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Biden's margin of victory widens as Trump's subversion efforts grow more frantic – CNN

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Trump’s efforts to deny Biden the White House traveled from the courts to state legislatures on Friday with Trump’s personal reception with Republican lawmakers from Michigan — and their counterparts in Pennsylvania may be next on the list.
But there were signs, even among Republicans, that Trump’s efforts need some evidence.
“As legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a joint statement after their meeting at the White House.
Importantly, they acknowledged there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing, a blow to a President and his allies who’ve been peddling baseless claims about fraud.
“Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections,” the Michigan lawmakers said.
Another blow for Trump came on Friday in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the paperwork that officially grants the state’s 16 electoral votes to Biden. A federal judge on Thursday had rejected a last-ditch lawsuit that tried to block certification, and Biden’s victory was certified Friday afternoon by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican.
Other setbacks came in Nevada, where a district judge on Friday denied a request brought by a conservative activist to halt the certification next week of the state’s election results — which show Biden leading by more than 33,000 votes — and in Wisconsin, where elections officials in the Democratic stronghold of Dane County rejected requests from the Trump campaign to throw out tens of thousands of absentee ballots on Friday as the state kicked off its partial presidential recount.

Testing out loopholes

To succeed, Trump would need to bulldoze the Electoral College system. But for all the angst he’s sparked about a coup, the President doesn’t seem to have a plan so much as a shameless sense of entitlement to the White House. What he’s doing is exploiting loopholes and prying at technicalities to see if any of them will give.
He’s clearly trying to generate the heat and noise he craves. But he’s also casting about for an unexpected opening, as he’s done so many times before.
Trump refused to take questions at the White House Friday at what he had falsely billed a “press conference,” where he discussed prescription drug prices and gave a business-as-usual veneer to the democratic subversion he’s orchestrating from the Oval Office and the raging pandemic he appears to be largely ignoring. The appearance came just as Covid hospitalizations and new daily cases hit a record again and news emerged that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has tested positive. Cases to continue to climb in Congress, too, with Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida — a staunch Trump ally — becoming the latest to test positive.
Trump skipped a special side-conference focused on the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday during the Group of 20 summit, the opening session of which he spent tweeting before going to play golf at his Virginia club.
Perhaps in a brief moment of reality on Friday, Trump appeared to acknowledge his impending departure from the White House, implying that it will be up to the new administration to maintain the drug pricing rules he was announcing. But he quickly repeated during the same lie that he won the election, despite the results, and he promised, “We’ll find that out.”
What he meant was this: If he can delay certification, whether in Michigan or Pennsylvania or another Biden-won state with a Republican-run legislature, then he can maybe lean on lawmakers to appoint pro-Trump slates of presidential electors.
That’s why Trump met with the Michigan GOP lawmakers on Friday. He’d need to turn them and a majority of the Michigan statehouse into accomplices if his effort is to succeed, after previous legal attempts all failed. Trump’s top campaign attorneys — Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — did not attend the meeting after Giuliani’s son, who works at the White House, tested positive for Covid-19. Also not in attendance: Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, who is from Michigan.
But Michigan’s just the first part of Trump’s puzzle. Biden has 306 of the 538 available electoral votes, which means Trump would need to find a way to claw back 37 to bring Biden under the 270 normally needed to win. So he’d need to poach votes in at least three states where a majority of voters said Biden should be President.
The clear focus by the White House is on Michigan (16 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes).
Overturning the results of one state’s election would be brazen and horrible enough. Overturning three would be a macabre triple Lindy.
That doesn’t mean Trump won’t try. Two sources tell CNN there are discussions currently underway with the President about inviting Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania to the White House. It’s not clear if those invitations have been extended yet, but Trump has expressed interest in doing so as he tries to insert himself into the vote certification process.
The election certification deadline for both Michigan and Pennsylvania is Monday, so the plotting will have to move into overdrive if it’s to be anything more than a delusional sideshow.
One state is off the map, though, with Georgia’s Republican governor certifying the election results after his Republican secretary of state formalized the fact that Biden won, very narrowly. Every small normally procedural step is under scrutiny during this strange time, and these Republicans were true to the democratic result.
Legal experts have made clear that it would be incredibly difficult for Trump to hack any path from his current deficit to a second term.
For starters, they’ve pointed out that if Trump can get electoral votes thrown out or contested so that they’re not approved in Congress, it changes the 270 threshold and doesn’t necessarily gain Trump ground.
As Michael Morley, a professor of election law at Florida State University and a member of National Task Force on Election Crises, said, “In short, under any remotely plausible scenario, the election will be settled in the Electoral College without triggering a contingent election in the House.”

Read the fine print

As his effort to stay in the White House becomes more frantic, Trump’s continuing to ask for more money.
But as CNN’s Fredreka Schouten notes, donors need to read the fine print of the solicitation, in which Trump’s political team says it has upped to 75% the share of the money that goes to Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America. It had been a 60% cut last week.
This money is not primarily geared at Trump’s legal efforts, but rather could fund Trump’s post-presidential political efforts.
That Trump’s adviser and aides are tacitly eyeing what comes next is not news, but the extent of his efforts to gum things up and make things more difficult for Biden continues to become clear.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for instance, is defending a decision to claw back billions the government had given the Federal Reserve to help American small businesses. It’s a program more easily ended than spun back up. And while the move certainly creates political headaches for Biden, it’ll also have a negative impact on everyday Americans still living in a pandemic.

Biden moves forward with his Cabinet

Even if Trump continues to block a formal transition, Biden is carrying forward with his own preparations to take office. On Friday, his 78th birthday, he met in Wilmington, Delaware, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.
What they’ll be able to accomplish on Capitol Hill and who Biden will be able to place in his Cabinet depends very much on who wins the twin Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5, the day before Electoral College votes are counted on Capitol Hill.
Biden said he’s already selected his Treasury secretary, but will make the announcement in the coming week.
As Trump’s agitating leads him to darker, more dangerous places, the former vice president’s mandate has only grown. He had won nearly 80 million votes, as of Friday evening, which is more votes than any US presidential candidate in history by a considerable margin. Trump has received nearly 74 million votes.
While most of GOP leadership continues to back Trump’s efforts to contest those results, a growing number of veteran Republicans pushed back on Trump’s tactics and expressed frustration about the transition being held up.
“The President-elect should be receiving the briefings, office space, and access to government resources he needs to be ready to govern on Inauguration Day,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who won a competitive reelection earlier this month, said in a statement Friday, adding that states should certify their results as planned.
“There is a right way and a wrong way for the incumbent President to pursue his rights to contest what he perceives as election irregularities,” she said. Trying to pressure state election officials, she added, “undermines the public’s faith in our election results without evidence and court rulings to support the allegations.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who’s retiring at the end of this year, also called for the transition to move forward.
“If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources, and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one,” Alexander said in a statement Friday.
“That especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution,” the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions chairman added.
“I think that it’s time to move on,” 12-term Rep. Kay Granger of Texas said Friday when asked about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. “I think it’s time for him to really realize and be very clear about what’s going on.”
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking member of House GOP leadership, said in a statement on Saturday that if Trump and his lawyers have “genuine evidence” of widespread fraud, “they are obligated to present it immediately in court and to the American people.”
“If the President cannot prove these claims or demonstrate that they would change the election result, he should fulfill his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by respecting the sanctity of our electoral process,” she added.
This story has been updated with additional developments.

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5 golden rules if you end up talking politics with your family this Thanksgiving and how 4 college students spent an unprecedented fall semester – MarketWatch

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Here are Tuesday’s top personal finance stories:

Personal Finance
Janet Yellen is poised to become Treasury secretary in a Biden cabinet — and here’s what that means for cash-strapped American families

‘We are in for very, very rough economic times,’ one analyst tells MarketWatch.

Older people, Black and Latinx Americans say they would be hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine

Many Americans say they’re hesitant to get a vaccine, even if one was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

5 golden rules if you end up talking politics with your family this Thanksgiving

‘Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need two headless chickens fighting over the soul of the nation’

Pope Francis takes aim at anti-mask protestors: ‘They are incapable of moving outside of their own little world’

In his new book, the pontiff asks, ‘What matters more — to take care of people or keep the financial system going?’

Artists want to turn the Sunday after Thanksgiving into Black Friday for art

Thousands of artists and organizations across the country are coming together to encourage people to shop art Nov. 29

Lucky, stressed, and ready to graduate — How 4 college students spent an unprecedented fall semester

One is taking time off, another is racing to graduate, and one took classes while living in a state park on an island.

Dr. Fauci on Cuomo’s decision to review vaccines for New Yorkers after FDA approval: ‘Trust the process’

The veteran immunologist in a Washington Post video interview: ‘The numbers can be stark, sobering and, in many cases, they can be frightening.’

From jobs to child care: How this second surge in COVID-19 can damage your finances — as well as your health

More people were having trouble getting enough food on the table in early November compared to five weeks earlier.

Under Biden, CFPB will play a role in any student-debt cancelation — and help tackle student-loan servicers

Experts expect more aggressive oversight of the student-loan industry come January.

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
Officials plan to distribute 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in December, aiming for 40 million doses by end of year

The U.S. government plans to initially roll out 6.4 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine next month, while it is confident in meeting its goal of distributing about 40 million doses by the end of the year, federal officials said Tuesday.

There will be a ‘huge boom’ in the second quarter of 2021 if vaccines are effective, says investment strategist David Rosenberg

Market strategist’s near-term ‘value trade’ taps utilities, consumer staples, health care, Big Tech — plus long-term Treasurys and gold.

Beware of ‘zombie’ companies running rampant in the stock market

A total of 19%, or 571 companies, in the Russell 3000 Index are considered unviable, writes William Barritt.

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First on CNN: Key government agency acknowledges Biden's win and begins formal transition – CNN

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The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump’s defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.
Murphy said she had not been pressured by the White House to delay the formal transition and did not make a decision “out of fear or favoritism.”
“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” Murphy wrote. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”
The letter marks Murphy’s formal sign off on Biden’s victory, a normally perfunctory process known as ascertainment. The move will allow the transition to officially begin, permitting current administration agency officials to coordinate with the incoming Biden team, and providing millions in government funding for the transition.
The Biden team has not waited for the formal transition process to begin preparing for the presidency, as Biden announced several Cabinet picks on Monday. But the delay in ascertainment meant that Biden’s team was locked out from government data and could not make contact with federal agencies, nor could it spend $6.3 million in government funding now available for the transition. A Biden official said the most urgent need was for the transition to be given access to Covid-19 data and the vaccine distribution plans.
The Biden team will now have access to additional office space inside the agencies and the ability to use federal resources for background checks on Biden’s White House staff appointments and Cabinet picks.
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Biden’s transition, said the start of the transition was a “needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”
“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies,” Abraham said. “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”
The ascertainment letter was sent Monday after Michigan formally certified its election results earlier in the day and more Trump lawsuits were dismissed. Georgia certified its razor-thin presidential results on Friday, and Pennsylvania is nearing certification of its election results, too.
It’s the latest sign that Trump’s conspiracy-laden legal bid, led by Rudy Giuliani, to circumvent the outcome of the election is nearing an end. The Trump campaign’s lawsuits to delay certification of the election have been dismissed in multiple states, as his legal team has failed to provide any evidence of widespread voter fraud.
But until now, Murphy had refused to move forward with the ascertainment process, despite Biden’s clear victory. Murphy, a Trump political appointee, has faced intense scrutiny and political pressure from Democrats and, in recent days, Republicans calling for the start of a smooth transition. In a statement Monday, Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said that “there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state” and called on the transition process to begin.
In the letter, Murphy suggested that the ascertainment rules were vague and should be updated.
“GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified,” she wrote. “These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws, and state laws leave to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdiction. I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act.”
Trump tweeted moments after the letter was reported, thanking Murphy for her work and affirming the decision to start the transition.
“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused — and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!” Trump tweeted. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Two Trump advisers said the President’s tweets are being read by people in his orbit as essentially a concession.
“A veiled attempt to justify continued fundraising solicitations,” the second adviser said.
The General Services Administration informed federal departments on Monday night that it has ascertained Biden to be the winner of the presidential election, according to an email obtained by CNN.
“In accordance with the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, today, November 23, 2020, the GSA Administrator has ascertained Joseph R. Biden and Senator Kamala Harris the apparent successful candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, respectively,” Mary Gibert, the federal transition coordinator, wrote in an email to federal department contacts.
A senior White House official said some staffers were initially caught off guard by the GSA letter, learning about it first from CNN. But the official said staffers will begin to cooperate with the Biden transition team, adding that they were seeking more information on next steps.
For two weeks after the election was called for Biden, Murphy was silent as the ascertainment delay dragged on, sparking public pressure from congressional Democrats and Biden himself, who warned that the delay could cost lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Democrats were demanding a briefing from Murphy on Tuesday to explain her decision-making, rejecting the GSA’s proposal earlier Monday for her deputy to brief Congress next week. Democratic committee chairmen sent a slew of new letters to Murphy on Tuesday demanding she allow the transition to begin and warning of the consequences for failing to do so.
This story has been updated with additional reporting on Monday.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mary Gibert’s name.

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How Trump's fundraising could benefit his post-White House political life – CNN

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All these missives from President Donald Trump’s political operation landed in supporters’ inboxes Monday morning claiming to solicit funds to help Trump fund recounts and legal challenges to overturn the election results.
But the legal fine print on each shows that a new Trump fundraising arm, Save America, actually will get the first cut of any money that comes in. And because spending rules for leadership PACs are so loose, campaign-finance experts warn that Save America could easily become a political slush fund for Trump and those close to him.
Here’s a closer look at the President’s recent fundraising efforts and his new fundraising vehicle Save America:

What’s Save America?

Save America is a leadership PAC that Trump launched less than a week after the election.
In an email to CNN earlier this month, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Trump “always planned” to create a leadership PAC “win or lose, so he can support candidates and issues he cares about, such as combating voter fraud.”
Team Trump has been on a fundraising spree in recent weeks, sending more than 330 fundraising emails and 92 text messages to supporters since 11 p.m. ET on Election Night.
The current solicitations direct the first 75% of each contribution up to $5,000 to Save America. Only after that threshold is met does money go into the campaign’s recount account.
Additionally, 25% of the funds go to the Republican National Committee’s operating account.

What’s a leadership PAC?

Leadership PACs are political action committees generally established by current and former politicians to raise money and to curry influence with others.
Political figures use these PACs donate to other candidates, helping maintain their profiles and build leverage within their own party. But they also have become vehicles for a campaigns-in-waiting, funding polling, staff and travel. Save America could become an avenue for Trump to continue funding political operations as he weighs a future presidential bid in 2024.

Are there fundraising limits on leadership PACs?

Yes, but fundraising limits are higher for leadership PACs than candidate committees.
An individual donor can contribute up to $5,000 a year to a leadership PAC — allowing a politician to collect up to $20,000 over a four-year period from a single contributor. By contrast, that same donor could only give a maximum of $2,800 at this point for a 2024 presidential campaign.

Does Trump have to spend the money in the leadership PAC on election challenges?

No. The rules on spending by leadership PACs also are far more relaxed than those for campaign committees and do not restrict politicians from using donors’ funds for personal expenses — a use forbidden in a presidential campaign account.
It’s one reason campaign-finance experts say donors should be leery of what they view as a Trump campaign bait-and-switch tactic: soliciting funds for legal challenges and instead first routing the money to his leadership PAC.
“The typical donor doesn’t read the legal fine print,” Paul Ryan, vice president of vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, told CNN.
Ryan said few restrictions apply on the PAC’s spending. Should they choose to do so, Trump and his family members could draw salaries from Save America funds or direct its donors’ money to his businesses by hosting PAC events at a Trump-owned properties.
“This money could easily — and legally — end up in his own pocket in the coming years,” Ryan said. And even after the long-shot legal challenges to the 2020 election end, Trump “could tease a 2024 run for years and continue milking his supporters for contributions to this slush fund,” he added.
Under federal election rules, Save America will have to file its first public report detailing fundraising and spending Dec. 3, but it will only cover the first fews weeks of its operations.

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