Trump Continues His Pardon Spree
Quote of the Day
Newly-Elected Congressman In Intensive Care
Bill Barr Leaves the Justice Department
U.S. Mulls Closing Iraqi Embassy
Yang Files to Run for New York City Mayor
• Trump Not Going Gentle into That Good Night
• Turns Out, Lawsuits Go Both Ways
• Twitter Has Bad News for #45, #46
• California Gets Its First Latino U.S. Senator
• Israel's Government Collapses
• They Were Trump Before Trump, Part I: Samuel Adams
• Today's Senate Polls
At this point, it is clear that the incoming Biden administration sees the pandemic as a major challenge to be confronted head-on, while the outgoing Trump administration sees it as an annoyance and political liability that is best minimized. The stark difference between the two presidents has been on particular display in the last few days.
To start, Joe Biden delivered a speech yesterday in which he acknowledged that progress in combating COVID-19 is being made, but then declared: "One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I'm going to tell it to you straight. I'm going to tell you the truth. And here's the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us."
It may seem impolitic to express such pessimism, and yet when one thinks of the best speeches made by incoming presidents, they were pretty much all calls to arms, from Lincoln's "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature," to Franklin Roosevelt's "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," to John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you..." So, it could be that after the mess of a year that was 2020, a little bit of hard truth is what people want to hear. Certainly, it will make it more believable whenever Biden decides to adopt a more optimistic posture on the pandemic.
Meanwhile, new reporting from The Washington Post this weekend sheds new light on how wanting—or perhaps "negligent" is the better word—the Trump administration's response to the pandemic has been. It would seem that Team Trump knew that the coronavirus was extremely serious, and had polling that revealed that the American people, across the political spectrum, were broadly receptive to preventative measures, including mask-wearing and widespread testing. In fact, the groundwork was even laid for a mask-distribution program, which would have sent protective gear to every residence in the U.S., as well as for a national testing program.
However, a cadre of advisors—in particular, Stephen Miller, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and "Doctor" Scott Atlas—persuaded the President that engaging with COVID was a political loser, but that mask-wearing could be turned into a very effective wedge issue. Trump, of course, was very receptive to that line of thinking. So, the mask distribution and national testing programs were scotched, and the President promptly began railing against mask wearing. The rest, of course, is history. One can only guess how many Americans would be alive right now, if not for this sort of cynical, self-serving sabotage coming from the highest levels of government.
At this point, it's not clear if any of these folks will pay a price for their reprehensible behavior. But certainly the members of the House, and at least a few U.S. Attorneys, will take a long look and see if there's anything criminal there. (Z)
Donald Trump is not exactly earning his paycheck right now. Since the election, he's had just 13 public appearances, including only two where he took questions from reporters, and only one sit-down press interview (with Fox News, of course). He's had 24 days (out of 48) where there were no official events on his schedule at all, including the last 10 days in a row. The President has found time to play golf nine times, however.
But just because Trump is cruising to the finish line doesn't mean he won't make a few headlines on his way out the door. To start with, he decided on Tuesday that he's not happy with the COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress, and he wants people to get more money. Specifically, he wants the $600 payment to be raised to $2,000. It might have been nice if he'd mentioned this while the discussions were underway, especially since the members of Congress might like to leave town for the holiday. It's not clear if Trump intends to veto the current bill, but if he does, the ball will be squarely in the court of Congressional Republicans. Congressional Democrats are happy to approve larger payments or, failing that, to override a veto. The question is whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can get enough of their caucuses on board with one of those two options.
Meanwhile, the White House also announced the first wave of pardons that will be issued before Trump's exit. The list is basically made up of three types of people. The first group of pardonees are Trump supporters/allies who ran afoul of the law, including former Representatives Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, and former adviser Alex van der Zwaan. The second group of pardonees are people who shot at (and often killed) people of color, including two Border Patrol agents who shot an unarmed undocumented immigrant and then covered it up, as well as the four Blackwater guards responsible for opening fire on a crowd of Iraqis in 2007, earning among themselves a first-degree murder conviction, 27 involuntary manslaughter convictions, and 40 attempted manslaughter convictions. The third group of pardonees, meanwhile, are folks convicted of non-violent drug offenses.
In short, the era of Trump may be nearing its end, but it may go out with both a bang and a whimper. (Z)
Donald Trump and his allies have had very little luck with their various lawsuits aimed at overturning the election results, and returning him to the White House. They have had better luck with their propaganda war (gaslighting?), in which they have endeavored to convince supporters that there was widespread corruption in November, and that it's essential to "Stop the steal!" In particular, much rhetoric has been aimed at Dominion Voting Systems, and at their sometime security partner Smartmatic (despite the fact that Smartmatic was uninvolved with the election, outside of the city of Los Angeles, having largely moved their business to international clients).
This propaganda campaign has been waged not only by the President and his supporters (particularly Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell), but also by friendly news outlets like Fox, OAN, and Newsmax. There is one small problem, though: If you knowingly lie about a company, or an individual, that is actionable. And the affected folks are fighting back. Smartmatic's CEO Antonio Mugica has retained counsel, sent strongly worded letters to Fox/OAN/Newsmax insisting on a retraction, and told them to prepare for a defamation suit. The lawyer that Mugica has retained, incidentally, is J. Erik Connolly, who just so happens to have won the largest defamation suit in American history, nearly $200 million paid out by ABC News. Dominion Voting Systems has also hired a big-time libel lawyer, Tom Clare, and Dominion's director of security Eric Coomer, who has been forced into hiding due to death threats against him, has already filed suit against the Trump campaign, Giuliani, Powell, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, the website Gateway Pundit, Colorado conservative activist Joseph Oltmann, OAN, and NewsMax.
Trump may not find himself in hot water, because he has a well-honed ability to approach a legal line without crossing it. Most of these other people and entities, however, are scared witless, as well they should be. Mugica, Coomer, et al. have a very strong case, as they were clearly damaged, and as the folks who slurred them knew that their claims were untrue (or else were criminally negligent in failing to verify them). OAN and Newsmax are particularly nervous; their finances are already precarious, and they each hope to challenge Fox News for the right-wing-media throne, something that will require investors. There are few things more likely to scare investors off than the possibility of an expensive legal settlement on the horizon.
This is why, over the weekend, Fox, Fox Business, and Newsmax all broadcast "clarifications" in which they explained that when they reported that "Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmax conspired to steal the election," what they meant was that the election was clean, and that everyone involved did a bang-up job. They apologize for anyone who misunderstood, given the very subtle differences between these two perspectives.
In the end, the "clarifications" may help and they may not. The damage is done, and the evidence of malfeasance is pretty much ironclad. At very least, Coomer's suit is moving forward, and it's more likely than not that Mugica will move forward, too. And even if OAN and Newsmax escape this particular scrape unscathed, it certainly does complicate their plans to become TrumpTV, since the President certainly isn't going to stop lying, defaming, and attacking once he becomes ex-president. (Z)
Although Donald Trump may have protected himself from the defamation/libel suits that are about to start flying (see above), not all is good news for him, and for his plans to keep rabble-rousing once he is out of office. On Tuesday, the folks at Twitter reiterated that once Trump ceases to be a political leader on Jan. 20 of next year, his account will lose many of the special protections it has been afforded. At very least, that means that tweets that have previously been slapped with a warning label will be deleted outright. It could also mean that, sooner or later, his account will be suspended or even terminated.
Joe Biden also got some unhappy news on this front Tuesday. It is highly unlikely that he'll ever have to worry about his tweets being labeled, or deleted. However, the folks who run Twitter have decided that when they transfer all of the official White House accounts over to the new administration (@WhiteHouse, @POTUS, @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet and @LaCasaBlanca), they will delete all the followers of those accounts. Team Biden is not happy about this, observing that when Trump took over @WhiteHouse and @POTUS, he inherited all of the 13 million followers that Barack Obama had built up. Still, Twitter management says their minds are made up.
It is not entirely clear what Twitter's motivation is here, though it's possible they think Trump has inflated the accounts with millions of fake followers, and this is the best way to achieve a reset. It's also possible that they foresee many headaches policing an account that has 20 million Democrats following it and 10 million Trump lovers following it, and this is a way to minimize that problem. In any event, the primary effect will be to cause Biden (and subsequent presidents) to rely primarily on their personal accounts, something that both Barack Obama and Trump did throughout their presidencies, anyhow. (Z)
This is barely news, since anyone and everyone saw it coming. However, on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) made it official and appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) to fill the U.S. Senate seat that is about to be vacated by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. Padilla becomes the first Latino to represent California (a state that is 35% Latino) in the Senate.
Given that Newsom needed to shore up his support among Mexican-American voters (particularly in Southern California), and given that the 47-year-old Padilla is young enough to have a long Senate career, and given that Padilla's main rival Xavier Becerra has accepted a spot in Joe Biden's cabinet, it would have been a shock if the Governor had chosen any other candidate. Now, we shall see whom Newsom picks to replace Padilla and Becerra in the state government, and also if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) retires early and opens another U.S. Senate seat for the Governor to fill. (Z)
It turns out that the U.S. isn't the only country with a basically dysfunctional legislature. Heck, it's not even the only country with a basically dysfunctional legislature that can't get its budget passed in a timely fashion. In Israel, the deadline for passing the 2020-21 budget was Tuesday night at midnight (local time; 5:00 p.m. ET), and the Knesset failed to meet it. And so, the governing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu/Benny Gantz fell, and Israel will now have its fourth general election in two years.
We do not claim to have our finger on the pulse of Israeli politics, but it's clear that Gantz is badly damaged right now, and will likely have to cede leadership of the Blue and White alliance. Netanyahu is doing a little better than Gantz, but not much, and polls suggest that he'll have little chance at building a governing coalition after election #4. If Netanyahu's grip on power is so tenuous, even with Donald Trump showering gifts upon him, then it's certainly not going to get stronger once Joe Biden takes over.
Biden, for his part, will likely root for someone other than Netanyahu to gain the prime ministership, since the two men have a poor relationship dating back to the Obama years. It could be a case of "be careful what you wish for," however, because the decline of Gantz/Blue and White means that Netanyahu's main challengers are folks even further right than he is. In any case, it's another tricky puzzle that faces the incoming administration, in case Team Biden didn't have enough of those already. (Z)
Exactly what will become of Donald Trump, once he is out of power? That is a question that many people would like to know the answer to, us included. In an attempt at an answer, we're going to look at some Trump-like figures from U.S. history, in roughly chronological order and see what we can learn. Up first: politician, propagandist, and revolutionary Samuel Adams.
What Makes Him Trump-like, in 25 Words or Less: He was a member of the elite who roused the masses to action while railing against the existing government.
Trump-like Quote: "Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason. Events which excite those feelings will produce wonderful effects." (1775)
The Rise: Born in Boston to a prominent and wealthy family (John Adams was his second cousin), Samuel Adams entered Harvard at the age of 14, which was not unusual in those days. Young Adams inherited his father's affinity for politics and for activism, but also his questionable business sense. The elder Adams lost much money in a dubious banking scheme, the younger failed as an accountant and then as a maltster (someone who produces the malt used in the brewing of beer and other applications).
It is not unreasonable to say that politics saved Adams from ruin. He founded a rabble-rousing newspaper, The Independent Advertiser, in 1747, and also commenced service in a number of minor political offices. Even then, he couldn't entirely escape his lack of business acumen. Adams spent several years as a tax collector, which paid him a livable salary, but also compelled him to twist the arms of his fellow citizens. He didn't much care for that, and so he would often leave the taxes uncollected. That made him popular with those who owed money, but not so popular with the city of Boston, which held him personally responsible for the unpaid funds. By the mid-1760s, Adams was £8,000 behind on his collections. In modern terms, that's about half a million dollars.
Glory Days: Bankruptcy wasn't an option back then, particularly for a debt of that sort, but by the time Adams had dug the hole really deep, he had also emerged as one of Boston's leading citizens and agitators. He led the city's protests of the various tax bills passed by parliament (Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Acts, etc.). He also had a major role in handling the aftermath of the Boston Massacre, simultaneously taking steps to make certain the soldiers involved got a fair trial (including persuading cousin John to act as defense counsel), and at the same time writing a number of poison-pen essays calling for their execution. Thanks to his high public profile, and his service to a cause that Boston's municipal government largely supported, most of Adams' debt to the city was forgiven.
After the Boston Massacre, there was a period of relative calm, during which Adams continued his climb up the political ladder with election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. His part in the next great dust-up of the period, the Boston Tea Party of 1773, will forever remain hazy. Some witnesses said that he played a central role in the incident, perhaps even giving the signal to move forward with the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor. Others said that Adams actually tried to calm tensions, and that the Tea Party went forward despite his efforts. What is clear, however, is that Adams was enraged by the harsh British response, and quickly became the most prominent pro-independence advocate in Massachusetts, authoring countless anti-British letters and essays. He participated in the First and Second Continental Congresses, helped rally support for the rebel cause, signed (and likely had much input into) the Declaration of Independence, and helped popularize the works of Thomas Paine and others who were regarded as radicals.
Afterwards: Adams served in the Second Continental Congress until 1781, helping to oversee the American war effort. He then retired and returned to Massachusetts, thinking he could continue to play a major role in national politics while holding statewide office. As it turns out, he was wrong about that. Though Adams served in the Massachusetts Senate, and as both lieutenant governor and governor of Massachusetts, his influence was greatly diminished once he left the national capital. He was often outmaneuvered by rival John Hancock, he had no voice in the form or content of the Constitution, and an attempt to return to federal office—a run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1788—ended in humiliating defeat. In 1797, at the conclusion of his term as governor of Massachusetts, he retired from public life. By that time, he was suffering from a number of health problems that left him largely unable to speak or to write, and he finally succumbed in 1803.
Among the "Founding Fathers," there may be nobody on whom opinion is more divided than Adams. For two-plus centuries, admirers have lauded him as one of the key figures of the Revolution, and perhaps the key figure, calmly guiding the most important colony in British North America through the storms of the 1760s and 1770s, and only favoring radical action when all other options had been exhausted. Critics, on the other hand, have painted Adams as a man of limited political skill and vision whose only real talent was pandering to the passions of the masses. The truth surely lies somewhere between those two extremes. Today, having been outshined in life by his cousin John, Samuel Adams is known mostly for giving his name to a popular brand of beer.
Next up: Andrew Jackson. (Z)
This is the second set of polls in a row that gave the lead to the Democratic candidates, this time by comfortable margins. Meanwhile, the number of ballots cast in the election has already passed 1.6 million, and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) continues to have issues with Trump supporters showing up to her events and drowning her out with anti-GOP chants. Make of these data points what you will. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Georgia||Jon Ossoff||51%||David Perdue*||46%||Dec 16||Dec 20||SurveyUSA|
|Georgia-special||Raphael Warnock||52%||Kelly Loeffler*||45%||Dec 16||Dec 20||SurveyUSA|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec22 Biden Gets Vaccinated
Dec22 Miguel Cardona to Be Tapped for Education
Dec22 Trump's Endgame Comes into Focus
Dec22 Barr Continues His Apostasy on His Way Out the Door
Dec22 The Subpoenas Are Coming
Dec22 Where Have All the Pollsters Gone?
Dec22 Today's Senate Polls
Dec21 Congress Is Getting Close to a COVID-19 Relief Bill
Dec21 Cabinet Nominees Mount a Charm Offensive
Dec21 Six Trump Cabinet Officials Avoided the Ax
Dec21 Trump Won't Announce a 2024 Run before Jan. 20
Dec21 Biden Vows to Punish Russia for Cyber Attack
Dec21 Poll: Trump Is One of the Worst Presidents Ever
Dec21 Early Voting Turnout Is High in Georgia
Dec21 Parties Have Different Strategies in Georgia
Dec20 Sunday Mailbag
Dec19 Saturday Q&A
Dec18 Biden Picks Haaland for Interior, Regan for EPA
Dec18 U.S. Government Hacked
Dec18 Republican Party: All Is Well
Dec18 Georgia on Everyone's Mind
Dec18 It's a Pardon Frenzy
Dec18 Mike Pence: MIA
Dec18 Jill Biden: Ed.D.
Dec18 About the Betting Markets
Dec18 What to Get for the Person Who Has it All?
Dec17 Congress Is Getting Close to a New COVID-19 Relief Bill
Dec17 Pelosi Greenlights Haaland
Dec17 McCarthy Still Silent about Biden's Win
Dec17 Democrats Are Thinking about Reining in the President
Dec17 Ron Johnson Is Betting the Farm on Trump
Dec17 Trump Is Not Welcome in Florida
Dec17 Three-Quarters of the States Will Elect Governors in 2021 or 2022
Dec17 Today's Senate Polls
Dec16 McConnell Concedes Presidential Race
Dec16 The Grift Is Getting on Republicans' Nerves
Dec16 It's a Matter of Economy
Dec16 Iran Nuclear Deal Looks Likely to Come Back to Life
Dec16 It's Buttigieg for Transportation...
Dec16 ...and Granholm for Energy
Dec16 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Education
Dec16 Today's Senate Polls
Dec15 Biden Is Elected President
Dec15 Trump Is Already Waffling on 2024
Dec15 Over 1 Million Absentee Ballots Have Been Requested in Georgia
Dec15 Newsom May Get to Appoint Two Senators
Dec15 Curtain Pulled Back on The Federalist's Funding
Dec15 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Transportation