Friday, December 4, 2020

Constructing An Alternative Reality

 This has been gradually developing for about the last quarter of a century or so.  While there was some of this going on before, it took off after the Newt Gingrich-led GOP took over Congress in the 94 election and Rush Limbaugh began his radio show.  Not long after Fox News began a more aggressive stance against President Clinton, pushing any and every scandal that would lead to his impeachment for lying about his sex life, although this proved unpopular with the public.  But that did not slow it down.  It became more developed in the Bush admin when support for the Iraq War became increasingly disconnected from reality, a war that was not connected to reality to begin with as it was based on false claims about WMDs supposedly in Iraq.  When Obama became president the alternate reality became more developed as Fox and talk radio obsessed on the fake news birther nonsense, not to mention the endless obsession on Benghazi and Hillary's emails.

And then Trump became president and all of this kicked up to a whole new level, with his 23,500 plus lies and counting, which came along with a personalistic cult worshipping him.  This was bad all through his presidency, but now that he has lost the election it has further accelerated, now reaching seriously deranged levels that are also seriously dangerous to US democracy.

So in the real world Trump allowed the GSA to allow the official transition to a Biden presidency proceed, and most foreign leaders recognize the reality (although not V.V. Putin so far), and we have now had all the six main swing states officially and legally certify that Biden beat Trump in their states, with none of the margins less than 10,000, not all that close, frankly. Even those so far not coming out to admit this reality sometimes leak that they recognize it, occasionally making remarks that clearly recognize that Biden will almost certainly be president as of Jan. 20, 2021, even as they do not officially come out and say so openly, with the pathetic GOP senators from Georgia at the top of this bizarre hypocrisy.

But even as this reality continues to creep forward, reinforced by failure after failure of the Trump team's lawsuits, a win-loss record currently at 1-46, even though they keep submitting more cases, Trump himself seems to be more than doubling down, with many people following him and becoming more seriously insane and dangerous in their efforts.

So we have freshly pardoned Michael Flynn openly calling for Trump to declare martial law and impose a new election, with a disturbing number of other folks coming out to support him on this. We have had death threats in multiple states against election officials who supported the vote outcomes, even as many of these officials have been Republicans (congrats to them for standing up for principle), with the most dramatic of these in Georgia where some of those officials have sharply spoken back with little effect on those pushing the false claims of fraud, most importantly President Trump himself, due to appear in Georgia tomorrow, supposedly to support the GOP senate candidates there, but more likely to push his own ongoing effort to overturn the election results.

At this point two items stick out to me how the effort to construct an alternate reality continues apace even as it becomes increasingly disconnected with reality.  One part of this is coming from Trump himself. Son two evenings ago he put out a 46 minute video of a speech he made alone in the White House that he labeled "the most important speech I have ever made."  Most of it was simply more of the lies and conspiracy theories he has been pushing and pushing for the past month since the election. But one item stuck out at me as showing an increasing degree of disconnect from reality.  He claimed that id there had been an accurate count of the votes, he would have won "all states." Really. Only two presidents have taken all states: George Washington and James Monroe in 1820.  So he really thinks he won Delaware, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, not to mention DC (not a state)?

The other was watching Sean Hannity last night.  OK, so others in the prime time Fox lineup are playing the game of "Trump is right that the election was a fraud and he should fight to show it, but maybe Biden will be president after Jan. 20." But not Hannity, who disappeared for most of last week after Trump caved on letting the transition legally proceed.  No, he is totally in with Trump, declaring that he will succeed in overturning the election results and be inaugurated on Jan. 20, even without declaring martial law. He points to the case out of PA going to the SCOTUS.  He points to the 4-3 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling against Trump's motion being based on that Trump's team should have gone through a circuit court first, which they are now doing. And then there is a video out of Georgia, now being dragged through hearings in the Georgia legislature, supposedly showing some "suitcases" being brought out from under a table in Fulton County after poll watchers were kicked out, and votes getting counted for another two hours, hey, enough to overturn the GA results. I saw that video, and I do not know what was going on in it, but I saw one image of a white object being brought out from under the table that did not look like a "suitcase."  He also had some woman who claimed somebody else submitted an absentee ballot with her name, and some guy from Michigan claiming to be an independent who was a poll watcher in Detroit, whining about being kept back from looking at ballots.

I do not know where or how this is all going to end.  Maybe if we get the Electoral College actually vote Biden in on Dec. 14, but based on what has gone down so far, I doubt it will stop.  Next up will be the Senate having to certify that vote, and, hey, GOP will still be in control even if Dems win the GA runoffs.  And there is still the chance to declare martial law, and maybe he can get a war with Iran going, which seems to be on the verge of happening, given the assassination of their top nuclear scientist.  And we still have something like 70% of GOP voters living at least to some extent in this alternate reality, and today it came out that Trump has specifically praised the QAnon conspirators for "being for better government." This is going down to the wire with possible roadblocks at every possible location.

Addendum: I have just heard that the Biden transition team is being prevented from meeting with people from any of the intelligence agencies located in the DOD, which is by far the majority of such agencies, including such heavyweights as the NSA, DIA, and NRO, among others.  I find this to be very disturbing.

Barkley Rosser


Fred C. Dobbs said...

It could be that this really
got up a head of steam when
'alternative facts' appeared.

Kellyanne Conway explains ‘alternative facts’

Kellyanne Conway is not backing down from her now-notorious phrase “alternative facts.” In an interview with New York Magazine published online Saturday, President Trump’s senior adviser was unapologetic about the term, which she used in January. Conway explained the phrase as “additional facts and alternative information.” She added, “Two plus two is four. Three plus one is four. Partly cloudy, partly sunny. Glass half full, glass half empty. Those are alternative facts.”

‘Alternative facts’ went viral when Conway and Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s CMCSA, +0.19% “Meet the Press,” discussed the size of the crowds at Trump’s inauguration. Crowd scientists said the crowds were far smaller than Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, but the White House disagreed. “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts,” Conway said. Todd responded, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.” The phrase now has its own Wikipedia entry.

In a panel discussion on CNN US:TWX, Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty, later said, “It is a George Orwell phrase.” In the days that followed, Orwell’s seminal novel “1984” went to No. 1 on, leading the publisher Penguin to rush more copies into print to meet demand. Further adding to the surreal nature of the online debate, a Merriam-Webster tweet defining the word “fact.” It read: “A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”

Also in her New York Magazine interview, Conway once again clarified her remarks about the “Bowling Green Massacre,” an event that never took place. Conway said she had meant to say, “Bowling Green masterminds,” she told the magazine, referring to two Iraqi citizens in Bowling Green, Ky. were indicted on federal terrorism charges. She added, “Anybody who pretends I’m not smart or not credible, it’s like, ‘Excuse me, I’ve spoken 1.2 million words on TV, okay?’” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

"Addendum: I have just heard that the Biden transition team is being prevented from meeting with people from any of the intelligence agencies located in the DOD, which is by far the majority of such agencies, including such heavyweights as the NSA, DIA, and NRO, among others. I find this to be very disturbing."

I quite agree. I used to work in this area, in a very minor capacity.
It's unconscionable on the part of the intelligence community
to permit this. I put it down to the civilian party-hacks
recently installed by Trump. said...

Yes, "alternative facts." That was a crucial step in all this after Trump came in. With alternative facts it is much easier to construct a full-blown alternative reality.

2slugbaits said...

The irony is that if you go back half a century it was conservative voices like Leo Strauss or Allan Bloom or Alasdair MacIntyre that were warning about the post-modern Left's drift towards relativism and nihilism in a post-truth world. Well, the post-1990s Left ultimately gave us a couple of pretty good presidents in Clinton and Obama and soon Biden. The political right gave us Bush 43, Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. At least I can credit Bush 43 for not being a thoroughgoing post-truth nihilist like Gingrich, McConnell and Trump. Where are those conservative voices today? Certainly not on Fox News or AM radio. Not even in bookstores. Walk into any Barnes & Noble bookstore and you'll see dozens of braindead right-wing screeds written by "conservative intellectuals" like Laura Ingraham or Mark Levin. What a comedown.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Why Do So Many Americans Think the Election Was Stolen?

NY Times - Ross Douthat - December 5

There have been few surprises this past month in how
Donald Trump has dealt with the reality of his electoral defeat.

Anyone familiar with his career could have predicted that he would claim to have been cheated out of victory. Anyone watching how he wielded power (or, more often, didn’t) as president could have predicted that his efforts to challenge the election results would be embarrassing, ridiculous and dismissed with prejudice in court. And anyone watching how the Republican Party dealt with his ascent could have predicted that its leaders would mostly avoid directly rebuking him, relying instead on the inertial forces of American democracy, the conscientiousness of judges and local officialdom, and Trump’s own incompetence to turn back his final power grab.

So far, so predictable. But speaking as a cynical observer of the Trump era, one feature of November did crack my jaded shell a bit: not his behavior or the system’s response, but the sheer scale of the belief among conservatives that the election was really stolen, measured not just in polling data but in conversations and arguments, online and in person, with people I would not have expected to embrace it.

The potency of this belief has already scrambled some of the conventional explanations for conspiratorial beliefs, particularly the conceit that the key problem is misinformation spreading downward from partisan news outlets and social-media fraudsters to the easily deceived. As I watch the way certain fraud theories spread online, or watch conservatives abandon Fox News for Newsmax in search of validating narratives, it’s clear that this is about demand as much as supply. A strong belief spurs people to go out in search of evidence, a lot of so-called disinformation is collected and circulated sincerely rather than cynically, and the power of various authorities — Tucker Carlson’s show or Facebook’s algorithm — to change beliefs is relatively limited.

But what has struck me, especially, is how the belief in a stolen election has spread among people I wouldn’t have thought of as particularly Trumpy or super-partisan, who aren’t cable news junkies or intensely online, who didn’t even seem that invested in the election before it happened.

Others have taken note of the same phenomenon: At National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that “friends who I did not know were political are sending me little snippets of allegations of voter fraud and manipulation.” At The American Mind, the pseudonymous Californian Peachy Keenan describes watching a passel of lukewarm Trump-supporter moms in her Catholic parish suddenly “get MAGAfied” by election conspiracy theories. (As a fraud believer herself, she thinks that’s a good thing.)

Drawn from my conversations in the past few weeks, here’s an attempt at a taxonomy of these unlikely seeming fraud believers. ...

(Continues at the link.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(By the way...)

Kellyanne Conway: 'It Looks like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will prevail'

via @nypost - December 5

Kellyanne Conway says the party is probably over for her former boss and that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will likely be moving into the White House in January. ...

“If you look at the vote totals in the Electoral College tally, it looks like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will prevail,” she continued. “I assume the electors will certify that and it will be official. We, as a nation, will move forward, because we always do.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The Places That Had the Biggest Swings Toward and Against Trump

NY Times - December 7

Education was a key dividing line, but other things mattered, too.

With most of the slow-to-report votes tallied, we finally have a clearer picture of last month’s presidential results. Despite the high polarization in the country that carried over to the reaction to the results — with 70 percent to 80 percent of Republicans still saying they disbelieve that Joe Biden won — in some respects the vote itself was less polarized than in 2016.

Compared with 2016, in 2020 there was less difference by race or ethnicity, and urban areas and suburban areas voted more alike. But the economic and education partisan divides widened. Mr. Biden gained in well-educated suburbs and exurbs, often in places that have tended to vote Republican in recent decades, like the Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix areas. ...

(Continues at the link.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

I’ve done a little reading on this lately, and the ‘conspiracy
notions’ seem to go back a long time in US history, with
links even to Europe, in the form of ‘Whig philosophy’,
which was a reaction to progressivism. Links even
to Jefferson, if not Andrew Jackson.

It seems to be inherently secular, even with
appreciation for science , yet some how
seems quite perverse, if not perverted.

Anyway, surprisingly, it is not ‘new’.

See ‘The Idea of America’, Gordon S. Wood, pp 38-46.

“American Whigs, like men of the 18th century generally, were fascinated by with what seemed to be the newly appreciated problem of human motivation and causation in the affairs of the world. In the decade before independence, the Americans sought endlessly to discover the supposed calculations and purposes of individuals or groups that lay behind the otherwise incomprehensible rush of events” … said...

It is my understanding that the percent of Republicans thinking the election was "stolen" may now be down to only about 60%, still way too much, but some movement in the right direction. Maybe the continuing setbacks in the courts and with GOP officeholders in crucial states, not to mention Biden now having achieved 270 actually certified electoral votes since California came in officially on Friday, may be sinking in to some people. There is some hope yet.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

In the alternate reality we currently inhabit...

Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses

NY Times - December 7

Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. government additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter. Now Pfizer may not be able provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries, they said.

As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans on Tuesday to sign an executive order “to ensure that United States government prioritizes getting the vaccine to American citizens before sending it to other nations,” according to a draft statement and a White House official, though it was not immediately clear what force the president’s executive order would carry.

That included whether it would expand the U.S. supply of doses beyond what is spelled out in existing federal contracts.

The vaccine being produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, is a two-dose treatment, meaning that 100 million doses is enough to vaccinate only 50 million Americans. The vaccine is expected to receive authorization for emergency use in the U.S. as soon as this weekend, with another vaccine, developed by Moderna, also likely to be approved for emergency use soon.

Britain plans to begin a vaccination drive on Tuesday using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, making it the first Western nation to start mass vaccinations. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

More power to him?

If Trump really wanted to win the Georgia Senate races, he’d do this one thing

via @BostonGlobe - December 7

... over the weekend, it became even more clear that Trump doesn’t care about keeping those seats.

Yes, Trump’s rally in southern Georgia Saturday night wasn’t about the candidates running for Senate. Yes, it was really a chance for Trump to air a litany of grievances about the election last month.

That may all be expected when Trump rolls into any state.

But if Trump wants Republicans to win in Georgia then there is one thing he would do. It also happens to be the one thing he refuses to do: concede he lost the election.

If he were to do that, he would have helped Republicans tremendously. During a Georgia Senate debate on Sunday night, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler appeared to be robbed of what would easily be her best line of the night: that electing her is the only way to stop President Joe Biden and even more progressive members of his party. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Happy Safe Harbor Day, America

Safe harbor law locks Congress into accepting Biden’s win

via @BostonGlobe - December 8

WASHINGTON (AP) — Happy Safe Harbor Day, America.

Other than Wisconsin, every state appears to have met a deadline in federal law that essentially means Congress has to accept the electoral votes that will be cast next week and sent to the Capitol for counting on Jan. 6. Those votes will elect Joe Biden as the country's next president.

It's called a safe harbor provision because it’s a kind of insurance policy by which a state can lock in its electoral votes by finishing up certification of the results and any state court legal challenges by a congressionally imposed deadline, which this year is Tuesday.

“What federal law requires is that if a state has completed its post-election certification by Dec. 8, Congress is required to accept those results,” said Rebecca Green, an election law professor at the William & Mary law school in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Electoral College is a creation of the Constitution, but Congress sets the date for federal elections and, in the case of the presidency, determines when presidential electors gather in state capitals to vote.

In 2020, that date is Dec. 14. But Congress also set another deadline, six days before electors meet, to insulate state results from being challenged in Congress.

By the end of the day, every state is expected to have made its election results official, awarding 306 electoral votes to Biden and 232 to President Donald Trump.

The attention paid to the normally obscure safe harbor provision is a function of Trump's unrelenting efforts to challenge the legitimacy of the election. He has refused to concede, made unsupported claims of fraud and called on Republican lawmakers in key states to appoint electors who would vote for him even after those states have certified a Biden win.

But Trump's arguments have gone nowhere in court in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Most of his campaign's lawsuits in state courts challenging those Biden victories have been dismissed, with the exception of Wisconsin, where a hearing is scheduled for later this week.

Like the others, the lawsuit does not appear to have much chance of succeeding, but because it was filed in accordance with state law procedures for challenging election results, “it's looking to me like Wisconsin is going to miss the safe harbor deadline because of that,” said Edward Foley, a professor of election law at Ohio State University's Moritz School of Law.

Judge Stephen Simanek, appointed to hear the case, has acknowledged that the case would push the state outside the electoral vote safe harbor.

Missing the deadline won't deprive Wisconsin of its 10 electoral votes. Biden electors still will meet in Madison on Monday to cast their votes and there's no reason to expect that Congress won't accept them. In any case, Biden would still have more than the 270 votes he needs even without Wisconsin's.

But lawmakers in Washington could theoretically second-guess the slate of electors from any state that misses the Dec. 8 deadline, Foley said.

Already one member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., has said he will challenge electoral votes for Biden on Jan. 6. Brooks would need to object in writing and be joined by at least one senator. If that were to happen, both chambers would debate the objections and vote on whether to sustain them.

But unless both houses agreed to the objections, they would fail. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Supreme Court Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Vote

In a one-sentence order, the court refused to overturn
election results that had already been certified and submitted.

Supreme Court Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Vote

NY Times - December 8

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn the state’s election results. The justices said they would not block a ruling from Pennsylvania’s highest court that had rejected a challenge to the use of mail ballots in the state. The Supreme Court’s order was all of one sentence, and there were no noted dissents.

The request that the Supreme Court intercede had faced substantial legal hurdles, as it was filed long after the enactment of the challenged statute that allowed mailed ballots and was based on questions of state rather than federal law. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(ORDER LIST: 592 U.S.)




The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice
Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump Administration Passed on Chance to Secure More of Pfizer Vaccine

NY Times - December 7

... While two vaccines, including Pfizer’s, have proved to be highly effective against Covid-19, and a third also appears at least moderately effective, supplies are shaping up to be scarce in the coming months as infections, hospitalizations and deaths surge to new highs. And while Pfizer is now negotiating with the administration to provide more of its vaccine, people familiar with the talks say the company cannot guarantee that it will be able to deliver more than the initial 100 million doses — enough to inoculate 50 million people since its vaccine requires two shots — before perhaps next June.

After it signed its federal contract in late July, Pfizer went on to seal deals with other governments, including the European Union, which last month finalized an agreement to acquire 200 million doses from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. On Tuesday, Britain will begin inoculating its population with the vaccine.

President Trump has hailed the development of the vaccine as a victory for his administration, even though Pfizer, unlike the developer of the other most promising vaccine, Moderna, took no upfront money from the government’s Operation Warp Speed development program.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump is holding a White House event to promote the program’s role and plans to issue an executive order that applies his “America First” philosophy to the pandemic by proclaiming that other nations will not get the U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated.

The executive order by itself appears to have no real teeth and does not expand the U.S. supply of doses, according to a description of the order on Monday by senior administration officials. But it provides Mr. Trump with a talking point to rebut any criticism about the limited initial supply of the vaccine. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The White House declined to buy more of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. Here’s where it could go instead

Washington Post via @BostonGlobe - December 8

The Trump administration turned down the chance to secure more of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which Britain became the first to roll out Tuesday, and probably will need to wait until June or July to procure doses beyond their initial order of 100 million because other countries have snapped up limited supply.

Trump administration officials defended their decision, noting that the United States is at the front of the line for the promising Moderna vaccine, which is expected to be approved in coming weeks, along with the Pfizer jab. But both vaccines require two doses, meaning the 100 million doses purchased of each will cover two sets of 50 million people - far short of the entire U.S. population.

The European Union and Japan have staked claim to an even larger portion of Pfizer doses than the United States has, and Americans will have to wait on those orders before their government can get more. But as the richest country, with a large number of orders in place, more to follow and good cold storage infrastructure, the United States is still near the top of the global vaccine pecking order, while some poor countries could have to wait until 2024 to offer vaccines to their entire populations, according to one study.

Given the Trump administration's big promises on vaccines, the prospect of limited supply and long waits in the United States will lead to questions about where those doses are going. Here is what we know so far. ...

(Continues at the link.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump looks past Supreme Court loss to new election lawsuit

AP - December 9

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to let him join an improbable lawsuit challenging election results in Pennsylvania and other states that he lost, a day after the justices rejected a last-gasp bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

The high court has asked for responses by Thursday. Out of the roughly 50 lawsuits filed around the country contesting the Nov. 3 vote, Trump has lost more than 35 and the others are pending, according to an Associated Press tally.

The suit from the Texas attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton, demands that the 62 total Electoral College votes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin be invalidated. That’s enough, if set aside, to swing the election to Trump. Paxton’s suit repeats a litany of false, disproven and unsupported allegations about mail-in ballots and voting in the four battlegrounds.

Repeating many of those claims, Trump lawyer John Eastman wrote, “The fact that nearly half of the country believes the election was stolen should come as no surprise.” Biden won by more than 7 million votes and has a 306-232 electoral vote edge.

“We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case,” Trump said hours before the high court filing. “This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

Legal experts dismissed Paxton’s filing as the latest and perhaps longest legal shot since Election Day, and officials in the four states sharply criticized Paxton. “I feel sorry for Texans that their tax dollars are being wasted on such a genuinely embarrassing lawsuit,” Wisconsin’s attorney general, Josh Kaul, said.

Seventeen states Trump won last month joined Texas in urging the court to take on the lawsuit less than a week before presidential electors gather in state capitals to formally choose Biden as the next president.

They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

The Supreme Court, without comment Tuesday, refused to call into question the certification process in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf, D-Pa., already has certified Biden’s victory and the state’s 20 electors are to meet on Dec. 14 to cast their votes for the former vice president.

In any case, Biden won 306 electoral votes, so even if Pennsylvania’s results had been in doubt, he still would have more than the 270 electoral votes needed to become president. ... said...

Only Wisconsin failed to get in under the Safe Harbor limit yesterday, meaning Congress can question its ten electoral votes, not enough to sway the outcome if they do so. But the Wisconsin outcome has been officially certified, ans electors supporting Biden will be sent to vote for him on Monday. They missed the deadline due to the ongoing case that the Wis Supreme Court rejected 4-3, but allowed to go back to a lower court, where it is wending its way back to the Supreme Court.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

More than 100 House Republicans sign court filing in support of Texas-led election lawsuit

via @BostonGlobe - December 10

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has quickly become a conservative litmus test, with many Republicans signing onto the case even as some have predicted it will fail.

The last-gasp bid to subvert the results of the Nov. 3 election is the latest demonstration of President Donald Trump’s enduring political power even as his term is set to end. Seventeen Republican attorneys general are backing the unprecedented case that Trump is calling “the big one" despite the fact that the president and his allies have lost dozens of times in courts across the country and have no evidence of widespread fraud. And 106 Republicans in Congress signed on to a court filing Thursday in support of Texas, claiming “unconstitutional irregularities” have “cast doubt” on the 2020 outcome and “the integrity of the American system of elections.”

“The Supreme Court is not going to overturn the election in the Texas case, as the President has told them to do," tweeted tweeted Rick Hasen, an election law expert and a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. "But we are in bad shape as a country that 17 states could support this shameful, anti-American filing" by Texas and its attorney general, Ken Paxton.

The lawsuit filed against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin repeats false, disproven, and unsubstantiated accusations about the voting in four states that went for Trump's Democratic challenger. The case demands that the high court invalidate the states' 62 total Electoral College. That's an unprecedented remedy in American history: setting aside the votes of tens of millions of people, under the baseless claim the Republican incumbent lost a chance at a second term due to widespread fraud.

Two days after Paxton sued, 17 states filed a motion supporting the lawsuit, and on Thursday six of those states asked to join the case themselves. Trump has acted to join the case, tweeting Thursday that “the Supreme Court has a chance to save our Country from the greatest Election abuse in the history of the United States.” Hours later, Trump held a meeting at the White House, scheduled before the suit was filed, with a dozen Republican attorneys general, including Paxton and several others who are backing the effort.

Still, some of the top state Republican prosecutors urging the Supreme Court to hear the case have acknowledged that the effort is a long shot and are seeking to distance themselves from Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud. North Dakota's Wayne Stenehjem, among the 17 attorneys general supporting the case, said North Dakota is not alleging voter fraud in the four states at issue.

“We’re careful on that,” said Stenehjem, who noted that his office has received thousands of calls and emails from constituents asking the state to support the suit. “But it’s worth it for the Supreme Court to weigh in and settle it once and for all,” he said. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox called the lawsuit “belated” and said its chances “are slim at best.” But Fox supported Texas because he said the case raised “important constitutional questions about the separation of powers and the integrity of mail-in ballots in those defendant states.”

Suits brought by Trump and his allies have failed repeatedly across the country, and the Supreme Court this week rejected a Republican bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory.

Trump looked straight past the high court loss, claiming it didn’t matter because his campaign wasn’t involved in the case, though it would have benefited if the case had continued. He has spent the week relentlessly tweeting about the Texas case with the hashtag “overturn” and claiming, falsely, that he had won the election but was robbed.

Many of the attorneys general supporting the case have shown greater political ambitions.

In Kansas, Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is considering a bid for governor in 2022, said the Texas case presented “important and potentially recurring constitutional questions.” Schmidt’s announcement that Kansas would back the effort came only hours after former Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer — another potential candidate for governor — tweeted that Schmidt’s office should join the Texas litigation.

The case has stirred Republican infighting in Utah, where GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who will become governor in January, blasted Attorney General Sean Reyes for deciding to join the suit.

“The Attorney General did not consult us before signing on to this brief, so we don’t know what his motivation is,” they said in a joint statement. “Just as we would not want other states challenging Utah’s election results, we do not think we should intervene in other states’ elections.”

Cox told reporters Thursday that there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the presidential election and “sometimes we just lose.”

“There is the possibility that voter fraud has happened, but you actually have to have evidence,” Cox said. “I keep waiting for the smoking gun that has been promised. I’ve yet to see it.”

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin say the suit is a publicity stunt.

“Since Election Day, State and Federal courts throughout the country have been flooded with frivolous lawsuits aimed at disenfranchising large swaths of voters and undermining the legitimacy of the election. The State of Texas has now added its voice to the cacophony of bogus claims," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, wrote in the state's response filed with the court Thursday.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Y'know, the Framers left it that each State was to be
responsible for the details of its own election rules.

It is just plain crazy when in these late days of the
Republic, we find that random Red states are pleading
with the Supreme Court to mess around with such rules
in other states, just because they are pissed off.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Two reasons the Texas election case is faulty: flawed legal theory and statistical fallacy

NY Times - December 10

Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, has asked the Supreme Court to do something it has never done before: disenfranchise millions of voters in four states and reverse the results of the presidential election.

The case is highly problematic from a legal perspective and is riddled with procedural and substantive shortcomings, election law experts said.

And for its argument to succeed — an outcome that is highly unlikely, according to legal scholars — a majority of the nine justices would have to overlook a debunked claim that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s chances of victory were “less than one in a quadrillion.”

Mr. Paxton is a compromised figure, under indictment in a securities fraud case and facing separate accusations, by several former employees, of abusing his office to aid a political donor.

Here are some reasons this case is probably not “the big one” like President Trump has called it.

The suit’s legal argument is deeply flawed, legal experts said.
Texas appears to have no claim to pursue the case, which would extend Monday’s deadline for certification of presidential electors in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It relies on a novel theory that Texas can dictate how other states run their elections because voting irregularities elsewhere harm the rights of Texans.

The Paxton case fails to establish why Texas has a right to interfere with the process through which other states award their votes in the Electoral College, said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University and director of its election law program. The authority to manage elections falls to the states individually, not in any sort of collective sense that the Paxton suit implies.

“They all do what they do,” Mr. Foley said. “For Texas to try to complain about what Georgia, Pennsylvania and these other states have done would be a lot like Massachusetts complaining about how Texas elects its senators.”

Typically state attorneys general are protective of their rights and wary of Supreme Court intervention, which Mr. Foley said makes this case unusual. “This is just the opposite,” he said. “It would be an unprecedented intrusion into state sovereignty.”

The four states named in the suit denounced it on Thursday and urged the court to reject it. The attorney general of Michigan, Dana Nessel, accused Mr. Paxton and other Trump allies of running “a disinformation campaign baselessly attacking the integrity of our election system.”

Even if the suit were proper, it was almost surely filed too late, as the procedures Texas objects to were in place before the election.

A Supreme Court brief opposing Texas’ requests by prominent Republicans, including former Senator John Danforth of Missouri and former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, said Texas’ filings “make a mockery of federalism and separation of powers.”

“It would violate the most fundamental constitutional principles for this court,” the brief said, “to serve as the trial court for presidential election disputes.”

Mr. Trump and his supporters have often pointed to Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election, as a hopeful historical precedent for their side. But unlike Bush v. Gore, there is not an obvious constitutional question at issue.

“It looks like an inherently political suit,” Mr. Foley said. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

In Blistering Retort, 4 Battleground States Tell Texas to Butt Out of Election

NY Times - December 10

WASHINGTON — In blistering language denouncing Republican efforts to subvert the election, the attorneys general for Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to reject a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the victories in those states by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., calling the audacious effort an affront to democracy and the rule of law.

The lawsuit, filed by the Republican attorney general of Texas and backed by his G.O.P. colleagues in 17 other states and 106 Republican members of Congress, represents the most coordinated, politicized attempt to overturn the will of the voters in recent American history. President Trump has asked to intervene in the lawsuit as well in hopes that the Supreme Court will hand him a second term he decisively lost.

The suit is the latest in a spectacularly unsuccessful legal effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn the results, with cases so lacking in evidence that judges at all levels have mocked or condemned them as without merit. Legal experts have derided this latest suit as well, which makes the audacious claim, at odds with ordinary principles of federalism, that the Supreme Court should investigate and override the election systems of four states at the behest of a fifth.

The responses by the four states — represented by three Democratic attorneys general and, in Georgia, a Republican one — comprehensively critiqued Texas’s unusual request to have the Supreme Court act as a kind of trial court in examining supposed election irregularities with the goal of throwing out millions of votes.

“The court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” a brief for Pennsylvania said.

“Let us be clear,” the brief continued. “Texas invites this court to overthrow the votes of the American people and choose the next president of the United States. That Faustian invitation must be firmly rejected.”

Christopher M. Carr, Georgia’s attorney general, seemed particularly taken aback by Texas’s suit.

“This election cycle,” he wrote, “Georgia did what the Constitution empowered it to do: it implemented processes for the election, administered the election in the face of logistical challenges brought on by Covid-19, and confirmed and certified the election results — again and again and again. Yet Texas has sued Georgia anyway.”

The briefs said Texas was in no position to tell other states how to run their elections, adding that its filing was littered with falsehoods.

“Texas proposes an extraordinary intrusion into Wisconsin’s and the other defendant states’ elections, a task that the Constitution leaves to each state,” Wisconsin’s brief said. “Wisconsin has conducted its election and its voters have chosen a winning candidate for their state. Texas’s bid to nullify that choice is devoid of a legal foundation or a factual basis.”

The Republican attempt to overturn the election in the Supreme Court, coming just days before an Electoral College majority is set to vote for Mr. Biden on Monday, is being driven by conservative allies of Mr. Trump who currently enjoy his political favor and claim he has been treated unfairly. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Texas replies to 4 states in its lawsuit to overturn their election results

NY Times - December 11

The justices of the Supreme Court met Friday morning, by telephone, for their usual private conference to discuss which cases they might add to their docket.

They almost certainly discussed an extraordinary lawsuit that Texas has sought to file directly in the court against four battleground states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. The court could act on that request at any time and may well issue an order on Friday.

Texas filed replies on Friday morning to a set of blistering briefs from the four states that had called its request an affront to democracy and the rule of law. Texas asked the court to hear its case and, in the meantime, to bar the four states “from certifying presidential electors and from having such electors vote in the Electoral College.”

Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, pleaded in an appearance on Fox News on Friday that the Supreme Court should “at least give us a chance to have our case heard.”

“The Constitution was set up to give us an opportunity, instead of fighting each other with guns, to go to court and appropriately settle it civilly,” Mr. Paxton said, in response to criticism from the defendant states that the suit was a “seditious abuse” of the courts.

Mr. Paxton has fallen under legal scrutiny for his actions as Texas’ attorney general after top aides accused him in a whistle-blower-style letter of committing bribery, abuse of office and other “potential criminal offenses.”

Legal experts said Texas’ lawsuit was filled with procedural and substantive shortcomings and that the Supreme Court was unlikely to have any appetite for wading into it.

On Tuesday, the court rejected a more modest request from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn the election results in that state. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...


Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Overturn Election

Fred C. Dobbs said...

NY Times - December 11

The suit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, sought to bar Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from casting their electoral votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday rejected an audacious lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the presidential election results in four battleground states captured by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”

The move, coupled with a one-sentence order on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that the court refused to be drawn into President Trump’s losing campaign to overturn the results of the election last month.

There will continue to be scattered litigation brush fires around the nation from Mr. Trump’s allies, but as a practical matter the Supreme Court’s action puts an end to any prospect that Mr. Trump will win in court what he lost at the polls.

Texas’ lawsuit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, challenged election procedures in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It asked the court to bar those states from casting their electoral votes for Mr. Biden and to shift the selection of electors to the states’ legislatures. That would have required the justices to discard millions of votes. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Supreme Court rejects Texas lawsuit to overturn Biden’s election victory

AP via @BostonGlobe - December 11

HOUSTON — The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lawsuit backed by President Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, ending a desperate attempt to get legal issues rejected by state and federal judges before the nation’s highest court.

The court’s order was its second this week rebuffing Republican requests that it get involved in the 2020 election outcome. The justices turned away an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday.

The Electoral College meets Monday to formally elect Biden as the next president.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

‘An Indelible Stain’: How the GOP Tried to Topple a Pillar of Democracy

NY Times - December 12

The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump
was also a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders who
had put their interests ahead of the country’s.

The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump’s desperate bid for a second term not only shredded his effort to overturn the will of voters: It also was a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders in Congress and the states who were willing to damage American democracy by embracing a partisan power grab over a free and fair election.

The court’s decision on Friday night, an inflection point after weeks of legal flailing by Mr. Trump and ahead of the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday, leaves the president’s party in an extraordinary position. Through their explicit endorsements or complicity of silence, much of the G.O.P. leadership now shares responsibility for the quixotic attempt to ignore the nation’s founding principles and engineer a different verdict from the one voters cast on Election Day.

Many regular Republicans supported this effort, too — a sign that Mr. Trump has not just bent the party to his will, but pressed a mainstay of American politics for nearly two centuries into the service of overturning an election outcome and assaulting public faith in the electoral system. The G.O.P. sought to undo the vote by such spurious means that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court quickly rejected the argument.

Even some Republican leaders delivered a withering assessment of the 126 G.O.P. House members and 18 attorneys general who chose to side with Mr. Trump over the democratic process, by backing a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to throw out some 20 million votes in four key states that cemented the president’s loss.

“The act itself by the 126 members of the United States House of Representatives, is an affront to the country,” said Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “It’s an offense to the Constitution and it leaves an indelible stain that will be hard for these 126 members to wipe off their political skin for a long time to come.”

Speaking on CNN on Friday, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican, said, “What happened with the Supreme Court, that’s kind of it, where they’ve kind of exhausted all the legal challenges; we’ve got to move on.” It was time, he said, for Congress to “actually do something for the American people, surrounding the vaccines, surrounding Covid.”

With direct buy-in from senior officials like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and the Republican leader in House, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the president’s effort required the party to promote false theory upon unsubstantiated claim upon outright lie about unproved, widespread fraud — in an election that Republican and Democratic election officials agreed was notably smooth given the challenges of the pandemic.

And it meant that Republican leaders now stand for a new notion: that the final decisions of voters can be challenged without a basis in fact if the results are not to the liking of the losing side, running counter to decades of work by the United States to convince developing nations that peaceful transfers of power are key to any freely elected government’s credibility. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Democrats, and Even Some Republicans, Cheer as Justices Spurn Trump

NY Times - December 11

While a top legal expert exhaled that “Our institutions held,”
the Texas Republican Party chairman suggested secession.

The rejection came swiftly. The celebrations came just as fast.

The Supreme Court’s unsigned order on Friday rejecting Texas’ bid to toss the results of the presidential election in four states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. unceremoniously ended a case that President Trump had teased only hours earlier as “perhaps the most important case in history.”

Democrats cheered the ruling as a symbolic final blow to more than a month of failed legal challenges by Mr. Trump and his allies and a victory for the will of voters who delivered Mr. Biden 306 Electoral College votes and a margin of more than seven million in the popular vote.

“The will of the people will be heard,” New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, a Democrat, said on Twitter. Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania and a Democrat, said that the Supreme Court had recognized the lawsuit as a “seditious abuse of the judicial process.”

Though legal experts never gave the case much of a chance, it drew support from more than 120 Republican members of Congress and 17 Republican attorneys general. On Friday night, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska was the highest-level Republican to break with Mr. Trump and much of his own party in applauding the ruling.

“Since election night, a lot of people have been confusing voters by spinning Kenyan Birther-type, ‘Chavez rigged the election from the grave’ conspiracy theories,” Mr. Sasse said in a statement, “But every American who cares about the rule of law should take comfort that the Supreme Court — including all three of President Trump’s picks — closed the book on this nonsense.”

Among those who had signed on in support of the lawsuit on Friday was Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican. When the case was dismissed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the lawmakers who signed onto the lawsuit “brought dishonor to the House” and chastised them for choosing “to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The Supreme Court shot down Trump’s election lawsuit

via @BostonGlobe - December 12

Here’s a look at some of the blistering reactions... (at the link)

(But here's a taste:)

The Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board apologized to its readers Friday morning for endorsing Republican Representative Michael Waltz in the 2020 general election. Waltz was one of the 126 House Republicans that signed on to back the Texas lawsuit.

“We had no idea, no way of knowing at the time, that Waltz was not committed to democracy,” the editorial said. “During our endorsement interview with the incumbent congressman, we didn’t think to ask, ‘Would you support an effort to throw out the votes of tens of millions of Americans in four states in order to overturn a presidential election and hand it to the person who lost?’ Our bad.”

Waltz was one of the 10 Florida Republican members of Congress to support the lawsuit.

“They wanted to undo 231 years of election tradition and norms so their guy, Donald Trump, can have another four years in office,” the editorial continued. “And so the president won’t send out a mean tweet that might torpedo their chances for reelection.”

The newspaper said every American should be “appalled at the attempted usurpation, and at elected officials taking part in this terrifying fiasco.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

"Supreme Court rejects Texas lawsuit to overturn Biden’s election victory"

HOUSTON — The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lawsuit backed by President Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, ending a desperate attempt to get legal issues rejected by state and federal judges before the nation’s highest court. ...

By the way, this second Court decision on the 2020 presidential election was
not precisely unanimous, because Justices Alito & Thomas dissented, albeit
partially. It seems the two hold that when states present cases to the Court,
their arguments should be heard no matter what. Scheduled Electoral College
votes (on Monday) not withstanding. Alito went on to state that he/they would
not have agreed to what Texas was requesting, but felt that their arguments
should have been heard.
Perhaps they'd just like to hear Ted Cruz talk.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Al Gore: Where I Find Hope

NY Times - December 12

The Biden administration will have the opportunity to restore
confidence in America and take on the worsening climate crisis.

This weekend marks two anniversaries that, for me, point a way forward through the accumulated wreckage of the past year.

The first is personal. Twenty years ago, I ended my presidential campaign after the Supreme Court abruptly decided the 2000 election. As the incumbent vice president, my duty then turned to presiding over the tallying of Electoral College votes in Congress to elect my opponent. This process will unfold again on Monday as the college’s electors ratify America’s choice of Joe Biden as the next president, ending a long and fraught campaign and reaffirming the continuity of our democracy.

The second anniversary is universal and hopeful. This weekend also marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. One of President Trump’s first orders of business nearly four years ago was to pull the United States out of the accord, signed by 194 other nations to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases threatening the planet. With Mr. Trump heading for the exit, President-elect Biden plans to rejoin the agreement on his Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Now, with Mr. Biden about to take up residence in the White House, the United States has the chance to reclaim America’s leadership position in the world after four years in the back seat.

Mr. Biden’s challenges will be monumental. Most immediately, he assumes office in the midst of the chaos from the colossal failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation that has resulted.

And though the pandemic fills our field of vision at the moment, it is only the most urgent of the multiple crises facing the country and planet, including 40 years of economic stagnation for middle-income families; hyper-inequality of incomes and wealth, with high levels of poverty; horrific structural racism; toxic partisanship; the impending collapse of nuclear arms control agreements; an epistemological crisis undermining the authority of knowledge; recklessly unprincipled behavior by social media companies; and, most dangerous of all, the climate crisis. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

What lies before us is the opportunity to build a more just and equitable way of life for all humankind. This potential new beginning comes at a rare moment when it may be possible to break the stranglehold of the past over the future, when the trajectory of history might be altered by what we choose to do with a new vision.

With the coronavirus death toll rising rapidly, the battle against the pandemic is desperate, but it will be won. Yet we will still be in the midst of an even more life-threatening battle — to protect the Earth’s climate balance — with consequences measured not only in months and years, but also in centuries and millenniums. Winning will require us to re-establish our compact with nature and our place within the planet’s ecological systems, for the sake not only of civilization’s survival but also of the preservation of the rich web of biodiversity on which human life depends.

The daunting prospect of successfully confronting such large challenges at a time after bitter divisions were exposed and weaponized in the presidential campaign has caused many people to despair. Yet these problems, however profound, are all solvable.

Look at the pandemic. Despite the policy failures and human tragedies, at least one success now burns bright: Scientists have harnessed incredible breakthroughs in biotechnology to produce several vaccines in record time. With medical trials demonstrating their safety and efficacy, these new vaccines prefigure an end to the pandemic in the new year. This triumph alone should put an end to the concerted challenges to facts and science that have threatened to undermine reason as the basis for decision-making.

Similarly, even as the climate crisis rapidly worsens, scientists, engineers and business leaders are making use of stunning advances in technology to end the world’s dependence on fossil fuels far sooner than was hoped possible.

Mr. Biden will take office at a time when humankind faces the choice of life over death. Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of severe consequences — coastal inundations and worsening droughts, among other catastrophes — if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Slowing the rapid warming of the planet will require a unified global effort. Mr. Biden can lead by strengthening the country’s commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement — something the country is poised to do thanks to the work of cities, states, businesses and investors, which have continued to make progress despite resistance from the Trump administration. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Republicans Find Themselves Speechless Following a Supreme Court Defeat

NY Times - December 12

A ruling against President Trump appears to leave no avenue forward
for the president, forcing Republicans to “play the hand we’re dealt.”

A day after President Trump’s stinging defeat in the Supreme Court, Republicans around the country seemed to be having trouble finding the right words.

The bellicose statements from some quarters that had characterized the postelection period — claims of switched and missing votes, a “rigged” election and even threats of secession from Texas Republicans after the ruling on Friday — had given way to something resembling muted resignation and an acceptance of the inevitable.

Many were completely silent, even in the face of a tweet from Mr. Trump himself in which he vowed, “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!”

Of 17 Republican attorneys general who had endorsed the case, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, none agreed to be interviewed by The New York Times. Mr. Paxton, who had issued a statement calling the decision “unfortunate,” did not respond to a request for comment.

Other attorneys general who issued statements mostly seemed to acknowledge that all legal avenues had been exhausted in efforts to overturn the election results.

Mike Hunter, the Oklahoma attorney general, saw the end of the road.

“The Supreme Court has ruled. The Electoral College is going to meet Monday. We’ve got to accept the results,” Mr. Hunter said in a Facebook interview in Oklahoma City. “We need to play the hand we’re dealt.”

A statement by Wayne Stenehjem, the North Dakota attorney general, echoed that. “It now appears that all reasonably arguable legal challenges have been exhausted, and the members of the Electoral College will meet across the country on Monday.”

Derek Schmidt, the Kansas attorney general, summed it up with a statement saying, “It is time to put this election behind us.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who had disagreed with the decision by his state’s attorney general to join the case, said there was no viable path forward for Mr. Trump.

“The electoral votes should be cast on Monday, and all indications are that Joe Biden will be the president-elect at that time,” Mr. Hutchinson said in a telephone interview, urging the country to move on. “It’s the tradition of our country and the history of our democracy that we do move on beyond that hard-fought election and we unite and we recognize the president-elect’s leadership.”

Mr. Hutchinson said he believed the effort led by Texas was based on a flawed legal theory, a view shared by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who had been among the first in her party to congratulate President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory. She called the court’s ruling “an unsurprising affirmation of the principle that one state cannot tell another state how to run its elections.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

On Capitol Hill, the response was particularly muted among the 126 House Republicans who signed onto an extraordinary amicus brief backing the suit. Aides to Representatives Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the party’s top leaders in the House, had no comment. And questions and requests for comments sent to the office of more than two dozen top congressional Republicans on Saturday were either declined or ignored.

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who assembled the House’s friend of the court brief, merely posted a quote on Twitter from John Quincy Adams, implying he had done what he could: “Duty is ours, results are God’s.”

Just one lawmaker who signed on, Representative Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, appeared newly ready to accept the president’s road had run out.

In a statement, he called the Texas suit “the best and likely last opportunity” to get the Supreme Court to rule on the election, and said the court’s decision “closed the books on the challenges to the 2020 election results.” ...

If anything, the brushback from the Supreme Court served to highlight the divisions running through the president’s party more than a month after Election Day.

“At some point, we have to be that nation of laws,” Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said on Fox, as he sought to instill confidence among fellow Republicans that the election had been decided fairly, and in Mr. Biden’s favor.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, was harsher, warning his party on Twitter against excesses like the secession talk thrown around on Friday by Texas G.O.P. chairman Allen West or any further efforts by Republicans to stoke false hopes among their voters.

“I want to be clear: the Supreme Court is not the deep state,” Mr. Kinzinger wrote in one tweet. “The case had no merit and was dispatched 9-0. There was no win here. Complaining and bellyaching is not a manly trait, it’s actually sad. Real men accept a loss with grace.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

After Supreme Court dismisses Texas case, Trump says his efforts to challenge election results are ‘not over’

via @BostonGlobe - Washington Post - December 13, 2020

President Donald Trump signaled over the weekend that he will continue to challenge the results of the 2020 election, even after the electoral college meets Monday in most state capitols to cast its votes.

In a Fox News Channel interview that aired Sunday morning, Trump repeated his false claims of election fraud and said his legal team will keep pursuing challenges despite the Supreme Court's dismissal of a long-shot bid led by the Texas attorney general to overturn the results in four states that President-elect Joe Biden won.

"No, it's not over," Trump told host Brian Kilmeade in the interview, which was taped Saturday at the Army-Navy game at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. "We keep going, and we're going to continue to go forward. We have numerous local cases. We're, you know, in some of the states that got rigged and robbed from us. We won every one of them. We won Pennsylvania. We won Michigan. We won Georgia by a lot."

Trump lost those swing states and others to Biden, who won 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232.

Kilmeade noted that the electoral college will meet Monday and the ballots will then be transmitted to Congress, which will officially count the votes on Jan. 6. Asked how that process affects his chances for successfully challenging the results, Trump demurred.

"I don't know," he said. "We're going to speed it up as much as we can, but you can only go so fast. They give us very little time."

Public polling shows that many Republican voters doubt the legitimacy of the 2020 election, prompting some observers to worry that Trump's refusal to concede will further divide the country.

Nonetheless, the president has continued to make unfounded accusations of fraud, calling the election "a sham and a shame" and dismissing concerns that his actions are driving Americans further apart.

"No," Trump told Kilmeade. "I worry about the country having an illegitimate president. That's what I worry about. A president that lost and lost badly. This wasn't, like, a close election. ... I didn't lose. The election was rigged."

Asked whether he plans to attend Biden's inauguration next month, Trump declined to say.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” he said.


Just to review...

40 days of denial and disinformation

via @BostonGlobe - December 12

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump Allies Eye Long-Shot Election Reversal in Congress, Testing Pence

NY Times - December 12

Some House Republicans plan to try to use Congress’s tallying of electoral results on Jan. 6 to tip the election to President Trump. The attempt will put Republicans in a pinch.

President Trump lost key swing states by clear margins. His barrage of lawsuits claiming widespread voting fraud has been almost universally dismissed, most recently by the Supreme Court. And on Monday, the Electoral College will formally cast a majority of its votes for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But as the president continues to refuse to concede, a small group of his most loyal backers in Congress is plotting a final-stage challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives in early January to try to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory.

Constitutional scholars and even members of the president’s own party say the effort is all but certain to fail. But the looming battle on Jan. 6 is likely to culminate in a messy and deeply divisive spectacle that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the excruciating position of having to declare once and for all that Mr. Trump has indeed lost the election.

The fight promises to shape how Mr. Trump’s base views the election for years to come, and to pose yet another awkward test of allegiance for Republicans who have privately hoped that the Electoral College vote this week will be the final word on the election result.

For the vice president, whom the Constitution assigns the task of tallying the results and declaring a winner, the episode could be particularly torturous, forcing him to balance his loyalty to Mr. Trump with his constitutional duties and considerations about his own political future.

The effort is being led by Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, a backbench conservative. Along with a group of allies in the House, he is eyeing challenges to the election results in five different states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they claim varying degrees of fraud or illegal voting took place, despite certification by the voting authorities and no evidence of widespread impropriety.

“We have a superior role under the Constitution than the Supreme Court does, than any federal court judge does, than any state court judge does,” Mr. Brooks said in an interview. “What we say, goes. That’s the final verdict.”

Under rules laid out in the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act of 1887, their challenges must be submitted in writing with a senator’s signature also affixed. No Republican senator has yet stepped forward to say he or she will back such an effort, though a handful of reliable allies of Mr. Trump, including Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have signaled they would be open to doing so.

The president has praised Mr. Brooks on Twitter, but has thus far taken no evident interest in the strategy. Aides say he has been more focused on battling to overturn the results in court.

Even if a senator did agree, constitutional scholars say the process is intended to be an arduous one. Once an objection is heard from a member of each house of Congress, senators and representatives will retreat to their chambers on opposite sides of the Capitol for a two-hour debate and then a vote on whether to disqualify a state’s votes. Both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would have to agree to toss out a state’s electoral votes — something that has not happened since the 19th century. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Several Senate Republicans — including Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — have forcefully rejected the idea of overturning the results, and their votes would be enough for Mr. Biden to prevail with the support of Democrats.

“The Jan. 6 meeting is going to confirm that regardless of how many objections get filed and who signs on, they are not going to affect the outcome of the process,” said Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law professor at Ohio State University who has written extensively on the electoral process. “We can say that with clear confidence.”

But he noted that the session could still carry consequences for the next few years. If even one Republican senator backed the effort, it could ensure that the partisan cloud hanging over the election would darken Mr. Biden’s presidency for years to come. If none did, it could send a definitive message to the country that despite Mr. Trump’s bluster, the party trusted the results of the electoral process and was finally ready to recognize Mr. Biden as the rightful winner.

Mr. Brooks is far from the first lawmaker to try to use the tallying process to challenge the results of a bitter election loss. House Democrats made attempts in 2001, 2005 and even 2017, but they were essentially acts of protest after their party’s nominee had already accepted defeat.

What is different now is Mr. Trump’s historic defiance of democratic norms and his party’s willing acquiescence. If Mr. Trump were to bless the effort to challenge the congressional tally, he could force Republicans into a difficult decision about whether to support an assault on the election results that is essentially doomed or risk his ire. Many Republicans are already fearful of being punished by voters for failing to keep up his fight.

The dilemma is particularly acute for Mr. Pence, who is eyeing his own presidential run in 2024. As president of the Senate, he has the constitutionally designated task of opening and tallying envelopes sent from all 50 states and announcing their electoral results.

But given Mr. Trump’s penchant for testing every law and norm in Washington, he could insist that Mr. Pence refuse to play that role. And either way, it will call for a final performance of the delicate dance Mr. Pence has performed for four years, trying to maintain Mr. Trump’s confidence while adhering to the law. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Can Congress Overturn the Electoral College Results? Probably Not

NY Times - December 14

The Electoral College’s certification on Monday of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory will leave just one final venue for President Trump and his supporters to challenge the results of the 2020 election: a joint session of Congress in January.

Every four years, the House and Senate come together to formally tabulate the electoral votes and raise any final concerns about the results. Normally, it is a perfunctory confirmation of the Electoral College vote. But this year, some of the president’s most strident supporters are threatening to transform it into a messy last stand by objecting to the results.

They are all but certain to fail, but not before a potentially divisive spectacle on the floor of the House that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the politically perilous position of confirming that Mr. Trump lost. Here’s how the process works.

The Constitution gives Congress the final say in the election.
When the Electoral College meets on Monday, each state will formally cast its electoral votes for president. Mr. Biden is expected to receive 306 to Mr. Trump’s 232, making him the winner.

But the Constitution leaves it up to Congress to make the results final shortly before Inauguration Day. Article II, Section 1 says, “The president of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted.”

To that end, on Jan. 6, envelopes containing certificates showing the electoral results from all 50 states will be carried into the House chamber inside two bound mahogany boxes that date from the 19th century. Representatives of the newly sworn-in House and Senate, called “tellers” for the occasion, will pull them out one by one to determine whether each “seems to be regular in form and authentic” and present them to the president of the Senate — in this case, Mr. Pence — for inspection and approval.

Lawmakers can object to any state’s results, but there is a high bar for rejection.
Congress has long interpreted the constitutional language to mean that lawmakers can lodge objections to the results as they are tallied. The current process was circumscribed in the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

It says that as the tellers read through the electoral results state by state, members of the House and Senate can submit objections in writing to a given state’s results. The objections only hold weight if they are co-signed by at least one member of each chamber; if not, they fail and the session quickly moves on.

It is not uncommon for a member of just one chamber to submit an objection as an act of protest. It happened most recently in 2017, when several Democrats objected to Mr. Trump’s win in key states, based on Russian election interference. But Mr. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, had already conceded and no Democratic senator joined the effort, so the objections were quickly rejected. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Instances of a House member and a senator teaming up are more rare and last took place in 2005. If it occurred, the joint session would immediately pause so lawmakers could go back to their respective chambers to debate the objection for up to two hours. They would then vote on whether to toss out the electoral results of the state in question. Both chambers would have to agree to reject the votes, something that has not happened since the Reconstruction era.

“By ensuring that both chambers must reject a submission, you reduce the risk of Congress going rogue electorally and repudiating the results of a state,” said Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law professor at Ohio State University who studies the electoral process.

Win or lose, Trump’s allies can succeed in casting a shadow on Biden’s victory.
Mr. Trump’s allies, led by Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, have their sights set on challenging five states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they claim that widespread voting fraud occurred, despite the fact that all five states have certified that the results are valid and there is no evidence of any widespread impropriety.

The key will be recruiting a Republican senator to join them, and so far none has publicly committed to doing so. Without a senator, their efforts will quickly fail and Mr. Biden could be formally declared president-elect in under an hour.

If a senator did sign on to challenge the results, Republicans could force Congress into a final, messy debate over Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and his baseless claims of election fraud, which have been roundly rejected in court. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Given Democrats’ control of the House and Republicans’ narrow Senate majority, almost no one expects that they would have the votes to succeed in disqualifying a state — much less five. But the debate and vote alone would put Republicans in a difficult position, forcing them to choose between an uncompromising president and their belief in the electoral process. Their choices could likely go a long way in setting the future course of the party, faith in American elections and the perceived legitimacy of a Biden presidency by the Republican base.

Pence may have the most uncomfortable task of all.

At the end of the process, it will be left to Mr. Pence to declare Mr. Biden the winner once and for all, albeit in tangled prose.

“This announcement of the state of the vote by the president of the Senate shall be deemed sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice president of the United States, each for a term beginning on the 20th day of January 2017,” Mr. Biden himself declared when he oversaw the tallying for Mr. Trump’s vote as vice president in 2017.

Mr. Pence is far from the first vice president to be put in the uncomfortable position of certifying his own ticket’s loss. Overseeing the session in 2001, Vice President Al Gore had to rule against objections that would have delivered the presidency to himself if they were sustained, eventually declaring George W. Bush the victor.

But Mr. Pence serves a uniquely mercurial president with a penchant for disregarding for the democratic process. The joint session will be a final dilemma, forcing him to balance his loyalty to Mr. Trump and his own political interests against his constitutional and legal obligations.

Precedent and statute give the vice president little wiggle room.

“There’s not much he can do,” Donald A. Ritchie, the Senate’s former in-house historian, said in an interview. “His job is really just to read them out aloud. It’s up to the members if they are going to do anything.”

His only other option may simply be not to show up, leaving the task of overseeing the session to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who is the Senate president pro tempore, a distinction reserved for the longest-serving member of the chamber’s majority party.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Electoral College Vote Officially Affirms Biden’s Victory

NY Times - December 14

Milestone in Process That Trump Has Tried to Subvert

Joe Biden was affirmed as the president-elect after a day marked
by an unusual level of scrutiny for what is normally a procedural affair.

The vote follows six weeks of unprecedented efforts by President Trump to
intervene in the electoral process and change the outcome of an election he lost.

Despite fears of unrest, the electoral process unfolds smoothly across the country

Fred C. Dobbs said...

After Weeks of Silence, McConnell Congratulates Biden

Senator Mitch McConnell acknowledged President-elect Joe
Biden’s win, saying “the Electoral College has spoken.”

He also congratulated Senator Kamala Harris and said
“Americans can take pride” that the nation has its
first female vice president-elect.

After weeks of declining to recognize Biden’s win, Mitch McConnell congratulates him for being the president-elect.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

NYT: Breaking with President Trump’s drive to overturn his election loss, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory and began a campaign to keep fellow Republicans from joining a last-ditch effort to reverse the outcome when Congress tallies the results next month. ...

A short time later, on a private call with Senate Republicans, Mr. McConnell and his top deputies pleaded with their colleagues not to join members of the House in objecting to the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to ratify the Electoral College’s decision, according to three people familiar with the remarks.

A small group of House members, led by Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, plan to use a constitutional process to object to the inclusion of five key battleground states that day. There is almost no chance they would succeed, but if they could convince at least one senator to join them, they could turn the counting session into a chaotic last stand for Mr. Trump.

So far, no senator has committed to joining them. And though Mr. McConnell could not stop one of them from doing so if they wished, he made clear that the challenge would be futile and embarrassing for the Senate. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump’s Future: Tons of Cash and Plenty of Options for Spending It

NY Times - December 18

Donald J. Trump will exit the White House as a private citizen next month perched atop a pile of campaign cash unheard-of for an outgoing president, and with few legal limits on how he can spend it.

Deflated by a loss he has yet to acknowledge, Mr. Trump has cushioned the blow by coaxing huge sums of money from his loyal supporters — often under dubious pretenses — raising roughly $250 million since Election Day along with the national party.

More than $60 million of that sum has gone to a new political action committee, according to people familiar with the matter, which Mr. Trump will control after he leaves office. Those funds, which far exceed what previous outgoing presidents had at their disposal, provide him with tremendous flexibility for his post-presidential ambitions: He could use the money to quell rebel factions within the party, reward loyalists, fund his travels and rallies, hire staff, pay legal bills and even lay the groundwork for a far-from-certain 2024 run.

The post-election blitz of fund-raising has cemented Mr. Trump’s position as an unrivaled force and the pre-eminent fund-raiser of the Republican Party even in defeat. His largest single day for online donations actually came after Election Day — raising almost $750,000 per hour on Nov. 6. So did his second biggest day. And his third.

“Right now, he is the Republican Party,” said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who worked on Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. “The party knows that virtually every dollar they’ve raised in the last four years, it’s because of Donald Trump.”

Mr. Trump has long acted with few inhibitions when it comes to spending other people’s money, and he has spent millions of campaign dollars on his own family businesses in the last five years. But new records show an even more intricate intermingling of Mr. Trump’s political and familial interests than was previously known. ...

For Mr. Trump, the quarter-billion dollars he and the party raised over six weeks is enough to pay off all of his remaining campaign bills and to fund his fruitless legal challenges and still leave tens of millions of dollars.

Mr. Trump’s plans, however, remain extremely fluid. His refusal to accept Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory has stunted internal political planning, aides say, with some advisers in his shrinking circle of confidantes hesitant to even approach him about setting a course of action for 2021 and beyond.

Those who have spoken with Mr. Trump say he appears shrunken, and over his job; this detachment is reflected in a Twitter feed that remains stubbornly more focused on unfounded allegations of fraud than on the death toll from the raging pandemic.

Mr. Trump has talked about running again in 2024 — but he also may not. He has created this new PAC, but a different political entity could still be in the works, people involved in the discussions said. Talk of counterprogramming Mr. Biden’s inauguration with a splashy event or an announcement of his own is currently on hold.

Mr. Trump had been tentatively planning to go to Georgia on Saturday, according to a senior Republican official, to support the two Republicans in Senate runoff races there. But he is still angry at the state’s Republican governor and secretary of state for accepting the election result, and simply doesn’t want to make the trip. There is some discussion about him going after the Christmas holiday, but it’s not clear he will be in a more magnanimous mood by then. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

But even as he displays indifference toward the Georgia races, the Trump political apparatus has taken advantage of the grass-roots energy and excitement over the two runoffs to juice its own fund-raising. Email and text solicitations have pitched Trump supporters to give to a “Georgia Election Fund,” even though no funds go directly to either Republican senator on the ballot, irritating some Senate G.O.P. strategists.

Instead, the fine print shows 75 percent of the donations to the Georgia fund go to Mr. Trump’s new PAC, called Save America, with 25 percent to the Republican National Committee.

After weeks of shouting “FRAUD” to supporters in emails and asking them to back an “Election Defense Fund” (which also sent 75 percent of donations to his new PAC), the Trump operation has subtly shifted its tone and focus, returning to more sustainable pre-election themes, like hawking signed hats and opposing socialism.

Mr. Trump and the R.N.C. did spend about $15 million combined in legal costs and other spending related to disputing the election between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23, according to federal records. ...

Just since mid-October, the Trump Victory Committee, a joint account operated with the R.N.C., has paid more than $710,000 to the Trump Hotel Collection, while his re-election account has continued to pay more than $37,000 per month to rent space in Trump Tower.

It is not clear where his post-presidential operation will be based or who will run it, although several advisers expect it will be in Florida, where he is planning to move.

But as a former president, Mr. Trump will be allocated a certain amount of taxpayer money for staff and office space for life after leaving the White House, and he is beginning to have discussions about which aides from the West Wing will accompany him.

His senior political advisers — Bill Stepien, Justin Clark and Jason Miller, among others — are among those who may stay involved with him politically.

While Mr. Trump’s post-presidency remains largely shapeless, he has demonstrated his desire to exert his control on national politics, especially among Republicans. ...

Mr. Trump’s future ambitions have also created a cloud over who exactly will control some of the most valuable assets from the 2020 campaign, including Mr. Trump’s lengthy list of supporters from whom he has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Both the R.N.C. and Mr. Trump are entitled to some of this valuable voter data, and efforts at “decoupling” the data are underway but expected to last months.

The R.N.C. has typically stayed out of presidential primaries, but no former president in the modern era has seriously considered running again after losing re-election, putting the party apparatus in uncharted territory. His embrace of Ms. McDaniel as an ally in running the party could further complicate matters.

“There’s no bully pulpit as large as the presidency, but nevertheless, President Trump is likely to play a significant role in the future of the Republican Party,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “It’s very difficult to imagine him following the same pattern as George W. Bush, Barack Obama and other presidents have followed in keeping their mouths shut and letting the new president try to govern.”

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump downplays Russia in first comments on cyberattack

via @BostonGlobe - December 19

WASHINGTON (AP) — Contradicting his secretary of state and other top officials, President Donald Trump on Saturday suggested without evidence that China — not Russia — may be behind the cyberattack against the United States and tried to minimized its impact.

In his first comments on the breach, Trump scoffed at the focus on the Kremlin and downplayed the intrusions, which the nation’s cybersecurity agency has warned posed a “grave” risk to government and private networks.

“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control,” Trump tweeted. He also claimed the media are “petrified” of “discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).”

There is no evidence to suggest that is the case. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Friday that Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the cyberattack against the United States.

“This was a very significant effort and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” he said in the interview with radio talk show host Mark Levin.

Officials at the White House had been prepared to put out a statement Friday afternoon that accused Russia of being “the main actor” in the hack, but were told at the last minute to stand down, according to one U.S. official familiar with the conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

It is not clear whether Pompeo got that message before his interview, but officials are now scrambling to figure out how to square the disparate accounts. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the statement or the basis of Trump’s claims.

Throughout his presidency, Trump has refused to blame Russia for well-documented hostilities, including its interference in the 2016 election to help him get elected. He blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has endorsed allowing Russia to return to the G-7 group of nations and has never taken the country to task for allegedly putting bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Pompeo in the interview said the government was still “unpacking” the cyberattack and some of it would likely remain classified.

“But suffice it to say there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of U.S. government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” he said.

Though Pompeo was the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Russia for the attacks, cybersecurity experts and other U.S. officials have been clear over the past week that the operation appears to be the work of Russia. There has been no credible suggestion that any other country — including China — is responsible.

Democrats in Congress who have received classified briefings have also affirmed publicly that Russia, which in 2014 hacked the State Department and interfered through hacking in the 2016 presidential election, was behind it. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist as Special Counsel

NY Times - December 19

President Trump on Friday discussed naming Sidney Powell, who as a lawyer for his campaign team unleashed conspiracy theories about a Venezuelan plot to rig voting machines in the United States, to be a special counsel overseeing an investigation of voter fraud, according to two people briefed on the discussion.

It was unclear if Mr. Trump will move ahead with such a plan.

Most of his advisers opposed the idea, two of the people briefed on the discussion said, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. In recent days Mr. Giuliani has sought to have the Department of Homeland Security join the campaign’s efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the election.

Mr. Giuliani joined the discussion by phone initially, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times, according to one of the people briefed on what took place.

Ms. Powell’s client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whom the president recently pardoned, was also there, two of the people briefed on the meeting said. Some senior administration officials drifted in and out of the meeting.

During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea.

Ms. Powell’s ideas were shot down by every other Trump adviser present, all of whom repeatedly pointed out that she had yet to back up her claims with proof. At one point, one person briefed on the meeting said, she produced several affidavits, but upon inspection they were all signed by a man she has previously used as an expert witness, whose credentials have been called into question.

The White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly and aggressively pushed back on the ideas being proposed, which went beyond the special counsel idea, those briefed on the meeting said.

Mr. Cipollone told Mr. Trump there was no constitutional authority for what was being discussed, one of the people briefed on the meeting said. Other advisers from the White House and the Trump campaign delivered the same message throughout the meeting, which stretched on for a long period of time.

Mr. Trump was defeated in the election by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. by more than 7 million votes. The states have confirmed Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory by a margin of 306-232. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement, and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter

Washington Post via @BostonGlobe - December 20

WASHINGTON - As the number of coronavirus cases ticked upward in mid-November - worse than the frightening days of spring and ahead of an expected surge after families congregated for Thanksgiving - four doctors on President Donald Trump’s task force decided to stage an intervention.

After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions.

The doctors explained that the solutions were simple and had long been clear - among them, to leverage the power of the presidential bully pulpit to persuade all Americans to wear masks, especially the legions of Trump supporters refusing to do so, and to dramatically expand testing.

"It was something that we were almost repetitively saying whenever we would get into the Situation Room," said Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Whenever we got the opportunity to say, 'This is really going to be a problem because the baseline of infections was really quite high to begin with, so you had a lot of community spread.' "

On Nov. 19, hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against Thanksgiving travel, Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the coronavirus task force, agreed to hold a full news conference with some of the doctors - something they had not done since the summer. But much to the doctors' dismay, Pence did not forcefully implore people to wear masks, nor did the administration take meaningful action on testing.

As for the president, he did not appear at all.

Trump went days without mentioning the pandemic other than to celebrate progress on vaccines. The president by then had abdicated his responsibility to manage the public health crisis and instead used his megaphone almost exclusively to spread misinformation in a failed attempt to overturn the results of the election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

"I think he's just done with covid," said one of Trump's closest advisers who, like many others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal deliberations and operations. "I think he put it on a timetable and he's done with covid. ... It just exceeded the amount of time he gave it."

Now, a month later, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States is reaching records daily. The nation's death count is rising steadily as well, this past week surpassing 300,000 - a total that had seemed unfathomable earlier this year. The dark winter is here, hospitalizations risk breaching capacities, and health professionals predict it will get worse before it gets better. ...

(Continues at the link.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Surprise Medical Bills Cost Americans Millions

Congress Is Finally Set to Ban Most of Them.

Efforts to solve the common consumer problem had been
stalled by lobbying pressure and legislative squabbles.

NY Times - December 20

After years of being stymied by well-funded interests, Congress has agreed to ban one of the most costly and exasperating practices in medicine: surprise medical bills.

Surprise bills happen when an out-of-network provider is unexpectedly involved in a patient’s care. Patients go to a hospital that accepts their insurance, for example, but get treated there by an emergency room physician who doesn’t. Such doctors often bill those patients for large fees, far higher than what health plans typically pay.

Language included in the $900 billion spending deal reached Sunday night and headed for final passage on Monday will make those bills illegal. Instead of charging patients, health providers will now have to work with insurers to settle on a fair price. The new changes will take effect in 2022, and will apply to doctors, hospitals and air ambulances, though not ground ambulances.

Academic researchers have found that millions of Americans receive these types of surprise bills each year, with as many as one in five emergency room visits resulting in such a charge. The bills most commonly come from health providers that patients are not able to select, such as emergency room physicians, anesthesiologists and ambulances. The average surprise charge for an emergency room visit is just above $600, but patients have received bills larger than $100,000 from out-of-network providers they did not select. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

There’s a Way Biden Can Raise More From the Rich Without Higher Taxes

NY Times - Neil Irwin - December 22

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden argued for higher taxes on Americans who make more than $400,000 a year. Those tax increases, he said, would help fund his broader agenda and reduce inequality.

But depending on the outcome of Georgia runoff elections next month, as president he will face either a Republican Senate majority that is dead set against tax increases, or a very narrow Democratic majority that will need to choose its battles carefully.

That will present him with a political conundrum: How do you raise more money from the wealthy if you can’t raise tax rates?

One potential answer: do better on enforcing the existing tax laws.

Tax experts have long identified a large “tax gap” between the amount Americans owe and what is actually collected. This is disproportionately a result of underpayment of taxes by high earners, especially in certain types of closely held partnerships and midsize businesses that face little scrutiny from either the Internal Revenue Service or outside investors.

That is exactly the type of structure — including dubious deductions — that allowed President Trump to minimize his tax bill for years, according to reporting on the president’s taxes by The New York Times.

The I.R.S.’s budget has declined in inflation-adjusted terms, and the agency has directed more of its enforcement work toward verifying eligibility of those claiming a tax credit for low-income workers. The rich, as a result, got less attention. In 2018, less than 7 percent of tax returns showing more than $10 million in income were audited, down from about 30 percent in 2011, according to I.R.S. data.

That has made it easier for people to get away with questionable or illegal tax strategies. The Congressional Budget Office, in a report this month on options that Congress might consider for reducing the budget deficit, estimated that by increasing the I.R.S. enforcement budget by $20 billion over the next decade, the government would increase tax collections by $60.6 billion, meaning it would reduce the deficit over that span by about $41 billion.

Some who have closely studied the question believe that more I.R.S. enforcement would generate an even greater payoff to the Treasury. Charles O. Rossotti, a former I.R.S. commissioner; Natasha Sarin, a University of Pennsylvania professor; and Lawrence H. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, have projected that an additional $100 billion in enforcement spending, combined with adjustments to the agency’s tactics and strategy, would generate $1.2 trillion to $1.4 trillion more in taxes collected, primarily from high-income individuals.

“The I.R.S. doesn’t have the resources it needs to go after the big fish,” Professor Sarin said. “That puts undue burden on everyone else.”

Mr. Biden could take administrative steps to shift enforcement priorities without the involvement of Congress, connected to the I.R.S.’s technology usage and its hiring and allocation of current workers. But for substantial new investment or enforcement action, it would need Congress to agree to new funding. ...