This is a Big, Big, Big Deal Prime Badge

I probably don’t have to tell you to be excited about the results out of Georgia tonight where it seems highly likely that the the Democrats picked up both Senate seats and thus took control of the Senate. You don’t need me to tell you about the historic nature of Raphael Warnock’s victory. But the consequences of these victories is likely even greater than many realize.

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Which Side Are You On? Prime Badge

We know from past experience that Republicans will try to repurpose their election fraud charade as the rationale for new voting restrictions. Many non-Republicans are looking at this ghastly carnival and simply being thankful that it will almost certainly fail in its goal of giving President Trump a second term in office. But this is a dangerous and misguided complacency. It’s one that will further endanger the country down the road, not only in additional voter suppression laws but in the danger of repeats and possibly successful repeats of what is happening now.

To put it simply, this will create a new reality in which this episode lives on not as a shameful, discrediting episode but as a grievance and rallying cry on the right with no counterforce opposing it. We absolutely have to avoid this.

How do you do that?

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A Tale Of Two US Attorney Departures Prime Badge
Where Things Stand: Two Big Scoops On One Weird Story
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Yesterday, TPM broke the news that the Atlanta-area U.S. attorney was leaving his post early. Byung Jin “BJay” Pak, of the Northern District of Georgia, had planned to leave on Inauguration Day, but instead was leaving immediately due to “unforeseen circumstances,” he told his staff yesterday.

Today, we learned who will replace him: Bobby Christine, the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. TPM broke that story too.

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Into Georgia Prime Badge

The Georgia elections are upon us and I confess I simply have no idea what the outcomes are going to be. Early voting included encouraging hints for Democrats, particularly in levels of African-American voting. But trying to disentangle the meaning of early voting before you see same day voting is generally a fool’s game. The polls have been almost literally tied throughout. Though the averages of the final polls show one or two point leads for both Democrats, as we’ve learned, in our current politics, Republicans routinely outperform polls by very small but real margins. Especially when Trump is on the ballot. Is Trump on the ballot? Literally, no, but he’s certainly trying to pretend like he is.

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Trump’s Faux Coup Hits New Level Of Crazy Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
UNITED STATES - MARCH 17: Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, leaves the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in Russell Building on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attended to discuss the coronavirus relief package. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Solicitation to Commit Election Fraud is a Crime Prime Badge

It was pretty transparently clear that the source of the Trump-Raffensperger recording was Raffensperger and staff lawyer Ryan Germany. But it’s notable that in the follow-on reporting they aren’t being coy about it. They are basically saying, we’d been asked to commit illegal acts in earlier calls. It seemed prudent to record this call. Probably the best way to see this is that the two men decided to wear what amounts to a DIY wire.

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The Call Prime Badge

As with the President’s “perfect call” with President Zelensky of Ukraine, the Raffensperger call is so transparent and damning it rather defies commentary. What more is t here to say? The call is reminiscent of descriptions of Trump calls and ploys going back decades. I’ve actually been in calls like this with angry CEOs. One of them I remember most palpably was with a New York richie who’s a pal of the President’s. They’ve been puffed up on affirmations and theories by their yes-men and your job is to listen to them vent and yell.

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Two Thoughts Prime Badge

First, yes, I’m taking this all in too. I’m in that mode in which the revelations are coming so fast that there isn’t much to do beyond take it all in. I will only add that it is a federal crime to falsify vote totals, manufacture votes, not count lawful votes, etc. And it is a crime to try to force an election official to do so. There’s a very good argument that this phone call is evidence of federal crimes by the President of the United States and others.
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Health Care Workers Refusing Vaccination Prime Badge
Nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot as the world's biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

There’s a fascinating and perhaps ominous article this morning in the LA Times about health care workers who are refusing to take or at least reluctant to take the COVID vaccine. There’s a range of reasons from reasons from things that might strike some of us as irrational to the general hesitancy of not wanting to be first to other things that have some logical basis. One nurse the reporters interviewed is six months pregnant and noted (which I believe is true) that the vaccine hasn’t yet been tested on pregnant women. I don’t know if there’s any clinical reason why this vaccine could operate differently in pregnant women. But I certainly know that many pregnant women and expectant fathers are highly cautious about anything that can disrupt a pregnancy.

I think we fool ourselves, are less than honest with ourselves, if we treat COVID vaccine hesitance or resistance as just a new version of the anti-vaccine activism we’ve seen for the last couple decades. It’s clearly connected to that phenomenon and is fueled by the climate of doubt it has created. But this is a new vaccine and (in the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) uses a novel vaccine approach. Being wary of going first in such a case is simply not the same as refusing vaccines which have been administered literally billions of times and have track records of short term and long term safety going back decades.

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That Don’t Figure Prime Badge

Since we spoke last the two Georgia Senators have endorsed $2,000 checks. Senate Democrats called for a vote and Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote.

I heard a very knowledgable hill reporter say that McConnell doesn’t care how unpopular this is in the country. He only cares about the majority and saving those two Senate Republicans. This doesn’t add up to me. I’ll say first that I don’t think these races will come down to stimulus checks. But the races are close enough that it could come down to anything and everything.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, exiting his arraignment in New York County Criminal Court, plead not guilty to state mortgage fraud charges on June 27, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
The Importance of Names

In twenty years of doing this, one thing that strikes me again and again is the critical importance of naming things in politics. If the question is advocacy and persuasion few steps are more important than effectively and consistently naming the key developments, agenda items, threats and prizes and raising them in the public consciousness. There are few things – things that can be controlled by people involved in politics and campaigns, as opposed to the tides of historical change we are awash in – more important for Democrats to do a good job at in the next two yeas.

You know some examples of this. The ‘death tax’, for instance. Conservative operatives took the unglamorous and unsympathetic cause of trust fund kids and gave it a title with punch, ready understandability and even an edge of justice. In politics like everything else you simply must put your best foot forward. Just showing up or just doing a good job is never enough. You have to tell your story. You have to make sure people with a lot else on their plate know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and why it might be important to them that you succeed. That starts with naming things. That makes the thing visible and tells a story about it embedded in the name.

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The Pardons are A Disgrace. But Don’t Sweat It.
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Yesterday, as the news set in that President Trump had pardoned almost everyone involved in the Russia scandal, I saw an editor at one of the big political publications say that with this step President Trump had taken one more step in erasing the Mueller probe. This is wrong. And explaining why it’s wrong gives me another opportunity to reaffirm my belief that knowledge, a public accounting of what happened is far more important than punishment for individual wrongdoers.

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Trump Launches Yet Another Doomed SCOTUS Bid To Throw Out Votes Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
Where Things Stand: Isolating With The Oddballs Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Quarantine has forced some of us to spend quite a lot of time in isolation with some … unique characters to say the least.

But President Trump — who, unlike the rest of us, has spent little time actually quarantining since COVID-19 first hit the U.S. — is actively choosing to keep the company of out-there characters.

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Criminal Conspiracy Prime Badge

You’ve likely seen the reports (in the Times, Politico and Axios) of this White House meeting yesterday involving Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and various administration officials in which President Trump seemed to back increasingly outlandish and illegal ploys to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election, the results of which are now certified, final and over. What is buried a bit in most of these stories is that Mike Flynn was at the meeting too.

Given her wild conspiracy theories and the litigation she’s pursued around the country, the focus on Powell is understandable. Trump is reportedly considering making her a “special counsel” to investigate the election, whatever that might mean. But I think we need to see Powell as essentially a creature of Mike Flynn, at least inasmuch as she holds Trump’s attention. It’s Flynn who has had a unique connection to and hold over Trump going all the way back to 2015.

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Impeachment One Year Out Prime Badge

Today is the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s impeachment. One year is not that long ago. Yet it seems almost like a lifetime. I’ve been watching discussions about whether it was worth it, what impact it had on the 2020 election and whether the Democratic opposition’s strategy looks good or bad in retrospect.

On this point intra-Democratic bickering is still hung up on whether it was a mistake or not to keep impeachment narrowly focused on President Trump’s extortion scheme in Ukraine. It’s not like there weren’t other things President Trump had done that could merit removal from office. Little more than six months earlier the Mueller Report had included voluminous evidence that the President had obstructed justice at the very least.

So why limit an impeachment inquiry to just his latest crime?

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Where Things Stand: Who Will Get Their Christmas Pardon? Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Word on the street (or, rather, Axios) is that President Trump is going to issue a wave of pardons today as a grand gesture of Christmas clemency to some of his closest friends and family.

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VALDOSTA, GA - APRIL 28:  during the first round of the South Georgia Classic Presented by First State Bank and Trust Company at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club on April 28, 2011 in Valdosta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption ***
Where Things Stand: Trump’s Out But McGahn’s Not Off The Hook Yet Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

The House Judiciary Committee still wants to hear from former White House counsel Don McGahn.

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Will You Take the Pledge? Prime Badge

I’ve been thinking in recent days about taking a pledge. I hope others do too. It’s sprawling enough in its scope that I haven’t known quite how to whittle or distill it down for the sake of pledging it or sharing it with others. But I will take this post as an opportunity to explain it both to myself and to you. Because I think it’s quite important.

Think of it as a rough draft.

Republicans like Marco Rubio are now claiming to be aghast, hurt and more than anything else unwilling to believe in Democratic promises of rebuilding national unity because Joe Biden’s campaign manager and incoming Deputy Chief of Staff called congressional Republicans “fuckers” in an interview. Days ago we heard that Biden’s forceful denunciation of Republican efforts to overturn the result of the election was “burning bridges” to Trump supporters. We’ve seen this pattern before: bad faith taking of umbrage to justify new forms of bad behavior and predation.

It’s not only that. The production of and the stoking of grievances is central to contemporary conservatism and its apotheosis, Trumpism. But it is mostly the weaponization of bad faith.

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Where Thing Stand: Conspiracy Theories And Consequences

Who could have seen this coming?

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Where Things Stand: Oh, That’s All It Took Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Vladimir Putin and Mitch McConnell had something in common today.

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A Ticking Time Bomb Prime Badge

As you know President-Elect Biden won with solid majorities in both the popular vote and the electoral college. But as Dave Wasserman notes this morning, a well-placed 65,009 votes could have given the Presidency to Donald Trump. That’s how you move Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia into Trump’s column. So Trump wins despite Biden getting well over 6 million more votes.

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ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 18: A man wearing a 'Defund the Media' QAnon shirt is seen at a "Stop the Steal" rally against the results of the U.S. Presidential election outside the Georgia State Capitol on November 18, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
How Many More Times Do Trump’s Dreams Of Reversing His Loss Have To Die? Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
Trump’s Last Con? Prime Badge

Today we’re watching truly exciting, genuinely joyous images of people receiving the first non-trial study COVID vaccine injections in the United States. President Trump is predictably crowing about it as though he produced it in his study in the living quarters of the White House. Operation Warp Speed – the plan that involved federal financial support to vaccine research and development – is reasonably seen as standard federal government blocking and tackling during a global epidemic. But it is at least fair to say that providing financial back up that allowed vaccine makers to go big on vaccine development is the one area of COVID response Trump didn’t clearly screw up or sabotage.

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