The ’rona catches up to Reckless Rudy
In Arizona, Michigan and Georgia, fingers are crossed that false claims of massive election-fraud conspiracy were all that a mask-averse Rudy Giuliani spread in his swing-state tour last week. President Donald Trump announced Sunday on Twitter that his lawyer has the coronavirus.
"Little did I know that most credible death threat that I encountered last week was Trump’s own lawyer," tweeted Georgia state Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat present at one of those Giuliani-attended events, Thursday's hearing. "Giuliani — maskless, in packed hearing room for 7 hours. To say I am livid would be too kind." In Michigan, where people who had contact with Giuliani at a hearing and other events were getting tested and going into self-quarantine, Democratic state Rep. Darrin Camilleri tweeted, "Not only was the Rudy show dangerous to our democracy, but it also was a threat to our health." The Arizona Legislature is closing for a week because of potential exposures to GOP lawmakers.
After Giuliani was admitted Sunday to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a tweet from his account said: "I'm getting great care and feeling good. Recovering quickly and keeping up with everything." Tweeted Trump earlier: "Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!" At age 76, the former New York City mayor falls into a higher-risk category for COVID-19.
Giuliani's luck ran out after dodging the virus bullet for months, despite attending a multitude of White House and Trump campaign superspreader events that sickened dozens of others, including the president himself and Giuliani's son, Andrew. A fellow participant in Trump's late-September debate prep, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ended up in intensive care for a week in October. The waves of infection in Trump’s orbit underscores the cavalier approach the president has taken to a virus that has now killed more than 280,000 people in the U.S., The Associated Press noted.
Giuliani has repeatedly disregarded public health guidelines, appearing maskless in state capitols, hotel ballrooms and at indoor news conferences in recent weeks. At some of those events, Giuliani was spotted shaking hands, hugging and taking pictures with people. In front of Michigan state legislators on Wednesday, Giuliani asked a testifying witness next to him to take off her face mask. Following news of Giuliani's diagnosis, a Republican lawmaker who ran the Georgia hearing Thursday urged those who came into contact with Giuliani "to take every precaution."
Politico wrote that the diagnosis will sideline Giuliani ahead of some important dates for the president’s election legal team: Tuesday, the deadline for all legal challenges and recounts to be resolved; and Dec. 14, when members of the Electoral College meet to begin casting their votes. Not that Giuliani and his team have been racking up legal victories. Judges have been tossing out lawsuits backed by no evidence, and Giuliani's news conferences have produced widely ridiculed scenes — including a Four Seasons venue that turned out to be the parking lot of a Philadelphia landscaping company and a session with reporters most remembered for rivulets of hair dye running down his face.
Hours before his hospitalization, Giuliani expanded his baseless fraud claims during an appearance with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo. He decided a vast election-stealing conspiracy "was set by somebody in Washington, because everybody else carried it out exactly in the same way, and they did it in the crooked cities." Asked Bartiromo: Who was the mastermind? "I have no idea," he replied.
COVID experts counting days until Biden
U.S. health experts hope President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will put in place something Trump’s has not — a comprehensive national testing strategy, The Associated Press reported.
Such a strategy, they say, could systematically check more people for infections and spot surges before they take off. The health experts say it would be an improvement from the current practice, which has professional athletes and students at elite universities getting tested routinely while many other Americans wait in line for hours — if they get tested at all.
On Sunday, top Trump administration health officials sought to convey confidence in the federal effort to mass-distribute COVID-19 vaccinations as the Food and Drug Administration prepares this week to consider the authorization of the first vaccine candidate for emergency use, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed, said on CNN’s "State of the Union" that Biden’s transition team will be briefed this week on the military-backed effort to distribute doses to states once the vaccines are approved. His remarks came in response to concerns raised last week by Biden, who said his team had yet to see a detailed distribution plan from the outgoing administration.
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned Sunday it's likely the pandemic will continue to worsen in the coming weeks, and he predicted the U.S. could reach nearly 4,000 deaths per day in January.
Janison: Stirring the crackpots
At least the latest wing nut elevated by Trump once wore wings. Scott O'Grady is a former Air Force fighter pilot nominated by Trump as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and all in for Trump's election conspiracy theories, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
One of O'Grady's more preposterous postings said, "Trump won & Biden & his Comrades will now attempt a coup," next to a manipulated image of Biden beside Chinese President Xi Jinping, CNN noted Friday. O'Grady has shared tweets that suggest Trump should declare martial law over the election outcome, a sentiment also endorsed by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a recent beneficiary of a Trump pardon.
Roger Stone, who was granted commutation and is no stranger to wacky pronouncements, broke new ground last week by declaring: "I just learned of absolute incontrovertible evidence of North Korean boats delivering ballots through a harbor in Maine." Former Trump team lawyer Sidney Powell’s performance at a recent news conference was so unmoored, it led other forever-Trumpers to distance themselves from her fabrications about corrupted voting systems.
Don't be surprised. All this is rooted in the fact that Trump embraced or spread risible conspiracy hoaxes throughout his tenure almost as frequently as he played golf. When it comes to poisoning democracy with lies, the buck stops with the fabulist in chief.
Georgia Republicans resist Trump pressure
Top Georgia Republicans criticized Trump on Sunday for spreading falsehoods and misinformation as he tries to negate Biden's win in the state. The officials warned that the president's comments could make it harder for GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to win their upcoming runoff races.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he doesn't expect Gov. Brian Kemp will yield to Trump's demand to call a special session of the legislature to overturn Biden’s victory. Duncan declared, "We’re certainly not going to move the goalposts at this point in the election." Kemp said as much when Trump personally phoned him on Saturday to pressure him.
At a rally intended to boost Perdue and Loeffler in Valdosta, Georgia, on Saturday night, Trump spent much of his 101-minute speech airing unfounded grievances about the election and attacking Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans.
Raffensperger said Sunday the president’s loss is "sad, but true. I wish he would have won. I'm a conservative Republican, and I'm disappointed, but those are the results." Calls for a special legislative session are an attempt at "nullifying the will of the people," he said.
Biden's choices for HHS, CDC
The president-elect has selected Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the Democratic attorney general of California, as his nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which plays a crucial role in pandemic response, The New York Times and Politico reported.
Becerra gained national recognition in recent years for overseeing California’s multitude of legal battles against President Donald Trump’s administration — as well as helming blue states’ defense against a GOP lawsuit aimed at eliminating Obamacare.
Biden's decision followed complaints from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus about a lack of Latinos in the incoming Cabinet. The decision to put him at HHS was a surprise because his background was thought to be a good match for U.S. attorney general.
Politico also reported that Biden has selected Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Barr eyeing the door
Attorney General William Barr is considering stepping down before Trump’s term ends next month — and possibly before the end of the year, The New York Times reported.
Trump has grown openly hostile since Barr, a former favorite who was largely faithful to his political agenda, revealed the Justice Department's investigations haven't found evidence to back up to the president's claims that the election was stolen from him. Barr also failed to heed Trump's demands to unleash the department's prosecutorial power on his foes.
Barr has not made a final decision, the report said. If he left before the end of the Trump administration, the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, would be expected to lead the department until Biden is sworn in.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Georgia Republicans are encouraging supporters to embrace voting by mail ahead of the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs despite Trump's attacks on the balloting alternative.
- Trump is more disturbed by Fox News' insufficiently worshipful daytime lineup than social-justice protests by NFL players, he tweeted: "@FoxNews daytime is not watchable. In a class with CNN & MSDNC. Check out @OANN, @newsmax and others that are picking up the slack. Even a boring football game, kneeling and all, is better!"
- Biden may go to Washington for his inauguration via Amtrak, taking the same route he rode to and from Delaware for 30 years as a senator, Axios reports. He also plans to forgo the traditional inaugural balls and parades because of the coronavirus, choosing instead to celebrate with close family and advisers. The swearing-in ceremony's platform on the Capitol’s West Front is going up just like always, but it probably won’t be as crowded, according to The Associated Press.
- Trump is considering a made-for-TV grand finale for his presidency: an early-morning White House departure on Marine One and final Air Force One flight to Florida, then a political rally opposite Biden's inauguration, Axios reports.
- A bipartisan group of senators on Sunday appeared optimistic that lawmakers would put forward a proposal for another coronavirus stimulus package. "I think we have got the top line numbers done. We are working right now on language so that we can have — as early as tomorrow — a piece of legislation," Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said on CNN.
- Donald Trump Jr. tweeted his take on a Republican strategist's poll that found that while his dad was backed by 35% of GOP voters for the 2024 Republican primary, 11% favored Donald Jr. "Um, this is going to make Christmas dinner a bit awkward," the president's son wrote.