Neera went too far for them
If Republicans hold control of the Senate after the two January runoffs in Georgia, President-elect Joe Biden's nomination of veteran Democratic policy wonk Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget may be in serious trouble.
It's not her credentials that are at issue as much as her tweets. No, she didn't call anyone "scum" or a "lowlife dummy" or an "enemy of the people." That was President Donald Trump. Still, Tanden — a onetime aide to Hillary Clinton and currently president of a center-left think tank, the Center for American Progress — has a history of blasting out strident partisan commentary. Republican feelings evidently remain bruised.
"I think, in light of her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, that it creates certainly a problematic path. … Maybe his worst nominee so far," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota called Tanden "a partisan activist who’s gone after senators of the majority party. She seems to have chosen a path that doesn’t lead to a Senate confirmed office." Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas ripped her as "a partisan hack" who had called Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, "the worst." [Collins, true to form, was noncommittal on Tanden: "I've heard that she's a very prolific user of Twitter … I really don't have anything further to say."]
Many of the comments Republicans can't forget came during Senate battles over Trump's Supreme Court nominees. In October, after Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed days before the election, she said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had "broken the Senate, he has broken the Supreme Court, and in conjunction with President Donald Trump, he has broken our democracy." When Collins decided to support Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, who denied accusations of sexual assault in his prep school days, Tanden said the Maine moderate offered "a pathetically bad faith argument as cover for President Trump’s vicious attacks on survivors of sexual assault."
After the Senate acquitted Trump of impeachment charges on Feb. 5, Tanden released a statement saying the "vote can be seen as nothing less than Senate Republicans turning their backs on the Constitution and signaling approval of criminal foreign interference in our elections." Tanden also has retweeted jokes calling McConnell "Moscow Mitch."
Senate Democrats rallied to Tanden's defense Monday. "Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on the Senate floor. "If Republicans are concerned about criticism on Twitter, their complaints are better directed at President Trump."
Senate Republicans were more open to Biden's choice, made official Monday, of former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen for Treasury Secretary. Cornyn said: "I think she's fine. I don't have any problems with her." Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "I believe that she would get a favorable view," And Sen. John Thune, of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said, "I can think of worse nominations they could have made."
Giuliani's Desert Storm
As Arizona officials certified Biden's victory in the state, Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, on a legal losing streak in fighting the election results, showed up there to argue that the state's legislature should do what the courts won't and give Arizona's electoral votes to Trump.
"The officials certifying have made no effort to find out the truth, which to me, gives the state Legislature the perfect reason to take over the conduct of this election because it’s being conducted irresponsibly and unfairly," Giuliani said at an ersatz hearing with nine Arizona GOP lawmakers in a Phoenix hotel ballroom. Arizona legislative leaders have shown little interest in trying to reverse the results and have said it was legally impossible even if they wanted to.
Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey both vouched for the integrity of the election before signing off on the results.
"We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong," Ducey said. Hobbs said Arizona voters should know that the election "was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s laws and election procedures, despite numerous unfounded claims to the contrary."
Trump later retweeted a follower who said Ducey "has betrayed the people of Arizona." Trump's comment: "TRUE!"
Spits pits at Peach State GOP officials
Trump isn't done ripping Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, another Republican who won't put his thumb on the election scales to turn a swing state Trump's way, and Georgia's GOP secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who stood by the integrity of the result. The president demanded Kemp "use his emergency powers."
A statement from Kemp said, "Georgia law prohibits the Governor from interfering in elections. The Secretary of State, who is an elected constitutional officer, has oversight over elections that cannot be overridden by executive order." Kemp said he would encourage Raffensperger "to take reasonable steps — including a sample audit of signatures — to restore trust and address serious issues that have been raised." Election officials, however, have said it is physically impossible to do an "audit of signatures" from mail-in ballots.
Raffensperger said during a news conference that "the truth matters" and pushed back against the "massive" spigot of election disinformation being spread by Trump and Republican allies. "There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation, and frankly, they are misleading the President as well, apparently," he said.
Trump retweeted a follower who said "why bother voting for Republicans if what you get is Ducey and Kemp?"
In other Trump team fails Monday, Biden’s victory in battleground Wisconsin was certified. In Michigan, where the vote for Biden was certified last week, Trump ally Sidney Powell, though cut from his legal team, is stumbling on. Her suit includes an account from a witness that something fishy happened in Edison County. The flaw in that argument: There is no Edison County in Michigan.
Janison: Georgia on his mind
Trump's assault on Georgia Republicans who won't buckle to him has caused a schism in the state's Republican Party at a most inopportune time, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
On Jan. 5, the state's Republican U.S. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, face runoff elections. If both were to lose, Senate Democrats could claim a narrow majority, pushing the Republicans from power on Capitol Hill.
Rather than unite with Georgia's party leadership, the president chooses to drive a wedge. If Trump is following a plan rather than flailing away blindly — always a question — he might see an advantage for himself in Republicans losing the Senate majority and McConnell dethroned as the nation's most powerful Republican. Trump might then have an improved chance of clinging to control of the GOP from out in the electoral wilderness and positioning himself for a possible 2024 run.
On the other hand, if Perdue and Loeffler win, Trump already has paved the way to claim credit, with advisers setting up a PAC in support.
Standing on ceremony
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday announced the formation of a Presidential Inaugural Committee ahead of their Jan. 20 swearings-in.
The committee, which is charged with fundraising and organizing inaugural events, promises that in its planning, it will prioritize "keeping people safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19 while engaging all Americans."
Sen. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said he will work with the Biden team but stopped short of referring to the Democrat as president-elect in deference to Trump's ongoing attempts to throw out the election results.
"The president-elect will be the president-elect when the electors vote for him. There is no official job of president-elect," Blunt said. In 2016, after Trump was elected, Blunt didn't wait for the Electoral College vote to use the term.
SCOTUS skeptical on Census exclusion plan
The Supreme Court sounded skeptical Monday that Trump could categorically exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to allot seats among the states in the House of Representatives, The Associated Press reported.
Barrett was among several members of the court who said the administration’s argument for broad discretion in deciding whom to exclude is troublesome because "a lot of the historical evidence and long-standing practice really cuts against your position."
But it also appeared possible that the justices could avoid a final ruling on the issue until they know how broadly the Trump administration acts in its final days in office and whether the division of House seats is affected.
A delay of even three weeks after the Dec. 31 deadline for the Census Bureau to turn over its numbers to the president would mean a new president, Biden, would receive them.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond from Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Biden on Monday got his first look as president-elect at the President’s Daily Brief, a top-secret summary of U.S. intelligence and world events. Trump had delayed giving Biden and Harris access to the classified material as he contests the outcome of the election.
- Dr. Scott Atlas, who for months eclipsed Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx in influence with Trump on his coronavirus task force, resigned from the position Monday. Atlas, who had no background in infection diseases, was a foe of social-distancing policies most experts advocated.
- Trump's ambassador to NATO, former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, described Biden on Monday as president-elect and repeatedly referred to his team as "the incoming administration." Her remarks went further than those of most Trump appointees in acknowledging the president’s election loss.
- Schumer on Monday called for the Senate to hold hearings on Biden’s Cabinet nominees in January and begin voting to confirm them on Inauguration Day "and soon thereafter." Schumer’s remarks are likely to be met with resistance from Senate Republicans, The Washington Post reported.
- Trump confidant Sean Hannity of Fox News said Monday that Trump should issue pardons for himself and his family before leaving office because his foes "want this witch hunt to go on in perpetuity." He made the comment on his radio show while interviewing Powell, who told him pardons are unnecessary since "the president is going to get another four years in office."
- Washington lawyer Joe diGenova, a member of Trump's legal team, said on Newsmax TV that former Homeland Security Chris Krebs — fired by Trump for debunking his election fraud claims — should be executed. "He should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot," diGenova told host Howie Carr.