White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany with Republican National Committee...

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany with Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Trump campaign general counsel Matt Morgan at RNC headquarters on Monday. Credit: Getty Images / Samuel Corum

Smoking guns misfire

It seems in the past few days that anything goes for President Donald Trump's team when it comes to spreading stories of election fraud. The allegations just have a tendency to fall apart under scrutiny.

In Nevada, Trump campaign officials said they had uncovered "criminal voter fraud" — a list of more than 3,000 voters who cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election but no longer live in the state. Military families and Nevada elections officials point to something else: service members who have legally voted in Nevada after being transferred elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"My husband and I have both been accused of fraud," said Amy Rose, an out-of-town Nevada voter whose spouse, an Air Force major, is currently pursuing a PhD in California through the Air Force. "We take our duties as citizens very seriously, and it’s just a shock to see that this accusation had been made without any basis in fact," Rose told Las Vegas TV station KSNV. She said the list of suspected fraudsters circulated by the Trump campaign "has addresses that are literally on Air Force bases."

CNN sampled 50 names on a Trump campaign list of ballots supposedly cast in the names of dead voters in Michigan. It found that 37 were indeed dead but had not voted, according to the voter information database. The other 13 were alive — five of those voted, eight did not.

Then there's postal worker Richard Hopkins, who claimed that a postmaster in Erie, Pennsylvania, instructed postal workers to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day. While the likes of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Hopkins' allegations grounds for investigation, Hopkins raised more than $136,000 for himself through a GoFundMe account, portraying himself as a whistleblower who put his job in jeopardy.

But on Monday, under questioning by Postal Service investigators, Hopkins recanted the claim, The Washington Post reported, citing officials briefed on the probe. The Erie postmaster, Rob Weisenbach, called the allegations "100% false" in a Facebook post and said they were made "by an employee that was recently disciplined multiple times." The Erie Times-News said its review of mail-in ballots contradicted Hopkins' version of events. The review showed that only two ballots postmarked Nov. 3 and received afterward were processed at the Erie facility, and there's no way to know who those votes were for. (In a YouTube video posted Tuesday night, Hopkins denied recanting. A Trump tweet hailed him as "a great patriot." GoFundMe took down his page and said donors will get refunds, CNN reported.)

Here are reviews of more fraud claims that have gone pfffffft — from The Associated Press this week and last, and from The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. The Times also reported it surveyed election officials from both political parties in dozens of states, and they said there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the election outcome. "There’s a great human capacity for inventing things that aren’t true about elections," said Frank LaRose, a Republican who is Ohio's secretary of state.

Biden: Trump is embarrassing himself

President-elect Joe Biden kept it mostly mellow in the face of Trump's refusal to accept the election results.

Biden vowed to "to get right to work" while addressing reporters Tuesday in Delaware. His transition team has assembled a list of 500 experts in policy from diplomacy to space exploration who will form the backbone of his preparations to lead the federal government in January.

The president-elect described Trump’s position as "an embarrassment, quite frankly," adding: "The only thing that — how can I say this tactfully — I think it will not help the president’s legacy." The Democrat predicted that Republicans on Capitol Hill would eventually accept the reality of his victory.

The Trump administration has refused to allow the Biden transition team to coordinate the transfer of power with federal agencies and access millions of dollars in funding to carry out the effort. Biden also isn't getting intelligence and national security briefings. While his team has protested, Biden played down the impact. It "does not change the dynamic at all and what we’re able to do," he said.

Janison: Yes, he's fired

The presidential transition has become a mundane employment issue, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Sometimes a boss fires somebody for incompetence or negligence. In this case, the people of the U.S. voted to fire Trump as president. On a basic level, it is that simple.

Last week, Trump lost a simple yes/no referendum on his presidency by a margin of millions. He's trying his best to overturn the outcome, and some fans are still singing in his bizarre chorus. But don’t believe for a second that he was wrongfully dismissed. Trump lost the race because he failed miserably as president.

Now that Trump's getting the boot, Attorney General William Barr appears to be doing his best in the lame-duck period to act like a kind of union delegate for him. Barr can't work miracles. He can only try for the best deal under the rules — meaning that what Barr described as "specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims," which are all we've been hearing so far, won't be enough.

Department of State of denial

While more foreign leaders are lining up to congratulate Biden, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered comfort to Trump supporters who don't believe the election result. "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," Pompeo said during a news conference Tuesday when asked if his department was preparing for a handoff.

Pompeo's seemed to smirk when he said it (see video here), and his subsequent, more measured comments were about counting the votes and completing the process. Biden, at his news conference, shrugged off Pompeo's remarks and, mentioning his name, chuckled.

Biden spoke on Tuesday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin. "I'm letting them know that America is back," Biden said.

The former vice president also received congratulations from an authoritarian leader Trump has cultivated, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Obamacare off death watch?

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on the Trump-backed lawsuit to kill Obamacare, but comments from two key conservative justices indicated they were unwilling to pull the plug on the health care law.

One Trump appointee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, seemed likely to vote to leave the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, even if he were to find the law’s now-toothless mandate that everyone obtain health insurance to be unconstitutional. "It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place," Kavanaugh said.

Chief Justice John Roberts stated similar views, and the court’s three liberal justices are almost certain to vote to uphold the law in its entirety.

At stake are key protections on coverage for people with preexisting health conditions, as well as on subsidized insurance premiums that affect tens of millions of Americans. The decision is expected in late spring.

Biden on Tuesday reiterated his goal to "dramatically ramp up health care protections, get Americans universal coverage, lower health care costs as soon as humanly possible." If Republicans end up in control of the Senate, those aims will be difficult.

Trump's Pentagon purge widens

A day after Trump fired Mark Esper as defense secretary, two of Esper's undersecretaries and his chief of staff were out the door, replaced by fervent Trump loyalists.

Among the replacements was a former Fox News commentator, retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who failed to get through Senate confirmation for the job of undersecretary of defense for policy, the third-highest Pentagon position, over the summer because of offensive remarks he made, including about Islam. Tata now has that job in an interim capacity.

Two came from the National Security Council: Kash Patel — a former top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who fought to discredit the Russia investigation on Trump's behalf — and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was a protégé of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

The changes, which swept decades of experience out of the Defense Department, have alarmed Democrats and some Republicans, The Washington Post reported. The Associated Press reported that unease was palpable inside the Pentagon over concerns about what the Trump administration may do in the months before Biden takes office — and whether there will be a greater effort to politicize the historically apolitical military.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans urged Trump to spare CIA Director Gina Haspel from the ax.

COVID out of control

While Trump is preoccupied with fighting the election results, coronavirus hospitalizations nationwide hit an all-time high of 61,964 on Tuesday. The U.S. has surpassed 1 million new confirmed coronavirus cases in just the first 10 days of November, with more than 100,000 infections each day becoming the norm.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • The fine print of Trump's "defend the election" fundraising pitches shows that 60% of the money is actually earmarked for a new "Save America" leadership PAC to underwrite Trump’s post-presidential political activity, The New York Times reported. Only after a donor gives more than $5,000 does any of the contribution go to the account for the 2020 recount.
  • Trump's advisers privately acknowledged that Biden’s official victory is less a question of "if" than "when," The Washington Post reported. Six states where Trump has threatened to challenge his defeat continued their march toward declaring certified election results in the coming weeks.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s top cyber official, Chris Krebs, is swatting down unfounded voter-fraud claims in near real-time on his personal Twitter feed and the agency's "Rumor Control" website, Politico reports.
  • Biden's team expects the Trump administration to convert a number of loyal political appointees' jobs to career positions, making it harder for a Biden administration to get rid of them, The Washington Post reports.
  • "He’s not a good loser," Trump's first wife, Ivana, told People magazine. "He doesn’t like to lose, so he’s going to fight and fight and fight," she added. "But if he loses, he loses."
  • Jill Biden could become the country's first first lady to hold a paid job outside the White House. A college English professor with a doctorate in education, she has said that she hopes to continue teaching after her husband takes overs the White House.
  • Vice President Mike Pence canceled a five-day Florida vacation that was supposed to start Tuesday.
  • Health officials in Philadelphia are urging people who partied in the streets Saturday while celebrating Biden's victory to get tested for COVID-19.
  • There is no clear answer why 2020 presidential election polls got so much wrong again, but New York Times' polling analyst Nate Cohn explores some theories.
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