Thursday Reads: Trump is Delusional and Republicans Are Enabling His Madness.

http://www.art-vangogh.com/

Vincent van Gogh, Winter scene with Arles in the background

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know how to think or write about what Trump is doing right now. He has somehow convince 17 state attorney generals to join a stupid lawsuit that asks the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election. The man behind the suit is Texas AG Ken Paxton, who is currently under investigation by the FBI.

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Texas AG Ken Paxton, Under FBI Investigation, Asks SCOTUS to Overturn the Election.

On Tuesday morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Supreme Court to effectively declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Paxton’s lawsuit falsely accuses Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin of counting invalid votes in violation of the Constitution. It asks the justices to remedy this alleged misconduct by forcing all four states’ legislatures to throw out every vote and appoint electors who support Trump. Many Republican lawmakers have already endorsed such a scheme, but Paxton is the first to ask SCOTUS to facilitate it. If the Supreme Court took up his invitation, it would commit the single biggest act of vote nullification in American history, voiding millions of ballots to hand Trump an unearned second term.

The Supreme Court, however, is not going to take up Paxton’s invitation. It has asked for a response from the four defendant states by 3 p.m. on Thursday; in light of the court’s hasty disposition of similarly laughable complaints, we can safely assume that the justices intend to dispatch this case promptly. Paxton’s suit is shot through with conspiracy theories and constitutional claims with no basis in law. Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins, who typically authors the office’s lawsuits, did not sign on to this one, nor did his deputies; instead, Paxton brought in a “special counsel” from outside the agency. His suit is so ridiculous that it led some commentators to wonder whether the attorney general might have another motive for filing it. Paxton, after all, is reportedly under investigation by the FBI for alleged bribery and abuse of office. Trump, meanwhile, has been distributing pardons to his allies like candy. Paxton’s suit makes more sense as pardon-bait than it does as a legal document. And he may need presidential clemency to escape the federal criminal charges that could be imminent.

So this may just be an attempt by Paxton to get a pardon from Trump, but 17 other Republican-controlled states are going along with this assault on the democracy. In the article, Stern enumerates Paxton’s long history of criminal conduct and corruption. Read about it at the link.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter Landscape

Trump has also joined the lawsuit. CNN: Trump asks Supreme Court to invalidate millions of votes in battleground states.

President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to block millions of votes from four battleground states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump’s request came in a filing with the court asking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to invalidate millions of votes cast in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The President is being represented by a new attorney, John Eastman, who is known for recently pushing a racist conspiracy theory questioning whether Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was eligible for the role because her parents were immigrants….

“Our Country is deeply divided in ways that it arguably has not been seen since the election of 1860,” the petition states. “There is a high level of distrust between the opposing sides, compounded by the fact that, in the election just held, election officials in key swing states, for apparently partisan advantage, failed to conduct their state elections in compliance with state election law.”

Echoing arguments made by Texas, Trump says the battleground states used the pandemic “as an excuse” and “ignored or suspended the operation of numerous state laws designed to protect the integrity of the ballot.”

He asks the court to block the states from using “constitutionally infirm 2020 election results” unless the legislatures of the states “review the 2020 election results.”

Instead of actually doing the job of POTUS in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic and economic disaster, Trump is spending all of his time claiming he actually won the election that he lost and trying to convince judges and lawmakers to help him with execute a coup and turn the U.S. into an authoritarian state.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne

The Washington Post: On record day for covid-19 deaths, Trump falsely proclaims at packed Hanukkah party, ‘We’re going to win this election.’

At the end of the nation’s deadliest day so far during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump on Wednesday night emerged at an indoor Hanukkah party to speak with a crowd mostly wearing masks but not adhering to social distancing in the East Room of the White House.

Then, the president falsely said again that he won the election, boasting that victory was on the horizon in the form of long-shot legal efforts that have been repeatedly defeated in multiple states.

“All I ask for is people with wisdom and with courage, that’s all,” Trump told the crowd, according to a video of the event shared by Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “Because if certain very important people, if they have wisdom and if they have courage, we’re going to win this election in a landslide.”

The crowd responded by breaking into a chant of, “Four more years!”

The moment highlighted a consistent theme of Trump’s actions in the past month, as he has declined to address a dramatically worsening pandemic while focusing instead on his thus-far failed efforts to overturn the election results.

Wednesday’s White House holiday party came on the same day that 3,140 people died of covid-19 in the United States, a single-day record for deaths, according to a Washington Post analysis. Nationwide, 106,000 people were hospitalized with covid, another record.

The Hanukkah party was among at least 25 indoor parties planned in a packed holiday season at the White House, which ignored warnings from the Trump administration’s own public health experts to avoid large groups and limit travel.

Also from The Washington Post: Trump pressures congressional Republicans to help in his fight to overturn the election.

President Trump is shifting his focus to Congress after the courts roundly rejected his bid to overturn the results of the election, pressuring congressional Republicans into taking a final stand to keep him in power.

Trump’s push is part of a multipronged approach as he also seeks to lobby state and federal lawmakers to give him cover for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, as well as rally support for a last-gasp legal challenge in the Supreme Court that election law experts almost universally dismiss.

The president has been calling Republicans, imploring them to keep fighting and more loudly proclaim the election was stolen while pressing them on what they plan to do. He spoke to Arizona GOP Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, on Wednesday, and is expected to meet Thursday at the White House with several state attorneys general. Meanwhile, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and point man in the legal fight, has been making similar calls from the hospital, where he is being treated for covid-19.

Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875

Claude Monet, Snow Scene at Argenteuil, 1875

The president also has enlisted Vice President Pence to reach out to governors and other party leaders in key states to see what else can be done to help the president. A person familiar with the calls said Pence has not exerted pressure on lawmakers to take specific actions and sees them as “checking in.” [….]

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Trump’s conservative allies in the House have been privately buttonholing GOP senators, seeking to enlist one to join in objecting to slates of electors on Jan. 6, according to multiple people familiar with their effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their plans.

On that day, Congress will meet in a joint session to count the electoral votes and declare Joe Biden as the 46th president — with Pence presiding. But if a member of the House and a member of the Senate challenge a state’s results, the whole Congress would vote — and the GOP plotting all but assures the routine process could take a dramatic turn, forcing Republicans to choose between accepting the election results or Trump’s bid to overturn the outcome.

Unbelievable. Read much more about the Republican efforts to support Trump’s power grab. 

I can’t understand why journalists are not writing that Trump’s behavior is simply insane. He is insane, and that needs to be discussed publicly. 

According to CNN’s Manu Raju, GOP senators ready to acknowledge Biden won but struggle with Trump’s refusal to concede.

A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to publicly acknowledge what’s been widely known for weeks but what they’ve refused to say: Joe Biden won the presidency and will be sworn in on January 20.

What they’re less certain about: What President Donald Trump will do after the Electoral College votes on Monday and how they plan to respond if he won’t concede after Biden is the official winner.

“Trump’s going to do what Trump is going to do,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who has asserted that Biden will be the President-elect once the Electoral College votes on Monday, but told CNN that it’s Trump’s call on conceding the race. “That’s the only answer I’m going to give you.”

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1891

Ivan Shishkin, In the Wild North, 1891

For weeks, Republicans in the House and Senate have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory, arguing that Trump has a right to pursue his case in court and staying mostly silent as the President wages a rhetorical assault on a foundation of democracy by arguing baselessly that the election was “stolen” and “rigged.”

And after interviews with more than two dozen Republican senators, many of them have pointed to December 14 as the defining moment — when electors meet in their state capitals to make the results official. Yet they are also confronting a new reality: Biden will officially clinch the necessary electoral votes to assume the presidency and the President is showing no signs of letting up.

Many Republicans won’t say if they’ll acknowledge the electoral reality next week. But others are ready to move on and acknowledge Biden won.

Finally, The Washington Post Editorial Board warns that Trump’s behavior could encourage his delusional supporters to act out violently: The danger is growing that Trump’s lies about the election will lead to violence.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S lying about the election has become dangerous — and not just in the sense that it damages democratic norms. It also increasingly threatens to spur physical violence against Americans who have done their duty to oversee a free and fair vote.

Officials in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin have reported receiving threats or harassment. The Arizona Republican Party asked its Twitter followers Tuesday if they were willing to give their lives to overturn the election and “die for something.”

Armed “protesters” menaced Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and her family in their home over the weekend. “Someone’s going to get killed,” said Gabriel Sterling, a senior Georgia election official, as he detailed last week the death threats he and others have received. Yet, Mr. Trump continues to pour gasoline on the fire, tweeting Wednesday that “We will soon be learning about the word ‘courage’, and saving our Country.” Kim Ward, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania state Senate, told the New York Times that if she refused to cooperate with efforts to challenge the election result, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.” [….]

…passions are not dissipating; they are exploding. Republicans across the country, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) down to county GOP chairs, are inflaming them with their encouragement or their acquiescence. Violence seems ever more possible when President-elect Joe Biden’s victory becomes official — if not before. Short of that, Mr. Trump is creating a new playbook for failed candidates: Rile the base; delegitimize your opponent’s victory; pressure state officials to flip the results. This strategy could be far more potent in a closer election. It threatens the foundations of U.S. democracy.

There’s plenty of other news, so please use the comments to share the stories you are following today.


Tuesday Reads

sb111720dapr

Good Morning!!

We have to survive 57 more days of Trump insanity–along with the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic–between now and January 20, 2021. At least Trump finally agreed to let the official presidential transition begin–but he’s still refusing to give Joe Biden access to the government’s vaccine plans.

The New York Times: Trump Administration Approves Start of Formal Transition to Biden.

President Trump’s government on Monday authorized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner, a strong sign that the president’s last-ditch bid to overturn the results of the election was coming to an end.

Mr. Trump did not concede, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved fruitless. But the president said on Twitter on Monday night that he accepted the decision by Emily W. Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, to allow a transition to proceed.

In his tweet, Mr. Trump said that he had told his officials to begin “initial protocols” involving the handoff to Mr. Biden “in the best interest of our country,” even though he had spent weeks trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud. Hours later, he tried to play down the significance of Ms. Murphy’s action, tweeting that it was simply “preliminarily work with the Dems” that would not stop efforts to change the election results.

Still, Ms. Murphy’s designation of Mr. Biden as the apparent victor provides the incoming administration with federal funds and resources and clears the way for the president-elect’s advisers to coordinate with Trump administration officials.

cbr111320daprTrump had to be talked into allowing the transition to begin.

Mr. Trump had been resisting any move toward a transition. But in conversations in recent days that intensified Monday morning, top aides — including Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel; and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer — told the president the transition needed to begin. He did not need to say the word “concede,” they told him, according to multiple people briefed on the discussions….

Some of the advisers drafted a statement for the president to issue. In the end, Mr. Trump did not put one out, but aides said the tone was similar to his tweets in the evening, in which he appeared to take credit for Ms. Murphy’s decision to allow the transition to begin.

“Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” he wrote. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

This morning, NBC News published an op-ed by Sen. Chris Murphy: As Trump’s GSA begins election transition, Biden needs access to Covid-19 vaccine plans.

At the very moment President-elect Joe Biden will take the reins of government, the federal government will be in the early stages of implementing the most complicated, most expensive and most important mass vaccination program in our nation’s history. On Monday, General Services Administration signaled that it is ready to begin the formal transition process. There is not a moment to lose….

cbr111220dapr…vaccines don’t protect people; vaccinations do. And the effort to make sure that every person in America, as soon as possible, gets vaccinated, is a logistical project on par with than anything the American health care system has ever accomplished. Trump’s teams at Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health have begun to develop and implement this system, but it will be barely up and running by Jan. 20. That means that there must be an errorless transition of responsibility from Trump’s team to Biden’s team. And yet for weeks, Trump’s team refused to allow Biden’s transition team access to the plan. Hopefully, the GSA’s announcement means this will change. But we cannot just assume it will happen.

As leaders of Operation Warp Speed, the coalition of federal agencies overseeing the plan for vaccine distribution, told the Senate last week, Trump had been blocking them from communicating at all with the Biden-Harris transition team. Why? Because of Trump’s petulant crusade against reality. Indeed, Trump is still refusing to accept the election results, hoping that desperate lawsuits and the bullying of local elections officials will somehow allow him to remain in office despite the fact that he lost the election convincingly.

Murphy believes the Trump plans are inadequate and Biden will need to make changes. Read Murphy’s detailed recommendations at NBC News.

Trump may have been talked into allowing the formal transition to begin, but he’s still obsessed with proving the election was fraudulent. Now that his many lawsuits have been thrown out of court for lack of evidence, he is becoming concerned that his crazy legal team is making him look bad. As if he hadn’t already done that to himself.

NBC News: Behind the scenes, Trump frustrated with his legal team’s maneuvers.

While President Donald Trump has publicly praised his legal team’s efforts, he has privately expressed frustration with the slapdash nature of his election defense fight, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

20201121edhan-aThe president has been complaining to aides and allies about his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and recently-removed lawyer Sidney Powell’s over-the-top performances at a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters last week, these people said. Both Giuliani and Powell have continued to make conspiratorial and baseless claims about widespread voter fraud, for which they have provided no evidence.

The president is concerned his team is comprised of “fools that are making him look bad,” said one source familiar with the thinking. Asked why he would not fire them, this person replied, in essence, who knows?

The president grew less impressed with Powell over the weekend, as she continued to make outlandish comments, including falsely accusing Georgia’s Republican governor and its secretary of state of being part of a scheme to alter votes.

That ultimately led to the terse statement the Trump campaign put out Sunday night on behalf of Giuliani and senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis: “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity,” it read.

Trump was also not pleased with the optics of the brown substance, presumed to be hair dye or a makeup product, dripping down Giuliani’s face during the nearly two-hour news conference Thursday, according to one of the sources familiar with the president’s reaction.

Even Rush Limbaugh is complaining about the “legal team.” Earth to Trump: you chose these morons. Only the best people, right?

Elie Honig at CNN: Trump’s bizarro-world ‘elite strike force’ legal challenge is about to implode.

20201120edhoc-aJust moments after a federal judge issued a blistering rebuke of their evidence-free, legally-confused effort to contest President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump’s legal team flailed to spin the crushing loss as some sort of bizarro-world victory. Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis claimed in a statement that the dismissal “turns out to help us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the US Supreme Court.”

But if the Trump campaign’s legal team is counting on the Supreme Court to save them, they’re delusional. In this case, and in the larger effort to contest the outcome of the 2020 election, Trump’s team is just about out of runway.

In a news conference laden with false statements and incomprehensible legal claims, Ellis labeled Trump’s legal team an “elite strike force.” But their utter failure to uncover evidence of widespread voter fraud, or to articulate a coherent legal theory, suggests otherwise. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a staunch Trump political ally — more aptly called Trump’s legal team a “national embarrassment.” The Trump team later distanced itself from Sidney Powell, an attorney on Trump’s legal team, after she spread conspiracy theories about the election.

Indeed, Saturday’s ruling by federal judge Matthew Brann — an appointee of President Barack Obama who previously held various positions in Pennsylvania’s Republican party — is one of the harshest rebukes I’ve ever seen from any judge. Brann heaped scorn on the Trump campaign’s “strained legal arguments” which, he noted, are “without merit … and unsupported by evidence.” He ridiculed one of the Trump team’s primary constitutional claims as a “Frankenstein monster.” And Brann noted that the Trump campaign position, if adopted, would “disenfranchise almost seven million voters.”

There’s much more at the CNN link. I seriously doubt that even the most extreme SCOTUS justices are going to want to touch the Trump cases with a ten-foot pole.

And then there’s Trump’s crazy pal Roger Stone. The Daily Beast: Roger Stone-Tied Group Threatens GOP: If Trump Goes Down, So Does Your Senate Majority.

sbr112020daprConservative operatives and a super PAC with ties to infamous GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone are calling for Trump supporters to punish Republicans by sitting out Georgia’s crucial Senate runoffs or writing in Trump’s name instead. And though their efforts remains on the party’s fringes, the trajectory of the movement has Republicans fearful that it could cost the GOP control of the Senate.

The most aggressive call to boycott or cast protest ballots in the two runoff races has, so far, come from a dormant pro-Trump super PAC with ties to Stone, which unveiled a new initiative to retaliate against the Republican Party’s supposed turncoats by handing Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

The group, dubbed the Committee for American Sovereignty, unveiled a new website encouraging Georgia Republicans to write in Trump’s name in both of the upcoming Senate runoff elections, which could determine the party that controls the upper chamber during President-elect Joe Biden’s first two years in office. The PAC argued that doing so will show support for the president in addition to forcing Republicans to address the wild election-fraud conspiracy theories floated by Trump supporters and members of his own legal team.

“If we can do this, we have a real chance at getting these RINO senators to act on the illegitimate and corrupt election presided over by a Democrat party that is invested in the Communist takeover of Our Great Nation,” the group wrote on its new website, writeintrumpforgeorgiasenate.com. “We will not stop fighting for you, the American Patriot, against the evils of Socialism and inferior Religions.”

The effort is representative of a broader push among some of President Trump’s most devoted supporters to withhold support for the two Georgia Republican senators facing competitive runoff challenges, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, in the hope of leveraging the party’s fear of losing the U.S. Senate to get more establishment backing for their drive to change the result of the election. The goal, those operatives say, is to expose a supposed vast election fraud conspiracy abetted by high-level Republicans in Georgia’s state government, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Can we survive 57 more days of this insanity? I guess if we got through four years of it, we can hang on a bit longer–but it won’t be easy.

Take care, Sky Dancers! Enjoy your Tuesday in whatever way works best for you. I plan to read a novel and take a nap this afternoon. Please check in with us in the comments if you have the time and inclination. 


Thursday Reads

Birch Grove, Isaac Levitan, 1885=89

Birch Grove, Isaac Levitan, 1885-89

Good Morning!!

My brain is mush this morning. I stayed up all night on Tuesday, fell asleep very early yesterday, and woke up this morning at 3:00. I’m too old for this. I wonder when we’ll know something definitive about the election results. At least we know that Biden is the winner; we just don’t know which state will put him over the top.

The best outcome would be for Pennsylvania to be called for Biden. Here’s Senator Bob Casey explaining where vote counting stands in his state as of this morning:

John Wagner has  live election updates on the state of the race at The Washington Post: Biden closes in on electoral college victory; race narrows in Arizona, Georgia.

The latest …
  • Arizona: Biden’s lead narrowed to about 68,000 votes early Thursday as Maricopa County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, released the tallies of more ballots it had counted. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said her state has just under 450,000 ballots left to count.
  • Georgia: Fulton County, home to Atlanta, continued counting ballots overnight. Trump’s lead had narrowed to about 18,500 votes as of early Thursday. Fulton County elections chief Rick Barron said officials will release more vote totals around 11 a.m.
  • Nevada: Updated vote totals will be released around noon Eastern time Thursday, officials said.
  • North Carolina: As of late Wednesday, officials were still counting provisional and absentee ballots. Trump was ahead, but officials said it is likely that the winner will not be known for days.
  • Pennsylvania: Trump maintained a lead of about 164,000 votes, but that was expected to shrink as more ballots were counted in heavily Democratic areas.

Trump is supposedly filing lawsuits to stop vote counting in states that look bad for him, but it seems unlikely his efforts will come to anything. 

Claude Monet - (1840 - 1926) Ulivi nel giardino Moreno 1884

Claude Monet – (1840 – 1926) Ulivi nel giardino Moreno 1884

The New York Times: With His Path to Re-election Narrowing, Trump Turns to the Courts.

With his political path narrowing, President Trump turned to the courts and procedural maneuvers on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to stave off defeat in the handful of states that will decide the outcome of the bitterly fought election.

The president’s campaign intervened at the Supreme Court in a case challenging Pennsylvania’s plan to count ballots received for up to three days after Election Day. The campaign said it would also file suit in Michigan to halt the counting there while it pursues its demands for better access for the observers it sent to monitor elections boards for signs of malfeasance in tallying ballots, modeled on a similar suit it was pursuing in Nevada.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump’s team added Georgia to its list of legal targets, seeking a court order enforcing strict deadlines in Chatham County in the wake of allegations by a Republican poll observer that a small number of ineligible ballots might be counted in one location.

In Wisconsin, which along with Michigan was called on Wednesday for his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the president’s campaign announced it would request a recount.

I think the best outcome we can hope for today is that Pennsylvania will get enough votes counted for the state to be called for Biden. That would put him over 270, and make Trump’s claims in other states irrelevant. Here’s Senator Bob Casey explaining where the Pennsylvania vote counting stands this morning.

The moves signaled Mr. Trump’s determination to make good on his longstanding threats to carry out an aggressive post-Election Day campaign to upend any result not in his favor and pursue his baseless allegations that the outcome was rigged.

But it was not clear how much effect any of his efforts would have. In Georgia, the suit is about 53 ballots, and another case in Pennsylvania is about fewer than 100.

The Road Under the Trees, Maurice de Vlaminck

The Road Under the Trees, Maurice de Vlaminck

The Biden camp is ready to fight back, according to Politico: Biden campaign gears up for legal warfare as he nears 270.

In a Zoom call with donors Wednesday, the aides told the group that Joe Biden was on pace to reach 270 electoral votes in short order, beaming over victories in the Midwestern states that Donald Trump flipped four years ago….

The campaign had good reason to project confidence: On Wednesday evening, Biden was on the cusp of clinching 270 electoral votes and the presidency after Michigan and Wisconsin were called in his favor.

At the same time, President Donald Trump was making specious claims of victory, cranking up unfounded grievances about stolen votes and filing lawsuits to challenge vote counts. Biden advisers moved to reassure anxious supporters as Trump declared himself the winner in states such as Pennsylvania, where hundreds of thousands of votes had yet to be tallied.

Biden’s team activated teams of attorneys in Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan in preparation for court battles, and blasted out requests for donations to combat myriad legal challenges.

Canale a Bruges by Alfred Joseph Auguste Van Neste (1874-1969)The problem for Trump is that he would have to provide actual evidence of the “fraud” he is claiming. ProPublica: If Trump Tries to Sue His Way to Election Victory, Here’s What Happens.

A hearing on Wednesday in an election case captured in miniature the challenge for the Trump campaign as it gears up for what could become an all-out legal assault on presidential election results in key swing states: It’s easy enough to file a lawsuit claiming improprieties — in this case, that Pennsylvania had violated the law by allowing voters whose mail-in ballots were defective to correct them — but a lot harder to provide evidence of wrongdoing or a convincing legal argument. “I don’t understand how the integrity of the election was affected,” said U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage, something he repeated several times during the hearing. (However the judge rules, the case is unlikely to have a significant effect; only 93 ballots are at issue, a county election official said.)

“A lawsuit without provable facts showing a statutory or constitutional violation is just a tweet with a filing fee,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Levitt said judges by and large have ignored the noise of the race and the bluster of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. “They’ve actually demanded facts and haven’t been ruling on all-caps claims of fraud or suppression,” Levitt said. “They haven’t confused public relations with the predicate for litigation, and I would expect that to continue.”

If Levitt is right, that may augur poorly for the legal challenges to the presidential election. Either way, the number of cases is starting to rapidly increase. But lawsuits will do little good unless, as in the 2000 presidential election, the race winds up being so close that it comes down to a very thin margin of votes in one or more must-win states.

Read the rest at ProPublica.

Lane at alchamps, Arles, Paul Gaugin, 1888

Lane at alchamps, Arles, Paul Gaugin, 1888

Trump seems to think that he can just call on “his” Supreme Court justices to overturn the results of the election. But he can’t actually do that. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Supreme Court To Fight Election Results. Here’s What Would Need To Happen To End Up There.

In the early hours of Wednesday, with many states still going through the lawful process of tallying votes, President Donald Trump declared: “We will be going to the Supreme Court.”

That’s not how the courts work, though. With rare exceptions that don’t apply to the election, no one can simply bring a case to the US Supreme Court. Trump’s rhetoric created an appearance of legal uncertainty around the election results that doesn’t exist yet — by Wednesday evening, there were a handful of lawsuits pending, but none involved the kind of consequential fights over final vote tallies that would decide the outcome of the race.

That could change, of course. Trump’s campaign said they’ll seek a recount in Wisconsin after former vice president Joe Biden was declared the winner, and could try to go to court to challenge the results if he still lost after that. Decision Desk HQ called Wisconsin for Biden outright on Wednesday.

There’s already a case pending before the Supreme Court about whether Pennsylvania can count absentee ballots that arrive between Nov. 4 and Nov. 6, but that would only be a vehicle for deciding the election if the race came down to Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes — and if those as-yet-unknown number of post–Election Day ballots would change the outcome.

Regardless of whether the Trump campaign’s lawsuits succeed in stopping any ballots from being counted, they’ve underscored Trump and his campaign’s efforts to falsely question the lawfulness of ballot counting that extends beyond Election Day — something that happens in every election. 


Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

244896_rgb_768Dakinikat survived Hurricane Zeta and got her power back this morning. I heard the storm also hit Georgia pretty hard; its now headed for North Carolina. I hope you’re safe if you’re in Zeta’s path.

In just five days, voting in the long 2020 election will draw to a close. Joe Biden looks likely to win; but we still have to navigate voter suppression (AKA cheating) by the Trump campaign and the GOP, aided by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the possibility that Trump will try to use the Court to overturn the election results if he loses. Nothing less than the health and safety of the American people will depend on the outcome.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: America Is About to Choose How Bad the Pandemic Will Get.

In the 2020 election, on top of every routine test of character and capability, the candidates must answer the challenge the coronavirus has brought to this country. Trump’s response has been so lax as to effectively cede the country to a virus whose spread is controllable. He has, by his own admission, repeatedly downplayed the threat after he became aware of how dangerous the new coronavirus could be. He caught the virus himself and seems to have learned nothing from the encounter….

As November nears, the coronavirus is surging again, with cases rising to record-breaking heights for the third time. To control the pandemic, changes are necessary, but Trump has proved that he does not learn from his mistakes—perhaps the most costly of his failings. If he is reelected, he will continue on the same path, and so will the coronavirus. More Americans will be sickened, disabled, and killed. Donald Trump is unchanging; the election offers an opportunity for the country to change instead.

Nick Anderson cartoonThe near-term future is already set. Trump has repeated the lie that numbers are spiking because the U.S. tests extensively; in fact, the climbing cases have far outpaced the rise in testing, and are due instead to the rapidly spreading virus. Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching. Several generations of family members will gather in indoor spaces for prolonged periods of close proximity and spirited conversation—the very conditions in which the coronavirus most readily spreads….

As I wrote last month, there is a real risk that Americans will become habituated to this horror, and that COVID-19 will become another unacceptable thing that the U.S. learns to accept. That is all but inevitable if Trump wins a second term. His administration has given no indication that it will dramatically change its strategy. If anything, it has doubled down. It is allowing the virus to freely spread among younger people in the hopes of reaching herd immunity—an unfeasible strategy that has been widely panned by the scientific community. Such a strategy could leave millions dead, and many others with chronic illness.

It’s quite clear now that Trump has decided to let the virus run rampant, believing falsely that this will lead to “herd immunity.”

The Daily Beast: Trump’s COVID Advisers: He’s Now Pushing Herd Immunity.

Despite publicly downplaying it, President Donald Trump and his team of White House advisers have embraced the controversial belief that herd immunity will help control the COVID-19 outbreak, according to three senior health officials working with the White House coronavirus task force. More worrisome for those officials: they have begun taking steps to turn the concept into policy.

lk102820daprOfficials say that White House adviser Scott Atlas first started pushing herd immunity this past summer despite significant pushback from scientists, doctors and infectious disease experts that the concept was dangerous and would result in far more Americans getting sick and dying. Since then, various White House advisers have tried to play down the idea that the administration has implemented a strategy for COVID-19 based on herd immunity, which holds that if enough people contract a disease and become immune from it, then future spread among the broader population will be reduced.

Trump and Atlas publicly claim that they aren’t pushing this disastrous strategy, but it’s pretty clear that’s what’s happening. Experts say the policy could lead to between 2 and 5 million deaths in the U.S. In addition, many people who survive the Covid-19 develop long-term health problems.

Though Atlas insists he has not pushed “herd immunity,” another official said Atlas actually began advocating for the concept—and the president became receptive to it—at the same time as task force officials were being sidelined from conversations about how the administration planned to handle what many predicted would be a difficult fall season. Since then, officials said, the White House has been largely focused on getting a vaccine out to the American people and has left the fight against the community spread to one task force official: Dr. Deborah Birx. Birx, the White House task force coordinator, has been on the road for months trying to convince Americans to wear masks and social distance.In her absence, and with the task force meeting less regularly, Atlas has thrived as a presidential confidant.

244866_rgb_768“This is all Atlas,” said one of the officials who spoke with The Daily Beast. “I find it disturbing… bordering on ludicrous. Everything that comes out of Atlas’ mouth is geared towards letting it rip and then just worry about protecting the vulnerable. Everything he says points to the fact that he believes herd immunity is a good option. Yet he denies he’s pushing herd immunity as a strategy saying ‘No that’s not what I’m doing.’ But he is.”

The New York Times: Trump’s Closing Argument on Virus Clashes With Science, and Voters’ Lives.

As an immense new surge in coronavirus cases sweeps the country, President Trump is closing his re-election campaign by pleading with voters to ignore the evidence of a calamity unfolding before their eyes and trust his word that the disease is already disappearing as a threat to their personal health and economic well being.

The president has continued to declare before large and largely maskless crowds that the virus is vanishing, even as case counts soar, fatalities climb, the stock market dips and a fresh outbreak grips the staff of Vice President Mike Pence. Hopping from one state to the next, he has made a personal mantra out of declaring that the country is “rounding the corner.”

Mr. Trump has attacked Democratic governors and other local officials for keeping public-health restrictions in place, denouncing them as needless restraints on the economy. And venting self-pity, the president has been describing the pandemic as a political hindrance inflicted on him by a familiar adversary.

“With the fake news, everything is Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” Mr. Trump complained at a rally in Omaha on Tuesday, chiding the news media and pointing to his own recovery from the illness to downplay its gravity: “I had it. Here I am, right?” [….]

cb102720daprAs a political matter, the president’s approach amounts to an Obi Wan-like attempt to wave his hand before the electorate and tell voters that they are not experiencing a pandemic that is tearing through their neighborhoods and filling hospitals. His determination to brush aside the ongoing crisis as a campaign issue has become the defining choice of his bid for a second term and the core of his message throughout the campaign’s endgame.

This kind of insanity only works with Trump’s brainwashed cult followers. It really does look like Biden will win by a lot, although I won’t be able to let myself believe it until the votes are counted.

Vox: Exclusive: Biden leads Trump by 12 points in a national UT Dallas poll.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by more than 10 points in a national poll by researchers at the University of Texas Dallas. Fielded a few weeks prior to Election Day, the poll is among recent ones finding Biden with a steady lead.

The results, which are part of UT Dallas’s Cometrends survey, found Biden with 56 percent support and Trump with 44 percent support.

The poll — which included 2,500 respondents — is one of several recent surveys showing Biden ahead of Trump at the national level. It was fielded online between October 13 and October 26, with many of the responses coming in by October 17. The survey has a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, and its results included a broad sample of respondents that have not been weighted for likely voters.

Overall, the survey finds broader support for Biden from some demographic groups than former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received in 2016 exit polls. Among both men and white respondents overall, in particular, Biden’s backing in the UT Dallas survey is stronger. Fifty-four percent of men in the poll say they back Biden, compared to 41 percent who said they supported Clinton in a 2016 exit poll. Similarly, 44 percent of white respondents say they back Biden, compared to 37 percent who said they supported Clinton.

Read the rest at Vox.

244698_rgb_768Toluse Olorunnipa at The Washington Post: As Election Day nears, Trump ponders becoming one thing he so despises: A loser.

Trailing in the polls and with little time left to change the trajectory or closing themes of the presidential race, President Trump has spent the final days of the campaign complaining that the coronavirus crisis is getting too much coverage — and openly musing about losing.

Trump has publicly lamented about what a loss would mean, spoken longingly of riding off into the sunset and made unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud could cost him the election. He has sarcastically threatened to fire state officials if he doesn’t win and excoriated his rival Joe Biden as someone it would be particularly embarrassing to lose to.

“If I lose, I will have lost to the worst candidate, the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 campaign rally in Janesville, Wis. “If I lose, what do I do? I’d rather run against somebody who’s extraordinarily talented, at least, this way I can go and lead my life.”

The president, who said at the same rally that “we’re not going to lose, we’re going to win,” has certainly not abandoned his showman’s approach to the campaign trail. But his unscripted remarks bemoaning a potential loss — and preemptively explaining why he might suffer one — offer a window into his mind-set as he barnstorms the country in an attempt to keep himself from becoming the one thing he so derisively despises: a loser.

Trump has told rallygoers he had the presidential race won until the pandemic hit, and he has accused media outlets of focusing on the ongoing health crisis to hurt him politically.

Read more at the WaPo.

Trump has also suggested at his rallies that he might have to leave the country if he loses. This is pretty wild but, at this point, anything is possible:


Tuesday Reads: SCOTUS and the Upcoming Election

Good Afternoon!!

Voting Day Coming Up Soon Oh Boy Painting by Richard Hubal

Voting Day Coming Up Soon Oh Boy Painting by Richard Hubal

Election day is one week away. I haven’t slept normally since the pandemic began, and–along with millions of other Americans–I’ve been stressed out since Trump was elected. It’s exhausting. I honestly don’t think I can survive another four years of this insanity. The polls are looking good for Biden; but as of yesterday we now have to worry about the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn the election results if Trump loses. 

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Amy Coney Barrett’s First Votes Could Throw the Election to Trump.

Although George W. Bush prevailed in the Bush v. Gore decision, it’s often forgotten that the Supreme Court declined to affirm his chief legal argument. This claim was so radical, so contrary to basic principles of democracy and federalism, that two conservative justices stepped back from the brink. Instead, the majority fabricated a novel theory to hand Bush the election—then instructed lower courts never to rely on it again.

But the court has changed. Republican lawmakers revived the original Bush v. Gore argument in fraught election cases this year, and, following Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, four sitting justices appeared to endorse it. Barrett’s confirmation on Monday will almost certainly tip the balance to make that argument the law of the land on the eve of an election. The result would be an immediate invalidation of thousands of disproportionately Democratic ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina—two swing states that could decide the outcome of the election. Put simply, Barrett’s first actions on the court could hand Donald Trump an unearned second term, and dramatically curtail states’ ability to protect the right to vote….

We vote by Patricia Clark TaylorIn an unsigned opinion that allegedly spoke for the five conservative justices, the court held that Florida’s recount used procedures that violated “the equal dignity owed to each voter.” Because the standards used to recount ballots varied between counties, the court concluded, the process violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. Then, in an unprecedented move, the court declared that this analysis was a ticket good for one ride only, and that lower courts should never invoke its made-up principle again. 

The reason the Court said this argument shouldn’t be used again is that is took away a state’s ability to control it’s own elections. If repeated, the argument would turn the SCOTUS into a national arbiter of election laws. 

It is black letter law that state courts hold ultimate authority to determine the meaning of their own state’s statutes and constitution. And the Florida Supreme Court had simply provided its best interpretation of a “legal vote” under Florida law. Secretary of State Katherine Harris rejected ballots with “hanging chads” on which voters had indicated their preference but failed to punch through the hole all the way. The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, citing a state statute that required the counting of defective ballots “if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter.” Federal judges had a constitutional obligation to accept that (eminently plausible) reading of the law. By refusing to do so, Rehnquist, along with Scalia and Thomas, impermissibly substituted the Florida Supreme Court’s judgment with their own.

But now Republicans are again trying to get the Court to rule on individual states’ election policies, and yesterday they intervened in Wisconsin’s election decisions. The New York Times: Supreme Court Won’t Extend Wisconsin’s Deadline for Mailed Ballots.

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a trial court ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots to six days after the election.

By Charlie Palmer

2008 voting line, by Charly Palmer

The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. As is typical, the court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons. But several justices filed concurring and dissenting opinions that spanned 35 pages and revealed a stark divide in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic.

The ruling was considered a victory for Republicans in a crucial swing state, which polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing in after winning by about 23,000 votes in 2016.

Returning to the Slate article:

By confirming Barrett on Monday, Senate Republicans may well create a five-justice majority that is ready, willing, and able to make Rehnquist’s position the law of the land. There are currently two cases pending before SCOTUS that ask the justices to nullify thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Both rest on Rehnquist’s Bush v. Gore concurrence. Both give the far-right majority a chance to stomp on states’ ability to protect voting rights.

I urge you to go read the whole piece at Slate. Right now, Massachusetts rules allow votes to be counted if they arrive 6 days after the election and are postmarked by November 3. Will the SCOTUS decision in Wisconsin also force Massachusetts and other states to throw out ballots received after election day?

A banner urging people to vote in the midterm elections is displayed in Houston

A 2918 banner urging people to vote in the midterm elections displayed in Houston, Texas. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Ian Millhiser at Vox: The radical implications of the Supreme Court’s new ruling on Wisconsin mail-in ballots.

The Supreme Court just handed down an order in Democratic National Committee v. Wisconsin State Legislaturedetermining that a lower federal court should not have extended the deadline for Wisconsin voters to cast ballots by mail.

The ruling, which was decided by a 5-3 vote along party lines, is not especially surprising. The lower court determined that an extension was necessary to ensure that voters could cast their ballot during a pandemic, but the Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts should defer to state officials’ decisions about how to adapt to the pandemic. Monday night’s order in Democratic National Committee is consistent with those prior decisions urging deference.

What is surprising, however, is two concurring opinions by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, each of which takes aim at one of the most foundational principles of American constitutional law: the rule that the Supreme Court of the United States has the final word on questions of federal law but the highest court in each state has the final word on questions of state law.

This division of power is implicit in our very system of government. As the Supreme Court has explained, the states and the federal government coexist in a system of “dual sovereignty.” Both the federal government and the states have an independent power to make their own law, to enforce it, and to decide how their own law shall apply to individual cases.

If the Supreme Court of the United States had the power to overrule a state supreme court on a question of state law, this entire system of dual sovereignty would break down. It would mean that all state law would ultimately be subservient to the will of nine federal judges.

cjones11162018With Barrett on the Court, 

last week’s decision allowing a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to stand could be very short-lived. That decision, after all, was 4-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the Court’s three liberals. With Barrett, the Court’s right flank may well be getting a fifth vote to toss out the state supreme court’s decision — and to order an unknown number of ballots tossed out in the process.

In her first few weeks at SCOTUS, Barrett will also have the opportunity to vote on cases involving the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s taxes, abortion, and a case about whether a Catholic agency can refuse to place foster children with LGBT couples. 

The only recourse for Democrats in the future may be to increase the size of the Supreme Court–if they can take the Senate, that is.

At The Los Angeles Times, Nicholas Goldberg sees a possible silver lining in the Barrett confirmation:

So now it is official: The same Republican senators who in 2016 refused to consider Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court because, with eight months to go, it was supposedly too close to the presidential election, have now confirmed Amy Coney Barrett with just eight days left before the election.

This is so unprincipled, so inconsistent and so cynical that it defies the imagination. It is the flip-flop of the century, undertaken by the Republicans for one reason: Barrett’s confirmation ensures a conservative majority on the high court for the foreseeable future.

But here is one good thing that could come of this shameful episode. With millions of people still casting their votes before Nov. 3, perhaps the Barrett confirmation will open Americans’ eyes, once and for all, and show them who they’re dealing with. Perhaps it will persuade them to reject the radical and hypocritical Senate Republicans at the polls.

Barrett’s confirmation, after all, is only one of many irresponsible moves by the Senate majority, led by the craven Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who long ago threw his lot in with President Trump. In recent years, he and his caucus have grown not just more extreme in their ideology but more unscrupulous in their tactics.

Not only did they refuse a hearing to Garland (giving that seat instead to Trump appointee Neil M. Gorsuch), but not long after, McConnell and his colleagues rammed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination through without a comprehensive investigation of the sexual assault allegations against him.

download

Voting Line, by Charly Palmer

Maybe. It seems unlikely that many votes are going to change at this late date, but I hope Goldberg is right. On the other hand, it’s possible the evidence that the pandemic is getting worse might influence some voters to reject Trump and other Republicans.

One more from The New York Times Editorial Board: The Republican Party’s Supreme Court. The quest to entrench political conservatism in the country’s highest court comes with a steep cost.

What happened in the Senate chamber on Monday evening was, on its face, the playing out of a normal, well-established process of the American constitutional order: the confirmation of a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

But Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, are straining the legitimacy of the court by installing a deeply conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, to a lifetime seat just days before an election that polls suggest could deal their party a major defeat.

As with President Trump’s two earlier nominees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the details of Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence were less important than the fact that she had been anointed by the conservative activists at the Federalist Society. Along with hundreds of new lower-court judges installed in vacancies that Republicans refused to fill when Barack Obama was president, these three Supreme Court choices were part of the project to turn the courts from a counter-majoritarian shield that protects the rights of minorities to an anti-democratic sword to wield against popular progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act.

The process also smacked of unseemly hypocrisy. Republicans raced to install Judge Barrett barely one week before a national election, in defiance of a principle they loudly insisted upon four years ago.

I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here’s a bit more:

Of all the threats posed by the Roberts Court, its open scorn for voting rights may be the biggest. In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the lead opinion in the most destructive anti-voter case in decades, Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the central provision of the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to rampant voter suppression, most of it targeted at Democratic voters. Yet this month, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court’s remaining three liberals to allow a fuller count of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. The four other conservatives voted against that count. In other words, with Justice Barrett’s confirmation the court now has five justices who are more conservative on voting rights than the man who nearly obliterated the Voting Rights Act less than a decade ago.

I hope I haven’t ruined your day with this post, but the Barrett confirmation is clearly the most important issue of the day.  I can only hope that the outcome of next week’s election will be a landslide that prevents SCOTUS from overturning the results. 

Please take care today and protect your health and sanity over the next week. I hope you’ll stop by and leave a comment or two.