The end games they play
President Donald Trump on Wednesday kept trying to swat inconvenient truths away after dispatching an inconvenient truth-teller the previous night by firing Christopher Krebs, the Homeland Security official who oversaw election security and thoroughly swatted away fraud claims promoted by Trump and his allies.
"In Detroit, there are FAR MORE VOTES THAN PEOPLE. Nothing can be done to cure that giant scam. I win Michigan!" Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. That was so demonstrably false as to be laughable. There are 670,000 people living in Detroit, according to the Census Bureau's most recent estimate. Data showed that 250,138 ballots were cast there — about 93.5% for President-elect Joe Biden in the Black-majority city.
But Trump's endless spouting of spurious fraud claims are making the impact he wants. Polls out Tuesday and Wednesday by Reuters/Ipsos, Monmouth University and Politico/Morning Consult found that half to three-quarters of Republicans aren't convinced by the results showing Trump's loss. Among voters at large, sizable majorities agree that Biden won.
While Trump's lawsuits make little headway in swing states that narrowly went for Biden, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has told associates that his goal is to cast enough doubt on the election that Republican-led state legislatures won’t certify the results for Biden, Time magazine reported. "Rudy’s view of the world is if he does a good enough job inflaming the results, Pennsylvania won’t certify, Wisconsin won’t certify," Time's source said. Then the legislatures could approve Trump's electors for the Electoral College, according to the theory.
It's an improbable plan — Republican leaders in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin want no part of it, according to The Associated Press. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the law gives the legislature no role in choosing electors, The Washington Post points out. But the idea can keep Trump's base, like the president himself, stoked with grievance and perhaps worse as he considers the option of a post-presidential political future, including a 2024 run. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, linked "ongoing and escalating threats of violence" against her, her family and her office to Trump and others "perpetuating misinformation and are encouraging others to distrust the election results."
In Georgia, the secretary of state, a Republican, said the results of a hand recount were to be announced Thursday, and that it was likely to show that Biden got more votes in the state than Trump. "We’re finishing up, waiting for a few more counties to get back to us — some of the large counties — but I don’t believe at the end of the day it’ll change the total results," Brad Raffensperger said on CNN. He's also reported receiving threats.
Trump's campaign said it will seek a recount in Wisconsin, which Biden won by more than 20,000 votes, but not for the whole state, which would have cost it $7.9 million. Instead, for $3 million, Team Trump sought to get votes counted again in Milwaukee and Dane counties, both which favored Biden by large margins. The campaign alleges those counties were the sites of the "worst irregularities," although no evidence of illegal activity has been presented. The partial Wisconsin recount will begin Friday and must be completed by Dec. 1.
Biden's DIY transition
Shut out by Trump, Biden is seeking unusual workarounds to prepare for the exploding public health threat and evolving national security challenges he will inherit in just nine weeks, The Associated Press reports.
Blocked from the official intelligence briefing traditionally afforded to incoming presidents, Biden had a virtual meeting on Tuesday with a collection of intelligence, defense and diplomatic experts not currently in government, who may not be privy to up-to-date information. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, received a more formal briefing Tuesday, but one still more limited than what would be provided in a normal transition to the leaders of an incoming administration.
Biden suggested during a virtual roundtable with health care workers on Wednesday that the information blockade could put his administration behind by weeks or months in overseeing distribution of the eventual coronavirus vaccine. "We've been unable to get access to the kinds of things we need to know about the depth of stockpiles. We know there’s not much at all," Biden said.
Health and Human Services staffers were told Wednesday that if anyone from Biden's team contacts them, they are not to communicate with them and are to alert the deputy surgeon general of the communication, according to CNN. But the network also reports that a handful of current Trump administration officials, as well as some political appointees who left in recent months, have quietly started to reach out to members of Biden's transition team.
Biden grew emotional during the meeting with health workers, wiping away a tear after hearing an intensive-care unit nurse describe her experience on the front lines battling COVID-19. Mary Turner, head of the Minnesota Nurses Association, described holding the hands of dying patients who cried out for family members they weren't able to see and taking care of co-workers on a ventilator who are fighting for their lives.
On Thursday, Biden and Harris will meet virtually with the bipartisan National Governors Association’s executive committee, including New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Janison: Can't get the duck outta the way
Trump's unacknowledged lame-duck period is showing one element of consistency: a well-worn habit of obstructing government functions from within the White House. Jamming things up for promotional purposes has been his preferred mode of operation from the start, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Trump didn't do these things in the cause for smaller government or personal freedom. Federal spending exploded, in fact, while Trump screamed to no effect for "law and order."
Biden’s team must work around the incumbent’s refusal to help in the transition, through such means as reportedly turning to former officials who served in the current administration for clues on major national security threats.
This just seems to be part of Trump's spite and denial, which became predictable once he lost the election. He was beaten by a margin so significant that his lawyers can't even come close to crafting a plausible case that irregularities cost him the race. This is the Trump a majority of voters came to know and fired for cause.
Betting against Trump's bet on Rudy
After Giuliani presented fact-free arguments about massive electoral fraud in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the federal judge presiding over the case canceled an evidentiary hearing, a signal that he no longer expected to hear any evidence to scrutinize.
Giuliani has sold Trump on the idea that he can save his presidency by promoting conspiracy theories so off the wall that some top officials in the campaign won't buy them. ABC News reports a recent screaming match between Jenna Ellis, a campaign lawyer working alongside Giuliani, and the campaign's chief strategist, Jason Miller. Another Trump 2020 official, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark, fought it out with Giuliani over the phone while Trump listened from the Oval Office, according to CNN.
Among the Trump allies openly skeptical about Giuliani is Mick Mulvaney, the former acting White House chief of staff who rode along when the former New York mayor tried to force Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, the scheme that led to Trump's impeachment.
On Wednesday, Mulvaney told Fox Business Network he is "a little concerned about the use of Rudy Giuliani. It strikes me that this is the most important lawsuit in the history of the country, and they’re not using the most well-noted election lawyers." Added Mulvaney: "This is not a television program. This is the real thing."
Also disdainful of Giuliani's effort was Pennsylvania's Republican senator, Pat Toomey. "Let me just say, I don’t think they have a strong case," Toomey told reporters on Capitol Hill.
McEnany spreads word against COVID rules
The nation's death toll from the coronavirus passed the quarter-million mark on Wednesday, a grim figure that went unnoted by Trump while his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, criticized mitigation efforts that have been adopted by Democratic and Republican governors alike.
"I think a lot of the guidelines you’re seeing are Orwellian," McEnany said on "Fox & Friends." "The American people know how to protect their health. We’ve dealt with COVID for many months."
She singled out Oregon's Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, whose order suspending indoor dining and limiting in-person gatherings to six people includes such enforcement options as citations, fines or arrests. But North Dakota's Republican governor, Doug Burgum, implemented a mask mandate with the threat of a $1,000 fine. Ohio's GOP Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced a 21-day statewide curfew.
Others inside the Trump administration are giving stricter social distancing more support than McEnany. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, "Right now is not the time for anyone to let their guard down." Azar added, "The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people you live with and through virtual celebrations."
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Robert Brodsky. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump campaign lawyer Ellis, now in the top tier of the Giuliani-led legal team, wasn't always a Trump fan. In Facebook posts and radio appearances in 2016, dug up by CNN, Ellis called Trump an "idiot," "boorish and arrogant" and a "bully" whose words could not be trusted as factually accurate. She called comments he made about women "disgusting" and suggested he was not a "real Christian." She linked to a post that called Trump an "American fascist." She bemoaned Trump supporters for not caring that he was an "unethical, corrupt, lying, criminal, dirtbag."
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy isn't saying Trump lost, but the California Republican offered an epitaph of sorts for Trump's presidency in a New York Times interview: "If at the end of the day he does not win the presidency, he will still be a player and he’ll still have a base. And if you sit back, if Trump was not on the ticket, would we have won seats this year? He brought turnout."
- A former speechwriter fired from the White House in 2018 for attending a conference with white supremacists has been given a new post by Trump. Darren Beattie was given a three-year term on the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, whose tasks include preserving Holocaust-related sites across Europe.
- Biden acknowledged the challenging political landscape he could face in Washington next year, predicting in a private video call with supporters that he would run into "brick walls" in the Senate if Republicans controlled that chamber, The New York Times reported. January runoffs for the two seats from Georgia will decide the Senate majority.
- Biden received a 57% favorability rating in a Politico/Morning Consult poll. Trump got 43%.
- For the 12th time since the election, Trump on Thursday has no events on his public schedule.