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The banner above, with the question marks, is rather out of date since we all know that Joe Biden has won (and Donald Trump has lost). However, we can't think of what we should replace it with. If readers have suggestions, we would be glad to hear them.

Trump Vetoes the Defense Bill

Donald Trump wants to go out with a bang. So yesterday he vetoed the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act. He didn't like it because the bill does not repeal the protection offered online publishers (i.e., you can't sue Facebook for what somebody posted there) and it also requires the Pentagon to rename military bases named for people who levied war against the United States, a crime popularly called "treason." The bill also authorizes the spending of $741 billion to fund the Pentagon.

Oh, and another little item. The bill prohibits the president from moving more than $100 million from military construction projects to domestic construction projects (like, say, building walls), even after the president has declared an emergency. This is obviously a direct slap in the face to Trump. The bill was approved by huge majorities of both chambers of Congress.

Trump has set himself up for a major rebuke and is causing members of his party a big headache. Congress won't let the bill die and will come back in session next week in an effort to override the veto. The House will vote on Monday, and if that succeeds, the Senate will come back on Tuesday to vote.

The defense policy bill has passed for 59 consecutive years and few Republicans want to vote against it now, since such a vote will generate primary challenges from the right in 2022 and problems at general-election time. It originally passed the House by more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

But Trump's action is causing friction within the House Republican caucus. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who voted for the bill originally, has said that he won't vote to override, indicating that his spine has apparently been misplaced. It may have been found by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the chair of the Republican conference, who has said she will vote to override Trump's veto. (V)

Trump Unveils More Pardons

Perhaps the holidays have put Donald Trump in a giving mood. Or maybe he recognizes that there is no better time than Christmas week to sneak stuff in under the public's radar. Readers can decide for themselves which explanation is more plausible. In any case, after announcing a gaggle of pardons on Tuesday, the White House added another 26 names to the list on Wednesday, most notably those of Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Charles Kushner (Jared's father, who spent some time in secure government housing for tax evasion, witness tampering, and illegal campaign contributions, but is now free).

Letting one's cronies off the hook is not exactly what the Founding Parents had in mind when they put the pardon power into the Constitution, and even many Republicans are unhappy with the stench emanating from the White House in the past couple of days. For example, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) issued a statement on Wednesday describing the pardons of Stone and Manafort, in particular, as "rotten to the core," because the duo "flagrantly and repeatedly violated the law and harmed Americans."

Of course, the shoe that everyone is waiting to drop is Trump's pardons of himself and/or his family. Maybe those will come on Christmas itself, undoubtedly the single best day of the year to avoid public scrutiny. On the other hand, the folks he's already pardoned have been convicted of various crimes, and so need to invoke the pardon ASAP in order to escape (or else avoid) the hoosegow. By contrast, if the President pardons himself, his relatives, or other key members of his inner circle (Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller, Mike Pompeo, etc.), they would be preemptive pardons that the recipients would keep in their back pockets until needed. There's actually no enforceable legal requirement that pardons be announced when issued, so it's possible we don't learn about Trump family/inner circle pardons for months or years, if we ever do. Of course, if any of them are ever indicted, they will whip the pardons out for all to see. (Z)

Trump Repeats Demand for $2,000 Checks instead of $600 Checks

Donald Trump took off enough time from issuing pardons and from claiming that he won the election to inject himself—not with the vaccine, but into the debate about the stimulus bill, which he had previously ignored. He now wants everybody making under $75,000 to get a $2,000 check instead of a $600 check. If he had brought this up during the negotiations, it might have had an effect on them. Now Congress has already passed the bill by a veto-proof margin. Trump's demand is forcing Republicans in Congress to choose between him and the Party's leadership.

Democrats would be happy to raise the checks to $2,000, but Republicans are split. The deficit hawks are against spending so much money, but the Trumpists just follow Dear Leader. This whole thing is a giant Christmas gift to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is planning to bring up a stand-alone bill tonight raising the payments to $2,000. However, if one Republican objects to unanimous consent, there won't be a vote. Still, the whole situation will provide Democrats with months of talking points and is going to force Republicans to answer the question: "How would you have voted on Trump's proposal?," something none of them want to do.

Probably the people in the worst position are the Republican leaders of the Senate. If Trump vetoes the bill, they can cave and accept the larger amount, something they have fought for months. A revised bill with $2,000 checks would easily pass both the Senate and House since every Democrat and many Republicans would vote for it. Or the leadership can block the increase and take the heat for it. For the Republicans in Congress, the best-case scenario is that Trump signs the bill Congress already passed and then just shuts up. But will Trump cooperate?

It is also possible that wrangling over the size of the checks could delay them going out, especially if Trump vetoes the bill and forces Congress to come back in session to try to override his veto. Democrats would be quite happy if no voters in Georgia got any checks until after Jan. 5. This would make it impossible for Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) to take credit for the checks. (V)

Ted Cruz and AOC Agree on the Corona Relief Bill

When was the last time you recall Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) agreeing on something? Well, they both agree on the COVID-19 relief bill. Specifically, they agree that it is a disgrace. The congresswoman said: "This isn't governance, it is hostage taking."

The process, in particular, was a disgrace. The 5,593-page bill was presented to Congress Monday evening and voted on 2 hours later. Even if there are a few speed readers in each chamber, that is kind of pushing the envelope. Cruz' take on it: "It's ABSURD to have a $2.5-trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read."

Who actually wrote the bill, and why, is shrouded in mystery. But the fact that it contains special provisions for racehorse owners and a $200-billion giveaway to the richest Americans suggests that it wasn't Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Now the question of how a bill finally happened after months of getting nowhere is beginning to become clear. Certain congressional leaders saw the country suffering, and decided that this is the moment to ram through a bill full of their pet projects a couple of days before Christmas, without anyone having a chance to read it and to object to it until it was too late, as Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez are now doing. This is exactly the same playbook as the 2017 tax-cut bill. It worked perfectly then, so why not use it again?

In the spring, Congress wrote a bill that gave forgivable loans to tens of thousands of businesses. But this time they got even greedier. Not only will Congress pay their employees' wages and salaries, but this bill allows them to deduct those costs from their taxes. In Tax Law 101, you learn that you can deduct costs only if they are paid from taxable income, but not this time. This is a classic double dip. Even Donald Trump said it was a disgrace and demanded a revision.

What else could take up 5,593 pages, you might ask? Sending everybody $600, increasing unemployment benefits, blocking evictions until March, giving schools and airlines a bit of money surely doesn't require 5,593 pages. So what's in there? Well items like these:

  • Making it a federal felony to provide an illegal streaming service
  • Requiring the CIA to tell Congress what Eastern European oligarchs are doing
  • Setting up a program to murder the murder hornets
  • Cracking down on the sales of e-cigarettes to minors
  • Authorizing the use of federal land in North Dakota for the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library
  • Creating a commission to oversee horse racing
  • Allowing "three-martini lunches" to be written off as a business expense (costing the government $6 billion)
  • Lowering taxes on some alcoholic beverages
  • Permitting the double dipping mentioned above
  • Creating Smithsonian museums honoring women and Latinos
  • Affirming the right of the Tibetan people to reincarnate the Dalai Lama
  • Legalizing the use of Smokey (the) Bear by private parties
  • Providing federal health benefits to people who live on the Marshall Islands
  • Funding a national park in West Virginia
  • Banning the USPS from mailing electronic vaping products
  • Decriminalizing the transportation of water hyacinths and alligator grass across state lines
  • And much more

If you have nothing to do Christmas Eve, why not read the complete bill?

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was also disgusted with the process. He said: "Wait until the deadline, and then there's no input at all. They say, take this or not. I'm sick and tired of how this game has been played." So now we have Manchin and AOC on the same page, a sight about as common as Saturn visiting the house of Jupiter. And visible to the naked eye in broad daylight.

This is how the sausage is made: in secret and with a vast list of giveaways to special interest groups. Enjoy. (V)

Meanwhile, Republicans Are Already at War--with Other Republicans

It's a simple question: Who won the election? But it seems the answer depends on whom you ask. If you ask a Democrat, the answer will be: "Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.," or some variation thereof. If you ask a Republican, it depends on which Republican. Donald Trump, for one, believes that he won. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Racehorses) admits that Biden won. Other Republicans are now trying to figure out who their leader is.

Yesterday, Trump attacked Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD), sending out this tweet:

Thune is no doubt quaking in his boots. After all, he won his last election by only 44 points. And this is probably the first time anyone has called the very conservative Thune a RINO. What Trump wants is for Republican senators to challenge the electoral votes on Jan. 6. But so far the only person even contemplating that is Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). McConnell does not want that. If Tuberville really does it, he will discover who is really the boss when he is told that his new office is in an unused janitorial closet in the basement of the Senate Office Building.

A number of House Republicans who come from extremely red districts support Trump's claims and are prepared to challenge the electoral votes. This puts the other Republicans in a real bind. If Tuberville—or some other senator—objects to even one state's electoral votes, the House (and Senate) will have to vote on it. This is a vote Republicans do not want to take. A handful might vote against accepting them, but Trump will threaten anyone voting to accept the electoral votes with a primary in 2022, and Republicans in marginal districts could lose their primaries, so it is a real threat. Thus Trump's behavior is splitting the Party.

One very real consequence of the split is that it could hurt Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in their runoffs. The two refuse to take sides on who won, and this is angering some Georgia Republicans who might decide not to vote. At their rallies, some attendees are chanting "Stop the steal," which is not the message the senators want to send. (V)

White House Staff Told to Prepare to Leave and Then Told Not to Prepare to Leave

White House staff members received a memo yesterday telling them how to prepare to leave the White House in January, complete with a checklist (remove the "B" key from all the computers?). Then, a few hours later, another memo showed up telling them not to prepare to leave. Staffers were a bit confused. The conflicting memos reflect chaos in the White House, with some people expecting Joe Biden to move in on Jan. 20 and others expecting Trump to come back to the building after taking the oath of office again.

Most aides long ago began searching for new jobs, of course. If you are looking for an analogy, you might look for one involving small rodents and nautical vessels. White House staff secretary Derek Lyons will go before the year is out. Communications Director Alyssa Farah is already gone. More will follow soon.

One problem for those members of the administration who prefer not to live in the real world is that the White House staff is primarily made up of non-political career staffers. And those folks have already made clear they will be moving the Trumps out of the White House and the Bidens in on Jan. 20. So, it will be a little embarrassing for anyone from the current administration who tries to hang on. (V)

E. Jean Carroll Wants to Personally Depose Trump in 2021

E. Jean Carroll sued Donald Trump for defamation when she accused him of raping her in a dressing room years ago and he called her a liar. Once he is no longer president, she wants to depose him about the matter, face to face and under oath next year.

While he was president, he was able to delay the deposition by claiming he was too busy to deal with such unimportant matters. Once he leaves the Oval Office on Jan. 20, that argument is not going to fly with the judge any more. A further problem for Trump is that he will have to answer her questions himself and can't be shielded by his lawyers. If he lies when she asks him point blank: "Did you once rape me?" he will be committing perjury, which is a state crime for which he could conceivably prosecuted and which would not be covered by a (self-)pardon. Of course, the government would have to prove the perjury. Still, Trump rattles fairly easily and in a direct confrontation with Carroll, he might say inconsistent things that would later weaken his case.

In addition, he is likely to be forced to provide a DNA sample to compare to a specimen on a dress she has kept since the alleged incident. If the samples match and Trump denies the assault under oath, then a perjury case becomes much stronger.

Carroll may not be the only one to confront Trump directly next year. Summer Zervos also sued Trump for defamation for calling her a liar and that case will also move forward next year.

And don't forget Mary Trump's lawsuit. She sued Uncle Donald for lying to her about the value of her stake in the family business after her grandfather, Fred Trump, died in 1999. In short, expect lots of action on the legal front next year. Trump likes to stay in the headlines, and he may get his wish next year, although not quite in the way he was imagining it. (V)

Asian Americans Could Make the Difference in Georgia

Asian Americans make up about 3-4% of the population of Georgia and are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the state (and the fastest-growing demographic group in the country). Asian-American turnout in Georgia went up 91% in 2020 over 2016 and broke 2-to-1 in favor of Joe Biden. In the upcoming Senate runoffs, a percent here or there could make a big difference.

Asian Americans are extremely diverse by age, income, history, and connection to America. There are 50 ethnicities and 100 languages. They are not a solid bloc. But one thing they are united on is wanting more attention from the major parties. Many of them connect on TikTok, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook. However, one in three has limited proficiency in English and with so many Asian languages in use, getting through to them is not always simple. What the campaigns need to do is get volunteers fluent in the major languages to become active on various social media channels to push their candidates.

The campaigns may also need to find the Asian-American voters if they want to contact them directly. Most of them live in Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton, and DeKalb Counties in the Atlanta Metro area. But there are still others in rural areas who may be hard to find. One way to locate them, beyond social media, is via religious organizations.

Once the target population has been located, the message has to be right. Most polls show that Asian Americans are more concerned about the pandemic that the population at large, so that is an area that has to play a big role in the messaging. Also, a disproportionate number of them own small stores, so the economy also is a factor. But so far, there has been little outreach from either party. (V)

Today's Senate Polls

Now we have more evidence that both runoffs will be close. But as we have said repeatedly, it will ultimately come down to turnout. So far 1.9 million Georgians have voted, which is 24% of all registered Georgia voters. That's not a high turnout, but there are almost 2 weeks left to vote early and many voters like to cast their ballot in person on Election Day, so it is hard to predict what it will look like in the end. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Jon Ossoff 48% David Perdue* 49% Dec 21 Dec 22 Insider Advantage
Georgia-special Raphael Warnock 49% Kelly Loeffler* 47% Dec 21 Dec 22 Insider Advantage

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec23 A Tale of Two Pandemic Responses
Dec23 Trump Not Going Gentle into That Good Night
Dec23 Turns Out, Lawsuits Go Both Ways
Dec23 Twitter Has Bad News for #45, #46
Dec23 California Gets Its First Latino U.S. Senator
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Dec23 They Were Trump Before Trump, Part I: Samuel Adams
Dec23 Today's Senate Polls
Dec22 Stimulus Bill Just Needs Trump's Signature
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