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Pandemic politics leave DC in gridlock as virus surges – News 1130

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WASHINGTON — With the nation gripped by a resurgent coronavirus and looking to Washington for help, President Donald Trump and lawmakers in Congress have a message for struggling Americans: Just keep waiting.

The urgency of the nationwide surge in virus cases, spiking hospitalizations and increasing death tolls has hardly resonated in the nation’s capital as its leaders are vexed by transition politics and trying to capitalize on the promise of a coming vaccine. The virus has killed more than 246,000 Americans this year and infected at least 11.1 million — some 1 million of them in just the past week.

Yet in Congress, where talks over economic relief bills stalled out months ago, lame-duck approval of aid appears is hardly front-of-mind. Across town at the White House, Trump is more focused on getting credit for the vaccine development push and blocking President-elect Joe Biden from getting the information needed to ensure the new administration can smoothly take over the fight against the pandemic.

“Another Vaccine just announced,” Trump tweeted Monday morning after Moderna announced that its candidate appeared in early testing to be 95% effective against the virus. “For those great ‘historians’, please remember that these great discoveries, which will end the China Plague, all took place on my watch!”

On a call Monday with governors, Vice-President Mike Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, struck a rosy tone and asked states to give their residents comfort that vaccines are coming and that “America and your state has never been more prepared.”

That didn’t stop Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards from appealing to Pence and Trump for a more unified message on the importance of social distancing and wearing masks. And Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force co-ordinator, reported that 27 states were in the “red zone” for widespread transmission of the virus — more widespread and worrisome than spikes seen earlier this year.

Biden, who has warned of a “dark winter” ahead on the virus, called for the Trump administration to share its vaccine distribution plans with his own incoming administration, warning that “more people may die if you don’t co-ordinate.”

Saying vaccine plans are vital to repairing the nation’s economy, Biden said, “If we have to wait until Jan. 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind.”

Biden said he was hopeful that Trump “will be mildly more enlightened before we get to Jan. 20.” He said he understood Trump’s “reluctance” to admit defeat and share his administration’s plans but called it “a shame.”

There’s no progress in Congress yet, either. The split-decision election — in which Democrats absorbed sizable losses in House races despite defeating Trump — hasn’t sparked any progress or prodded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to move from their pre-election postures.

Pelosi wants to go big, say $2 trillion; McConnell wants a smaller package in the $500 billion range that his rightward-tilting colleagues can live with. Moving toward somewhere in the middle would be difficult for both camps.

Trump is a disruptive factor on Capitol Hill and no deal is possible without his buy-in, or at least his signature. Without a better and more reliable signal of Trump’s intentions, both McConnell and Pelosi could be wary of navigating the turbulence required to forge an agreement.

The results of the election have also weakened the negotiating position of Pelosi, who played hardball during the weeks leading up to the election, only to come away empty-handed. But she is not — yet — wavering from her insistence on a sweeping and comprehensive relief bill rather than the more targeted approach favoured by Republicans.

And for now, Pelosi is devoting her energies to soothing her unhappy Democratic caucus in advance of leadership elections this week. It seems like the wrong moment to telegraph concessions to McConnell and the Republicans.

The two longstanding adversaries are formidable when their interests align, but their offices say they have not spoken since the election and don’t know when they will. The sole must-pass legislation for the lame-duck session is a temporary spending bill to avert a government shutdown — or a broader governmentwide omnibus funding bill if negotiations go well. COVID relief could be an add-on to either bill.

The Biden team would like a down payment of COVID relief now and is standing by Pelosi’s handling of the matter.

“We have her back in handling this,” incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Our message to Speaker Pelosi is: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing to the Republicans. Let’s get this done.’ I mean, this could be a first example of bipartisan action post the election.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s preferred science adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, stepped up his criticism of governors for moving to reimpose restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus. On Sunday night, Atlas urged people to “rise up” after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced closures to some schools and businesses in the face of the latest wave of cases.

Atlas, who is not an infectious disease expert, earned himself a White House appointment by echoing Trump’s skepticism of mask-wearing and support for “reopening” the economy. Trump has urged supporters to push Whitmer to reopen the state following virus restrictions, though many rules had been lifted previously. And 14 men have been charged in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap the governor.

“It’s just incredibly reckless considering everything that has happened, everything that is going on,” Whitmer said. “We really all need to be focused on the public health crisis that is ravaging our country and that poses a very real threat to every one of us.”

___

Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Richmond, Va., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and Steve Peoples in Wilmington, Del., contributed.

Zeke Miller And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press

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Has digitisation weakened democracy's defences? | British Politics and Policy at LSE – British Politics and Policy at LSE

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The overall digitisation social process involves more and more information and activities moving into digital formats, then going online, and potentially securing global distribution via the cloud. This is not a neutral process for liberal democracies’ working. Melissa-Ellen Dowling argues that while digitisation may enable new forms of participation, and cut some of the costs of citizens organising, it opens liberal democracies to new threats from hostile foreign powers and so far unregulated waves of disinformation.

As digitisation progressively permeates democratic political structures, democracies around the world are becoming more vulnerable to foreign interference. The advent of ‘digital era governance’ in post-industrialised democracies has led to the adoption of a range of electronic processes for public participation in politics. In particular, we are seeing digital mechanisms beginning to infiltrate traditionally analogue forms of democratic participation in decision-making. From ballot paper scanning, electronic voting machines, online petitioning, virtual consultation hubs, to the widespread digitisation of the public sphere – public participation in decision-making is becoming increasingly digital.

The risks of digitisation to democracy stem largely from three core digital deficiencies, or what otherwise might be termed, ‘digitally-amplified problems’: inauthenticity, data insecurity, and disinformation. Digitisation not only provides a veil behind which malign foreign entities can shield their identities to covertly disrupt another country’s politics, but also enables interference to occur at unprecedented levels. Take for example, the US 2016 presidential election – the Mueller Report concluded that Russia’s Internet Research Agency and the GRU used a range of digital tactics to target the election: hacking, leaking, bots, trolls, deep fakes, and more on a mass scale reaching significant portions of the population.

However, it is not all bad news. Digitisation has improved public access to politics which strengthens the fundamentals of democracy such as participation, inclusion, and tolerance. This raises a dilemma. On the one hand, do we resist digitisation in the governance and voting space to protect our processes and institutions from foreign interference and digital risks, but in doing so put democracy at additional risk from within? On the other hand, by eschewing digitisation (e.g. sticking with paper and pencil methods in Westminster systems), we risk reducing the scale and scope of  public political access and engagement – thereby creating a public sphere monopolised by the legacy media. This makes the political sphere look dated, over-attached to traditional methods. And it causes its own problems with respect to the information ecosystem and democracy.

In fact, we already have some answers to the digital democracy dilemma: strike a balance between digital and analogue mechanisms of public participation in politics. As the UK’s Intelligence Security Committee found in its Russia Report, paper ballot papers in the Brexit referendum effectively safeguarded the process from direct interference such as ballot tampering. Similarly, in Australia, hard-copy ballots continue to be used in the smaller constituencies used for federal elections for the House of Representatives, while digital mechanisms for counting state-wide Senate votes are employed in conjunction with human cross-checking. Meanwhile, in the US, problems with electronic voting machines has led to the restoration of supplementary paper trail procedures in some states. Retaining certain analogue processes can therefore protect against the digital deficiency of data insecurity, while allowing us to reap the benefits of digital technology.

The disinformation malaise

Unfortunately, there is one digitally-amplified deficiency plaguing democracies that is not so easily overcome: disinformation. Although disinformation is nothing new, it has become more prevalent and harder to detect in the digital era. The rise of social media that partly characterised the ‘second wave’ of digital era governance, improves access to the public sphere not only for a polity’s citizens and enterprises, but also potentially for malign foreign entities. Government agencies are necessarily now far more active on social media, because they recognise that if government’s nodality is to be preserved, then their messages must reach citizens in locations where they are active anyway. The COVID-19 crises in the UK and many countries also focused on governments’ use of digital apps to try to personalise notifications to citizens.

But what if factual and objective social media messages (including, hopefully, those from government) are in danger of being swamped by tainted, misleading or inaccurate information? Digitally-enabled disinformation poses a particularly challenging risk because of the very nature of liberal democracy as a system enshrining free and open communication and political expression. It is insidious in the way that it targets human cognitive beliefs and attitudes, rather than administrative physical processes that we see in cases of data breaches.

Companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit have been criticised for their slow and imperfect response to disinformation spreading via their platforms. While some argue that increased social media regulation is necessary to curb the problem, extensive regulation of such instruments of the public sphere may inadvertently jeopardise the open discussion fundamental to liberal democracy. These tensions make the problem even more difficult to resolve.

One of the most concerning consequences of disinformation for democracy is that it has the potential to create a crisis of legitimacy. Disinformation can reduce the legitimacy of policy outputs, election outcomes, government, democratic processes, and democracy as a belief-system through:

  • Tainting the preference formation phase of decision-making, potentially generating a trust deficit, or boosting an existing one, not just in government and governance processes, but also in fellow members of the polity. This may jeopardise crucial ingredients of democracy.
  • Stimulating widespread distrust of the veracity of information, leading to a ‘post-truth’ order where either anything goes, or correct information is disbelieved, resulting in political apathy.
  • Undermining political culture more broadly by corroding collective belief in democracy as an ideology.

Conclusions

In some respects, digitisation has enhanced democracy through improving access to politics via electronic forms of public engagement. Yet the current social progress to ever-more-digital  nonetheless presents an acute challenge to democracy on a practical and ideological level. Retaining analogue components of democratic processes is relatively effective in mitigating risks posed by data insecurity in formal participatory contexts. However, as the informal public sphere continues to digitise, the critical point at which the public forms political preferences is vulnerable to disinformation propagated by malign foreign entities. The fabric of liberal democracy is inherently vulnerable by its own design.

___________________

About the Author

Melissa-Ellen Dowling is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Politics and International Relations in the University of Adelaide. She is the lead researcher on the University’s Countering Foreign Interference project. Her main research interests are digital democracy and malign influence, foreign interference, and national security policy.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.

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The 'diploma divide' in American politics | TheHill – The Hill

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The “diploma divide” is now a defining feature of American politics. You can see it in the network exit poll: Democrat Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE carried college-educated white voters by 35 percentage points; non-college whites were virtually tied. Non-college white men — Trump’s “base” — voted 70 percent for Trump.

As a result, two conflicting patterns now define American politics. The wealthier you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican. That has been true for nearly 100 years. At the same time, the better educated you are, the more likely you are to vote Democratic. That trend has been building since 1980.

Students invariably ask, “What happens to people who are wealthy and well educated?” The answer is, they’re “cross-pressured” — pulled in different directions. If they vote their economic interests, they vote Republican. Those who give priority to their typically liberal cultural values vote Democratic. These differences created one of the most conspicuous features of the 2020 campaign: the battle for the suburbs, where a lot of educated, higher income white voters live.

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Most suburbanites voted for Biden. They appear to have given priority to their liberal values (pro-science, pro-diversity) over their conservative economic interests (low taxes, pro-business). President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s values — apparently racist and openly hostile to science — were deeply offensive to well-educated voters.

One of the most perplexing features of the election was the fact that Trump’s loss did not seem to do much damage to the Republican Party. He wasn’t another Barry Goldwater or Richard Nixon — Republicans whose unpopularity was costly for the GOP. The polls predicted a “blue wave” for Democrats this year. There was no blue wave. The vote to oust President Trump was highly personal, not ideological or partisan. He never achieved majority job approval or favorability from the voters. Even in apparent defeat (apparent to everyone except him), Trump is angling to retain control of the Republican Party.

What drives the diploma divide? In a word, populism.

Populism entails resentment of elites. Left-wing populism targets the wealthy elite. You see it when Bernie SandersBernie SandersClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift In defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism MORE attacks Wall Street and “the one percent.” Right-wing populism targets the educated elite. You see it when conservatives attack experts and high-minded liberals who use “cancel culture” to enforce political correctness.

The fatal flaw of liberals is condescension. Ordinary voters who lack fancy degrees are quick to sniff out condescension when liberals speak disdainfully of people who “cling to guns or religion” or call Trump supporters “deplorables.” One reason why Joe Biden won: He doesn’t have a trace of condescension.

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Donald Trump is not an ideologue. Many conservative intellectuals don’t trust him because he lacks a coherent philosophy of government. He is not a man of ideas. He’s a man of impulses, which he shares with a lot of unsophisticated Americans.

Governing by impulse is dangerous, but it’s also thrilling to Americans who admire Trump’s defiance of accepted norms. It’s the oldest populist theme in the world — “Up the Establishment!”

Trump’s signature economic achievement — a huge tax cut for the wealthy — was anything but populist. At the same time, however, he embraced protectionist trade policies. Protectionism is regularly denounced by the economic establishment but popular with workers who feel threatened by “globalization.” Moreover, Trump’s indifference to the skyrocketing national debt — now larger than the entire national economy — produced not a peep of protest from “Tea Party Republicans.” Debt doesn’t seem to bother Trump. He has always lived on debt.

Trump never pursued his 2016 campaign promise to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Big public works spending would have won a lot of support from Democrats, who saw jobs. Trump very likely saw big public works the same way Roman emperors did — as a way to showcase your power.

There was also a populist element in Trump’s skeptical approach to the pandemic. Many Americans hate the idea that the government can close down the economy, shut businesses and throw people out of work — even in the name of protecting public health. They see a locked down economy as a bigger threat than the coronavirus. Many Americans consider face masks a symbol of government overreach (“suppression muzzles”).

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A lot of voters liked Trump’s populist values but found his autocratic behavior deeply offensive. He put his political self-interest ahead of the national interest. Moreover, Trump thrived on conflict. Every issue became a battle between “us” (Trump supporters) and “them” (liberals and Democrats). He took a country that was already divided and divided it even more. He was anything but a healing figure.

Trump learned a major lesson from his television career: Conflict gets high ratings. Viewers love to watch a good fight… but they don’t necessarily want to be involved in the fight.

Trump exploited the division of the country for his own benefit, setting “the masses” against the educated elite and leaving the country with a bitter diploma divide. No other president has ever done that. It may have invigorated his party. But it also cost him his job.

Bill Schneider is a professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of ‘Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable (Simon & Schuster).

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Politics updates: Biden twists his ankle playing with dog; Trump mocked for 'I came up with vaccines' claim – USA TODAY

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Matthew Brown

David Jackson
 
| USA TODAY

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Trump says finally he will take part in peaceful transfer of power

President Trump acknowledged for the first time that he would leave the White House when the Electoral College casts its formal vote for Joe Biden.

USA TODAY’S coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he continues to roll out his picks for top positions in his administration and states continue to certify their vote counts. 

President Donald Trump has yet to concede the race but his administration has cleared the way for Biden’s team to have access to federal resources and briefings during the transition.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

Biden sprained ankle, will continue to be monitored

After a two-hour examination with doctors in Stanton, Del., President-elect Joe Biden was found to have sprained his ankle while playing with his dog Sunday afternoon. 

The president-elect had “no obvious fracture” in his right foot but would be getting an additional CT scan and further examinations tomorrow, according to his doctors.

“Follow-up CT scan confirmed hairline fractures of President-elect Biden’s lateral and intermediate cuneiform bones, which are in the mid-foot,” a statement from Biden’s doctors reads.

The president-elect will likely need to use a walking boot for several weeks.

Reporters were not allowed near the president-elect as he left Delaware Orthopaedic Specialists, though pool reporters at a distance said Biden appeared to whistle and gave a thumbs up to the group.

– Matthew Brown

Biden picks all women for White House communications team 

President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday named his White House senior communications staff, choosing a team of all women led by Jen Psaki, a veteran of President Barack Obama’s administration, as his first press secretary. 

Psaki, who wore many hats under Obama including White House communications director, has overseen the confirmations team for Biden’s transition team.

Biden also tapped top campaign aides Kate Bedingfield as White House communications director and Symone Sanders as senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris. Bedingfield worked as deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden-Harris Campaign. Sanders served as a campaign senior advisor.

Other communications hires are: Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Harris; Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary; and Pili Tobar, deputy White House communications director.

“I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” Biden said in a statement. 

– Joey Garrison and Bart Jansen 

Biden twists his ankle while playing with his dog 

President-elect Joe Biden slipped and twisted his ankle on Sunday while playing with his dog Major.

“Out of an abundance of caution, he will be examined this afternoon by an orthopedist,” the president-elect’s team told reporters.

Biden is currently at the Delaware Orthopedic Specialists in Newark where he arrived a little after 4 p.m. EST. His office provided an update on his condition around 6 p.m., after not allowing reporters a view of the president-elect entering the facility. 

According to a statement from his doctor, Kevin O’Connor, Biden sustained a sprain of his right foot and while “initial X-rays are reassuring that there is no obvious fracture,” he’ll be receiving a CT scan for further review.

Biden was playing with Major, one of his two German shepherds, according to his office. The Biden family adopted Major in 2018, 10 years after acquiring their first dog, Champ.

The Bidens have said they plan to bring their dogs to the White House. Major, who was adopted from the Delaware Humane Association, will be the first rescue dog to live in the White House. The Bidens have also announced plans to get a cat when they move to the White House.

– Matthew Brown, USA TODAY and Brandon Holveck, Delaware News Journal

Kamala Harris laughs off question about facing President Trump again in 2024

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris waved away a question about whether she and President-elect Joe Biden “will be ready to face” President Donald Trump again in a 2024 redux of this year’s election.

“Please,” Harris said of the question, chuckling at a gaggle of reporters.

After a historically bitter political campaign that was at times overshadowed by a global pandemic and nationwide protests, 2024 may seem like a distant prospect for many Americans. Yet many Democrats and Republicans have made moves indicating they are already preparing for another acrid election in four years.

Trump himself has said he’s interested in a 2024 bid to reclaim the Oval Office, according to Axios, Bloomberg and the Washington Post.

A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted Nov. 21-23 also found that 53% of Republican voters would vote for Trump again in 2024 if he chose to run. Various polls have also found that most Trump voters have not yet accepted the legitimacy of Trump’s loss.

An Economist/YouGov poll conducted after Biden’s victory was projected found that 86% of Trump voters did not think Biden’s win was legitimate.

Biden, 78, will be the oldest president ever to take office, which has fueled speculation he may not seek a second term. Harris, 56, would likely be seen as he early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination should Biden not seek reelection.

– Matthew Brown 

Republican Congressman reclaims seat as GOP flips 11th House seat

Republican Congressman David Valadao defeated Democrat T.J. Cox in California’s 21st district, The Associated Press reported Friday. The victory is the 11th seat Republicans have wrested from incumbent Democrats in the House of Representatives in the 2020 election. 

Valadao’s victory comes as down-ballot Republicans outperformed President Donald Trump across the country, even in solidly blue California

The district, primarily situated in the San Joaquin Valley, slightly favors Democrats, according to the Cook Political Report. Valadao won the seat by emphasizing agricultural issues, which are central to the district’s economy. Though he endorsed Trump in 2020, he is only tepid in his support for the president.

This year, Valadao won the district by a little under 2,000 votes. The district is one of at least three Republicans have reclaimed from the 2018 Democratic “blue wave” that swept the Golden State.

Cox, who won the seat in 2018 by 862 votes, has not yet conceded the election.

– Matthew Brown 

Trump mocked for claim that ‘I came up with vaccines’

On his way out of office, President Donald Trump is going out of his way to take credit for emerging COVID-19 vaccines – to the point where he claims to have developed them himself.

“I came up with vaccines that people didn’t think we’d have for five years,” Trump said during his phone interview Sunday on Fox News, later adding that people would try to credit President-elect Joe Biden.

The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” has helped, but doctors and drug makers have been the ones who developed the actual vaccines that should be available for public use soon.

Jonathan Reiner, professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, said Trump sometimes sounds like King Louis XIV proclaiming “‘l’état, c’est moi’ – the state is me.”

“The PfizerBioNTech and the Moderna vaccines were created by brilliant and dedicated scientists and clinical trial-ists, as well as thousands of people who volunteered to be vaccinated for the studies,” Reiner said. “The glory goes to them.”

– David Jackson

Sen. Blunt refuses to call Biden president-elect, echoes election misinformation

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., declined to acknowledge Joe Biden was “president-elect” during an interview Sunday with CNN’s “State of the Union.” The refusal came as President Donald Trump and many elected Republicans continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

“The president-elect technically has to be elected president by the electors. That happens in the middle of December,”  Blunt correctly said, sidestepping the reality that there is no doubt the electors will choose Biden as the next president of the United States.

“There is no official job president-elect,” Blunt said, arguing that the distinction was a “straw man” created by the media. But in 2016, Blunt’s office published a press release “congratulating President-elect Donald Trump” the day after the election and long before the electors met. 

Federal and state courts have found the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud to be unfounded. While Blunt’s comments casting doubt on Biden’s status as president-elect echo the Trump campaign’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election, he did not go so far as to claim the election was stolen, as Trump has baselessly contended. 

“I don’t think it was rigged but I do think there was some things that were done that shouldn’t have been done,” Blunt said without specifying what potential election wrongdoing he was referencing. “And I think there was some element of voter fraud as there is in every election. But I don’t have any reason to believe that the numbers are there that would have made that difference.”

Election officials across the country have confirmed that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election. A USA TODAY investigation found no instances of voter fraud in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Claims elsewhere in the country were also investigated and debunked.

Blunt predicted Trump would remain active in Republican politics.

“I think there is a big role for President Trump. And I hope he embraces that and looks at how you move to whatever comes next for him, assuming that this election works out the way it appears it will,” he said. 

– Matthew Brown 

Donald Trump doesn’t know when his election protests will end

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump continued to protest the election during a broadcast interview Sunday, but again provided no proof – and would not say when he might drop election lawsuits and challenges that have met nothing but defeat.

Trump said his complaints might last past the Dec. 14 vote of the Electoral College and even the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“My mind will not change in six months,” Trump told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” during his first broadcast interview since Election Day.

A steady stream of judges and election officials across the country, including Republicans, have declared the elections fairly run, and criticized Trump’s legal team for filing specious complaints.

In rejecting a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, a federal appeals court said Friday that “charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

Lawsuits and election challenges have met similar fates in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Georgia.

In a Fox telephone conversation that lasted 46 minutes, Trump criticized Republicans who have disputed his claims of election fraud.

That includes Georgia, the site of two Senate run-offs that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. While Trump plans to campaign in Georgia for incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, even as he blasted GOP officials like Gov. Brian Kemp.

“The governor’s done nothing,” Trump said. “He’s done absolutely nothing. I’m ashamed that I endorsed him.”

Trump’s comments throughout the interview amounted to little more than rants, complaints, and evidence-free conspiracy theories.

“He’s all over the place,” said Bradley Moss, a national security attorney. “He’s got nothing, he knows it’s all ending and he’s ranting to anyone who will listen.”

Other analysts hit the softball questioning of Fox host Maria Bartiromo, some noting that Trump is reportedly thinking about buying his own news network.

“@MariaBartiromo auditioning for a job on Newmax this morning,” tweeted former President Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart.

– David Jackson

Wisconsin recount ends, Biden gains net of 87 votes

MADISON, Wis. – A partial recount boosted President-elect Joe Biden’s victory by 87 votes Sunday, and President Donald Trump said he was preparing a lawsuit to overturn the results.

The completion of Dane County’s retallying of the vote came two days after Milwaukee County finished its recount.

Biden netted 132 votes in Milwaukee County, and Trump got 45 votes in Dane County. Taken together, that increased Biden’s statewide margin to 21,695. 

Trump’s campaign paid $3 million to cover the cost of the recounts in Wisconsin’s two most Democratic counties so he could pursue a long-shot lawsuit to claim the state’s 10 electoral votes.

Trump on Saturday tweeted that he would file a lawsuit in Wisconsin by Tuesday, when the state Elections Commission is set to certify the results.

“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday,” Trump wrote. 

– Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Retired Joint Chiefs chair: Iran scientist assassination weakens diplomacy

Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen expressed concern on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the recent assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist will “makes things much more challenging” for the incoming Biden administration to negotiate with the country.

Mullen – the nation’s highest-ranking military officer from 2007 to 2011 – called the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who oversaw Iran’s nuclear program for over a decade, “a significant event,” one that could significantly hobble U.S.-Iranian relations just as President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Mullen’s concerns were shared by retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, who told ABC News’ “This Week” that the move reinforces the “difficult challenge” Biden faces in negotiating with Iran.

Iran was already unlikely to be receptive to a new agreement with a Biden administration after its experience with President Donald Trump, who pulled out of an agreement negotiated during the Obama administration to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons development, McRaven said. 

“Now by attacking their nuclear scientists and by really escalating this effort, the Iranians are going to be more compelled to get a bomb quicker,” and Iran will be more hesitant to join any future deal, McRaven predicted. 

Mullen likened the move to Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. That move enraged the Iranian government and public alike, and led experts to fear the prospect of open war. 

Fakhrizadeh was “not only the brains but also the passion behind” Iran’s nuclear program, Mullen said. Biden, who has said he’d reopen talks with Iran, will now likely face a country further embittered and resistant to diplomacy.

“I’m hopeful that President-elect Biden can actually reach in and calm the waters but I think this heightens tensions significantly,” Mullen said. 

– Matthew Brown 

Progressives aren’t going to give Biden a honeymoon

After helping to mobilize election turnout of young people and left-leaning Democrats, progressive leaders want to hold the Biden administration to promises made on the campaign trail: addressing climate change, combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and offering student debt relief. 

“This isn’t 2015 anymore. This isn’t 2010 anymore. It’s not 2005 anymore,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist from New York, said at a rally with progressives last week. “The movement got us here. You all got us a seat at the table.”

But as progressives lean into their policy demands, one roadblock remains: Who will control the Senate?

Two runoffs in Georgia will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber when the new Congress is sworn in in January. If the Republican majority holds, not only will it be difficult for Democrats to pass legislation, it will likely mean the progressive wish list will be left on the backburner. 

– Rebecca Morin 

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