By trying to deny the reality of his election defeat, soon-to-depart President Donald Trump on Tuesday turned a routine quadrennial process into big news — and not the kind he could spin into a win.
The so-called "safe harbor" provision has kicked in. That's an insurance policy written into the law governing national elections. Under the rule, states "lock in" their tallied electoral votes by finishing certification of the ballot results and resolving all state court challenges by a certain date. This year, that date was Tuesday.
The idea of the law is to keep Congress from arbitrarily trashing the Electoral College vote when Washington lawmakers convene next month. The electors vote next Monday; the numbers are expected to remain 306 for President-elect Joe Biden and 232 for Trump.
Only Wisconsin, where Biden is certified as winner of the state's 10 electoral votes, missed the safe-harbor deadline due to a late pro-Trump court case, which is to be heard later this week. Biden is expected to win there even in the extremely unlikely case that Trump and the national GOP prevail in their attempts to disenfranchise Wisconsin voters.
But the president continues his failing efforts to bury the clear will of the voters. Trump was asked Tuesday at a news conference why no one from the Biden transition team was invited to speak there on coronavirus vaccines, given that the next administration will be responsible for distributing them. "We’re going to have to see who the next administration is because we won in those swing states," Trump said falsely. "Hopefully the next administration will be the Trump administration."
Other key Republicans are still fueling and humoring the delusion, essentially hiding from the reality of Biden's win and Trump's lack of credibility. Republicans on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies voted against a resolution that would have affirmed the committee was preparing for Biden's inauguration. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton desperately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from voting in the Electoral College. Predictably, the high court on Tuesday refused to overturn the Pennsylvania's certified election results affirming Biden's win there.
On Monday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said: "We should still try to figure out exactly what took place here. And as I said that includes, I think, debates on the House floor — potentially on Jan. 6." And Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) is blaming Satan for convincing people that Biden won.
Biden's 100-day treatment
Revealing new nominees to key roles, Biden sketched a three-point COVID-19 plan for his first 100 days in office. He said from Wilmington, Delaware, that he will sign an executive order the day he's sworn in, requiring Americans to wear face masks on buses and trains crossing state lines, and in airplanes and federal buildings.
He vowed to oversee distribution of at least 100 million vaccines over that period, stressing that educators should get shots "as soon as possible" following, as already planned, health workers and those employed in long-term care facilities. He also set a goal of enabling "the majority of our schools" to reopen within the 100 days and called on Congress to fund needed safety measures to make that happen.
Biden announced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head the Department of Health and Human Services. If confirmed, he'd be the first Latino to be HHS secretary. The pick is considered something of a surprise as he'd been rumored for U.S. attorney general.
Other members of the Biden health and coronavirus team: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, to return to that job; and Jeffrey Zients, an entrepreneur and management consultant who was an Obama adviser, for coronavirus coordinator in the White House.
New Trumpworld virus fiasco
Now Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, part of Rudy Giuliani's failed election legal squad, has informed associates she tested positive for the coronavirus. The news is stirring fears in the West Wing after she showed up at a senior-staff Christmas party on Friday, Axios reports.
"She had the nerve to show up at the senior-staff Christmas party knowing everyone was furious with her for constantly stirring Trump up with nonsense," a senior administration official was quoted as saying. She reportedly was a guest of trade adviser Peter Navarro. There were fears that it was another White House superspreader event. Ellis usually makes public appearances without a face mask.
Giuliani, who's been hospitalized since Sunday with COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., was quoted Tuesday as saying controversially that "you can overdo the mask" and that the disease is "curable." Meanwhile, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said her sister-in-law has died of COVID-19.
During his news conference Tuesday, Trump for some reason hailed an increased U.S. coronavirus infection rate. "I hear we’re close to 15%. I’m hearing that, and that’s terrific," he said. He was presumably saying the nation would be closer to so-called herd immunity, a "strategy" warned against by epidemiologists for the number of additional deaths unless the protection is achieved by mass vaccination. (Herd immunity without vaccination would require about a 70% infection rate in the population. Watch a video explainer.)
Judge: He's no Flynn-ocent
Forced by presidential pardon to dismiss the guilty plea and prosecution of ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan took parting shots on Tuesday. He called Trump's pardon "extraordinarily broad" and noted it doesn't mean Flynn is innocent.
Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI in 2017 in a case brought by the Russia investigation's special counsel, Robert Mueller. Flynn twice pleaded guilty in open court. But he sought to withdraw that plea and Trump's Justice Department moved to void the case, which Sullivan resisted.
Sullivan said Tuesday that federal rules give judges discretion in deciding whether letting the government drop a case would be in the public interest. He said many of the Justice Department's stated reasons for its actions seemed to be a pretext given that Trump "has not hidden the extent of his interest in this case." As for the government's actions late in the case, these facts "raise questions regarding its motives in moving to dismiss."
Cybersleuth sees Trump scam
As widely reported, Christopher Krebs, the nation's top cybersecurity official, was fired Nov. 17 by Trump after dismissing the president’s claims of widespread election fraud. Also widely reported was that Trump campaign attorney Joseph diGenova later said in a TV interview that Krebs should be killed, which diGenova downplayed as political hyperbole though Krebs since has been receiving death threats.
In a highly unusual move for an ex-administration official, Krebs is now filing a lawsuit. But he isn't just talking about the threat or defamation. He's launched a wider and more serious public allegation — that those in the Trump camp conspired to lie that the election was stolen, to attack dissenting Republicans and scam political money out of donors as part of a single scheme.
"Part of the conspiracy alleged is trying to hawk false evidence to courts, and part of it is to fraudulently raise money," Krebs' lawyer Jim Walden told The Washington Post. "We intend to seek discovery to learn the full scope of the conspiracy, and we’ll amend our suit depending on where the evidence takes us."
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:
- Trump sought Tuesday to bask in credit for private companies' progress toward COVID-19 vaccines.
- Biden is expected to announce Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio for secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for agriculture secretary, report The New York Times and Politico.
- Former White House aide Kellyanne Conway will join the board of visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Trump said. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will become a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
- Don't expect Biden to watch television nearly as much as Trump. "Biden reads a lot, but doesn’t watch a lot of TV news," Jay Carney, who was his communications director when he was vice president, told Politico.
- The funding behind a new Republican PAC operating in Georgia is expected to remain a mystery until after the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs there.
- Trump attacked former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who urged fellow Republicans to "speak out against" the president’s vote-fraud sham.