Sunday Reads: Whitelash

This attempted coup is disgusting…here are a few thoughts on the violence this past week.

I think it all stems from the fact that a black man was elected President some years ago….tRump supporters have something in common. They are white supremacist, bigoted assholes.

This thread:

Just waiting for…

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Two Momentous Days

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Good Afternoon!!

Is it really only Tuesday? I’m already exhausted and the week has barely begun. Today is the day that voters in Georgia will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. Trump held a rally in Georgia last night, supposedly to support Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue, the GOP candidates, but he spend most of his time arguing that he actually won the November election and should remain in office for four more years. Tomorrow Trump’s army of seditionists will be trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election–in Congress and in the streets of DC. Trump has been encouraging them to come and cause trouble in the streets and yesterday, he announced plans to address the angry rabble during their “protests.” Here’s the latest:

Georgia Runoff Elections

NBC News: Georgia voters head to the polls in pivotal Senate runoff elections.

Georgia voters are heading to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in pivotal runoff elections that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. ET in the state and they close at 7 p.m. ET. Voters who are in line by 7 p.m. can still cast a ballot, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office. More than 3 million Georgia residents have already cast ballots in the two races during the early voting period that started Dec. 14.

In the races, Democrat Jon Ossoff is running against Republican David Perdue, whose Senate term expired on Sunday with the start of the new Congress, and Democrat Raphael Warnock is trying to unseat GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The runoffs come after none of the candidates captured 50 percent of the vote in November’s election.

jd010121daprThe outcome Tuesday will decide whether Republicans will retain control of the Senate or Democrats retake the majority, which would give President-elect Joe Biden a better chance at passing his agenda through Congress. If both Democrats win, the chamber would be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaker for Democrats on party-line votes. But the party would still face obstacles given the need for 60 votes to advance major legislation.

From Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: 

With Election Day voting underway in the crucial Senate runoffs in Georgia, we continue to see both races as Toss-ups. But after an early-voting period where Democrats may have performed better than they did in the lead-up to the November election, Republicans may need to follow suit with an impressive day-of-election performance to defend Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) against challengers Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D), respectively.

Georgians have cast roughly 3 million votes so far in the contest through early in-person and mail-in voting. Even without accounting for any Election Day votes, this is an impressive turnout, about 60% of the roughly 5 million votes cast in Georgia’s high-turnout November election.

The last time Georgia had a Senate runoff, in 2008, only 2.1 million votes were cast compared to 3.9 million votes cast for president in the general election. So a dozen years ago, turnout in the runoff was just a little more than half that of the general election, and then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) won the runoff by 15 points after leading in the November vote by just three points.

cjones01022021The turnout in these runoffs as a percentage of the general election vote is going to be markedly higher than in 2008. The key question is how much higher.

The votes cast before Election Day in these Senate runoffs may be more Democratic leaning than those cast before the November general election. Perhaps the most encouraging data point for Democrats is that the Black voter share of the pre-Election Day vote is up a few points from the pre-Election Day Black vote in the general election. Given that Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats, any increase in the Black share of the electorate is very important.

Read more analysis at the link.

A couple more Georgia election stories to check out:

Takeo Spikes at USA Today: Georgia’s rural Black voters were ignored and suppressed. Now they might flip the Senate.

NBC News: In Georgia, Democrats close with populist pitch vowing $2,000 stimulus checks.

Trump’s Final Rally

Politico: Trump uses Georgia rally to pressure GOP on Electoral College challenge.

President Donald Trump came to Georgia on Monday to campaign for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in an attempt to help Republicans retain control of the Senate. But he very quickly revealed another motivation for traveling to this ultra-conservative enclave.

“Hello, Georgia. By the way, there is no way we lost Georgia. There’s no way,” Trump said immediately after taking the stage. “That was a rigged election. But we are still fighting it.” [….]

“People will remember the people who don’t support us,” Trump said of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress, when lawmakers will vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes.

Speaking at a rally here, Trump berated members of his party who have refused to support his attempt to overturn Biden’s win in November, and continued to promote falsehoods that the election was stolen from him — spending relatively little time talking up the incumbent senators whose runoff elections will take place on Tuesday.

He vowed to campaign against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in 2022 because they certified Biden’s win in the state, and he praised Republicans who plan to challenge the Electoral College results in Congress this week.

On Twitter, Aaron Rupar reported that the audience seemed bored when Trump briefly tried to talk about today’s Senate runoff elections. 

Tomorrow’s Trump Fan “Protests”

Politico: MAGA marchers plot final D.C. stand on Jan. 6.

Timed to the day when Congress will formally certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win, the MAGA crowd is trying to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers to refuse to seat Biden over fabricated voter-fraud claims. It’s a doomed plan, given the makeup of Congress, the absent evidence behind the rigged election allegations and the fact that every important state has already certified Biden’s win. Yet that hasn’t stopped a swell of Trump supporters from making plans — and the president from teasing his own appearance.

According to disinformation and extremist researchers, the Jan. 6 gathering will look similar to November’s Million MAGA March — a mashup of garden-variety Trump supporters and more extreme members of the far right, with no apparent central organizing apparatus. Stop the Steal, a group affiliated with pro-Trump super PACs and allies of Trump adviser Roger Stone, has filed for permits and plans to protest outside the Capitol, but other groups have also claimed to be the true official planners.

Click the link for more details.

ABC News: As he seeks to prevent certification of election, Trump plans to attend DC rally.

Over the weekend the president tweeted, “I will be there. Historic day!” replying to a tweet from one of the rally organizers.

Yesterday, the Proud Boys leader was arrested and also sued. Read the details at The Washington Post: Proud Boys leader arrested in the burning of church’s Black Lives Matter banner, D.C. police say.

DC is preparing for possible violence from the Trump cultists.

NBC News: D.C. mayor calls on National Guard as pro-Trump protests set for capital.

The Washington Post: D.C. houses of worship beef up security as Trump defenders descend on the nation’s capital.

On Trump and the GOP Congressional Sedition Caucus

John Cassidy at The New Yorker: Trump’s Authoritarian Moment Is Here.

If there were any doubt remaining that Donald Trump still represents a dire threat to American democracy, the events of this weekend dispelled it. As a new Congress gathers to confirm that the voters chose Joe Biden to be the next President, a proceeding that should be a mere formality, Trump is desperately trying to overturn the result and stay in office. Even more disturbing, large numbers of elected Republicans are joining in this unprecedented effort to reject the popular will. If the Republic gets through the next two weeks without a catastrophe, we must surely take steps to protect ourselves against the next would-be authoritarian, which could well be Trump himself in 2024.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported the contents of a lengthy phone call that took place on Saturday between Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. Raffensperger is one of the honorable Republicans at the state and local level who have stood up against the President’s efforts to bully them into calling the election for the loser: him. The conversation was a long one—it lasted almost an hour—but the transcript shows that this wasn’t the Trump of the campaign trail or the White House press room, endlessly going off on tangents. Throughout the conversation, he remained focussed on his counterfactual narrative—that he carried Georgia easily—and a specific set of demands for Raffensperger.

247110_rgb_768“So look, all I want to do is this,” the President said at one point. “I just want to find eleven thousand seven hundred and eighty votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.” At numerous points, Trump repeated incendiary allegations about voter fraud in Georgia that some of his supporters have been putting forward. Among other things, he claimed that five thousand dead people voted, three hundred thousand fake ballots were submitted, and that Fulton County, an area the former Vice-President won big, shredded three thousand pounds of ballots and covertly removed voting machines. Raffensperger and his general counsel, who was also on the call, calmly pointed out that his office had investigated all of these claims and found them to be false. (Georgia’s state supreme court and a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush rejected the Trump campaign’s claims as well.) Trump wasn’t to be put off. “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need eleven thousand votes,” he repeated. “Fellas, I need eleven thousand votes. Give me a break.”

Since the election, some commentators have downplayed Trump’s refusal to accept the result, saying that he was merely exercising the inviolate American right to sue. But this wasn’t Rudy Giuliani standing outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping, in a Philadelphia strip mall. It was the President of the United States speaking from the Oval Office and leaning on a local election official, with the backing of his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who was also on the call, and a number of other Trump lawyers, including Cleta Mitchell, a partner at the corporate law firm Foley & Lardner. “The entire call is astonishing,” Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general at the Justice Department, commented on Twitter, after the Post report was published. “The bullying, the threats, the insults, the credulous embrace of discredited conspiracy theories. Like a crime boss, Trump occasionally says that all he wants is the truth. But he doesn’t—he wants the win.”

George F. Will at The Washington Post: Hawley, Cruz and their Senate cohort are the Constitution’s most dangerous domestic enemies.

On a conference call last Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus that, in his 36 Senate years, he has twice cast votes to take the nation to war and once to remove a president, but that the vote he will cast this Wednesday to certify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory will be the most important of his career. McConnell (R-Ky.) understands the recklessness of congressional Republicans who are fueling the doubts of a large majority of Republicans about the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

20210101edbbc-aThe day before McConnell’s somber statement, Missouri’s freshman Republican senator, Josh Hawley, announced that on Wednesday, 14 days before Biden will be inaugurated, he will challenge the validity of Biden’s election. Hawley’s conscience regarding electoral proprieties compels him to stroke this erogenous zone of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating electorate.

Hawley’s stance quickly elicited panicky emulation from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, another 2024 aspirant. Cruz led 10 other senators and senators-elect in a statement that presents their pandering to what terrifies them (their Trumpkin voters) as a judicious determination to assess the “unprecedented allegations” of voting improprieties, “allegations” exceeding “any in our lifetimes.”

So, allegations in sufficient quantity, although of uniformly risible quality, validate senatorial grandstanding that is designed to deepen today’s widespread delusions and resentments. While Hawley et al. were presenting their last-ditch devotion to President Trump as devotion to electoral integrity, Trump was heard on tape browbeating noncompliant Georgia election officials to “find” thousands of votes for him. Awkward.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Pence’s Choice: Side With the Constitution or His Boss.

Speaking to supporters of President Trump on Monday at the Rock Springs Church in Milner, Ga., Vice President Mike Pence implored the crowd to vote in the two runoff elections Tuesday that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

“I am here for one reason and one reason only, and that is that Georgia and America need David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back in the Republican majority,” Mr. Pence said.

But the crowd had a message for him, too.

“We need you do the right thing Jan. 6!” one supporter cried out. “Stop the steal!” shouted others. The crowd applauded.

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Mike Pence's main job

If Mr. Pence has tried to skirt Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power, his reception in Georgia on Monday served as the latest reminder of the delicate role he will play on Wednesday, when Congress conducts what is typically a ceremonial duty of opening and counting certificates of electoral votes.

As president of the Senate, Mr. Pence is expected to preside over the pro forma certification of the Electoral College vote count in front of a joint session of Congress. It is a constitutionally prescribed, televised moment in which Mr. Pence will name the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

What Pence said in Georgia:

“I know we all have got our doubts about the last election,” Mr. Pence said Monday in Georgia, attempting to assuage Trump supporters. “I want to assure you that I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. I promise you, come this Wednesday, we will have our day in Congress.”

It was not clear, perhaps by design, what he meant. Mr. Pence does not have unilateral power to affect the outcome of Wednesday’s proceedings. But he has carefully tried to look like he is loyally following the president’s lead even as he goes through a process that is expected to end with him reading out a declaration that Mr. Biden is the winner.

We’ll find out tomorrow.

So that’s what’s happening over the next two days. It should be interesting. Take care of yourselves and take breaks from the news as needed!


Tuesday Reads: AWOL Trump Plots With Congressional Crazies

Good Afternoon!!

Trump is getting crazier and crazier, and we still have 29 days to get through before Biden’s inauguration. Here’s the latest:

Jonathan Swan at Axios: Trump turns on everyone.

President Trump, in his final days, is turning bitterly on virtually every person around him, griping about anyone who refuses to indulge conspiracy theories or hopeless bids to overturn the election, several top officials tell Axios.

The latest: Targets of his outrage include Vice President Pence, chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Pompeo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Why it matters: Trump thinks everyone around him is weak, stupid or disloyal — and increasingly seeks comfort only in people who egg him on to overturn the election results. We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are by the conversations unfolding inside the White House.

Top officials are trying to stay away from the West Wing right now.

  • Trump is lashing out, and everyone is in the blast zone: At this point, if you’re not in the “use the Department of Homeland Security or the military to impound voting machines” camp, the president considers you weak and beneath contempt.
  • Trump is fed up with Cipollone, his counsel. Some supporters of Cipollone are worried that Trump is on the brink of removing him and replacing him with a fringe loyalist.

A source who spoke to Trump said the president was complaining about Pence and brought up a Lincoln Project ad that claims that Pence is “backing away” from Trump. This ad has clearly got inside Trump’s head, the source said.

  • Trump views Pence as not fighting hard enough for him — the same complaint he uses against virtually everybody who works for him and has been loyal to him.

Pence’s role on Jan. 6 has begun to loom large in Trump’s mind, according to people who’ve discussed the matter with him.

  • Trump would view Pence performing his constitutional duty — and validating the election result — as the ultimate betrayal.

20201219edbbc-aMore from Jonathan Swan: Trump trashes McConnell to fellow Republicans.

President Trump lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night for acknowledging Joe Biden won the election, sending a slide to Republican lawmakers taking credit for saving McConnell’s career with a tweet and robocall.

Why it matters: It’s an extraordinary broadside against McConnell by the sitting president and most popular Republican in the party, ahead of a crucial runoff election in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will determine control of the Senate.

  • “Sadly, Mitch forgot,” reads the top of the slide sent to Republican senators by Trump’s personal assistant, written in red for emphasis. “He was the first one off the ship.”

Between the lines: While both the message and its delivery targeted McConnell, they also carried a subtle warning to other Republicans who may follow suit as the president grasps at the last straws of his election-fraud claim.

  • Trump’s remaining power over the GOP is not his waning authority as president, but the perception of his lingering ability to make or break politicians in their re-election campaigns.
  • Many Republicans have been loath to criticize the president despite a string of court losses, including at the Supreme Court, because of their private fears that an enraged Trump will attack them and turn his band of loyal followers against them in a primary campaign.

The New York Daily News: ‘Ultimate betrayal’: Trump questions loyalty of Pence as GOP hardliners push to overturn election results.

President Trump is reportedly questioning the loyalty of Vice President Mike Pence as the commander-in-chief pushes ever more extreme measures to overturn his election loss.

“Trump (views) Pence performing his constitutional duty — and validating the election result — as the ultimate betrayal,” Axios reported.

The increasingly paranoid president mentioned a Dec. 8 television ad from the #NeverTrump Lincoln Project that predicted Pence would eventually dump Trump and seal President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

The ad, which Axios reported has rattled Trump, said the conservative veep is “running away from you Donald. And on January 6, @VP will preside over the vote proving @joebiden beat you.”

The Washington Post: Trump assembles a ragtag crew of conspiracy-minded allies in flailing bid to reverse election loss.

With his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud rejected by dozens of judges and GOP leaders, President Trump has turned to a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss.

The president’s orbit has grown more extreme as his more mainstream allies, including Attorney General William P. Barr, have declined to endorse his increasingly radical plans to overturn the will of the voters. Trump’s unofficial election advisory council now includes a pardoned felon, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a White House trade adviser and a Russian agent’s former lover.

Members of the group assembled­ in the Oval Office on Friday for a marathon meeting that lasted more than four hours and included discussion of tactics ranging from imposing martial law in swing states to seizing voting machines through executive fiat. The meeting exploded into shouting matches as outside advisers and White House aides clashed over the lack of a cohesive strategy and disagreed about the constitutionality of some of the proposed solutions….

Barr, who is set to leave his post Wednesday amid multiple disagreements with Trump, is the latest administration official to head for the exits or fall out of the president’s favor after not backing his baseless allegations.

In their place, Trump has welcomed figures from the political fringes who have offered him optimism and ideas for how to stay in power. Their brazen proposals have rankled some of the president’s aides and allies, who have warned that attempting to invoke the military or challenge states’ election processes through executive power would violate the Constitution and backfire politically, according to officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

Read more about Trump’s delusions at the WaPo link.

CNN: House conservatives strategize with Trump and Pence in push to challenge Biden’s win.

Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks and fellow House conservatives met privately on Monday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as the lawmakers prepared to mount a long-shot bid in January to overturn the Electoral College results that made Joe Biden the official winner of the election.

cjones12222020The discussion focused on Trump’s baseless claims and conspiracies that the election was stolen from him, participants said, and lawmakers emerged confident that there were would be a contingent of House and Senate Republicans who would join the effort and prompt a marathon debate on the floor on January 6 that would spill into January 7.

Pence’s involvement in the meeting is significant because he will preside over the joint session of Congress that would count the electoral votes that day. Brooks said that Pence attended “different parts” of the meeting.

“I believe we have multiple senators and the question is not if but how many,” Brooks said, something that would defy the wishes of Senate Republican leaders who are eager to move on and urging senators not to participate since doing so could force them to cast a politically toxic vote against Trump.

Brooks told CNN on Monday night that they would seek to challenge the election in at least six battleground states, saying he needs to coordinate “as many as 72” five-minute speeches that GOP lawmakers would make that day. “That’s a significant task,” he said.

The effort is doomed to fail but would create a spectacle that Senate GOP leaders want to avoid. And if a House member and a senator object to six states’ results, it would lead to at least 12 hours of debate, in addition to the time for casting votes on each of the motions, potentially prolonging the fight until the next day.

More on this meeting from Politico:

In addition to the “dozens” of House Republicans who are committed to objecting to the election results, Brooks said there are “multiple” Senate Republicans who are now receptive to the effort, though he declined to name names. Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), whom Trump has repeatedly praised on Twitter recently, has said he is considering the idea.

More and more congressmen and senators are being persuaded that the election was stolen,” Brooks said, who claimed that momentum for the effort is growing.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), however, told reporters Monday that the House GOP’s effort is “going down like a shot dog.”

Other members who were in attendance include some of Trump’s staunchest allies on the Hill, such as Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

On a more serious note, CNN’s Barbara Starr reported yesterday that Pentagon insiders are worried about Trump’s nutty behavior: Pentagon anxiety rises as officers wait for Trump’s next unpredictable move.

It’s like a low murmur just below the surface. “We don’t know what he might do,” says one officer in the Pentagon. “We are in strange times,” says another officer. Some senior military officers are trying to steer clear of the White House for the next month, rather than be in the President Donald Trump’s orbit.

246734_rgb_768With just some 30 days to go before the US military watches its current commander in chief leave office, there is growing anxiety in the ranks about what Trump might do in these remaining days. Will the President order some unexpected military action, such as a strike on Iran, or will he somehow draw the military into his efforts to overthrow the election results?

It’s a troubling enough scenario that military leaders have taken the unusual step of publicly stating that they will not play a role in deciding an American election.

CNN has spoken to nearly a dozen currently serving officers either in senior roles or with direct knowledge of how senior commanders feel right now. Not all are in the Pentagon.

No one will allow their names to be used. Currently serving military personnel are not allowed to speak against the president of the United States — but opinions are divided. Some say don’t talk about it, it only fuels the fire. Others say drag the quiet talk into the sunshine of public debate.

Read the rest at CNN.

One more from The Bulwark: The Military Would Not Participate in a Coup. Trump Can’t Understand Why.

The president of the United States considered using the military to overturn an election, according to press reports. Clearly, any president—any person—who would suggest such a thing doesn’t understand the whole point of American democratic politics. But more than that, the president clearly doesn’t understand the American military….

Since the election, Michael Flynn—retired Army general, Trump’s first national security advisor, a former lobbyist for the government of Turkey, recipient of a recent Trump pardon, and now a crackpot conspiracy theorist—has suggested that the president should invoke martial law (not “marshall law,” Senator Rubio, sheesh). How, in Flynn’s mind, martial law would prevent Biden from taking the oath of office or extend Trump’s term past its constitutionally mandated date of expiry is unclear….

Senior Defense Department leaders have already expressed that there is no role for the military in domestic political disputes. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as much in October—and repeated the point last week: “We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or a religion. We take an oath to the Constitution.”

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville also issued a joint statement on Friday that “there is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”

mrz121920daprGranted, none of these three men is in the chain of command between the president and combat troops, but they all represent the view of the military, including the combatant commanders who are in the chain of command.

In the unlikely scenario that Trump were to issue an order to use the military to prevent the transfer of power, the order would go to the secretary of defense. In the unlikely scenario that the secretary were to decide to enforce the order (which, it should go without saying, would be illegal), he would relay the order to commander of the Northern Command, Gen. Glen VanHerck. There, VanHerck would consult with his team of legal advisers, who would inform him that the order was a grotesque violation of the Constitution, and VenHerck would refuse the order and send it back to the secretary of defense. Because, as Gen. Milley said, VenHeck’s loyalty lies with the Constitution, not a king or queen, and certainly not Donald Trump.

That’s great news, but I’m still anxious about what Trump will do next. I can’t forget that he is in control of the launch codes for nuclear weapons. Maybe someone has made plans about how to handle a situation in which Trump really goes off the deep end and tries to blow up the world. The rest of us have to deal with the Christmas and New Year holidays in the midst of the pandemic.

Take care everyone, and have a nice Tuesday.


Thursday Reads: Will Trump Fade Away?

Paul Renard

Painting by Paul Renard

Good Afternoon!!

On Tuesday, I asked if we will ever be free of Trump and his demands for narcissistic supply–even after we pry him out of the White House. At The Atlantic, two writers argue that Trump is already losing his battle to remain the center of attention.

David A. Graham: Trump Is Rapidly Becoming Irrelevant.

To a remarkable degree, people have already stopped paying attention to the 45th president.

The past few weeks have offered a preview of what Donald Trump’s post-presidency might look like: The president fulminates at length, playing pundit, but is a practical nonfactor in policy discussions. He can still command the affection of millions—and raise millions of dollars from them—but the balance of the country has already moved on and tuned out. Trump’s ability to command the news cycle has been eclipsed by the virus he couldn’t be bothered to stop and the rival candidate he couldn’t beat.

Graham notes that we still must be alert to Trump’s efforts to damage our democratic institutions and policies.

His election-related efforts are sputtering: Trump has watched while state after state certifies election wins for Biden. He has watched as dozens of judges have punted long-shot lawsuits out of court. He watched as dye ran down Rudy Giuliani’s face in a news conference that was somehow both jaw-droppingly insane and jaw-clenchingly dull. Having exhausted nearly every option, the Trump legal effort has now resorted to recycling old, failed gambits. With the Electoral College meeting on December 14, the end is in sight.

The relevant description of Trump’s role is “watching.” The president has long been an obsessive TV viewer, but without a campaign to run and with no events on his schedule, there is less to distract him from the tube—and his gripes about Fox News and praise for the network’s smaller rivals, Newsmax and One America News….

Paris in the Rain, by Dan McCole

Paris in the Rain, by Dan McCole

He is now back to feeding his followers a steady diet of false and misleading claims about the election results, though it is difficult to tell whether he really believes his claims, is just processing his grief, is simply taking advantage of a lucrative fundraising opportunity, or some combination thereof. 

This punditry will likely be the central element of Trump’s post-presidency. Armed with his Twitter following and perhaps a cable-news show or even channel, Trump will be able to spout off to his heart’s content….

Trump’s diminishing relevance over the past 10 days is a good preview of what to expect come late January. Trump won’t go away entirely, and he certainly won’t get quiet, but fewer Americans will listen to or care about what he has to say. They’ve voted with their ballots, and now they’ll vote with their attention.

Yascha Mounk: Why Trump Might Just Fade Away. Americans will soon grow tired of the president, despite his efforts to stay in the limelight.  

Trump’s veneer of invincibility is fading. He lost his bid for reelection, and staged the most incompetent coup attempt since Woody Allen’s Bananas. He can rant and rave about what happened in November, but he can’t keep his followers from seeing Joe Biden inaugurated in January. Fear of what he might attempt next is giving way to laughter. He looks weaker and more scared by the day.

When Oprah Winfrey left her show to start her own network, she was the biggest star on television. Many analysts predicted that her new venture would be a huge success. At the time, some press reports even suggested that bosses at the main broadcast networks were seriously worried about the competition.

Contrary to these expectations, the Oprah Winfrey Network struggled to find an audience. In the first years of its existence, it bled tens of millions of dollars. Today, OWN has established a stable niche for itself, and even makes a little profit. But with an average viewership of fewer than 500,000 people in 2018, it plays in a completely different league from the four major networks and the most commercially successful cable channels.

This should serve as a warning to anybody who is now fielding pitches to invest in the Trump News Network. If Trump follows the lead of other authoritarian populists like Hugo Chávez and hosts a regular television program, he can undoubtedly induce his most devoted fans to tune in. But to be commercially viable, his channel would have to expand that core audience, recruit other hosts who are capable of sustaining the public’s attention, hire journalists who can actually cover what is going on in the world, and attract advertising from run-of-the-mill corporations.

Mounk argues that Republicans are unlikely to supports Trump’s plans for another presidential run in 2024, even if he is capable of carrying if off four years from now and it’s likely that most Americans will be sick of his antics by then, if they aren’t already.

Times Square Station, by Louis Ebarb

Times Square Station, by Louis Ebarb

Another Atlantic writer, Timothy Noah suggests that we may learn much more about Trump’s time as “president” after he leaves office: The Trump You’ve Yet to Meet.  Just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out.

How well do we know Donald Trump? Pretty well, it would seem. Nobody has ever accused the outgoing president of possessing a complex personality. His behavior in office confirmed the common view, barely disputed even by his allies, that he is a shallow narcissist, blind or indifferent to common decencies, with poor impulse control and a vindictive streak. His futile attempt to litigate away electoral defeat may appall you, but it probably doesn’t surprise you.

Still, just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out. Journalists like to pretend that we know everything about a president in real time, but our information is never close to complete. There’s always more to learn, and it’s seldom reassuring.

Americans had no idea until after he left office how completely Woodrow Wilson depended on his wife, Edith, after he suffered a stroke in September 1919; she waited two decades to admit in her memoirs that, on instructions from Wilson’s doctors, she’d winnowed his written communications with Cabinet members and senators, digesting and reframing “in tabloid form those things that … had to go to the president.”

Nor did Americans learn until a decade after his death that John F. Kennedy, a much less devoted family man than Life magazine let on, shared a mistress (sequentially if not concurrently) with the Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana, whom the CIA recruited in one of several harebrained plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Then there’s Richard Nixon. Americans knew many shameful things about Nixon thanks to the Watergate investigation that prompted his resignation. But only after he left office did we learn, for instance, that Nixon ordered an aide to compile a list of Jews who worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics so he could demote some of them.

Noah lists many possibilities for how we will learn more about Trump and his time in the White House. I hope you’ll read the whole thing. Some possible sources of information and questions to be answered:

Trump, for all his talk about loyalty, has never commanded much from the people who work for him. No visible bonds of affection or respect bind Trump to his employees, leaving fear the sole motivation for keeping the troops in line. (See Cohen, Michael.) Most of that fear will evaporate by January 20, by which time trade publishers may be turning away proposals for tell-all books lest they create a market glut. Unlike the previous two administrations, which were somewhat difficult for reporters to penetrate, the Trump White House leaked like a sieve. Après lui, le déluge….

Charles W. Bailey Jr.

Digital art by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

How close did we come to war with North Korea when Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on Kim Jong Un? After Trump decided instead to become the first president to meet with Kim, how close did Trump come to agreeing to remove U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula?

Exactly how much revenue did Trump properties collect from the federal government during his presidency? How much from people seeking to influence Trump’s presidency?

Who has received promises from Trump that they’ll be pardoned? Did Trump promise in advance to commute Roger Stone’s sentence?

What were the domestic arrangements in the Trump White House? Can Melania and Barron really be said to have lived there, or did they spend more time in their New York apartment, or at her parents’ house in Maryland, where Barron went to school?

Did White House aides observe signs of mental decline in Trump related to aging?

Some stories from today’s news that suggest Trump’s power to control the narrative and intimidate fellow Republicans is fading:

The Daily Beast: Mike Pence Backs Away From the Trump Election ‘Fraud’ Train Wreck.

Vice President Mike Pence has been a go-to fundraising draw for the president’s campaign, and since October, no more than a day passed without his name emblazoning a fundraising email for the Trump reelect.

But that changed late last month. Since Nov. 25, not a single fundraising email from the Trump campaign or its Republican National Committee fundraising account has featured Pence’s name in the “from” field. And this week, that Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, made another subtle change: a handful of its emails swapped out the official Trump-Pence campaign logo for one featuring just the president’s name….

Newspaper Kiosk in Bologna, Italy, photo by Fillippo Carlot

Newspaper Kiosk in Bologna, Italy, photo by Fillippo Carlot

Several high-level sources say that the graphics change, along with Pence’s disappearance from the headers of President Donald Trump’s increasingly frantic and conspiratorial pleas, are not actually coincidental. According to four people with knowledge of the matter, they reflect an effort by the vice president and his team to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.

“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship…and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”

Axios: Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told President Trump on Wednesday he’ll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: “This is the only chance to get our bill passed,” a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump’s threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

The backstory: Inhofe leveled with Trump — over speakerphone while walking through the Senate’s Russell Building — that the bill won’t meet his demand to repeal liability protections for tech companies, or block efforts to re-title military bases named for Confederate figures.

The Washington Post reports on the public disgrace of a Trump sycophant: Joseph diGenova resigns from Gridiron Club after saying fired cybersecurity official should be shot.

Joseph diGenova, the Trump campaign lawyer who had been a fixture in Washington legal circles for decades, resigned under pressure Tuesday from the elite Gridiron Club after an uproar over his comments suggesting a former government official should be executed.

DiGenova later said he was joking when he made the comments about Christopher Krebs, the federal cybersecurity official who was fired by President Trump after asserting that the 2020 election was secure and free of widespread voter fraud. “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs . . . .” diGenova said on the conservative “Howie Carr Show” on Monday. “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

Still, the White House denounced the statement, Krebs said he would consider legal action — and the 135-year-old Gridiron Club asked diGenova to step down.

Vlad Yeliseyev

Painting by Vlad Yeliseyev

Ivanka in legal trouble? CNN: Ivanka Trump was deposed Tuesday in DC attorney general’s inauguration lawsuit.

Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and adviser, sat for a deposition Tuesday with investigators from the Washington, DC, attorney general’s office as part of its lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds, according to a court filing.

In January, the DC attorney general’s office sued the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee alleging they abused more than $1 million raised by the nonprofit by “grossly overpaying” for use of event space at the Trump hotel in Washington for the 2017 inauguration….

The attorney general’s office has also subpoenaed records from Barrack, Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Rick Gates, the former inaugural committee deputy chairman, the filing said.

Republican election officials are standing up to Trump. The Washington Post: Election officials warn Trump’s escalating attacks on voting are putting their staffs at risk.

Intensifying attacks on the integrity of the vote by President Trump and his allies are fueling deep alarm among state and local officials, who have watched with dread in recent weeks as election workers have been targeted by fast-spreading conspiracy theories.

They echoed calls by Gabriel Sterling, a top Republican election official in Georgia who on Tuesday urged Trump and other GOP politicians to tamp down their baseless claims of widespread fraud. In an impassioned statement, Sterling blamed the president for “inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.”

He noted that a 20-year-old contractor for Dominion Voting Systems has been besieged with online attacks after QAnon supporters falsely claimed a video showed him manipulating voting data, when he was in fact simply using a computer and thumb drive.

Similar threats have cropped up across the country since Election Day.

More details at the link.

Finally, Bill Barr is publicly pushing back on Trump’s election fraud claims. ABC News: Barr had ‘intense’ meeting with Trump after AG’s interview undercutting voter fraud claims: Sources.

harvard-square-out-of-town-news-sean-moore

Harvard Square Out of Town News, by Sean Moore

Barr spent roughly two and a half hours on White House grounds on Tuesday for what White House and Department of Justice officials previously said was a pre-planned meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

However, sources told ABC News that once Barr was in the building for meetings, Trump wanted to see him.

One source briefed on the meeting described Barr’s interaction with the president as “intense,” but would not elaborate on any additional details about the content of their discussion.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a press briefing Wednesday afternoon declined to answer whether the two had spoken since Barr’s interview, and also declined to say directly whether Trump still had confidence in Barr.

So, that’s my summary of the notion that Trump may fade away after he leaves the White House. I don’t know if I buy it or not, but there is some evidence that Republicans are breaking free of the cult. I’d love to get your input on this.

 


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

08bruni-jumboI’m not going to spend much time on the vice presidential debate in today’s post. CNN’s post-debate poll showed Kamala Harris was the winner.

I don’t think Mike Pence did a very good job of defending Trump, and that’s what he needed to do. He lied again and again with a straight face–that has always been his modus operandi. He refused to answer a question about what states should do about abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and–worst of all–he dodged a question about whether there will be a peaceful transition of power if Trump loses. From The Daily Beast:

At the tail end of Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate—one that was noticeably less fiery and chaotic than last week’s presidential clash—Vice President Mike Pence completely avoided answering what he would do if President Donald Trump refuses to step down if he loses the election….

The veep first said that he thinks his ticket will win re-election before accusing Democrats of not accepting the outcome of the 2016 election, bringing up the Russia investigation and the impeachment of the president. After invoking former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s advice that Joe Biden shouldn’t concede on election night if the results are close, Pence reiterated his belief that Trump would be re-elected.

“President Trump and I are fighting every day to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating a massive opportunity for voter fraud,” he concluded. “If we have a free and fair election, we’ll have confidence in it.”

Matt Flegenheimer and Annie Karni at The New York Times: Pence, Peerless Trump Defender, Confronts His Limits.

Vice President Mike Pence approached his task on Wednesday as he has approached his four years as the executive straight man to an unruly leader: not merely defending President Trump but effectively insisting, with poker-faced conviction, that those who doubt his boss should not believe their eyes and ears.

R6ZUW44OCRGKHMJQMHJKXZTXDIThe trouble this time was not Mr. Pence’s skill set on this front, which remains peerless. It was the fact set underpinning this debate, which remains inconvenient to an administration so overwhelmed by the virus that its own West Wing has become a hot spot.

And so Mr. Pence — stripped of most politically palatable explanations for the White House pandemic response — set off on a curious charge when Senator Kamala Harris said that the Trump team’s leadership “clearly” has not worked: He chose to hear it as a direct affront to the American people.

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked,” Mr. Pence said gravely, as controlled as his president is rambunctious onstage, “that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made.”

At last, the strain seemed to be showing, at least a little. Perhaps that is what a full term of wear-and-tear can do to even the most accomplished rhetorical gymnast.

Or perhaps the reality is simply too bleak for any administration to explain away entirely: The president has contracted the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans on his watch. His behavior, since leaving the hospital on Monday, appears to be a continuation of the kind of scientifically dubious happy talk that has left the Trump-Pence ticket at a significant polling disadvantage four weeks before Election Day.

Yes, the story today and every day until the election will be about Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of 211,917 Americans as of this morning. In addition, Trump either doesn’t understand or simply refuses to admit that the pandemic is killing the economy.

244003_rgb_768IMHO, the biggest story this morning is the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and the obvious fact that Trump and his Trumpists have likely spread the virus very widely. Here’s the latest.

ABC News: 34 people connected to White House, more than previously known, infected by coronavirus: Internal FEMA memo.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected “34 White House staffers and other contacts” in recent days, according to an internal government memo, an indication that the disease has spread among more people than previously known in the seat of American government.

The memo also notes that a senior adviser to the president is among those infected. Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, both senior aides to the president, have tested positive in recent days.

The new figures underscore both the growing crisis in the White House and the lengths to which government officials have gone to block information about the outbreak’s spread. ABC News had previously reported that a total of 24 White House aides and their contacts had contracted the virus. It was not clear in the FEMA memo with the larger number what “other contacts” referred to.

Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg: White House Security Official Contracted Covid-19 in September.

A top White House security official, Crede Bailey, is gravely ill with Covid-19 and has been hospitalized since September, according to four people familiar with his condition.

I'm in control hereThe White House has not publicly disclosed Bailey’s illness. He became sick before the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event President Donald Trump held to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that has been connected to more than a dozen cases of the disease.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on Bailey. He is in charge of the White House security office, which handles credentialing for access to the White House and works closely with the U.S. Secret Service on security measures throughout the compound.

Chris Christie is still in the hospital and there has been no news about how he is doing. NJ.com:

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains hospitalized at Morristown Medical Center, where he was admitted Saturday after testing positive COVID-19

Christie’s current condition is not known. Hospital officials declined comment Tuesday….

Christie, who has struggled with his weight and has a lifelong history of asthma, tweeted that he checked himself into the hospital Saturday. Because of his conditions, he’s at higher risk of developing complications from the virus.

The Daily Beast: White House Quietly Told Vets Group It Might Have Exposed Them to COVID.

On the same day President Donald Trump acknowledged contracting the coronavirus, the White House quietly informed a veterans group that there was a COVID-19 risk stemming from a Sept. 27 event honoring the families of fallen U.S. service members, the head of that charitable organization told The Daily Beast.

5_wexler_0The White House warning, which came on Oct. 2, is the earliest known outreach to visitors of the complex that there was a risk of coronavirus emerging from the grounds where the president, the first lady, and at least 17 of his aides, according to Politico, have now tested positive for the virus.

The Sept. 27 event to honor Gold Star families came the day after the White House hosted a celebration for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that appears to have been an early source of the White House outbreak, though West Wing officials have quietly disputed that linkage. It is unclear to the head of the veterans charity—the Greatest Generations Foundation—which participant’s potential positive coronavirus test sparked the warning.

USA Today: White House coronavirus outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota.

President Donald Trump and other White House insiders infected with COVID-19 carried the virus across the country in a matter of days, potentially exposing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people as they went about their business, a USA TODAY investigation found. 

From a religious summit outside Atlanta to a campaign rally at a Pennsylvania airport and a private fundraiser in Minnesota, Trump, his aides and political allies attended events with thousands of people, often without masks and little regard for social distancing….

USA TODAY reporters examined hundreds of photos and videos from news coverage and social media posts and scoured attendance logs to identify people who came in contact with those individuals.

don't be afraid of covidAt least 6,000 people attended meetings, rallies and other gatherings with them within a week of the Supreme Court nomination ceremony Sept. 26 in the White House Rose Garden, pegged as a potential “superspreader” event….

Epidemiologists and public health experts said USA TODAY’s analysis shows that the White House outbreak has put more people, in more places, at risk than has been previously known. It illustrates just how quickly and how far a superspreader event can carry COVID-19. 

“I don’t think we know the extent of this outbreak yet … people could die,” said Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “It’s the height of irresponsibility for people who are supposed to be leaders.”

Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t been seen in public since he returned to the White House on Monday evening. Instead he has been posting videos of himself wearing heavier make-up than usual and babbling nonsense, including claiming he has been “cured” of the virus and may be immune to it. We haven’t been told what medications Trump is still taking, and the White House and Trump’s doctors have refused to say when Trump last tested negative for the virus. ABC News reports:

The White House has also declined to confirm when and how Trump was tested before last Tuesday’s presidential debate with Joe Biden, even though both campaigns certified to debate organizers that the candidates and everyone who traveled with them to Cleveland tested negative within 72 hours of the debate.

The White House, which has made contradictory statements about when and how often Trump is tested, said the president first tested positive Thursday evening, and first discussed symptoms with his doctor at that time. Studies have shown that coronavirus patients are infectious up to two days before the onset of symptoms.

primitive tribes“People ought to have the right to know whether or not they should be quarantining themselves, if they’re at risk,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News. “Potentially the president and his team have put others in harm’s way.”

While it’s not clear when Trump was infected with the virus, the White House’s silence raises questions about its compliance with debate rules, the frequency of Trump’s tests, and whether the president or his aides had concerns about him having the virus before he tested positive — as he kept up his busy schedule of campaign events.

And what about the next presidential debate? The debate commission announce that it will be done virtually, and Trump says he won’t participate and instead will hold a superspreader rally! The New York Times: Trump Objects to Commission’s Virtual Debate Plan.

President Trump, in an extraordinary break from the norms of modern campaigning, said on Thursday that he would refuse to participate in the next presidential debate after organizers changed the event to a virtual format because of health concerns about the coronavirus.

His withdrawal from the Oct. 15 event came shortly after the Commission on Presidential Debates, citing the “health and safety of all involved,” abandoned plans to stage the next in-person debate in Miami, saying that Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. would instead participate remotely from separate locations.

But Mr. Trump, whose recent contraction of the coronavirus was a significant impetus for the commission to modify its plans, immediately dismissed the idea of a remote debate as “ridiculous” and accused the debate commission without evidence of seeking to protect his Democratic opponent.

“No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Mr. Trump told the Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo in a television interview. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous.”

And this is extraordinary: the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine have publicly stated that Trump should not get a second term: Dying in a Leadership Vacuum.

Here’s the gist:

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy….

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized,3 appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies….

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

I think this post is getting too long; but I can’t be sure, because the new WordPress editor doesn’t provide a word count. I’ll post a few more stories in the comment thread below. I hope you all have a peaceful day. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and please check in with us if you have the time and inclination.