Who could have seen this coming?
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.
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.
The Trump administration is setting some pretty lofty expectations for when Americans can actually expect to see widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. During an interview on the “Today Show” Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar used the platform to suggest that the average American can expect to start seeing widespread distribution of the vaccine — meaning they can get vaccinated at their local pharmacy — by late February or early March. Read More
The title here is meant as a provocation. But it’s a provocation because it is literally true and really the only way to accurately describe what happened in Washington, DC this weekend at the ‘Stop the Steal’ protests in the capital. There was a major turnout by the Proud Boys and they vandalized multiple historically black churches in the city. In many cases the attacks were on various ‘Black Lives Matter’ installations on church grounds.
Here’s video of one such incident.
TPM Reader MA flagged something for me last night. Sidney Powell, pardon-play attorney for Mike Flynn and now Trump election steal lawyer, seems to go back a ways in the Trump world. MA notes that she wrote with some frequency in The New York Observer, then owned by Jared Kushner. She even co-bylined one piece on criminal justice reform with Bernard Kerik, a top and perpetual Rudy Giuliani crony in addition to being an ex-con.
A substantial number of states and roughly half the Republicans in the House have now signed on to the Texas lawsuit again against Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. On its face Texas asserts the right to review the voting laws of states Joe Biden won, finds them lacking and asks the Supreme Court to throw out the results in those states.
Much of Trump’s 2020 infrastructure, established solely around the cause-célèbre of President Trump and his reelection, has not made the jump to the President’s post-election crusade to overturn his loss. Instead, that space is being filled by the President himself and a rag-tag band of allies.
At the suggestion of TPM Reader JC, I pulled up this article Jane Mayer published in The New Yorker just before the November election. It’s about why and how Trump feared losing – specifically legal vulnerability and crushing debt. But Mayer talked to Michael Cohen, who quite presciently described the aftermath of Trump’s defeat.
There are a few paragraphs about Mayer’s discussion with Trump. But this is the key one.
Don’t give the cable news outlet too much credit. It’s done little besides the most basic function of a major news outlet during a presidential election — which is, declare a winner when there’s a winner.
A growing number of opinioners and editorialists are now arguing that those who warned that the corrupt Supreme Court majority was ready to steal the election on behalf of Donald Trump were simply wrong. As evidence they point to the federal judiciary’s general refusal to entertain basically any of the Trump legal team’s increasingly outlandish court challenges and examples like yesterday when the Supreme Court rejected without dissent or comment a challenge to the results of the election in Pennsylvania. But this opinion is wrong.
This series of “King Over the Water” posts (the reference is to the Stuart Pretenders, James II, his son and grandson) circles around basic questions: what do Joe Biden, or Democrats or just people who value our civic democracy do if Trumpists or Republicans or some fraction of them refuse to accept that Joe Biden is the legitimate President and continue to believe lies about voter fraud?
It seems the GOP’s strategy in Georgia is to say “radical liberal” enough times that it sticks.
From TPM Reader GS …
Unlike MA, I don’t have expertise in the mechanics of power in DC. S/he lays out a compelling case for why Biden will be able to take effective control of the executive branch.
But the reason MM’s analysis has stuck with me is not what it means for the corridors of the Pentagon, but rather what it means for the public sphere of politics, namely the GOP’s internal dynamics when the only salient topic for the base is reversing the “steal” of 2020.
TPM Reader MM throws some water on TPM Reader MA’s warnings. I should add that to the extent anyone thinks Trump is going to be calling the shots or even influencing the shots at the Pentagon after January 20th I completely agree with MM. What interests me in all this is Trump’s apparent desire to set up something like a court in exile that not only gratifies his ego (central goal) but also keeps the GOP in his thrall and under his control. In a way that is Trump’s ideal presidency: all adulation and no responsibility or even work.
I share an initial with MA, and I think I understand pretty well why he feels as he feels, but I respectfully disagree with him more or less completely.
As to MA’s “military leadership” point, Trump has effectively near-zero ability to affect Joe Biden’s Department of Defense, even in the short term. “Gutting the leadership” is playing musical deck chairs on the Trump Titanic: all those bozos tender their resignations effective 12:01 pm 20 January (or whenever exactly those resignations are formally required to be submitted). Appointing turds like Lewandowski and Bossie to the Defense Business Board is meaningless. They can be dismissed with a stroke of the Biden pen, just as easily as Trump fired the nine “outgoing” members. Long-faced comments about “political loyalty tests” are equally without significance. All of that means less than zero.
I know very little about Lloyd Austin, who appears to be Joe Biden’s pick to be Secretary of Defense. So I want to be clear this criticism isn’t a criticism of him but of his status and background as a recently retired four-star general. It’s the first post-election choice from Biden I find very disappointing.
Like General Mattis, Austin is a recently retired four star General. He will need a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary because the law actually forbids recently retired (less than seven years) general officers from serving as Secretary of Defense. Mattis and George Marshall are the other two who’ve gotten waivers.
Since he’s been pardoned from various crimes related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Michael Flynn has embarked on a concerning descent into the swamps of QAnon.
Let me share a few more thoughts on the topic of election crimes, and the fact that we are seeing numerous instances of things that are presented as farfetched strategies but are in fact crimes. As noted last week, if a public official pressures an election official to change the results of an election that is a crime. We’ve seen numerous instances of it, most recently from the President himself.
We enforce laws and punish crimes in a number of different ways and with a number of theories underlying the punishment. One reason is to publicly demarcate acceptable and unacceptable behavior. But a key goal is always deterrence. And election crimes are a domain of law in which deterrence is most salient.
These are not crimes of passion. The important ones are not committed by people whose lives are so disordered or tenuous that they’re not thinking of what happens in a week or a decade. These are crimes of strategy and advantage.
TPM Reader MA looks at what Donald Trump’s post-presidency may be like and whether it will be a ‘post-presidency’ at all. It resonated with me and some as yet inchoate thoughts I’ve had on the topic. I saw someone yesterday on Twitter say that Trump was trying to set himself up as the presidential equivalent of an anti-pope, the term for pretender popes during the various schisms of the middle ages. That seemed oddly on the mark. If Late Stuart and Early Hanoverian Great Britain is your reference, he wants to be the ‘king over the water.’
Here’s TPM Reader MA …
Between the intrinsic absurdity of Trump and understandable relief that Biden won, I think there is a dangerous tendency to underestimate what is actually happening politically.
A slew of news organizations have now confirmed that this morning President Trump called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and asked him to convince the state legislature to overturn the results of the election. Kemp refused. (Trump makes weird heroes.) We need to understand that these are literally crimes. I don’t mean moral lapses or things that are wrong. They’re crimes. If I call up someone at the Board of Elections in New York and try to convince them to change the vote numbers or throw away ballots, that’s a crime. I would certainly be charged with a crime. Their saying no doesn’t absolve me of the crime. It’s no defense. The higher up you are on the totem pole the graver a crime it becomes because your chances of success are far greater. Again, these are crimes.
I wanted to add my voice to David’s note of praise and appreciation for the TPM team over this arduous year. In case you didn’t see it David reprinted one of his emails to staff as we started the process of locking down our operations in New York and DC back in March. We were actually early in the process, beginning a plan for redeploying entirely to remote work before most organizations were even considering it. In the event things moved so rapidly when the crisis hit, especially in New York City, that the difference between being “early” and not only ended up being a few days.
Adding to the oddity, all surreal in retrospect, was that we held a long-planned TPM event in New York City on March 5th, the day before our official decision to close down on March 6th and only a few days before our last day in the office on March 11th.