common good for the commonwealth, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 16, 2020. The weekend "Million MAGA March," which drew only about 10,000 neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and other ne'er-do-wells to Washington, DC in support of Donald Trump's attempt at a coup d'etat, was noteworthy for its rejection of the common good in what was once considered to be a commonwealth.

The maskless protesters turned downtown Washington into a major Covid-19 super spreader event, matching recent events at the White House that spread Covid to members of Trump's staff. Trump's egotism and irresponsibility to do what is in the public's interest may have forever altered the psyche of the United States. That was not the case just a few decades ago.

This editor's past professional career was in the field of computer security and disaster recovery. Among the disasters contemplated for contingency planning was an epidemic or pandemic on the scale of the 1918 influenza. Business, community leaders, and public and private health officials all recognized the need for concrete steps to be taken to avoid a major disaster. These included quarantines, work furloughs, and running skeletal staffs.

Corporate executives and government leaders had no problem giving their designated disaster recovery personnel paid time off to attend disaster recovery seminars and briefings from key response officials.

It now appears that the late 1980s saw the last dying gasp of citizens being selflessly responsible for maintaining the common good in a commonwealth. No one in those days argued against arranging for vaccines being administered to their work force or families.

A Covid 19 vaccination program will be unsuccessful if conspiratorial "anti-vaxxers" of the far-right and far-left have their way. A reconstructed civil defense system, with neighborhood coordinators being designated and trained, may be the answer. While the public is administered the vaccine, just as what occurred in 1976 and 1964 in mass numbers throughout the United States, civil defense coordinators would be free to ensure full compliance or mandatory quarantine for non-compliance.

 

Inside DC

nancy pelosi horizontal uncredited older Custom

Roll Call, Analysis: For progressives, the House is as big a problem as the Senate, Shawn Zeller, Nov. 16, 2020. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, above, will have a monumental task in keeping the House Democratic Caucus together — presuming she’s elected to return as leader.

With several races still uncalled, Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have a majority as narrow as 221-214, giving her three votes to spare when Republicans are united in opposition. Presuming Democrats elect her to return as their leader, Pelosi will have a monumental task in keeping the caucus together. The speaker’s job is all the more complicated because moderates are fearful that Democrats will lose seats in the 2022 midterm elections, considering Republicans have unified control of the process that will redraw district lines in more states than Democrats do.

Progressive dreams of a sweeping, liberal agenda “will have to be tempered by the reality of this election,” said Rick Boucher, a former 14-term representative from southwest Virginia and member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition. Boucher lost his seat in the tea party wave of 2010.

Pelosi’s first test will come later this month when House Democrats meet to select their leadership slate for the next Congress. Pelosi will have to convince several of those Democrats who opposed her on the House floor in 2019 to vote for her this time.

At least 10 moderates who opposed her then were reelected: Jared Golden of Maine, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Jason Crow of Colorado, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Kathleen Rice of New York, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan. Another two, Anthony Brindisi of New York and Ben McAdams of Utah, are in uncalled races.

There’s no indication that Pelosi, who has already pledged to serve only through 2022 as speaker, has a challenger. Still, the moderates who opposed her and expressed their dissatisfaction with progressives’ policy ideas will want assurances that she’ll avoid them.

Those include the Green New Deal, “Medicare for All,” defunding the police and anything that Republicans can label as socialism.

The irony is that Pelosi avoided these issues during 2019 and 2020, but moderates are fearful that the party’s Progressive Caucus will push harder next year, especially if Democrats win Senate control.

“Any move too far to the left jeopardizes those seats that make up her majority,” said Lisa Camooso Miller, a partner at Reset Public Affairs who was a spokeswoman for Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert when he was speaker.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Was It Worth It, Jared and Ivanka? Frank Bruni, right, Nov. 16, 2020. The glossiest grifters become Vuitton vagabonds.Just frank brunifive short years ago Jared and Ivanka were dinner-party royalty here in Manhattan. It’s that kind of place.

They had money, they had youth, they had celebrity. They were thin. I’m told that their manners were impeccable, so you’d never know that his father was an actual felon and her father a de facto one. Besides, you can’t hold family against someone, can you?

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookWe don’t choose how we’re born.

But from then on, we do make choices, and we’re accountable for those.

Jared and Ivanka are about to be held accountable.

They chose to tether their fortunes to her father’s, chose to go along for the ride, chose to see how far it could take them, because what if it took them all the way? What if Ivanka became the first female president, something that Manhattan acquaintances of hers assured me that she fantasized about, a giddy possibility that her father floated out loud.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump’s efforts on Iran falter, Biden will face a more assertive Tehran, Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet, Nov. 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is widely expected to leave President-elect Joe Biden with a crisis that is worse, by nearly every measure, than when he was elected four years ago.

Iran FlagLast week, as the White House digested news of a defeat at the polls, Trump administration officials were greeted with reports of troubling setbacks on two fronts in the country’s long-simmering conflict with Iran.

First came a leaked U.N. document showing yet another sharp rise in Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium. Then, satellites tracked an Iranian oil tanker — the fourth in recent weeks — sailing toward the Persian Gulf after delivering Iranian petroleum products to Venezuela.

The second revealed gaping holes in President Trump’s strategy for stopping that advance. Over the summer, the administration made a show of seizing cargo from several other tankers at sea in a bid to deter Iran from trying to sell its oil abroad. Yet Iran’s oil trade, like its nuclear fuel output, is on the rise again.

The Trump administration is entering its final months with a flurry of new sanctions intended to squeeze Iran economically. But by nearly every measure, the efforts appear to be faltering. The tankers that arrived in Venezuela in recent weeks are part of a flotilla of ships that analysts say is now quietly moving a million barrels of discounted Iranian oil and gas a day to eager customers from the Middle East to South America to Asia, including China.

ny times logoNew York Times, SpaceX’s ‘Resilience’ Lifts 4 Astronauts Into New Era of Spaceflight, Kenneth Chang and Allyson Waller, Updated Nov. 16, 2020. The crew will spend some 27 hours in a capsule built by the private company before docking with the space station Monday night.

Sunday’s launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station in a capsule built by SpaceX was a momentous step toward making space travel commonplace and mundane.

In the future, instead of relying on spacecraft built by NASA or other governments, NASA astronauts and anyone else with enough money can buy a ticket on a commercial rocket.

NASA designated Sunday night’s launch as the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft built and operated by SpaceX, the rocket company started by Elon Musk. The four astronauts aboard — three from NASA, one from JAXA, the Japanese space agency — left Earth from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A Crew Dragon took two astronauts — Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley — to the space station in May, but that was a test flight to shake out remaining glitches in the systems. This launch, known as Crew-1, is a regularly scheduled trip to take four crew members for a six-month stay at the space station.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hurricane Iota explosively intensifies to Category 5 as it bears down on Nicaragua, Matthew Cappucci, Anna-Cat Brigida and Jason Samenow, Nov. 16, 2020. The strongest hurricane ever observed this late in the Atlantic season, the storm is predicted to make landfall in Nicaragua early Tuesday with catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge and devastating rainfall.

 

Nov. 15

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Post-Election Battles

 

U.S. Law, Scouts, Police

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Worsening coronavirus crisis pushes leaders to take new measures, Hannah Knowles, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). A dark reality is sinking in for officials around the country, with North Dakota's Republican governor the latest leader to announce stiff new restrictions in the face of surging cases and hospitalizations.

doug burgumBars, restaurants and event venues would have to cut capacity, Gov. Doug Burgum, right, said in a solemn video posted to social media. Most after-school activities would be put on hold. Starting Saturday, masks must be worn inside businesses, indoors in public spaces and outdoors in public when social distancing can’t be maintained, backed by potential fines of up to $1,000 for the first offense.

“Our situation has changed, and we must change with it,” the governor said, as the United States breaks records for daily new cases and North Dakota leads in recent infections per capita.

A dark reality is sinking in for officials across the country, with Burgum just the latest leader to announce new restrictions in the face of surging cases and hospitalizations that health experts have been warning about for months. But doctors and health officials worry that the urgency of the escalating crisis has not gotten through to a public weary of pandemic shutdowns. And the push for stronger measures has triggered backlash and legal fights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid election fight, Trump tunes out spike in cases, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Philip Rucker, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The defeated president shrugged off expert advice and ignored his potential leadership role on the coronavirus as the nation heads into a grim winter.

President Trump finally received some good news this past week: Amid spiking coronavirus cases nationwide — more than 100,000 new cases a day since Nov. 4, with deaths rising, too — pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that its experimental coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.

But the president was furious.

The news came six days after Election Day — too late to help Trump in his contest against President-elect Joe Biden — and he said both Pfizer and his own Food and Drug Administration had withheld the announcement to prevent delivering him the sort of pre-election public-relations victory that could have helped him in the polls. Instead of touting the vaccine success as a crowning achievement of his administration, as advisers encouraged, Trump barely mentioned it except to gripe on Twitter that “the Democrats didn’t want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election.”

Since Election Day and for weeks prior, Trump has all but ceased to actively manage the deadly pandemic, which so far has killed at least 244,000 Americans, infected at least 10.9 million and choked the country’s economy. The president has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in “at least five months,” said one senior administration official with knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reality lies in wait for Biden’s bold campaign promises, Michael Scherer and Matt Viser, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). A lack of Election Day coattails forces a reevaluation of priorities, shrinking the president-elect’s options.

joe biden oPresident-elect Joe Biden campaigned on a transformational liberal policy platform, calling for “revolutionary institutional changes” and $7 trillion of new spending to remake the American economy as he styled himself a modern-day FDR.

Yet Biden’s decisive electoral college victory — he won the national popular vote by more than 5 million and flipped five states — came with no coattails down ballot that would help him push through his ambitious plans. Instead, the country appears to have rejected both President Trump and the idea of Democratic control, with the liberal policy overhaul it would have brought — forcing a rapid recalibration by Biden of what remains possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: In ‘A Promised Land,’ Barack Obama Thinks — and Thinks Some More — Over His First Term, Jennifer Szalai, Nov. 15, 2020. The most audacious thing about Barack Obama’s new memoir, A Promised Land, is the beaming portrait on its cover: There he is, the 44th president, looking so serenely confident that it’s as if the book weren’t arriving on the heels of a bitter election, amid a cratering economy and a raging pandemic.

barack obama a promised land coverThe ebullient image also stands at odds with the narrative inside — 700 pages that are as deliberative, measured and methodical as the author himself. Obama says that he initially planned to write a 500-page memoir and be done in a year; what he ended up with instead is a hefty volume (now the first of an anticipated two) that stops in May 2011, shortly after his roasting of Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 30 and the killing of Osama bin Laden the day after.

Obama’s extraordinary first book, Dreams From My Father, was published in 1995, a year before he was elected to the Illinois senate, and traced his family history alongside his own coming-of-age. A Promised Land is necessarily less intimate and more political, offering close-up views of the major issues that Obama faced during his first term, including the economic stimulus, health care, immigration, the environment and the forever war in Afghanistan.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Missing from State Plans to Distribute the Vaccine: Money, Abby Goodnough and Sheila Kaplan, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The government sent billions to companies developing a vaccine but a fraction of that to state governments for the other costs of vaccinating citizens.

With the prospect that a coronavirus vaccine will become available for emergency use as soon as next month, states and cities are warning that distributing the shots to an anxious public could be hindered by inadequate technology, severe funding shortfalls and a lack of trained personnel.

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

World Cases: 54,480,640, Deaths: 1,320,616
U.S. Cases:   11,230,715, Deaths:    251,269

washington post logoWashington Post, India’s capital is battling a surge in coronavirus cases just as pollution levels spike, Joanna Slater, Niha Masih and Taniya Dutta, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Every year, as winter approaches and an acrid haze fills the sky, Jharna Sarkar fears for her health. This time, she's terrified.

The 66-year-old retiree suffers from asthma that is aggravated by the severe pollution in India’s capital. Now a virus that makes people struggle to breathe is stalking her family.

india flag mapSarkar’s son and older brother were both infected with the novel coronavirus. Although her son recovered, her brother died in October. This year is “particularly frightening,” she said.

Delhi is battling both toxic air and a record surge in coronavirus cases. Doctors and scientists say the combination will have deadly consequences, as exposure to pollution increases the risk of severe respiratory illnesses. Air pollution also makes people more prone to infections, they say.

India has recorded more than 8.7 million coronavirus cases, second only to the United States. While fresh cases nationwide have fallen sharply since September, Delhi is an exception to the trend. The city is adding more than 7,000 cases a day, and that figure is expected to rise. More than 100 covid deaths were reported in Delhi on Thursday, a record.

ny times logoNew York Times, Doctors Are Calling It Quits Under Stress of the Pandemic, Reed Abelson, Nov. 15, 2020. Thousands of medical practices are closing, as doctors and nurses decide to retire early or shift to less intense jobs. Two years ago, Dr. Kelly McGregory opened her own pediatric practice just outside Minneapolis, where she could spend as much time as she wanted with patients and parents could get all of their questions answered.

But just as her practice was beginning to thrive, the coronavirus hit the United States and began spreading across the country.

“As an independent practice with no real connection to a big health system, it was awful,” Dr. McGregory said. At one point, she had only three surgical masks left and worried that she could no longer safely treat patients.

Families were also staying away, concerned about catching the virus. “I did some telemedicine, but it wasn’t enough volume to really replace what I was doing in the clinic,” she said.

After her husband found a new job in a different state, Dr. McGregory, 49, made the difficult decision to close her practice in August. “It was devastating,” she said. “That was my baby.”

Many other doctors are also calling it quits. Thousands of medical practices have closed during the pandemic, according to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccine botch job, Robert Harrington, right, Nov. 15, 2020. We have the Roman historian Tacitus to robert harringtnn portraitthank for the aphorism that has come down to us through many revisions as, “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.”

While no clear-eyed retrospective of history will ever be able to excuse Donald Trump for his failure overseeing America’s role in the coronavirus pandemic, neither will it give him an ounce of credit for the coming vaccine. The credit is owed to Berlin, not Washington. Donald Trump and his much-vaunted, endlessly self-promoted “Operation Warp Speed” played no part.

bill palmer report logo headerThat hasn’t stopped Trump from trying to seize credit, of course. Taking credit for the hard work of others is what he does. He began his pirate ship administration by trying to take credit for the economy he was handed by President Obama, an economy of such robust strength that it took him nearly four long years to ruin it. But history is not going to let him take credit for this vaccine. History is now being written by the winners again, and the winners are going to tell the truth.

And the truth is Pfizer didn’t receive a single penny of funding from Operation Warp Speed for the development, clinical trial and manufacture of the vaccine. Rather, its partner, BioNTech SE, has received all the money exclusively from the German government.

We ought to all give Pfizer and BioNTech and Germany the standings ovation they deserve. Meanwhile Donald Trump has never met praise for someone else that he didn’t become green with jealousy and rage over. He doesn’t just want some of the credit, he wants it all. And he can’t have it. Like I said, the winners have got this narrative, and we’re gonna tell it like it is.

The only thing America has done was to buy itself a privileged place in the queue back in July, if and when any vaccine was developed. The Trump administration agreed to pay almost $2 billion for 100 million doses, with an option to acquire as many as 500 million more, once clearance comes from the FDA for emergency use authorization.

No story about Trump trying to steal the credit for a vaccine he played no part in would be complete without a little world class incompetence mixed in. Donald Trump Jr had this to tweet about Pfizer’s vaccine revelation: “The timing of this is pretty amazing. Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?”

In other words, we learned of the vaccine five days after the election, so it couldn’t help Trump steal credit for it early enough to help him con the American people into re-electing him. But an administration that was behind the vaccine all along should have known the vaccine was coming well ahead of the election, right? Once again, the Keystone Cops administration is out of step with itself.

Nevertheless, the vaccine promises to be the miracle we were hoping for. It is also a miracle for which Donald Trump deserves not an ounce of credit. Not only is he responsible for a staggering quarter of a million American deaths from coronavirus, a grim statistic we only just passed since last I wrote to you, brothers and sisters, but he’s also directly responsible for the politicisation of the wearing of masks.

With a vaccine coming, no doubt people are going to see that as further proof that masks are unnecessary and as somehow “exonerating” Trump. Nothing can be further from the truth. We must remain hyper-vigilant. Coronavirus can still kill people by the hundreds of thousands between now and when the vaccine becomes available. The vaccine is a highly effective prophylactic, not a cure.

 

U.S. Post-Election Battles

djt march 2020 Custom

Associated Press via USA Today, Republican leaders in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin throw cold water on ploy to flip electors to ap logoTrump, Bob Christie and Nicholas Riccardi, Nov. 14, 2020. Republican leaders in Michigan and three other critical states won by President-elect Joe Biden say they won't participate in a legally dubious scheme to flip their state's electors to vote for President Donald Trump.

Their comments effectively shut down a half-baked plot some Republicans floated as a last chance to keep Trump in the White House.

State GOP lawmakers in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all said they would not intervene in the selection of electors, who ultimately cast the votes that secure a candidate's victory. Such a move would violate state law and a vote of the people, several noted.

"I do not see, short of finding some type of fraud — which I haven't heard of anything — I don't see us in any serious way addressing a change in electors," said Rusty Bowers, Arizona's Republican House speaker, who says he's been inundated with emails pleading for the legislature to intervene. "They are mandated by statute to choose according to the vote of the people."

usa today logoThe idea loosely involves GOP-controlled legislatures dismissing Biden's popular vote wins in their states and opting to select Trump electors. While the endgame was unclear, it appeared to hinge on the expectation that a conservative-leaning Supreme Court would settle any dispute over the move.

Election 2020 updates:McEnany falsely says 1 million marched for Trump; Flake tells GOP to accept reality

Still, it has been promoted by Trump allies, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and is an example of misleading information and false claims fueling skepticism among Trump supporters about the integrity of the vote.

The theory is rooted in the fact that the U.S. Constitution grants state legislatures the power to decide how electors are chosen. Each state already has passed laws that delegate this power to voters and appoint electors for whichever candidate wins the state on Election Day. The only opportunity for a state legislature to then get involved with electors is a provision in federal law allowing it if the actual election "fails."

If the result of the election was unclear in mid-December, at the deadline for naming electors, Republican-controlled legislatures in those states could declare that Trump won and appoint electors supporting him. Or so the theory goes.

djt pence yard sign logoThe problem, legal experts note, is that the result of the election is not in any way unclear. Biden won all the states at issue. It's hard to argue the election "failed" when Trump's own Department of Homeland Security reported it was not tampered with and was "the most secure in American history." There has been no finding of widespread fraud or problems in the vote count, which shows Biden leading Trump by more than 5 million votes nationally.

Trump's campaign and its allies have filed lawsuits that aim to delay the certification and potentially provide evidence for a failed election. But so far, Trump and Republicans have had meager success — at least 10 of the lawsuits have been rejected by the courts in the 10 days since the election. The most significant that remain ask courts to prevent Michigan and Pennsylvania from certifying Biden as the winner of their elections.

But legal experts say it's impossible for courts to ultimately stop those states from appointing electors by the December deadline.

"It would take the most unjustified and bizarre intervention by courts that this country has ever seen," said Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center. "I haven't seen anything in any of those lawsuits that has any kind of merit — let alone enough to delay appointing electors.

nancy pelosi djt 2 older"Even if Trump won a single court fight," he continued, "there’s another potential roadblock: Congress could be the final arbiter of whether to accept disputed slates of electors, according to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the law outlining the process. In the end, if the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate could not agree on which electors to accept, and there is no vote and no winner, the presidency would pass to the next person in the line of succession at the end of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s term on Jan. 20. That would be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat."

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Acknowledges Biden’s Win, but Falsely Says Election Was ‘Rigged,’ Michael Wines, Nov. 15, 2020.  President Trump said for the first time that Joe Biden won while falsely insisting that the election was orchestrated by “Fake” media.

It was an election where Republican charges of fictitious voter fraud took center stage before, during and after the count, backed by a barrage of lawsuits intent on making it harder to cast or tally votes.

Yet by its end, Americans had cast ballots at a rate not seen in a century. A Democrat was elected president. And Republicans drew surprising support from Black and Latino voters — the very groups the party historically targeted with restrictive voting laws in state after state.

That a strategy Republicans long relied on largely fell flat, experts say, can be explained by the partisan divisions that drove record turnout, by self-inflicted wounds on the part of President Trump and by a pandemic that turned a gradual trend toward voting early — by mail or in person — into a stampede.

Some of those factors may be one-offs. But aspects of this election — especially the shift from Election Day voting to mail ballots, and the party’s gains with some racial groups — raise questions of whether the Republican strategy of voter restrictions served the party’s interests as it once did. Also unclear is whether the changes in how people voted this year, in the middle of a pandemic, reflect long-term changes pointing to higher turnouts or factors unique to the 2020 vote.

“As long as the Republican Party is going to depend on whiter, older and more rural electorate,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, “they’re going to make it harder for some people to register and vote.” Assertions of fraud, he said, fire up loyalists, increase political contributions and delegitimize Democratic victories.

“Already,” Dr. Hasen said, “Biden is going to come into office with millions of people believing falsely that he cheated his way into the presidency.”

But the election also highlighted how trying to place limits on casting a ballot might actually motivate voters to turn out. And even ignoring the toxic effects on democracy, some experts say, this was an election in which the results suggested that the Republican voting playbook may no longer be as effective as before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign jettisons major parts of its legal challenge against Pennsylvania’s election results, Jon Swaine and Elise Viebeck, Nov. 15, 2020. President Trump’s campaign on Sunday scrapped a major part of its federal lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania.

Trump’s attorneys filed a revised version of the lawsuit, removing allegations that election officials violated the Trump campaign’s constitutional rights by limiting the ability of their observers to watch votes being counted.

Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal attorney, have said repeatedly that more than 600,000 votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be invalidated because of this issue.

Trump’s pared-down lawsuit now focuses on allegations that Republicans were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Counties have said this affected only a small number of votes.

Cliff Levine, an attorney representing the Democratic Party in the case, said on Sunday evening that Trump’s move meant his lawsuit could not possibly change the result.

“Now you’re only talking about a handful of ballots,” Levine said. “They would have absolutely no impact on the total count or on Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump.”

Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s Democratic secretary of state, submitted a court filing in response to the Trump campaign’s actions reiterating her request for the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

The shift comes amid a string of losses in the Trump campaign’s post-election legal effort, which claimed without evidence that voter fraud, irregularities and rule-breaking led to Biden’s victory. The flurry of post-election litigation has affirmed the integrity of the election: Many of the complaints have been tossed, and not a single vote has been invalidated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lost at the ballot box. His legal challenges aren’t going any better, David A. Fahrenthold, Emma Brown and Hannah Knowles, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Despite a flurry of lawsuits, President Trump and his team have notched only minor victories. Rather than revealing widespread — or even isolated — fraud, the effort by Trump’s legal team has so far done the opposite: It’s affirmed the integrity of the election that Trump lost. Nearly every GOP challenge has been tossed out. Not a single vote has been overturned.

“The Trump legal team does not seem to have identified any kind of global litigation strategy that has any prospect of changing the outcome of the election, and all of the court filings to date underscore that — as do all of the court rulings that have been issued to date,” said Robert Kelner, a Republican lawyer who chairs the election and political law practice group at Covington & Burling, an international law firm based in Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, After thousands of Trump supporters rally in D.C., violence erupts when night falls, Marissa J. Lang, Michael E. Miller, Peter Jamison, Justin Wm. Moyer, Clarence Williams, Peter Hermann, Fredrick Kunkle and John Woodrow Cox, Nov. 15, 2020. Trump supporters and far-right groups take to the streets of D.C.

President Trump’s supporters had celebrated for hours on Saturday, waving their MAGA flags and blaring “God Bless the U.S.A.” as they gathered in Washington to falsely claim that the election had been stolen from the man they adore. The crowd had even reveled in a personal visit from Trump, who passed by in his motorcade, smiling and waving.

But that was before the people who oppose their hero showed up and the mood shifted, growing angrier as 300 or so counterprotesters delivered a message the president’s most ardent backers were unwilling to hear: The election is over. Trump lost.

On stark display in the nation’s capital were two irreconcilable versions of America, each refusing to accept what the other considered to be undeniable fact.

While much of the day unfolded peacefully, brief but intense clashes erupted throughout. Activists spewed profanity and shouted threats, threw punches and launched bottles. On both sides, people were bloodied, and at least 20 were arrested, including four whose allegiances remain unknown on gun charges. The chaos also left two officers injured.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Post-Presidency of a Con Man, Michelle Goldberg, right, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Out of office, michelle goldberg thumbTrump might seem a lot less formidable.

It’s hard to tell whether Donald Trump is attempting a coup or throwing a tantrum.

Crying voter fraud, his administration has refused to begin a presidential transition despite his decisive electoral defeat. Some Republicans have floated the idea of getting legislatures in states that Joe Biden won to disregard vote totals and instead appoint pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College.

The president has decapitated the Pentagon, putting fanatical loyalists in some of its highest ranks. Anthony Tata, who called Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and tweeted a lurid fantasy about the execution of the former C.I.A. director John Brennan, is now the Pentagon’s policy chief. This is all supremely alarming.

But there’s cause for comfort, of a sort, in signs that the president is preparing for life outside the White House in exactly the way one would expect — by initiating new grifts.

Trump has been sending out frantic fund-raising requests to “defend the election,” but as The New York Times reports, most of the money is actually going to a PAC, Save America, that “will be used to underwrite Mr. Trump’s post-presidential activities.” Axios reports that Trump is considering starting a digital media company to undermine Fox News, which he now regards as disloyal.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The numbers say this was a truly ugly election for Trump and the Republicans, Bill Palmer, Nov. 15, 2020. Updated 2020 election breakdown: Democrats won the presidency in a 6 million vote blowout. Democrats gained in the Senate by either 1% or 3%, depending on runoffs. Republicans gained in the House by 2-3%, depending on some still-uncalled races. Not a great election cycle for the Democrats, but a pretty bad one for the Republicans.

bill palmer report logo headerAlso keep in mind Trump shut down the post office in key states just to keep Democrats from voting. We’ll never know for sure, but without that cheating, it’s feasible we could have won the presidency by 10 million votes, won a Senate majority, and not lost those House seats.

In other words, I don’t see how the Democrats did much fundamentally “wrong” in this election. It was thoroughly and blatantly rigged against us, and we won anyway. That said, there are some things we can do more smartly next time. For instance, no more crowdfunding long-shot Senate campaigns in red states. We should have known we weren’t going to win in South Carolina or Kentucky. We should have instead put that money into more “boring” but winnable Senate races like North Carolina, which we would have won if we’d properly funded it. For the record, Georgia is now a blue/swing state. We can win those runoffs. We should certainly fund them.

There’s no reason for moderate Democrats and progressive Democrats to be blaming each other for losing perhaps 2% of the House seats while keeping the majority. Trump literally rigged the election in plain sight. He’s so overwhelmingly unpopular, it wasn’t enough to help him. But it appears to have helped a number of republicans. Are Democrats really going to eat each other alive because we won an election that was rigged against us, but we didn’t win it in perfect fashion?

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: There Was No Knockout, So Democrats and G.O.P. Regroup for Next Round, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Nov. 15, 2020. In an election that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand.

joe biden kamala harris campaign shotBoth camps are acknowledging that voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.

America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand.

djt pence yard sign logoInstead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging that voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.

With 306 electoral college votes and the most popular votes of any presidential candidate in history, Mr. Biden attained a victory that was paramount to many Democrats, who saw a second Trump term as nothing less than a threat to democracy.

Yet on the electoral landscape, both parties find themselves stretched thin and battling on new fronts, with their traditional strongholds increasingly under siege. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans are facing perhaps the most unsettled and up-for-grabs electoral map the country has seen in a generation, since the parties were still fighting over California in the late 1980s.

This competition has denied either from being able to claim broad majorities and prompted a series of election cycles, which could be repeated in 2022, in which any gains Democrats make in the country’s booming cities and states are at least partly offset by growing Republican strength in rural areas.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump Jr tries to cash out while he can, Bill Palmer, Nov. 15, 2020. It’s not entirely clear how many members of the Trump family understand this, but now that Donald Trump has lost the election, the family’s entire financial house of cards is coming down. Trump will be too busy fending off creditors and criminal charges to have much time to focus on his next grift.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump Jr seems to understand that the jig is nearly up. He tweeted this today: “Don’t forget to get your copy of Liberal Privilege, find out everything the media is hiding from you. Black Friday sales starting now like getting your autographed copy for the price of the regular book.”

That’s right, Trump Junior is now going to the trouble of autographing his books just so he can sell them at full price, instead of having to cut the price quite yet. We all know where this is headed – irrelevance – and apparently so does Donald Trump Jr.

 

U.S. Law, Scouts, Police

ny times logoNew York Times, Boy Scouts Now Face More Than 81,000 Sex-Abuse Claims, Mike Baker, Nov. 15, 2020. The deluge of sex-abuse filings, coming ahead of a bankruptcy deadline, far surpasses the number of claims filed in Catholic Church cases.

More than 82,000 people have come forward with sex-abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America, describing a decades-long accumulation of assaults at the hands of scout leaders across the nation who had been trusted as role models.

boy scouts logo customThe claims, which lawyers said far eclipsed the number of abuse accusations filed in Catholic Church cases, continued to mount ahead of a Monday deadline established in bankruptcy court in Delaware, where the Boy Scouts had sought refuge this year in a bid to survive the demands for damages.

Paul Mones, a lawyer who has been working on Boy Scouts cases for nearly two decades, said the prevalence of abuse detailed in the filings was breathtaking and might reflect only a fraction of victims.

One coalition of attorneys, operating as the group Abused in Scouting, has clients from all 50 states along with cases in which the abuse occurred overseas at places such as military bases in Japan and Germany. The accusers range in age from 8 to 93. While the vast majority are men, some women have also filed complaints.

The avalanche of claims, 82,663 of them by late Sunday, set up a monumental task for the bankruptcy case as the Boy Scouts seek to one day emerge with its operations intact.

The national organization has more than $1 billion in assets, according to its bankruptcy filing. The organization also has a network of local Boy Scouts councils that own hundreds of camps and other properties across the country where scouts can advance their skills and values along lake shores and in mountain valleys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Watchdog Accused Officers of Serious Misconduct. Few Were Punished, Ashley Southall, Ali Watkins and Blacki Migliozzi, Nov. 15, 2020. A Times analysis found that the N.Y.P.D. has reduced or rejected recommendations for stiff discipline in about 71 percent of 6,900 serious misconduct charges. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, established in 1993, was intended to be independent of the N.Y.P.D.

One New York City police officer was accused of pepper-spraying a woman, then denying her medical treatment while she was handcuffed in a Bronx holding cell.

Another officer slammed a 51-year-old man who had been arguing with some restaurant workers onto the floor, knocking him unconscious, the man said. A third officer was accused of tackling a gay man during a pride parade and using a homophobic slur.

The city’s independent oversight agency that investigates police misconduct found enough evidence in all three cases to conclude that the officers should face the most severe discipline available, including suspension or dismissal from the force.

But in the end, senior police officials downgraded or outright rejected those charges, and the officers were given lesser punishments or none at all — the kind of routine outcome that has left the Police Department facing a crisis of trust in its ability to discipline its own.

washington post logoWashington Post, Robert F. Smith’s deal with his mentor helped make him a billionaire. Prosecutors say it also ensnared him in tax evasion, Peter Whoriskey, Yeganeh Torbati and Keith L. Alexander, Nov. 15, 2020 (print ed.). A dodgy deal helped make him a billionaire. It worked, until now.

Twenty years ago, Robert F. Smith, made a deal to set up his private equity firm. Smith has since become a billionaire and is often ranked as the wealthiest Black person in the U.S. But the old deal with businessman Robert Brockman also entailed offshore accounts that federal prosecutors now say were part of the largest tax fraud in U.S. history.

 

Nov. 14

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Trump, Stone, Epstein Watch

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Top Stories

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s push to contest election results suffers more setbacks, Hannah Knowles, David A. Fahrenthold and Rosalind S. Helderman, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). State courts dealt Republicans multiple losses, and the final state projections gave President-elect Joe Biden a resounding 306 electoral votes.

ny times logoNew York Times, With String of Lawsuit Losses, Trump Has Few Ways to Fight His Defeat, Alan Feuer, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s efforts to use the courts to delay or block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory were turned aside in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan.

President Trump suffered multiple legal setbacks in three key swing states on Friday, choking off many of his last-ditch efforts to use the courts to delay or block President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

In quick succession, Mr. Trump was handed defeats in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, where a state judge in Detroit rejected an unusual Republican attempt to halt the certification of the vote in Wayne County pending an audit of the count.

The legal losses came as Mr. Biden was declared the victor in Georgia and a day after an agency in the president’s own Department of Homeland Security flatly contradicted him by declaring that the election “was the most secure in American history” and that “there is no evidence” any voting systems malfunctioned.

On Friday, 16 federal prosecutors who had been assigned to monitor the election also directly debunked claims of widespread fraud, saying in a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr that there was no evidence of substantial irregularities.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Republican state legislatures tell Donald Trump it’s over, Bill Palmer, Nov. 14, 2020. Now that Donald Trump has failed to stop the ballots from being counted, failed to prevent media outlets from calling the race, and failed to get anywhere in court, his final fantasy for overturning the result involves having Republican state legislatures simply give their electoral votes to him – even though Joe Biden won those states.

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, this isn’t a real thing. These state legislatures wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on and would get laughed out of court, just as surely as Trump’s lawyers have spent the past week getting laughed out of court. But now Republican leaders in the key swing states are now publicly confirming that they have no interest in even trying it.

It’s not clear how Donald Trump expects to keep the grift going, now that even his final fantasy has been publicly shot down. This helps accelerate the endgame. Once Trump reaches a point where he can no longer fundraise any meaningful money on the illusion that he’s going to magically overturn the result, he’ll have to shift his focus to trying to give himself a softer landing when it comes to the prison and bankruptcy he’s facing once he’s gone from office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Virus Breaks Records Across U.S.; States Adopt Restrictions, Staff reports, Nov. 14, 2020. More than 1 in 400 people tested positive in the past week. Even reluctant governors have issued mask mandates and limited gatherings. N.Y.C.’s positivity rate stays below 3 percent, leaving schools open.

washington post logoWashington Post, To shut down or not to shut down? Officials are again weighing virus deaths vs. anger at new restrictions, William Wan and Mark Guarino, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Governors and mayors are forced again to weigh coronavirus deaths against anger and economic devastation; North Dakota mandates masks, capacity limits as virus surges.

With the coronavirus raging out of control and hospitals nearing capacity, state and local leaders are facing once more the gut-wrenching decision of whether to order shutdowns.

But many are finding the call much harder to make this time — eight months after cities and states last implemented weeks-long shutdowns — amid angry backlashes, deeply polarized constituents and dire economic consequences.

Chicago was the first major city to announce, on Thursday, a reinstatement of stay-at-home advisory. On Friday, New Mexico followed suit with the country’s most restrictive statewide measures since the fall surge began. Oregon also announced a partial shutdown Friday, closing gyms and dine-in restaurants and mandating a six-person limit on all social gatherings.

The moves come as the United States reported more than 177,000 new coronavirus cases Friday, a record high for the third straight day.


Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Climbing Once Again: ‘It’s Traumatizing,’ Sarah Mervosh, J. David Goodman and Julie Bosman, Nov. 14, 2020. For families of those who have died, the personal pain has combined with a sense of anger that an exhausted nation has grown inured to the toll. “You don’t realize the situation until you live through it,” said the son-in-law of one man who died.

ny times logoNew York Times, How to Avoid a Surprise Bill for Your Coronavirus Test, Sarah Kliff, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Get tested at a public facility. Question what services are being provided. And know your rights under federal law.

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

World Cases: 54,040,695, Deaths: 1,314,003
U.S. Cases:   11,090,717, Deaths:    250,223

 

2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Asked Republicans to Give Him a Chance. They’re Not Interested, Astead W. Herndon, Nov. 14, 2020. President-elect Joe Biden promised to “restore the soul of the nation.” But the divisions that marked President Trump’s tenure show no signs of receding.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Economic Demands Test Biden Even Before Inauguration, Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley, Nov. 14, 2020. With the recovery slowing and virus cases surging, Democrats must decide whether quick action on federal aid is more important than its scale.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: The Whole World Is Watching: Will It Be Wag the Dog against Iran, 'Autogolpe' (Coup against one's own government), or webster tarpley 2007Legal Transfer of Power to Biden? Webster G. Tarpley, right, Nov. 14, 2020. Destiny of 330 Million Americans Might Now Depend on the Whim of One Mentally Troubled Adventurer; By Acting as Accessories, Republican Party Has Earned Extinction – Let’s Make Sure that They Get It, Starting in Georgia on January 5!

Decapitated US Government Leaves Window of Vulnerability Wide Open on World Stage; Pompeo Eyed with Suspicion by emmanuel macronFrench President Macron, left, Who Promises to Keep Biden Informed of All that Transpires in Monday Meeting; French Views Reflect Recent Terror Attacks by Jihadis; Pompeo’s Visit to Israel Prepared by Veteran Neocon Warmonger Eliot Abrams.

Trump Fanatics Gather in DC’s Freedom Plaza (Capacity 15,000); Few Elected Officials Present Reportedly Include One QAnon Fanatic from Georgia; Not Enough for Coup; Trump Makes Perfunctory Drive-By Cameo Appearance but No Rousing Speech, then Hurries Off to Play Golf; Energy Level Falling; Anti-Trump Forces Wisely Declined Provocation.

One Week After Associated Press Called Election for Biden, Concern Grows of Threat of Public Health Chaos due to Failure to Ascertain Him as Victor; Trump’s GSA Overseer Emily Murphy, Now Sabotaging Transition, Has Been Faulted for Misleading Congress on Trump Hotel and New FBI Headquarters Issues.

Is Time for New 1776 or Rather a New 1865, which Was Already the Second American Revolution? From Mussolini’s March on Rome in October 1922 to the Pathos of the “Million MAGA March”: The First Time as Tragedy, the Second Time as Farce!

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump Taps Giuliani to Lead Election Lawsuits After Disastrous Day of Losses, Tori B. Powell, Nov. 14, 2020. President Donald Trump has appointed his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to lead election fraud lawsuits and public communications after a disastrous day of losses on Friday, according to The New York Times.

rudy giuliani recentMultiple lawsuits were thrown out or abandoned on Friday, including Arizona’s Sharpie case, a Michigan lawsuit by a pair of GOP poll watchers, and six combined legal actions in Pennsylvania.

But, as The Daily Beast reported on Friday, the Trump campaign is still filing lawsuits to see if anything sticks. Some of Trump’s advisers have reportedly told him that he has little chance of overturning the election result but he and Giuliani have remained persistent that the election has been stolen. Giuliani has not had much success moving the needle so far.

At a bizarre press conference in front of a Philly landscaping business last week, he alleged there was strong evidence of voter fraud but wheeled out a convicted sex offender to back up his claims.

 washington post logoWashington Post, After a summer of protest, many Americans voted for policing and criminal justice reform, Mark Berman and Tom Jackman, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Voters across the country backed measures beefing up police oversight and elected reform-minded prosecutors.

With a wave of votes across the country, Americans backed a string of measures increasing police oversight, elected reform-minded prosecutors, loosened drug laws and passed other proposals rethinking key elements of law enforcement and justice in their communities.

These votes, taken together, signal that after a summer of protest brought renewed scrutiny to the justice system, many Americans were open to rethinking how it functions — particularly on the state and local level, where policies have a stark impact on how people interact with the justice system.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump voters struggle with his role in defeat: Sore loser, victim or fighter? Marc Fisher, Christine Spolar and Hannah Knowles, Nov. 14, 2020. Move on, some supporters say. Keep punching, others insist.

For generations, Americans have hated sore losers, whether in playground disputes, affairs of the heart, sports or politics. But Trump’s refusal to concede to President-elect Joe Biden and his insistence, without evidence, that the election was rigged against him has focused a spotlight on a rapidly shifting culture’s growing acceptance of losers who push back against the truth.

washington post logoWashington Post, In the Trump presidency’s final days, a 30-year-old aide purges officials seen as insufficiently loyal, Josh Dawsey, Juliet Eilperin, John Hudson and Lisa Rein, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Over the past week, President Trump has axed his defense secretary and other top Pentagon aides, his second-in-command at the U.S. Agency for International Development, two top Homeland Security officials, a senior climate scientist and the leader of the agency that safeguards nuclear weapons.

Engineering much of the post-election purge is Johnny McEntee, a former college quarterback who was hustled out of the White House two years ago after a security clearance check turned up a prolific habit for online gambling.

A staunch Trump loyalist, McEntee, 30, was welcomed back into the fold in February and installed as personnel director for the entire U.S. government. Since the race was called for President-elect Joe Biden, McEntee has been distributing pink slips, warning federal workers not to cooperate with the Biden transition and threatening to oust people who show disloyalty by job hunting while Trump is still refusing to acknowledge defeat, according to six administration officials.

djt as chosen one

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, from motorcade, greets hundreds of supporters gathered in D.C. to falsely claim he won election, Emily Davies, Marissa J. Lang, Peter Hermann, Rachel Chason and John Woodrow Cox, Nov. 14, 2020. A week after the election was called for Joe Biden, hundreds of President Trump’s supporters descended on the nation’s capital Saturday to falsely claim that the race had been stolen from the man they adore — who soon decided to welcome them in person.

Shortly after 10 a.m., Trump drove down Pennsylvania Avenue in his motorcade, greeting hundreds of cheering protesters who ran to the side of Freedom Plaza to catch a glimpse. He smiled and waved from a car window as people filled the street to follow behind.

“He drove right past me. I saw him. He waved right past me,” one man said, squatting to collect himself.

A group of women huddled around their phone, looking at a video they took of Trump’s appearance.

“He looked fake,” one said. “I’m still shaking.”:

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump screams “EXPOSE THE CRIME” and gives something away as the end nears for him, Bill Palmer, Nov. 14, 2020. Now that Donald Trump has lost, we’re no longer interested in most of what he tweets; at this point most of it consists of incoherent and desperate conspiracy theories that won’t add up to anything. Twitter is now striking many of Trump’s tweets anyway. But this morning he said something somewhat notable, which gives away how near the end may be for him.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s what Trump tweeted: “The Consent Decree signed by the Georgia Secretary of State, with the approval of Governor Brian Kemp, at the urging of Stacey Abrams, makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes, etc. They knew they were going to cheat. Must expose real signatures! What are they trying to hide. They know, and so does everyone brian kemp Customelse. EXPOSE THE CRIME!”

Two things immediately stand out. First, Trump is accusing Brian Kemp, right, and Stacey Abrams – two bitter rivals who ostensibly despise each other – of somehow conspiring together against him. This shows just how thoroughly out of arguments Trump is. He’s also alienating Kemp, his longtime ally, another hallmark of someone taking an ugly fall.

Second, we think it’s notable that Donald Trump is now yelling “EXPOSE THE CRIME!” That’s because his mind is indeed focused on crimes being exposed – his. The media still largely isn’t talking about the fact that Trump is earmarked for prison once he’s gone from office. But after Trump made the empty threat to withhold the vaccine from New York yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared on MSNBC and CNN and reminded everyone that Trump is in fact under criminal investigation in New York.

The media and the public may not yet be focused on the fact that Trump is going to prison, but everything about Trump’s words and behavior indicates that he’s focused on the fact that he’s earmarked for prison. It’s time the rest of us pay attention to what Trump is giving away about his fate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s pardon paradox, Bill Palmer, Nov. 14, 2020. Professor Laurence Tribe made a great point on the Joy Reid show on Friday night. While Donald Trump can try to pardon himself for federal crimes he’s already committed but hasn’t been charged with yet, he can not pardon himself for future crimes that he hasn’t yet committed.

bill palmer report logo headerSo let’s say that on his way out the door in January, Trump pardons himself on every federal crime he’s ever committed. When Ford pardoned Nixon, it established the precedent that you can in fact be pardoned for crimes before you’re charged for them.

Trump would have a harder time trying to establish in court that he’s allowed to pardon himself. But even if he did pull that off, as Tribe pointed out, Trump is going to leave office and continue committing crimes. It’s just in his nature. And the Feds will easily be able to nail him for those crimes.


World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Sainted Too Soon? Vatican Report Casts John Paul II in Harsh New Light, Jason Horowitz, Nov. 14, 2020. A tarnished legacy in dealing with the church’s sex abuse scandals has left critics to wonder whether his canonization was too fast.

He was a giant of the church in the 20th century, spanning the globe, inspiring generations of believers with his youthful magnetism, then aged infirmity, and, as the Polish pope, he helped bring down Communism over his more than 26-year reign.

pope john paul 2 o bettman getty vaticanDays after his death in 2005, cardinals eager to uphold his conservative policies had already begun discussing putting him on a fast track to sainthood while devotees in Rome and beyond clamored for his immediate canonization, drowning out notes of caution from survivors of sexual abuse and historians that John Paul, right, (shown in an official photo via Getty Images) had persistently turned a blind eye to the crimes in his church.

At the funeral of Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square, banners rose from the sea of mourners reading “Santo Subito,” or “Saint at Once.” He was a giant of the church in the 20th century, spanning the globe, inspiring generations of believers with his youthful magnetism, then aged infirmity, and, as the Polish pope, he helped bring down Communism over his more than 26-year reign.

Days after his death in 2005, cardinals eager to uphold his conservative policies had already begun discussing putting him on a fast track to sainthood while devotees in Rome and beyond clamored for his immediate canonization, drowning out notes of caution from survivors of sexual abuse and historians that John Paul had persistently turned a blind eye to the crimes in his church.

Now, after more than a decade of doubts, his reputation has fallen under its darkest cloud yet, after the very Vatican that rushed to canonize him released an extraordinary report this week that laid at the saint’s feet the blame for the advancement of the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick.

The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, revealed how John Paul chose not to believe longstanding accusations of sexual abuse against Mr. McCarrick, including pedophilia, allowing him to climb the hierarchy’s ladder.

The findings detailed decades of bureaucratic obfuscation and lack of accountability by a host of top prelates and threatened to sully the white robes of three popes. But most of all, critics say, it provides searing proof that the church moved with reckless speed to canonize John Paul and now it is caught in its own wreckage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Accused in U.S. Embassy Attacks, Was Killed in Iran, Adam Goldman, Eric Schmitt, Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman, Updated Nov. 14, 2020. Israeli agents shot Abu Muhammad al-Masri in Tehran at the behest of the U.S., officials said, but no one has publicly acknowledged the killing.

washington post logoWashington Post, France insists it’s targeting Islamist extremism. But some foreign observers and French Muslims see a broader agenda, James McAuley, Nov. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The government is rejecting accusations that it is Islamophobic and says its campaign to stem violence on its soil is being misrepresented. 

 

Trump, Stone, Epstein Watch

roger stone hands waving no credit from stone cold Custom

cnn logoCNN, Investigation: Stop the Steal's massive disinformation campaign connected to Roger Stone, Rob Kuznia, Curt Devine, Nelli Black and Drew Griffin, Nov. 14, 2020. It is an internet battle cry: "Stop the Steal" has swept across inboxes, Facebook pages and Twitter like an out-of-control virus, spreading misinformation and violent rhetoric -- and spilling into real life, like the protest planned for DC this weekend.

But while Stop the Steal may sound like a new 2020 political slogan to many, it did not emerge organically over widespread concerns about voting fraud in President Donald Trump's race against Joe Biden. It has been in the works for years.

Its origin traces to Roger Stone, above, a veteran Republican operative and self-described "dirty trickster" whose 40-month prison sentence for seven felonies was cut short by Trump's commutation in July.

Stone's political action committee launched a "Stop the Steal" website in 2016 to fundraise ahead of that election, asking for $10,000 donations by saying, "If this election is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT."

He first trotted out the slogan during the 2016 primaries -- claiming a "Bush-Cruz-Kasich-Romney-Ryan-McConnell faction" was attempting to steal the Republican nomination from Donald Trump -- before re-upping Stop the Steal for the general election.

"Donald Trump thinks Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are going to steal the next election," his website said that October.

Stop the Steal briefly resurfaced around the midterms in 2018 -- with Republicans employing the hashtag during a recount in a neck-and-neck Florida race for U.S. Senate -- but it wasn't until 2020 that it really caught fire.

A Stop the Steal Facebook group was managed by a loose coalition of right wing operatives, some of whom have worked with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. The group amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in little more than a day before Facebook shut it down on November 5 -- the day after it was launched.

Also on November 5, Bannon started his own "Stop the Steal" Facebook group; he changed the name to "Own Your Vote" the following day. It was not removed by Facebook, but the social media company did later remove several other pages affiliated with Bannon.

Miami Herald, Investigation: FBI wanted to arrest Epstein while he was judging a beauty pageant. The plan was overruled, Ben Wieder and Kevin G. Hall, Nov. 14, miami herald logo2020. A Justice Department look-back report into its abortive 2008 prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had planned to arrest Jeffrey Epstein in May 2007, but pulled back after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, led by former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, frowned on the plan.

The report also concludes that Epstein wasn’t assisting the federal government in prosecuting Wall Street traders behind the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns or serving as an “intelligence asset,” long rumored to be reasons for his notoriously lenient treatment.

That determination raises questions about an FBI document that seems to identify Epstein as providing information to the bureau.

Buried in a 350-page report by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) — obtained by McClatchy and the Miami Herald — are references to a story that said Epstein was given a lighter sentence and avoided federal prosecution because he cooperated with authorities on other matters.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThat was an “urban myth” federal prosecutor Ann Marie Villafaña told her superiors at the time, according to the new DOJ report, which said it found no evidence that he was a government witness.

It would seem at odds with a declassified FBI document, dated Sept. 18, 2008, in which the agency was closing out a forfeiture proceeding as part of a deal that allowed Epstein to be prosecuted on the state level and avoid more severe punishment by federal prosecutors.

“Epstein has also provided information to the FBI as agreed upon. Case agent advised that no federal prosecution will occur in this matter as long as Epstein continues to uphold his agreement with the State of Florida,” reads the declassified document. The document cited Epstein and child prostitution.

The document has led to the view that Epstein served as an informant. The OPR report, whose executive summary was made public Thursday, does not rule out that possibility but said it found no evidence of that status in relation to the Florida prosecution.

The report found that Acosta exercised poor judgment in reaching a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein, an agreement that allowed a more lenient state prosecution instead. It also faulted Acosta for failing to ensure that Epstein’s victims would be notified of developments in the case. Epstein would go on to plead guilty in June 2008 to two solicitation counts, one involving a minor, in Florida state court and serve 13 months in the private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, allowed to leave and work from his West Palm Beach office up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe report shows that Villafaña, a federal prosecutor in the West Palm Beach office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern Florida, submitted an 82-page prosecution memorandum on May 1, 2007, for her superiors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Acosta, proposing a 60-count indictment against Epstein for sex crimes against minors.

In a statement to the Herald on Thursday, she hinted at how she was thwarted and expressed disappointment the Justice Department didn’t publicly release the full document.

The Herald and McClatchy later obtained the full report, and it shows she planned to file charges by May 15, 2007, and the FBI had been hoping to arrest Epstein soon after at a beauty pageant in the Virgin Islands, where Epstein was serving as a judge, a fact first published by NBC News.

But Villafaña’s superiors in the Southern District of Florida, notably Jeffrey Sloman, Acosta’s top deputy, and Matthew Menchel, the chief of the office’s criminal division, pushed back on her efforts to file charges, arguing that they needed more time to evaluate her sentencing memorandum and wondering why she was in a “rush.” Sloman could not immediately be reached by the Herald.

Villafaña told the report’s authors that her reasons for wanting to rush were to prevent Epstein from abusing more girls.

Background: JIP Editor's Note: The Miami Herald published a multi-part investigative project — "Perversion of Justice" — on Nov. 28 reporting how top officials gave a sweetheart deal to billionairre perversion of justice miami herald logomiami herald logopervert Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of future President Trump and past president Clinton, along with a promise not to investigate Epstein's friends and accomplices in a ring allegedly involving hundreds sex victims, many of them high school and junior high schoolers.

The Justice Integrity Project also has extensively covered this case, Jeffrey Epstein (shown below at right), and his enablers, who include prominent prosecutors and other lawyers, including President Trump's Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard University But this Miami Herald series goes far beyond all previous news reports, which now number in the hundreds. The Herald credited reporter Julie K. Brown and visual producer Emily Michot with the series. The Herald obtained thousands of FBI and court records, lawsuits, and witness depositions, and went to federal court in New York to access sealed documents in the reporting of "Perversion of Justice." The Herald also tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims, some of whom had never spoken of the abuse before.. 

Miami Herald, Perversion of Justice: A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break, Investigative project, Nov. 28, 2018.

    • Part One: How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime
    • Part Two: Cops worked to put serial sex abuser in prison. Prosecutors worked to cut him a break
    • Part Three: Even from jail, sex abuser manipulated the system. His victims were kept in the dark
    • Interactive: Sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein was surrounded by powerful people. Here’s a sampling
    • Timeline: For years, Jeffrey Epstein abused teen girls, police say. A timeline of his case
    • Overview: How Miami Herald journalists investigated Jeffrey Epstein

New York Post, Epstein’s attorney dated the prosecutor in trial where he got sweetheart deal: report, Paula Froelich, Nov. 14, 2020.  It was a sweetheart deal that has baffled the world — how, in 2008, Jeffrey Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser felony prostitution charge, register as a sex offender and serve just 13 months in a county jail where he could come and go during the day, despite several underage victims testifying he raped them.

It’s now been revealed that one of Epstein’s defense attorneys previously dated one of the top prosecutors on the deal.

Lilly Ann Sanchez “was a member of Epstein’s defense team in 2008 when he was facing a potential federal indictment and life imprisonment for sexually abusing dozens of girls between 1999 and 2007,” according to the Daily Mail.

Sanchez had also dated Matthew Menchel, one of the prosecutors who worked on the plea deal.

The romance came to light after the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) issued a report this week slamming the Florida prosecutors for “poor judgement” in the pedo-perv’s deal.

Sanchez and Manchel dated in 2003 when they were both employed at the Southern District of Florida’s US Attorney’s Office. They later broke up but never disclosed the relationship while both worked on the Epstein deal.

The report says Menchel had left the office before the Epstein case was resolved. Menchel told Justice Department investigators during the probe that his relationship with Sanchez had no impact on his handling of the case.

“Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment — it is a disgusting failure,” Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement released on Thursday. “Americans ought to be enraged … Epstein should be rotting behind bars today, but the Justice Department failed Epstein’s victims at every turn.”

Epstein was found hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan last August while awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges. Epstein’s right hand woman, Ghislaine Maxwell, is currently in jail until her sex trafficking trial next summer.

 

U.S. Media News

daily beast logoDaily Beast, The Mercer Family Is Funding the Right-Wing Social Network Parler: WSJ, Blake Montgomery, Nov. 14, 2020. Robert and Rebekah Mercer are funding the moderation-free Twitter alternative Parler, The Wall Street Journal reports.

`Neither the hedge fund billionaire nor his daughter commented to the Journal on why, but both have financed many of the highest-profile ultra-conservative causes of recent years like Cambridge Analytica, Breitbart News, and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The app has grown to 10 million users thanks in large part to conservatives chafing against other social networks’ content moderation policies, which, among other things, prohibit false claims that the election was stolen.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Federal Judge Rules Against DACA Suspension on Grounds Acting DHS Head Chad Wolf Is Unlawfully Appointed, Blake Montgomery, Nov. 14, 2020. A federal judge in New York ruled Saturday that the Department of Homeland Security’s suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation was unlawful because acting Secretary Chad Wolf had not been confirmed by the Senate since his assumption of the office in November 2019.

President Donald Trump formally nominated him to the post over the summer, and Wolf suspended the law in late July. Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote, “Based on the plain text of the operative order of succession, neither [former acting DHS Secretary Kevin] McAleenan nor, in turn, Mr. Wolf, possessed statutory authority to serve as Acting Secretary. Therefore the Wolf Memorandum was not an exercise of legal authority.” Karen Tumlin, a lawyer for the plaintiff in the case arguing against Wolf, told NBC, “This is really a hopeful day for a lot of young people across the country.”

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Illinois Republican Loses Race for House Seat, Shows Up for Orientation Anyway, Blake Montgomery, Nov. 14, 2020. An Illinois Republican showed up at the Capitol building on Thursday and Friday for freshman orientation for newly elected members despite the fact that his race had already been called for his opponent.

The Associated Press called the race Thursday, projecting that Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) would win re-election in the state’s 14th Congressional District, but Jim Oberweis, a state senator, had still refused to concede as of Saturday and planned to pursue a recount. A spokesperson for the Republican said attending the sessions, which are held only once, was “something he was advised to do, so he did” and that Oberweis “was on the plane when the AP called the race.” Underwood declined to comment.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, High School Coach Accused of Scamming $1M in PPP Loans, Tori B. Powell, Nov. 14, 2020. The championship-winning coach has been accused of laundering the $984,710 through multiple bank accounts.

 

 

Nov. 13

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Media News

 

World News

 

U.S Courts

 

Top Stories

election 2020 national map washington post

U.S. Presidential 2020 Election map (via Washington Post), with 306 Electoral Votes for President-elect Joe Biden out of 270 needed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Wins Georgia and Trump Wins North Carolina, Glenn Thrush and Matt Stevens, Nov. 13, 2020. Joe Biden flipped Georgia, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to win there since 1992; Mr. Biden also clinched Arizona late Thursday. He now has 306 electoral votes and President Trump has 232; In the latest legal defeat for the Trump campaign, a Michigan judge rejected a request to halt the vote certification.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. narrowly defeated President Trump in Georgia, and Mr. Trump won North Carolina, as the two final states were called on Friday, a week and a half after Election Day.

joe biden twitterMr. Biden now has 306 electoral votes and Mr. Trump has 232. Mr. Biden became president-elect when he won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes on Saturday, passing the required 270-vote threshold.

The victory for Mr. Biden in Georgia — a once reliably Republican state whose politics have shifted to the left — means that he flipped five states Mr. Trump won in 2016. The others were Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Mr. Trump did not flip any state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

All told, Mr. Biden won 25 states and the District of Columbia, home to a combined 57 percent of the country’s population.

With his victory in Georgia, President-elect Joe Biden has won a total of 306 electoral votes, flipping five states in the process. The Trump campaign lost a legal challenge to the election results in Michigan and withdrew one in Arizona.

Trump, at virus news conference, comes close to acknowledging election result that he has continued to deny.

cnn logoCNN, Joe Biden becomes first Democrat in 28 years to win Georgia, Greg Krieg, Nov. 13, 2020. Joe Biden will win Georgia, CNN projected Friday, striking at the heart of what has been a Republican presidential stronghold for nearly three decades. The former vice president is the first Democratic nominee to triumph in Georgia since Bill Clinton did it in 1992.

In Georgia, Trump had raced out to an early lead in the counting, but Biden surged ahead as the votes from Atlanta and its suburbs were tabulated.

The Democratic ticket's historic success has been fueled by a grassroots organizing renaissance that rallied a rapidly diversifying electorate and suburbs that are, at once, growing and becoming increasingly inhospitable to Republican candidates. Georgia Republicans have compounded the issue, with state lawmakers refusing so far to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and Gov. Brian Kemp, in 2019, signed a so-called "heartbeat bill," one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Major networks all call Georgia for Joe Biden, Bill Palmer, Nov. 13, 2020. Even after the remaining major networks called Arizona for Joe Biden late last night, it appeared they were all planning to wait until after the Georgia recount before calling that state for Biden.

bill palmer report logo headerThis fully puts Donald Trump’s fantasy about contesting the election out of its misery. Trump would have needed to find a way to win Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia in order to get to 270. Now he’s officially lost all of those states. Trump never did have a path. But now he can’t even pretend anymore.Tensions Grow in Washington over Highly Suspicious Pattern of Trump’s Late Term Firings and Incompetent Replacements; Is This a Dream Team for an Autogolpe? Or for a Wag the Dog Attack on Iran?

 

djt march 2020 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Could State Legislatures Pick Electors to Vote for Trump? Not Likely, Trip Gabriel and Stephanie Saul, Nov. 13, 2020. Some Trump allies have suggested that Republican lawmakers should override the will of voters who elected Joe Biden the next president.

President Trump’s last-ditch efforts to reverse the election seem to come down to a far-fetched scenario, one in which Republican-led state legislatures choose the members of the Electoral College, overturning the will of voters.

Could it work? Election law experts are highly skeptical. And leaders of the Republican majorities in legislatures in key states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Georgia, told The New York Times this week through their offices that they saw no role for themselves in picking electors.

That has not stopped some high-profile supporters of the president, including the talk radio host Mark Levin and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, from suggesting that Republican-led legislatures should consider ignoring the popular vote in close-fought states won by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and handing their electoral votes to Mr. Trump.

This political gambit, to the degree that it’s an organized strategy at all, has a theoretical basis in law, according to experts. But if it were to proceed, it could cause widespread outrage and be seen as an attempt to subvert the democratic process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Flips Arizona, Further Cementing His Presidential Victory, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Jennifer Medina and Eileen Sullivan, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden narrowly won the state, which had not elected a Democrat for president since 1996.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has narrowly won Arizona, capturing the state’s 11 electoral votes and strengthening his Electoral College margin as President Trump continues to make baseless attacks on the vote counts favoring Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden, whose margin in Arizona is currently over 11,000 votes, or about 0.3 percentage points, is the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since President Bill Clinton in 1996. Four years ago, Mr. Trump won the state by 3.5 percentage points.

That Arizona — the home of the late Senator John McCain and Senator Barry Goldwater, a founder of the 20th century conservative political movement and the 1964 Republican presidential nominee — was in play for Democrats at all is remarkable. Before the state voted for Mr. Clinton, the last Democrat it had supported for president was Harry S. Truman in 1948.

Mr. Biden’s win underscored a profound political shift in Arizona, a longtime Republican bastion that has lurched left in recent years, fueled by rapidly evolving demographics and a growing contingent of young Hispanic voters championing liberal policies.

Last week, the Democratic challenger Mark Kelly defeated the state’s Republican senator, Martha McSally, in a special election, making Mr. Kelly and Senator Kyrsten Sinema the first pair of Democrats to represent Arizona in the Senate since the 1950s.

The Arizona victory brings Mr. Biden to 290 electoral votes, 20 more than the 270 required to take the White House.

Republicans have been mounting long-shot legal attempts to try to upend results in key battleground states, but they have mostly been dealt setbacks — and some of their cases deal with small numbers of ballots.

ny times logoNew York Times, Presidential Transition Live Updates: Election Officials Say ‘There’s No Evidence’ of Breached Voting Systems, David E. Sanger, Matt Stevens and Nicole Perlroth, Nov. 13, 2020. A group of federal, state and local officials working with a Department of Homeland Security agency directly contradicted President Trump’s claims about voter fraud. Republicans are beginning to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden despite Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede.

Hours after President Trump repeated a baseless report that a voting machine system “deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide,” he was directly contradicted by a group of federal, state and local election officials, who flatly declared Thursday that the election “was the most secure in American history” and that “there is no evidence” any voting systems were compromised.

The rebuke, in a statement by a coordinating council overseeing the voting systems used around the country, never mentioned Mr. Trump by name. But it amounted to a remarkable corrective to a wave of disinformation that Mr. Trump has been pushing across his Twitter feed.

“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should, too,” the officials added in their statement. “When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.”

us dhs big eagle logo4The statement was distributed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is responsible for helping states secure the voting process. Coming directly from one of Mr. Trump’s own cabinet agencies, it further isolated the president in his false claims that widespread fraud cost him the election.

The statement also came as a previously unified Republican Party showed signs of cracking on the question of whether to keep backing the president.

Across the country, election officials have said the vote came off smoothly, with no reports of systemic fraud in any state, no sign of foreign interference in the voting infrastructure and no hardware or software failures beyond the episodic glitches that happen in any election. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead in the popular vote has expanded to more than five million, and he remains on track to win a solid victory in the Electoral College.

The group that issued the statement was the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, which includes top officials from the cybersecurity agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and secretaries of state and state election directors from around the country. The group also includes representatives from the voting machine industry, which has often been accused of being slow to admit to technological shortcomings and resistant to creating paper backups.

Many of the charges of fraud, illegal voting and software troubles have come from President Trump and his sons.

valerie boyd resized bryan ware

washington post logoWashington Post, Two senior Homeland Security officials forced out as White House firings widen, Nick Miroff and Ellen Nakashima, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Cybersecurity chief Christopher Krebs could be fired next, after his agency released a statement refuting the president’s election fraud allegations.

The White House has forced out two top Department of Homeland Security officials as part of a widening purge of anyone suspected of lacking us dhs big eagle logo4complete loyalty to President Trump, three people familiar with the removals said Thursday.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

Valerie Boyd, above  left, the top official for international affairs at DHS, was asked for her resignation, as well as Bryan Ware, above, a senior policy aide at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The requests came from the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, whose 30-year-old director, John McEntee, has recently intensified efforts to purge appointees who have failed to demonstrate sufficient fealty to the president.

“They’re looking for complete loyalty, and someone with experience serving different administrations is not perceived as sufficiently loyal,” said one person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the moves, referring to Boyd’s previous roles in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lockdowns Considered as U.S. Virus Cases Shatter Records Daily, Staff reports, Nov. 13, 2020. Daily cases soar above 160,000, just eight days after the country had its first 100,000-case day. New York City may close public schools starting Monday as its seven-day average positivity rate rises.

The coronavirus pandemic is spreading with frightening speed throughout the United States, shattering records on a daily basis, stretching medical resources to the breaking point and once again prompting states, counties and cities to consider economically devastating lockdowns.

On Thursday, public health officials recorded more than 150,000 new cases in a day for the first time — more than 160,000, in fact. It was only eight days earlier that the country had its first 100,000-case day. Six of the last nine days have set records, and with colder weather driving people indoors, there is little reason to expect a respite soon.

Hospitalizations for Covid-19 also set a national record on Thursday for the third-straight day, reaching 67,096, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That figure has doubled in just five weeks.

The virus has killed more than 1,000 Americans a day in the past week, a toll that would shock the nation, were it not for the fact that people were dying twice as fast in April, when doctors knew less about how to treat them.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump stews over election, he mostly ignores the public duties of the presidency, David Nakamura, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). He has been mostly absent from view, focused on purging disloyal aides and tweeting grievances and misinformation even as the pandemic rages.

On Thursday, six American service members were killed in a helicopter crash during a peacekeeping mission in Egypt. Tropical Storm Eta made landfall in North Florida, contributing to severe flooding. The number of Americans infected with the novel coronavirus continued at a record-setting pace, sending the stock market tumbling.

At the White House, President Trump spent the day as he has most others this week — sequestered from public view, tweeting grievances, falsehoods and misinformation about the election results and about Fox News’s coverage of him.

Neither he nor his aides briefed reporters on the news of the day or reacted to Democratic leaders who accused Republicans of imperiling the pandemic response by “refusing to accept reality” over the election results.

The contrast between the nation grappling with an ongoing global crisis and a president consumed with his own political problems highlighted a fundamental contradiction at the heart of Trump’s assault on the integrity of the U.S. election system: He is leveraging the power of his office in a long-shot bid to stay in the job while ignoring many of the public duties that come with it.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Nov. 13, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 53,092,605, Deaths: 1,299,409
U.S. Cases:   10,873,936, Deaths:    248,585

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 130 Secret Service officers infected with coronavirus or quarantining, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 13, 2020. The outbreak is believed to be partly linked to a series of campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election, according to people familiar with the situation.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to a series of campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election, according to the people, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the situation.

The outbreak comes as coronavirus cases have been rapidly rising across the nation, with more than 152,000 new cases reported Thursday.

secret service logoThe virus is having a dramatic impact on the Secret Service’s presidential security unit at the same time that growing numbers of prominent Trump campaign allies and White House officials have fallen ill in the wake of campaign events, where many attendees did not wear masks.

Among those who are infected are White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and outside political advisers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

In addition, at least eight staffers at the Republican National Committee, including Chief of Staff Richard Walters, have the virus, according to officials at the organization. Some of those infected are in field offices across the country, including Pennsylvania, where some believe they were exposed in large staff gatherings, an official said.

As Trump stews over election, he mostly ignores the public duties of the presidency

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the administration takes “every case seriously.” He referred questions about the Secret Service outbreak to agency officials. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service declined to comment.

Trump went on a travel blitz in the final stretch of the campaign, making five campaign stops on each of the last two days. On Nov. 2, Trump’s campaign schedule required five separate groups of Secret Service officers — each numbering 20 to several dozen — to travel to Fayetteville, N.C.; Scranton, Pa.; Traverse City, Mich.; and Kenosha and Grand Rapids, Wis.; to screen spectators and secure the perimeter around the president’s events. President-elect Joe Biden made two campaign stops that day that also required Secret Service protection, but in smaller numbers.

The agency is also examining whether some portion of the current infections are not travel-related, one government official said, but instead trace back to the site where many Secret Service officers report for duty each day: the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Passengers on first cruise in Caribbean since March test positive for coronavirus, Shannon McMahon, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The ship, the SeaDream I, returned to port in Barbados on Wednesday after administering rapid tests on all passengers as part of its routine testing protocol.

The Hill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says COVID-19 survivors should 'throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again,' Morgan Gstalter, Nov. 13, 2020. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday called for those who have recovered from COVID-19 to “throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again” as the coronavirus surges nationwide, falsely claiming those who have recovered from the virus are “now immune.”

rand paul hs oPaul, right, who tested positive for the virus in March, told Fox News that the 11 million Americans who have also recovered should “celebrate.”

“We should tell them to throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again, because these people are now immune,” Paul, a self-certified ophthalmologist, said.

The Kentucky Republican then went after Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and claimed the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases “doesn’t want to admit to any of that.”

“Dr. Fauci is like ‘Oh, woe is me’ until the election occurs, but now maybe he’ll be changing his attitude,” Paul continued.

Paul's comments appear to contradict the guidance from public health experts who have said there is no evidence yet to suggest that people who have contracted the virus are now immune to reinfection indefinitely or cannot spread it to anyone else.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance on Oct. 27 stating that experts are "still learning more about COVID-19." Current research suggests reinfection is rare but the CDC states some coronavirus reinfections are "expected."

The agency's guidance still recommends wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands regardless of whether you have had COVID-19 or not.

Paul's comments come as coronavirus cases have spiked to record-breaking levels across the country.

On Thursday, the United States recorded more than 152,000 new coronavirus infections, surpassing a daily increase of 150,000 for the first time since the pandemic hit the country earlier this year. The grim record comes after the U.S. first reached 100,000 new cases in a single day last week.

Other doctors were quick to criticize the senator's claims.

"I don't know why he would say that," said Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist at the University of Washington Medical Center.... "There is no evidence that if you've been infected with COVID-19 that you are immune from reinfection for any period of time."

Gupta pointed to a 25-year-old Nevada man who scientists confirmed was the first case of coronavirus reinfection in the U.S. last month. The man, who remains unnamed, first tested positive in April before recovering and testing negative in May. Then in June, he tested positive for the virus again, developing symptoms of COVID-19 a second time that were more severe.

 

2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This is a massive failure of character among Republicans — with evangelicals out in front, Michael Gerson, Nov. 13, michael gerson2020 (print ed.). One of the better speeches I helped produce for George W. Bush was never given. On election night 2000 — standing outside in the rain, at an Austin victory rally that never happened — I had the copy of a concession speech in my pocket. As I remember it, the first lines were: “I have just talked to my opponent, who is no longer my opponent. He is the president-elect of the United States.”
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I had no doubt that then-Gov. George W. Bush would have delivered that speech if necessary. The 2000 presidential election was far closer than the one we just experienced — a slight electoral wind could have blown it either way. But Bush, had he lost, would have played by the rules and accepted the outcome, just as Vice President Al Gore eventually did. And how do I know that Bush would have done this? Because he is a man of character who would have put the good of the country ahead of his own interests when the moment called for it.

What America is now experiencing is a massive failure of character — a nationwide blackout of integrity — among elected Republicans. From the president, a graceless and deceptive insistence on victory after a loss that was not even close. From congressional Republicans, a broad willingness to conspire in President Trump’s lies and to slander the electoral system without consideration of the public good. Only a few have stood up against Republican peer pressure of contempt for the constitutional order.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds support among Republicans as Trump scrambles to salvage his strategy to contest the election, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden began seeing more support, if indirectly, from Republicans on Thursday as senior GOP lawmakers called for him to receive classified briefings even as the Trump administration continued to bar a formal transition.

joe biden 2020 button CustomTrump officials prolonged that blockade even though in private top campaign aides were candidly telling President Trump that his prospects of winning reelection were an uphill battle, according to sources close to the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. His campaign, meantime, was scrambling to form a coherent legal strategy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Everything you need to know about the Georgia presidential recount, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Georgia will manually recount every one of nearly 5 million ballots cast in the presidential election.

Election officials in Georgia have begun their first statewide recount to manually verify every one of nearly 5 million ballots cast in the presidential race in the state, where President-elect Joe Biden has a lead of about 14,000 votes.

This recount comes as President Trump and some top Republican officials in Georgia have levied unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud or irregularities in the state. State election officials vehemently reject such characterizations but have launched a hand recount nonetheless to reassure the public about the outcome.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) ordered the recount as a part of the state’s risk-limiting audit process, which is required under a 2019 election overhaul law that Raffensperger supported. Originally, the requirement was to select a random, statistically significant sample of ballots to be reviewed by auditors to make sure ballots were accurately counted. The point is to do a manual check to make sure the ballots were properly scanned by machines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump lawyers suffer embarrassing rebukes from judges over voter fraud claims, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The common thread running through all of these is that Trump’s lawyers are regularly offering a significantly more watered-down version of Trump’s claims about rampant voter fraud — because they, unlike Trump, have to substantiate their claims. And as these exchanges show, it’s a rather thankless task that can quickly land them on a judge’s bad side.

ny times logoNew York Times, Law Firm Stops Representing Trump Campaign in Pennsylvania Suit, David Enrich, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Rachel Abrams, Nov. 13, 2020. Porter Wright said in a court filing that it would no longer represent the campaign in a federal lawsuit alleging widespread voter irregularities.

Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, the law firm leading the Trump campaign’s efforts to cast doubt on the presidential election results in Pennsylvania, abruptly withdrew from a federal lawsuit that it filed days earlier on behalf of President Trump.

“Plaintiffs and Porter Wright have reached a mutual agreement that plaintiffs will be best served if Porter Wright withdraws,” the law firm said in a federal court filing.

The firm’s withdrawal followed an article in The New York Times on Monday described internal tensions at the firm about its work for Mr. Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania. Some employees said they were concerned that the firm was being used to undercut the integrity of the electoral process. One Porter Wright lawyer resigned in protest over the summer.

Porter Wright, based in Columbus, Ohio, has received at least $727,000 in fees from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to federal election disclosures.

The law firm on Monday filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of the Trump campaign. The suit, which is pending, alleged that there were “irregularities” in the presidential vote across the state, which President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by more than 50,000 votes.

The Democratic National Committee has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Previously, Porter Wright had filed a number of other actions in Pennsylvania courts challenging aspects of the state’s voting process. It isn’t clear if the firm will continue to represent Mr. Trump’s campaign on those cases. A Porter Wright representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

On Wednesday, Porter Wright issued a statement noting its “long history of election law work during which we have represented Democratic, Republican and independent campaigns and issues.”

“At times, this calls for us to take on controversial cases,” the statement said. “We expect criticism in such instances, and we affirm the right of all individuals to express concern and disagreement.”

ny times logoNew York Times, New Unemployment Claims Dip, but Economic Pain Persists, Patricia Cohen and Gillian Friedman, Nov. 13, 2020 (print ed.).  “Technically it looks like we’re in a recovery,” one economist said, “but we’re still so much in the hole.” New claims for benefits continued to flood state unemployment offices last week as the coronavirus pandemic inflicted further economic damage.

Initial claims declined to a new low from the stratospheric multimillion levels reached in the spring, but they remained above records set in previous recessions.

A total of 723,000 workers filed new claims for state benefits, the Labor Department reported Thursday. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the figure was 709,000.

Another 298,000 new claims were filed under a federal emergency program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, designed for freelancers, part-time workers and others who are not normally eligible for state benefits.

New York Times, Live Updates: Daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. soared above 160,000, just eight days after the country had its first 100,000-case day. Hospitalizations were also setting records, with the pandemic now washing over every part of the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Could the electoral college be stolen from Biden? Aaron Blake, Nov. 11, 2020 (print ed.). It would require a historic, possibly illegal revolt from state legislatures or electors.

With legal challenges highly unlikely to change the presidential election results — and not gaining traction in the courts — President Trump’s chances of remaining president increasingly rest on two far-fetched, unprecedented and potentially illegal strategies: convince Republican state legislatures in some states that President-elect Joe Biden won to give electors to Trump instead, or convince electors themselves to change their votes for him.

These are scenarios that legal experts had pondered before this election but agreed were unlikely. And yet now they’re being considered at the highest levels. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker report Trump has raised the idea of state legislatures picking electors for him. The Post’s Elise Viebeck, Tom Hamburger, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown report Republicans in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan are being pushed by Trump allies to consider this.

It’s enough of a potential threat that Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) felt compelled to acknowledge it. She said she’s concerned Republicans are trying to use baseless claims of voter irregularities to take Biden’s 16 electoral votes away from him, even though he won the state by more than 148,000 votes. “We will do everything we can possibly do in the state of Michigan to ensure that does not occur,” she said on a call with reporters, “and that the slate of electors accurately reflects whoever received the most votes.”

Convince state legislatures to change the results

We know Trump is floating this. A top Pennsylvania Republican was quoted talking about this with the Atlantic before the election. And in Michigan, the state legislature can step in to decide a county’s dispute on whether to certify results in that county, which The Post reports has some Democrats worried a loophole exists for GOP leaders to assert control over assigning electors.

The Constitution says states get to decide how to allocate their electors. They have all settled on, sensibly, giving electors to whoever wins the popular vote in their state. Lawmakers can change that, but they’d need to do it before the election, not after. That’s according to experts on law, the Constitution and democracy from a wide ideological range on the cross-partisan National Task Force on Election Crises. Doing so, they argue, would violate federal law that requires all states appoint their electors based on what happens on Election Day.

Convince enough electors to switch their votes

Trump allies seem focused on using state legislatures to switch electoral votes rather than finding support among so-called “faithless electors.” Reports The Post: “In Pennsylvania, GOP lawmakers were the target of social media campaigns demanding the appointment of electors who favor Trump.”

But if the Republican Party is considering far-fetched possibilities, let’s run down this one. It’s even more unlikely than the f