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Donald J. Trump White House Page 6
By Teo Armus

After The Washington Post on Sunday published an extraordinary phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), many observers shared one question: Did Trump break the law? During that hour-long call on Saturday, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat and threatened him with vague legal consequences, seemingly encouraging his fellow Republican to fix the election results. ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor

As the sole Democrat on Georgia’s state election board on Sunday urged Raffensperger to investigate the president over the call, some lawyers and legal scholars say Trump’s actions indeed appeared to violate both state and federal criminal statutes. On social media, much of the conversation among legal observers and Trump critics revolved around a federal statute, 52 U.S. Code 20511, that makes it a crime to “knowingly and willfully” deprive or defraud a state’s residents of a free or fair election — or to attempt to do so. Eric Holder, the former attorney general under President Barack Obama, shared the text of that statute on Twitter on Sunday. “As you listen to the tape consider this federal criminal statute,” Holder wrote. more...

David Knowles

As word spread Sunday of President Trump’s astonishing phone conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger the day before, there was widespread speculation that the president had committed one or more crimes in his effort to overturn the results of the election in Georgia, including extortion and, ironically, election fraud. A recording of the one-hour call was released Sunday by the Washington Post. The president is heard pressuring Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” that would put him in the lead over President-elect Joe Biden in Georgia, which has already certified its results. Trump also threatens Raffensperger with the possibility of criminal charges unless he comes up with the votes to overturn the election results. “You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen,” Trump says on the call. “That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.” more...

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) All 10 living former US defense secretaries declared that the US presidential election is over in a forceful public letter published in The Washington Post on Sunday as President Donald Trump continues to deny his election loss to Joe Biden. The letter -- signed by Dick Cheney, James Mattis, Mark Esper, Leon Panetta, Donald Rumsfeld, William Cohen, Chuck Hagel, Robert Gates, William Perry and Ashton Carter -- amounts to a remarkable show of force against Trump's subversion efforts just days before Congress is set to count Electoral College votes.

"Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived," the group wrote. Since Election Day, Trump has falsely claimed that a second term is being stolen, even as there have been no credible allegations of widespread voting issues as affirmed by dozens of judges, governors, and election officials, the Electoral College, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Supreme Court. Still, a wide swath of congressional Republicans are siding with the President and plan to object to Biden's win during Electoral College counting on Wednesday -- even though their efforts will only delay the inevitable affirmation of Biden's win. more...

*** If you want to stop the steal, tell Donald J. Trump to stop trying to steal the election. ***
Jay Busbee

ATLANTA — Just two days before the Georgia runoffs that will determine the leadership of the Senate and one day before a rally on behalf of the Republican candidates, President Trump has continued to unload on the GOP officials leading the state. In an extraordinary development, Trump attempted to cajole Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, according to the Washington Post, which published audio of their call on Sunday. “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump told Raffensperger, laying bare his overriding goal of overturning the November election results.

President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia on Nov. 3, the first time the state had gone for a Democratic candidate since 1992. Despite three vote recounts, Trump has continued to insist that the voting was tainted, casting a wide range of allegations without any credible evidence to back up his assertions. Trump continued to attack Raffensperger while addressing their call hours before the Post published the audio. “I spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger yesterday about Fulton County and voter fraud in Georgia,” Trump tweeted. “He was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the ‘ballots under table’ scam, ballot destruction, out of state ‘voters,’ dead voters, and more. He has no clue!” “Respectfully, President Trump,” Raffensperger replied on Twitter, “What you're saying is not true. The truth will come out.” On Sunday afternoon, the truth did come out in the form of the Post publishing audio of the conversation. In the course of the call, Trump attempted on multiple occasions to induce Raffensperger to change the results of the election, one way or another. more...


(CNN) CNN has obtained the full January 2 audio call between President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump is joined on the call by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and several lawyers. CNN obtained the audio from a source who was on the call and had direct knowledge of the conversation. CNN has redacted the name of one individual about whom Trump made unsubstantiated claims. Here is the full transcript and audio of the hour-long call. more...

CNN Newsroom

Legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein reacts to audio obtained by the Washington Post of President Donald Trump pushing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes to overturn the election results in the state. video...

Trump’s effort to interfere with the Electoral College count will fail — this time. But it's dangerous because it provides a blueprint for next time.
Chris Truax

You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. President Donald Trump is sparking the biggest reexamination of the nuts and bolts of our democracy since the Constitutional Convention in 1787. How many of us had contemplated the ins and outs of the Vacancies Act or the proper scope of presidential power during a national emergency before Trump came along? Unfortunately, all this is missing some of the dignity of the original discussion, and we’ve ended up with a sort of tabloid version of The Federalist Papers in which those of us concerned about American institutions don’t so much engage in learned debate as in frantically attempting to head off the next pending scandal.

Which brings us to the Electoral Count Act of 1887. Until a few weeks ago, this was one of the most obscure pieces of legislation on the books. The ECA governs how Electoral College votes are counted. In short, during a joint session of Congress, the vice president opens the envelopes containing each state’s Electoral College votes and hands them to two tellers from the House and two tellers from the Senate who read the votes aloud. Once all the votes have been read, the tellers add them up and announce the result. In 2013, the entire process took 23 minutes. more...

"Go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening," he said. "Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths."
By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday pushed back on President Donald Trump's false claims that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is "exaggerated." "The numbers are real," Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts, said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We have well over 300,000 deaths. We are averaging two- to three thousand deaths per day." He told host Chuck Todd, "All you need to do, Chuck, is to go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths."

Fauci’s interview came in response to Trump tweeting, "The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of [The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low." Trump responded to Fauci by tweeting, "Something how Dr. Fauci is revered by the LameStream Media as such a great professional, having done, they say, such an incredible job, yet he works for me and the Trump Administration, and I am in no way given any credit for my work. Gee, could this just be more Fake News?" more...

By Devan Cole, CN

Washington (CNN) US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams on Sunday said he has "no reason to doubt" the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Covid-19 death toll, contradicting President Donald Trump's claim that the agency has "exaggerated" its numbers. "From a public health perspective, I have no reason to doubt those numbers," Adams told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" when asked about Trump's claim. "And I think people need to be very aware that it's not just about the deaths, as we talked about earlier," he added. "It's about the hospitalizations, the capacity. These cases are having an impact in an array of ways and people need to understand there's a finish line in sight, but we've got to keep running toward it." Earlier Sunday, Trump claimed on Twitter that the number of cases and deaths of the "China Virus is far exaggerated" because of the CDC's "ridiculous method of determination" compared to other countries, which "report, purposely, very inaccurately and low."

"'When in doubt, call it Covid,' " Trump wrote in a tweet. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House's coronavirus task force, also pushed back against the President's claim on Sunday when asked about it, telling ABC News that "the deaths are real deaths." "In many areas of the country, the hospital beds are stretched. People are running out of beds, running out of trained personnel who are exhausted right now," Fauci said. "That's real. that's not fake. That's real." Trump complained later Sunday about the public's approval of Fauci's job performance, writing in a tweet that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "works for me ... and I am in no way given any credit for my work." Trump and Fauci have had an at-times rocky relationship during the pandemic, with the top infectious disease expert occasionally criticizing the President's actions related to the crisis and Trump openly trashing Fauci and suggesting in early November that he might fire him after the election. The President has before retweeted social media conspiracy theories, saying that only a small percentage of the people reported to have died from coronavirus really did die from the virus. more...

By Max Zimmerman and Gregor Stuart Hunter

The New York Stock Exchange said it will delist three Chinese corporations to comply with a U.S. executive order that imposed restrictions on companies identified as affiliated with the Chinese military. China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp Ltd., China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. will be suspended from trading between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11, and proceedings to delist them have started, according to a statement by the exchange. In response, China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Jan. 2 that the country will adopt necessary actions to protect the rights of Chinese companies and hopes the two countries can work together to create a fair, predicable environment for businesses and investors. Quantitative hedge fund managers including Renaissance Technologies LLC, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP and Two Sigma Investments LP were among the largest holders in these U.S. listings but the stakes they held at the end of September were small, 13F filings show. more...


To the editor: Let’s call this what it is — voter suppression. (“Mike Pence: Your loyalty should be to the Constitution, not Trump,” editorial, Dec. 31) The foundation for contesting the 2020 electoral college results, pure and simple, is voter suppression under the guise of voter fraud. And, whose votes are being suppressed? Can there be any doubt that it is those of the marginalized residents of large cities who have been impeded by racism and poverty in exercising the right to vote?

The entire compendium of challenges is directed at disenfranchising citizens more at risk, suffering greater income loss, and less able to reach polling places due to a pandemic. The disingenuous claim by far-right Republicans in Congress that they will object the electoral vote on Jan. 6 because of constitutional concerns is an insult to anyone who actually believes in the right of every citizen to have their vote count. As the announcement by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) so clearly displays, we have moved to where political theater “trumps” any concept of justice. more...

By Dan Berman, CNN

(CNN) A federal court on Saturday dismissed an appeal from Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert in his lawsuit to force Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in the Electoral College vote count. The Saturday decision by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals came just hours after the Republican congressman filed his appeal of an earlier loss. On Friday, a district court threw out Gohmert's and several Arizona Republicans' lawsuit seeking to force Pence to help throw the election to President Donald Trump next week when Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes. Saturday's ruling affirmed the previous decision. "We need say no more, and we affirm the judgment essentially for the reasons stated by the district court. We express no view on the underlying merits or on what putative party, if any, might have standing. The motion to expedite is dismissed as moot. The mandate shall issue forthwith," read the ruling. more...

Vice President Mike Pence signaled his support as 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
By Luke Broadwater

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence signaled support on Saturday for a futile Republican bid to overturn the election in Congress next week, after 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory when the House and Senate meet to formally certify it. The announcement by the senators — and Mr. Pence’s move to endorse it — reflected a groundswell among Republicans to defy the unambiguous results of the election and indulge President Trump’s attempts to remain in power with false claims of voting fraud.

Every state in the country has certified the election results after verifying their accuracy, many following postelection audits or hand counts. Judges across the country, and a Supreme Court with a conservative majority, have rejected nearly 60 attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to challenge the results. And neither Mr. Pence nor any of the senators who said they would vote to invalidate the election has made a specific allegation of fraud, instead offering vague suggestions that some wrongdoing might have occurred and asserting that many of their supporters believe that it has. more...

*** The election is over Biden won but some in the Republican Party are trying to help Trump steal the election, Trump and those Republicans are attempting a coup. Americans need to remember those Republicans who help Trump with his coup attempt and vote them out of office. ****

By Jordain Carney

Eleven Senate Republicans on Saturday announced that they will vote for objections to the Electoral College results Wednesday, when Congress convenes in a joint session to formally count the vote. GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.) and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) said in a joint statement that they will vote against accepting the election results until there is a 10-day audit.

"Congress should immediately appoint an Electoral Commission, with full investigatory and fact-finding authority, to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election returns in the disputed states," they said. "Once completed, individual states would evaluate the Commission’s findings and could convene a special legislative session to certify a change in their vote, if needed. "Accordingly, we intend to vote on Jan. 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not 'regularly given' and 'lawfully certified' (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed," they added.

The senators didn't say in their joint statement if they plan to object to the results from specific states, how they would divvy up those objections or if they would just vote in support of challenges to the Electoral College results if they reach the Senate. The group's announcement means that at least a dozen GOP senators, or almost a quarter of the caucus, will challenge the election results Wednesday. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) was the first senator to announce he would be joining a band of House conservatives to force a debate and vote on the Electoral College results. more...

By Grace Segers

The Senate on Friday overrode President Trump's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, the $740 billion defense policy bill. This veto, in the waning days of Mr. Trump's presidency, marked the first time Congress has voted to override him. The final vote tally was 81 to 13, with a two-thirds vote required to overturn the veto. The bill had previously passed in the Senate 84-13 earlier this month, and the House has already voted to override Mr. Trump's veto. Mr. Trump tweeted after the vote that Senate Republicans had "missed a big opportunity to get rid of Section 230," one of the portions of the bill he had objected to. Mr. Trump wanted to repeal the social media liability shield, but several members of Congress, including some Republicans, argued that the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was not relevant to national security. more...

*** Trump AKA el stupid broke the nuclear deal now Iran is free to enrich as much uranium as they want. ***

By Tal Axelrod

Iran on Saturday announced that it intends to enrich its uranium to up to 20 percent at its Fordow facility amid heightening tensions with the U.S. in the waning days of the Trump administration. Iranian state television confirmed that Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) informing it of Tehran’s decision to enrich its uranium just a short step away from weapons-grade levels. The IAEA also confirmed to The Hill that it had received the letter and maintained that it would keep a close eye on any developments at the underground Fordow facility.

“Iran has informed the agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. Iran’s letter to the agency, dated [Dec. 31, 2020] did not say when this enrichment activity would take place,” the agency said. “The agency has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordow," it added. "In line with standard safeguards practice, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will promptly report any relevant developments to IAEA Member States, as he did [Friday] regarding Iran’s letter.”

Iran’s decision to further enrich its uranium comes amid escalating friction with Washington and concerns that Tehran is mulling some kind of military action in the Middle East in the coming days. Two Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to the Persian Gulf this week in an attempt to deliver “a clear deterrent message to anyone who intends to do harm to Americans or American interests,” according to U.S. Central Command. The flights marked the third such mission in 45 days. more...

Those behind the widespread intrusion into government and corporate networks exploited seams in U.S. defenses and gave away nothing to American monitoring of their systems.
By David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth and Julian E. Barnes

On Election Day, General Paul M. Nakasone, the nation’s top cyberwarrior, reported that the battle against Russian interference in the presidential campaign had posted major successes and exposed the other side’s online weapons, tools and tradecraft. “We’ve broadened our operations and feel very good where we’re at right now,” he told journalists. Eight weeks later, General Nakasone and other American officials responsible for cybersecurity are now consumed by what they missed for at least nine months: a hacking, now believed to have affected upward of 250 federal agencies and businesses, that Russia aimed not at the election system but at the rest of the United States government and many large American corporations.

Three weeks after the intrusion came to light, American officials are still trying to understand whether what the Russians pulled off was simply an espionage operation inside the systems of the American bureaucracy or something more sinister, inserting “backdoor” access into government agencies, major corporations, the electric grid and laboratories developing and transporting new generations of nuclear weapons. At a minimum it has set off alarms about the vulnerability of government and private sector networks in the United States to attack and raised questions about how and why the nation’s cyberdefenses failed so spectacularly. Those questions have taken on particular urgency given that the breach was not detected by any of the government agencies that share responsibility for cyberdefense — the military’s Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, both of which are run by General Nakasone, and the Department of Homeland Security — but by a private cybersecurity company, FireEye. more...

Moscow, with its growing cyber capabilities, appears undeterred by Western sanctions and other countermeasures
By Georgi Kantchev, Warren P. Strobel

The sprawling SolarWinds hack by suspected Russian state-backed hackers is the latest sign of Moscow’s growing resolve and improving technical ability to cause disruption and conduct espionage at a global scale in cyberspace. The hack, which compromised parts of the U.S. government as well as tech companies, a hospital and a university, adds to a string of increasingly sophisticated and ever more brazen online intrusions, demonstrating how cyber operations have become a key plank in Russia’s confrontation with the West, analysts and officials say. Moscow’s relations with the West continue to sour, and the Kremlin sees the cyber operations as a cheap and effective way to achieve its geopolitical goals, analysts say. Russia, they say, is therefore unlikely to back off from such tactics, even while facing U.S. sanctions or countermeasures. more...

Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen - Axios

President Trump is torching his own party and its leaders on his way out of power — and tossing gas on the fire with a public call for mass protest next week and a vote to overturn his defeat.

Why it matters: Trump is demanding Republicans fully and unequivocally embrace him — or face his wrath. This is self-inflicted, self-focused — and dangerous for a Republican Party clinging to waning Washington power.

Look at Trump just this week:
   He's trying to burn down the party's chances in Tuesday's Georgia runoffs, raising doubts for Republican voters by tweeting yesterday that the state's elections are "both illegal and invalid, and that would include the two current Senatorial Elections."

   He's trying to burn down Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — who won on the back of Trump's primary endorsement — because Kemp wouldn't interfere in the state's presidential results. Trump told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo that he's "ashamed" he endorsed Kemp, and tweeted that Kemp should resign because he's "an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG." more...

Susie Neilson

Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump's chief of staff, was ultimately the one who convinced the president to forgo a nationwide mask mandate to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported on Thursday. According to the report, President Trump's main pollster, Tony Fabrizio, came to the Oval Office in the middle of the summer for a meeting with Trump and his advisors. Fabrizio reported some surprising news: A majority of voters – including likely Trump supporters – supported mandatory mask-wearing in public. Fabrizio's poll had found that, in July, nearly 70% of voters in states being targeted by Trump's campaign were in favor of a mask mandate, including more than half of Republicans. The polling data supported an argument made by senior advisors Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks: Trump could portray mask-wearing as Americans' key to regaining their freedom to attend group gatherings and indoor events. more...

The president has told advisers he isn’t deterred by the setbacks in the courts and won’t be deterred by Congress certifying Joe Biden’s win.
Will Sommer, Asawin Suebsaeng

Many of Donald Trump’s most dogmatic supporters see a mass protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6—just two weeks shy of Inauguration Day 2021—as their last chance to disrupt President-elect Joe Biden’s win. But for the president himself, it’s just another day to complain. Two people familiar with the matter say that in recent days, Trump has told advisers and close associates that he wants to keep fighting in court past Jan. 6 if members of Congress, as expected, end up certifying the electoral college results.

“The way he sees it is: Why should I ever let this go?… How would that benefit me?” said one of the sources, who’s spoken to Trump at length about the post-election activities to nullify his Democratic opponent’s decisive victory. The president’s exact plans for the Jan. 6 events remain unclear, and it has been common for him to lend his support to these rallies or protests via enthusiastic-sounding tweets, only to then stop short of doing much else. Since last week, Trump has asked certain aides and allies what they think would be good ideas for him to mark the occasion, such as a speech, a flyover, or a recorded video, the sources said. more...

He says he’s “not just some pillow guy” to be mocked. He knows Trump is the chosen one because he’s familiar with “numbers and charts” and soon even “Trump-haters” will see.
Asawin Suebsaeng, Will Sommer

With a month to go until Inauguration Day, Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and a personal friend and diehard MAGA supporter of Donald Trump, says he’s poured more than $1 million of his own money into bankrolling efforts to nullify Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential race. According to Lindell, who served as Minnesota co-chair for Trump’s re-election campaign, he’s been in direct contact this month with pro-Trump attorneys and conservative luminaries like Michael Flynn to talk “all about fraud.” He’s launched his own private “investigations and due diligence” into voting machines. And he is financially backing the post-election work of several legal teams and Trumpist lawyers, including Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, the latter of whom is a former top member of the president’s legal team. “This president won by a lot, by a landslide! I know there was fraud. And I’m not just some pillow guy that they can mock out there. ” — Mike Lindell. more...


By Jeffery Martin

In a video posted to YouTube on Thursday, Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger addressed the prevalence of conspiracy theories in U.S. politics while debunking some President Donald Trump's allegations of voter fraud. Trump has refused to concede the November election to President-elect Joe Biden, baselessly claiming that widespread voter fraud perpetrated by Democrats handed Biden the victory. Trump and members of his legal team have alleged that voting machines distributed by Dominion Voting Systems were programmed to flip votes from Trump to Biden.

While a majority of Trump's legal efforts to have the election results overturned have failed, some House Republicans have stated they plan on objecting to the results of the Electoral College during the official Congressional count of the votes on Wednesday. Kinzinger said in the video that the challenges were based on misinformation. "The president doesn't want to admit defeat and nobody would, but he's currently trying to discredit the election results through falsehoods and conspiracies," Kinzinger said. "As someone entrusted to lead, I have a choice. I can be quiet and I can survive by taking the easy path or I can speak up and lead without concern for the consequences. I choose to lead without fear."

"As public servants, we have a responsibility to serve in good faith," Kinzinger added. "Purporting falsehoods is dangerously irresponsible—and it's just plain wrong." One of the claims made by Trump's legal teams was that Dominion voting machines in Michigan were counting votes for Trump as votes for Biden. Kinzinger said those claims were false. "There was an error but it was a human error, not a Dominion issue, and it was corrected," Kinzinger said. more...

President Trump continued his assault on election integrity, baselessly claiming the presidential results and the Senate runoffs in Georgia were both invalid — which could complicate G.O.P. efforts to motivate voters.
By Richard Fausset

ATLANTA — President Trump took to Twitter Friday evening to make the unfounded assertion that Georgia’s two Senate races are “illegal and invalid,” an argument that could complicate his efforts to convince his supporters to turn out for Republican candidates in the two runoff races that will determine which party controls the Senate.

The president is set to hold a rally in Dalton, Ga., on Monday, the day before Election Day, and Georgia Republicans are hoping he will focus his comments on how crucial it is for Republicans to vote in large numbers for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the state’s two incumbent Republican senators.

But Mr. Trump has continued to make the false claim that Georgia’s election system was rigged against him in the Nov. 3 general election. Some Republican leaders are afraid that his supporters will take the president’s argument seriously, and decide that voting in a “corrupt” system is not worth their time, a development that could hand the election to the Democrats. more...

*** The election is over Biden won but some in the Republican Party are trying to help Trump steal the election, Trump and those Republicans are attempting a coup. ****

Matthew S. Schwartz

With just days until Congress is scheduled to formalize the results of the 2020 presidential election, legal challenges to President-elect Joe Biden's win are still coming in. The January certification of states' electoral votes, overseen by the vice president, is usually seen as a formality. But a lawsuit filed last week by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, seeks to upend the process.

In some key battleground states, groups of Republicans have baselessly declared themselves to be "alternate electors," claiming to represent the true wishes of the voters. Gohmert and the other plaintiffs — including a group of self-proclaimed electors from Arizona — argue that when confronted with competing slates of electors, the Constitution gives Vice President Mike Pence the power to choose which electors to certify. The legal challenge, which reflects the longstanding refusal of certain Republicans to acknowledge Biden's victory, is widely seen as a long shot.

In their suit, which names the vice president as the defendant, the Republican plaintiffs argue that a 19th century law spelling out how Congress should handle the count is unconstitutional, because it directs Pence to tally the electoral votes as they've been reported by the states. These Republicans argue that the 12th Amendment gives Pence, not the states, sole discretion to determine which among competing slates of electors may be counted. But in response, Pence told the court that he was the wrong person to sue. The Republicans' beef isn't with the vice president, he said, but with Congress. more...

Senator Josh Hawley isn’t just engaging in civic vandalism—he is an emblem of a weak and rotten Republican Party.
Peter Wehner - The Atlantic

Those hoping for a quick snapback to sanity for the Republican Party once Donald Trump is no longer president should temper those hopes.  The latest piece of evidence to suggest the enduring power of Trumpian unreality is yesterday’s announcement by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri that he will object next week when Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College vote.

Hawley knows this effort will fail, just as every other effort to undo the results of the lawful presidential election will fail. (A brief reminder for those with faulty short-term memories: Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes.) Every single attempt to prove that the election was marked by fraud or that President-elect Biden’s win is illegitimate—an effort that now includes about 60 lawsuits—has flopped. In fact, what we’ve discovered since the November 3 election is that it was “the most secure in American history,” as election experts in Trump’s own administration have declared. But this immutable, eminently provable fact doesn’t deter Trump and many of his allies from trying to overturn the election; perversely, it seems to embolden them.  

One such Trump ally is Tommy Tuberville, the newly elected senator from Alabama, who has suggested that he might challenge the Electoral College count. And there are others. But what makes Hawley’s declaration ominously noteworthy is that unlike Tuberville—a former college football coach who owes his political career in a deep-red state to Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary against Jeff Sessions—Hawley is a man who clearly knows better. According to his Senate biography, he is “recognized as one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers.” A former state attorney general, Hawley has litigated before the Supreme Court. He graduated from Stanford University in 2002 and Yale Law School in 2006. He has clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts; he taught at one of London’s elite private schools, St. Paul’s; and he served as an appellate litigator at one of the world’s biggest law firms. more...

By Sun Sentinel Editorial Board

There is no reasonable doubt that Congress will confirm the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris when it meets Wednesday to count their electoral votes for president and vice-president. What remains to be seen is how much decency and patriotism remain in the Republican Party. Under Abraham Lincoln, the GOP stood for government of, by and for the people.

But now, does it stand for anything other than Donald Trump? “This is Donald Trump’s party and I am a Donald Trump Republican,” says Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida’s enfant terrible, one of the Congress members who plan to challenge the Democratic electoral votes from up to five key states. If you want to understand how democracies die, that’s how. An entire party turns into a personality cult.

No political party ever had a more noble purpose or a more glorious beginning. It was founded in 1854 to stop the expansion of slavery to the western territories. To the South, confining slavery to where it existed would result in abolishing slavery, and so it fell to Lincoln, the party’s first president, to save the Union and abolish the evil institution that had spawned secession and civil war. more...

"We should be attempting to expand our reaches, even if it does cost us," said one young Republican voter.
By Nicole Via y Rada

Now that the election dust has settled just weeks until President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, the Republican Party is beginning to take stock of its future beyond President Donald Trump. For many young Republicans, Trump's loss signals an opening for new directions within the party. Several said in interviews that they want the party to become more tolerant and inclusive while staying true to conservative values.

"The GOP has a lot of really good policy, a lot of winning policies, but it does seem like often we can get caught up on the losing ones and fight like hell for them," said Cameron Adkins, a sophomore who is vice president of College Republicans at Columbia University. "When in reality, they're losing issues with the American people."

Thirty-one percent of voters ages 18 to 24 supported Trump in November, according to exit polls, down from 37 percent in 2016. The Generation Z bloc, born after 1996, makes up at least 10 percent of the U.S. population, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, and it will only grow as the next election approaches. more...

Azmi Haroun

Throughout the course of the pandemic, President Donald Trump lashed out at his son-in-law Jared Kushner over testing and mask-wearing, according to a report by The New York Times. According to The Times, during a meeting of top aides in the Oval Office on August 19, Trump grew angry with increased COVID-19 testing in the US, which he blamed for higher case numbers. "You're killing me! This whole thing is! We've got all the damn cases," Trump reportedly yelled at Kushner. Trump continued, The Times reported, by telling Kushner, "I want to do what Mexico does. They don't give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you're vomiting." The report alleged that Trump viewed testing "as a mechanism for making him look bad by driving up the number of known cases." more...

By Dan Berman

(CNN) Vice President Mike Pence's lawyers asked a federal judge Thursday to reject a request from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas that attempts to force Pence to ignore electoral votes of several key states when Congress meets to certify the 2020 presidential election next week. Pence argues that the legal issues raised by Gohmert, along with a slate of Arizona Republicans, should be addressed to the House and Senate (if they should be raised at all). Gohmert's lawsuit is a last-gasp attempt by Republicans to persuade Pence to interfere in the declaration of President-elect Joe Biden's victory and flip the election for President Donald Trump. The brief, filed with the Eastern District of Texas, does not say if Pence would entertain that possibility, but there is no public indication he will.

"Plaintiffs have presented this Court with an emergency motion raising a host of weighty legal issues about the manner in which the electoral votes for President are to be counted," Pence's filing states. "But these plaintiffs' suit is not a proper vehicle for addressing those issues because plaintiffs have sued the wrong defendant." Pence later adds: "(A) suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction." The lawsuit falsely claims the election was stolen by Democrats, citing unproven allegations of fraud that federal and state courts have rejected again and again. Gohmert and the Republicans argue that the Electoral Count Act unconstitutionally binds Pence to the Electoral College count certified by the states, saying that Pence has "exclusive authority and sole discretion" to count the states' electoral votes. more...

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

President Trump on Thursday extended a pandemic-era suspension of certain immigrant and work visas, ensuring that his sweeping limits on legal immigration will remain in place when Joe Biden is sworn in. Through a proclamation issued 20 days before Inauguration Day, Mr. Trump ordered a three-month extension of the visa restrictions, which were first enacted in April as a ban on some prospective immigrants and expanded in June to also halt several temporary work programs.

Mr. Trump has said the limits — which invoke a broad presidential power to bar the entry of foreigners deemed to be "detrimental to the interests" of the U.S. — are necessary to prevent new immigrants and temporary workers from competing with Americans for jobs during the economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. more...

“I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said.
By Jane C. Timm

President Donald Trump spent his first days in office pushing false claims about the size of his inauguration crowd. He has spent the final weeks of his term blitzing the American people with falsehoods and far-fetched conspiracies as part of a failed attempt to overturn the election he lost — cementing his legacy as what fact checkers and presidential historians say is the most mendacious White House occupant ever.

“I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in an interview. “Dwight Eisenhower used to say one of the most important tools a president of the United States has is that people believe what he says."

But that belief in the president’s words has become increasingly dependent on the political party to which a person belongs. Trump decries reports that are unflattering and facts that don’t fit with his world view as “fake news,” fueling a growing partisan information divide on everything from the contagiousness of the coronavirus to the reliability of the media. more...

Trump’s run for the presidency was fueled by political prominence gained by promoting the racist “birther” lie about President Barack Obama, and his 2016 victory was secured by a campaign rooted in false claims about immigrants and inner-city crime. Once in the White House, the president routinely made false claims about everything from toilet flushes to tax reform. Some of Trump’s false claims drove policy, while conspiracy theories were elevated in tweets and in public and private conversations with foreign leaders. more...

Patrick Marley - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Wisconsin's high court, set aside the state's presidential election and allow Republicans who control the Legislature to decide how to cast the state's 10 electoral votes. It's the latest in a string of dozens of challenges by the Republican president and his allies to overturn the Nov. 3 election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump and his supporters have failed to make headway in the courts. "This Court is likely the only institution of our government capable of credibly resolving the controversy over this election," Trump's legal team told the U.S. Supreme Court in its filing. Trump's lawyers asked the court to put the case on a fast track so it can be decided before Congress counts electoral votes on Jan. 6. The U.S. Supreme Court has already considered a challenge to the results in Wisconsin and other swing states. The high court this month rejected that challenge, which was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and backed by more than 100 Republicans in Congress. more...

By Alexandra Garrett

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger called out President Donald Trump's campaign fundraiser emails on Wednesday. "Where I feel really bad is just the people that are, you know, struggling during the pandemic are giving President Trump's campaign money for this recount because they believe him, said Kinzinger during an interview with CNN's New Day. "And it's just a scam it's a big grift," Kinzinger added. "Hard-working taxpayers are giving their money to this because they are convinced because the president's telling them that they can win." The Trump campaign sent out over 500 emails since the presidential election on November 3. More than 400 of those emails contained fundraising solicitations. A large number of the emails focused on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the presidential election although most of the lawsuits filed from Trump's campaign turned out unsuccessful in proving any voting irregularities contributed to President-elect Joe Biden's win. more...

Yohannes Abraham said a lack of cooperation was limiting the president-elect’s ability to mount an effective economic response to the pandemic.
By QUINT FORGEY

The head of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team blasted the leadership of President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday — accusing the agency of thwarting coordination between its career civil servants and incoming administration officials. The fresh complaints from Yohannes Abraham, the transition’s executive director, about what he called “obstruction” by the White House budget office come after Biden’s team and the president-elect himself have expressed similar frustrations this month with Trump’s political appointees at the Pentagon.

In a virtual news briefing with reporters, Abraham acknowledged that although most of the transition’s agency review teams “have benefited from strong cooperation” with their federal counterparts, “unfortunately, that has not been the case across the board.” Transition officials “have encountered obstruction from political leadership at various agencies, most notably at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget,” Abraham said. “Make no mistake, this lack of cooperation has real-world implications, most concerningly as it relates to our national security,” he added. “This intentionally generated opacity makes it harder for our government to protect the American people moving forward.” more...

*** Some Republicans are trying to help Trump with his failed coup attempt. This is not some third world country, but some on the right think it or are trying make it so. All Americans should remember all the republicans who helped Trump try to steal the election and vote them out of office. ***

By Jordain Carney

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said on Wednesday that he will object during Congress's counting of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, becoming the first GOP senator to back the effort by House conservatives. The decision by Hawley would ensure a debate and vote in the House and Senate on the Electoral College results. “I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws," Hawley said in a statement. "And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act," Hawley added. His office didn't immediately respond to a question about which states he will object to next week. more...

By Jeremy Herb, Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox, CNN

(CNN) Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Wednesday he will object when Congress counts the Electoral College votes next week, which will force lawmakers in both the House and Senate to vote on whether to accept the results of President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Hawley is the first senator to announce plans to object to the results, which is significant because both a House member and senator are required to mount an objection when Congress counts the Electoral College votes on January 6. The objection will not change the outcome of the election, only delaying the inevitable affirmation of Biden's victory in November over President Donald Trump. Democrats will reject any objections in the House, and multiple Republican senators have argued against an objection that will provide a platform for Trump's baseless conspiracy theories claiming the election was stolen from him.

Hawley's objection, which other senators may still join, will also put many of his Senate Republican colleagues in a difficult political position, forcing them to vote on whether to side with Trump or with the popular will of the voters. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately urged Senate Republicans not to join the group of House members who are planning to object. Senate Majority Whip John Thune argued against it publicly, prompting a rebuke from Trump on Twitter and the threat of a primary challenge. Trump has been pushing for Congress to try to overturn the election result as his campaign's attempts to overturn the election through the courts have been repeatedly rejected. more...


*** Are they planning on a coup? Trump lost the election it is over, the only way Trump can stay as president is if he and his minions stage a coup. Are they planning on a coup? ***

By Alexandra Hutzler

Less than a week after his controversial pardon, Roger Stone said he was able to thank President Donald Trump in person over the weekend. Stone posted about his meeting with Trump on Parler, a social media site that has been attracting conservative commentators after Twitter and Facebook restricted posts that included false or misleading information about the 2020 election. "I also told the president exactly how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud are charged and convicted and to ensure Donald Trump continues as our president," Stone wrote. Trump pardoned Stone on December 23 along with 19 other individuals, including his son-in-law's father. So far, the president has granted clemency for five people who were convicted during former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. more...

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Boy, I did not see this one coming! On Monday, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert sued Vice President Mike Pence in federal court in a, um, wacky attempt to transform the vice president's purely ceremonial role in presiding over the announcement of the Electoral College results in Congress into a power broker position in which the VP could effectively hand the election to President Donald Trump. "We continue to hold out hope that there is a federal judge who understands that the fraud that stole this election will mean the end of our republic, and this suit would insure that the Vice-President will only accept electors legitimately and legally elected," Gohmert said in a statement on Monday. "There must be an opportunity for a day in court when fraud was this prevalent."

It's probably worth noting here that there has yet to be any proof of the widespread fraud that Gohmert, Trump and the President's most ardent backers continue to allege. In fact, as The New York Times noted over the weekend, the Trump forces have lost all but one of the 60 (!) lawsuits they have brought attempting to prove voter fraud. There have been zero documented instances of widespread malfeasance -- be it dead people voting or non-citizens casting votes. There's just no "there" there. Like, none. Unbowed by that absence, Gohmert has plowed onward. And while the legal case is a joke -- and that is putting it nicely -- it's worth examining what would happen if Gohmert's fantasy actually came true, and how distinctly un-conservative it would all be. more...

By Kate Sullivan and MJ Lee, CNN

(CNN) President-elect Joe Biden on Monday said his transition team has "encountered roadblocks" from political leadership at the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget as his advisers work with the Trump administration. "We just aren't getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas," Biden said, after receiving a virtual briefing from members of his national security and foreign policy agency review teams. "It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility," he said. The President-elect said his team "needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies. We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit."

CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on Biden's remarks. Tensions between the Pentagon and the Biden transition team have been intensifying in recent weeks over stalled transition briefings. Last week, Biden said that the Defense Department had refused to brief his team on the massive cyberattack on government agencies and major American technology and accounting companies. The week prior, Biden's transition team said they had not agreed to a two-week break in the discussions with Pentagon officials, despite the acting defense secretary saying that both sides had agreed to take a "holiday pause." Biden said there are a number of pressing national security issues his administration is preparing to tackle when he takes office next month, including the coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis and the humanitarian crisis at the US southern border.

He reiterated his pledge to sharply depart from President Donald Trump's isolationist foreign policy and instead rebuild alliances across the globe and work with partners to tackle global issues. "We're going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or work without us," Biden said. The President-elect said part of the discussion in the briefing earlier in the day focused on strategic challenges that China and Russia pose to the United States. He spoke about "modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to overinvest in legacy systems designed to address threats of the past."  more...

By Tim Elfrink

President Trump has had few more-stalwart backers in the media than the New York Post editorial board. The Rupert Murdoch-controlled tabloid was among the first to endorse Trump four years ago and this year urged voters to give him a second term. But on Sunday, the Post aimed a blistering editorial at Trump, demanding that he accept his loss to President-elect Joe Biden and stop falsely claiming that mass voter fraud had marred the results — an effort the paper labeled a “dark charade.”

“We understand, Mr. President, that you’re angry that you lost,” the editorial board wrote. “But to continue down this road is ruinous.” Under the headline “Stop the insanity,” the conservative tabloid took particular aim at Trump’s attempts to pressure Vice President Pence and congressional Republicans to somehow reverse the result when they meet on Jan. 6 to certify Biden’s electoral college victory. “You have tweeted that, as long as Republicans have ‘courage,’ they can overturn the results and give you four more years in office,” the Post wrote. “In other words, you’re cheering for an undemocratic coup.” more...

Tapper doesn’t interview the White House press secretary because she’s incapable of “acknowledging reality,” and provides “no value” to a news story.
By Mary Papenfuss

ake Tapper revealed Sunday that he never interviews White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on CNN because she “lies the way that most people breathe” — constantly. McEnany is among several lying White House officials Tapper said he avoids because they provide “no value” to an examination of the news.

Tapper attacked McEnany’s veracity as a guest on Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” for a look back on President Donald Trump’s war with the media throughout his term. Stelter asked Tapper how he decides who to interview, and how he handles false information from the White House.

“There are some people that are so mendacious, I just wouldn’t put them on air,” Tapper responded. “Kayleigh McEnany, I never booked her. Jason Miller from the Trump campaign, I would never book him. These are just people who tell lies the way that most people breathe. There was no value in that.” more...

By Kevin Liptak, Kate Bennett, Tami Luhby, Kaitlan Collins, Jason Hoffman, Phil Mattingly and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump signed the massive $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill into law Sunday night, averting a government shutdown that was set to begin on Tuesday, and extending billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to millions. Trump's signature of the $900 billion Covid relief package extends unemployment benefits for millions of jobless gig-workers and independent contractors, as well as the long-term unemployed. The estimated 12 million people in two key pandemic unemployment programs, who were facing their last payment this weekend, will now receive benefits for another 11 weeks. Plus, all those collecting jobless payments will receive a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March.

However, because Trump did not sign the bill on Saturday, those in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs will likely not receive a payment for the final week of the year. And the $300 federal enhancement may only last 10 weeks instead of 11 weeks for most folks. That's because states can't provide benefits for weeks that start before programs are authorized, but the legislation calls for the extra payments to end on March 14.

Also, because Congress waited until late December to strike a deal, those in the two pandemic unemployment programs will likely experience a break in payments of several weeks while state agencies reprogram their computers. But the benefits are retroactive.
The Covid-19 relief legislation was passed by Congress on Monday and was flown to Mar-a-Lago on Thursday to await Trump's signature. But after sitting on the sidelines during the negotiations, Trump emerged with an eleventh-hour complaint that a separate provision in the deal, which the President's own White House helped broker, would only provide up to $600 in direct payments. Trump wanted to send out $2,000 checks. Trump also took umbrage with certain items that were actually from the omnibus spending package and which he had requested in his annual budget to Congress. more...


Other pandemic assistance programs are set to end and a government shutdown looms as Trump spends his holiday at Mar-a-Lago.
By Liz Johnstone

Pandemic unemployment assistance, a lifeline for 7.3 million American workers out of work because of the coronavirus, expired at midnight Sunday morning after President Donald Trump continued to resist signing the $2.3 trillion package that combines government funding with Covid-19 relief. The bill, the result of protracted negotiations between both parties and the Trump administration that the president himself largely sat out, includes a $900 billion Covid-19 stimulus package that would extend those unemployment benefits — $114 to $357 weekly payments to unemployed gig workers and self-employed people whose business has stalled.

That package would also extend the federal eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on Dec. 31. Without an extension, millions could face an immediate housing crisis. The legislation would also fund the federal government through September 2021. Without Trump’s signature, the government will shut down at midnight Tuesday morning. After Congress passed the bill with large bipartisan support late last Monday, Trump threw Washington into chaos by suddenly raising an objection to the size of a new round of direct payments, which came as news to his own aides who had negotiated them with Congress. He demanded lawmakers raise to the amount to $2,000, as also criticized other elements he called “pork” included within the mammoth spending package, including routine annual foreign aid payments. Trump reiterated his criticism of the bill Saturday, tweeting, “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill.” more...


BEIJING (Reuters) - China expressed anger on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law measures to further bolster support for Taiwan and Tibet, which had been included in a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package. China has watched with growing alarm as the United States has stepped up its backing for Chinese-claimed Taiwan and its criticism of Beijing's rule in remote Tibet, further straining a relationship under intense pressure over trade, human rights and other issues. The Taiwan Assurance Act of 2020 and Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 both contain language objectionable to China, including U.S. support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in United Nations bodies and regular arms sales. more...

by: WTVO

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed overnight as President Donald Trump refused to sign an end-of-year COVID relief and spending bill that had been considered a done deal before his sudden objections. The fate of the bipartisan package remained in limbo Sunday as Trump continued to demand larger COVID relief checks and complained about “pork” spending. Without the widespread funding provided by the massive measure, a government shutdown would occur when money runs out at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s a chess game and we are pawns,” said Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who stood to lose her $129 weekly jobless benefit unless Trump signed the package into law or succeeded in his improbable quest for changes. Washington has been reeling since Trump turned on the deal after it had won sweeping approval in both houses of Congress and after the White House had assured Republican leaders that Trump would support it. more...

Connor Perrett

With less than one month until he leaves office, President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out at the US Supreme Court over its refusal to intervene in the 2020 election, which Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden. "The U.S. Supreme Court has been totally incompetent and weak on the massive Election Fraud that took place in the 2020 Presidential Election," he said in a tweet just before 9 a.m. Saturday. "We have absolute PROOF, but they don't want to see it - No 'standing', they say. If we have corrupt elections, we have no country!"

During his term in office, Trump successfully nominated three justices to the court: Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and most recently, Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. Trump has previously complained about his lack of standing to bring his desired lawsuits, which is the legal concept of whether a person has the legal ability to bring a particular lawsuit before a particular court. Trump and his campaign turned to legal challenges immediately following his loss, but he and Republican officials have won zero of at least 40 challenges they've filed. Moments later Saturday, Trump in another tweet lobbed a subsequent attack on the sanctity of the US election, claiming he spoke to someone that told him "elections in Afghanistan are far more secure and much better run than the USA's 2020 Election." more...

By Tal Axelrod

President Trump on Saturday ramped up his criticism of Senate Republicans over their unwillingness to aid his efforts to overturn the election, pressing them to “fight” before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office. Trump called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans, asserting they are doing "NOTHING" as Congress heads toward a vote early next month to certify the Electoral College results.

“If a Democrat Presidential Candidate had an Election Rigged & Stolen, with proof of such acts at a level never seen before, the Democrat Senators would consider it an act of war, and fight to the death. Mitch & the Republicans do NOTHING, just want to let it pass. NO FIGHT!” Trump tweeted.

The comment marked the latest broadside in Trump’s attempt to get at least one GOP senator to back a challenge to the Electoral College results when Congress meets to certify them on Jan. 6. Thus far, no Republicans in the upper chamber have definitively said they will back a challenge that’s being pushed by several GOP members in the House, though Alabama Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R) has suggested he may back the challenge. more...

By James Crowley

President Donald Trump went on a Boxing Day Twitter rant, where he attacked the FBI, Justice Department, Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other Senate Republicans for various claims related to voter fraud—claiming that it cost him the election to President-elect Joe Biden. In a Saturday morning tweet directed at the Supreme Court, the president called it "incompetent and weak" for its handlings of his claims that there was fraud in the November election. Trump's campaign has filed numerous lawsuits, alleging that it had evidence of widespread voter fraud in key swing states. As previously reported, almost all of the Trump campaign's lawsuits have been dismissed.

The president claimed to have "absolute PROOF" that widespread voter fraud occurred during the November election, but he said that the Supreme Court doesn't "want to see it." "The U.S. Supreme Court has been totally incompetent and weak on the massive Election Fraud that took place in the 2020 Presidential Election. We have absolute PROOF, but they don't want to see it - No 'standing', they say. If we have corrupt elections, we have no country," he wrote. He also condemned the Department of Justice and FBI in a tweet: "The 'Justice' Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation's history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember." more...

By Natalie Colarossi

Illinois Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger accused President Donald Trump and fellow GOP representatives who seek to challenge the Electoral College vote on January 6 of participating in an "utter scam" meant to "raise money and gain followers." "All this talk about Jan 6th from@realDonaldTrump and other congressional grifters is simply explained: they will raise money and gain followers by blaming everyone else knowing full well they can't do anything. It's sad, and an utter scam," Kinzinger tweeted Saturday. The GOP lawmaker's statement comes amid reports that Representative Mo Brooks and Senator Tommy Tuberville will challenge the Electoral College vote when Congress convenes in January.

The two lawmakers have previously suggested they would use the Electoral Count Act of 1877 in a last-ditch effort to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election. If Brooks and Tuberville successfully band together to oppose the electoral vote, the Senate and House of Representatives would be required to hold a two-hour debate and then vote on whether to approve or deny the objection. For the process to move forward, both chambers would have to agree on the objection in order to throw out contested electoral votes. more...

Joe Biden called Trump's inaction an "abdication of responsibility" that could have "devastating consequences."
Tanya Chen

COVID relief checks and unemployment benefits for millions of Americans hang in the balance as President Donald Trump has yet to sign aid legislation passed by Congress into law. Trump has instead spent the last few days golfing at Mar-a-Lago. Congress finally reached an agreement this month to send additional COVID aid to US residents, including $600 checks for most people, but Trump railed about the bill after it had passed and demanded that Congress raise the bill's $600 checks to $2,000 in direct payments — something his own party doesn't want to do. House Democrats were more than happy to apply pressure on Republicans to raise the check amounts, but they've declined to do so.

Unless Trump imminently signs the bill while he's in Florida, the checks, as well as housing protections and unemployment aid would be delayed. The state unemployment provisions established in the first CARES Act passed in the spring which expanded who can qualify for unemployment benefits will expire on Saturday, according to the New York Times. Even if the bill is signed Saturday, payments could be delayed due to states having to enter the new information into their systems, the Times reported. The bill would also provide another $300 per week in federal unemployment on top of state benefits through mid-March, but those too will be delayed if Trump does not sign the legislation this weekend. As of Saturday, the president had no public events scheduled on his agenda. Democrats like President-elect Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have made public statements urging Trump to sign the critical relief bill. Biden called Trump's inaction an "abdication of responsibility" that could have "devastating consequences." more...

CBS This Morning

President Trump is still not saying whether he will sign the latest $900 billion coronavirus stimulus plan, as federal unemployment benefits and an eviction protection program are expiring for millions of Americans. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with the president on Christmas Day, tweeted that Mr. Trump seems convinced that stimulus payments should be more than tripled to $2,000 per person. video...

For years, Republicans have used the specter of cheating as a reason to impose barriers to ballot access. A definitive debunking of claims of wrongdoing in 2020 has not changed that message.
By Jim Rutenberg, Nick Corasaniti and Alan Feuer

President Trump’s baseless and desperate claims of a stolen election over the last seven weeks — the most aggressive promotion of “voter fraud” in American history — failed to get any traction in courts across seven states, or come anywhere close to reversing the loss he suffered to Joseph R. Biden Jr. But the effort has led to at least one unexpected and profoundly different result: A thorough debunking of the sorts of voter fraud claims that Republicans have used to roll back voting rights for the better part of the young century.

In making their case in real courts and the court of public opinion, Mr. Trump and his allies have trotted out a series of tropes and canards similar to those Republicans have pushed to justify laws that in many cases made voting disproportionately harder for Blacks and Hispanics, who largely support Democrats. Their allegations that thousands of people “double voted” by assuming other identities at polling booths echoed those that have previously been cited as a reason to impose strict new voter identification laws.

Their assertion that large numbers of noncitizens cast illegal votes for Mr. Biden matched claims Republicans have made to argue for harsh new “proof of citizenship” requirements for voter registration. And their tales about large numbers of cheaters casting ballots in the name of “dead voters” were akin to those several states have used to conduct aggressive “purges” of voting lists that wrongfully slated tens of thousands of registrations for termination.

After bringing some 60 lawsuits, and even offering financial incentive for information about fraud, Mr. Trump and his allies have failed to prove definitively any case of illegal voting on behalf of their opponent in court — not a single case of an undocumented immigrant casting a ballot, a citizen double voting, nor any credible evidence that legions of the voting dead gave Mr. Biden a victory that wasn’t his. more...

by: Associated Press

President Donald Trump spent his Christmas golfing in Florida as a government shutdown looms and COVID relief hangs in the balance. Trump, at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach for the holidays, had no events on his public schedule after throwing the future of a massive COVID relief and government funding bill into question. Failure to sign the bill, which arrived in Florida on Thursday night, could deny relief checks to millions of Americans on the brink and force a government shutdown in the midst of the pandemic. The White House declined to share details of the president’s schedule. It said only: “During the Holiday season, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.”

Trump’s expected golf partner Friday was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally. Trump’s vacation came as Washington was still reeling over his surprise, eleventh-hour demand that an end-of-year spending bill that congressional leaders spent months negotiating give most Americans $2,000 COVID relief checks — far more than the $600 members of his own party had agreed to. The idea was swiftly rejected by House Republicans during a rare Christmas Eve session, leaving the proposal in limbo. more...

Associated Press

After tossing a grenade that threatens to blow up a massive Covid relief and government funding bill and force a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic, Donald Trump was golfing on Christmas for a second straight day. Failure to agree on the bill could deny checks to millions of Americans on the brink. Trump had no events on his public schedule on the first day of his winter vacation on Thursday, but traveled to his Palm Beach golf club, where he was spotted by CNN cameras on the links.

Reporters were given no details of his schedule for the day, but told that, “As the Holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.” Trump’s departure came as Washington was still reeling over his surprise, 11th-hour demand that an end-of-year spending bill that congressional leaders spent months negotiating give most Americans $2,000 Covid relief checks – far more than the $600 members of his own party had agreed to. The idea was swiftly rejected by House Republicans during a rare Christmas Eve session, leaving the proposal in limbo. more...

Legal threats range from investigations into his business dealings in New York to possible obstruction of justice charges – but all come with a political cost
by Ed Pilkington in New York

At noon on 20 January, presuming he doesn’t have to be dragged out of the White House as a trespasser, Donald Trump will make one last walk across the South Lawn, take his seat inside Marine One, and be gone. From that moment, Trump’s rambunctious term as president of the United States will be over. But in one important aspect, the challenge presented by his presidency will have only just begun: the possibility that he will face prosecution for crimes committed before he took office or while in the Oval Office.

“You’ve never had a president before who has invited so much scrutiny,” said Bob Bauer, White House counsel under Barack Obama. “This has been a very eventful presidency that raises hard questions about what happens when Trump leaves office.” For the past four years Trump has been shielded from legal jeopardy by a justice department memo that rules out criminal prosecution of a sitting president. But the second he boards that presidential helicopter and fades into the horizon, all bets are off.

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is actively investigating Trump’s business dealings. The focus described in court documents is “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” including possible bank fraud. A second major investigation by the fearsome federal prosecutors of the southern district of New York has already led to the conviction of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations relating to the “hush money” paid to Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor who alleged an affair with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. During the course of the prosecution, Cohen implicated a certain “Individual 1” – Trump – as the mastermind behind the felony. Though the investigation was technically closed last year, charges could be revisited once Trump’s effective immunity is lifted. more...

JILL COLVIN

PALM BEACH (AP) — After tossing a grenade that threatens to blow up a massive COVID relief and government funding bill and force a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic, President Donald Trump spent his Christmas Eve golfing in Florida. Failure to agree on the bill could deny checks to millions of Americans on the brink.

Trump had no events on his public schedule on the first day of his winter vacation Thursday, but traveled to his Palm Beach golf club, where he was spotted by CNN cameras on the links. Reporters were given no details of his schedule for the day, but told that, “As the Holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.” more...

As Donald Trump peddled baseless claims of vote fraud after 3 November, democracy found out who its friends were
Tom McCarthy

In November, Donald Trump became the first president in American history to try to hold on to power that voters had given to someone else in the course of a national election. The plot did not unfold in one dramatic scene. Instead, Trump lured Republicans to commit a series of coercive acts on his behalf under a false banner of non-existent election “fraud” – the attempted steal masquerading as a security measure. It might have worked. Many Republicans went along actively or silently. These included well-known national figures such as Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Lindsey Graham and most other Republican senators.

But to succeed, Trump’s plot depended not only on the top Republicans he dominates but also on the cooperation of hundreds of state and local officials. Over three crucial weeks in November, some of those officials made individual decisions that could have seen the plot through, while others thwarted it. Here is an incomplete list of some of the lesser-known Republican friends and foes of US democracy who emerged in the historic November 2020 battle over its fate.

Foes
To stay in power, Trump needed to prevent states from certifying the results of their 3 November votes, or to convince Republican legislators to try to throw out state results. Trump’s key targets included officials in Michigan and Pennsylvania. He found some ready accomplices. more...

"No parcels are moving at all. As bad as you think it is, it's worse."
By Jake Johnson

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's sweeping and destructive effort to slash operating costs at the U.S. Postal Service has made an already difficult time of the year even more chaotic for the beloved agency, threatening the prompt delivery of millions of Christmas-time packages as strained postal employees tirelessly work their way through mounting backlogs.

The Washington Post reported late Monday that a "perfect storm of crises" — the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented level of online orders, and DeJoy's operational changes — is wreaking havoc on the agency, which has seen drastic performance fall-offs since the postmaster general began implementing his agenda over the summer.

"Mail performance has plummeted: Only 75.3 percent of first-class mail, such as letters and bills, arrived within the standard one- to three-day delivery window the week of December 5, according to the most recent agency data available," the Post reported. "This time last year, the mail service's on-time score was closer to 95 percent."

"Adding to the slowdowns," the Post noted, "is on-the-ground confusion over the cost-cutting initiatives that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implemented during the summer and then paused at the direction of five federal courts. The Postal Service has appealed several of those rulings." A Michigan postal worker told the Post that "as bad as you think it is, it's worse." more...

President Trump has long seized on the tax break as a way to revive the restaurant industry. But economists have panned it as ineffective and largely benefiting the wealthy.
By Jeff Stein

The draft language of the emergency coronavirus relief package includes a tax break for corporate meal expenses pushed by the White House and strongly denounced by some congressional Democrats, according to a summary of the deal circulating among congressional officials and officials who are familiar with the provision. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a proposal that had not yet been publicly released.

President Trump has for months talked about securing the deduction — derisively referred to as the “three-martini lunch” by critics — as a way to revive the restaurant industry badly battered by the pandemic. But critics said it would do little to help struggling restaurants and would largely benefit business executives who do not urgently need help at this time. Some Democrats recoiled at the proposal, though it has also been denounced as ineffective by conservative tax experts as well. more...

John Haltiwanger

President Donald Trump is leaving the White House in less than a month, but you wouldn't know it from his behavior. Beyond refusing to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, the president has continued to threaten Iran with military action and his administration has reportedly discussed potential responses to recent rocket attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad thought to have been carried out by Iranian-backed militias.

Meanwhile, Biden says he's being stonewalled by the Pentagon and hasn't been thoroughly briefed on a number of crucial issues. In the wake of the discovery of the massive, embarrassing SolarWinds hack, Trump has claimed that "everything is well under control." Biden on Wednesday said he's seen "no evidence" to back that up and suggested the department hasn't been forthcoming with information on the hack. The president-elect said the Defense Department "won't even brief us on many things." The Pentagon pushed back on that assertion, describing it as "patently false" in a statement on Wednesday. more...

By Jeffery Martin

President Donald Trump lashed out at some Republican lawmakers Thursday on social media for not embracing his baseless allegations of election fraud. Trump has refused to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden, who bested Trump in both the popular and electoral vote. Trump has repeatedly claimed that widespread election manipulation was to blame for his apparent loss. While some GOP members, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have acknowledged Biden's incoming administration, others have rallied behind Trump's allegations. On Thursday, Trump gave a warning to GOP senators he deemed to be disloyal. "I saved at least 8 Republican Senators, including Mitch, from losing in the last Rigged (for President) Election," Trump tweeted Thursday. "Now they (almost all) sit back and watch me fight against a crooked and vicious foe, the Radical Left Democrats. I will NEVER FORGET!" more...

Paul Waldman

Up until now, many of President Trump’s pardons — for war criminals, corrupt politicians and fraudsters of various types — have appeared mostly rooted in his deep affinity for the most despicable human beings our society has managed to produce. If you were a vocal Trump supporter, that was often enough to get you on the list, whatever your crime. But with his latest batch of pardons, particularly those of former campaign chair Paul Manafort and longtime confidante Roger Stone, something different is at play: The pardons are all about him.

The long and winding coverup of the Russia scandal is now complete. Trump and his advocates have long cited special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s failure to bring criminal charges for coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. They have insisted there was “no collusion.”

But all those meetings between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials, the way Stone kept Trump apprised of the progress of WikiLeaks’ plans to release Democratic emails that the Russians stole, Manafort’s coordination with a Russian intelligence operative — it all added up to a shocking betrayal of the United States. Which is why Trump has worked so hard to convince Americans it was no big deal, and to ensure that neither he nor his associates paid the appropriate price.

The events leading up to the Manafort pardon underscore this story. His case went through many twists and turns, including a period in which he made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors, then lied to them about various matters. But the record showed a stunning level of not only avaricious fraud, but an eagerness to do the bidding of foreign actors who did not appear to have U.S. interests in mind.

The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, which issued a scathing report on the scandal, documents how Manafort, as campaign chair, secretly passed confidential internal campaign polling data to his associate Konstantin Kilimnik. The report describes Kilimnik as “a Russian intelligence officer.” more...

By Kathryn Watson

President Trump announced 26 new pardons Wednesday, including for allies Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, as well as Jared Kushner's father, Charles Kushner. Mr. Trump granted 15 pardons the day before. Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager, was sentenced to 7-and-a-half years in federal prison for convictions related to former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Manafort was released from prison in March to serve his sentence from home due to COVID-19.

Mr. Trump had already commuted the sentence of Stone, a longtime friend, in July. Stone was convicted of seven felony counts stemming from Mueller's investigation, including lying to investigators and witness tampering. Kushner was convicted of witness tampering, tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions back in 2005. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law, has worked in the White House since the beginning of Mr. Trump's presidency, and has been one of the president's most influential and long-serving aides. The case against Charles Kushner was prosecuted by former New Jersey Governor and Trump ally Chris Christie.

The pardon announcement comes as the president arrives in Florida for his Christmas vacation, after vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act and threatening not to sign the stimulus package that would grant relief for millions of Americans. Mr. Trump pardoned other allies and former Republican members of Congress earlier this week. Manafort immediately took to Twitter to thank the president. more...

Dan Mangan

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone both have reportedly been sent letters by defamation attorneys directing them to save all records related to claims that Dominion Voting Systems played a key role allegedly swindling Trump out of an election win. Giuliani also has been warned by Dominion’s lawyers that “litigation regarding these issues is imminent,” according to a new report by CNN, which was shown a copy of the letter.

The letters to Cipollone and Giuliani reportedly demanded that Giuliani stop “making defamatory claims against Dominion,” which makes voting machines. Trump, his campaign lawyers and allies including the attorney Sidney Powell have claimed, without evidence, that illegal vote changes made to ballot counting machines fraudulently gave the national presidential election to Joe Biden. Powell last week was sent a similar letter from Dominion’s lawyers about her “wild, knowingly baseless, and false accusations” about the company. The letter demanded that she retract her claims and preserve documents related to them. more...

Claudia Grisales, photographed for NPR

President Trump has followed through on his threats to veto the annual defense bill, triggering plans for Congress to return from their holiday break to potentially override him for the first time in his four-year administration. "My Administration has taken strong actions to help keep our Nation safe and support our service members," Trump wrote in a message to the House of Representatives. "I will not approve this bill, which would put the interests of the Washington, D.C. establishment over those of the American people."

Earlier this month, the National Defense Authorization Act won annual congressional approval for its 60th straight year. And the legislation drew overwhelming, bipartisan majorities in both chambers, signaling that Congress likely has the support to override his veto. Because of repeated Trump veto threats, Congress already scheduled voting sessions to override the move during rare floor votes next week. The House is now slated to meet on Monday to override the defense bill veto, while the Senate is scheduled to follow suit on Tuesday. more...

Jacob Pramuk

President Donald Trump’s last-second opposition to a coronavirus relief and federal funding bill already passed by Congress threatens to torch jobless benefits for millions of Americans and shut down the government during a deadly public health crisis. After weeks of no involvement in congressional efforts to pass another aid package, the outgoing president shocked Washington on Tuesday night by calling the bill a “disgrace” and pushing lawmakers to increase $600 direct payments to $2,000.

While he did not explicitly say whether he would veto the bill or simply refuse to sign it, Trump said the “next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package” if Congress does not send him revised legislation. Any delay in the measure becoming law threatens financial ruin for already struggling Americans. The $900 billion coronavirus relief portion of the bill extends pandemic-era expansions of jobless benefits that cover 12 million people. The provisions expire Saturday — the day after Christmas. The $1.4 trillion appropriations piece of the legislation would keep the federal government running through Sept. 30. The government would shut down Tuesday if it doesn’t become law before then. more...

Joe Biden to be lobbied to reverse Trump decision to pardon security guards jailed over massacre
Martin Chulov and Michael Safi

Iraqis have reacted with outrage to Donald Trump’s move to pardon four security guards from the security firm Blackwater who had been jailed for a 2007 massacre that sparked an outcry over the use of mercenaries in war. The four men were part of a security convoy that fired on civilians at a central Baghdad roundabout, killing 14 people including a nine-year old child and wounding many more. The four guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten – opened fire indiscriminately with machine guns, grenade launchers and a sniper on a crowd of unarmed people at a roundabout, known as Nisour Square.

The killings were one of the lowest points of the US-led invasion of Iraq, and the convictions had been seen by many Iraqis as a rare occasion where US citizens had been held to account for atrocities committed during the aftermath. Baghdad residents who spoke to the Guardian described the outgoing US president’s announcement as a “cruel slap” and an insult.

“Trump has no right to decide on behalf of victims’ families to pardon these criminals,” said Dr Haidar al-Barzanji, an Iraqi researcher and academic. “It is at odds with human rights and against the law. In Iraqi law they can only be pardoned if the families of victims pardon them. I encourage the families of the victims to request a complaint against Trump when the Biden administration starts.”

The Iraqi human rights activist Haidar Salman tweeted: “I still remember my professor of haematology at Baghdad University department of pathology (who was shot during the massacre along with his family) when he returned to life after his two children and his wife were killed in Nisour Square and almost lost his mind. “One reason for him to survive was to condemn the murderers. The person who releases these criminals is more of a criminal. The Iraqi government should ask the Biden administration to revoke the pardon.”

The carnage at Nisour Square came more than four years into the US invasion, which sparked a vicious sectarian war and mass displacement of Iraqis. The long US occupation had left citizens resentful of security convoys that carved swathes through traffic at will, sometimes shooting towards cars that had trailed too closely. more...

Analysis: President sanctions first federal execution of a woman in 67 years – but war criminals, fraudsters and Russia-linked.
David Smith in Washington

Lisa Montgomery is set to become the first woman put to death by the US federal government in 67 years. On Tuesday senators including Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wrote to the justice department demanding an investigation into an “unprecedented spree” of federal executions on Donald Trump’s watch.

A few hours later the president announced a slew of 15 pardons. Strikingly they included four military contractors imprisoned for the killing of unarmed men, women and children in Iraq. In short, war criminals. Trump’s motivation had less to do with the quality of mercy than a boundless quantity of shamelessness. In his binary worldview people on death row must face implacable justice but those who pass his loyalty test have a ticket to freedom. Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heards worked as security guards for Blackwater, owned by Erik Prince, a prominent supporter of Trump and brother of his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. All were serving long prison terms for a 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

After their trial in 2014, Ronald Machen Jr, the US attorney for the District of Columbia, said: “These Blackwater contractors unleashed powerful sniper fire, machine guns, and grenade launchers on innocent men, women, and children. Today they were held accountable for that outrageous attack and its devastating consequences for so many Iraqi families.” The pardoning of the four led political opponents and legal commentators, even those who thought they had grown immune to Trump outrage, to reach for words like “disgusting” and “grotesque”. With just 29 days left in office his burn-it-all-down brazenness knows no bounds. more...

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) An executive for a voting machine company that has been the target of conspiracy theories in the aftermath of Donald Trump's 2020 election loss and been baselessly accused of swinging the results against the President is suing his campaign and conservative media figures for defamation. Trump has called Dominion Voting Systems "a disaster," and his supporters have pushed the conspiracy theory that the company deleted votes for Trump on its voting equipment and that Dominion's director of product strategy and security, Eric Coomer, helped subvert the election.

There is no evidence that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and his administration and election officials have called it the "most secure" election in US history. President-elect Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes and the electoral map 306 to 232. The lawsuit names as defendants the Trump campaign, Rudy Giuliani, Trump adviser Sidney Powell, conservative media outlets One America News Network and Newsmax Media, the right-wing website Gateway Pundit, and Colorado businessman and activist Joseph Oltmann, among others. CNN has reached out to those named in the lawsuit.

In recent days -- as the threat of legal action loomed larger -- several conservative media outlets have begun backtracking some of the more outrageous claims. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Colorado district court, Coomer's lawyers say the allegations are "false and baseless" and have caused "immense injury to Dr. Coomer's reputation, professional standing, safety, and privacy." The lawsuit says the defendants "relied heavily upon false allegations" made by Oltmann, who claimed in interviews and social media posts that Coomer was a participant in an Antifa conference call that Oltmann said he infiltrated in September. more...

By Aqeel Najim, Kareem Khadder and Kara Fox, CNN

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) An Iraqi man who survived an infamous massacre of unarmed civilians by American security guards in Baghdad has condemned President Donald Trump's decision to pardon the men as "unjust." Seventeen Iraqi civilians, including 9- and 11-year-old boys, were killed when private contractors from the US security firm Blackwater opened fired in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007. Fourteen of those killings were unjustified under the rules of the use of deadly force by security contractors, according to an FBI investigation.

In 2014, a US federal jury found four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors -- Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard -- guilty over the slaughter and sentenced all to long jail terms. On Tuesday, Trump pardoned all four of them. "My message to US President Trump is to not pardon or release the perpetrators, they are terrorists," Jasim Mohammed Al-Nasrawi, a police officer who was injured in the attack, told CNN over the phone from Baghdad on Wednesday. "I am still not a hundred percent recovered from my head wound, which [was] sustained in the gunfire by Blackwater guards in 2007, and have not been completely compensated for the attack. I will not waive my right to this case, I am not giving up," he added. Al-Nasrawi, who attended the trial in the US as a witness, said he had received some compensation following the ruling, but believes he is owed more. more...

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN) Donald Trump's presidency is blazing into history in a way that epitomizes his corrupt excess, with pardons for cronies and war crimes, assaults on democracy, fresh Covid-19 denial and impunity for Russia. And in a trademark bombshell that blindsided aides, Trump on Tuesday also issued a sudden pre-Christmas demand for changes to a desperately needed $900 billion pandemic relief bill that risked shattering a fragile bipartisan compromise he had made no effort to shape. His move could send global markets into free fall and prolong the deprivation of millions of Americans who are going hungry or have lost their jobs.

The antics of the outgoing President in recent hours further weighed down the yet-to-begin presidency of his successor, Joe Biden, who already faced the most challenging debut of any US leader since Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. "I think it's a nightmare that everyone is going through, and they all say it's got to end," Biden said Tuesday when asked whether he expected "a honeymoon" of early political goodwill to help extricate the nation from the pandemic and its consequences. The sleazy final days of the Trump White House later hit new lows when the President wielded his unassailable pardon power, substituting political payoffs for justice in yet another morally questionable use of executive authority.

As the daily Covid death toll soared past 2,900, Trump concentrated on absolving two acolytes who had lied to investigators in the Russia probe and two staunchly supportive former GOP congressmen convicted of financial crimes. He also spared guards from the Blackwater private security firm, founded by a political supporter, Erik Prince. The guards had unleashed sniper fire, machine guns and grenades on innocent men, women and children in Iraq in 2007. Vice President Mike Pence -- a day after getting a coronavirus vaccine available to only a tiny fraction of Americans -- appeared before a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd that mocked the social distancing protocols he is supposed to promote as the head of the government's coronavirus task force. The event encapsulated the constant prioritization of political expediency over public health that has been at the root of the White House's disastrous mismanagement of Covid-19. more...

Four guards fired on unarmed crowd in Baghdad in 2007, killing 14 and sparking outrage over use of private security in war zones
Michael Safi in Beirut and agencies

Donald Trump has pardoned four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater who were serving jail sentences for killing 14 civilians including two children in Baghdad in 2007, a massacre that sparked an international outcry over the use of mercenaries in war. The four guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten – were part of an armoured convoy that opened fire indiscriminately with machine-guns, grenade launchers and a sniper on a crowd of unarmed people in a square in the Iraqi capital.

The Nisour Square massacre was one of the lowest episodes of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Slough, Liberty and Heard were convicted on multiple charges of voluntary and attempted manslaughter in 2014, while Slatten, who was the first to start shooting, was convicted of first-degree murder. Slattern was sentenced to life and the others to 30 years in prison each.

An initial prosecution was thrown out by a federal judge – sparking outrage in Iraq – but the then vice-president, Joe Biden, promised to pursue a fresh prosecution, which succeeded in 2015. At the sentencing, the US attorney’s office said in a statement: “The sheer amount of unnecessary human loss and suffering attributable to the defendants’ criminal conduct on 16 September 2007 is staggering.” more...

John Bacon, Jessica Flores - USA TODAY

Canada authorized Moderna's vaccine and said shipments should enter the country within 48 hours. Health officials approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Dec. 9.  The country should get 40 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine in 2021, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, or about two-thirds of the Canadian adult population.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dipped by 89,000 last week to a still-elevated 803,000, evidence that the job market remains under stress. Before the virus struck, jobless claims typically numbered around 225,000 a week. House Democrats said they plan to offer legislation increasing the $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 as proposed by President Donald Trump. The president's own party, however, was balking and the fate of the increase remained in doubt Wednesday. more...

Trump has deflected blame away from Russia, contradicting top officials in his own administration and baselessly suggesting China may have been involved.
By Adam Edelman

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday tore into President Donald Trump's recent reaction to a hacking campaign that has torn through U.S. government agencies and businesses and that experts believe is the work of Russian intelligence. Biden, speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, ripped Trump for an "irrational downplaying of the seriousness of this attack," and called the breach a “grave risk to our national security." “The truth is this: The Trump administration failed to prioritize cybersecurity,” Biden said. “This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch, when he wasn’t watching.”

He added that he saw “no evidence it is under control,” pointing out that Trump “hasn’t even identified who is responsible yet.” Biden said the Department of Defense had not briefed his transition team on the attack and vowed that when he does learn “the extent of the damage,” he would, as president, respond “in kind.”

The hack is being described as one of the most successful cyber infiltrations of U.S. government and corporate institutions in history. The hackers appear to have gotten access by first breaking into SolarWinds, a company in Austin, Texas, that provides remote information technology services to clients around the world, including a number of U.S. government agencies and major corporations. The hack began at least as early as March, though it was discovered only last week. more...

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) Joe Biden will be president in 30 days. Until then, the question is how much damage can be done by a vengeful, delusional soon-to-be ex-President swilling conspiracy theories, whose wild anti-democratic instincts are being encouraged by fringe political opportunists. Donald Trump will retain the awesome powers of the presidency until noon on January 20, and there's never been a time when he has been subject to as few restraining influences or has had a bigger incentive to cause disruption.

The President is spending day after day in his White House bunker, entertaining crackpot theories about imposing martial law, seizing voting machines and staging an intervention in Congress on January 6 to steal the election from Biden. Surrounded by the last dead-end loyalists, Trump is flinging lies and political venom like King Lear in a crumbling Twitter kingdom, alarming some staffers about what he will do next.

Two ways Trump can hurt America
Trump can further damage the United States in the coming days in two ways -- by aggressive design and by his passive neglect of his sworn obligations to lead. His attempts to crush American democratic traditions by claiming a landslide victory in an election that he lost and that was not especially close fits into the first category. The President's behavior has sown huge mistrust of the fundamental underpinning of the US political system -- fair elections -- among millions of his voters and threatens to compromise the legitimacy of Biden's White House.

CNN's Barbara Starr reported Tuesday that there is concern among executive office staff and the military's leadership that Trump could use his power as President and commander in chief in dangerous ways in the last days of his term. "We don't know what he might do," one officer in the Pentagon said. Another added: "We are in strange times." more...

by: The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump hosted several House Republican lawmakers at the White House on Monday to discuss an effort to block Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. The meeting underscored Trump’s refusal to accept the reality of his loss and his willingness to entertain undemocratic efforts to overturn the will of the majority of American voters. Biden will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20.

With no credible legal options remaining and the Electoral College having confirmed Biden’s victory earlier this month, Trump is turning his attention to Jan. 6. That’s when Congress participates in a count of the electoral votes, which Biden won 306-232. The count, required by the Constitution, is generally a formality. But members can use the event to object to a state’s votes. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said he organized Monday’s session with about a dozen House Republicans who are willing to challenge the results.

“President Trump is very supportive of our effort,” Brooks said in an interview late Monday. With Democrats holding the House majority and several Republican senators now acknowledging Biden’s victory, any effort to block congressional approval of the election appears sure to fail. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned his members against taking such a step.

Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, urged lawmakers to remember that an effort to block the election results in Congress was “just not going anywhere.” “I mean, in the Senate, it would go down like a shot dog,” Thune told CNN. “I just don’t think that it makes a lot of sense to put everybody through this when you know what the ultimate outcome is gonna be.” more...

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump hosted several House Republican lawmakers at the White House on Monday to discuss an ultimately futile effort to block Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. The meeting underscored Trump’s refusal to accept the reality of his loss and his willingness to entertain undemocratic efforts to overturn the will of the majority of American voters. Biden will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20.

With no credible legal options remaining and the Electoral College having confirmed Biden’s victory earlier this month, Trump is turning his attention to Jan. 6. That’s when Congress participates in a count of the electoral votes, which Biden won 306-232. The count, required by the Constitution, is generally a formality. But members can use the event to object to a state’s votes.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said he organized Monday’s session with about a dozen House Republicans who are willing to challenge the results. Other members who were in attendance included Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Politico reports. “President Trump is very supportive of our effort,” Brooks said in an interview late Monday. more...

The pre-Christmas wave of 20 pardons and commutations are not likely to be the last before Mr. Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.
By Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt

In an audacious pre-Christmas round of pardons, President Trump granted clemency on Tuesday to two people convicted in the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, four Blackwater guards convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians and three corrupt former Republican members of Congress. Among those pardoned was George Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to federal officials as part of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Also pardoned was Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2018 in connection of the special counsel’s inquiry. Both men served short prison sentences. The Mueller-related pardons are a signal of more to come of people caught up in the investigation, according to people close to the president.

Mr. Trump recently pardoned his former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who pleaded guilty twice to charges including lying to the F.B.I. in connection with the inquiry into Russian involvement in the election. Mr. Trump in July commuted the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime adviser who was convicted on a series of charges related to the investigation. Both men have maintained their innocence. Mr. Trump’s pardon list also included four former U.S. service members who were convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors in 2007.

One of them, Nicholas Slatten, had been sentenced to life in prison after the Justice Department had gone to great lengths to prosecute him. Mr. Slatten, had been a contractor for the controversial company Blackwater and was sentenced for his role in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad — a massacre that left one of the most lasting stains on the United States of the war. more...

By Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump has turned to a fringe group of advisers peddling increasingly dubious tactics to overturn the results of the election, creating a dire situation that multiple senior officials and people close to the President say has led to new levels of uncertainty at how Trump will resist the coming end to his tenure. "No one is sure where this is heading," one official said on Monday. "He's still the President for another month." Conspiracist lawyer Sidney Powell, disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn, onetime chief strategist Steve Bannon, hawkish trade adviser Peter Navarro and the eccentric founder of the retail website Overstock have all recently found themselves in the Oval Office or on the telephone advising Trump on new last-ditch efforts to reverse his loss. That's in addition to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been feeding the President's conspiracy theories for weeks and who, along with Powell, was seen again at the White House on Monday.

In the process, Trump has mostly shunned those working inside the government, leading to growing fears of how he may lash out in the four weeks he has remaining in the White House -- or at how he may resist leaving the building come Inauguration Day.  Through it all, Trump has mostly abandoned the day-to-day running of government. At a Cabinet meeting last week, he spent much of the time complaining about his suspicions of voter fraud, according to a person familiar with the matter, leaving some attendees puzzled at the point of the gathering. Sources close to the President described particular worry among his advisers over what Powell -- who only three weeks ago was unceremoniously dumped from his official legal team -- may convince him to do in the coming days. Trump's idea, which he floated in a heated Friday meeting at the White House, is for Powell to essentially embed as a special counsel inside the White House Counsel's Office, a proposal the counsel's office has not looked kindly at. "There's high levels of concern with anything involving Sidney Powell," one source close to the President said. "The lawyers are very worried." more...

John L. Dorman

Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump's continued efforts to deny and challenge his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, calling the actions "sad."

On CNN's "State of the Union," the Utah Republican and 2012 GOP presidential nominee responded to host Jake Tapper mentioning a report in The New York Times where Trump in a meeting last week entertained an idea from former national security advisor Michael Flynn to declare martial law over the election results.

"Well, it's not going to happen," Romney said. "That's going nowhere. I understand the president is casting about trying to find some way to have a different result than the one that was delivered by the American people." more...

By Laura King, Del Quentin Wilber

President Trump’s dismissive characterization of a massive cyberattack targeting multiple U.S. agencies drew pushback Sunday from lawmakers, cybersecurity experts and the incoming Biden administration amid growing questions over the president’s refusal to acknowledge that Russia was likely behind the intrusions.

A month before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Trump remains preoccupied with his falsehood-filled campaign to overturn the results of November’s election, and the president gave no indication that the United States would seek to punish those responsible for an unprecedented breach whose full scope was still being assessed.

“Russia acted with impunity,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said on NBC’S “Meet the Press.” Romney, one of only a handful of congressional Republicans to criticize Trump’s conduct regarding the election, said that “we’ve come to recognize that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia.”

Throughout his tenure, Trump has balked at consistently acknowledging that prior to the 2016 presidential vote, Russian hackers sought to help him and hurt his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He has also been been markedly deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to accept the autocratic leader’s word over that of U.S. intelligence agencies. more...

Tom Porter

White House officials were preparing to issue a statement Friday saying Russia was likely to blame for the devastating cyberattack that saw hackers seize control of hundreds of US government computer networks but was told to stand down at the last minute, the Associated Press reported.

According to a US government official briefed on the conversations, the statement would have described Russia as the "main actor" behind the cyberattack. It would have mirrored a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Friday, who in an interview with Mark Levin said that "we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity."

Instead, the White House statement was canceled, and Trump broke his silence on the issue. Without citing any evidence, Trump in a tweet claimed that China, not Russia, was likely behind the cyberattack. "The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control," Trump tweeted. He also claimed the media are "petrified" of "discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!)." more...

By Jordan Williams

Close to 200 organizations were hacked by Russia as part of the cybersecurity attack on SolarWinds, a third party software contractor, that has compromised multiple government agencies, Bloomberg News reported. Massachusetts-based cyber security firm Recorded Future identified 198 people that were hacked by a malicious update, threat analyst Allan Lisa told the news outlet.

Three people familiar with the inquiry told Bloomberg the hack further compromised at least 200 victims by attempting to move in their computer networks or gain user credentials. About 18,000 SolarWinds customers received the malicious update, according to Bloomberg. Of that number, more than 1,000 experienced a malicious code ping that gave hackers further access to sensitive networks.

The identities of the victims were not provided to Bloomberg, and the number is expected to grow as the the investigation continues. The firm said in a statement to The Hill that it used open source datasets and information provided by the security researcher community to "identify a likely partial list of organizations affected by the SolarWinds backdoor." more...

By Bud Kennedy

To hear some Republican insiders — including a few preachers — President Donald Trump will invoke martial law if Congress doesn’t overturn the Electoral College Jan. 6 and re-elect him president. It’s God’s will, they say. Christians can’t afford to lose a president who was anointed to carry out a heavenly plan. Never mind the election. Or the electors. Or that the incumbent’s actual court claims challenging Joe Biden’s role as president-elect have been thinly grounded and poorly argued.

“The bottom line is, there are many people in the evangelical community who are deeply concerned that there were substantial numbers of inaccurate results, and maybe fraudulent activities that may have affected the outcome,” said Dave Welch of the Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council activist group, which is “hoping and praying” for reversal. Some faith-and-values Republicans accepted the outcome of the election as divine plan. But others are preaching a QAnon-like conspiracy theory about Trump’s plan for an imminent reversal. more...

By Kevin Liptak and Pamela Brown, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump convened a heated meeting in the Oval Office on Friday, including lawyer Sidney Powell and her client, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, two people familiar with the matter said, describing a session that began as an impromptu gathering but devolved and eventually broke out into screaming matches at certain points as some of Trump's aides pushed back on Powell and Flynn's more outrageous suggestions about overturning the election.

Flynn had suggested earlier this week that Trump could invoke martial law as part of his efforts to overturn the election that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden -- an idea that arose again during the meeting in the Oval Office, one of the people said. It wasn't clear whether Trump endorsed the idea, but others in the room forcefully pushed back and shot it down. The meeting was first reported by the New York Times.

White House aides who participated in the meeting, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone, also pushed back intensely on the suggestion of naming Powell as a special counsel to investigate voter fraud allegations Trump's own administration has dismissed (or, as seems more feasible, hiring her in the administration for some kind of investigatory role). Powell has focused her conspiracies on voting machines and has floated the notion of having a special counsel inspect the machines for flaws.  more...

Friday's Oval Office meeting with Trump "must be condemned," a critic says.
By Olivia Rubin, Matthew Mosk, John Santucci, and Katherine Faulders

President Donald Trump had cut attorney Sidney Powell from his legal team after she launched multiple lawsuits aimed at overturning the 2020 election -- all failures -- but Trump has now welcomed the conspiracy-minded flamethrower back into the White House to plot out further efforts to extend his presidency.

Trump and Powell met in the Oval Office Friday night, ABC News has confirmed, and were joined by Trump's former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has been publicly prodding Trump to take unprecedented steps to seize a second term -- including declaring martial law and ordering the military to oversee new elections in the battleground states that Trump lost.

"[Trump] could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states," Flynn said earlier this week on the conservative news outlet Newsmax.

Critics expressed alarm at Friday's meeting, which was first reported by The New York Times. Noah Bookbinder, who heads the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told ABC News that the ideas raised in the Oval Office discussions would represent an "abuse of power" and were "wrong and must be condemned." more...

By Benjamin Fearnow

Trump, who twice campaigned on being the "law and order" candidate, is hoping to create chaos in Washington two weeks before Inauguration Day. As he continues to baselessly claim that it's "statistically impossible" he lost, Trump Saturday urged his supporters to interrupt what is typically an innocuous joint session of Congress on January 6 in which they will count Biden's 306 to 232 win among state electoral votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged Republicans not to object to the election results, but some GOP lawmakers and far-right conspiracy theorists say they plan to disrupt the final procedural hurdle before Biden takes office.

"Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud 'more than sufficient' to swing victory to Trump," the president tweeted Saturday. "A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!" Twitter flagged Trump's claim as "disputed," as it's done often of late.

Legal experts say the January 6 gathering of House and Senate lawmakers, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, is traditionally just a formality in which Congress received and approves the long-since decided state electoral votes. But several vehemently pro-Trump Republicans—Alabama's Mo Brooks and Georgia's Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, along with Alabama's senator-elect Tommy Tuberville—say they plan to disrupt the rudimentary process next month. more...

In a meeting at the White House on Friday, President Trump weighed appointing Sidney Powell, who promoted conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, to investigate voter fraud.
By Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs

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

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

Mr. Giuliani joined the discussion by phone initially, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times, according to one of the people briefed on what took place. Ms. Powell’s client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whom the president recently pardoned, was also there, two of the people briefed on the meeting said. Some senior administration officials drifted in and out of the meeting. more...

By Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Pamela Brown, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's campaign legal team sent a memo to dozens of staffers Saturday instructing them to preserve all documents related to Dominion Voting Systems and Sidney Powell in anticipation of potential litigation by the company against the pro-Trump attorney. The memo, viewed by CNN, references a letter Dominion sent to Powell this week demanding she publicly retract her accusations and instructs campaign staff not to alter, destroy or discard records that could be relevant.

A serious internal divide has formed within Trump's campaign following the election with tensions at their highest between the campaign's general counsel, Matt Morgan, who sent the memo Saturday, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Though the campaign once distanced itself from Powell, Trump has been urging other people to fight like she has, according to multiple people familiar with his remarks. He has asked for more people making her arguments, which are often baseless and filled with conspiracy theories, on television.

Morgan wrote in the memo, "The Allegations within the letter dated December 16, 2020 reference the Campaign and lawyers who may have performed work for the Campaign. Even with references to the Campaign and some of its outside lawyers, the Campaign does not reasonably anticipate litigation against the Campaign at this time. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Campaign views it as prudent to establish a litigation hold at this time to protect and preserve all rights and privileges that may exist under the law." The Trump campaign has declined to comment. more...

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