Brief beyond belief
President Donald Trump has said little of substance in public since losing the election, unless you count bitter claims of imaginary voter fraud. In an unscheduled appearance Tuesday, Trump showed up in the White House briefing room and stayed for roughly a minute, apparently just to associate himself with the latest stock market rise and coronavirus vaccine progress.
Before the election, he warned that Joe Biden's victory would crash the markets. But the Dow on Tuesday broke the 30,000-point ceiling, following news of vaccine breakthroughs by private companies and President-elect Biden's selection of Janet Yellen as treasury secretary.
"I just want to congratulate everybody. The stock market, Dow Jones Industrial Average just hit 30,000, which is the highest in history," Trump said. "We’ve never broken 30,000, and that’s despite everything that’s taken place with the pandemic ... That’s a sacred number, 30,000, and nobody thought they’d ever see it."
Usually in a democracy, the right to vote earns the word "sacred." But as of Tuesday, Trump had posted some 550 tweets since Election Day — about three-quarters of which attempted to undermine the credibility of this month's election results, according to a New York Times tally.
The famously long-winded Trump took no questions at one of his briefest of briefings that some in the press corps described as "weird." Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, where Trump's legal team performed surreal verbal gymnastics trying to deny Biden's obvious win, the Keystone State finally certified its election results Tuesday. So did Nevada and Minnesota, both which went for Biden, and North Carolina, which Trump won. Also, former GOP House leader Paul Ryan urged Trump to concede.
Later, at the annual presidential pardon of Corn, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, in the Rose Garden, Trump rambled a bit.
"This week, in a time that is very unusual but in so many ways, very, very good — what we’ve endured and been able to endure, with the vaccines now coming out one after another. It’s an incredible thing that happened. One of the greatest medical achievements that this planet has ever seen," he said. Again, he took no questions about the prospect of conceding or anything else.
'Ready to lead, not retreat'
Biden's Tuesday introduction of top diplomatic and security appointees and Cabinet nominees marked a turnaround from the Trump era — if only because their professional experience and credentials tended to fit the job descriptions, including Antony Blinken for secretary of state and Avril Haines for director of national intelligence.
Trump made it a controversial point of ignoring and disputing intelligence, military and foreign-service advisories. Biden promised no such behavior, saying advisers will tell him "what I need to know, not what I want to know."
"Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership," Biden said from a theater in Wilmington, Delaware. "It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it." (See a transcript.)
One account dubs the selection a "team of careerists." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) knocked Biden's team as "polite and orderly caretakers of America’s decline."
Progressives also are wary of who might be selected for many of the posts. That's amid a report that Biden is considering for CIA director its former acting head, Mike Morell, known as a defender of torture and drone strikes in some situations. "No torture apologist can be confirmed as CIA director," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast. "It’s a nonstarter."
GOP still tip-toes
Still sheepish about defying Trump, his aides and his allies on Capitol Hill aren't shouting in public for the president to acknowledge reality with a full-throated concession or warm greetings to the incoming administration.
The move Monday by the General Services Administration to give Biden access to federal funding and agencies followed Trump's conferring with top advisers, NBC reported. They argued that impatience from Republicans in Congress, humiliating appearances by lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, as well as sad losses in election challenges, led to a need for Trump to "protect his brand," as one of them put it.
That group reportedly included White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. But in a memo directing a start to the transition, Meadows warned that "unless specifically authorized," people who work in the Executive Office of the President "are not permitted to speak directly with a member of the Biden transition team or the federal transition coordinator."
Answering a question nobody needed to ask, Trump tweeted Tuesday morning: "Remember, the GSA has been terrific, and Emily Murphy has done a great job, but the GSA does not determine who the next President of the United States will be."
Chats about change
Communication from the Trump administration on the transition has been "sincere," Biden told NBC's Lester Holt in an interview that aired Tuesday evening. "Immediately, we've gotten outreach from the national security shop to just across the board," the president-elect said after the GSA's ascertainment. "And they're already working out my ability to get presidential daily briefs, we're already working out meeting with the COVID team in the White House and how to not only distribute but get from a vaccine being distributed to a person able to get vaccinated."
"So I think we're gonna not be so far behind the curve as we thought we might be in the past," Biden added. He also said he plans in his first 100 days to advance an immigration bill, roll back Trump executive orders relaxing environmental protections and get financial assistance to state and local governments, which are battered by the pandemic.
"Some of it is going to depend on the kind of cooperation I can or cannot get from the United States Congress," Biden added. He noted his promise to propose a "path to citizenship" for "over 11 million undocumented people in America."
The first White House turkey pardon since Trump's defeat brings an eerie recollection from Thanksgiving 2018.
That year, the turkeys competing for a pardon were named Peas and Carrots. The winner, Trump joked, "was decided in a fair and open election conducted on the White House website."
"This was a fair election," he said.
"Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount. And we're fighting with Carrots. And we have come to a conclusion."
"Carrots, I'm sorry to tell you: The results did not change."
Interesting how that one worked out.
The Rudy ruckus
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) has filed complaints in five states against Giuliani and 22 other lawyers working with the Trump campaign. The complaints call for them to be stripped of their law licenses for filing "frivolous" lawsuits and allegedly engaging in "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
Some legal ethicists interviewed by The Washington Post are taking Pascrell's actions as other than a joke. Wherever those complaints are destined, however, things have been strange of late in Giuliani's world and may be getting stranger.
The Delaware computer repair man who Giuliani claimed handled Hunter Biden's laptop, has apparently closed up shop as mysteriously as he appeared on the political scene. A neighbor told the Delaware News Journal that repairman John Paul Mac Isaac shuttered his Wilmington shop, and another neighbor said he left town.
Isaac's name became known during Giuliani's October attempt to stir a scandal against Joe Biden's son. The authenticity of the ex-mayor's allegations remains unclear.
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:
- Secret Service agents in Trump's detail are being asked if they're interested in transferring to Palm Beach, Florida, ABC News reports.
- Americans are lining up in historic numbers at food banks across the country on Thanksgiving week amid the pandemic.
- Blue collar versus white collar has emerged after the election as an ever-growing political split across the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports.
- States will have the final say on prioritizing who gets the first doses of any coronavirus vaccines, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters.
- About 20 meetings between federal agency heads and the Biden team are scheduled so far.
- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump appear to have future plans in New Jersey.
- Biden is due to deliver a special Thanksgiving speech on Wednesday.