Wednesday Inauguration Reads: Finally!

Yes! The day is finally here…

See you at 12 noon…

Until then:

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Goodbye and Good Riddance!

Good Afternoon!!

Our long national nightmare is almost over. Tomorrow morning Trump will leave the White House for the last time with the blood of 400,000 dead Americans on his hands.

Trump’s horrific “legacy” includes his “Muslim ban,” the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents, his effort to build a ridiculous wall on the Southern border, the violation of long-held government norms, his active promotion of racism, sexism, and xenophobia, his corrupt use of his office to enrich himself, his efforts to weaken NATO and our most important foreign alliances while expressing support for foreign dictators, his multiple attempts to interfere with the 2020 election, and most recently his active promotion of an attempted coup to overthrow the election results and stay on as a dictator.

For an expert take on the Trump legacy, check out this BBC article: US historians on what Donald Trump’s legacy will be.

Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump’s legacy will take years to purge from the American psyche.

After four exhausting years of raging tweets, lies, “fire and fury” rants and orders for far-right extremists to “stand back and stand by,” it’s almost over.

Donald Trump’s presidency is ending in a riot of division, discord and disgrace that encapsulates the pandemonium of his single term that culminated in him inciting an insurrection against Congress and a legacy that will take years to purge from the American psyche.

Trump is expected to unfurl a new list of pardons, including for white-collar criminals and celebrity rappers, in his last full day in office Tuesday that is likely to reflect the self-dealing contempt for justice that was a dominant theme of his tumultuous term. And there are sure to be more political traps for Joe Biden’s incoming administration on his way out the door.

20210111edstc-aThe very experience of being alive in America will change at noon on Wednesday when the mandate expires of the loudest, most disruptive and erratic commander in chief in history — who forced himself into every corner of life on his social media feed and constant craving for the spotlight.

Millions of Americans who viewed the twice-impeached Trump’s assaults on decency and the rule of law with shame and alarm will finally be able to breathe easily again, liberated from his strongman’s shadow. Biden will be a President who seeks to unify an internally estranged nation in contrast to Trump’s obsession with ripping at its social, racial and cultural fault lines to cement his power. Trump’s cynical weaponizing of race reemerged on Monday when his White House chose the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. to issue a commission report that minimizes slavery and insults the modern civil rights movement.

But this is only one view of Trump. The 74 million Americans who voted to reward him with a second term saw him as a leader who voiced their anger at political, business and media elites. Trump channeled their belief that an increasingly diverse and socially liberal nation threatened their values, religion, gun rights and cultural heritage. His exit could trigger volatile political forces among a community that will mourn his White House. The continued devotion of Trump’s loyal base voters means that while Biden can wipe out many of the outgoing President’s policy wins, removing his influence from politics may well be impossible.

There can be little doubt that Trump is by far the worst president in U.S. history. Tim Naftali at The Atlantic: The Worst President in History. Three particular failures secure Trump’s status as the worst chief executive ever to hold the office.

President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.

In December 2019, he became the third president to be impeached. Last week, Trump entered a category all his own, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. But impeachment, which depends in part on the makeup of Congress, is not the most objective standard. What does being the worst president actually mean? And is there even any value, at the bitter end of a bad presidency, in spending energy on judging a pageant of failed presidencies?

lk011521daprIt is helpful to think of the responsibilities of a president in terms of the two elements of the oath of office set forth in the Constitution. In the first part, presidents swear to “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States.” This is a pledge to properly perform the three jobs the presidency combines into one: head of state, head of government, and commander in chief. In the second part, they promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump was a serial violator of his oath—as evidenced by his continual use of his office for personal financial gain—but focusing on three crucial ways in which he betrayed it helps clarify his singular historical status. First, he failed to put the national-security interests of the United States ahead of his own political needs. Second, in the face of a devastating pandemic, he was grossly derelict, unable or unwilling to marshal the requisite resources to save lives while actively encouraging public behavior that spread the disease. And third, held to account by voters for his failures, he refused to concede defeat and instead instigated an insurrection, stirring a mob that stormed the Capitol.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Trump has also perverted the presidential pardon process, and he is expected spend today issuing as many as 100, largely corrupt pardons. That link is to the NYT story that details many of the planned pardons. This is from Vanity Fair: Trump’s Last Power Grab Will Involve Around 100 Pardons in Massive “Influence Peddling” Operation.

Tuesday’s list, which was reportedly finalized during a White House meeting on Sunday, will likely be the final pardoning spree of Trump’s tenure and is not expected to include the president himself; advisers have urged Trump not to issue a self-pardon because it would imply guilt, CNN reports. Advisers close to the president have apparently also encouraged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the insurrection, a move Senator Lindsey Graham, a longtime loyalist, warned against during a Fox News interview Sunday, saying he thinks pardoning Capitol rioters “would destroy” Trump. Instead, allies expect Trump to grant clemency to those who could benefit him after leaving office. “Everything is a transaction. He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him,” one source told CNN.

Criminals have been clamoring at Trump’s heels to achieve exactly this result, one well-connected lobbyists helped facilitate—some for a hefty price. Trump associates have apparently tried to monetize their access to the outgoing administration by selling pardons, or the hope of them, to convicted felons seeking clemency, with some allies bringing in tens of thousands of dollars to promote their clients’ position to the White House in recent weeks, the New York Times reported Sunday. The lucrative pardon lobbying reportedly ramped up as Trump’s chances of overturning the election became more and more distant, and people seeking pardons or commutations turned to fixers advertising their clout within the administration for last-minute reprieves. Since November, at least 10 convicted criminals have retained lobbyists whose described services include “pardon,” “commutation,” or “clemency,” according to Axios.

lk011421daprTrump’s final insult is his refusal to participate in the passing of power to his successor. That said, most of us are glad he won’t be there to ruin the day for the Biden and Harris families. Kate Bennett at CNN: Trumps’ snub of Bidens historic in its magnitude

The dissolving of one of America’s most enduring transfer-of-power rituals — the outgoing president welcoming the incoming president on the steps of the North Portico, and then riding with them to the United States Capitol — is just one of the snubs the Trumps are perpetrating as they leave Washington.

Instead of a president and first lady, the Bidens will be greeted by the White House chief usher Timothy Harleth, according to a source familiar with the day’s events and planning. Harleth, a 2017 Trump hire from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, will likely not stay on in the Biden administration, the source said, noting the role of chief usher in all probability will be filled by someone more familiar with the incoming president and first lady.

The afternoon of Inauguration Day, then-President Biden will participate in a ceremonial wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It is during these hours the bulk of the Bidens’ personal effects will be moved into the White House and unpacked, according to another source with knowledge of executive residence practices.

By that time, all Trump paraphernalia will be gone, and a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of the entire White House campus will have been completed. Deeper cleaning protocols were arranged via the White House with outside contractors, on top of regular cleaning done by staff, including specialized attention to rugs, carpets, curtains and surfaces, to tackle any possibility of lingering germs, of the Covid-19 sort or otherwise.

“Moving furniture and vacuuming, cleaning baseboards, vacuuming drapes, wiping down shades, cleaning chandeliers, washing windows, high dusting,” are areas all covered during the traditional move-in of a new president and his family, according to the residence source. “That cleaning will start as soon as Donald Trump and Melania Trump depart.”

2_HU-showtime-Band_-JKnight__Today, the Senate is holding hearings on some of Biden’s cabinet appointments. Axios has a list of the hearings scheduled for today:

Jan. 19:

  • 10 am: Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of homeland security nominee, before the Senate Homeland Committee.
  • 10 am: Avril Haines, nominee for director of national intelligence, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  • 10 am: Janet Yellen, nominee for treasury secretary, before the Senate Finance Committee.
  • 2 pm: Antony Blinken, nominee for secretary of state, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • 3 pm: Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, nominee for defense secretary, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Washington Post on Janet Yellen’s appearance: Janet Yellen urges lawmakers to ‘act big’ on economic stimulus relief at Senate confirmation hearing.

Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for treasury secretary, urged lawmakers Tuesday to “act big” on economic relief for the coronavirus pandemic as she appeared before a Senate committee for her confirmation hearing.

“I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Finance Committee ahead of the hearing.

She faced immediate pushback from Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who used his opening statement to slam the Biden relief plan as a “laundry list of liberal structural economic reforms” that would not be appropriate to enact.

Yellen, 74, spent years as a professor before entering politics as head of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers in the late 1990s. She chaired the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, playing a key role in the economic recovery from the Great Recession with a studied approach that helped push down the unemployment rate over time. President Trump broke with tradition when he opted not to reappoint her to the top Fed job.

I’m still bracing for Trump to pull something in his remaining hours, but it’s such a relieve to know that we’ll soon be rid of him and his trailer trash family. It will be wonderful to have a normal person in the White House again. 


Thursday Reads: Trump Incites Violent Assault On U.S. Capitol

APTOPIX Electoral College Protests

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Good Morning!!

Now I’ve seen everything–I think. Yesterday the world witnessed a violent coup attempt in the United States of America. Could it get any worse? I think it probably could. Trump is a madman and with two weeks to go before he’s forced out of office, and he still has access to the nuclear codes.

Yesterday, the so-called “president” incited a mob of white supremacists to march on the Capitol where the House and Senate were gathered to count the electoral votes and formally declare that Joe Biden will be the next POTUS. The Capitol Police appeared to allow the insurgents to rush into the Capitol building, questions are being raised about why this happened and why there were so few arrests.

5ff659b080fc0.image

Trump called on rioters to march on the Capital building to convince Congresspeople to overturn the election.

Twitter and Facebook locked Trump out of his accounts because he continued to post claims that he had actually won the 2020 election.

Congress resumed their formal counting of electoral votes last night at 8PM and certified Biden’s victory about 4AM. Meanwhile, 

There have been White House staff resignations and reports that cabinet members have been meeting to discuss invoking the 25th Amendment and removing Trump before he can do more damage to our democracy.

I was wrong about the woman who was shot and killed during the insurrection. In the video I saw, she looked like a woman of color. It turns out she was one of the attackers. KUSI News San Diego: KUSI News confirms identity of woman shot and killed inside US Capitol.

WASHINGTON (KUSI) — The woman who was shot and killed inside the US Capitol during the protests was from the San Diego area.

KUSI News has spoken with her husband.

The woman is Ashli Babbit, a 14-year veteran, who served four tours with the US Air Force, and was a high level security official throughout her time in service.

Her husband says she was a strong supporter of President Trump, and was a great patriot to all who knew her.

The Metropolitan Police Department says an investigation into her death continues.

It’s time for serious investigations into white supremacist infiltration into the military and law enforcement.

The Washington Post: Aides weigh resignations, removal options as Trump rages against perceived betrayals.

President Trump was ensconced in the White House residence Wednesday night, raging about perceived betrayals, as an array of top aides weighed resigning and some senior administration officials began conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment — an extraordinary measure that would remove the president before Trump’s term expires on Jan. 20.

josh hawley fist francis chung

This photo of Sen. Josh Hawley raising his fist in solidarity with the rioters will go down in history.

A deep, simmering unease coursed through the administration over the president’s refusal to accept his election loss and his role in inciting a mob to storm the Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden. One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of “a total monster,” while another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”

Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations.

A former senior administration official briefed on the talks confirmed that preliminary discussions of the 25th Amendment were underway, although this person cautioned that they were informal and that there was no indication of an immediate plan of action. Both of these people, like some others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

On Trump’s reactions:

People who interacted with Trump on Wednesday said they found him in a fragile and volatile state. He spent the afternoon and evening cocooned at the White House and listening only to a small coterie of loyal aides — including Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, personnel director Johnny McEntee and policy adviser Stephen Miller. Many of his top confidants — Meadows, son-in-law Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump, among others — were publicly silent.

“He’s got a bunker mentality now, he really does,” the close adviser said.

5ff61f01830d9.imageAs rioters broke through police barricades and occupied the Capitol, paralyzing the business of Congress, aides said Trump resisted entreaties from some of his advisers to condemn the marauders and refused to be reasoned with.

“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,’ ” an administration official said. “He didn’t want to condemn his people.”

“He was a total monster today,” this official added, describing the president’s handling of Wednesday’s coup attempt as less defensible than his equivocal response to the deadly white supremacist rally in 2017 in Charlottesville.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump caused the assault on the Capitol. He must be removed.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S refusal to accept his election defeat and his relentless incitement of his supporters led Wednesday to the unthinkable: an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob that overwhelmed police and drove Congress from its chambers as it was debating the counting of electoral votes. Responsibility for this act of sedition lies squarely with the president, who has shown that his continued tenure in office poses a grave threat to U.S. democracy. He should be removed.

Mr. Trump encouraged the mob to gather on Wednesday, as Congress was set to convene, and to “be wild.” After repeating a panoply of absurd conspiracy theories about the election, he urged the crowd to march on the Capitol. “We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you,” he said. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” The president did not follow the mob, but instead passively watched it on television as its members tore down fences around the Capitol and overwhelmed police guarding the building. House members and senators were forced to flee. Shots were fired, and at least one person was struck and killed.

Rather than immediately denouncing the violence and calling on his supporters to stand down, Mr. Trump issued two mild tweets in which he called on them to “remain” or “stay” peaceful. Following appeals from senior Republicans, he finally released a video in which he asked people to go home, but doubled down on the lies fueling the vigilantes. “We love you. You’re very special,” he told his seditious posse. Later, he excused the riot, tweeting that “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.” [….]

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Confederate flags were carried into the U.S. Capitol building.

The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security. Vice President Pence, who had to be whisked off the Senate floor for his own protection, should immediately gather the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, declaring that Mr. Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Congress, which would be required to ratify the action if Mr. Trump resisted, should do so. Mr. Pence should serve until President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Failing that, senior Republicans must restrain the president. The insurrection came just as many top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), were finally denouncing Mr. Trump’s antidemocratic campaign to overturn the election results. A depressing number of GOP legislators — such as Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) — were prepared to support Mr. Trump’s effort, fueling the rage of those the president has duped into believing the election was stolen.

The Daily Beast: Trump Aides Beg Top Officials to Stay After MAGA Mob Attack.

While President Donald Trump egged on a mob of his supporters who had stormed the United States Capitol on Wednesday, several of his top aides began to scramble. Their mission, according to three sources familiar with the matter: to try to convince senior White House staffers and Cabinet secretaries to stay in the administration, if only just for the night.

The effort has not been completely successful. Stephanie Grisham, the chief of staff to the first lady and the former White House communications director, quit hours after the insurrection, as CNN first reported. So did Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews. “As someone who worked in the halls of Congress I was deeply disturbed by what I saw today,” she wrote.

ErI6wrrXYAIPXN0Former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced that he had resigned from his diplomatic post on Thursday morning, telling CNBC: “I can’t stay.” Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger also resigned on Wednesday afternoon, an administration official confirmed to The Daily Beast and Ryan Tully quit the National Security Council.

Several other senior officials said they were considering quitting on the spot after news broke that an individual involved in Wednesday’s events at the Capitol had died as a result of a gunshot wound. Those officials include Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Liddell, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Trump aides and GOP power-brokers including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked all three to remain in their posts until at least tomorrow.

These people knew what Trump was long ago. The only reason they are leaving is to try to salvage their own tattered reputations.

Buzzfeed News: The Rioters Who Took Over The Capitol Have Been Planning Online In The Open For Weeks.

The supporters of President Donald Trump who rioted in the US Capitol building on Wednesday had been openly planning for weeks on both mainstream social media and the pro-Trump internet. On forums like TheDonald, a niche website formed after Reddit banned the subreddit of the same name, they promised violence against lawmakers, police, and journalists if Congress did not reject the results of the 2020 election.

In one interaction four days ago, a person on TheDonald asked, “What if Congress ignores the evidence?”

“Storm the Capitol,” one replied, which received more than 500 upvotes.

“You’re fucking right we do,” another said.

On pro-Trump social media website Parler, chat app Telegram, and other corners of the the far-right internet, people discussed the Capitol Hill rally at which Trump spoke as the catalyst for a violent insurrection. They have been using those forums to plan an uprising in plain sight, one that they executed Wednesday afternoon, forcing Congress to flee its chambers as it met to certify the results of the election.

“Extremists have for weeks repeatedly expressed their intentions to attend the January 6 protests, and unabashedly voiced their desire for chaos and violence online,” said Jared Holt, a visiting research fellow with DFRLab. “What we’ve witnessed is the manifestation of that violent online rhetoric into real-life danger.”

“The earliest call we got on our radar for today specifically was a militia movement chatroom talking about being ‘ready for blood’ if things didn’t start changing for Trump,” Holt said.

So why was the response from law enforcement so pathetic? We need answers.

1609997742809Axios: The Capitol siege’s QAnon roots.

Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol was an appalling shock to most Americans, but to far-right true believers it was the culmination of a long-unfolding epic.

The big picture: A growing segment of the American far right, radicalized via social media and private online groups, views anyone who bucks President Trump’s will as evil. That includes Democrats, the media, celebrities, judges and officeholders — even conservatives, should they cross the president.

Catch up quick: A great many Trump supporters spent recent weeks on heavily pro-Trump platforms like TheDonald.win and Parler openly discussing coming to Washington on Jan. 6 to launch an attack on the government.

  • Often the idea was discussed in vague or winking terms; other times, users explicitly called for elected officials to be abducted and executed.
  • Users on more mainstream platforms talked up plans to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to simply protest the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Trump egged them on, repeatedly calling on supporters to swarm Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.

Between the lines: Adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who imagine a vast deep-state cabal of pedophiles arrayed against Trump, have for years insisted that a moment of reckoning for their enemies is imminent.

  • QAnon believers have largely accepted that Trump is waiting for the right time to bring a hammer down on his enemies (or already has, in secret).

  • But time is running out. Because Congress was slated to officially certify Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, the day became the focal point of a new conspiracy theory — that Trump would, on that date, reveal mountains of evidence of electoral fraud, somehow invalidate Biden’s win, and secure a second term.

Anne Applebaum at The Atlantic: What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America.

In 1945, the nations of what had been Nazi-occupied Western Europe chose to become democracies, partly because they aspired to resemble their liberators. In 1989, the nations of what had been Communist-occupied Eastern Europe also chose to become democracies, partly because they too wanted to join the great, prosperous, freedom-loving, American-led democratic alliance. A huge variety of countries all across Asia, Africa, and South America have also chosen democracy over the past several decades, at least partly because they wanted to be like us, because they saw a path to the peaceful resolution of conflict in imitating us, because they saw a way to resolve their own disputes just like we did, using elections and debate instead of violence.  

4WAEDE2JUVBD5ER3UIOTKJQGWADuring this period, many American politicians and diplomats mistakenly imagined that it was their clever words or deeds that persuaded others to join what eventually became a very broad, international democratic alliance. But they were wrong. It was not them; it was us—our example.

Over the past four years, that example has been badly damaged. We elected a president who refused to recognize the democratic process. We stood by while some members of Donald Trump’s party cynically colluded with him, helping him break laws and rules designed to restrain him. We indulged his cheerleading “media”—professional liars who pretended to believe the president’s stories, including his invented claims of massive voter fraud. Then came the denouement: an awkward, cack-handed invasion of the Capitol by the president’s supporters, some dressed in strange costumes, others sporting Nazi symbols or waving Confederate flags. They achieved the president’s goal: They brought the official certification of the Electoral College vote to a halt. House and Senate members and Vice President Mike Pence were escorted out of the legislative chambers. Their staff members were told to shelter in place. A woman was shot to death.

There is no way to overstate the significance of this moment, no way to ignore the power of the message that these events send to both the friends and the enemies of democracy, everywhere. The images from Washington that are going out around the world are far more damaging to America’s reputation as a stable democracy than the images of young people protesting the Vietnam War several decades ago, and they are far more disturbing to outsiders than the riots and protests of last summer. Unlike so many other disturbances over the years, the events at the Capitol yesterday did not represent a policy dispute, a disagreement about a foreign war or the behavior of police. They were part of an argument over the validity of democracy itself: A violent mob declared that it should decide who becomes the next president, and Trump encouraged its members. So did his allies in Congress, and so did the far-right propagandists who support him. For a few hours, they prevailed.

I’ve barely touched the surface of the commentary that’s out there today. I’ll add more links in the comment thread and I hope you’ll add your own thoughts and links to the discussion. Take care Sky Dancers!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Portrait of the Cat Armellino With a Sonnet by Bertazzi , Giovanni Reder, 1750

Portrait of the Cat Armellino With a Sonnet by Bertazzi , Giovanni Reder, 1750

Good Morning!!

As we get closer to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump is acting crazier than ever. I have to wonder if he can avoid a complete psychotic breakdown before he’s finally forced to leave the people’s house. With each passing day, he becomes more of an embarrassment to the country. Here’s the latest, along with some 18th Century cats in art:

The Daily Beast: Trump Plans to Fight the Election Even After ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally Ends.

Many of Donald Trump’s most dogmatic supporters see a mass protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6—just two weeks shy of Inauguration Day 2021—as their last chance to disrupt President-elect Joe Biden’s win. But for the president himself, it’s just another day to complain.

Two people familiar with the matter say that in recent days, Trump has told advisers and close associates that he wants to keep fighting in court past Jan. 6 if members of Congress, as expected, end up certifying the electoral college results.

“The way he sees it is: Why should I ever let this go?… How would that benefit me?” said one of the sources, who’s spoken to Trump at length about the post-election activities to nullify his Democratic opponent’s decisive victory.

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Girl Holding a Cat by Philippe Mercier, c.1750 (c) National Galleries of Scotland

The president’s exact plans for the Jan. 6 events remain unclear, and it has been common for him to lend his support to these rallies or protests via enthusiastic-sounding tweets, only to then stop short of doing much else. Since last week, Trump has asked certain aides and allies what they think would be good ideas for him to mark the occasion, such as a speech, a flyover, or a recorded video, the sources said….

On the day itself, protesters plan to meet in the northeast corner of the Capitol complex, where they’ll hear from a list of speakers that includes Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Trump adviser Roger Stone, and Rep-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has supported the QAnon conspiracy theory. Trump has promoted the protest on Twitter, urging his supporters to attend.

“Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19.

CNN: Trump attacks No. 2 Senate Republican as the President turns on allies in his final days in office.

President Donald Trump is spending his final days in office attacking leadership within his own party, this time the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, offering a possible preview of his broader post-presidential strategy to use his influence in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

Trump, back at the White House after his Mar-a-Lago holiday with no public events on his schedule, attacked Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is the No. 2 Senate Republican, in an afternoon tweet on New Year’s Day.

“I hope to see the great Governor of South Dakota @KristiNoem, run against RINO @SenJohnThune, in the upcoming 2022 Primary. She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up. South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!” he wrote in a tweet.

Trump has railed against Republican leadership broadly multiple times this week, but this time is naming names. Thune, the Senate majority whip, had been one of the top Republicans to speak in favor of accepting the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, drawing Trump’s ire.

“Once somebody gets 270, I understand they’re ruling right now, but I think that’s the process we have, yes. … In the end at some point you have to face the music. And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on,” Thune said ahead of the formal electoral college voting process last month.

Trump’s tweet comes just 19 days before he leaves the White House and days before a joint session of Congress is set to formally certify the Electoral College results, with some Trump allies planning to join his baseless efforts to overturn the results of the election.

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Little Girl Nursing a Kitten by James Northcote, 1795 (c) Paintings Collection

Trump’s childish tantrums threaten to disrupt GOP hopes of holding onto the Senate majority by winning two runoff elections in Georgia. Politico: Trump’s attacks on Senate Republicans complicate his Georgia message.

Trump’s last-minute moves to close out his presidency — from his demand for increased stimulus payments to his unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election — have put Republicans in a bind ahead of the state’s runoffs next week that will determine which party controls the Senate. And the president’s messaging is ironically aligned with that of Democrats, who see a renewed opening on their broader push for more coronavirus relief aid after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Though he is actively campaigning for the state’s two incumbent GOP senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, holding a Monday night rally to drive turnout to help save the Republican majority, Trump is continuing to run roughshod all over the party’s message for Tuesday’s must-win runoffs and, some Republicans worry, giving Democrats a perfect opening.

On Friday, Trump called the Republican-controlled Senate “pathetic” for failing to deliver on the $2,000 stimulus checks and other demands he wanted to pair with it after the Senate voted to override his veto of the $741 billion defense policy bill.

“Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600, rather than the $2000 which they so desperately need,” Trump tweeted, referring to Senate Republicans. ”Not fair, or smart!”

Indeed, Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have been jumping all over the president’s demand to boost the pandemic relief payments by $1,400. It’s a major closing argument for them — especially on the heels of Senate Republicans blocking a stand-alone bill to increase the value of the checks.

For some unknown reason, reports The New York Times: Trump Calls Georgia Senate Races ‘Illegal and Invalid’

ATLANTA — President Trump took to Twitter Friday evening to make the unfounded assertion that Georgia’s two Senate races are “illegal and invalid,” an argument that could complicate his efforts to convince his supporters to turn out for Republican candidates in the two runoff races that will determine which party controls the Senate.

The president is set to hold a rally in Dalton, Ga., on Monday, the day before Election Day, and Georgia Republicans are hoping he will focus his comments on how crucial it is for Republicans to vote in large numbers for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the state’s two incumbent Republican senators.

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange and kitty.

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange and kitty.

But Mr. Trump has continued to make the false claim that Georgia’s election system was rigged against him in the Nov. 3 general election. Some Republican leaders are afraid that his supporters will take the president’s argument seriously, and decide that voting in a “corrupt” system is not worth their time, a development that could hand the election to the Democrats.

Some strategists and political science experts in the state have said Mr. Trump’s assault on Georgia’s voting system may be at least partly responsible for the relatively light Republican turnout in the conservative strongholds of northwest Georgia, where Dalton is, in the early voting period that ended Thursday.

Mr. Trump made his assertion about the Senate races in a Twitter thread in which he also made the baseless claim that “massive corruption” took place in the general election, “which gives us far more votes than is necessary to win all of the Swing States.”

The president made a specific reference to a Georgia consent decree that he said was unconstitutional. The problems with this document, he argued further, render the two Senate races and the results of his own electoral loss invalid.

Mr. Trump was almost certainly referring to a March consent decree hammered out between the Democratic Party and Republican state officials that helped establish standards for judging the validity of signatures on absentee ballots in the state.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to ignore the racing coronavirus pandemic.

CNN: US surpasses 20 million Covid-19 cases while experts foresee tough times in January.

The US surpassed 20 million total recorded Covid-19 cases on Friday, hours after the country ushered in 2021 and left behind its deadliest month of the pandemic.

The nation also has set a Covid-19 hospitalization record for four straight days. The high counts are a grim reminder that even with 2020 behind us, the pandemic continues to ravage parts of the country. And some leaders warn the worst is still ahead.

“We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Thursday.

More than 125,000 coronavirus patients were in US hospitals Friday, Covid Tracking Project data shows. 

(c) National Trust, Fenton House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Psyche’, a White Persian Cat by Francis Sartorius I, 1787 (c) National Trust, Fenton House

Don’t miss this devastating piece on Trump’s epic failure at The New York Times: Trump’s Focus as the Pandemic Raged: What Would It Mean for Him?

It was a warm summer Wednesday, Election Day was looming and President Trump was even angrier than usual at the relentless focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

“You’re killing me! This whole thing is! We’ve got all the damn cases,” Mr. Trump yelled at Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, during a gathering of top aides in the Oval Office on Aug. 19. “I want to do what Mexico does. They don’t give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you’re vomiting.”

Mexico’s record in fighting the virus was hardly one for the United States to emulate. But the president had long seen testing not as a vital way to track and contain the pandemic but as a mechanism for making him look bad by driving up the number of known cases.

And on that day he was especially furious after being informed by Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, that it would be days before the government could give emergency approval to the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment, something Mr. Trump was eager to promote as a personal victory going into the Republican National Convention the following week.

“They’re Democrats! They’re against me!” he said, convinced that the government’s top doctors and scientists were conspiring to undermine him. “They want to wait!”

Throughout late summer and fall, in the heat of a re-election campaign that he would go on to lose, and in the face of mounting evidence of a surge in infections and deaths far worse than in the spring, Mr. Trump’s management of the crisis — unsteady, unscientific and colored by politics all year — was in effect reduced to a single question: What would it mean for him?

The result, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and others in contact with the White House, was a lose-lose situation. Mr. Trump not only ended up soundly defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., but missed his chance to show that he could rise to the moment in the final chapter of his presidency and meet the defining challenge of his tenure.

Read the whole thing at the NYT link.

The cat's lunch, Marguerite Gerard

The cat’s lunch, Marguerite Gerard

More stories to check out today:

Axios: Trump, the GOP arsonist.

The Washington Post: Judge dismisses Gohmert lawsuit seeking to stymie Biden electoral college count.

The New York Times: As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm.

The New York Times: In Abrupt Reversal of Iran Strategy, Pentagon Orders Aircraft Carrier Home.

Times of Israel: Iran says killers of top general Soleimani, including Trump, ‘not safe on Earth’

ABC7 Los Angeles: Nancy Pelosi’s home vandalized with graffiti, fake blood on New Year’s Day.

The Los Angeles Times: Coughing, sneezing, vomiting: Visibly ill people aren’t being kept off planes.

Jay Rosen at PressThink: The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd.

Lois Beckett at The Guardian: Facts won’t fix this: experts on how to fight America’s disinformation crisis.


Day After Christmas Caturday Reads

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Good Afternoon!!

It’s difficult to believe, but today is kind of slow news day, compared to most of the days we’ve lived through in the past four years. Naturally, what news there is today is mostly awful.

The story getting the most attention right now is the bomb blast in Nashville. Here’s the latest:

ABC News: Human remains found at site of ‘intentional’ Nashville RV explosion: Sources.

Nashville police officers were first called to a report of shots fired, police said. There was no evidence of shots fired, but “there were announcements coming” from an RV saying a potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes, police said.

The recording only began playing a short time after police reported to the scene, a law enforcement official told ABC News.

il_570xN.1628906646_o015Officers were working to evacuate nearby buildings when, around 6:30 a.m., the RV exploded, blowing out the windows of nearby buildings.

Human remains have been found at the scene of the explosion in downtown Nashville, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.

The remains have not been identified and it’s unclear whether they’re identifiable.

“We found tissue that we believe could be human remains,” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said at a press conference Friday evening. “We’ll have that examined and we’ll be able to tell you from that point.”

Nashville Tennessean: Exclusive: Nashville explosion witness remembers chilling warning from the RV: ‘A bomb is in this vehicle

A woman’s voice warned downtown residents to evacuate before the Christmas morning explosion that rocked Nashville, according to witness who described hearing the chilling message before fleeing with her family.

Betsy Williams, who owns the Melting Pot building on Second Avenue, lived in a loft apartment on the third floor of the building near the center of the blast.

Williams said she left the area after she heard the recording play a countdown to the explosion.

At least three people were injured in the explosion, according to authorities. A police officer in the area, who was responding to reports of suspicious activity in the area, was knocked to the ground by the blast.

Police said the explosion came from an RV that was parked on Second Avenue, in the midst of a business and entertainment district. Police spokesman Don Aaron confirmed the warning came from the RV.

Two-cats-dressed-up-in-holiday-outfitsAP: Downtown Nashville explosion knocks communications offline.

The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company’s office tower, a landmark in downtown.

“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. He said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give details.

AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.

The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville.

AT&T said that it was bringing in portable cell sites and was working with law enforcement to get access to make repairs to its equipment. The company noted that “power is essential to restoring” service.

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion. Later Friday, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority said most flights were resuming but advised passengers to check with their airline for updates due to possible delays.

The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.

il_570xN.1302215820_8kviTrump is busy shirking his responsibilities, playing golf and tweeting as Americans die or go hungry and jobless, while facing evictions.

The New York Times: Unemployment Aid Set to Lapse Saturday as Trump’s Plans for Relief Bill Remain Unclear.

Expanded unemployment benefits were set to lapse for millions of struggling Americans on Saturday, a day after President Trump expressed more criticism of a $900 billion pandemic relief bill that was awaiting his signature and would extend them.

The sprawling economic relief package that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support would extend the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits until March and revive supplemental unemployment benefits for millions of Americans at $300 a week on top of the usual state benefit.

If Mr. Trump signs the bill on Saturday, states will still need time to reprogram their computer systems to account for the new law, according to Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Projectbut unemployed workers would still be able to claim the benefits.

Further delays could prove more costly. States cannot pay out benefits for weeks that begin before the bill is signed, meaning that if the president does not sign the bill by Saturday, benefits will not restart until the first week of January. But they will still end in mid-March, effectively trimming the extension to 10 weeks from 11.

Mr. Trump blindsided lawmakers on Tuesday when he hinted he may veto the measure, which he decided at the last minute was unsatisfactory. The most pressing issue prompted by the president’s delay was the fate of unemployment benefits. At least a temporary lapse in those benefits is now inevitable.

The country is also facing a looming government shutdown on Tuesday and the expiration of a moratorium on evictions at the end of the year because of the president’s refusal to sign the bill.

Screen_Shot_2018-12-12_at_1.56.56_PM_1024x1024Here’s what Trump is stewing about at the moment. Raw Story: Trump buried for whining Melania didn’t get enough fashion magazine covers — as he sits on COVID aid bill.

With all that is going on in the U.S. during Christmas week — COVID-19 infections on the rise, a desperately needed COVID-related aid package being held hostage by the president, extended unemployment insurance about to run out, families facing evictions — Donald Trump took time out from his busy holiday vacation at Mar-a-Lago to complain that his wife Melania didn’t get fashion magazine cover stories he feels she deserves.

Linking to a tweet from right-wing Breitbart, that read, “The elitist snobs in the fashion press have kept the most elegant First Lady in American history off the covers of their magazines for 4 consecutive years,” the preside t added “The greatest of all time” by which he presumably meant the first lady, before adding the requisite “Fake news!”

Commenters who were already criticizing the president for two days of golfing while they hunker down in their homes over fears of the spreading pandemic, piled on the president for his bizarre sense of priorities.

Maybe it’s because Melania is ugly inside and out? Click the link to read sample tweets.

Trump is also planning to try to pardon himself and push for inappropriate investigations, according to The Guardian: 

William Barr’s abrupt move to leave his post as attorney general this week has spurred fears among Department of Justice veterans that Donald Trump will put new pressures on Barr’s successor to do him big and potentially risky political and legal favors.

Former justice department officials say they are worried Trump will lean on Barr’s less experienced successor, the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, to push policies which Trump has suggested he backs, including naming special counsels to investigate President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and using the DoJ to investigate Trump’s baseless charges of widespread election fraud.

Critics also fear Rosen could face pressure from Trump to help obtain a legal opinion that would allow Trump to pardon himself by reversing a justice department opinion that dates back to the Nixon era and bars a presidential self-pardon. Such a move would probably trigger widespread outrage.

Mounting concerns that Trump will try to squeeze favors from Rosen, who became Barr’s deputy AG in early 2019 without previous DoJ experience, stem partly from Trump’s post-election anger at Barr, despite being arguably his strongest cabinet ally in the run-up to the November election.

baa09660e092dcb35cbb29f7ffab4940And what if Trump tries to stay in the White House after Biden’s inauguration? Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair: No One Knows How to Get Trump to Leave the White House in January.

Donald Trump was soundly defeated by Joe Biden, his efforts to overturn the results have been wildly unsuccessful, and the electoral college has made his loss official. In two weeks, lawmakers will meet to certify Biden’s win—and a longshot challenge Trump’s allies in the House are planning is unlikely to stop the inevitable. Constitutionally and legally, Trump will have no constitutional or legal claim to the White House.

But what if, after all that, he just…refuses to leave? What if he refuses to pack his shit and go back to Mar-a-Lago? What if he chains himself to the Resolute Desk? That prospect may sound comically outlandish, and is indeed unlikely to come to pass. But it’s hardly as far-fetched as it might seem, as Trump refuses to concede and continues to insist he won last month’s election in a “landslide.” In fact, he has actually raised the idea with aides recently, as CNN reported. And while few advisers think he’ll actually go through with it, no one really knows what would happen if he does try to overstay his welcome.

According to the Daily Beast on Wednesday, the Secret Service isn’t so sure what it would do, either. One former agent suggested he’d get dragged out like any other civilian would be if they were in the Oval Office unauthorized. “I guess by law he would be a trespasser,” the former agent told the outlet. “We’d have to escort him out.” But the Secret Service and the military may be reluctant to take part in what would be such a dramatic scene, and could take more subtle action, like pressing his inner circle or Republican officials and family members to make him leave. “The Service and the military would just not want to get involved,” another former official said. “It’s not our role.” It could also simply do the equivalent of changing the locks: “When the staff leaves on January 19, don’t let them back into the complex the next day,” an ex-agent said. “He can’t do anything without his staff.”

Again, this is all (thankfully) hypothetical at this point, and the chances of it becoming more than that are still likely remote. But it’s hard to avoid engaging with the prospect as Trump goes to greater and greater lengths in his effort to remain in power, even though a record number of American voters told him to get lost and the electoral college formalized his loss. “It’s scary,” an administration official told CNN.

More at the link.

A few more reads to check out:

s-l640Ed Pilkington at The Guardian: How real is the threat of prosecution for Donald Trump post-presidency?

The Daily Beast: Three Paths This Coronavirus Nightmare Could Take.

Los Angeles Times: L.A. County hospitals running dangerously low on oxygen, supplies as ER units are overwhelmed.

The New York Times: One Vaccine Side Effect: Global Economic Inequality.

Raw Story: Vengeful Trump is in ‘destruction mode’ after ‘being fired by the American people’: Historian Brinkley.

The New York Times: A ‘Great Cultural Depression’ Looms for Legions of Unemployed Performers

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you had a nice, relaxing day yesterday. Take care and stay safe!